May 4, 2010

Ernie Harwell will be missed

Category: Steve G's blog — goasu14 @ 9:19 pm
I'll never forget the first time I met Ernie Harwell.

It was 1993 and I was in the middle of a public relations internship with the Chicago White Sox. That was the year that Ernie was broadcasting a few innings a game for the Tigers as they attempted to erase the mistake of a year earlier when they had let him go.

Ernie had come down a floor from where the broadcast booths were located at U.S. Cellular Field and asked if I would mind if he sat next to me in the press box.

Mind? Was he kidding? I had not grown up listening to Ernie, but I had heard him a little bit and saw him once on Roy Firestone's "Up Close" show on ESPN. He had read his poem about baseball and to this day it is one of the most beautiful things ever written about the National Pastime. I mentioned that to him and he thanked me.

We talked some baseball during our time sitting next to each other over the next few days and about a week after the Tigers left town, I got a package at the office. Inside was a copy of one of Ernie's book with a note saying how much he enjoyed meeting me and that I could find the poem I liked on page 48.

That was the kind of man that Ernie was. No matter how small or unimportant your job was he treated you the same way he would treat the owner of a ballclub.

I sent Ernie a thank you note and he would later send me a Christmas card and we kept in touch over the next year. When I joined the Brewers public relations staff in 1995, Ernie saw it in the transactions and sent me a handwritten note that said the Brewers were lucky to have someone like me in their front office.

During my three years in Milwaukee, Ernie would call me when he was coming to town, looking for news about the club, making sure he had an updated roster to prepare for the series.

In 1997, I was standing on the field at old Tiger Stadium with Ernie and a couple of other broadcasters. They were talking about restaurants and Ernie was saying that his favorite restaurant in Milwaukee was The Old English Room. He asked if I had been there.

At the time I was making $22,000 a year and The Old English Room was not something that I could afford.

"No," I replied. "I've heard it's very nice, but it's a little out of my league pricewise."

He didn't say anything more that day, but a month later just before the Tigers were scheduled to come to town he called me. I was not surprised, because like I said he usually would call for information, but this time it was different.

"I'm going to be getting in early Sunday night," he said. "And I would like for you to be my guest for dinner that night at The Old English Room."

I'll never forget that dinner. He told stories about riding the trains with the ballplayers, about how he lied about his age in order to get his first job with The Sporting News as their Atlanta correspondent at age 16.

But most of all, he asked questions. He wanted to know where I came from, what I wanted to do, how I got started in baseball. It was typical Ernie, always interested in people, forever taking the focus off him. It was never about him and always about you.

I'll always treasure the memories of that night and of all my conversations with Ernie. Baseball lost a great man today. I lost a friend. Rest in peace, Ernie. We will never forget you.

April 9, 2010

Minor League happenings

Category: Steve G's blog — goasu14 @ 7:20 pm
For those of you who are Minor League buffs, the D-backs Triple-A, Double-A and Class A teams got underway Thursday. Here are links to their Opening Day rosters:

Triple-A Reno
Double-A Mobile
Class A Visalia
Class A South Bend

With a lot of the players from last year's draft on the roster, the Midwest League South Bend team certainly will be fun to watch early on.

Also something to keep an eye on early is who winds up pitching well enough at Reno to claim that No. 5 starter's role when it roles around April 17.

Kevin Mulvey started the opener Thursday for the Aces and allowed two runs over 6 1/3 innings.
April 5, 2010

Opening Day Photos

Category: Steve G's blog — goasu14 @ 3:49 pm
Took some photos today during batting practice and will try to have more of them on the blog this year...

A.J. Hinch talks with legendary Padres broadcaster Jerry Coleman.
Hinch Coleman pregame.JPG

This is Opening Day No. 13 with the D-backs for assistant athletic trainer Dave Edwards, one of the true good guys in the game.
Dave Edwards.JPG

Here's something you will not see during regular game action: Mark Reynolds laying down a bunt.
Reynolds bunt.JPG

This is more like it: Reynolds getting ready to swing the bat.
Reynolds bunt.JPG

This is more like it: Reynolds getting ready to swing the bat.
Reynolds swing.JPG

Mark Grace finishing up an interview with my favorite station: The MLB Network.
Grace on MLB Network.JPG

Groundskeeper Grant Trenbeath and his crew spray painted the Opening Day logo on the dirt.

April 1, 2010

Thoughts from Maryvale

Category: Steve G's blog — goasu14 @ 5:36 pm
The D-backs won a pair of games today, 4-3 over the Royals in Surprise and 11-3 over the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park.

Can't speak to what happened against the Royals, but here are a couple of things that came out of the game in Maryvale:

-- Ian Kennedy is ready for the season to start.

The right-hander was impressive once again holding Milwaukee to a pair of runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings.

"Kennedy was good," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. "He got better this spring from the first outing to the last."

-- It's going to be hard to keep Jordan Norberto off this team.

I know, I know I thought as recently as the last few days that the team would almost have to start Norberto in the Minor Leagues to give him some additional experience. But the fact is he has outpitched the other competitors for a spot in the bullpen.

After missing a few days with some tightness in his elbow, he tossed a 1-2-3 inning against the Brewers. His ERA for the spring is 1.04.

"He didn't miss a beat," Hinch said. "We shut him down for a couple of days from pitching and he hit 96 on the radar gun so he looked fine to me. He's very much in the mix."

Clay Zavada will pitch Friday against the Cubs at Chase Field, but regardless, Norberto has really helped himself recently.

-- Rusty Ryal certainly has made a case for himself.

Ryal was a triple away from hitting for the cycle Thursday and he raised his spring batting average to .288.

How the last two spots play out on the bench between Ryal, Tony Abreu and Ryan Roberts will be very interesting.

"He's continuing to push to the end," Hinch said of Ryal. "It's a pretty heated battle there for the position players. Nobody is going to give on this one. We'll just have to pull the trigger and make a decision.

Said Ryal, "It's one of those things where you have no control over your situation you just have to do what you do and stay positive. I hope today wasn't just the convincing factor in any sort of manner because I've put a lot of hard work in this spring extra that people don't see. To be real honest with you I feel like I've done all that I can do as far as off the field stuff. My performance, it's an opinion, it's a decision they have to make. Today's a positive, mark it down as a positive and go from there."

-- Hinch would like to see the offense pick it up.

Recently the D-backs struggled a little scoring runs after swinging the bats well earlier in camp.

"I'd like to be swinging the bats a little better heading into the season, but we'll see," Hinch said before they scored 11 against the Brewers. "Towards the end of spring, I don't know if it's a mental problem, or are we facing better pitchers, but on the optimistic side is we're going to show up and be ready to go. Collectively as a group I've been happy with how we've swung the bats this spring. With where guys are individually heading into the season there's a couple of guys I wish that were swinging the bats better, but there's also the middle of our order has swung the bat very well."

-- OK, I lied. I'll make one comment about the game in Surprise: You have to feel for Jeff Bailey.

The first baseman/outfielder came to camp mentioned as being on the outside of the competition for the final spot or two on the bench. He was told the other day that he was not going to make the club.

Thursday against the Royals, he was 3-for-3 to raise his average to .471.

March 31, 2010

D-backs hoping Mother Nature lets them play

Category: Steve G's blog — goasu14 @ 6:04 pm

The D-backs may have to battle Mother Nature on Thursday in addition to the Royals and Brewers.

Rain is forecast for the Valley throughout the day.

"What a terrible day for that too, we're going to be all spread out all over the Valley," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. "We've completely changed their workout across the street, Minor Leagues, and taken a lot of players for our benefit. Split squad late in the spring isn't my favorite anyway."

Edwin Jackson is slated to start against the Royals in Surprise, while Ian Kennedy is scheduled against the Brewers in Maryvale.

It's important that Jackson in particular gets his work in. The right-hander is supposed to start Tuesday against the Padres so for him to stay on his regular turn he would need to throw Thursday.

Jackson's regular turn would have been Wednesday, but Hinch did not want to give the Rockies an extra look at him so he was pushed to Thursday.

It is somewhat less urgent that Kennedy pitch, because he has an extra day built in to his schedule so he could pitch Friday and still be on regular rest for his first start of the regular season Wednesday.

"I'd like to keep Kennedy going," Hinch said. "He's on a roll. I'd like Jackson to get up to seven innings."

There is a team function Thursday night at Chase Field so the field is not available to use for a simulated game either.

NORBERTO GOOD TO GO: Jordan Norberto played catch Wednesday and Hinch said he will pitch Thursday. The left-hander has been held out of action recently with tightness in his elbow.

SPEAKING OF NORBERTO: It looks like it could come down to he and Clay Zavada for a spot in the bullpen and Zavada did not help his case by walking the first batter he faced -- to force in a run -- Wednesday.

"He hasn't had a good spring," Hinch said. "He's giving all he's got, he's trying, he wants to make this club, he's coming off a very good year and he's having a rough spring. It will down to the wire for all these decisions. He's very much in the mix to make a team, but also guys are challenging for his roster spot so we'll see on Saturday."

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