First Week

Hey guys,

So far I have been having an awesome time in the AFL. The Scottsdale Scorpions have got off to a little bit of a rocky start, we are currently 3-5, but I feel like the team is starting to mesh and our best ball is ahead of us. A couple differences have really jumped out between the AFL season and the regular minor league season. Number one, the opposing pitchers usually only throw one or two innings, so you might have four at bats against four different pitchers, whereas in season you might get two or three at bats against the starter. Also, the schedule is very different. During the season you have games pretty much everyday for 6 months, but here we have every Sunday off. Definitely nice to get that break, especially where some guys have already played 140+ games this season. Although things are a bit different out here I think I am starting to get adjusted to how things work and what the routine is like out here. During the games I have felt good, and have just been working on getting my rythm and timing back. I think hitting is mostly just timing and confidence and I am starting to feel better in those areas, after having nearly a month off between the end of my regular season and the beginning of the AFL season. Well, that’s all I have for now, if you guys have any questions, please feel free to ask away. I will do my best to answer as quickly as possible. Take care.

–Alex Hassan

Hot like an oven

Arizona has been awesome so far. We started games last week and while our team has started out rather slow in the win column, we have managed to still have a lot of fun. The weather is starting to change out here (which is great). The first week was so hot but a different hot than what I am used to. In Mississippi, when you walk outside during the summer and now, you better have an extra towel or possibly an undershirt for the amount of sweat you are about to have due to the humidity. It’s like an oven here. At night you hardly even sweat and I love it. Two weekends ago me and a few of the guys went to the Arizona St. football game and had a great time except for the fact that I was sitting in the bleacher section and It felt like 40 people were squished into a 25 person row. Oh well I guess that’s the fun of it. This weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to attend my friend Michael Harrington’s wedding in Charleston SC. We had a great time. I flew back Sunday night, pounded some sushi, checked my losing fantasy football team and fell asleep on the couch. As far as baseball goes, everything is going great. We have a night game tonight so it was great to sleep in a little. There are so many great players out here. I have faced some very good pitching so far and it seems like it’s going to be like that each and every game. We are just having a lot of fun. A lot of you have asked me who I am pulling for in the playoffs and as much as I would like to say the Brewers, I have to go with the Texas Rangers. Mitch Moreland, first baseman for Texas, is a good friend of mine so anytime you have a friend doing well and making a run at the World Series, I’ve gotta support him. Other than that keep posting any questions that you might have and I will answer them. I will start posting a little more often! Take care.

— Brian Dozier

1st Off Day of the AFL Season

Welcome Back,

I am currently sitting at our trainer’s house in Surprise, Arizona watching the Green Bay Packers take on the Atlanta Falcons. I’m a Detroit Lions fan so this game is irrelevant to me but I’ll be pulling for the Packers because of Charles Woodson (University of Michigan) and Greg Jennings (Western Michigan University). I root for the Michigan boys.

Well, the first week of baseball went smoothly. There were not too many players with injuries (knock on wood). Besides our poor start in the first week, this team looks like it has the makings to be a contender for the championship. There are definitely some characters on this team.  I won’t name drop but we have everything from the silent assassin to the outgoing outspoken guy with some pretty fly dance moves and everyone in between. This group has all the makings for an enjoyable rest of the season.

One of my coaches stood out right away. Our pitching coach Ace Adams is one of the most entertaining people I’ve had the chance to be around. He has a plethora of advice for all the pitchers and at the same time keeps the mood loose. I look forward to picking his brain more and enjoying his off-the-wall humor. The mood in the clubhouse has been great regardless of our record. The team makes sure to be blasting the latest hip-hop/country/rock music on the speakers as soon as the team walks into the clubhouse. Card games are being played while the big MLB postseason games are on all three flat-screen televisions up on the ceiling. We like to keep the atmosphere light. Did I forget to say how spoiled we have been with this amazing weather in Arizona? I can get used to 80 degrees and sunny everyday. Well I’m going to leave it at that. This football game is going to be a good one and I have Aaron Rodgers on my fantasy football team so I need to pay attention to his progress. Thank you all for swinging by and listening to what I have to say. See you at the ballpark!

You can also follow me on Twitter and on Facebook!

-Anthony Bass, pitcher, San Diego Padres

A Nail-Biting Situation

Bases loaded, two outs, and a 3-2 count. How is that for pressure? That is where I found myself on Friday night at the Scottsdale Scorpion complex. As a pitcher, you have to learn how to handle situations like this without losing your head. I have learned over the past few years that I have to stay calm and not try to overthrow to get out of tough jams. I was able to get the final strikeout and did not allow any runners to score. It is outings like this that make you a stronger pitcher. It is pretty easy to have a good game when everything goes right, but of course that doesn’t always happen in the game of baseball. I was a little wild when I first got out there and ended up walking the first two batters. But, rather than checking out mentally, I was able to stay focused and do my job. It felt good to be able to escape such a “nail-biting situation” and the sense of relief I felt when I walked off the mound was pretty intense.

Not only was I feeling the pressure, but my parents who came into town for the weekend were also on the edge of their seats.  My hometown in California is only a short drive from Arizona, so my parents try to come out and watch the weekend games whenever they can. It is always fun to make things interesting for them.

It feels great to have the first week of the AFL under my belt. I am looking forward to the games this week and am hoping the cooler weather for the day games keeps up.

Hope everyone had a great weekend.

~Brad Boxberger #35

Q & A (Answers)

It’s Sunday…our first day off. Usually when I talk about a day off during the season, it’s followed by “I really need it!” But this time around in the AFL we get one every week and we only play for six weeks. I can’t say I really need it yet, but I’m also not complaining. So, you’ve gotten your questions in and now it’s time to see if I can answer some of them.

How’s your arm feeling this time of year? Since this is your first time pitching in the Fall League, are you super tired? Or is it just something to get used to?

It’s been a long season. 140 games. 130 innings for me. 6 full months with less than 10 days off all season. Surprisingly, however, my arm feels really good. I think once you’ve been in pro ball for a couple years you learn what you need to do to keep the old gunslinger feeling ready. Some guys refuse to carry anything with their throwing arm (grocery bags, ball buckets, even their gloves). Me, I take care not to “waste bullets” playing catch too often or during BP. Other than that, your body has been doing it long enough to simply take care of the rest. Then again, ask me in 6 weeks and I may have a different answer.

Can you possibly imagine really living your life in NY AND playing for the Mets?

Can I imagine living in NY? Honestly, some days I have a hard time imagining myself living anywhere else. I’m from Atlanta, GA and I call it home. I also love big cities, so the prospect of getting to live in one of the greatest cities in the world really gets me going. Where I would live in the city is still up for consideration. Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Upper East Side, Manhattan. Times Square. Chelsea. I guess we’ll see. Can I imagine playing for the Mets? Yes. I mean, of the two teams in the city (not naming names) I think ours has the most character.

Do the Met’s coaches tell you specifically what they want you to work on or what you have to improve on or how much more you need to progress to make it to the next level? or do they keep you guessing to some extent or does your intuition tell you?

Lots of “OR’s” in that sentence. Let’s see if I can clear it up. To some extent, all of the above. Towards the end of the season the coaches told me that I would be coming out here AND I needed to simply keep getting guys out the way I had been doing AND show consistency AND that maybe I had a chance to pitch in Buffalo (AAA) or even in the bigs if I threw well AND it’s always a guessing game. Very rarely, if ever, do organizations tell you exactly what they’re planning for you or what they will do with you more than a few days in advance. It’s the nature of the business we’re in. Things change AND they don’t like to make promises AND my intuition tells me that isn’t going to change any time soon. You’re right, run-on sentences are fun!

Is there a lot of pranking or similar hijinks that go on amongst teammates in the minors? If so, what’s the best one you’ve pulled, or the best one that’s been pulled on you?

Baseball has a rich history of pranksters, and no place is it more prevalent than in the bullpen. Think about it, you have to sit in a small room for 3+ hours everyday with the same people and an endless supply of bubble gum. It’s like the Perfect Storm of pranking. Just yesterday I witnessed two of the better ones I’d seen in a while. The first is what I like to call “the wet towel”. With the white towels that they put down in the pen, you can tell if one is soaked compared to a dry one…but if all of them are soaked you can’t tell the difference. A few guys soaked all the towels and laid them out perfectly on the bench, then proceeded to take up all the seats except those. Guy walks into the pen, looks around, sees an open seat, plops down, immediately stands back up with giant wet spot…prefect execution. The second is an oldie but a goodie. With our endless supply of gum also comes an endless supply of potential “Hat Bubbles”. This is when you blow a giant bubble and stick it to your teammate’s hat without them noticing. Executing it is hard enough, but the real fun comes with trying to convince them go play catch with the outfielder in between innings so that the fans can see it. It get’s a laugh like a quarter of the time.

Bull Durham is one of my all-time favorite movies, and one of my favorite scenes is when Costner is teaching Robbins about his cliches on the bus, and the news comes out that he’s been in the show. Do you guys get as excited as they seemed when you have a current or former MLBer with your team for a while?

Honestly, anything that is a break from the normal everyday grind is a welcomed distraction. Not to say I don’t absolutely love my job, but sometimes things just need a little shaking up. This year I had the pleasure of paying alongside Jose Reyes and Jason Bay. 2 class acts! When they show up everybody plays like they don’t really care. Like they’re just another teammate. But the truth is, we are all looking out of the corner of our eye to see what they do, how they carry themselves, what they’re “really” like. We ask them questions and see if we can get them to tell us a story or two. This year, at the end of Jason Bay’s rehab stint, he was giving away some of his equipment to the guys (which is like Santa Clause on Christmas for us). He asked anyone if they needed an extra pair of pants. A teammate of mine piped up, saying “Yeah, I could use some.” Jason tossed them in his direction with a smile, then my teammate said what all of us were thinking upon receiving a gift from a Big Leaguer…”Does this mean we’re best friends?”

Any word when anthony rendon will join the fall league?

I’m going to assume that he is one of your favorite players or plays for your favorite team. Truthfully, I have no idea who he is. I bet he’s a nice person. I’m sure he is, in fact. However, I seem to have misplaced the memo that the league commissioner sends me personally every week stating in great detail every transaction (past and future) that has been/can/will be made. If I find it, I will let you know for sure!

p.s. I joke. It’s a bad habit. I’m trying to quit. Thanks for your question.

Also, are clubhouses as crazy as they seem in the movies? I’ve always been fascinated with players having personalities outside of the game because organizations always seem to try to smother that and turn the players into robots so they don’t say anything stupid. That’s why guys like Nick Swisher and Brian Wilson always seem so cool, because they have independent thoughts, which you clearly do as well.

Firstly, thank you. I can’t say I’m on the level of Swish, Wilson, or Wilson’s beard, but I do enjoy showing everyone that all of us are real people. Clubhouses aren’t, by nature, crazy. As in any working environment, it is the people who make the place what it is. Baseball players tend to be kind of eccentric, so the clubhouse tends to reflect that. There’s always music playing. Rap, Rock, Pop, Country, Reggaton, Salsa, Merengue. There’s usually some sort of sports event on the TV…unless there’s a top 100 countdown on VH1 (like the top songs on the 2000’s right now). As far as interviews and social media go, players have been informed on how to not sound stupid or embarrass themselves or the team. Does that always happen? No. Like I said, we’re all humans and we all say/do stupid things from time to time. It’s the few of us that can make that into a full-fledged persona (and Taco Bell ad) that make the rest of us seem so vanilla. Thanks Brian Wilson’s beard.

This was fun! Let’s do it again some time. How about next week? It’s a date then. 
Don’t forget to check out my blog, A Day Older, A Day Wiser, and read some of the older posts from this season!

-Collin McHugh, Pitcher, New York Mets

Q & A

Hey everybody,

Just wanted to give you guys the opportunity to ask some questions. We will have stories of our Fall League experience to share with you, but I’m sure there are many things you’re curious about that we might not get to cover. We can think of this as a little “Mailbag” session. You can ask questions and i’ll pick the best 4 or 5 to answer each week in a post.

You can ask your questions a couple different ways…

1) Comment on this post with your question if you don’t mind everyone seeing it.

2) Visit my Blog, A Day Older, A Day Wiser, and ask a question anonymously via the “contact me” tab.

3) Come out and see a game. Flag me down. Ask away.

I’m looking forward to answering your questions and hopefully giving you a little insight into our lives here in the desert.

– Collin McHugh, Pitcher, New York Mets

Baseball in the Desert

The dry air had parched my lips. It’s a different kind of heat out here. Different from the wet Atlanta air I’m used to. Weatherman said we were in for a dust storm, mixed with some rain. Sounded kinda eerie if you ask me. Looking past the left center wall, the flags were stiff, blowing the wrong direction (if you’re a pitcher). Line ups were announced. It seemed as if every batter hit .35o with 25 homeruns this past season. Everyone was either a Top Prospect, just had the best season of their lives, or both. And there I was, standing on the bullpen mound awaiting my first Arizona Fall League game.

People warned me of the thin air. How the ball flies in the desert like nowhere else. People quoted statistics of how many of the hitters I would face make it to the bigs within a couple years. They read the characteristics of the Fall League like a resume. Bullet points of impressiveness that would “prepare” me to be out here, as if I were preparing for an exam. To some extent they were right. This is a test. I have never in my baseball career faced hitters consistently as good or polished as I will out here. I will be tested on all facets of the game, and stretched beyond my previous innings total for a season. Those facts are undeniable. However, I don’t look at my opportunity here as an exam. I look at this next 6 weeks as a privilege.

I have been given the privilege to play alongside and against some of the game’s best rising stars and the opportunity to count myself among them. Not everyone gets this chance. Very few, in fact. To be anything other than extraordinarily excited would be a tragedy. One thing I am looking forward to the most is meeting the other guys. Every organization is represented here, so I get a chance to, not only play against, but meet and become friends with guys from all over baseball. I’m sure those will be bonds I can carry for the rest of my playing days and beyond. I’m closer to my goal of pitching in the big leagues than ever before. It feels good.

So there I stood, chapped lips bent upwards in a smile. Who would have thought on April 1 that I would be pitching here on Oct. 4? Not many. But I’ve come to know that baseball has a way of bringing the unexpected to pass.

Strike one, first hit, first run, first walk, first game…in the books.

Visit my blog   A Day Older, A Day Wiser   to read more.

– Collin McHugh, Pitcher, New York Mets

Game #1 Goes To The Dogs!

Game one COMPLETE. The Desert Dogs took home our first victory today. We beat the Mesa Solar Sox 12-8. I was scheduled to throw the 9th inning, so I was able to prepare myself throughout the morning for my outing. On the days I expect to pitch, I normally arrive a few hours early to eat breakfast at the field and hang out until batting practice. It was cool to dress out in the Cincinnati Reds uniform. It definitely made it feel like I am a true representative for my organization.

Our game was at 12:35, but it actually was not as hot as I expected. Today was pretty cloudy with a nice breeze, however we were hit with some pretty serious dust during the game. There were times when I could actually taste the dust in my mouth. I guess you could say that is just part of playing in the desert. One thing that always makes us pitchers uneasy is the way the ball flies in the dry desert air. If there is much of a breeze, the ball will carry and pop ups can turn into home runs. There were 7 home runs in our game alone! It is never fun to pitch on a day like this.

It turns out though; I did pitch on a day like this. I am very pleased to say that my outing went much better than I would have expected with the conditions. I came in to pitch the last out of the 8th inning and then pitched the 9th inning. My pitches were working well today and my arm felt good. I am proud to say that I recorded my first save of the AFL, and I am looking forward to continuing to help my team win some ballgames! Heading back to the ballpark to do it all again tomorrow.

~Brad Boxberger #35

Home Opener

Hey everyone,

I’m pretty sure when teams decided to have their spring training complex in Arizona, part of the reason was to take advantage of the extremely dry weather, where few games would be postponed or cancelled due to rain. In fact, my manager Arnie Beyeler told me that he had zero rain outs in all the years he came to spring training in Arizona…Well, our home opener was just cancelled due to the rain. Talk about some situational irony to start off the season for the Scottsdale Scorpions…oh well. I was looking forward to getting the season started, but the good news is we play tomorrow at 12:30, so I don’t have to wait too long to get another shot. We did get to take pre-game batting practice and infield outfield, and it was cool to see how many people were taking video and pictures of us while we were working out. Maybe that stuff just comes with the territory of playing in the AFl, or maybe it was just because it was the first game of the season. Whatever the reason, it definitely gave batting practice a different aura then I am used to, but I really enjoyed it. Well, I just found it pretty funny that our home opener was rained out in the desert and decided it was blog worthy. I promise at some point I will check back in with some actual baseball game related news.

–Alex Hassan

Home Is Where The ‘Fall League’ Is

Hey everyone – Welcome to my blog!

This is the first blog I’ve ever written, so I’m going to do my best to not disappoint! I’m going to be having some fun with this, while keeping you updated on all of the action going on in the Arizona Fall League.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Charles Brewer, and as you can see from the title of my blog, I was born and raised here in Scottsdale, Arizona. I attended Chaparral High School here in Scottsdale and was a part of 3 State Championship winning teams before graduating in 2006. After my senior season, I was drafted by the Anaheim Angels but chose to play college baseball at UCLA. During college, I played two seasons in the Cape Code Collegiate Summer League for the Chatham A’s (yes, the same team featured in the movie ‘Summer Catch’ haha). After playing three years at UCLA, I was drafted in 2009 by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 12th round. I feel so fortunate to have been drafted by my hometown team that I have grown up watching since I was a kid. I was 12 years old when I was in the stands for Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. We all know how that turned out…

This past season was my second full year in the minor leagues and spent this year playing for the Double-A Mobile Baybears. This was one of the most talented teams I have ever been a part of, and sure enough we ended up winning the 2011 Southern League Championship. You can check out the YouTube video of our final win and our celebration in the clubhouse – CLICK HERE.

Every October, the top minor league prospects from all 30 Major League teams are invited to compete against each other here in the Arizona Fall League. I’m very excited about the opportunity to play for the Salt River Rafters. This Fall is going to be very important for me to make up innings that I missed from some bad luck I had during this season. On June 2nd, I took a comeback line drive off of my pitching hand and was forced to miss two and a half months of the season.  I uploaded the video to YouTube so all of you can see it here… OUCH!

Tomorrow, I will make my first Fall League start on the mound against the Peoria Javelinas. Wish me luck everyone. Catch up with you guys soon.

You can follow me on Twitter for more updates.

God Bless,

Charles Brewer #34, , Pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks