Enrique Oliu / Garden update

August 31, 2009

O.K. here’s something that is nothing short of amazing. In baseball, it’s often said that you can see something new everyday if you look close enough. Well, here’s a new one.

Enrique Oliu is the color analyst for the Tampa Bay Rays radio broadcast and he is….blind. That’s right, the man can’t see.

“It doesn’t make sense, right?” Carlos Pena the Rays’ first baseman, says of Oliu. “It’s unbelievable to me. But he does it. And he does it well.”

Tampa Bay Rays analyst Enrique Oliu.

Tampa Bay Rays analyst Enrique Oliu.

Click here to read the whole LA Times article.

On another note, here’s an update on our front yard experiment. If you didn’t see my post a few weeks ago about growing food, basically we ripped out our front yard and planted a garden.

This was about 3-4 weeks ago and much of the stuff we planted we planted by seed.  Check out what happened. When I left for Italy, there wasn’t much going on. I get home 3 weeks later and BAM! It’s on. Even our neighbors are impressed and I’ve caught them doing some early morning “shopping” in our yard.

With this development and the fact that I started drinking green tea, I’ll probably live approximately 158 years. This is good.

Lettuce, onions, peppers, squash, cucumber, tomato, carrot, beet, etc.

Lettuce, onions, peppers, squash, cucumber, tomato, carrot, beet, etc.

Our own grocery store in our front yard. Easy.

Our own grocery store in our front yard. Easy.

Can’t we all just get along?

August 29, 2009

Here’s a neat article written by ex-Dodger GM Fred Claire. He called me and we had a nice 30 minute conversation about catching and the pitcher/catcher dynamic. Enjoy.

Eric Gagne and I after a save.

Eric Gagne and I after a save.

Battery disagreements reach public eye

Flareups show pitchers and catchers not always in sync

By  /Fred Claire

If you go to dictionary.com and look up the word battery, you will find the following information included:

“Baseball. The pitcher and catcher considered as a unit.”

That’s the way it’s supposed to work in baseball, the pitcher and the catcher working together to figure out how to get the opposition to post 27 outs in a nine-inning game.

In a couple of recent Major League games, you had to wonder if the pitcher and catcher were working together as teammates or ready to tear into one another.

This all happened in a three-day span, and made headlines from coast to coast.

On Saturday at Fenway Park, New York Yankee pitcher A.J. Burnett gave up a home run to David Ortiz of the Red Sox on a fastball and then went into a very public display of disgust.

With the FOX cameras running during a national telecast, Burnett turned his back to home plate and catcher Jorge Posada and, with his arms outstretched, seemed to be saying, “Why? Why would you throw that pitch?”

After the game, Burnett and Posada acknowledged their disagreements during the game on pitch selection.

It’s not the first time a pitcher and catcher have been at odds, but it usually doesn’t play out in such a public forum.

On Monday night in Anaheim, Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander and his catcher Gerald Laird engaged in a heated verbal dispute in the dugout between innings and once again the disagreement was captured by television cameras.

The two incidents demonstrate a couple of noteworthy points:

1. The relationship between a pitcher and catcher is the most important combination at play during a game.

2. When the weather and the pennant races heat up tempers can grow short.

Fortunately, these types of pitcher-catcher disputes usually blow over quickly because in five days the twosome may be back together and hopefully working in harmony.

The relationship between a pitcher and catcher has been chronicled through the years by some noteworthy quotes.

“Catchers have been designated as geniuses but I don’t think that’s the case,” said Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn. “No one knows the rigors of pitching better than a pitcher.”

Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra had a counter viewpoint, once stating “All pitchers are liars and crybabies.”

“I remember one time going out to the mound to talk to Bob Gibson,” recalled former catcher and present day FOX announcer Tim McCarver. “He told me to get back behind the batter, that the only thing I knew about pitching was it was hard to hit.”

When all is said and done on the subject, most pitchers and catchers will agree on the most significant point of all — the pitcher has to throw the pitch he has the most confidence throwing.

“I never pressed a pitcher to throw a pitch he didn’t want to throw,” said Rick Dempsey, a veteran of 24 Major League seasons and now an announcer for the Baltimore Orioles. “You can’t fight your pitcher. No one emphasized that more than [former Orioles manager] Earl Weaver.”

As feisty as Dempsey was as a player, he said he never had a disagreement with a pitcher that was on public display.

“The very best pitch a pitcher can throw is the one he throws with his heart,” said Brent Mayne, a veteran of 15 seasons and author of the book “The Art of Catching.”

“I had the ability to call a game and get along with pitchers and excel at that part of the game,” said Mayne. “That was definitely where I made the house payments.”

It isn’t likely that the Yankees and Tigers will put any of their pitcher-catcher disagreements on public display the remainder of this season.

It should come under the heading of a lesson learned.

Furthermore, the goal is to have your pitcher and catcher hugging after the final out of the season; not arguing.

Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as Executive Vice-President and general manager. He is the author of “Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue.” This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Final Italy Post 2009

August 27, 2009

Here are some images from my trip to Italy. Lest you get the idea that we never worked, let me give you our schedule right off the bat.

My daily schedule in Italy generally went like this… Wake up at 5:45. Run for a half hour barefoot on the golf course. Come back, shower, do a little yoga and make breakfast.

Ride my bike to the field in time for an 8:15 meeting. On the field by 9. Practice till 12, break for lunch, then back out on the field for a 1:15 game. Play the game, coach my butt off, extra work if anyone was interested, and ride my bike back to the crib. Usually home by 4:30 or so.

Then I’d usually get in the car and go explore. These are the photos you see. In the few weeks I was there, we had one off day and two half days. And if you got my Catching Tip of the Week a few issues ago about never complaining about the weather, put your ear muffs on. I’m going to complain. It was smoking hot. Well into the 100’s with humidity.

Anyway, it was a great experience once again. Here’s the evidence. Enjoy.

Bagna de Lucca scene

Bagna de Lucca scene

Almost all the houses have this look.

Almost all the houses have this look.

I got lost and wandered into this neat old town by a river.

I got lost and wandered into this neat old town by a river.

Fish market

Fish market

Either bait or food or both.

Either bait or food or both.

La Dolce Vita in Portofino.

La Dolce Vita in Portofino.

Around Portofino.

Around Portofino.

A fun sunbathing beach.

A fun sunbathing beach.

The swimming hole.

The swimming hole.

Ciao Italy / Left Handed Catching

August 22, 2009

Well, just finished my last day on the field at the European Academy.  My apologies for the lack of blogging going on about this camp.  It was a great camp though and I’m hopeful that some of these kids will get a chance to continue their careers either professionally or for a college in the states. I think they’re good enough.

I’ll slap a couple of photos on you from the academy. The first one is of the legendary Dan Bonano. He is an American who came here to play in the early 80’s and never left. Basically he’s kind of the glue that holds the whole camp together. He speaks the language, knows all the people, and makes sure everything goes smoothly. He’s a great guy.

Our Big Toe and Bestest Buddy, Dan Bonano.

Our Big Toe and Bestest Buddy, Dan Bonano.

The second image is of Barry Larkin working glove drills with one of my catchers, Ashwin Rokx.  Infield drills are great for a catcher’s hands and lateral movement.

Infield drills with Barry Larkin.

Infield drills with Barry Larkin.

The last thing I’ll leave you with is an article I saw the other day about left handed catching. I get asked all the time why there aren’t any left handed catchers. Outside of the obvious fact that they’re generally goofy, I don’t have a good answer. There doesn’t seem to be a rational reason why there shouldn’t be one.

Anyway, this article should give you all you need to know on the subject. Enjoy.

Benny Distefano, the last left hander to catch in the Big Leagues.

Benny Distefano, the last left hander to catch in the Big Leagues.

More Hondo

August 20, 2009

More cowbell, I mean more Hondo. Frank Howard that is.

Here’s a new Hondo story I heard yesterday.

Randy Ready (aka Mad Max) was the player and Frank was coaching and they’re sitting on the bench watching a game.

Looking out on the play, Frank says, “Max, the way I see it, this game is all about the leather and lumber. If you ain’t doing one, you better be doing the other.”

And then after a few seconds he leaned in to Ready’s ear and said in his deep gravely voice, ” but frankly Max, I’m allergic to leather.”

randy+readyhoward-baseball.JPG