Monday, April 22, 2013

Many look to sports after tragedy...

Let me start by saying, I hate the fact that another senseless, and cowardly act, that resulted in tragedy,  made me think about this topic.  I hate that again, some idiot(s) think so little of life, would take innocent lives and affect hundreds of families for no reason.  But it happened, and this act turned a marathon into a battle zone.  It tore apart families.  Why?  Well that's a bit out of my knowledge zone and nobody at least yet, knows why this act was perpetrated in Boston.  

This latest act of terrorism, got me thinking about 9/11, and how the United States bounced back.  I also starting to think about other tough times our country has been through, like the 1979 seizing of the United States Embassy in Iran, and the subsequent taking of American hostages.  You're probably saying, huh?  Well it seems like there is a common bond in how the US healed from those two catastrophic events, sports.  Yes, sports.  The athletic accomplishes of some, meant so much to many and really seemed to help those directly affected a chance to escape, and heal.  It's not a magic elixir. It won't bring back those who were taken from us, it won't help find those responsible, but it is something that unites us.  

In the late 70's and early 80's, America was in a dark place.  There was a gas shortage.  Russia had invaded Afghanistan.  Iranian students overtook the US Embassy and took American hostages.   President Jimmy Carter spoke to the American people in July of 1979, even before the events in Iran, and said:
It's clear that the true problems of our Nation are much deeper -- deeper than gasoline lines or energy shortages, deeper even than inflation or recession. And I realize more than ever that as president I need your help. So I decided to reach out and listen to the voices of America.
The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.
The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.
I'm not a political person, so please don't look at this as a political statement.  It was bad, morale was low and there was no end in sight to the crisis.  That was until a rag tag bunch of college kids assembled under the direction of a fiery hockey coach Herb Brooks, began an historic run thru the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.   "American Pride" returned when they faced and then defeated the Soviet Union team, 4-3 on February 22, 1980.  Again, I'm not saying that this event alone healed our nation but it started the rally.  For 3 hours on that February night, nobody was thinking about inflation, about energy shortages, or gas shortages.  The chants that night of USA! USA! USA! were deafening and once again it seemed as though we were the UNITED States of America.

In the wake of 9/11, both the NFL and Major League Baseball shut down.  I remember covering a Chicago Bears practice the day after the attacks.  Standing out on the practice field talking to players, and being interrupted by the sound of a fighter jet flying over head.  It was a new world.  It was kind of eerie with all commercial airlines grounded a normally busy sky was silent.  

I also remember things getting back to "normal".  I remember the electric atmosphere at Wrigley Field when the Cubs got back to playing baseball.  I'll also never forget the signs that I saw that night.  "We Love You New York", "Tonight We Are All New Yorkers" and "Chicago and New York Stand Together".  Powerful.  Considering that in sports these two cities (like San Diego and Los Angeles) are rivals, not friends, nobody in one city roots for the other, but this tragedy brought the country together.  It's kind of like if you have a sibling, it's cool if you want to pick on your brother or sister, but the minute an "outsider" does the same, you take issue and defend.   

Such was the case with the latest tragedy caused by the bombs set off at the Boston Marathon.  The pure evil in the hearts of two idiots, took 4 lives and changed hundreds more with this one act.  Boston has always had a reputation of being strong, and wow, did it ever live up to that billing.  Strangers helping strangers, offering shelter, rides, medical assistance and pure compassion.  It tugged at my heart strings as I'm sure it did yours.  

The outpouring of support from again, rival cities was great to see. 

Even a Phoenix Coyotes Hockey player, Keith Yandle, who hails from Boston, showed his true colors, honoring the memory of the little boy that was killed in the blast...

 Saturday, the Boston Red Sox got back to work.  They honored the memories of the four people that were killed.  They honored the first responders at the race, the multiple agencies of law enforcement that eventually caught "suspect #2".  The team saluted the governor, the mayor and the police chief.  Heck, even Neil Diamond showed up to lead the crowd in the singing of his hit "Sweet Caroline".  But for all of those that were looking for some healing, some distraction or some sense of normal, Red Sox DH, David Ortiz addressed the crowd, wearing the word "BOSTON" across the chest of his home jersey (normally the home jersey says Red Sox) and uttered a profanity, but man was it on point... 

“This is our [expletive] city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”

He later apologized for using a profanity, but in the moment, it was what everybody in Fenway Park was thinking, and for that matter what we were all thinking.  Well done Big Papi.

Sports in general get a bad rap at times.  Athletes being payed millions to play kids games.  Scandals involving gambling, drug use and violence.  Ok, I get it and there's no denying that the industry has its faults.  But look at the evidence, sports unites us, it provides us an escape from our everyday problems.  3 hours a day at a ballpark, stadium or sports venue is never a bad way to spend that time.  I feel so fortunate to work in the industry and while sometimes I feel desensitized because its my life, I look to the examples I've provided, and realize how important sports is.   If you don't believe me...

I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people's accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man's failures.
Earl Warren
Chief Justice of the United States.

Here's to hoping I never have to write something like this again.  I don't want to have to update how a baseball game or football game provided us with an opportunity to heal after another tragedy.  Terrorists are cowards.  Terrorists are weak.  The United States is strong.  

I know one "team" that won't win....The Terrorists.  They will not win.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Quentin and the aftermath

Last night was not a normal night at the ballpark.  Generally speaking there is an unwritten "code" that players stand by when it comes to the HBP.  Carlos Quentin felt that previous history and some "expletives" from Zach Greinke, meant it was time to go...

Quentin knows the game tipping point

The history I spoke of, was two HBP's when Quentin was with the White Sox and Greinke was on Kansas City.  Quentin felt that in the 2009 incident, Greinke threw at his head before nailing Quentin in the shoulder.  Carlos said it only hit the shoulder but was aimed towards his head. 

At the same time during his almost 10 minute session with the media today, Quentin said that the objective was certainly not to injure Greinke, and is sorry about the result of the brawl...

Quentin unfortunate situation the mound

He knows that these things are part of the game, but there certainly are drawbacks to the focus it puts on him...

Quentin brings unwanted attention

Quentin spoke of John Baker, who was accused by Jerry Hairston Junior of the Dodgers as causing the 2nd incident, by taunting Dodgers players about Greinke's misfortune.  Baker told me today that he feels "sick" about the finger being pointed at him.  Baker went on to tell me that he is one of the most positive people in the game, and that he was actually "the one pulling Greinke out of the pile to avoid what happened to him" and that "nobody knew how hurt he was".  

Back to Quentin, he knows that the Dodgers have been hyped this year as a top contender in the west, spending 140+ million on Greinke, and he also knows how he's being portrayed in the national media, as the villain...

Quentin on being villianized

What Quentin saw before his eyes as he left the ballpark last night was Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, the two had words and had to be separated.  Quentin talks about that incident as well...

Quentin w Kemp it at that

Clayton Richard and ballpark security broke up the heated chat before it escalated any further.  Of course if you look at your schedule you plainly notice that the Padres will be in Los Angeles on Monday to start a three game series.  We may learn of the punishments as early as today.  If Quentin is suspended (and he likely will be) will he appeal and decide to play in the series, or will he just accept what comes his way and be done with it?   Buddy Black was pressed by the media to wonder, if Quentin is able to play, will there be another incident.  Buddy said, "I suspect we'll play those games there (LA) and there might be no incidents at all".   As we say in the radio business, Stay Tuned.

Other News:
Padres 3B, Chase Headley is going to start his rehab assignment tonight at Lake Elsinore.  He's expected to get a few at bats as the DH tonight.  Headley will then return to San Diego, as it's his bobble-head night tomorrow and he will receive his Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards in a pre game ceremony.  Headley then is expected to play the field for the Storm Sunday and then be evaluated.  Bud Black was asked if we could see Headley active in Los Angeles, "that would be cutting it close...but I won't rule it out".

Padres made a roster move today, they have selected the contract of RHP Thad Weber from Triple-A Tucson and have designated infielder Cody Ransom for assignment.  Weber was added to provide a fresh arm in the bullpen which has been taxed by some short outings in the starting rotation. Wber was claimed off waivers by the Padres from the Detroit Tigers last season. 

MLB just announced (6:48PM PDT) that Carlos Quentin has been suspended for 8 games, and Jerry Hairston Jr was suspended 1 game.  Each was fined.  Both players have appealed.  No word on a suspension for Matt Kemp.  MLB must still be looking at the tape and gathering information about the incident that took place in the hallway after the game. 

Alright that's a lot to digest.  Enjoy the night.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Time for the Opening Act

I have to admit, every time Opening Day rolls around, I feel like a little kid.  I’ve always said that the first game of the baseball season should be considered a National Holiday.  Banks, Government offices, and yes, schools should be closed to honor the NATIONAL pastime.  

The first game of a baseball season always takes me back to my childhood in the Suburbs of Chicago.  Luckily in my grade school, teachers knew that the attention span of many of us in class was even lower than normal.  So they’d roll in the big 19-inch black and white TV and we would watch baseball instead of doing our multiplication tables.  I would say (even back then I was a bit of a smart aleck) we are still doing math, with that hit Bill Madlock is batting 1.000 for the season!

Baseball has such a special relationship with its fans.  The season is long, but it seems like the winter (even in San Diego) is longer. There’s an emptiness that can’t be filled by one football game a week, by a couple of NBA or NHL games, some NCAA games, no sir.   The only thing that can fill the void is the next season.

I have been so fortunate to have witnessed many openers, as a viewer/listener, spectator and broadcaster.  The game is so special to me and in any capacity I love the opener. 

As a kid, I couldn’t wait to see my heroes return from their long winter away from the game.  There was an air of anticipation, of feeling “this is the year” for my team. Like a kid told he would be going to Disneyland the next day, I couldn’t ever sleep the night before game one.  Baseball insomnia.  I’m sure I’m not alone in that affliction.

As a fan, there was the buzz in the stadium when the team is introduced and lines up on the foul line.  Some guys we know, some we don’t, some we expect a lot from, some we don’t, but the one thing every fan knows his or her team is tied for 1st place and has a chance to win it all!

I’ve been to only a couple of opening days as a fan.  The first was in 1985.  Growing up a Cubs fan, the ’85 season, was one of “healing” if you know what I mean, and I think you do.  I was with my best friend and his dad, my dad, and yes my High School English teacher.  Scratching your head?

My English teacher, who we’ll call Mr. Wilson to protect the guilty in this case, actually allowed my friend and I to miss the first four periods of school the day tickets went on sale.  The only catch, was to make sure he got a ticket as well.  My friend and I camped out at the local Sporting Goods store and when the metal cage rolled up at the ticket counter, we were among the first to buy ours.  Deciding on the bleachers, we were all set and Mr. Wilson was pleased with our decision and our tenacity. 

The game in 1985 was something else.  It was actually sunny which wasn’t always the case in April in Chicago.  I couldn’t believe my eyes, the color of the grass was so green, the park was ready for the upcoming season.  The red, white and blue bunting was hanging from the fa├žade of the upper deck, seeing that I knew this was a special occasion.  It was, for goodness sake, Opening Day!  I watched as the Cubs beat the Pirates 2-1 on a Keith Moreland (yes he would later become a Padre player) 2 run homer off of Rick Rhoden in the 4th inning.  Rick Sutcliffe was the starter for the Cubs that day.  We had a blast.  It’s a game my dad and I still talk about because of the fun we had just hanging out. 

The other game I attended as a fan was the 1998 opener at Wrigley Field.  It was a moving day, the first without Harry Caray, who had passed away in February of ’98.  That was the day they first started having guest “conductors” for the 7th inning stretch.  Again, I was with my friend from the ’85 game, but this time, since I was 31, parents were not allowed.  I have to admit that sitting in the bleachers that game took on a different meaning than it did in 1985.  I was able to “enjoy” myself a little more, despite the 38 degree day.  I have to be honest, I know the Cubs won that game, but that’s about all I actually remember.  Remember I “enjoyed” myself.   My friends that were with me, still talk about that game as well. 

The next season, was my first as a broadcaster.   Opening day takes on new meaning when you’re behind the microphone.  It’s time to go to work.  Time to make the experience great for those that couldn’t be at the park for that special day.  We try to take those fans to the game with us, by describing the tremendous sights and sounds to them at home or in their cars.  That first one as an announcer is a blur to me.  I hosted the pre-game show, and interviewed countless players that day.   One stands out, but not for the reasons you might think.

Glenallen Hill was coming off a 3 for 4 performance the night before in the opening series at Pittsburgh, so I decided he was the target.   I couldn’t understand why at the moment, but Hill was dropping “F” bombs and other expletives during the taping of the interview.  I tried to get thru it, but Hill who is an imposing figure, wasn’t breaking ‘character’.  It wasn’t until I saw, my long time colleague Ron Santo, laughing and pointing, that I realized I had been “punked”.   Once we started for real, it hit me how special the home opener is to players.  Hill was eloquent when he talked about how players really get amped for the first game.  He told me that other than the first game of a playoff series, this was the biggest moment for a player.  Getting introduced to the crowd, running out to the foul line, seeing a packed house and all the energy in the stadium, was enough to overwhelm some players. 

Over the years, I have seen rookies making their first ever appearance in the big leagues, go out there on opening day.  I’ve witnessed pitchers making their first career opening day starts.  There have been some lopsided scores on opening day during my time as a fan and broadcaster.   Among the most memorable to me as a broadcaster:

2003 Cubs at Mets:  Cubs win 15-2, Corey Patterson 4x6, 2 HR, 7 RBI
2005 Cubs at Dbacks: Cubs win 16-6, Derek Lee 4x6, HR, 5 RBI
2007 Padres at SF: Padres win 7-0, Jake Peavy over Barry Zito, Bud Black’s 1st win
2010 Padres v. ATL: Padres win 17-2, Kyle Blanks 3x6, HR, 5 RBI, Corriea 1st opening day start.

So I guess what I’m saying is, cherish the day.  Realize what it means to players, coaches, broadcasters and yes for fans as well.  For some parts of the country it means the deep freeze of winter is over, for others it means their favorite team is back in business.   For me it means, time to get a suit pressed, it’s a tradition I started for myself back in 2004, wearing a suit on opening day (usually at home).  Yes, the day still has cache for me and it means as much to me know as it when I was a little boy.  After all baseball brings out the little boy or girl in all of us.  As Brad Pitt said in “Moneyball”, “it’s hard not to be romantic about baseball”…so true.

So as the new season approaches, sleep well, if you can. You’ll need your strength for the 162 game marathon we all love so much. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

2013 Season Preview - Padres

In a little less than a week the Padres will begin the 2013 season in the city so nice, they named it twice, New York, NY.   Citi Field, the same park the Padres opened in 2009 with Jody Gerut hitting a home run on the game's 3rd pitch from Mike Pelfrey in a 6-5 win.  

What will the team look like this time around in New York?  Let's dive in and take a look. 

Edinson Volquez 
There are a few things that are certain, Edinson Volquez will start the opening game.  This will be the second straight season, Volquez will start the opener for the Padres, and the third time in his career.  He pitched well for the Dominican Republic team in the WBC, and after throwing in a minor league game when he returned to Padres camp, Bud Black had seen what he needed to and named "Eddie" the starter in game one.   He was 11-11 with a 4.14 ERA in 32 starts last season.  

Clayton Richard was tabbed to pitch in game 2 against the Mets.  Richard became the Padres most dependable starter last season.  He got off to a slow start, but rebounded nicely after a few minor tweaks from pitching coach Darren Balsley, and finished 14-14, with a 3.99 ERA in 33 starts, which was tops on the team.  Richard is the only piece left in the Padres system left from the 2009 Jake Peavy trade with the White Sox.  During his time with San Diego, Richard is 38-34, with a 3.90 ERA. 

Jason Marquis and Eric Stults will be the 3 and 4 pitchers in the rotation.  This we know.  We don't know officially the number 5 starter, as the competition heats up with Andrew Cashner, and Tyson Ross left in the competition.   My thought (only my opinion), is that Cashner wins the 5th spot, with Ross starting out in the bullpen. 

1. Volquez
2. Richard
3. Marquis
4. Stults
5. Cashner

Huston Street
3 spots to me are "no brainers", with Huston Street anchoring things as the closer.  23 saves last year in 24 chances made him one of the most effective in baseball.  The only problem was injuries.  A lat muscle cost him time on the DL as did a calf problem.  He was limited to 40 appearances, but was very good, and with that he earned a contract extension.  The other two in the "no brainer" conversation, are Luke Gregerson and Joe Thatcher.  

So that's 3 of the probable 7 man pen for Bud Black.  The other four, again in my opinion, will be Dale Thayer, Brad Brach, Anthony Bass and Tyson Ross.  The latter two giving Black some flexibility in their roles as long men, or in Bass' case the talent to pitch an inning in back to back days or give the Padres a spot start. 


Position Players
This is where it could get interesting.  There will be plenty of familiar faces from last season and a few new ones heading into 2013.  This is how I see the lineup looking come opening day vs. LHP Jonathan Niese of the Mets. 

1. Everth Cabrera - SS
2. Chris Denorfia - RF
3. Yonder Alonso - 1B
Yonder Alonso

4. Carlos Quentin - LF
5. Nick Hundley - C
6. Cameron Maybin - CF
7. Jedd Gyorko - 2B
8. Cody Ransom - 3B

Ok let's dissect. Cabrera will be given the first crack at the leadoff spot.  He has the talent. Cabrera seems like he wants to lead off, and has embraced the job, by trying to bunt, and is trying to be more selective at the plate.  If he gets on he's off to the races.   Denorfia will likely start in right against the lefty.  The combo platter of "Deno" and Will Venable last year went very well, allowing each to excel in their roles.   Alonso has been killing the ball lately in spring.  Especially to his pull side.  The home run he hit last Sunday in Peoria was quite impressive.  9 homers a year ago, and to me more than that (significantly) this season.  Quentin says he'll be ready and it's hard to argue with him.  16 homers in 248 AB's last year. Hundley will do the bulk of the catching early with Grandal on the suspended list.  Hundley suffered through a tough injury plagued season last year.  He fought it and the more he tried to come out of the slump, the worse it got.  Hundley is relaxed and in good shape this spring and is hitting well this spring.  Maybin showed signs of putting things together midway thru last season.  He did away with the high leg kick and it paid immediate dividends.  Not sure how many fans realize how difficult it is to make that type of change during a season.  It's not easy.  Gyorko looks ready, but again we are seeing his results in spring training.  Every conversation I have with him, I think, wow, this kid is special.  He gets it.  Let's hope it translates to the big leagues.  Ransom, is the guy I think they'll tab early to make the roster while both Headley and Forsythe recover from injury.  He's a serviceable big league fielder and in the opportunities he got last year, had some pop in the bat.  

Here is my thought on the bench:
Mark Kotsay
Jesus Guzman
Alexi Amarista
Will Venable
John Baker

Injury news 2013 is getting off to a painful start for the Padres.  Injuries have been a big story in Spring Training and could affect the final roster.  

Chase Headley
Undoubtedly the biggest blow is the early loss of Headley.  This guy burst onto the scene after the trade deadline and went on to win the NL RBI crown with 115, hitting a career high 31 homers.  Headley finished 5th in the NL MVP voting, he won a Silver Slugger and took home a Gold Glove Award last season.   But it was March 17, St Patrick's day when there was no luck for the Padres, as Headley slid into 2nd to try and break up a double play. In the process he fractured the thumb on his left hand and is out 4-6 weeks.  I caught up with him and he described how he may have dodged a big bullet with where the injury occurred on his thumb...

Headley describes injury placement

Headley plans to stay in shape and be ready when his time on the DL is up.  I guess it's better to have this kind of thing happen (if it has to happen) now, rather than in the middle of the season. 

Logan Forsythe
The guy tabbed to fill in for Headley, is also likely to start the season on the disabled list.  Forsythe played in his first spring game Tuesday and got two at bats, then left.  After the game he told reporters that his foot flared up during the game, and that he had a set back.  This news is not good.  Forsythe really came into his own a year ago with the bat, and proved to be a very good major league defender.  He was also the Padres insurance policy at SS behind Everth Cabrera and now that will likely fall on Alexi Amarista. 

Carlos Quentin
Limited to only 86 games last season with the bad knee, Quentin contributed mightily, smacking 16 homers in only 284 at bats.  This guy wants to be on the field.  Last year he worked his tail off to rejoin the team after the knee flared up. He's a fierce competitor and really wanted to be on the field for the good times in the 2nd half of the season.  I have no doubt that he will find a way to get on the field for Opening Day.  His performance in Tuesday's game in Scottsdale is an indication he and the organization feel that Quentin will be ready to go in New York. 

Alright, that's what I think.  We should find out fairly soon what the actual roster will look like. How do you think the NL West will shape up?  Many are predicting the Padres to finish 4th, behind the Dodgers, Giants and Diamondbacks and ahead of the Rockies.  I personally think the Padres could finish 3rd if the team stays healthy.   Or in the Padres case, gets healthy. 

As always feel free to leave a comment.  

Have a great night!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Posting from Peoria 3.20.13

Ok, it's been too long since my last post.  I apologize to those that check my blog only to see that nothing has been written or posted in months.  Sometimes you just don't feel it, nothing rubs you the wrong way, no breaking news, or I'm just lazy.  It's a little bit of "all of the above". 

Anyway, enough about that, here are some random observations from my brief time at Padres camp so far...

Jedd Gyorko
I'm really impressed by this kid.  He has a great attitude toward making the switch from 3B to 2B in an effort to contribute to the big league club.  Gyorko can hit. I mean flat out rake. That's never been the issue, it's been defense.  Is he going to be a "plus" defender at second, probably not.  He won't be a guy he's been compared to, Dan Uggla, either.  He'll find a middle ground and be a dependable guy up the middle.  The versatility he has, will only help him, since he can play third if needed. 

He told me in the clubhouse the other day that he's been really working hard with infield coach Glenn Hoffman, picking Hoffy's brain about where to play hitters and how to get a better jump on the ball off the bat.  Gyorko said that at third "it's all reaction and using my body to get in front of a ball and then using my arm to get the guy at first base.  Second base is all about positioning and where you play a hitter to make it easier to get to the ball quickly"

I think fans are really going to like Gyorko. 

Carlos Quentin
I know that there is panic in "mudville" over the availability of the left fielder this season, but I know one guy that isn't in that state, Carlos Quentin.  The San Diego native went on a rigid off season diet and exercise program to take a little pressure off his surgically repaired knee. 

He has "technically" not appeared in an "A" game, although he did get two plate appearances in a game washed out by rain.  He told me that "if this was five or six years ago, I would be concerned (over not playing yet), but now, it's such a long season, and everybody goes thru ups and downs, there's no guarantee that with 20 at bats I'd start the season hot.  I just want to get to the point where I feel comfortable in the box and go from there."  

Q will play the field in a minor league game today and will hopefully be back in the "A" games shortly. 

Chase Headley
What an unfortunate turn of events for the Padres third baseman.  He broke the tip of his left thumb sliding into second base Sunday, in an effort to break up a double play.  Headley will be out anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks.  He was pragmatic about the situation saying, "obviously not the way I'd hope to start the season, but injuries are part of the game...". Headley said he is going to stay in shape and then when it's "go" time he'll be ready. It could have been a whole lot worse though, the injury didn't affect any tendons or ligaments which would have required surgery.

Just a few thoughts, must get ready for the web broadcast of today's game against the Giants in Peoria. I'll have the call on so please join me.

Take it easy!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fowler Park Opens, John Cunningham honored, and other random stuff...

San Diego showed itself quite nicely this weekend, with the unveiling of the brand new Fowler Park and Cunningham field at USD.  The Toreros were swept by Tony Gwynn's Aztecs in three games at the new facility.   More about that later. 

I was blown away upon entering the new park Friday night, to get ready to host Fox Sports San Diego's pre-game coverage, the place looked like a stadium.  Navy blue seats (1700 in all), clean, wide concrete concourses, beautiful green grass, perfectly shaded brown dirt on the infield, bright white chalk lines and a smile a mile wide by the stadium's namesake and the school's Athletic Director Ky Snyder. 

The 38 week project had it's troubling moments, from weather delays to just normal construction delays, and without a noticeable hitch, Fowler Park opened on time and with a great crowd on hand.  Fowler and Snyder were seen roaming the field before the opening ceremonies and just taking it all in.  Fowler admitted to me during our interview on Fox, that he was blown away by how well the stadium turned out.   Snyder admitted to some nervous moments in the days leading up to the opening, but was like a proud new papa during the ceremonies and first game.  Kudos to the folks at USD for doing it right and giving this community a state of the art facility.   A big "thanks" also to the Fowlers, Ron and Alexis, a "power couple" in our community, that truly knows the meaning of giving back.  Mr. Fowler told me that he and his wife feel very fortunate to have made a great living in San Diego, and to give back to the universities in town is a no brainer.  

Here are a couple of random photos from the last week around the Fowler Park project. 

From the first night practice at Fowler Park

View from 3rd Base Dugout on opening night         
John Cunningham Field
While Ron and Alexis Fowler stepped up to the plate to make the new ballpark possible it was great to see that the playing field itself, named for the long time baseball coach, and 50 year employee of USD, John Cunningham.  "JC" as he is affectionately called, was beaming even on Friday night at the marvel of this new stadium.  The 75 year old, Cunningham didn't have this facility as a recruiting tool, and still managed to win over 800 games in a 35 year coaching career.  The Toreros retired Cunningham's number 33 in ceremonies before Saturday night's game, and replica's of the jersey that JC and his team's wore, were recreated by Nike, and worn before Saturday's game.  High praise, and well deserved. 

Cunningham still serves the school as it's Director of Transportation, meaning if there's an athletic team that needs to get to a game within driving distance or to or from the airport, JC is the man to get them there and back.  You might want to give a friendly toot of the horn to JC the next time you see him driving the big blue Torero bus on the streets and freeways in Southern California. 

Cunningham is truly a wonderful human being.  I can't tell you how many times on various USD road trips (for those that don't know, I call the USD Men's basketball games on radio), I've had the pleasure of dining with him to hear him tell stories.  These are magnificent stories, filled with names that many sports fans will recognize, oh, like Bill Russell, and Wilt Chamberlain.  While these names may conjure up images for some of us, JC knew these guys, he played basketball with Russell at USF, and against Chamberlain while "Wilt the stilt" was at Kansas.   JC is not a name dropper, it's just that he happened to get to rub elbows with these "guys" that just happened to be famous.  

After 50 years at the school, you would think that JC's enthusiasm for coming to work may be draining, and you would be wrong.  Cunningham is up on everything that is going on in the athletic department at USD, and for that matter with the Padres, the Clippers, the Lakers and other Southern California teams.  I've tried to convert him into a hockey fan, with minimal succes.  I like to get to our bus trips early to allow time to chat with JC.  He'll ask me about the basketball game from the night before and not just general things.  He gets specific and I appreciate his insight into things.  We will talk about some of the players he's coached and how they remind him of some of the current players. 

Oh and by the way, don't challenge him to a round of golf.  He routinely shoots his age or better at his home course near Escondido   I was recently told about a time where Cunningham shot a hole in one on a medium length par 3, the guys in the group were all amazed.  Everyone else in the foursome applauded and couldn't believe it.  JC however was very matter of fact when telling the group, he had holed out in one on this same hole a few days earlier.  Incredible, but not as incredible as the man himself. 

Tony Gwynn
As long as I'm heaping praise, I don't want to forget about seeing Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn on Friday night as well.  He was obviously getting ready to lead his Aztecs onto the field and time was short, but Tony found some time to catch up.  Gwynn says he is feeling good, and couldn't wait for the baseball season to get going again for a couple of reasons.  First, he loves coaching and he loves his alma mater.  Secondly, it gives him something else to think about other than his health.  It was great to see him. 

Spring has sprung...
Pitchers and catchers reported to Peoria as Padres spring training got underway last week.  There hasn't been a ton of news out of camp yet, which is not a bad thing.  The biggest issue was the arrival of Yasmani Grandal.  The catcher who is suspended for the first 50 games of the season, was implicated in a PED investigation at a Miami area clinic a few weeks ago.  Grandal addressed his teammates and issued what some called a sincere apology.  He then read a prepared statement to the media.  Click here to read Corey Brock's story on Grandal and the statement. 

The Padres also announced they've avoided arbitration with the lone remaning unsigned player, Clayton Richard.  He inks a 1 year deal worth a reported $5.25 million.

Random stuff...

- More worthless the NBA All-Star game or the NFL Pro-Bowl?  Neither features much defense.  I have to give the nod to the NBA game because it features Craig Sager and his hideous jackets.  Who looks in a mirror and says, "man I look great tonight" wearing what he doe? 

- How about my Blackhawks?  Best team in the NHL, off to a 12-0-3 start, grabbing a point in every game they've played to this point.  Enjoyed watching them take care of the Kings again today!  Sorry Kings fans.   Still a game at the United Center (and previously at the Chicago Stadium) is great to be a part of, but make sure you get there early.  There is no better National Anthem in sports.  Trust me.  

- Speaking of the United Center, or the house that Michael Jordan built, happy birthday to #23, who turned 50 today.  I saw many of his games as a fan, and had the privilege of covering him during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.  For a superstar he was a media members dream.  He would take a little time to address us after a game, but would make it worth our while.  Jordan would routinely answer questions for upwards of 30 minutes, to make sure every last person there had a chance to ask his "airness" a question.  An amazing athlete that was so driven to compete it was scary.  I feel so lucky to have grown up watching the greatest player to ever play the game.  Even Magic Johnson admitted that yesterday.  He did say, and I agree with him, that he and Larry Bird rescued the game of basketball, and then said that Michael took it internationally and to a whole new level.  Happy Birthday MJ! 

- USD Basketball begins it's final road trip of the regular season, with a Thursday night game at Portland, then on Saturday the Toreros will be in Spokane to face Gonzaga.  Please join me at 7pm on Thursday and at 4pm Saturday for the games on "The Mighty 1090".  

I'll leave you with a quote from my all time favorite sit-com, "Seinfeld", figured it was appropriate with Spring Training starting and all...from George Costanza interacting with Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams during batting practice at Yankee Stadium...

[At Yankees batting practice
George Costanza: Guys, hitting is not about muscle. It's simple physics. Calculate the velocity, v, in relation to the trajectory, t, in which g, gravity, of course remains a constant. 
[Hits a home run
George Costanza: It's not complicated. 
Derek Jeter: Now, who are you again? 
George Costanza: George Costanza, assistant to the traveling secretary. 
Bernie Williams: Are you the guy who put us in that Ramada in Milwaukee? 
George Costanza: Do you wanna talk about hotels, or do you wanna win some ball games? 
Derek Jeter: We won the World Series. 
George Costanza: In six games. 
Good night all!


Monday, February 4, 2013

Superbowl Aftermath...

Greetings from Los Angeles, where the USD Toreros face the LMU Lions tonight...

Superbowl 47 (I refuse to use the Roman numerals) is done and in the books, and John beat little brother Jim to take home the Lombardi Trophy.  What started out as a blowout, became an entertaining game, and a tight finish in a 34-31 Ravens win over the 49'ers.  

Speaking of blowouts, what happened to the lights?  The conspiracy theorists are having a field day with the possible scenarios.   I of course (if you follow me on Twitter @Padscast you already know) have my own thought on the culprit...

Of course that's Johnny from the awesome movie Airplane!  He had some of the best lines in the movie...
Rex Kramer: Passengers certain to die! 
Steve McCroskey: Airline negligent. 
Johnny: There's a sale at Penney's!  
Steve McCroskey: Johnny, what can you make out of this? 
[Hands him the weather briefing
Johnny: This? Why, I can make a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl... 
Ok, sorry but I got off track.  Some want to dust the plug for Jim Harbaugh's fingerprints, since the 49'ers responded mightily after the power outage.  Some want to blame Beyonce for her powerful halftime show.  Some just want to blame Roger Goodell because they don't like him.  Whatever the case, the NFL is said to be "investigating" what happened.   It will be interesting to see what comes out of that process.  I was just sorry to see it happen to the city of New Orleans.  This was sort of the "rebirth", some 8 years after Hurricane Katrina basically wiped it off the map.  Hope it wasn't something that city engineers could have prevented. 

Random Thoughts about the game...

I'm not going to break down the game, you've probably already seen the highlights and read some in depth stories about it, so I won't waste your time. 

Here are some of my grades on the game, the coverage and other minutia... 

- Thought it was a great touch to have Jennifer Hudson and the Sandy Hook Elementary School Choir perform before the National Anthem.  Even as I type this sentence the hair on my arms are standing up giving me goosebumps.  To think about what those kids have been through since the tragic events at their school, it was a no brainer to have them represent their community and to honor the memory of their fallen classmates.   Grade: A+

- The Alicia Keys Anthem, was well done, until she started "free styling" at the end.  I've heard that it's an extremely difficult song to sing, and why make it tougher?  She had a lot of people rooting for her to keep going, especially those that had the OVER on her going over 1:45 total time.  It was the longest anthem in Superbowl history.  Grade: B-

- CBS was really tested during the power outage.  The booth mikes went dead (some were very happy about that), so it was scramble time.  I've been around many of those situations and it tests the ability of those in charge to get something on the air.  Steve Tasker, one of the sideline reporters was all over it.  He was calm in the face of the chaos, and to the best of his ability described what was happening on the field and gave insight into the mood of John Harbaugh.  Tasker Grade: B+

- When CBS turned it over to the desk for continuing coverage of the blackout, James Brown seemed a bit rattled, but he carried on well.  Shannon Sharpe seemed like he drained all the power out of the lights, because he was like the "Energizer Bunny", he kept talking and talking and talking.  Annoying!  Grade: G (F isn't strong enough)

- I know many of you tune in specifically for the commercials.  I thought overall they were pretty weak as far as Superbowl standards are concerned.  4 point something million bucks for a :30 commercial is a high price to pay for mediocrity.  I thought two stood out.  The Budweiser Clydesdale spot was tremendous.  The horse remembering who trained him/her and running back after the parade.  I also though the Farmer's spot was great.  The legendary voice of Paul Harvey talking about how important farmers are to the US was riveting.  Those two commercials not withstanding, the with the "geek" and the "model" was disturbing to say the least.  The Oreo cookies "Library" spot was ill-conceived to me.  Taco Bell and the Geezer's Gone Wild commercial was also a bit disturbing.  Grade: C-

Alright, that's my take on things.  I'm sure you have thoughts as well, so feel free to leave a comment.  

Fan Fest:

It's that time of year already, Padres Fan Fest is coming to Petco Park this weekend.  Saturday February 9 is when the festivities are scheduled.  For more information click here

Have a great day everyone!!


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

PED's Tough on MLB...

Well here we go again.  More stories about Major League Baseball and performance enhancing drugs (PED's).   Today it's suspected "juicer" Alex Rodriguez and his association with a sports clinic in South Florida, were several noted players, including, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez, Melky Cabrera and the Padres Yasmani Grandal were treated. 

The story from reporter Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times, who spent 3 months on the story indicates that records taken from Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic near the University of Miami, reportedly show those players and many other athletes all of whom have connections to South Florida -- received various substances from Anthony Bosch, the head of the clinic, who is already under investigation by MLB and DEA.

According to reports, Elfrink was given patient records by a former employee of the clinic. He followed up that research with multiple interviews with other former employees and clinic customers.  

From on line today:

Here's a snippet of Elfrink's findings regarding the Yankees' superstar third baseman:
There, at number seven on the list, is Alex Rodriguez. He paid $3,500, Bosch notes. Below that, he writes, "1.5/1.5 HGH (sports perf.) creams test., glut., MIC, supplement, sports perf. Diet." HGH, of course, is banned in baseball, as are testosterone creams.
That's not the only damning evidence against A-Rod, though. Another document from the files, a loose sheet with a header from the 19th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging and Aesthetic Medicine, lays out a full regimen under the name Cacique: "Test. cream... troches prior to workout... and GHRP... IGF-1... pink cream."
The mentions of Rodriguez begin in 2009 and continue all the way through last season. Take a page in another notebook, which is labeled "2012" and looks to have been written last spring. Under the heading "A-Rod/Cacique," Bosch writes, "He is paid through April 30th. He will owe May 1 $4,000... I need to see him between April 13-19, deliver troches, pink cream, and... May meds. Has three weeks of Sub-Q (as of April)."
This evidence seems pretty damning.  It's gotten so far that there is a report now that the New York Yankees are trying to void A-Rod's contract.  Though as the report indicates there is no precedent for voiding a contract due to use of PED's.  A-Rod still has 5 years and nearly $114 million left on his deal.  
More damning to me, is the fact that Rodriguez was falling out of favor already with the Yankees.  He was pinch hit for in the playoffs last year. His injuries have mounted and stats have plummeted over the last few seasons. Even though other players have been mentioned in the report (I'll get to that later)  A-Rod figures to be in the spotlight, especially after telling MLB in 2009 his PED use was limited to his 2001-03 stint with the Rangers.  
Stay tuned to see what the Yankees are able to do with the contract and how they use A-Rod if he sticks in the Bronx. 
Other Players:
Nelson Cruz of the Rangers is also mentioned in the report.  Cruz's name had not been linked to PED's in the past.  The Rangers released this statement today:
"At that time, the Rangers contacted Major League Baseball on that inquiry," the Rangers' statement said. "The team has no further comment."
Gio Gonzalez, who had a monster season for the Nationals, Melky Cabrera who was suspended last year while leading the NL in batting average for the Giants, Bartolo Colon who was suspended 50 games last year and Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal have also been implicated.  Grandal has been suspended the first 50 games of the 2013 season for testing positive for banned substances. 

Yikes for Yasmani

Hopefully for Grandal, this was a random mistake, after getting some bad advice and something that will never happen to him again.  Grandal showed the potential of an All-Star behind the plate and at the plate in the second half of 2012.  I'm sure the news of his suspension caused some fans to wonder if they've seen the real Grandal?   

We haven't heard the real story yet from Grandal, and perhaps with Spring Training around the corner, he'll explain.  After getting to know him a bit during the season, I'm really hoping he comes clean.  

This is a quick to forgive society, as I've mentioned before, the players that admit to making a mistake, usually get benefit of a second chance in the eyes of the fans. I'm ready to give him that benefit.   I however have no tolerance for those that lie about it.  That distort the truth.  That stand by a "reputation" and never come out of the shadows and set the record straight.  

It's such a shame that very talented players, like Alex Rodriguez, and Barry Bonds, who probably would have been Hall of Famers without PED's, had to keep up with the "cheaters" based on ego.  They couldn't stand seeing other players using PED's, and succeeding to levels that were still below theirs.  They had to think, "wow, imagine if I used these products, how much better would I be?".  Shame. 

What a mess.  Seems the list of those players not suspected of PED use, would be shorter to publish.  Unfortunately for them, playing in this era of baseball will have even the "non users" will be lumped in with those corrupting the game.  Again, shame on MLB for ignoring the signs, in the 90's, instead, choosing to ignore them, for the sake of putting life back into the game.  I'm not even sure enhanced testing is the answer anymore.  Seems like there is always somebody around that knows how to beat the system.  

The worst part:

I haven't even mentioned the worst part of all of this.  Jose Canseco was actually right. 
How sad is that?  

Random Rants:

...the new baseball facility at USD, Fowler Park and Cunningham Field, will open it's doors on February 15, as the Toreros take on HOF'er Tony Gwynn and San Diego State.   The park looks pretty spectacular.  Nice that USD is keeping John Cunningham's name on the field.  The former Torero's baseball coach has been at the school 50 years, and is now the Director of Transportation.  JC is a great guy and has tons of stories to share.  Thinking he would be a great subject of a blog entry one of these days.  Thoughts? 

...oh yeah, it's Superbowl Sunday next week.  I have been successfully avoiding the pre-game hype and 'media day' festivities.  Wait, I think the pre-game show itself starts in 20 minutes.  Who do you like in the game?  I'm leaning toward the 49'ers right now. 

...I am really truly happy for the city of New Orleans.  Great to see a proud city return to glory after being reduced to rubble by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.   

...mentioned on Twitter the other day that I've gotten hooked on another TV show.  I was a little late to the party on HBO's, The Newsroom, with Jeff Daniels.  I'm a big fan of the show and the writing of Aaron Sorkin.  I watched all 10 episodes of season one, in three days.  Hearing that season two will premier this summer. 

...happy to see the Aztecs basketball team ranked in the top 25 again...a great defensive effort got that job done against New Mexico.  

...hoping that this Saturday, the USD Toreros, shock the conference, and upset #7 Gonzaga. Hope you'll be on hand at the JCP, game starts at 8pm.  If you can't make it, join us on The Mighty 1090 with yours truly on the call. The Toreros have lost three straight since starting out conference play 4-0. 

...I'll leave you with a passage from one of my new favorite Twitter spots, "Modern Seinfeld"...

You can follow me on twitter also

Have a good night!