My Hall of Fame vote…if I had one

Greg Maddux – Probably the last pitcher we will ever see with 300 wins.

Mike Mussina – You know you’re good when you’re a Yankee and I like you.

Tom Glavine – Another 300 win pitcher.

Curt Schilling – Low win total, but great postseason record and amazing K/BB ratio.

Jeff Bagwell – 149 OPS+ is only below two PED users and “The Big Hurt.”

Frank Thomas – His nickname is “The Big Hurt.”

Larry Walker – 2000+ hits and 200+ steals is pretty impressive to me

Tim Raines – Speed guys deserve more credit. 808 steals is awesome.

Edgar Martinez – Don’t knock a guy for being a DH, he was GREAT at his job.

Craig Biggio – 3000 hit club, 285 HBP, multiple All-star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and MVP votes.

Saber Seminar: Recap and Thoughts on an Amazing Baseball Weekend

This past weekend I made my way back to Boston, specifically down the street from Fenway Park to one of the most informative and interesting meetings of baseball science and analysis in the country; Saber Seminar.

After going last year I had to go back and obviously it didn’t disappoint. Two full days of presentations and talks about sabermetrics, science, scouting and baseball history. That is what I live for.

Where else can you get Keith Law, Dave Cameron, Dr. Dan Brooks, Dr. Allen Nathan, John Farrell, Dr. Chris Geary and Brian Bannister among others in the same room and even making jokes with each other? Nowhere. That is why this conference to benefit the Jimmy Fund is such an amazing event.

I may not be the most “qualified” person in the audience or have the resume yet, but that’s exactly why I go, to improve my skills, have an open mind and well, I love baseball.

Chuck Korb, the originator of Saber Seminar opened the weekend with a great monologue on the game, easily getting everyone psyched for what would be a remarkable event. This year featured more question and answer sessions with major league baseball personal, including Tom Tippett, the Director of Baseball Information Services for the Boston Red Sox. He provides the team with analytic support when it comes to making team decisions. He is a great insight into what is going on within the team when transactions and decisions are made; we all just wish he could comment on team matters.

If you’re at Saber Seminar obviously you know what pitch f/x is, but for those of you that don’t, it’s is basically a tracking system of all pitches thrown in major league baseball and with the help of Dan Brooks, the creator of brooksbaseball.net, anyone can see and use the data. This may not seem like an exciting topic for the casual fan, but that’s why we’re here and you’re watching the game at home.

Harry Pavlidis, a colleague of Brooks at the website, has identified and tagged over three million pitches on his own; an amazing feat. He gave a talk on what makes an effective changeup. If you play baseball, you know that a changeup might be one of the hardest pitches to throw even though it seems like the easiest, it’s just slow. Well, no, that’s not it.

The parts of the weekend that I really took a lot out of were all of the journalists: Brian MacPherson, Alex Speier, Ben Lindbergh, Dave Cameron and Keith Law. These are some of my favorite writers of the game, except for Lindbergh, but that’s just because his work is behind a pay-wall and I haven’t bought a subscription to Baseball Prospectus, yet.

Jon Sciambi of ESPN “moderated” the panel on Sunday and did a wonderful job, especially having his voice. The four minus Law talked about how they use advanced stats in the stories they write and how they convey them to the public, which is exactly what I am trying to do with my career. It’s tough to convince someone that pitcher wins don’t matter, but when the pro’s are doing it, it’s validating. In addition to the information these guys give, they are entertaining, especially Lindbergh, the editor in chief of Baseball Prospectus and Cameron, the managing editor of FanGraphs. They have a friendly rivalry that isn’t even a rivalry, they just like to kindly insult each other’s respective websites.

There is so much to say about this event, but I don’t want to keep this going too much longer so I’ll give you the rest of my highlights.

Dr. Allen Nathan is always interesting. The professor in physics from the University of Illinois gave a talk on a study he’s been working when it comes to evaluating batting. One of the biggest take-away’s I got from that was the speed of the ball coming off the bat and the launch angle do not directly correlate to landing position, spin of the ball has a lot to do with it. Basically, if a hitter has the ability to put backspin on the ball, he will increase his chances of hitting a home run.

Dr. Chris Geary followed with another funny and entertaining talk, just like last year. The Chief of Sports Medicine at Tuffs Medical Center has an amazing dry sense of humor and incorporates it amazingly into his talks. He discussed Avascular Necrosis, the hip condition Mike Napoli was discovered having in the off-season. It is basically a loss of blood supply to the bone and it slowly dies.  A Geary presentation wouldn’t be complete without pictures of his son and the famous, “I Will Fucking Cut You Bitch” slide when other forms of rehab don’t work and surgery is the only option.

Of course the weekend wouldn’t be complete with Dan Brooks giving his talk. A lot of talk around the SABR community when explaining stats and why a certain player can and can’t be considered elite is ‘sample size.’ How do we know when we can call a pitch ‘swing and miss’ or ‘elite?’ Well, Brooks used his neuroscience background to get very scientific to explain this. Cronbach’s Alpha, a coefficient to determine consistency and reliability. Whatever that mean, I learned that it takes different periods of time to determine whether a certain pitch can be consistent and reliable.

I can’t end a post about Saber Seminar 2013 without mentioning John Farrell. For the second straight year the manager of the Red Sox walked to the front of the room and answered questions from some of the most educated fans of the game. Last year Bobby Valentine told some awesome story about his playing time and managing in Japan, this year John Farrell just answered questions and did it wonderfully. He didn’t dodge any question and gave some really cool insight. One person asked why the Red Sox have been struggling with left-handed pitching and he specifically said it has been with ‘left-handers who throw strikes,’ like Bruce Chen and the other Royal they called up just to face the team. Another big pitching point made by Farrell is his starter getting 21 outs. “That’s huge,” he said. If the pitcher can go out and finish the seventh inning, he’s done his job. “Those first seven innings are probably more important than the last two.”

This was a great point by the manager. It’s easy to see why the clubhouse in Boston has turned around and brought them back from the cellar.

There were many other incredible speakers at Saber Seminar and I thank each and every one of them for their time and expertise. It was truly a wonderful experience and I will definitely be back for years to come.

 

Did Time Off Hurt Xavier?

When it was still bitter cold back in March, I watched a city scrimmage between Middletown and Xavier. The Blue Dragons were in rebuilding mode and the Falcons looking to make a run at the state championship.
The black and silver (white?) definitely looked like they had the team to do it and in the regular season they proved it, going 19-1, with only a loss to Shelton on Tax Day. They had been #1 in the New Haven Register poll for most of the season until yesterday.

Maybe the rest hurt the top seed. Xavier beat Hand, 14-5 on May 21 and then the rest of the SCC tournament was cancelled due to weather. Xavier recieved a bye through the first round of the Class LL state tournament and was set to play the winner of West Haven and Staples on May 30. Nine days was the longest the team went between games all season. I’m sure Richard Magner had the team ready to play, but there is nothing like game atmosphere.

Yesterday at Palmer Field in Middletown, Staples defeated the Falcons 5-4 in eight innings in one of the largest upsets in this year’s state tourney.

I will admit, I don’t know much about Staples, but I do know that Xavier was the clear favorite.

Tough finish to a great season, one of the best in over 30 years.

*I will be keeping an eye on the rest of the state tournaments and will continue to give my thoughts the rest of the way.

#CCSUBaseball Update

What did I get out of CCSU beating Stony Brook in baseball today besides almost frostbite in April?

The Blue Devils have not been hitting well lately and even coach Charlie Hickey mentioned that in a recent interview with The Recorder. They strike out too much and don’t give themselves any opportunities to score. Tuesday they didn’t do much better, but came through with a clutch hit to put them on top late in the game and eventually came away with the victory.

The Blue Devils loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth and pinch hitter Bobby Migliazza singled to right center scoring two. Josh Ingham followed with a bunt single getting Tyler McIntyre home from third.

Maybe that’s what the Blue Devils have to score some runs, play small ball. If they aren’t getting the big hit, they will have to manufacture runs.

With the way the Seawolves were playing today, it wasn’t going to be a big challenge. They threw a freshman who was coming off injury and I even heard that their head coach didn’t even make the trip in one of the three red vans they took from New York.

The wind was blowing in from left field Tuesday which meant nothing was going to fly out of the park, that’s why the small ball technique worked. One more run scored in the seventh when J.P. Sportman singled in Jeff Osak from second. Sportman finished the day with three hits, raising his average to .304.

Stony Brook played in the college world series last season, but lost a bunch of guys from that team and are having a down year. They are 14-27, including a loss to NEC front-runner Bryant last week.

Last weekend CCSU scored 13 runs vs. Wagner College on Staten Island, the first time all season they scored more than 9 runs.

The Blue Devils host Fairfield on Wednesday and Iona this weekend before returning to conference play against Bryant at home on May 3-5.

Baseball Stands With Boston

There have been a number of tragedy’s the United States has seen over the last few years and with sports being such a large part of our society, they provide a distraction when we need it most.

April 15, at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, two bombs exploded killed three people and injuring 130 more. Just a couple hours later, the Boston Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays and were on their way to Cleveland. I was sitting in class on my phone continuoiusly updating Twitter and when I saw the tweets start to come in about an expolsion, I could look away. I kept with the story for the rest of class and the rrest of the day. The stories I heard and the pictures I saw were intense. The more I heard, the worse I felt.

Tuesday morning, the New York Yankees announced that they would play Fenway Park favorite, “Sweet Caroline” after the third inning of their game. This was an amazing gesture and almost the entire league followed suit.

I may hate the Yankees, because I am a Red Sox fan, but I am a baseball fan and an American. This was as classy as any orgainization could be.

I also saw people on Twitter posting pictures of themselves wearing Red Sox gear even though they were Red Sox fans.

One thing this country does better than anyone, is come together in times of need. Sports provide a wonderful solace in that sense and even though I may be a sports nut, I understand and appreciate what they do for people and how they help everyone in even the smallest ways.

BostonStrong

Spring Sports Bombardment

The last couple of weeks at the Middletown Press, for me at least, have been pretty slow. Basketball season ended and we didn’t have all the scores coming in every night, well, that changed tonight.

I put all the spring sports schedules in my Google calender to begin the day and it showed me just how many games we had to cover every day. Then there was a little bit of downtime before the results started to come in. The one call I took was from the Mercy golf coach. The Tigers lost their first match of the season 224-228 to Cheshire.

A lot of the springs sports coaches email in their results which is nice, but when you start to see them all pile up, it’s a bit intimidating. I wrote up some tennis and golf today along with Joe doing the other stuff. The worst thing I may have heard was that today was a slow day, just wait until tomorrow.

I looked at the Shoreline Conference baseball schedule the other day and was hoping I would be able to go to the Haddam-Killingworth vs. Cromwell baseball game for a number of reasons. Cromwell is the reigning Class S state champion and H-K was the Class M runner-up last year. Cromwell has one of the best pitching staffs in the state and H-K has a couple good hurlers as well, not to mention Brian Moskey, my friend Kellie’s brother who I have heard can bring it, but haven’t seen him play yet.

Joe told me that Jimmy Zanor is covering the game, but I could go. Then he almost changed his mind and had me go to the Middletown vs. Vinal Tech baseball game, which I would have no problem covering, but the other game is way more appealing.

Cromwell and H-K softball teams are playing at the same time also at Cromwell High School, so Joe asked me to keep an eye on that game as well. That’s the trade-off I had to make in order to go to the baseball game. I’m sure I will also have a bunch of other games to write about when I get back to the office.

I’m excited for baseball season and hoping I am busy for the rest of the time I am at the Press.

Great Time of the Year

It’s finally that time of the year. The days are growing longer, the flowers are starting to bloom, you can go outside with just a sweatshirt on…it’s baseball season.

I have been waiting for this time for too long. The winter is nice, but I only got to go skiing once this year and spent another two days digging out after some of the largest storms I have seen in 23 years. I couldn’t be happier to have baseball back.

The beginning of March is when the college season started. Both of the Central Connecticut fields were plowed in time to have the home opener and even though it was still freezing cold, I was there supporting the men and women of the CCSU baseball and softball teams.

As most of you know, I have been covering the softball team for the last two years and it has been a blast. This year might be the best yet, not only because I have a great relationship with the coach and the players, but this is the best team CCSU softball has ever seen.

The baseball team is just as good. They seem to finally have both the pitching and hitting to get them back to the Northeast Conference championship game, it would be the first time since 2010.

But what I am really going to be paying attention to this year? High school baseball. I told you about my Middletown High and Xavier story the other day, but that’s not all. There are some great baseball players in the state of Connecticut that I hope to see; even the small Shoreline Conference has something good going. Marvin Gorgas from East Hampton can bring it from anywhere on the field. Low 90’s fastball, hits for power and can play the field as well. The Cromwell pitching staff could be one of the best in the state and they hope to return to the Class S championship game. Even Haddam-Killingworth should be good. The Class M runner-up from last year may have lost a couple starters, but my friend Kellie’s brother Brian Moskey is only a sophomore and should turn some heads this year with both his bat and right arm.

I have never been so excited for high school baseball in my life. I can’t wait to follow the stories and cover some games, it’s a great time of year…and of course I will be at my fair share of minor league games as well.

Late Night Compliments

Spring break was last week and I kept the tradition alive by not going anywhere, doing a lot of sitting on my couch and watching Sports Center, but I also went into the Middletown Press on Tuesday for a change of scenery.

We had been working on the spring sports capsules, so that what I worked on for a couple of hours, making sure the names were spelled correctly and the season outlook by the coaches were well developed sentences. It was tedious, but had to be done. There really wasn’t much else going on so I left early, but before I walked out the door, I discussed with Joe what was going on Thursday and we decided that I would go to the Middletown High vs. Xavier baseball scrimmage and find a story.

I found my way to Middletown High on Thursday around 3 p.m. and walked over to the baseball field. There weren’t too many people there for a couple of reasons, but the big ones were; it wasn’t a real game and it was cold. I walked around and watched the players warm up for a little while, before introducing myself to the coaches. I should have done it right when I got there, because I’m sure it was awkward for them watching me walk around, but I’ll get better at stuff like that.

Xavier showed up about 20 minutes later, began warming up and then the scrimmage began.

A junior, Malcolm Alleyne, started on the mound for Middletown and after watching the kid warm up, I could tell he was going to be good, but not good enough against the Xavier bats. From the first pitch he threw, the Falcons lineup blasted shot after shot deep to the outfield. Xavier is just bigger and stronger than Middletown.

The scrimmage kept going on, players moved around and so did the umpires. Three came to the game, two worked a couple innings while the other watched and then they would switch spots; each one even took a turn behind the plate. It was nice standing in the sun, but once it went behind the clouds and got later, it got freezing. Just when I thought the game was over, they played another inning. Then when I heard the game was going to be over, the Middletown coach asked the Xavier coach if they could go another half to get some work in. This is dedication.

Play finally ended, the players gathered up their gear and sought warmth as fast as they could. I walked onto the field and talked to Richard Magner, the Xavier coach first for about four minutes and then made my way to the Middletown coach, Jason Serra, after he was done giving his team a talk in right field. Both coaches were very friendly and cool and know baseball very well, I knew I had a good story.

I got to my car, emailed Joe telling him that I could barely move my hands from being out in the cold and I would write the story Friday and that’s what I did.

I sat in my bed, transcribed the quotes and began writing. I knew I had to come up with a good lead because this wasn’t a game story, it was like a short feature type piece mixed with a season preview. I wasn’t going long, but it needed to be informative and tell a story and I did just that. As I finished the story I told my mom that I thought it was pretty good and I was happy with it. I never say that about my writing, so it must have been good…or really bad. I didn’t know, so I just sent it off to Joe and was done with it.

I had to wake up for work at 7:30 a.m. to be there at 9 a.m. on Saturday, but couldn’t sleep. I rolled over, looked at my phone and saw a new email. This is what it said. It was at about 2 a.m., but I didn’t care about work anymore, this was awesome.

That made me feel amazing. It was probably the best compliment I had ever gotten from anyone on my writing and coming from someone I respect and work with and am learning from made it that much better.

I took a screen shot (as you can see) and posted it on Facebook and Instragram. When I woke up I had about 10 InstaLikes and another 15 on Facebook with some comments and these people hadn’t even read the story yet.

The story is running in today’s Middletown Press sports section and the high school baseball season begins Wednesday.

Spring Season

So, what have I been doing lately? Well, I didn’t go into the office last week, because Joe has Thursday and Friday off after working 10 straight days due to the weekend of the basketball state championships at Mohegan Sun. He emailed me early last week and wanted me to come up with a feature idea, but I really had no idea. I’m not too good at pitching ideas right now, it’s something I hope to get better at. So instead Joe told me that we were starting the spring sports capsules and he would be sending out emails to all the athletics directors in the area and we would be putting those together, i.e. me.

The last week I have been getting the return emails from the coaches forwarded to me and I have been organizing the sports capsules as they come in. It may be tedious work, but it’s interesting and helps me learn about the teams in the area. We cover baseball, softball, tennis and lacrosse and whatever is going on. Spring is my favorite sports time of the year.

That’s really it. This week I am on spring break and I don’t go anywhere, EVER, so I emailed Joe last night and asked if I could come in maybe a different day if there was something going on and he told me to come in Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, so that’s what I’m doing. This week will hopefully be interesting and I’ll be back at it.

End of My Beginning: Manchester CC is cutting their athletic programs

Manchester Community College is cutting their athletic programs.

One night during the fall of my third semester at Manchester Community College I was sick of going to class and coming home without meeting anyone new; I knew I had to do something. I sent an email to Cynthia Washburn, the director of athletics at the school asking if there was anything I could do to help out. She directed me to Paul Ofria, the Sports Information Director and the rest is history.

I started out slow in the athletics office, first I was just a ball boy during men’s and women’s soccer games. I would have an extra ball and had to throw it in play when the game ball left the field to keep the game going. Sounds pretty simple, but you have to pay attention and be quick to not disrupt the game flow. Yeah, still pretty easy. By the end of the season and the next year, I held down the end of the field not near the baseball field (I still don’t know which direction it was).

That first soccer season I was at every home game, both men and women and did not see a single MCC Cougars loss. I have never been a soccer fan, but that season and those teams got me so emotionally invested, I was as nervous as the players when the district finals hosted by MCC came down to penalty kicks. Kevin Battista buried the winning goal to give the Cougars the victory and a trip to Texas for the national championships.

The women’s team did not make it as far, but I believe still made the regional finals as one of the best women’s soccer teams the program had ever seen.

One of the key players to that team was Julia Connor. She was fun to watch on the field and great to work with in the SID office. She had been working with Paul for at least that whole season, still not sure how much longer than me, but the three of us became quite the team.

Once baseball season began, the favorite sport of the entire sports information department; and we are all Red Sox fans. The season before, the spring of 2008, the baseball team qualified for their first NJCAA Division III World Series in Tyler, Texas. The spring of 2009, Chris Strahowski and the Cougars fielded an even better team, qualifying for their 2nd straight national tournament. A.J. Lowers, a catcher from Newington was a freshman on that team and I believe either led the team in batting average or was top three, but either way, I could tell the kid was a player.

A couple other players on that team that I enjoyed watching were pitcher Steve Simon, who led the nation in ERA his sophomore year, Juan Bisono, a middle infielder and father, just living out a dream, playing college baseball and finishing his education, Vin Sommo, a DH who swung out of his shoes on every pitch, Tyler Wenz, who, um, I don’t really know what he did besides give us the best game program title of my two years, “Wenz-Day,” his last start of his career and Kevin Wodatch, a pitcher/infielder/outfielder/shark look-a-like…I loved those guys, even though I never really became friends with any of them.

Baseball at Manchester Community College is where I refined my score-keeping skills, even if I still forget to record RBI’s. It’s where I realized my love for baseball outside of playing myself or watching the pros. It’s where I wrote my first press release and realized I wanted to be a sports journalist.

Paul Ofria is a journalist by trade, among other things, but working with him for almost two years, I realized I wanted to be a baseball writer. Being a sports information director at a small community college may not be the most glamorous job, but we had fun. Almost everyday when I was not in class I would go to the office to either hang out or do some work. Rosa, the secretary, would great me with her Chilean accent everyday and was always happy to see me.

Whether it was working with Julia “The Boss” Connor or Paul, I wouldn’t have traded those two years for anything. Paul taught me a whole bunch of stuff that I would never had learned in a journalism class. He told me stories that not many people knew about him. I say to this day that the reason I am becoming a sports journalist is because of him.

Even after I transferred to Central Connecticut State University after spending three years at a two-year school, I came back to visit and work and hang out in the athletics office whenever I had free time and Rosa was always there. I have gone back and been a ball boy behind the goal for soccer games, I have gone back and kept score for baseball games and even just stood on the sidelines in the Great Path Academy gym for women’s basketball. MCC athletics will always be a home for me, but not physically any longer.

The athletics program was cut by president Gina Glickman this past week due to budget cuts. The school will save over $300,000 a year and in times where the economy is not great, I can understand why they are doing it, but it’s not right.

A majority of the athletes who have competed for the MCC blue and white were at the school because they didn’t have the grades to attend a four-year school, didn’t know what they wanted to do and used the school as a stepping stone or were international students needing somewhere to start along with a number of other reasons. I was one of those students who had no idea what he wanted to major in and decided to go to a community college to save money while trying to figure it all out. MCC helped me figure it out.

My dad wanted me to go to CCSU right out of high school and I very well could have, but decided not to. He brings it up once in a while and it bothers me, but I would not be where I am today if I didn’t attend MCC. This is what he had to say when I posted the Hartford Courant article on my Facebook page yesterday…

“Tax payers can’t afford to keep giving away money but when the decision makers are in cushy overpaid jobs they are going to protect themselves and use the kids as pawns to try to squeeze more money out. Time for MCC students to transfer to Gateway and put Glickman out of business.”

He is one of the smartest people I know and even though he didn’t want me to attend the school, he knows what it means to me and what it has meant to the student athletes who have attended the school.

The last few months since I got an internship at the Middletown Press, I have wanted to go back to MCC and step into the athletic office once again and just talk and work like old times with Paul Ofria, but that can’t happen. Not only him, but the coaches and athletic trainer are all losing their part-time jobs. I can’t imagine walking into that room now and not seeing Paul getting ready for a game that day.

This is a tough time for everyone who has ever been associated with Manchester Community College athletics. We all wish we could do something about this decision, but at this time I don’t think anything can be done. When the baseball program was cut in 2011, Strahowski tried to fund raise enough to have another season, but fell short. I don’t think there is anyway fund-raising enough for four sports will happen.

I really don’t know what else to say besides I am thankful for MCC athletics for everything the program did for me and I am not even an athlete.