November 2008

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…