Results tagged ‘ minor leagues ’

Ben Sheets got me drunk.

 

ben sheets suds artOn January 26, 2010, Ben Sheets agreed to a one year, $10 million with an additional $2 million in incentives, contract with the Oakland Athletics. “Ok,” I thought, “he was hurt last year and this is his comeback.” I knew Ben was injury prone as he had just undergone Tommy John surgery the year before and sat out the entire 2009 season to rehab. It seemed at the time a high risk/reward signing, but I put it out of my mind because of the fact that I had other things to do. You see, it was my day off and I was supposed to meet a nice young lady for some beers and some games of pool at one of those newly opened, posh “gastropubs”. The date goes fine, we drink some nice brews, play some pool and I nod my head at all the crucial moments. Everything is going great until we step out on the back patio to smoke a joint… and then it hits me. Didn’t I see this guy pitch in the minor leagues? 

I can hear the readers screaming, “this guy is having a great time with this woman and he’s thinking about a fucking baseball player!” Well yes, I was, and even worse…I was thinking about the ex-girlfriend that had accompanied me to a baseball game. This is date suicide, I know, but bear with me–all of the thoughts below were fully compartmentalized within two minutes or so. (and it’s not as if it’s an epic, Homer-like story) That’s only about 3-4 head nods and a couple “mmm hmmm’s.”

It’s 1999. I had been wanting to go to a California League game for quite a while. Stockton, Ca. was the closest city to where I was living so it was the logical choice. The Stockton Ports were an (A) team for the Milwaukee Brewers, and I had a little rooting interest for the “Brew Crew;” I thought they were a scrappy, fun bunch. My girlfriend and I hop on the freeway and drive an half an hour south of Sacramento to the murderous, unemployed shit-heap known as Stockton.

Billy Hebert Field was in a sketchy neighborhood in the middle of a park. It was a bit old and had metal bleachers down the third/first base lines. The ballpark had opened in 1953, yet supposedly the land that was/is the field has been used for baseball since the late 19th century, and as legend says, the exact location where the poem “Casey at the bat” had taken place. We grab our beers and peanuts and sit on the third base line. The crowd is sparse, yet I’m enjoying myself.

billy hebert this one

Minor league games tend to have wacky promotions, yet this one was right out of the Bill Veeck hand book. The PA announcer tells the crowd that so and so from the opposing team would be the game’s “beer batter.” This meant that every time the batter in question struck out beer would be half off for 10 minutes. On the mound for the Ports that day was their newly signed “bonus baby,” Ben Sheets. Sheets proceeded to strike out the “beer batter” 4 times; and since there was barely a crowd, I would slowly walk to the concession stand and get a few beers for half off. The first few times were novelty, and then as the innings went by and the suds kicked in it became a sort of a right of passage and celebration of this young man’s talent. I was “three SHEETS to the wind” by the end of the game.

Times have changed. The Ports moved into a new, modern ballpark in 2005, leaving Billy Hebert unattended. They are now an affiliate of the Oakland A’s. Ben Sheets retired in 2012. He couldn’t shake off the injury bug that had hampered his career. I don’t speak to either woman anymore in this story. We had great times, yet that rolling stone keeps on moving. This isn’t a special story….it’s  just another baseball fan’s testament, and a story that will all too soon fade away.

Brian Kingman does some time travel.

bk

loves girls with cars….well, at least in 1975.

BK,

I just noticed you were born on July 27th. I was born on July 26th, 1975….you were a young buck just starting out in Boise at that time…
A 19 year old punk just a day shy of his 20th birthday…out on the road, away from his parents and living his baseball dream. Do you remember what you did that day? So fucking long ago…. 
July 26, 1975….let’s see if I can successfully do some time traveling back almost 40 years to the Northwest League. Normally this would next to impossible, however
through the magic of the Internet I was able to find a newspaper clipping that helped to spark my memory.
On Thursday July 24th I was within two outs of a no-hitter in Boise Idaho, but ended up with  a one hitter in a 7 inning game against the Portland Mavericks. Jim Bouton played for the Mavericks that year but he wasn’t with the team at the time we played them. If he had been I would have run through a brick wall to meet him! (editors note: Kurt Russell’s father owned the Portland team and the actor actually played for the unaffiliated team in 1973…a few years before Brian was in the league.)
I believe we played the Mavericks again on Friday, July25th. Only in the minor leagues would you leave around midnight, take a long bus ride and play the next day, but that’s what we did. We were off to Bellingham, Washington to play the Dodgers. So on Saturday July 26th, 1975 – Your Birthday- I would have been in Bellingham, between starts, and trying to figure out what the hell to do for entertainment after the game in a small town (population probably around 40,000 back then). The usual strategy for minor leaguers who constantly find themselves on the road and without a car, is to meet girls who have cars, and other coveted assets that can be shared and enjoyed. For more on this topic refer to Life in The Minors or perhaps even Ball Four.
Dave Stewart was on the Bellingham Dodgers. I remember him being mostly a relief pitcher at the time. I remember there was a team in Seattle as well, that played in the same ballpark (Sick Stadium) as the Seattle Pilots had several years earlier. Most baseball fans have never even heard of the Pilots because they only lasted one season, 1969. The only reason I remember
this is because Jim Bouton included his season with the Pilots in his epic book Ball Four.

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“Stew” looking mean.

Bouton resurfaced in the majors as a knuckleball relief pitcher in 1969 with the Seattle Pilots and later the Houston Astros. This period is well documented in Ball Four. Although Bouton was moderately successful as a knuckleball relief pitcher, after the backlash against Ball Four, Bouton disappeared from the majors. Although gone from the major leagues, Bouton continued to pitch for professional and semi-pro teams. He eventually made it back to the majors with the Atlanta Braves for five games in 1978 at the age of 39
After making it back to the major leagues he wrote this in a Sports Illustrated article: “Actually, I thought I’d play about five more years, Hoyt Wilhelm pitched until he was 48, but by the time I got called up, I knew I wouldn’t even stay around that long.” (Bouton was 39 at the time)

1984….the year Rickey stripped down to his chonies.

RickeyHendersonPlaygirlPT I’m not going to do a spring training report this year because…well, let’s face it, spring training doesn’t mean much to anyone but minor league players who want to sniff a few jock straps and have some stories to tell on the bus while they’re travelling to another crappy hayseed town. Most players think that the whole ordeal lasts waaaay too long, and I tend to agree. At this point in time I have no interest in watching Joe Blow from AA Round Rock pinch hit and strike out on 3 pitches because he’s never seen a curveball.

Instead, I have decided to take you on yet another virtual time travel. Rickey Henderson posed for Playgirl in July 1984, and I thought “gee, that was an interesting year in pop culture.” I was 9 years old and loved Michael Jackson. The biggest topic on the playground was,”would you fuck Madonna?”  Of course, we were all virgins and wouldn’t know what to do with our peckers even if Madonna was a pedophile who was attracted to small town knuckleheads.

Have a look and listen. Maybe a few of these videos might shake loose a memory from your rotted cerebrum and you can experience a serious case of the deja vu’s. I love when that happens. It leaves me speechless and almost comatose for a few moments.

Prince’s version was actually the number 1 single, but since he is such a hard-on about his music, here is the Patti Smith version. I love her.

number 1 album.

top grossing movie.

Padres and Tigers in the World Series. Yuck.

Who could forget the George Orwell classic!

Bill Bathe talks about his time with Canseco in the minor leagues.

bill_bathe_autograph

Bill Bathe played catcher in the Major Leagues for 3 years, including time with the Oakland A’s in 1986. I found this story on his website (http://pro-baseball-drills-and-equipment.com/stories/jose-canseco/) and found it to be interesting.  He now lives in Tucson, Arizona and is captain of the Tucson Fire Deapartment. Enjoy.

Playing along side Jose Canseco, this is my account of my playing days in the Oakland A’s minor leagues.

I had an opportunity to play in Tacoma and Oakland with Jose along with Mark McGwire.

When Jose was first playing in the minors, he was a young kid. Not weighing very much and skinny in stature. In the low minors he hit few home runs and struck out a lot. He was signed by the A’s after a recommendation by a scout. He was not a high pick.

It was noticed that after his average year in single A, he came to spring training the following year looking like Charles Atlas. Jose Canseco had gone from being skinny to the hulk.

After talking to Jose, I proposed the question to him about what he was doing to increase his size and strength so dramatically. He replied that he was lifting weights 8 hours a day. I balked at this and asked him again how he was doing it and he replied that he was taking steroids.

The next season, Canseco went on a rampage hitting wise. He started tearing up the league in double A and was soon promoted to triple A where he joined me on the Tacoma Tigers. He proceeded to tear up the triple A league also and when we played in Vancouver, an interesting thing happened and was amusing. While playing a game and after the opposing team could not get him out, when he appeared for his next at bat, on the score board appeared, “Now batting, Roy Hobbs”.

So Roy Hobbs was born in the Pacific coast league and he was hispanic with unbelievable bat speed. He remained with us for the short remainder of the season.

When we played at home, we played in Cheney stadium in Tacoma Washington. The center field fence is a long ways away, some 400 and something feet away with a towering green monster that rises at least 50 feet. In my 4 four years at Cheney stadium, I never once saw anybody hit one over that fence. Not only was it a long way away with a towering wall, the temperature was always damp and the ball did not carry very well. When Jose Canseco joined us at Cheney stadium, it was the first time I saw an opposing team stop what they were doing to watch Jose hit. You could have heard a pin drop. Jose was launching balls consistently over the center field wall and also putting them over the light tower in left center field which was also a herculean feat. I had never in my life witnessed such power. It was truly amazing to watch. Senor Roy Hobbs!

I had asked Jose if he thought steroids had helped his performance on the field. His reply was that it had. He felt that steroids allowed him to play at the level he was at. Now the real question is, how is this going to effect him long term.

 I can say this, Jose has changed in a lot of ways. I have known him for quite awhile and he used to be easy going. Seeing him now on interviews and other occasions, I can honestly say that he is a changed man. Time will tell what effects will have on Jose. I can only hope that it doesn’t cause him any morbidity or mortality. That would be a shame for a short time of glory.My advice is to stay away from steroids. The effects are long lasting and not worth the risk.

a very special thank you to Miles Head

miles headAs I have mentioned before on this blog, I have been collecting autographs TTM (through the mail) since I was a young boy. This usually involves sending a baseball card or some other piece of memorabilia to the team that the player of your choice plays on. Hopefully, that player takes time out of his busy schedule to scribble his name quickly and send it back in the envelope that you had provided. I find this hobby to be cool, fun, cheap and it always feels like Christmas when you get an envelope from a player in the mail. I wanted to get a ‘graph from Miles Head (a top 5 A’s prospect aquired with Josh Reddick in the Andrew Bailey/Ryan Sweeney trade. Win!) but didn’t have any of his cards. I wrote him a short note explaining the situation. (The only other time being Mike Piazza in 1991, who sent me an autographed Bakersfield Dodgers card!) Miles was nice enough to send me 2 signed cards (one with Stockton (A) and one with Round Rock (AA) Thanks Miles, you’ll always have a fan here. Here are a few quotes about the man and his abilities:

“We’re very optimistic about him. He’s one of the best pure hitters in the system. He’s a very aggressive hitter. He wants to put the ball in play, and he makes consistently loud contact. Defensively, we moved him over to third base last year, the position he played as an amateur. Everybody has more value at third base than at first base. But in the long run, he’s going to be a guy who plays both positions.”- Farhan Zaidi, A’s director of baseball operations

“Miles Head was the most absolutely dominant player I have ever seen. Ever. It  became comical at times seeing him shred through opposing organization’s top pitching like they were throwing BP. In case you didn’t know, Head is a hulking corner infielder that was the equivalent of a nuclear bomb to Cal League pitching. Apparently, he’s listed at 215 pounds, but I’m here to tell you that isn’t true. I’ve seen the man up close in person and I’d bet this blog he’s 230+ at least. He is an inhuman giant. And what he did to the Cal League was what would’ve happened in Oakland if Brandon Moss was on steroids and was fathered by a luck dragon.”- The afroed elepant blog.

“Oh, the headlines they’ll write. Miles Head is a powerful and puntastic prospect currently gaining attention in the Oakland system. With 23 homers in 124 games split between high- and double-A last year, Miles is a big boy on a fast track to joining the very young and very potent offense in Oakland.” -scouting book.com

Mr, Head is currently slated to play in Round Rock, (AA) but I expect to see him in Sacramento (AAA) by the middle/end of the season. There is no doubt you will see this guy in an Oakland uniform sometime in the near future.