Baseball: A Game For Fathers and Sons

 

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Baseball truly is something special.

 

It’s more than a simple sport or even a game.

 

Baseball involves feelings and emotions, and in result, can create a special bond between a father and a son.

 

My dad didn’t introduce me to the beloved game. He didn’t pass down his trading cards or retell memories of players he saw while growing up.

 

No, my story is unique.

 

You see, my dad didn’t grow up loving the game that I do. He played little league, faked breaking his finger and didn’t pick up a glove until more than two decades later.

 

The reason my story is so special is how my dad became a fan of baseball.

 

I grew up playing recreational baseball, moving my way up into competitive and travel leagues.

 

My dad would spend endless hours in the backyard with me. He would wake up early or stay up late in order to help me become a better ballplayer. With each ball he soft-tossed to me, he pushed me to become a better player. As we played catch, he would instruct me to follow through with each throw.

 

One time I failed to listen to his advice and my throw sailed over his head and through the next door neighbor’s window, a memory that is humorous now, but wasn’t so funny when it happened. I was mad that my dad didn’t jump higher to catch my errant throw.

 

My dad took would take time off work to drive across the state and country to see me play. He went with me to every tournament and rarely missed a game. His free time turned into time watching me play baseball.

 

My mom recently told me that my dad would read books about baseball, learning the game so that it would give us something to talk about.

 

He gave up his life for the game that I loved.

 

I have the good fortune of having an April birthday, always falling right around Opening Day. Each Rockies’ home opener, my dad and I would play hooky from work and school to go to the game. A couple times, the game fell on my actual birthday, and once, we even saw Albert Pujols make his Major League debut.

 

We would get down to the game before the gates opened, early enough for batting practice and autographs, and he allowed me to stay after the game to savor the final sights, sounds and smells of the ballpark.

 

It was our time together.

 

There is no worldly thing that is more special to me than baseball.

 

When I think of baseball, however, it’s more than a game.

 

It’s an emotional attachment. It’s memories full of my dad and me spending hours together in the backyard, on the diamond or at the ballpark.

 

Baseball is for fathers and sons.

 

It’s for me and my dad.

 

This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.

Rockies’ Magical Ride Hits Nine

Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

 

Everything seems to be working out perfectly for the Rockies. It’s like all of a sudden, something clicked and the light turned on.

 

Nine straight winning performances by the starting rotation, solid relief from the bullpen, timely, clutch hitting and games without mental lapses. For the first time, all aspects seem to be playing well, at the same time.

 

The storm clouds that formed across the Denver skyline cleared up at game time, creating a nice evening at the park. Rain, hail and tornado warnings across Colorado all week finally settled down for the 2 hour, 28 minute contest. Directly after, the clouds let loose and the streets were flooded with rain showers.

 

Nine consecutive wins ties for second all time in Rockies history–and they’re still going.

 

Unlike the first eight, though, the ninth came in front of an energetic home crowd. When a double play would be turned, the crowd would roar in cheers. When a close call went the other way, the fans would rain boos.

 

And let’s not forget the suicide squeeze bunt in the 6th inning when Ian Stewart barely slid safely on Dexter Fowler’s bunt. Or when Ubaldo Jimenez executed a perfect fake-bunt slap hit past a charging infield to score another run.

 

Ubaldo pitched a 127-pitch complete game. It was a gritty performance as he surrendered four runs just one out into the fourth inning.

 

My friend turned to me at that point and asked, “When would you take him out?”

 

I told him to give him a chance and keep in there for a little longer. Jimenez ended up going another 4 2/3, throwing just his second complete game of his career.

 

The crowd cheered when manager Jim Tracy left Jimenez in to bat in the 8th inning after his pitch total was well into triple-digits and then erupted again when Tracy walked back to the dugout with two outs in the 9th inning and the tying run at the plate. The manager went out to talk to Jimenez. Most feared he was taking him out just one out before the complete game.

 

And it was even a special night, not for the Rockies, but for myself getting to see Ken Griffey, Jr. play. I took off work and bought my tickets well before the streak began hoping to see him play.

 

I grew up idolizing Jr. and wanted to get one last chance to see him play. I saw him about a decade ago when he was still The Kid with the M’s and saw him a few years later on Opening Day with the Reds, but I was hoping, that he would take the field for a rare outfield spot in the lineup to see him play once more. I was disappointed when he didn’t start, but when I saw the pitchers spot was due up in the 9th, it gave me hope. In fact, Griffey did come to the plate, drawing a walk.

 

It was the never give up mentality that gave the Rockies their ninth consecutive win. The fought, battled, and came from behind to beat the Mariners 6-4 in the series opener.

 

Don’t wake me, I’m enjoying the ride.

 

This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.

Happy Mother’s Day to a Baseball Mom


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My youth baseball coach used to tell my team there were no girls allowed in baseball. The opposite sex wasn’t allowed on the field, in the dugout, or anywhere else that could potentially take our focus away from the game being played.

 

The guideline may still hold true, but they are allowed in the stands.

 

I started playing baseball during my early childhood and didn’t relinquish my passion for playing the game until more than a decade later. At the beginning of my playing career, I’d be surprised if my mom knew what the difference between a home run and a double play was.

 

Over the years, however, she began to learn the game that I had fallen in love with.

 

To be honest, I don’t know if she had much of a choice. That’s how she spent each of her weekends between March and October. She travelled all over the state of Colorado and even to nearby states through the Midwest. She graciously sat through heat, hail and freezing temperatures to watch me play.

 

My team created shirts that my mom proudly wore that read, “I have no life. My son plays competitive baseball.”

 

She began to understand and even started to enjoy the game. She volunteered herself to chart pitches to keep track of balls, strikes and what type of pitch was thrown during my games.

 

My mom was a baseball mom.

 

During the summers we would go to Rockies games together.

 

We would eat sunflower seeds in the car as she kindly made the trek to the stadium in the late morning so I could see batting practice and gather by the home dugout to get autographs. After the games, she would stay late to let me savor each moment of being at the stadium.

 

I witnessed my first playoff game with her in 2007 and got to be with her for her first Opening Day last season. Perhaps my favorite memory with my mom, not just involving sports, but in general, was when she picked me up from a morning pitching lesson and told me we had to run a few errands before going home.

 

Being a child, I was disappointed that I was going to miss my favorite cartoons to instead go shopping. After several miles of driving south down I-25, I grumpily asked my mom, “What mall are we going to?”

 

She pulled out my glove and Rockies jersey from the backseat and started singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

 

We were going to the Rockies game that afternoon.

 

Despite the excessive amount of games I’ve been to in my 20 years of living, I have never caught a foul ball. I’ve gotten balls during batting practice or tossed to me during warm-ups, but never during a game.

 

My mom, on the other hand, has.

 

In an afternoon ballgame, a foul ball hit by Neifi Perez sliced down right field and into the seats one section away. As I quickly popped out of my seat to run near the ball, the ball bounced several feet in front of me and well over my head.

 

When I got back to my seat, my mom held the ball up to me with a smile. The ball had bounced straight into our row where she picked the ball up off of the ground. She explained how a guy tried grabbing the ball from her, but she wrapped her fingers around it tightly and yelled, “It’s mine, I’ve got it.”

 

In another game with my mom, I was ecstatic when I saw my first live balk called as Chan Ho Park of the Dodgers double-stepped while on the mound. I looked at my mom with excitement and asked, “Did you see that?” I proceeded to explain to her what Park illegally did and what a balk was.

 

Earlier this season, while watching a Sunday night telecast with my mom, she rewound the DVR on our TV as she said, “Look, that’s a balk!”

 

I’ve turned my mom into a sports nut. She has given her life to baseball and now will turn on the TV to watch a game, even if I’m not home with her.

 

I’m now in college and have final exams next week. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do much for my mom for her special day today. However, when the Rockies return from their road trip and play at Coors Field again later this month, I’ll be taking her to a game.

 

She’s almost as big of a baseball fan as I am now, and I know she wouldn’t want to spend her day any other way.

 

 

This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.

Even Manny Ramirez Haters Hate To See Him Fall

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I do not like Manny Ramirez.

 

I think he’s lazy. I don’t like his persona while playing the game. He’s greedy in my opinion. And now, he’s a cheater.

 

Two weeks ago, Manny and the Dodgers came to Coors Field to take on the Rockies. I had the privilege of sitting in the left field bleachers, directly behind Manny’s defensive position. I enjoyed nine innings of heckling the slugger and cheered thoroughly after each of his three strikeouts.

 

Ramirez is a great hitter. He is the quintessential slugger, but he is far from what a baseball player should be.

 

Despite my dissatisfaction with Ramirez, I was not one of the hundreds, probably thousands of gleeful anti-Manny baseball fans Thursday morning.

 

In February, during the wake of the A-Roid incident, I wrote a piece in which I hoped for baseball innocence. I said it’s the only way for baseball to get over the infamous “steroid era.”

 

I’m getting pretty tired of the “I didn’t know what I was putting in my body” excuses. We know you’re stupid, Manny, but are you really that na├»ve?

 

Although I don’t believe Manny, nor any other suspected users (Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, etc.), is innocent, it’s sad that all of the top players are ruining the great game of baseball–our nation’s pastime.

 

These players are tarnishing the game and hurting the reputation of all other players. When players perform well, they will no longer be innocent until proven guilty, but instead guilty until proven innocent.

 

Despite my stance against Manny, I was not excited to hear the breaking news Thursday morning.

 

Indeed, today is a sad day for baseball.

 

This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.

Colorado Rockies Need To Put Best Eight on the Field Despite Their Status

 

 

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There is no question in any fan’s mind that the Rockies desperately need to turn things around.

 

Yes, it’s early in the season, but this isn’t exactly the quick start we all were looking for.

 

The biggest issue, without a doubt, is the pitching. But, for a moment, I’m going to push that aside and focus on the offense.

 

I believe the club has one of the most solid lineups one through eight as any other team. I wrote during Spring Training that they have power and great hitters both in the starting lineup and coming off the bench, and I still stand by that.

 

The offense showed up the first four games and then caved in. I won’t go into detail. We all know that we’re not getting hits with runners on, we’re not getting runs across the plate, and we’re striking out at an alarming rate. The Rockies scored 30 runs in their first four games but have combined for just 27 in the last eight.

 

I’m no expert with handling lineups, and that is why I am a fan sitting at home rather than actually managing the team, but here is a thought: Put the best players in the lineup each day.

 

Seems obvious, right? Isn’t that the intention of every team?

 

Todd Helton was crushing the ball in Spring Training, but since the regular season has begun, he’s hitting .231.

 

Chris Iannetta earned his starting role last season but has just three hits in 27 at-bats in 2009.

 

Even Garrett Atkins, who went on a spurt where he tore the cover off the ball, is now hitting .191.

 

The point is, these are all players who are considered “starters.” They are on the team to lead them. But right now, they aren’t doing it.

 

Because of their status and the capabilities they have shown in the past, they continue to be in the lineup despite their struggles.

 

Most readers probably think it would be crazy to take Atkins out of the lineup. And, yes, I do believe that he will bounce back and recover from his slump. But, for the time being, put the best players in.

 

Ryan Spilborghs started out strong but has since struggled. Take him out and give Dexter Fowler and others time to prove themselves.

 

Give Ian Stewart a chance at third base, his primary position, while Atkins and Helton are struggling. Stewart leads the team with a .375 batting average, .467 on-base percentage, and a .792 slugging percentage to lead the team. He has six runs scored (tied for second) and seven RBI (second on team) despite just 24 at-bats. He is tied with or ahead of Atkins in every offensive category despite half the at-bats.

 

I do agree that these struggling players aren’t going to get better riding the pine, but there is too much depth on this roster to let talent sit while starters are struggling.

 

Give some of the starters a few days off to clear their minds while others get a chance.

 

If someone isn’t getting it done, let someone else prove their worth, despite their status.

 

 

This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.

Series Recap: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks

Series Recap: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks

April 8, 2009

 

Last year it took seven games before the Rockies got their second win of the season. It took three tries before the team won its first series.

 

2009 is a new story.

 

Using a tough early schedule as motivation, the team got off to a good start in the opening series.

 

Series Recap: The Rockies never trailed Wednesday afternoon, soundly defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-2 at Chase Field and taking the opening series two games to one.

 

What I liked: As a team, the offense was solid, putting up 20 runs on 25 hits in three games.

 

In games one and three, the team scored eight and nine runs, respectively. During Tuesday evening’s game, the team was in the middle of a pitcher’s duel between Ubaldo Jimenez and Dan Haren. Even then, however, the Rockies were able to get productive hits and bring runners around when they needed to.

 

The key hits were something that did not come easy in 2008.

 

Offensive power from the lineup was seen from top to bottom. Even the team’s arguably least powerful hitter, rookie Dexter Fowler, hit the first pitch he saw in game three over the left field wall. In all, seven home runs were hit in the series, including back to back home runs, twice.

 

What was more impressive, however, was the pitching.

 

Jimenez was phenomenal, allowing just four hits and zero runs in seven innings, striking out eight. As a big surprise, No. 5 starter, Franklin Morales pitched six solid innings in Wednesday’s game, not letting a run past the second batter of the game. Stephen Drew’s home run was the only runner to reach scoring position off of Morales.

 

Morales, who was told prior to the start of the season that this was his only chance to prove himself, did everything he could to keep his spot in the rotation. With several off days, Morales will pitch in Triple-A for next two weeks. His next possible start would be April 21. He is competing with newly acquired Jason Hammel and Matt Belisle for the last spot in the rotation.

 

The bullpen struggled a little bit in the first game, allowing three runs in 5.66 innings, but has since been nearly perfect, allowing just two hits and one run in five innings of relief.

 

The team was also perfect in the field, committing zero errors in the three-game series.

 

What needs improvement: Even in the loss, I was impressed with the product on the field. There’s not much to complain about.

 

Aaron Cook, who pitched in the opener, got the hook just seven outs into the game after giving up six runs. This was not the type of start expected from the club’s ace. However, the pitcher has revisited film and knows what he needs to do in order to perform like an ace for the remainder of the season.

 

The base running wasn’t how I had hoped it would be. Although I do agree with manager Clint Hurdle’s plan of being more aggressive, it didn’t work in the series, which included players like Brad Hawpe and Chris Iannetta being thrown out while trying to steal and pitcher Franklin Morales picked off at first base.

 

However, I hope that the early struggles don’t hesitate Hurdle’s aggressive decisions.

 

Overall: The Rockies were 3-15 against the Diamondbacks in 2008. They knew that in order to compete this year, they would have to beat the teams picked ahead of them in the division.

 

It’s still early, but I liked what I saw in the opening series.

 

Series Preview: The road for the Rockies doesn’t get any easier as they open up their home schedule in a weekend series against the defending World Series champion, Philadelphia Phillies.

 

After trailing 10-3, the Phillies scored eight runs in the seventh inning Wednesday afternoon, becoming victorious for the first time since clinching the title last October. The Phillies had dropped their first two games to the Atlanta Braves earlier in the week.

 

The Rockies were 0-6 against the Phillies in 2008, and haven’t beat them since sweeping them in the 2007 NLDS.

 

Probable starters:

Friday:

Phillies’ Cole Hamels (14- 10, 3.09) vs. Rockies’ Jason Marquis (11-9, 4.53), 2:10 p.m. MT

Saturday:

Phillies’ Brett Myers (0-1, 6.00*) vs. Rockies’ Jorge De La Rosa (10-8, 4.92), 6:10 p.m. MT

Sunday:

Phillies’ Chan Ho Park (4-4, 3.40) vs. Rockies’ Aaron Cook (0-0, 23.14*), 1:10 p.m. MT

                *2009 stats

 

 This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.

2009 Brings Optimism For Colorado Rockies Fan

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With the 2009 season upon us, I couldn’t help but pull out my personal copy of 21 Days: The Rockies Run for the Pennant.

 

Even today I get chills when I see highlights of Todd Helton drilling a walk-off home run over the right field fence off of Takasha Saito and racing around the bases before throwing his helmet and leaping into his mob of teammates. Goosebumps spread throughout my body as footage shows Matt Holliday diving headfirst into home to score the game winning run to send the Rockies to the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.

 

Reminiscing on those memories will bring a grown man to tears.

 

I don’t care what type of team is put on the field or what anyone says about a team’s chances in a given year. Watching and remembering what the Colorado Rockies did in 2007 gives any fan the optimism that this is their team’s year.

 

The beauty of Opening Day is that it is the only time that your team is guaranteed first place.

 

Everyone is 0-0. It’s a fresh start.

 

The Rockies’ run at the end of the 2007 season will go down as one of the greatest streaks in baseball history.

 

Manager Clint Hurdle later stated, “Man cannot script what sport can create.”

 

It transformed hearts and turned Denver into a baseball town–even if they were bandwagon fans and it only lasted that season.

 

The feelings and emotions accompanied with the run brought more joy to me personally than any other sports moment. It made me concentrate my full attention on the game and lose focus on my schoolwork and everything else going surrounding me.

 

It was an improbable run. Something I will be telling my children and grandchildren about 50 years from now.

 

Ernie Harwell, the narrator of the documentary, said, “In the end, the Rockies’ run for the pennant will be remembered as a band of brothers. Believing when no one else believed, reaching a level that no one thought they could reach, but meeting all challenges with the confidence, resiliency and spirit of a champion.”

 

Many are already writing the 2009 Rockies off. Vegas is giving the Rockies 75:1 odds of winning the World Series–good for fourth worst in all of baseball.

 

Obviously most don’t believe it can happen.

 

I’m convinced, however, that our offense is better than it has been in years. Players will be running around the bases on a consistent basis this season. Our defense will support the pitcher and our base running is improving each day. Our bullpen is rock-solid while our starting rotation has some young arms that have plenty of potential.

 

And what better way to head into the new season than closing out spring training on a three-game win streak and winning seven of their final nine games?

 

21 Days closes with several Rockies’ players reciting an inspirational quote once written by Vince Lombardi:

 

“A man can be as great as he want to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive, and if you’re willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.”

 

Some say I have blind love for the Rockies, but I’m ready for another improbable run.

 

It can be done.

 

 This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.