September 30, 2009

Let’s talk about the lumber for a second. The bats, the wood, the sticks, the tree, the weapon, the seal beater, the tally whacker, wonder boy, maple or ash.

I used a whole bunch of different brands of bats. Coopers when I first came up, then Sam bats, then Rawlings. From day one, I used Louisville Sluggers too. I’m sure just about every big leaguer from every era used or uses Louisville Sluggers either as their number one brand or just as a supplement to the one’s they normally use.

Regardless of the manufacturer, the model pretty much comes off a Louisville Slugger template. So I basically used C271 or M110 models. In other words, I may have been using a Cooper bat, but it was the shape of a C271 Louisville Slugger.

For the most part, I liked my sticks cupped (the end of the barrel cratered out-decreasing weight and changing the area of the sweet spot) and 34 inches/31.5oz.

The weight was always an issue. I’d order em 31.5 oz and they would come anywhere between that weight and 33 oz. Now an ounce may not seem like a lot to you, but it seemed like ten pounds to me.

Bat manufacturers would say that the more weight you had in your bat, the better the wood. In general, they may be telling the truth; however,  I saw Ken Griffey Jr.’s 30 oz bats and they were the hardest bats I’d ever seen.

The fact was and probably still is, that the best players get the best wood. Its as simple as that. Heavy, light, doesn’t matter. Ichiro is getting WAY better lumber than Brent. Period. But then again, 10 billion people in Japan flip on the tube every night to watch Ichiro hit and I bet there aren’t fifteen folks over there who know who I am.

Speaking of Ichiro, his sticks are crafted by a master bat making monk high atop the mountains of Japan in a cave in a panda bear reserve. Just kidding, I made that up. His Mizuno bats are made by a man named Isokazu Kubota. By the way, Mr. Kubota is the same guy who made Pete Rose’s bats…so I guess it’s safe to call him a master after all. Click here to read a nice Time magazine article on the man.

Master bat maker IKubota.

Master bat maker Isokazu Kubota.

I also liked my bats either brown or lightly flamed and finished. Once in a while I’d go for them unfinished. The only problem with the unfinished models was they had a tendency to take on weight/moisture as time went on. I also found you had to “bone” them to make the grain lay down. (Boning is the practice of rubbing the barrel of the bat on a big bone to keep the bat’s grain from flaking). On the upside though, they started out lighter.

I don’t know for sure, but I think I went through about 25-35 bats per year. Most of that was in the first few weeks of spring training when I’d routinely snap 2 or 3 a day. When I got in the groove, I might be able to keep a bat for a couple months before it flaked out or got sawed off by a Mariano Rivera cutter. Rivera might be a bigger threat to the environment and the forests than global warming. Al Gore should be on a crusade against him. That guy can snap a bat or two.

It was hard to tell by looking at it if a bat was a gamer or not. For me it boiled down to a combination of the following. The weight, the space and straightness of the grain, the sound, and just the way it felt when it struck a ball. I’d usually use it in batting practice for a day or two, get a feel, and then make a judgement on if it were game worthy or not.

The teams pay for the bats. I’d generally order through my club’s equipment manager. At about $70 per bat, that’s probably a pretty big expense for the teams when you factor in all the players. Especially if you happen to be in the National League and you’ve got the pitchers hitting and breaking bats like toothpicks.

What else? I loved pine tar. Not as much as George Brett  loved it, but I definitely felt no bat was complete without a good slathering of the stuff. I don’t think I ever taped a handle to get grip a la Ken Griffey Jr. I just preferred the tackiness of the tar. I also wore batting gloves. That’s all I got. If you want to read more, click here here for a good article I found on bats.

George Brett's pine tar bat.

George Brett's pine tar bat.

Loading up with the good stuff.

Loading up with the good stuff.

Health/Garden Update

September 23, 2009

In case you haven’t been following the blog, let me quickly bring you up to speed.

On a whim, ripped out my front yard. Planted a garden. Garden worked. Mass food occurred. Money saved. Health improving. Neighbors happy.

Basically now we’re up to speed. Oh yeah, except how to relate this to baseball. We decided to connect it to baseball by saying that health/strength is important and to get to the highest levels, you need an edge. So, to make a long story short, you can either do steroids or plant a garden. Simple see?

So here is the latest development. It turns out that the front yard garden is turning out WAY more food than we or the neighborhood can eat. It’s amazing, the ground just keeps making veggies. Trust me, there’s only so many cucumbers you can eat before you lose it. Seriously. But, the problem is, if you throw one in the trash, you feel really guilty.

So I quickly went into solution mode. The solution? Juicer. Green Star twin-gear juicer to be exact. Now I take all the stuff we can’t eat or give away and throw it into the juicer and make a monkey fart. You recall that a “monkey fart” is what you call a drink with a little of everything in it. Like a slurpee with a little of every flavor.

It’s working great. Doesn’t taste all that great, but completely free of guilt. Plus now instead of living to 150, you’re probably gonna have to tack another 10-15 years on that number. So that means I’ll be surfing in the year 2169. Bitchin.

By the way, I should probably be getting some kind of kick back from Green Star Juicer people right? Will somebody please call somebody?

The juicer and the juice.

The juicer and the juice.

Framing the Ball

September 20, 2009

I’m not into the practice of “framing” the ball. It looks goofy and it’s simply not effective.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “framing,” basically it means taking a ball that’s NOT a strike and manipulating your glove as you catch it to make the umpire think it IS a strike.

Like I said, it looks high schoolish and in my opinion disrupts the catcher/umpire relationship. Bottom line is you want the ump on your side. How’s he gonna get on your side if he can’t trust you any farther than he can throw you because your always trying to trick him?

Simply catch the ball cleanly with strength and throw the “framing” in the trash.

Don’t buy it? Listen to what MLB umpire Rick Reed said after calling a ball four that walked in the winning run for the Red Sox. On review of the video, Reed admitted missing the call, but here was his reasoning.

“The pitch was a strike – it was a pitch I thought was borderline. The catcher (Mike Napoli) brought it up and that was a telling blow. If a catcher moves his glove, it’s to improve the pitch. I had called a strike earlier in the game that he had pulled up that was low and I said to myself ‘I’m not going to let that happen again.’ ”

Basically what that says to me is Reed didn’t trust Napoli and in the end, it cost the Angels the game.

There are ways to trick the umpire that are way more tactful. Get my book The Art of Catching if you want to explore how. I’ll also expand on this thought a little bit in a future “Tip of the Week Newsletter.” Subscribe and look for it!

27 year MLB veteran umpire Rick Reed.

27 year MLB veteran umpire Rick Reed.

The Locker Room

September 17, 2009

If you’ve ever been curious as to how a MLB locker room functions, here’s a great article explaining the in’s and out’s of the space under the bleachers. I’ve had this saved on my computer for about a year and just rediscovered it….click here for the whole article.

A typical big league clubhouse.

A typical big league clubhouse.

From my perspective, I wasn’t all that concerned with my locker space. Just give me something in a quiet neighborhood…away from the loud Latin music and not in a high traffic route.

I had years where I enjoyed “extra locker status” and for me it was just more space to store more crap. More important than my locker location or extra space, I was concerned with my “secret space”. The place in the locker room where I could disappear and read or relax or just sit.

The thing is, if you’re sitting in front of your locker, you’re fair game. It’s not just a place to put your jock on, it’s also the place where you’ll end up talking to reporters, equipment reps, coaches, etc. etc. It’s no wonder why guys spend less time in the clubhouse after games. I think it’s because the locker room isn’t so much a place for all the boys, but now a multi-purpose workplace where one needs to be on his best pro-ballplayer behavior. And nobody wants to be on their best behavior, especially after a 0-5.

No more walking around with nothing but your cleats on. There’s women in there. No more pounding a dozen beers after the game with the boys. There’s reporters, coaches, etc. watching and taking notes.

That’s why I say the important place is the place, in the locker room area but outside of the locker room, that you can be you. That’s the golden spot to find. That’s all I got.

By the way, how’s this for an awesome quote.

I think about baseball when I wake up in the morning. I think about it all day and I dream about it at night. The only time I don’t think about it is when I’m playing it ~ Carl Yaztremski

U.S. Open of Tennis

September 14, 2009

Alright, as I’m writing this blog, I’m watching the US Open of tennis.

Are these guys the best athlete’s in the world? I’m starting to think so. I mean, they’re returning serves - squaring balls – that are 130 plus MPH!!! And putting them where they want to…WITH SPIN! I don’t know about you, but I’ve got serious issues trying to handle 100MPH.

They’re hitting the ball real hard. And here’s something  John McEnroe just pointed out that I had never thought of…they don’t have a strike zone. These guys have to handle the ball from the shoe laces to way over their head.

They have ten times the range and lateral movement of Jeter and they’re doing it for three hours straight! No coming in and B.S ing with the boys in between innings while you relax on the bench.

They don’t have the aid of a teammate on second base relaying signs that tell them what the next pitch might be.

These guys are amazing. I’d love to see what a Federer or Nadal or Del Potro could do if you put a bat in their hands. Especially if you started doing it when they were young. Good stuff.

Federer's a way better athlete that me, plus chicks dig him.

Federer's a way better athlete that me, plus chicks dig him.

Good luck squaring a ball from this gorilla.

Good luck squaring a ball from this gorilla.