Take it in. Soak it in.
Whether on the radio, or the internet, television or sitting in the stands. It’s just the start of Spring Training ball, but it’s a start.
Start dreaming of the World Series.
Start dreaming of the comeback win or the no-hitter you are sure you’ll see this season.
It could happen, but it all starts today.
Does it mean the division is theirs? Not by any means..
Oh wait, all tied up. Ouch
Give it the next inning and the D’backs are up 4-3.Ahh..
That’s baseball and it ain’t over till it’s over but it’s just started!!
Rockies trailing 5-3 and I just started the first rally cap… with a big smile.
Photo credit: Tom Walsh: first (me)
second (my father and his grandson)
The saying ignorance is bliss can go a long way. After researching in the last 24 hours the degree of steroid influence in countries outside of the United States, I am neither ignorant nor bliss.
Unlike the United States, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela are countries with steriods available at the local drug store, no prescription necessary. The ability to easily obtain the drugs, combined with the impoverished lives so many players’ families lead, makes teenagers particularly susceptible to the quick fix steroids are supposed to provide. The average annual income in the Dominican is around $2,500, and Chicago Cubs infielder Ronny Cedeno, a Venezuelan, said: “We’re poor. We’re really poor. We need to make money. And it’s really hard to say no.”
I have to thank Erin Kathleen of Plunking Gomez for initially schooling me on what are called “buscones” or searchers in Latin America. From there the pandora’s box was opened and I cannot go back.
Buscones can be legitimate men to hustlers who help to bring talent to Major League teams and receive compensation from a players signing, usually anywhere from 10 to 30 percent.
Gonzalez, a shortstop, is in such a position to provide all this — including renovating a new home 2 1/2 miles away, where men lay tile and grin at their teenage employer’s arrival — as a direct result of the renegade system in which major league teams procure Dominican players. The system became so unwieldy that, six years ago, Major League Baseball established an office in Santo Domingo, the capital, to help provide structure, a commodity that has proved hard to obtain.
“Officially, we do not have jurisdiction over these people,” said Ronaldo Peralta, the director of MLB’s Latin American office. “There is only so much we can do.”
Foreign teenagers aren’t subject to MLB’s annual draft, which includes only American high schoolers and college kids. Rather, they are all but auctioned off to teams by street agents known locally as buscones, a derivative of the Spanish for “to find” or “to seek.” The process, which Nationals President Stan Kasten has likened to doing business in “the wild, wild West,” involves Dominican baseball men — part coaches, part providers, part hustlers, part financial advisers — identifying and cultivating talent, preparing the players for tryouts and then selling them in the July following their 16th birthdays to the highest-bidding major league teams. Depending on the arrangement, the buscones end up with anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of the signing bonuses — except in the countless instances in which they rip off an illiterate and unsuspecting family.
I was saddened to read all of the iformation and how MLB has very little power in helping to control these situations outside of the States.
I wondered aloud how many Americans and baseball fans were aware of this practice and where was I in hearing about this. We as a country tend to rally behind circumstances like these but I had not remembered any national outcry..
We won’t buy clothing or shoes made in sweat shops. We demand countries pay living wages or U.S. companies not take up shop in these countries to keep these practices out of sight.
How was it then we allow Major League teams to continue engaging in the process of picking up talent outside the United States where extremely unscrupuous practices are rampant?
MLB is aware of the pitfalls involved in the system. The league, though, says it is helpless to do anything directly about it.
“We do have a concern,” MLB’s Peralta said. “But I have to be honest with you, and I want to state for the record: Buscones, or independent scouts, are a very important part of the industry. They help fill a gap, because there’s not a lot of organized baseball in the Dominican Republic. They provide a service.
“But the sad situation becomes when, like in any other big group of people, there are some guys — and I wouldn’t say the majority of them, because there are a lot of hardworking people — but you will find some bad apples that have abused the players. We have no jurisdiction over them, but still, those incidents are the most publicized.”
Peralta said his office is working with the Dominican government to help establish regulations that MLB couldn’t enforce itself, including setting standard percentages buscones can receive from a signing bonus — 10 percent if they worked with a kid for a year or less, 15 percent if it’s a year or more. Though President Leonel Fernandez signed the legislation, Peralta said it had some “points of conflict” with the Dominican Olympic committee and other politicians, and it is not yet law.
“Basically,” Peralta said, “it’s out of our hands.”
I do understand the flip side of this argument and many buscones do provide a very necessary service to young players and Major League teams. I understand how many players would never see one moment in a Major League ballpark if not for them. What I don’t understand is if the average fan is willing to lobby their team to create the best possible situation and deal with legitimate buscones.
As the league continues to grow in numbers of Latin American players, it’s very possible your team, if it has none now, will have a greater presence in the future.
Now you know and are willing to ask if your team is helping to create a better system for young players or stimulating a negative one already in place?
There are a lot of great articles available for research. The excerpts from this blog came from writers Jeff Passan of yahoo sports and Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. Both men had great articles and helped to lessen some of the ignorance of this writer.
As I mentioned in my last blog I will try to put into words what it was like to spend 15 dollars and be at, in my opinion, one of the greatest games I will ever see. Picking up at the point where I have just bought the online ticket(s) and can’t wait for the game.
I’d like to say that I slept like a baby that Sunday night and it was just another baseball game the next day. Truth was I didn’t and there was no way I could know how great the game would actually be.
Monday morning rise and shine all I could think about was getting everything I had to get done at work early and be gone, no ifs ands or buts. So I did just that. I needed to get done early because I wanted to show the guys (team) I was there. I had been following them the whole year and I had to let them know I was there. Like they care. But I digress. So I had to make a sign. A sign to show my pride, and something to say “hey, let’s do this.” On and on I racked my brain but one thing kept coming back to me.
The Rockies of ’07 had this knack of seeming to come back with two outs in the bottom of the eighth or ninth almost like clockwork. I had taken so many people to games and with this aura of confidence I would always reassure. I’d hear “I don’t know doesn’t look too good.” I would just confidently reassure and say “just wait, just wait.” Then CRACK what seemed like a game over, just started a rally and he we were winning the game. Earily if they weren’t losing with two outs to go, I WOULD, get a little worried because we always seemed to come from behind. So this mantra came into my head again and I made my sign. As corny as a bad sports quote, it actually meant something to me and I did believe. The sign read “We Believe LoDo Magic.” That picture of me from the last blog shows it well.
Fresh paint and the car smelling what I imagine a graffiti artist getaway car to smell like, I took to the highway. Fast as that Ford would go. It was a Monday and everybody had to work. Too bad for them. I was lucky enough to get my girlfriend to go to the game. She had gone to a pretty good amount of games that year and I was happy to offer the ticket. She had street cred as far as I was concerned.
Anyone who knows me, knows I have a routine going to Rockies games. Gotta have my pistachios and more often than not I got my glove. I have my same parking lot I park in and all the guys know me. I have my same shirt that I wore all that year under my jersey. I have two Rockies hats that I rotate between and they have seen their better days, but I was proud to wear them in the losing years and I was proud to have them now. So you can bet I’m a little superstitous. Got to the Stadium. Like a pilot waiting to get off the ground I did my most important checklist. Hat-check, stachios-check, and on and on. Couldn’t break the routine or throw off the karma.
There it was like a God looming before me. Coors Field. I can’t remember a time I had been so nervous going into the gates. Happy, nervous like a guy going to the prom. This was it. This miracle run had come down to this. My father and I have this running debate on who told who the run could happen. I remember sitting on the first baseline with about 22 games left to go and texting “all we need now is to win 22 more.” Half joking, half serious I thought this team could do it. He says he told me that all we needed to do was win out, but pish posh- potato-pototo.
I was here and this was it. I’m sure many people blogging on MLB have been at a baseball game where the feeling is just electric. You feel like everyone there is your kin somehow and you’re all pulling for the same thing, this thing greater than all of you. Coors that night was that and more. People had just watched a team of young up and comings never give up, fight to the end and play to the last out and here we were waiting to see if they could do it one more time.
I’m sure when I’m 80 years old I’ll still be able to give a play by play of that game and I would love to now, but I’m sure anyone reading this could remember the same. So I’ll skip over much of the game. It was a great one though. One you hope to see. Pitching for both teams was tremendous after an initial barrage. Here was Padres ace Peavy and slayer Fogg trying to keep the runs limited. Then pitcher after pitcher. Lead change here, lead change there.
It was as much of a rollercoaster ride and emotional drain of any game I can remember. Everyone in my section might as well have been family. You’d exchange hugs and fist bumps. The guy next to me even apologized for going to get beer and giving up a grand slam. It wasn’t his fault but we all understood and commiserated anyway. He promised to not get up again between innings and he held to his word. I didn’t budge at all either for that matter. I sat in the first row and my girlfriend and I would hold up the sign whenever appropriate, but one time it was more appropriate then ever.
The night went on and Herges was as much of a rock as he had ever been in that entire run- 10, 11 and 12th innings shutting the door. As he was shutting that door I distinctly remember looking over into the bullpen and seeing who the Rockies had left from this game. And I saw him. Like the ugly girl at the dance with no date. Sitting on his chair all alone. I saw him and I said,”oh no, no, no please not Julio.” Yep you guessed it. Herges had done his job and all our hopes were riding on one Mr. Jorge Julio. I looked to my right and said, “this isn’t good.” She just looked back and said nothing.
Julio took the mound and gave up a double. Here we go I thought. Nothing against you Jorge, but I watched you get torched too many times in the course of a season and I just didn’t think you had it. Sure enough. Two run homerun in the top of the 13th. I can’t really put into words what that felt like. I gripped the green railing in front of me and fell to my knees literally. Somebody had just punched me in the gut and the rest of Coors too, because you could hear a pin drop. That was one of the most silent moments I can ever remember in such a big crowd. At that moment I’m ashamed to say I doubted. I was stunned. It couldn’t end like this. It just couldn’t. We had all sat through 13 inning of baseball, been cut off from beer for six of them and it just couldn’t end like this.
The Rockies retire the side and I’m sitting head down in my seat. I want to puke. I really feel sick. My house just burned down. My wife just left me for my best friend. My million dollar lottery ticket just got stolen. That’s when it happened. I felt a tug on my shoulder and the command “c’mon get up we believe.” She said it with such naive eyes I thought. This is Trevor freaking Hoffman coming in. This guy is money, he’s a legend. But she insisted with a childlike fervor and I got up. Dammit, I didn’t make this sign because I wanted to be cute. I made it because I did believe and it took someone who wasn’t aware of Hoffman or odds to smack me and remind me that I had seen so many historical comebacks this year and I was witness to one of the greatest streaks in baseball history. I was lucky enough to have a 15 dollar ticket and I got up.
Holding that sign high and proud we believed in Lodo magic. I got that feeling back in me, that er of confidence. I thought back and it came to me like a zen moment and I smiled and I started yelling till I was hoarse. This is how we wanted it. We win when it’s two out and we’re down and written off. This is perfect!
The electricity was back. Here it was. Rally cap on. Kaz comes up and like dejavu CRACK. Like I had seen so many times before during that magical summer. Go kaz go. This was it and I think everyone knew it. It always started like this. Duh duh, duh duh duh, duh duh duh-TULO. CRACK. Run Kaz run. MVP-MVP like a chant in perfect unison our steed who had a bad defensive play in the eight had to make up for it. He had to. CRACK. Too good to be true. It was tied and the guy who deserved a post season more than any baseball player I could remember is up. This has to be Hollywood right? The seasoned veteran wins it all? Almost. Intentional walk. Then up comes Mr. Carroll. This guy who seemed to sum up the whole team. Hard worker, never bitched or complained, just went out and hustled and did what he could to help.
Then like a scene I’ll never forget CRACK, is it, is it? Is it deep enough to score Holliday to win this whole friggin thing? I remember my whole body gripping looking down on the field watching the ball go up and come down and seeing this blur leap from third base. Thinking holy crap, ruuuuunnn. The ball is coming in to the catcher… Holliday running…slides. It seemed like forever. Like the pause for effect in movies. Head first into the home plate…is he? There it was I just saw in real life the umpire make one of the most historical calls I’ll probably ever see. Safe.
I was about as stunned as Holliday laying there on the ground. It felt like an out of body experience. I knew I was there. I could feel I was there. But it took my mind a moment to register what just happened. Coming out of a perpetual slow motion I began to high five, hug, yell. Yes there were some things said not heard in church and I couldn’t believe it. I was there the rest of the playoffs and saw the Rockies clinch the division and take home their first pennant and those were special moments too. Looking back though, I’m not sure I would ever trade another game for that 15 dollar ticket.