The Off-Season begins

Well fans the end of the AFL is almost here.  I, for one, am very excited that the off-season can finally start.  I would like to thank everyone who has participated in comments and everyone who read this blog.  I am glad that there are fans out there who keep track of us and take a special interest.  I hope that everyone enjoyed reading my entries and those of my fellow teamates.  Well the season ends on Thursday and then I get to return to my hometown in NJ.  Hope everyone has a wonderful winter or off-season.  Spring training is right around the corner…….

“Guest Blogger:Derek Hankins

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Hey Pirates and Baseball Fans,

This is Derek “Big Ol Country” Hankins writing to you from the Arizona Fall League. First let me thank Jeff “The Train” Sues and MLB for selecting me to be a guest blogger during the fall league. I’ll first start off with telling you a little bit about my career so far. I was drafted in the 10th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2004 out of the University of Memphis. I began my career in short season ball in Williamsport and continued up the pirates chain where I got to Double A Altoona this past season. After a farely successful season in Altoona I was given this great opportunity by the Pirates to come to the Arizona Fall League. It has been an unbelievable learning experience out here getting to play with and against these very talented prospects. I think I can speak for the rest of the pirate prospects as well when I say “This is only gonna help all of our development and acieve our goals of making it to the big leagues very shortly.”

On another note it has also been a pleasure getting to know all the players from different organizations. We have a great team chemistry and really enjoyed being around each other in the clubhouse and most importantly on the field. I personally have enjoyed the bullpen and the batting practice conversations. We have covered just about every category of movie, tv show, and music in a game called password. It seems like there is never a dull moment anywhere in our clubhouse. It’s going to be a little hard leaving Arizona, because it truly has been one of the best experiences of my career up to this point. Thanks Again for the opportunity to chat with you all. 

Baseball Continues….

Hey fans. 

     This is the last full week of baseball and I think its coming to an end at the perfect time.  Games have been going well this past week and some quality baseball has been shinning through.  The pitchers have started to make adjustments to the hitters by mixing up pitches and thowing off timing.  Overall I think that the players are looking forward to getting some time off in the off-season.  For most players this is the most baseball that anyone has played in their career.  At the end of the AFL we will have totalled about 175 games.   

     I had an interesting conversation with a coach regarding a pitchers inabilty to overpower hitters compared to concentrating on locating pitches and throwing off timing.  Growing up I always heard my coaches tell me to blow the fastball by the batter, and I never heard anyone tell me to hit the catches glove to get outs.  Unfortunately what I learned growing up has been difficult for me to break away from.  My present-day coach tells me that there is nothing you can throw that these hitters haven’t seen before.  Basically saying that throwing to spots in the strike zone is far more important then trying to blow the fastball by him.  For example I had a hitter in a 0-2 count, which puts me in total control.  The catcher calls a fastball a little off the plate trying to make the batter hit a pitch out of the strike zone, which is what I want in that situation.  I accept the sign and I’m about to throw the ball and I tell myself to just throw this ball a little harder and it doesn’t matter where the pitch goes.  I throw the pitch and it travels to the center of the plate.  The hitter hits a double down the line.  My approach was very wrong and I payed for it.  So I’m working on this and realizing that there is a difference between being a pitcher and being a thrower. 

        That is all for this week fans.  There will be only one more entry in this blog for next week and then my off-season starts. 

Guest Blogger: Jamie Romak

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Hi! Jamie Romak here from sunny Scottsdale, AZ. After weeks of speculation I was finally selected to guest blog for MLB.com. Before I get started I’d like to thank the folks out here in the Fall League for letting me on here and also Jeff “Train” Sues for allowing me some space on his page.

Anyways for those interested I play the outfield and first base in the Pirates system. I was originally drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 4th Round way back in 2003. I guess after four years there I wore out my welcome and so they shipped me over to Pittsburgh where I’m still going strong. I was just a young 17 year old Canadian boy when this baseball thing started for me and having just turned 23 I feel like a seasoned vet. Ha! My first three years in pro ball seemed like more of an Introduction to Sports Medicine then prep for the Big Leagues, but after one seriously annoying back problem and a screw in my wrist I was ready to go. Wait…One more surgery this past off season got me straight and now I’m back loving the game I learned to play with my buddies at the school yard. I’ve been telling everyone since I was little that I am a Big Leaguer and I am excited about being part of the turn around with the Pirates.

As far as living here in Scottsdale it’s been a real treat. I’m staying in a sweet gated community, in a condo with two other Pirates – Derek Hankins and Steve Lerud. We call Derek “Country” because he’s from a tiny town somewhere in Illinois and I like to give him a hard time about putting Cilantro in everything he cooks. Country pitched great for us today and Steve “Rudy” has been putting on his usual catching clinics behind the dish.

Some interesting facts about me include my Grandpa having served overseas for Canada in the War and returning to suit up for the Detroit Red Wings along side legends Gordie Howe and Red Kelly. He is an amazing man who still drives all the way to watch me play during the season. Also my sister Devon is on a soccer scholarship to Florida Atlantic University where she is leading her Owls right now at the conference tournament.

Anyways sports fans if you are in the Greater Phoenix area take advantage of your chance to catch a Scorpions game and you might get an autograph from a real life Big Leaguer like Kevin Frandsen or an up and coming fireballer like Bud “Bye You” Norris.

Thanks for your time,

Jamie

Baseball continues…

        Hey fans. Well its come down to the last 15 games in the AFL, which is moving along quickly. Its continued to be an up and down swing thoughout this short season, with many high scoring games. I would still say the hitters have the advantage over the pitchers, yet I know that the pitchers are continuing to compete with their best effort. We are thowing everything we can up to the plate trying to create an advantage anywhere we can find it. Since the pitchers are struggling thoughout this league I think its relevent to talk about how a pitcher maintains a postive attitute through adversity.

         When a pitcher has an aweful game, how is he able to come back for the next outing with his confidence and determination? For instance, if a pitcher has a day where he can’t throw a strike and every strike he does throw gets hit, he might take that bad day and turn it into another bad game down the road. Regardless if the pitcher is a starter or reliver its difficult to completely forget about the previous outing, so instead of trying to wipe it away completely a pitcher should be able to annalyze the outing, picking out all the positives and negatives. Instead of looking at the over-all outing as a failure the pitcher should dissect it, while harping on the positives and looking to improve on the non-executed pitches. Many pitchers come out of a game thinking that they were terrible and at the same time over looking the things that they did well. No matter what type of performance a pitcher has there are always some areas the he did well, whether it be a pitch, a sequece to a batter, or just backing up a base on an over-throw. So one phrase that has been repeteted to me thoughout my baseball career is ‘never to high, and never too low’. Which means that when things are going really well enjoy it but don’t get too high on yourself because it can change very fast, and never too low means that even when you think you are at your worst you are not far away from turing it around.

           That is my insight into a pitchers thinking for this week, and considering the high ERA’s throughout the league I’m positive that there are a lot of pitchers that have to maintain postive outlooks and never get too low.

Till next week fans…

Last Week of October

     Hey fans. We are into the last week of October and our half-way point in the season. The level of baseball is up and down. There are a lot of stand-out performances, but the complete game seems to be lacking. Overall the whole league seems to be hitting the ball very well, whereas the pitching and defense are taking a backseat. The condition of the fields and some tired arms could be to blame. As a pitcher myself I have had some trouble keeping the ball down, and hitters of this caliber are taking advantage of these mistakes, which leads me to my next topic, the importance of pitching inside.

     As with any level and especially with better hitters pitching inside can make or break pitchers outings and careers. A lot of pitchers are afraid to pitch inside because they might hit the batter, giving him a free base, or they are more confident thowing the ball as far away from the hitters eyes as possible. Yet when a pitcher constantly throws the ball to the far end of the plate the hitter picks up on this and alters his approach by diving onto that side of the plate. By doing this he over-compensates to the pitch, taking away its effectiveness. Now there are two ways to pitch inside to batters, one is pitching in for effect and the other is pitching in for a strike. Pitching in for effect prevents that hitter from diving onto the outer edge of the plate. Now the hitter knows that the pitcher will pitch inside, therefore keeping him honest to both sides of the plate. Pitching in for effect is not meant to be a strike, just a purpose pitch so the hitter is aware of the pitchers capabilities. Pitching in for a strike is pretty straight forward. When throwing strikes inside the pitcher shows he is not afraid to throw the ball anywhere he wants, regardless of whether it hits the batter or not, resulting in a well-rounded pitcher.

     I mention pitching inside because it looks like the hitters, in general, are too comfortable and therefore are diving to the outer edge of the plate. Pitching inside is paramount in this league and higher levels because if you don’t it gives the hitter an advantage. Knowing hitters, I know they will take advantage of any edge they can get.

     Till next week fans…

Guest Blogger: Jared Hughes

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Hey everyone!  I’m Jared Hughes and I’m really stoked to have the opportunity to have an entry in the blog. I greatly appreciate everyone who decides to read it.

I’d like to start off with a few interesting facts about myself to help you get to know me better.  My name is Jared Hughes but I also go by any one of the following aliases: Bull, Ostrich, Spaghetti, Gumby, Huggies, Billy.  I grew up in Southern California and I pitched for the Long Beach State Dirtbags in 2005 and 2006.  In 2006 I was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates and ever since I have been grinding my way through the minor leagues en route to Pittsburgh.  I played this past season with the Lynchburg Hillcats  and the Altoona Curve and now I have been given the tremendous opportunity to play ball out here in Scottsdale, AZ for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

As an old mentor of mine would say…

“Glad to be here!”
-Ken Ravizza

The level of play in the fall league has been top notch so far.  The competition seems to always capitalize on mistakes.  The most successful players have been nearly flawless in executing their game plans.  I had a coach in little league (Coach Bob) who once told me:

“There are two types of errors: mental errors and physical errors.  A mental error is when you are lazy, you aren’t prepared, or you aren’t focused.  A physical error is when you gave it your all and just couldn’t make the play.”

Every player makes ‘physical errors’, they are part of the game.  Baseball is a game of failure, no player never faulters.  However, ‘mental errors’ are avoidable, and I’ve quickly learned that in higher levels of baseball, ‘mental errors’…put simply…cause big problems.

So the plan for the next month in Arizona is to stay focused, have fun, and work hard.  If I can stay focused and steer clear of those ‘mental errors’ I will give my team a good chance to win when I’m on the mound.  Hopefully with that good chance to win I can help the team turn things around and we can make a run at the Arizona Fall League championship.

Thanks for reading,

Jared Hughes

Pirates Baseball

     Hey fans.  Week two of the AFL has picked up for the Scottsdale Scopions improving our record to 5-8 and sitting just three games from first place.  We just finished up our game tonight and unfortunately we can up with the short end of the stick losing 10-6.  We are still showing promise and our hitters average and runs per game are among the best in the league. 

     This is a short week for most of the players in the AFL, giving us a day off for the Rising Stars game this Friday.  The Rising Stars game is basically an all-star game for the AFL, but more importantly its the players who are potentally closest to the Major Leagues.  Representing the Pirates is Shelby Ford.  Ford has increased his average to .343 from last week and continues to play a solid second base.  I had the opportunity to play with Shelby this year and he is very hard-nosed.  Meaning he hustles every time he steps on the field and you can always expect full effort.    

      That’s it for this week, and I hope the fans stay tuned in.  If there are any questions along with the comments then I would be happy to answer them.  I would also like to thank everyone that has commented.   

First Week in the AFL

Hey Pirate fans.  Jeff Sues here for the weekly update.  Well its been a week of playing games for the Scottsdale Scorpions and its been a little rocky.  We have a lot of talent on this team and I think once we start firing on all cylinders we’ll turn it aroiund.  There is a high level of baseball in Arizona with pitchers throwing in the upper-90’s and hitters launching balls.  Its extremely impressive to see the best of the minor league players all one one field, and it looks like an all-star game with players wearing their minor leage affiliate jerseys. 

    After the first few days of extreme heat in Arizona its cooled down quite a bit and become rather pleasant.  The stands are filled with, sometimes up to 40 scouts, at each game, yet the attendance overall is about 100 to 300 people per game.  Its a very laid back atmosphere with lots of free time and a loose clubhouse.  Players realize that it’s a great opportunity to play in Arizona and are taking advantage of it by having fun and being competitive.

     There are a few Pirate minor leaguers that have started off pretty hot.  Steve Lerud is hitting .571 in his first two games, and Shelby Ford is hitting .304.  Pitchers Derek Hankins and myself are posting a 0.00 ERA in our first two games.

     So fans that’s the update for now and I’ll post again next week.  If there are any comments or questions don’t hesitate to post. 

    

     

Guest Blogger: Steve Lerud

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Hey everyone! Steve Lerud here from sunny Arizona.  I’m down here for these eight weeks representing the Pittsburgh Pirates playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions.  Our team is made up of players from the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Houston Astros, and San Francisco Giants.  I’m very excited to get this opportunity and look forward for what it has in store for all of us.  This is my first “blog” ever so bear with me…

I was born and raised in Reno, Nevada and still reside there in the off-season.  I don’t get to spend a whole lot of time there anymore but I’ll always consider it home.  I always loved baseball growing up and was a huge Matt Williams fan which in turn made me a San Francisco Giants fan.  Coming out of high school I was fortunate enough to get drafted in the 3rd round of the 2003 draft by Pittsburgh. Since then I’ve had my share of stints on the DL and personal issues that I couldn’t control.  I strongly believe that all of the adversity I’ve faced so far has made me a better player and person.  I finally made it through a full season with no set-backs and finished up in AA Altoona, PA. Enough about me now let’s get back to the Fall League.

We’ve been here for two weeks now and just finished up our first week of games.  The first few days our clubhouse was very quiet and all of the different teams hung around eachother.  Now that games have started everyone is getting to know eachother better which makes things much more laid back. The level of competition is definitely a step up from what a lot of us are used to.  Some of the best young players in the minor leagues are out here and it makes for some very fun games.  Every player on the field has the ability to change the game in some way.  The speed of the game picks up at every level and the Fall League is definitely no exception.  In my opinion, being around all this talent everyday makes everyone on the field better.  Our team has a lot of guys who have been in the big leagues and it’s really interesting to listen to what they have to say about what it takes to stick there.  We struggled a little in our first few games this week going 1-4.  We’re looking forward to turning things around this next week as we continue to gel as a team.  I want to thank MLB.com for asking me to share my experiences so far here in Arizona.  I hope it gave everyone a little more insight into the AFL. Thanks for reading…

All my best,

Steve Lerud

 

 

 

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