Catching up…

Sorry it’s been awhile since my last post, but I’ll do my best to get you all caught up…

AFL Rising Stars Game: This game was an awesome experience for me. To be honest, I was 99.9% sure I wasn’t going to get an invite to this game. Batting around .150, my bags were all but packed to Vegas for the two days off. As bummed as I was that Sin City had to be put on hold, I was shocked/excited that I had been selected to participate in the game. Each team had loads of talent on their squad and for anyone who watched the game can back me up on that. It was a pitcher’s duel for most of the game. Now there are some extremely talented hitters in this league, but the pitching just took over the Rising Stars game.  I can honestly say, (although two weeks later), I only remember two or three guys that came in the game throwing under 95 mph. Each bullpen was just shoving out power arm after power arm. The most impressive pitcher of the game came when Milwaukee Brewers stud, Jeremy Jeffress, hit 101 mph on the gun. Don’t know how many times I’ve seen triple digits flash up on the board, but I know it hasn’t been many. So, to see 101 mph was kind of cool, even got a little standing ovation.  Not surprising because the crowd was responsive all night. Great group of genuine baseball fans came out to the game that night. And as luck would have it, I had to play third base in the game. Would have preferred to play 2nd base, but if the skip says third, then third it is.  Fortunately, I made both plays that I was involved with and even got a double down the right field line during my only at-bat. And to top it all off, we won on a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the 9th inning. Not only did the homerun give us the victory but it also gave our side a little extra spending cash, which put a smile on everyone’s face. Vegas would have been fun, just ask any 23 year old guy about that. But not a bad alternative way to spend my weekend if you ask me. 
Peoria Javelinas:  We’ve been on fire lately, probably the hottest team in the league if I had to guess.  Our offense just hits constantly, almost always having one or two innings where we score multiple runs. Our pitching always does a great job of keeping us in it when were down, and puts us in a position to win each game, and you can’t ask for much more than those two things.  Consistent pitching and a hot offense is a great recipe to win ball games and we’re a prime example of that. As of today, we clinched our division and will be facing off with the Scottsdale Scorpions on Saturday night in Scottsdale.  Should be a great game. 
Coming soon: “Baseball Gods, Jason. Jason, Baseball Gods”  Part II

Still Kicking…

We finally have made it to the month of November. Never thought I would still be playing baseball in this month when the season started in April. I’m pretty sure I’ve played more games in this calendar year than any other two-year span combined. My body is worn down but I am still pushing through and trying to play as hard as I can. 

To update, the offense hasn’t really picked up for me. I maintained good at bats for the most part, yet the ball still wasn’t falling. That doesn’t worry me too much. The only concern I’ll have is when I start giving away at-bats (See Oct. 30 @ Surprise). Wasn’t nearly as locked in that day and for anyone who was there could see that without the help of me saying it. A productive at-bat can occur a lot of ways. You can hit the ball hard, advance a runner, work the pitch count up, battle with two strikes; all of those are examples of productive at bats. Those are the type of at bats you can have and still be a positive influence and contributor to the lineup. No, the average still isn’t up or remotely where I want it to be, but as long as I continue to have productive at bats, then I’ll remain okay with not hitting for a high average. 
Meanwhile, as much as I kill nearly every rally the Peoria Javelinas put together, the team has still been on a roll. We are now 10-6 and a half game back of first place. The offense has been solid for us and is coming together very nicely. All the hitters are getting along and feed off each other’s enthusiasm for the game. Although I am not playing everyday, the dugout can be a fun place to watch the game from. We enjoyed our Halloween weekend and are looking to pick back up our winning ways tonight @ Scottsdale. 
Haven’t posted as much lately or as much as I’d like to, so hopefully I’ll try to pick it up here for the last couple weeks. No one really wants to hear about how I almost made it to first base today. So there’s still time left to gather myself together, refocus, and have a strong finish and possibly end this fall league experience on a high note. Till next time.

Honored…

Just writing a shortened entry today to thank the Cleveland Indians for this Award

Every player enjoys getting recognition time from time for the amount of work they put in. Heck, that actually applies to anyone in any work environment for that matter. With all of the other outstanding players in the Indians organization, I consider this a great honor to be considered as having the best season. It couldn’t have been a land slide because there were a bunch of players that enjoyed success this year.  Check out the stats of guys like Cord PhelpsChun-Hsiu Chen, Jerad Head, or Jared Goedert. These guys raked this year and it shouldn’t/hasn’t gone unnoticed. So hopefully all of these successful seasons can be preview of what’s to come for the Cleveland Indians organization. 

“Baseball Gods, Jason. Jason, Baseball Gods.”

The title of this post pretty much sums up my first week of experience in the Arizona Fall League. That was a summary of how my brutal introduction with the Baseball Gods went down.

Week 1 - Went as expected… kind of. First couple of games were occupied with guys trying to get the rust off their swings or find back their command of their pitches. Having played probably the most recent live games, I thought I was in decent shape for the season to get underway. 
Defense – As luck would have it, since the rosters weren’t complete, I found myself doing something that I haven’t done since freshman year of high school, playing third base. Let me start by saying I was lucky enough to not get any balls hit to me or any plays at third. The most I did was chase after a groundball that was foul, which is perfectly fine by me. I thought it’d be fun to play there for a little, but I’m trying to figure out second base still… and moving me closer to the hitters’ line drives was not my idea of a fun afternoon.  Overall though I’d say I did pretty well at second base in the first week of game play. It’s difficult to play second base with a shortstop you’ve never played with. You have to get familiar with where they play, where they throw the ball to, what arm angle they throw from. Otherwise any surprises usually end up with an “E” being flashed up on the scoreboard. So far it’s been going well with the new middle infielders. We have some extremely talented shortstops on our team, who have made it easy for me. Each of them have great range and arm strength and all of them should have bright futures ahead of them.

Fortunately and unfortunately, Dustin Ackley, took a line drive oddly off his finger, causing him to miss a couple games. I say fortunately, only because he is suppose to be the main second baseman for our Peoria team. However, with him out, I got to see a couple more games in the lineup while he recovers. Defensively, I felt I took advantage of it and made a good impression.

Offense – This is where the Baseball Gods decided to introduce themselves. I’ve met them many times before, as has every other player in this game. Sometimes nice meetings, more times than not, brutal. And for any one out there who doesn’t believe in the Baseball Gods, ask any ballplayer, they’re as real as they come. They are our religion. We pray to them. We ask them to help us. We ask them for forgiveness. Either way, we know if something is going wrong, we better reconcile with the GM upstairs. No hitter should start 0-11 like I did, let me just throw that out there. It’s cruel. Baseball is the one game where you can do everything right and still get punished.

For example, a batter can arrive early, hit off a tee, take some flips in the cage, study the pitchers he’s about to face, have his approach ready, takes all the bad pitches and swings at strikes. However, doing all of those things doesn’t guarantee any success. Does it put you in the best possible position to succeed, yes. Am I saying that’s my routine everyday, no. Should it be, probably, if I want to become the player I think I can be in this game. A hitter can square up the ball as hard as possible, but if it’s at someone, especially at these higher talent levels, more times than not, you’re jogging back to the dugout wondering if you need to say some more prayers to you know who. You do not get rewarded for doing everything right in baseball. It’s one of the few things that I know to be true about this game, and it’s one of the most frustrating aspects of baseball.

My dad always joked with me, ‘It’s better to be lucky than to be good. If you’re good, things can go wrong. If you’re lucky, everything’s goin’ your way.” A funny proverb back then, but you will have to excuse me if I’ve stopped laughing at it and started realizing the truth in its meaning.  Now I’m not saying I’ve had the greatest pregame routine so far, or that all of my outs have been missiles right at people. I’m saying it is just an unfortunate outcome that players have to take in stride with the game of baseball. I’ve swung at good pitches to hit, and I’ve hit a lot of balls hard so far, yet I have nothing to show for it.

Am I frustrated, naturally. Am I furious, no, because baseball players have trained themselves to take the positives out of events rather than the negatives. This game teaches you to have a memory of a goldfish for the bad things that occur, and one of an elephant for all the positives. No, this is not a frustrated player venting about his average not being where he’d like it, although I can see how it comes across that way.

Rather, this is a lesson for the fans out there who don’t fully understand just how hard it is, and how many things need to go right for you to be a successful hitter in this game. Am I about to give up because I need a map and a compass to find first base? No. Slumps and outs are part of the game. The good ones just figure out what’s going wrong faster than the others. So no, it’s not back to the drawing board for me because Minnie Mendoza looks like Pete Rose compared to me right now. I’m hitting the ball hard, just right at people… that’s a great problem to have in this game. 

Getting Started…

Finally, back in the SunDevil Nation!

 1,800 miles, 2 days, 4 Redbulls, and a charged I-pod later, I’ve finally arrived in Arizona. It’s been a long journey to get to this point but it’s been a great one at that. A couple weeks ago I thought my first full season had finally ended as the Akron Aeros failed to make a late push for the playoffs. A week later I was called up to Triple AAA to help out the eventual International League Champions Columbus Clippers. What a great experience for me to have. Now I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to the Arizona Fall League and I couldn’t be more excited. This will be a fun test to see where I stand against the other top players in the minor leagues and another opportunity to learn the game. 
This year has been my first full season in professional baseball. I’ve been an outfielder for most of my career but the Cleveland Indians decided to see if my future lies at second base. So far it’s been an interesting transition, but a fun one. There are numerous responsibilities that the infielders have that the outfielders don’t. You have to know where you’re going if the ball is not hit to you, or what bag to cover or where to throw the ball to in certain situations. I consider myself privileged to be able to learn the game from a different point of view but it hasn’t come easy. I’ll admit, I was almost opposed to the idea at first but it’s really started to grow on me. Like any player would, I thought the change meant I wasn’t skilled enough to stay in the outfield. I loved fly balls in the outfield…They never take any bad hops! So once I started to realize that the switch could be beneficial to me and might be my ticket to move up the ladder, I got to work. It’s hard learning a new position all over again, especially at a higher level. It’s a work in progress right now but I feel it’s coming along well and I’ll be able to handle my own there in no time. 
The Arizona Fall League brings a bunch of great opportunities to me. I get the chance to learn from great players, watch how they approach the game. I get to face the highest level of competition to this point, which is always something any true player wants. I get to further my development not only as an infielder and hitter, but as a all-around player and person. Those are only a couple of the reasons and for that I am honored to be a part of this league and cannot wait for it to get started. I’ll be mixing in with guys like Dustin Ackley at second base, and if that weren’t enough, to help rosters out, I might even see some innings at third base in the first week. Dustin and I have drawn a lot of comparisons to each other but there is no bad blood between us. Since day one, we’ve talked nothing but baseball from the time we’re at the field, til the time we leave. It’s great to be able to bounce ideas off each other or helpful tips. It’ll be also nice to have someone there to push me if I ever get lazy. If I see him taking extra groundballs, I know I should be doing the same.  Games start tomorrow so It’ll be kinda cool to finally put on a Cleveland uniform for the first time. It’s one I’ll wear proudly and will hopefully represent the organization to the best of my ability. 
That’s all from me for now. Need to rest up for Game 1 tomorrow. This is a shout out to all of the Peoria natives and Sundevil fans out there to come cheer us on in Peoria. If there’s nothing going on, come check out a ballgame and see some great players competing. 
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