THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 17, 2006
It wasn’t my intent going in, but Thursday turned out to be less about seeing a pitcher show me something new or a hitter put on a jaw-dropping display, and more about the quality of the time I got to spend with a handful of people.
Among them were about half a dozen players — some just now embarking on their lifelong dream, some fighting to keep that dream alive, and one who wondered aloud if his dream is about to come to an end. It’s a riveting thing to try to understand, especially as someone who, in my childhood, was guided (foolishly) by the same aspiration that pushes the nearly 200 baseball players in Rangers uniforms to do this, most of them for a wage that they could never support themselves on, let alone a family.
Those of us who dreamed about becoming baseball players dreamed about being Robin Yount or David Cone or Kal Daniels . . . not about earning $1,250 a month and wondering if the three or four years you have under your belt in short-season and Class A are all you’re going to get.
It’s common to make an issue out of the work ethic and commitment and focus that a big league baseball player needs in order to get the most out of what he has and to give his team the best chance to win. We less frequently think about those same things that a minor league ballplayer needs in order to survive long enough to reach The Show, if he even has the talent to get there.
As much as you pull for the players on your team, I can assure you of this: if you get to know them when they are in the minor leagues, whether they got there by way of the first round or the independent leagues, you’ll pull for them in a different, more sincere way. These guys are chasing a dream, and it’s not easy.
Aside from the players, there were several Ranger mothers and fathers I spent time with yesterday, some whom I met for the first time and others whom I’ve known for months, or years. It’s really indescribable, and in some ways unimaginable, even as a parent myself: seeing your kid realize his dream, or at least put himself in a position to do so after so many years of effort, has to be overwhelming, and you can see it and hear it, in their eyes and their words. They celebrate the successes more than their sons, and they take the setbacks harder. But as parents, they get to do that. They’re proud, they’re humbled, they’re scared. You root for them, too.
And there were a few Ranger officials I spent some time with yesterday, too. You see the same drive, the same focus, the same will to win that the players who will make it necessarily have. They are like you and me, watching the Texas Rangers play baseball with a vested interest in seeing them win baseball games. Only their emotional investment is greater, and obviously their accountability is on a level that even the most loyal fan probably can’t fully appreciate.
(Incidentally, those super-turbo-groovy running shoes that A.J. Preller was sporting on Tuesday? They were given to him by Jon Daniels, who accordingly gets thrown under the bus from under which A.J. now gets pulled out.)
There aren’t a lot of anecdotes from my last full day of watching baseball on this trip, at least not that I’ll share. It was more a day about people, and not so much about the stories they told as about the stories they’re living.
OK, one anecdote, which almost generated a Newberg Report News Flash: I saw Ian Kinsler hit a ball the other way.
All right, all right, it was just batting practice.
Yeah, yeah, it was one pitch out of about 30.
And fine: some might say that a ball rifled about four strides to the right of the center fielder isn’t really going the other way.
But I stand by my initial statement: On Thursday, I saw Ian Kinsler hit a ball the other way.
The only person who might have more confidence in Kinsler than I do right now is Kinsler. I don’t even think of him as a rookie.
Francisco Cordero will join the Dominican Republic for the WBC semifinals, as Michael Young, Mark Teixeira, and Erubiel Durazo return to camp. Mexico eliminated the U.S. team last night with a 3-2 win, allowing Akinori Otsuka’s Japan squad to advance to the next round, where it will play Korea for the right to face the winner of the Dominican Republic and Cuba in Monday night’s title game.
I’m holding my breath as far as Cordero is concerned.
Was last night it for Roger Clemens? My guess is no.
After Kameron Loe allowed the game’s first three hitters to reach base yesterday as the Rangers hosted San Francisco, he retired 12 Giants in a row, not allowing the ball out of the infield. Eight groundouts, three strikeouts, one lineout.
The non-roster invites given to John Danks, Thomas Diamond, and Jayson Durocher concluded on Thursday, as the Rangers reassigned all three pitchers to minor league camp. Diamond, nevertheless, will still pitch for the big club in Tucson today.
Diamond will relieve Juan Dominguez, who is battling Edinson Volquez and probably C.J. Wilson for the fifth spot in the rotation.
According to the Boston Herald and the Providence Journal, Texas and Arizona were the only two teams with scouts at David Wells’s outing yesterday in a minor league sim game.
Chris Young has given up nine runs (9.72 ERA) on 11 hits (.333) and six walks in 8.1 camp innings for San Diego, fanning five. Ricardo Rodriguez, out of options and competing for a Phillies rotation spot, has permitted three runs (3.38 ERA) on 11 hits (.324) and two walks in eight frames, striking out three.
Washington shortstop Cristian Guzman has a torn labrum and could miss the year. Think the Nationals might ask Alfonso Soriano to move to shortstop instead of left field? Think the response would be any different?
Milwaukee reassigned Wilfredo Rodriguez to minor league camp, and the Mets did so with Mike Venafro.
This year’s Kinsler (2004) or Kevin Mahar (2005)? The guy who I come away from camp realizing I underestimated, who I now think of in a completely different way? No-doubter: It’s John Mayberry Jr.
One final morning at 15850 N. Bullard, hoping to catch one more story or two.