“I want to know a guarantee instead of a possibility.”

I’m only writing this post because I truly do love Brandon Phillips. He’s been a great Red, and a class-act to the fans. Although he ceremoniously and habitually avoids us on twitter like the bubonic plague, he’s still one of our favorite Reds that bridged the gap nicely from the Griffey/Dunn generation to the Votto/Bruce/Chapman era. Think about that, there aren’t a lot of Reds who have done that other than Bunny Arroyo and maybe Votto himself. And who knows how much longer he’ll be a Red. Continue reading

Saying goodbye to the Duke of baseball

Over the weekend we lost one of the greatest Dodgers to ever walk the earth. Duke Snider passed away at age 84.

We won’t pretend to have much of a tie of any type with Duke. We knew he was special as a player, he’s a guy who you wish you could have been around to have watched play the outfield back in the day ‘when it was a game’. He’s also featured in the song ‘Talkin’ Baseball’ if you’ve ever heard it.

For those closer to the situation, we refer you to True Blue L.A. for some memories of the Duke.

A Spring Training Update: Getting Snubbed by Ryno Sandberg

Spring Training is under way. Since we’re not lucky enough to be down in the Florida sunshine, we’ve still got a plan to have you covered. David Franco from Next Level Ballplayer is down in Florida for the week providing us with all the sights and sounds of spring baseball that we need. Yesterday’s adventure; was getting snubbed by Ryne Sandberg and hopping a fence to be part of the Twins/Red Sox nightcap. Tune in all week as Franco reports on ST exploits, and be sure to follow him on twitter or Facebook.

Franco’s Spring Training Update from FL: Day 1

Today’s adventures include seeing two games in the same day, getting big leagued by Ryne Sandberg, climbing fences to break into a sold out stadium and more.

What’s up Diamond Hoggers Nation. Franco here from Next Level Ballplayer, coming at you from sunny Florida. Over the next week I will be reporting for Diamond Hoggers on my baseball adventures as I bounce around the Grape Fruit League. Honored to be here. Onto day 1…

After an 11 hour drive to Florida on Saturday, I was more than ready to actually watch baseball on Sunday. The plan was to go see the Phillies v Yankees in Clearwater, but one game wasn’t enough so I drove about 3 hours after the Phils/Yanks game to watch the Twins/Red Sox in Fort Myers. The rest of the day’s activities went a little something like this:

Overall Highlight of the day- Just watching live baseball for the first time in what seems like forever.  85 degrees and sunny also helps after a cold winter up north.

Overall Lowlight of the day- Getting big leagued by Ryne Sandberg.

Phillies vs Yankees 1:05pm

Tickets: Scalped a $26 ticket for $20 and ended up in the 5th row up on the first base side where I could look in the Yankees dugout (A-Rod, Tex, Cano and Jeter were nowhere to be found.)

-I had about an 80% chance that I would see a Cy Young candidate throw for the Phillies… Instead I saw Joe Blanton throw a few innings.

-The place was packed with Phils fans outnumbering Yankee fans about 60/40.

-All female fans in attendance loved Swisher. He easily got the loudest cheers of the day when he came to the plate.

-Granderson hit an oppo-bomb that the wind blew out

-Lidge came in and promptly gave up a jack… All the Philly fans were like “Here we go again.”

-The Yankees won, but it’s just spring training so nobody cares

So I came down to FL to enjoy baseball and write for Diamond Hoggers, but I also want to get some more quality interviews with players for future Next Level Ballplayer articles. I have a few big league buddies who I’ll be visiting later in the week, but no contacts with the Phils or Yanks. No problem, I’ll just go where the guys are signing autographs and interview them while they’re signing little kid’s baseballs.

I pick a spot on the fence by the player’s parking lot cause a guy tells me Cliff Lee’s gonna come out this way… 15 minutes later, nobody has come by and some other lady says Lee already left. Ok, not as easy as I thought it’d be.

Then, as I was about to give up hope of any quality material, here comes one of the best 2nd basemen of alltime, Ryne Sandberg. I’m pumped to see Ryno.  He comes over and starts signing baseballs.

Franco-“Hey Ryne, What’s one piece of advice you’d give to the aspiring ballplayer out there?”

Ryno- Looks up at me and says, “No. I’m not gonna answer that.”

Then he signed autographs for 5 more minutes in silence. It was a bit awkward. I left feeling very unsatisfied… Check my watch, 5:30. I think I can make it to the Twins/Red Sox game by 7:30…

Twins vs Red Sox 7:05pm

I get to the stadium about 8pm and it’s sold out and there aren’t any scalpers around AND the ticket guy promises me there’s no way to get into the game.  He’s very unsympathetic that it’s my second spring training game that day and that I had been blown off by Ryno. I was getting into the game.

I walked all the way around the perimeter until I found a fence I could climb that put me near a practice field. Then I hoped the practice field fence and walked through the practice field dugout and came out almost in the Twins bullpen. I then walked up into the stands and enjoyed the rest of the game. Don’t try to keep me away from baseball!

Tickets: Free due to fence climbing. People left early so I sat 6 rows back of home plate for the final 5 innings.

-Youkilis still looks really funny taking cuts in the on deck circle.

-Nothing about the game really stood out, except it was fun to see my buddy Drew Sutton in a Red Sox jersey for the first time.

-The people in my row really violated the “only allowed to get up twice during a game” unwritten rule. I was on the aisle seat and I swear there were multiple people who got up and down 4 times in the last 5 innings… You know what though, I wasn’t mad. It’s spring training for fans to. I just hope they figure it out before the real season starts.

-My favorite fan of the nights was this 8 year old kid who spent 2 entire innings giving me the run down on EVERY single Red Sox big leaguer. Super impressive… He should definitely write the Red Sox review for Diamond Hoggers. I’ll see if I can run him down.

Conclusion

It was so good to be around baseball all day. If I could have gone to a third game tonight, I think I would have. Either way, I saw four solid teams who should make serious playoff pushes this year.  Tomorrow I’m headed to Port Charlotte to see the Rays take on the Pirates

Extra Innings

My texting convo with Drew Sutton tonight:

Franco: Yo, can we grab dinner Tues or Weds night?

Sutton: Yeah, I was told I’m going to be starting at first base Mon and Tues.

Franco: Here is your chance to make Boston forget about Gonzalez. It’s your job to lose.

Sutton: You shouldn’t smoke crack Franco.

Philadelphia Phillies 2011 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2011 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams . Today’s preview features the Philadelphia Phillies. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers previews every team division by division until the start of the regular season.

Continue reading

On the Fourth Anniversary of Diamond Hoggers

Four years ago today I started this blog with a guy who I played baseball with in college. A lot has changed since then. In a lot of ways, four years isn’t that long ago. But in a lot of ways it’s an eternity.

When I started out I didn’t really have a vision of why I was doing this. It was just something to have fun with and enjoy along with the greatest sport on earth. I was still a kid in a lot of ways. I had just moved into my first house on my own. When I look back on those humble beginnings I think back to a lot of posts I wrote while laying on the floor. I didn’t have furniture when I first moved into my house except for my bed and my kitchen table. I’ve got furniture now and even though I am not in a position to do this full-time, I enjoy it more pretty much every day and I plan to keep doing it for as long as I can.

I hash out plans in my head of where I would like to be someday with all this; but what really goes to plan anyways in life? The reality of it is, I really enjoy it and I’m not really writing about baseball and it’s intricacies for any real reason other than to have a few laughs with you all and to accomplish the things I already have. One day, I might think of an idea that is worthy for writing a book. Hopefully that happens. But if it doesn’t I’m satisfied with what doing this has already brought me.

Writing more or less every day, and putting my sometimes meaningless thoughts down on the internet has been great. It’s led me to have great experiences, form new friendships, and learn an abundance more about the game of baseball than I knew before. Back when I started out, I would have told you that I know pretty much every thing that there is to know about baseball. I had it all figured out.

I’ve learned in that time how wrong I really was. I had a lot to still learn about the game and about life. Since this blog has begun I’ve changed jobs, relationships, players have left town, managers have been fired, and the entire world around us is totally different. Friendships are different than they were, my time commitments are different and even though I always said I would never change a bit–I’m a little different too.

The only constant that has remained the same since Diamond Hoggers launched on February 27th, 2007 is how much I love the game of baseball. I love it as much as anyone I know, sometimes probably too much. I hope that is a quality that shines through as you read new posts (even when I’m running short on fresh ideas or time to proof-read posts) and when you look back through the archives.

If I do this another 20 or 30 years, I hope sometime down the road some young guy stumbles upon these pages and says to himself; the guy who wrote this really loved the game. If I can achieve that, I’ve done what I set out to do. I’ve accomplished the only legacy I guess that I have in mind.

Here’s to another year.

(And a special thanks to my good friend Mike over at The Golden Sombrero for the ‘birthday card’ containing this gift):

Nothing says happy birthday at Diamond Hoggers headquarters like Manny Ramirez cutting off Johnny Damon’s outfield throw without reason.

Thank you for your continued support of Diamond Hoggers.

An exclusive player interview with Drew Sutton

Over at the NLB, Dave is cranking out some great material thus far. Today, a post dropped that is a sign of things to come.

Dave sat down with Drew Sutton; former Cincinnati Red and current Boston Red Sox player. I still remember the night that Sutton hit the grand slam home run he speaks of in the interview. Here are some highlights:

What’s one thing that most people don’t know about Drew Sutton?

I have insecurities just as much as a high school or college player does which people wouldn’t think cause I’ve made it to the big leagues.  All guys have insecurities, we just hide it well.  There are days when I go into the cage before the game and feel horrible and think to myself “Oh man, it’s gonna be a long day.” You just have to go into the game with whatever swing you have and make the most of it.

The trick is to not have your confidence be based on how you’re playing, but based on knowing how you can play.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on hitting a curveball?
Dusty Baker was my manager with the Reds and he said that when he was coming up to the big leagues he couldn’t figure out how to hit a curveball.  One day he was watching ESPN and Rod Carew talking about hitting a curveball. Carew said that when you hit a curveball, you have to hit it with an imagination. You can’t hit a curveball where you see it, you have to hit it where it’s going. After Dusty heard that, he started hitting breaking balls a lot better.

Way to bring it strong, Dave. I love the answer Sutton gives about Dusty Baker describing how he learned to hit a curveball. I’ve never heard it described that way (then again, I’ve never had Major League instruction either) but if you think about it, that’s what it’s like.

Dave is down in Florida for Spring Training as we speak. Check out Next Level Ballplayer for more of the same in-depth stuff. Or give him a follow on twitter.

The Baseball Show: The Best, Around

Today on The Baseball Show Mike Rosenbaum of The Golden Sombrero and I usher in Spring Training the best way we know how. Today we talked about the following:

  • The beginning of Spring Training baseball games
  • The Adam Wainwright injury
  • Was Johnny Gomes really singing a song in The Karate Kid? Or celebrating not having to face Waino?
  • What is Chris Carpenter’s value on the open market if the Cardinals fall out of the race?
  • Was the Jose Bautista’s contract a poor move for the Blue Jays?
  • Thoughts on Miguel Cabrera’s DUI
  • Can Bryce Harper play at the big league level for the Washington Nationals this season?

We didn’t have time to cover Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects or some other things we would have liked to have talk about. But as I and Mike talk about; business is about to pick up. Baseball lovers, we have just about made it.

A Video that just Wreaks of the Good Old Days

This is why YouTube is golden. There aren’t too many places on the web that you can watch a video that has such elaborate footage of old Cleveland Stadium decked out and ready for baseball. I was actually at this stadium a few weeks before to see the Indians play the Mariners.

So many memories brought back by watching this and I was only actually there once. But this whole video– without saying a word–says a lot about the era I grew up during. And it says a lot without saying much at all. Just take it all in and enjoy it. These are the days of yesteryear. The days when Marlboro had sponsorship signs in every big league venue. Days we can never have back.

Do you want little Johnny to be a great ballplayer?

There’s never really been a blog that I’ve come across in all my years of searching the interwebs that taught young and aspiring ballplayers how to actually be ballplayers. Until now. And leave it to one of the greatest teammates I’ve ever had to be the guy to think of the great idea to develop a blog that would educate a young player on everything he needs to know to do just that.

My friend Dave has launched NextLevelBallplayer.com, so please check it out if you haven’t yet. Dave played major Division I baseball at Miami of Ohio with some really big time guys. I played with him from the time we were kids until our last high school game. He was a lot of fun to go through the trenches with.

I spent what seems like dozens upon dozens of games watching him make jaw-dropping plays at shortstop when I was out in left field. There was more than a few times I think he actually bailed me out with a play in short left field (thanks Dave). Beyond his athleticism, he was always an excellent example of a guy who took great care of himself and showed up ready to play. He prepared extremely well, he loved and understood the game, and he was successful at it. This isn’t a guy who hit 10 home runs in little league writing about how to play the game the right way. This is someone who I deeply respect–as well as his knowledge of the game and surrounding aspects.

Recently we were talking about how the game of baseball had given us both such wonderful things to look back on in the way of relationships and stories.

After not talking for some time, I missed a call from him last week. After a little phone tag I got a text back from him: ‘sorry I was throwing BP to Ben Zobrist, my arm feels like it’s going to fall off.’ We had some catching up to do. He had some great stories for me about his buddy ‘Zobie’ as he calls him, as well as his friendship with Dodgers GM Ned Colletti. Reds fans, he’s also buds with former Red Drew Sutton.

Dave is spending the week next week in Florida at Spring Training with Ben Zobrist and the Devil Rays among some other teams. Since we are not lucky enough to be joining him, he’s going to write some posts on Diamond Hoggers about the sites and surroundings in the beautiful Florida sun. This will be great.

Check out his site, or give him a follow on twitter. If I had a son, he would love baseball. And he would be bookmarking Next Level Ballplayer.

Bryce Harper is on Twitter

When I first saw it, I thought it was faux. But I have to say now that I’ve had a little time to examine the photo and the people he’s tweeting with, Bryce Harper (aka ‘BHarp34‘) has joined twitter.

To date he’s only got 568 followers. So the hysteria hasn’t caught fire yet. But this is more confirmation that Bryce knows he is going to be a star. Think about it. It’s Harper exuding confidence and basically calling his shot that he’s in his ascent to the Major Leagues.

No minor league ballplayer who flames out joins twitter and picks up a bunch of followers only to go out and hit .168 in AA ball. Harper’s on his way. And hopefully he can pick up a few more followers before he arrives at the MLB level. We also doubt this twitter will still be going then for one reason or another.