Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A week's worth of ramblings...

Whew. What a week. It's time to catch up a little bit. And away we go...

A week ago, none other than Drew "Bad Boy" Rubenstein and I took off for the Bronx to catch a Wednesday afternoon tilt between the beloved Devil Rays and the supposed superpower NY Yankees. The D'Rays won, of course, and a good time was had by all.

The Yankees still have a myriad of problems that no GM should envy. My suggestion? As I said in an earlier post, the Yanks need to blow this thing up. They've dug themselves a hole, have old players who are overpaid that they cannot move. So...trade the Unit, trade Sheffield, trade Womack, trade Pavano, trade Jaret Wright, trade Chien Wang, trade Giambi and start over. Pay all of those contracts off if you have to. Get solid players and or prospects for them...cut your losses...and start over. This team isn't built to win...but its not far off either. The pitching staff needs rebuilt (a guy like Andy Pettitte would be perfect, wouldn't he?) and get back to winning 100 games. It's not difficult with that amount of resources...but if the resources aren't utilized properly...the 2005 Yankees is the result.

The Devil Rays still need pitching if they are ever going to sniff .500 - and I think the Marlins should be contacted. If the Fish deal for Danny Cabrera - while giving up a pitcher - then they will keep him in their rotation. That means that super prospect Scott Olsen could be made available. Why not dangle Danys Baez or Aubrey Huff to the Marlins? The Rays still need a couple left-handed bats too, though.

The Dbacks will probably be where Baez ends up though - which would be worth it if the Rays could get their hands on Conor Jackson. No idea who he is? Well, he's hitting .384 for the season right now. The Rays have some nice bats...and desperately need pitching...but if they can get their hands on him for only Baez...why not?

Anyways, continuing with the update...Andy had his wedding this weekend. It was great...and everyone seemed happy.

It looks like I may have secured a teaching job for after college. Speaking of which, I will finish in December. That means in September I will start teaching full-time, 5 days a week, at a high school near you. Is it insane that I'm going to be teaching in two months? I think it is.

Right now, its 127 degrees in my room.

It was suggested I needed to do a top 10 prospects list. I'm working on it. Expect it in the next 24 hours.

Any other blog suggestions - float them my way.

Hungry chickens, bitches.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Stand By Me

The past week has been an emotional rollercoaster. Most of its personal, so I do not want to divulge too much information, its just been a difficult week.

One aspect has to do with the death of a friend of a friend. She was just 21 years old, which immediately brought Efaw to the forefront of my mind. It's like I went through losing him all over again, and that hasn't even been the most significant emotional tug I've endured this week.

I got to see Lauren, though, if even for one day. And I'm about to begin a week that will be both busy and fulfilling. On Monday, I am going to go with Tara to a Buccos game. I missed the one on her birthday, so I'm happy I'll get to go back with her. Plans are in the works for her to wear a sombrero, and I may take my Devil Rays foam finger even without an appearance from the hapless franchise.

Tuesday I will be on the road again, as none other than Drew Rubenstein and I embark on a 5-hour trip to the Garden State, where we will shack up with the old man. On Wednesday morning, as my classmates endure 90 minutes of mind-numbing lecture on the immigration of Italians into northern West Virginia in the early 1900s, the three of us will head to the Bronx to catch an afternoon tilt between the aforementioned Devil Rays and the New York Yankees. I've been strongly advised to not don the hottest selling custom made jersey in Devil Rays history - the Chuck McGill No. 7 road uni. Apparently - even as a non-threat in the division standings - I still risk being kidnapped, skinned and thrown into the Atlantic.

The tickets my Dad scored as freakin' sweet. Box seats. Drew is a Yankees fan, so it should be an awesome trip.

Then, as the weekend approaches and I finish my pointless W.Va. History paper, I will head to Charleston for Andy's wedding. I'm really pumped, moreso than I was for Josh's wedding. I guess because I've remained closer ties with Andy in the six years since high school - and I also know the bride well and adore her. There's not many couples I would ever bet the house on living and dying together - but this is one I'd put at the top of the list.

In going back to Efaw, I'm currently watching the 1986 classic "Stand By Me." This movie has a significance in my childhood, and in my relationship with Efaw. We probably watched this movie a dozen times my freshmen year. I remember sitting up at 2am in my dorm room and him messaging me to tell me it was on, and we'd sit at our respective computers a tower apart and laugh online at all the same parts, continually discussing its infinite greatness.

It's message of friendship is a timeless one. Friends come and go, but the experiences shared never die. That's the way it was with Efaw. Everything he and I ever experienced still comes out in my life each day. I love every single one of my friends so much, and I care about them so deeply. This also relates to the emotional rollercoaster of this week. The thing is, Efaw is really the only friend I've ever lost - and it was due to an untimely death. If I had my way - every one of my remaining friendships would thrive until I left this world. That's why I'm willing to work so damn hard to make sure they survive.

In conclusion, I'll leave my one or two readers with a quote from Stand By Me. And the next time someone tells you to shut up, remember to fire back confidently and proudly with...

"I don't shut up, I grow up, and when I look at you I throw up."

Oh, to be 12 again.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Bats or arms?

In light of Felix Hernandez's bursitis in his shoulder, I began to think about hitters versus pitchers when projecting prospects. Hernandez has received varying amounts of praise from those who have seen him pitch, but for two years he hasn't been allowed to throw his slider because of injury concerns, and now he's missing time with mild bursitis.

I started to flip through past top prospects, and I came to the conclusion that hitting prospects are much safer bets than pitching. The latter simply rarely works out. Need proof? Excellent.

Let's take the top 10 prospects in the Class of 2005, and only two are pitchers. One is the aforementioned Hernandez, and the other is Scott Kazmir. If I were making my own prospects list, I would've left out Kazmir (because he pitched in the bigs last season), which would have left only Hernandez. That would leave can't miss studs like Rickie Weeks, Joel Guzman, Prince Fielder and Andy Marte to fill out the other 10 spots. But its not simply a numbers game of hitters versus pitchers. In years past, hitters just simply have a greater chance of sticking in the majors and succeeding, and pitchers that do stick - well - they aren't necessarily gems.

Since 2000, only 16 starting pitchers have been ranked in the top 10 on prospect lists. Of those, only Mark Prior, Josh Beckett, Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia can be considered successful. Even then, Prior has found the disabled lists 5 times in his career, Beckett and Sheets have dealt with a couple injuries, and Sabathia's success is based solely on his ability to hold on to a rotation spot. He's far from a lock to be an effective pitcher for a decade-plus. John Patterson was a top 10 prospect in 2000, but back injuries have hindered his progress and he's just now starting to round into ace form. On the other hand, such arms as Edwin Jackson, Greg Miller, Gavin Floyd, Rick Ankiel, Jon Rauch and Juan Cruz have never panned out.

Jackson was actually recently demoted from AAA to AA, and may never reach the majors when it seemed at one point he would be a No. 1 starter. Miller has been injured off an on. Floyd had a brief stint in the majors - got crushed - got sent to AAA - got rocked some more and now is a shell of a pitcher that he used to be. Ankiel is a minor league outfielder now, Rauch has never been an effective big leaguer, and Cruz has bounced from a spot starter to a marginal bullpen arm.

On the contrast, lets look at top 10 position players in the past few years. In 2003, the top 3 prospects were Mark Teixeira, Rocco Baldelli and Jose Reyes. Other top 10 prospects have included Hideki Matsui, Hank Blalock, Corey Patterson, Ichiro, Nick Johnson Pat Burrell, Vernon Wells and Rafael Furcal.

The misses? Carlos Pena is a big one, as is Ruben Mateo. Both were top 5 prospects at one point. Drew Henson abandoned baseball for the NFL, and Sean Burroughs has been an everyday major leaguers, but not top 10 talent. Other than that, most position players who are highly-touted find a long career in the bigs.

The point? If I were running an organization, I would be looking for the next Pujols, and not the next Prior.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Bitten by the bug

It strikes when you least expect it - most of the time with the player you least expect. On Wednesday, two of baseball's top players lost their seasons to an elbow injury. Both will likely require Tommy John surgery.

Eric Gagne and Rocco Baldelli will miss the remainder of the 2005 season with ligament damage in their throw elbows. For both players - and for their respective teams - its a devastating blow.
Gagne has been one of the premier closers in the game since he converted from a quasi-effective starter. He had Tommy John surgery in 1997, so a second surgery could mean a long recovery time, and perhaps the end of an all-too-short career.

Baldelli is in a different boat. He's just 23, and he was already missing a majority of the season after tearing an ACL playing with children in his parents front yard in the offseason. But rehabbing an ACL and Tommy John at the same time? Come on. Baldelli is one of the games brightest young stars - and one of the truly lovable players in the league. It's such a shame these two major injuries will likely plague a career that should've been highlighted by 25-25 numbers and a .300 average year in and year out.

Basically, I hate injuries altogether. I know they are a part of the game, but no matter the player, its always difficult to see someone have to endure so much to play a game. As a fan of the game in its entirity, I want to see the best players in the world always able to compete.

In other news, my man of the week Prince collected two extra-base hits and a RBI against Tampa in his second game. Both doubles nearly left the park, traveling about 380-feet each. He's 2 for 8 now without a strikeout, which is nice for a power hitter adjusting to major league pitching. Trade Lyle Overbay and keep this kid up!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

One Sweet Prince

Everyone knows my sometimes senseless infatuation with minor league baseball. I guess it just intrigues me because I equate it to college basketball and college football. I mean, the only difference is college athletes do not yet belong to an NFL or NBA team and can't be called up during the season (The Dallas Cowboys called up RB Adrian Peterson today and he will start this Sunday versus the Redskins).

It's that time of year again when the minor leaguers I've followed and adored begin graduating to The Show. The same people who are aware of my love affair with minor league baseball mistake it as fantasy baseball-related - but its simply not the case. After all, prospects have no value in single-year leagues - and unless they get called up in June (a la Mark Prior and Miguel Cabrera) - they won't really make an impact anyway.

Regardless, the call-ups began this week with Tampa recalling outfielder Jonny Gomes, Milwaukee summoning their top two prospects since Ben Sheets, the Angels calling upon Ervin "Johan" Santana, and the Pirates Ryan Doumit.

Of the two Brew Crew prospects, a guy by the name of Prince Fielder is the one I'm in love with. Rickie Weeks may evolve into a Soriano-esque second baseman (both with the bat and glove, unfortunately), but Fielder just offers so much intrigue.

He's 6-feet, and a mammoth 260 lbs., and holds infiinitely more potential than fellow big man Ryan Howard. He's just 21, and has the pedigree as the son of Cecil, who hit 50 homers back when it meant something.

He's smashed almost 90 homers in just three seasons of minor league ball - accelerating through the system at a rapid pace. The Brewers say they only called him up this week to DH in AL parks - and some people think he might eventually end up a lifetime DH such as David Ortiz, but logging five or six games brings him fantasy eligibility. Even if he gets sent down - it won't be long before he's back blasting home runs out of Miller Park, which - fantasy or not - makes me happy.

Welcome to The Show, Prince.

Sunday, June 12, 2005


In February I glanced at the Devil Rays schedule. My eyes locked onto the weekend of June 10-12, when the lovably Rays descended upon PNC Park to quarrel with the similarly-plagued franchise - the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But on Saturday night, my season-long anticipation and excitement was greeted with one of the most lopsided sporting events ever attended, and the Pirates disected the Devil Rays and revealed a plethora of flaws.

By the fifth inning, I was sitting in my rain-soaked seat in misery. Was this what I waited months for? Is this the team I abandoned the Yankees to root on day in and day out? Is this organization really paying Eduardo Perez and Nick Green doctor-like dollars to play baseball like Tim Tassa?

Sadly, the answers to the above questions were all yes, and I watched in horror with four friends as the Devil Rays dropped their 40th game of the season. They are - without a doubt - one of the worst baseball teams I've ever seen at the professional level. They are poorly assembled. They have no life. They have very little talent.

The 18-2 thrasing was one of the most difficult losses to take in my time as a sports spectator. That said, I had a great time, mostly conversing with McNeil as each Bucco run crossed the plate. I likened my not-so-smooth transition from the Yankees to Devil Rays to breaking up with Angelina Jolie for Rosie O'Donnell. And we all know Rosie isn't turning into Angelina in less than a year.

McNeil and I discussed a number of the players on the field. Below are some of my non-expert scouting observations.

Scott Kazmir - The obvious first choice as the starting pitcher. I quipped to Drew after the game that, oddly enough, I left more impressed with Kazmir than before I came. He's just electric with his stuff, routinely topping his fastball at 95-97 mph, and a hard cut slider that helped strike out 7 Pirates in 4 2/3 innings. He didnt locate his pitches well and it got him in some trouble, but most of his earned runs could have been prevented with even adequate defense. He reminds me of Oliver Perez when he was with the Padres. At 21 years old, this kid is going to be the real deal, and nights like these will be few and far between.

Chad Orvella - Mentioned as a potential future closer for the Devil Rays, I just don't see it. He doesn't have great stuff, and the Pirates pounded him worse than Kazmir.

Aubrey Huff - Maybe the most disappointing player on the field. I'm convinced he was on the juice. He doesn't have power anymore, and he's noticably slimmer. He's one of the worst rightfielders I've seen in person, and looks lethargic at the plate. Hopefully the D'Rays can move him.

Eduardo Perez/Nick Green - They are just pathetic. I can't believe they actually get paid to play baseball. Perez is a joke, and Green is a minor league lifer.

Oliver Perez - Wow. I mean, the Devil Rays are one of the poorest lineups in baseball, but that doesn't mean that what Perez did wasn't impressive. Drew called for seven innings and 10 k's, and Perez did just that. His stuff was similar to Kazmir's, but he didnt leave any pitches up in the zone and got several double plays to help him out of jams. As long as his body holds up, he'll be good.

Ryan Doumit - This kid can rake. He may not be able to play great defense at C, 1B or OF, but he can rake. Second game in the bigs and he bats clean-up for a hot-hitting team, and reaches base 5 times and drives in 3. Drew was wise to use his waiver-wire spot on Doumit, as McNeil also put in a claim for the switch-hitter. If he plays everyday, he could hit 10-15 homers the rest of the way.

All right, thats all I got for now. Hopefully the final 102 games for the D'Rays are a little better - but this team needs to be scrapped and let the young guys of Upton, Young, Gathright, Gomes, Neimann, etc., to come up.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Here we go, D'Rays, Here we go!

Today is the day. Scott Kazmir versus Oliver Perez at PNC Park. Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh. Ring that bell...

I'll have a short recap upon my return. That is, if I make it back. I'm daring to enter a sold out PNC Park with a Devil Rays jersey and a giant foam finger that says "#1 Fan." I guess if I made it out of Heinz with a Moss jersey on, I can survive this.

In fantasy news, I landed my most coveted prospect of the year last night in my keeper league. Rickie Weeks, college baseball's all-time record holder for career batting average, was called up by the Brew Crew. Since Weeks played a short stint at the end of last season, he was already on Yahoo, so I did not have to go through the waiver wire and compete with the rest of the league for his services. Clutch.

I didn't even see if he actually got called up before I signed him up. I just saw Junior Spivey got dealt, and reacted. In fact, I almost added him to my team last week just to wait it out like I'm doing with B.J. Upton. A solid four months by Weeks could make him my starting 2B over Alfonso Soriano next year. I say - for 2005 - he's a top 10 2B the rest of the way.

In other news, my front windshield lost a battle with a blunt object Thursday night around 1 a.m. I was parked on Maiden Lane in front of Stalnaker, and came out to my car to get my study guide. I was greeted with a windshield that just fell short of being completely shattered. No suspects, no sign of the object that broke it. Bastards. I've compiled a list of my top 10 suspects.

10. David Lamm - Probably should be higher on the list, but the 2-hour trek to wreak havoc doesn't fit his profile.
9. Rich Rodriguez - Could still be fuming over the jab at the program and my continuous speculation of his hair regrowth methods.
8. Greg Pennington - He likes to see me suffer. That was an awfully long trip to the bathroom around 1245.
7. Jay Hewitt - Just the first of many athletes I managed to belittle.
6. Pecs - Maybe he was jealous of my flab.
5. Brad Lewis - May want to beat me worse than his girlfriends.
4. Dominion Hope - Retribution for demanding quicker service? Faking a gas leak?
3. David Lamm - I decided to move him up more. It was only a matter of time before he sought revenge, for, well, everything.
2. Drew Rubenstein - An obvious suspect because of his hidden rage. Could have been releasing a year's worth of hostility.
1. John Oliver - It had to be him.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Chuck Top 10 Coldplay songs

I've thought about this a great deal this week as Coldplay's third album (not counting their live CD) was released. The list turned out to be difficult to compile, which is a tribute to the band for producing three discs laden with quality track after quality track. My original list contained about 20 songs that I would consider for the top 10. To me, thats a tremendous compliment to the band. After all the dust settled, I decided which 10 were my favorite. The list, oddly, contains a song from the newest CD, X&Y. I am drawn to this song inparticular, and I feel comfortable including it high on this list despite only a handful of listenings. And away we go...

10. Everything's Not Lost
9. Trouble
8. Shiver
7. Moses
6. See You Soon
5. Don't Panic
4. Fix You - Also on X&Y; could eventually leap to No. 1
3. Green Eyes
2. Yellow
1. Politik

I almost feel I am doing an injustice to songs such as In My Place, Clocks, God put a smile, Sparks, The Scientist, etc. In fact, all five had a spot somewhere in the top 10 as I determined which tracks should make the official list. On the X&Y CD, the "hidden track" Till Kingdom Come has the potential to crack this list very soon. It's a beautiful song.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Coldplay, Devil Rays and another Upton...

Has this blog broken the record for Devil Rays-related posts yet?

The Chuck McGill Scouting Tour is officially heading to Pittsburgh on Saturday, with assistant scouts Brian Welch, Ryan McNeil and Drew Rubenstein. Welch's connection scored us $8 tickets behind the Pirates dugout. Clutch. Everyone attending is excited for the lefty-lefty matchup of Oli and Kaz. For 8 bucks? Are you kidding me? Plus the Maz figurine just makes this about the best bargain I've found in my life.

The Coldplay CD has been purchased. It's worth the 10 bucks, easily. You'd be hard-pressed to find a song you disliked on the disc, and in a day and age when CDs rarely have more than one or two quality songs amongst several half-assed attempts at music - its refreshing that Coldplay can still bring it strong on its third album. Also, the band hits Pittsburgh on August 11, and I will be there front and center thanks to getting tickets 4 minutes after going on sale. Cue the happy dance.

Day 1 of the 17 days of hell has dragged on. Greg is worthless, and is not entertaining. He thinks he has a shot with this hot girl at work, but when has he been successful with a hot girl? Oh, wait. Can we not count that last one? Or the one before that? Can we just start with a clean slate? Well, at least I can take solace in the fact that he will probably have an ultra-successful date, then take 7 1/2 months to decide whether he wants a second date with her. Get it together, Greggo Eggo.

And finally, the Arizona Diamondbacks selected shortstop Justin Upton with the No. 1 pick in Tuesday's MLB first-year player draft. Upton is the younger brother of D'Rays and personal favorite BJ, who was picked No. 2 overall in 2002. That makes the brother combo the highest duo ever selected, topping Dmitri (4th) and Delmon (1st) Young.

Justin Upton is as good as it gets when it comes to projecting a players star impact. He's probably most comparable to a Carlos Beltran type, but he's faster with as much pop in his bat. He can probably stay at SS, or move to CF. He ran a 6.23 60 yard dash. Can you believe that? That's disgusting, and an all-time scouting record. Oh, and he can throw 94 mph, and he's just 17. Can I draft this kid yet for my fantasy team?

Monday, June 06, 2005


On Greg's blog, he rants about not having hot water, so I'll do the same. It's awful. The only thing that makes it slightly bearable is the fact that its 115 degrees in my bedroom throughout the day, so I can escape to the shower to rinse the perspiration off. Screw Dominion Hope - and the horse they rode in on.

Nothing else exciting going on. Just watching a lot of baseball (scouting players). This week's feature player is Dallas McPherson, who happens to reside on my fantasy team. I have to say, I've never been more impressed with a first-time viewing of a player. He's better than advertised, although he only went 1-for-4 in the game I saw. He hit two balls to the warning track at Fenway (he's a lefthanded pull hitter). This kid will hit 25-30 homers this year with 4 months left, and maybe 40 next year.

He follows up the scouting of Daniel Cabrera last week - also against the Sox. This kid is incredible, and I got him for nothing in my free agent pool a couple weeks back. Here, check the rave reviews on this stud:

"You will not find another pitcher in baseball whose stuff is better than Cabrera’s." MLB.com

"He did not walk anyone on Sunday. His upside potential in keeper leagues is immeasurable." SportingNews.com

"The club considers him to be a potential No. 1 starter, as does everyone else who gets to witness the 24-year-old's electric stuff." ESPN.com

"Cabrera's progression is remarkable for someone who is literally learning the game as he's pitching in the majors." ESPN.com

The Chuck McGill Scouting Tour continues Friday and Saturday when I travel to PNC Park to watch the Devil Rays. On Saturday, pitching phenom Scott Kazmir will take the hill on six days rest. Bossman Junior won't be making an appearance to rub it in the faces of Buccos fans and management for not picking him (and picking Bryan Bullington), but it will still be a good time. Let me know if you want to go.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Top 10 athletic moments/achievements

Okay, this post has been a long time in the works, and will start (hopefully) a series of "top 10" posts in the coming days and weeks.

In a conversation with Chris Richardson, I first had the idea for this topic. He was mentioning to me about a particular athletic achievement of his, and it got me to thinking: What are my favorite moments or accomplishments?

So, without further adieu, here are my favorite moments and greatest accomplishments throughout 24-plus years of being an athlete.

10. Teeing off

This is only on here because it - combined with Richardson - got me thinking of what achievements could be on this list. While at the driving range the other day with Tara, I pulled a Babe Ruth. Granted, I wasn't getting paid to hit this shot, and I wasn't facing a crafty pitcher with sandpaper in his glove, and I hadn't hit a respectable shot all day, and I wasn't under any pressure, but I still enjoyed it. After hitting a number of balls, I had one left. I point to the 150-yard sign at Ghetto Ponds and said I could hit it in one shot. As Tara looked on, I took her trusty 3-iron and sent the ball straight toward my goal as I threw my hands up in the air. The sign, which sits on a downward slope of about 30 degrees, stands approximately 3 feet high and has about 1 feet of space between the core of the sign and the ground. My ball bounced twice and came to a rest right beneath the sign, just as I had predicted. Let's move on to less gay stuff now.

9. The Half

Sure, its just intramurals, but it was still one of the best halves of basketball I've ever played. Okay, maybe not played...but I was lights out from beyond the arc. It was this past spring, and the Huggy Bears found themselves down by 20-plus points. It didn't look good. One of the officials - Joel Youngblood - made a quick reference to Patrick Beilein, uttering the statement "Chuck McGill: Instant Offense." The vote of confidence from a supposedly impartial official ignited my streaky shooting touch. After the first in-bounds, I stopped and launched a high-arcing shot from 23-feet away, hitting nothing but net. The 3 was the first of five I would hit in the half, only missing once (the sixth attempt) while leading the Huggy Bears to within 4 points. It's been a long time since I've been in the zone to that extent, and thats why the five long bombs crack the top 10. Hey, I said less gay, not free of gayness.

8. My first start

In Little League, I was mainly an infielder until my fifth grade season. I had played a lot of first base, but then I shifted to shortstop and a little bit of catcher. While warming up before one of the games, I was tossing with the regular catcher. I kept popping his mit, which was a manly thing to do as an 11-year old. Regardless, my efforts to impress worked, as the catcher (a year older than me) signaled to the coach (my Dad) that maybe I should pitch once in a while. The next game, my father called my number to start. I gave up only a couple of runs, while striking out 10 in 4 innings to get the win. It didn't change my life - but I still have the ball from that game. Too bad there weren't any scouts there to see my Prior-esque performance. Of course, we all know what happened to Henry in Rookie of the Year.

7. Coach McGill

While it isn't an achievement brought upon my personal athletic prowess, my 4-year reign as a fifth and sixth grade basketball coach is a must for this list. My squad - the Green Team (or Team McGill) - went 4-4 its first year, and stumbled through the other three years as my cousin Josh and I coached up these 11 and 12 year olds. Winning was a priority, but I absolutely loved coaching and practice. I still see and talk to some of my old players - and they remain a central part in why I chose to get into education. Oh, and the losses were Josh's fault.

6. Watt Powell

As a ninth-grader, I made the Kanawha Central All Star team (as naturally I would). In a second round game in the consolation bracket, I approached the plate for my first at-bat in Watt Powell Park. This was the same park in which I watched future major leaguers like Pokey Reese, Dan Wilson, Trevor Hoffman and Tim Pugh. In my first plate appearance, I took a fastball up in my wheelhouse and drove it into centerfield for a base hit. It was perfect. Unfortunately, I never hit a passing train beyond the right field wall.

5. Qualifying for States

As a junior at DuPont, I played No. 1 singles for the tennis team. In our final year in AAA, our team headed down to Beckley for regional competition. At No. 1 singles, our region would send four players to the state tournament, where 16 top players would compete for the state championship. I think I had around a .500 record that year, playing very stiff competition. In the tournament, I continued my unlucky draws by meeting up with Woodrow Wilson's top seed, Andrew Haught. The towering - and intimidating - Haught expected to find himself easily in the state tournament. That's before he ran the tennis version of Cinderella Man. I hung tight in the early stages of the match, simply holding serve and trying to find a way to break his mammoth serves that were blitzing by me left and right. Then, there was "the shot." It is perhaps my finest shot, if not my most significant shot in my tennis career. I slide on the grainy court and took a backhand stab on a drop shot of his. The ball nipped the net and fell harmlessly in for a winner. I ended up - while playing very tight and nervous - capturing the win 8-6 to advance to the state tournament. Haught was pissed, and threw stuff. I became the first DuPontian to qualify for the states since Becky Markham in the 1980s, and the first male in DuPont's history. You could also say our school was never good at tennis, but whatever.

4. "21"

Okay, not an achievement in the least, but it is the greatest game ever invented. There are variations of "21" all around the world, but my Dad brought me up on his version in order to emphasize the importance of great - not merely good - free throw shooting. Additionally, "21" was often played one-on-one, so from the time I was 9 or 10, I had to take it to the hoop every single possession against a 40-year old man who had no shame in swatting my ball all over the hills of the West Side. We still play the game to this date (he won three in a row from me in his last trip to Morgantown). As a freshman at WVU, one of my best friends - Joey Efaw - and I would play for hours on end at the Towers courts. You see, in "21," you have to hit it right on 21. Therefore, if you hit a 2-pointer when you have 18 points, or if you hit a free throw at 19 points to go to 20, you have to hit the next free throw or you will start over at 1 point. Prior to Efaw, I would sometimes go for it on 19, and sometimes would miss intentionally so I could just get a 2 on my next possession. But Efaw always, always went for it. Now, that's what I do, in honor of him (he passed away 3 years ago). So, in any list revolving around sports, "21" has to be mentioned. It was the foundation for me in both the fundamentals of sports, and competition.

3. The Bream Team

Ahh, yes. We were legendary. From third grade to sixth grade, we went against the grain and ditched our school teams in order to play in the Church leagues. Our school hated us, and J.E. Robins hardly won a game. But me, Chris Hudson, Justin Phillips, Mike Whitaker, Justin Moore, etc., dominated the Church leagues for four seasons. It almost wasn't fair. Sure, the First Presby's and Morris Memorials and St. Marks were good, but our teams always won. Well, almost. We went 63-1 in my four years, and our only loss was to Baptist Temple in my sixth grade year. However, it was later found that they were using an ineligible player, and we were awarded the game. We ended up playing Baptist Temple again in the championship game, this time without their star player, and we cruised to a fourth straight title. I wore rec specs, so I was the coolest.

2. No-hitter/Near upset

In 9th grade, I pulled a Bo Jackson and played baseball and tennis at the same time. I mean at the same time. I would go to tennis practice from 3-5, then head to baseball practice from 5-7. It was tiring. One day, I had a game and a match just an hour apart. Although I lost the tennis match, I wasn't supposed to even challenge the No. 1 seed from Andrew Jackson, but I gave him a run for his money. In fact, I had a break point on his down 5-4, and blew it. After the valiant effort, I traveled back to DuPont City for my game. I changed in the parking lot, stepped on the mound, and promptly threw a no-hitter. It was a good day. I no longer had the rec specs, though.

1. The rise of DuPont tennis

Okay. This one might seem a bit egotistical, but I've always been the most proud of bringing success to DuPont. I started playing in eighth grade, and in ninth grade, Davey Lamm joined the junior high team. That gave me a partner. I went on to high school, played doubles while I paid my dues as a sophomore, then took over No. 1 seed as a junior. On the team was a talented sophomore by the name of Chad Hudnall. He was the most athletic and most gifted of us all. I always convinced my best friend Greg Pennington to join the team after he did not play as a sophomore. He got very good, very quickly. I started taking private lessons after 9th grade, and Davey soon followed. Prior to my junior year, I encouraged my head coaches to set up a clinic at the Players Club in Charleston. It was illegal, but we had to do something to gain an edge. For a month prior to the start of official practice, we would coincidentally gather as a team at the Players Club and receive group lessons. It was so beneficial. But with me and Davey, then Greg, and then Chad coming in from Cedar Grove Junior High, we had an awesome quartet by my senior year. I played 1, Chad 2, Greg 3, and Davey 4, when in all actuality we could've swapped at any position. In fact, there was absolutely no difference between No. 1 doubles (me and Greg) and No. 2 doubles (Chad and Davey). That gave us six solid positions to compete with more established tennis programs. Man were we good. It was the best time of my life. In those two months, we beat people we weren't supposed to, and raised eyebrows everywhere we went. We almost won our regional over Charleston Catholic, and had we been able to snatch one more victory from somewhere in the region (Greg and I lost a very winnable match in the semifinals of doubles), we could've taken home the trophy in DuPonts last year. We sent several to the state tournament, and finished ranked No. 8 in AA/A, which includes all the private and catholic schools, as well as perenial powerhouse Williamstown. All in all, this was my finest athletic achievement. Not so much for my personal accomplishments, because they weren't incredible feats by themselves, but for the building of a program. I'm not sure I'll ever do anything - or be a part of anything - that was as great as helping build that team into one of the finest in the state.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Baseball, Weddings and Hot Water

It's 630 in the morning, and today holds particular significance. As of sometime later this morning, I will have gas at my new home for the first time, and thus will be able to cleanse my body at my own free will henceforth. Good riddance East Brockway.

I completed my second regular season on MVP. I avenged my late-season collapse in season 1 to win the AL East. I am currently up 2-1 on the Oakland As in the ALDS. The outlook is good this year. Unlike last season, I split my human played games with managed games. I played basically with the same team, but with a major upgrade to the pitching staff (Prior) and a big bat to the lineup (Wily Mo). Prior notched 18 wins and Wily Mo sent 42 balls into the seats in sharing time with Rocco Baldelli and Joey Gathright in the OF. Not too shabby.

Zack Greinke won 27 games and repeated as the Cy Young Winner, and our very own Ryan McNeil saved an incredible 52 games and won the Rolaids Relief Award.

Speaking of the Devil Rays, the big date is quickly approaching. On June 10, 11 and 12, the beloved Rays will visit PNC Park. I'm pumped. I work 3 eight-hour shifts from Saturday and Sunday, so I hope to catch the Friday night game before I start the two days of terror. It's look like a Mark Redman v. Scott Kazmir matchup that night. My dream of having BJ Upton called up is looking grim, though, despite him tearing up AAA at the plate and in the field. He's had five straight multi-hit games and has made only one error in his past 20 games. Call him up, bitches.

Also on the horizon is a trifecta of weddings, beginning with Andy Gilliland later this month. My little sister Kelli will become "K. Kay" a month later, and my good friend Rob will wed later in the summer. I hate you all.

Don't forget to check out Cinderella Man this weekend when it debuts in theatres. Jeremy Schaap is one of the greatest and most underappreciated sportswriters of our generation, and his book is one of the finest examples of sports journalism/research I've ever encountered. I can't imagine mixing in Ron Howard and, with Schaap's guidance, this flick being anything less than one of the top 10 sports movies of the past decade or more.

Speaking of greatness - check out Coldplay's new album on Tuesday. "X&Y" is getting favorable reviews - as it naturally would. Face it people, Coldplay is the consistently best band out there right now. I've already heard the tracks on this album and it grades out at 4 stars.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Saw the Longest Yard over the weekend. It gets 2 1/2 stars on my 4-star scale. Had some funny moments, but all in all could've been a lot better. A number of scenes could've been expanded and could've drawn more out of them, but they fell a little short. And the slapstick comedy that usually inundates Sandlers films would've been better off left out of this film.

Other than that, not much to talk about. Greg is still having hopeless fantasies about petite brunette tv starlets he has no chance with.

Tara and I are continuing work on our masterful script, but it lacks essential characteristics such as a meaningful plot, memorable characters or interesting dialogue. But wrap it before you tap it will kill every single time. Go see it in theatres when it comes out.

I'd still like to go the book-writing route, which has the potential to eventually make it to the big screen. I mean, Jeremy Schaap pulled Cinderella Man out of his ass. I can pull something sports-related out of my awesome posterior.

Sorry for the most boring blog post of all time. I'm just killing time till I get off at 8 a.m.

The top 10 sports moments/achievements is coming soon, as well as a regular "top 10" list in the future. It might be top 5 or 8, depending on how lazy I am that day.

You need to get a life if you are still reading.