Catching the bullpen for the American League during the All Star game was an awesome experience. Great on a whole bunch of levels. I got to catch up with old friends like Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long, photographer extraordinaire and all around character Michael “Z-Man” Zagaris, trainer Rick Griffin, and MLB production guy Danny Field.
Then, I got to be around the best players in the world. I got to be on the field again and feel the rush. Got to hang in the clubhouse and even sign a few autographs.
The most surreal thing was being in the clubhouse. For the most part, surprisingly, it was very calm. Whomever was in charge had strict time limits on the media so generally it was just a few clubhouse guys, the trainers, the coaches, and about a billion dollars worth of baseball talent….and me.
It was strange sitting down at a table to eat lunch with A-Rod, Jeter, Mauer, and Ichiro. I mean really strange.
Then there was the catching part. Here’s what I took away from the experience more than anything. As you may remember, I caught the bullpen for the Futures game a few days prior. Well, during those bullpen sessions, I took a few skipped balls off my body. I went home that night with a few battle wounds due to pitcher’s wildness.
During the All Star game, I didn’t have one pitch bounces in front of me. Not one. Let’s see, I caught Pettite, Verlander, Valverde, Soriano, Soria, Bailey, and probably a couple more l can’t think of off the top of my head, and I probably moved my glove across my body to receive a pitch four times. Four times! If these guys said they were throwing a backdoor slider, than that’s where it was going. I swear, I could’ve caught them with my eyes closed. And were talking about guys who are throwing 95-98, breaking balls, changes, splits, everything well above average.
And the All Star guys were every bit as nervous as the Futures guys. That just goes to show you that the nerves never go away. Both the Futures pitchers and the big leaguers had great “stuff”…the simple fact was, the Grande League guys could pinpoint their pitches. The Futures guys just didn’t have the same command…yet.
Big League hitters have no problem with velocity. They’ll turn around 95 in a heart beat. Greg Maddux was right, it’s all about location and late movement.
Another really fun thing I got to do was lean on the cage and watch the best in the world hit while talking offense with Kev Long. I saw a lot of different styles and a lot of different approaches, and a lot of similarities too. Every guy hit from an athletic position, had a positive “downhill” stride, stayed connected with their hands and body, and had really relaxed hands among other things.
Things I didn’t do…Didn’t get any autographs. Didn’t corner Mike Scioscia to ask him about his play at the plate catching technique. Didn’t snap even one photo (sorry). Didn’t tackle super model Marisa Miller during the celebrity softball game. Didn’t break my thumb.
All in all a great experience. Thank you to Tim Mead and Dennis Rogers for giving me the opportunity.