Orange Coast College Event

January 29, 2010

If you’re available this Saturday, January 30th at 10AM and happen to be in the Orange County area of Southern California, swing by Orange Coast College for a free talk I’m giving.  I’ll be covering a wide variety of subjects, from the long path to the big leagues to specific catching techniques. I’ll be answering questions and selling books.

Speaking of the long journey to the bigs, the images on the left show a couple of my stops.  One is my earliest baseball photo, featuring my brother Kevin and I in our snazzy, homemade Indian uniforms. The second is of my father Mike, and the third is of my father and his reaction to me playing for him.

My brother Kevin and I in our sweet uniforms.

My brother Kevin and I in our sweet uniforms.

My father Mike coaching it up.

My father Mike coaching it up.

My Dad

My Dad's reaction to watching me play.

Fond memories and good times. Please come by if you’re available.  Here is a copy of the flyer Orange Coast College put out to promote the event.

Screen shot 2010-01-28 at 3.33.30 PM

ORANGE COAST COLLEGE
2701 FAIRVIEW ROAD, P.O. BOX 5005
COSTA MESA, CA 92628-5005

Sat., January 30, 2010
10:00 am
The Gym Foyer
Orange Coast College
FREE
RSVP to (714) 432-5087

Roberto Clemente

January 27, 2010

How cool was Roberto Clemente? I know next to nothing about the man, but I love the pictures of this guy. Wiry and whippy strength. All the tools. A playing style and look that every Latin player since was influenced by. The Godfather of Latin baseball style.

I wish I would have been able to see him play in person. But thanks to YouTube, we still can enjoy a little of Roberto’s magic. For me, watching this guy is like watching a wild animal. Enjoy.

Women’s Softball

January 24, 2010

So I’m just finishing up this baseball conference at the Mohegan Sun Casino in the middle of I-don’t-know- where -Connecticut. It went well. I did three one hour presentations before lunch yesterday. That’s more talking than I’ve done since…ever.

Afterwards I had a little booth where I sold The Art of Catching book and talked to the folks. Then I woke up this morning and manned the booth as the convention made the switch from baseball to softball. This is interesting because I’ve become fascinated with women’s fast pitch softball as of late.

The reason I’m interested in the women’s softball game is because it’s so fast. I believe it was my father who turned me on to this fact. Because their game is so compressed and quick, the mechanics of the catchers (and other players) must be extremely efficient and simple to work. These women just don’t have time to have excess movements, timing mechanisms, etc.

I’ve said it many times before…I believe the biggest obstacle to advancing levels in baseball is the ever increasing speed a player will encounter. At the highest levels, the quickness of the game is blinding. Regardless of one’s athleticism, it’s my belief that if your movements aren’t simple, efficient, and repeatable, you’ll eventually find yourself sitting on the bench.

Lately I’ve been thinking that if I can help make the baseball catcher as efficient as the hard pitch softball catcher, I’ll be on to something good.

So anyway, as I’m sitting at my booth I can hear this lady conducting a workshop on softball catchers….and she’s making sense! I immediately threw up the “be back in 5 minutes” sign on my booth and made my way over to the cage area where she was speaking. To make a long story short, this lady named Lisa McGloin, who is a high school coach somewhere in Connecticut, gave the best catching clinic that I’ve heard in a long time. Maybe the best I’ve ever heard. A high school women’s softball coach! Fantastic. A great lesson to keep my ears open…I guess you never know how this game might teach you.

The PED Backlash, Leifer, & New Perspectives

January 19, 2010

What is it with me and steroids? I’ve put so much energy towards them it’s ridiculous. I’m so tired of these damn things. Who invented them? If you know the guy, tell him I’m coming after him. I don’t care if he’s 99, I’m still gonna kick his ass. I ought to just keep my big mouth shut when it comes to all the controversy…I just can’t get myself to do it.

Anyway, I’ve been sorely in need of a fresh perspective towards baseball. Just in time, I went out to Waco to speak at the Texas High School Baseball Convention. First off, let me tell you that Texas is one big ol state. I’ve never seen so many high school coaches in one place. Secondly, I got the fresh perspective I needed. Just seeing all these coaches hungry to learn more about the great game of baseball restored my faith.

The other thing I like to do when the steroid blues have got me down and I need a baseball lift is look at the amazing photographs of Neil Leifer. This guy never fails to get me in a better mood. Aside from an obvious passion for the game, Mr. Leifer is an artist and a technical wiz. The unique angles and perspectives of his images capture the essence (and innocence) of the game better than anything I’ve ever seen. I never tire of em. Here’s a few of my favorites….and a story about one of them. Enjoy.

Leifer's amazing perspective of Willie Davis sliding in to break up a double play.

Leifer's amazing perspective of Willie Davis sliding in to break up a double play.

Here is the story behind this image from Smithsonian.com.

Born in New York City in 1942 and raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Leifer grew up watching ballgames with his father, Abraham, a postal worker, at the Polo Grounds (home of his father’s beloved Giants) and Ebbets Field (home of the Dodgers). Leifer remembers taking a picture of Jackie Robinson on Camera Day at a Dodgers game when he was 13. The young photographer received training in technique at the Henry Street Settlement in New York and began selling photos as a teenager. At 18, he scored his first Sports Illustrated cover (of New York Giants quarterback Y. A. Tittle).

Leifer almost had to align the planets to get his double-play photograph at Dodgers Stadium, in Los Angeles, on April 25, 1965. He had brought his father to the game to watch the Dodgers take on the Philadelphia Phillies. “It was his first trip to the West Coast,” Leifer says. “Dad hadn’t yet gotten over the Dodgers and the Giants moving to California, but it was a thrill for him to be there anyway.” Abraham Leifer was “handy at building stuff,” so the photographer asked him to put together a small wooden box that could be put into a space carved out of the padding in the second base bag. Into the box went a Leica connected—through wires buried a few inches under the infield dirt—to a remote release behind first base. (Dodgers officials, Leifer says, were keen to cooperate with Sports Illustrated, and seemingly indifferent to any travails this imposed on the groundskeepers.) “I used a 21-millimeter lens”—a wide-angle lens—”because I wanted to get the stands as well as the play,” Leifer recalls. “My father actually had the remote release, while I was shooting with another camera.”

A classic double play developed in the third inning. With Willie Davis—the Dodgers’ great center fielder and then the fastest man in baseball—on first, batter Tommy Davis poked the ball to the infield. With perfect timing, Leifer père hit the remote release and caught Willie Davis launching into his slide toward the fielder’s foot.

Casey Stengel yelling at an ump.

Casey Stengel yelling at an ump.

Roberto Clemente...this might be my favorite Leifer image of them all.

Roberto Clemente...this might be my favorite Leifer image of them all.

Good Lord look at the size of Neil's....lens.

Good Lord look at the size of Neil's....lens.

McGwire admission reconsidered

January 12, 2010

Hold up. I wrote yesterday’s blog after reading the initial statements that Mark McGwire made regarding his steroid use. But then I saw the Costas/MLB interview and now I have a different perspective.

Did Mark really imply that steroids had/has no effect on performance? Please tell me he’s not doing this. I applauded him yesterday for his thorough admission, and I still do. That was a very difficult (but liberating) act. I also want to reiterate that Mark’s good guy and that I’m not passing judgement on him as a person.

That being said, I’ve got to say that his answers to these questions are totally false….

ON WHETHER HE THINKS HE WOULD STILL HAVE PERFORMED AS WELL WITHOUT STEROIDS:
“I truly believe so. I believe I was given this gift. The only reason I took steroids was for my health purposes. I did not take steroids to get any gain for any strength purposes… I’ve always had bat speed. I just learned how to shorten my bat speed. I learned how to be a better hitter. There’s not a pill or an injection that is going to give me — or any athlete — the hand-eye coordination to hit a baseball. A pill or an injection will not hit a baseball.”

I flat out disagree and I’m bummed that he’s taking this “health purpose” angle. First and foremost, YES you did take steroids for strength purposes and YES your bat speed and power were enhanced by them. I can’t even believe that he’s saying that.

Mark’s right that there isn’t a pill that gives someone great hand eye coordination, but it’s so much deeper than that. Strength makes up for so many mechanical shortcomings. In other words, the stronger you are, the less spot on you’ve got to be with your technique. Mark could miss-hit balls that would go out of the park or have enough on them to get in the gaps. I on the other hand (and all the others before the steroid era) had to square a ball exactly to get it through the hole or out of the park.

So YES Mark, steroids make you stronger and YES it has a huge impact on the results! Why would you call the Maris to apologize if it didn’t?

And another thing. And this may be more important than anything…especially in a game that is every bit as mental as physical. Newsflash! Steroids are a DRUG. As in, cocaine is a DRUG. They both make you feel like superman. People are consistently undervaluing the effect of the mental edge steroids/PEDs give an athlete. At the highest levels confidence is HUGE, feeling good is HUGE. The athlete who feels fresh, who is confident, who feels like a thousand pound gorilla, is going to dominate. Especially when you’re grinding out 162 games.

McGwire alluded to this when he mentions he used steroids for his health and to feel better. Look Mark, we all want to feel better! Somedays you just don’t and you’ve got to learn how to deal with that. We all have to deal with injuries and not playing at 100%. This is part of life and part of being a ballplayer. Learning how to compete with what you’ve got and how to stay healthy IS being a big leaguer!

ASKED REPEATEDLY BY COSTAS IF HE BELIEVED THAT HIS STATISTICS AND RECORDS WERE LEGITIMATE IN LIGHT OF THE DISCLOSURE…
McGwire did not budge. “Absolutely,” he said. “I truly believe so.”

I totally disagree. It helped him mentally and physically and his statistics reflect this fact. I think Mark’s failure to acknowledge this disrespects the greats of the past and those who didn’t use. Oh well….life goes on.

Oh yeah. One last thing I can’t understand. Why did McGwire apologize to Selig? As if Bud, the owners, and the front office are innocent and had no idea all this was taking place….c’mon, please spare me! They’re as guilty as anyone.