June 2008

Sights from Princeton

Remember how I said the Beckham brothers were excited for tonight? Well, they say a picture is worth 1000 words, so I’ll let photog Sammi Craig’s pic do the talking:


4th AB for Beckham

Time: 8:53
Inning: Bottom 7
Situation: One out, no one on. Score tied 5-5.
Outcome: Tapper back to the mound.

Facing a lefty for the first time, John Flanagan, Beckham took a ball before getting fooled on Flanagan’s second pitch. He was way out in front, tried to hold up his swing and ended up with a check-swing tapper back to Flanagan. Flanagan’s got a real funky delivery and comes from a three-quarters arm slot and the guess here is Beckham didn’t see too much of that in high school. Flanagan’s tossed three scoreless innings, so it’s not just Beckham having trouble picking the ball up.

So Beckham is 1-for-4 tonight. Combined distance of all of his balls in play, I think, would be about 300 feet. But hey, he hasn’t struck out yet.

Third AB of the night

Time: 8:12
Inning: Bottom 4
Situation: .Two outs, none on. Princeton leading, 5-3.
Outcome: Groundout to the shortstop, end of inning.

Getting a third look at Lehman, he took a couple of pitches to run the count to 1-1. He then hit a grounder in the hole to short, fielded by Lifete Jose, who threw out Beckham by a half-step. Beckham’s 1-for-3 on the night, but hasn’t gotten the ball out of the infield as of yet. He has shown an ability to get down the line in a hurry.

At this rate, he’s going to have about 6 ABs…

Beckham AB No. 2

Time: 7:32
Inning: Bottom 2
Situation: Runner on third, two outs. Princeton leading 3-0.
Outcome: Grounder to second, side retired.

Beckham took the first offering from Lehman in his second at-bat and went the other way with it, right at Franco. It was a routine play and Franco made it. Beckham will have to wait for his first pro RBI.

The Beckham era is under way

Time: 7:11
Inning: Bottom 1
Situation: One out, no one on
Outcome: Infield hit.

Had the chance to talk with both Beckahms (Tim and older brother Jeremy, who wasn’t in the lineup) prior to the game and both were engaging and intelligent. Both, needless to say, were a bit excited for the game to get going.

As for the first at-bat, Beckham faced Mike Lehman, a Royals right-hander who was taken in the 20th round of the 2007 draft who put up some decent numbers in the rookie-level Arizona League last summer. He got a nice hand from the home crowd, but you get the feeling that most here in Princeton didn’t quite get what the big deal was, which is really as it should be. Tim Beckham would like nothing more than to be just “one of the team” for the time being.

After taking a first pitch for ball one, Beckham hit a bounder up the middle. Burlington 2B Angel Franco was able to backhand it, but Beckham easily beat the throw for his first professional hit. Someday, he’ll tell his grandkids it was a screaming line drive. So far, he’s batting 1.000. He came around to score his first pro run later in the inning.I’ll be back later for his next AB.

Rays for Rays

It’s a good time to be a Rays fan.

Honestly, how often, before now, could you say something like that and mean it sincerely? But it’s true, from the bottom up.

At the top rung, obviously, the Rays are playing great baseball. After their win this afternoon, they’re just a half-game behind the Red Sox atop the AL East. Matt Garza threw a dandy and Evan Longoria is white hot. In his last four games, he’s gone 8-for-19 (6-for-11 in the last two) with three homers, four doubles and 8 RBIs.

Down in Double-A, 2007 No. 1 overall pick David Price makes his Southern League debut, starting for Montgomery tonight in Mobile at 8 p.m. ET. You can listen on MiLB.com Gameday Audio.

But wait, that’s not all. I’m in Princeton, West Virginia because Tim Beckham is making his professional debut tonight. He’ll DH and bat second in the P-Rays lineup against the Burlington Royals. You can listen to that game as well at 7 p.m. ET. There was a little nasty weather here a bit ago, and the radar looks like it might have one more bit of rain, so batting practice was banged, but it’s looking like all systems are go for the No. 1 pick in this most recent draft to get his first taste of pro ball. I’ll be writing a story off of it and we’ll (myself and Joe Cronin) provide a video interview and a little later, a feature, from the game. Wireless access permitting, I’ll try to blog after each of his at-bats tonight.

Flood relief efforts continue: Changing the topic for a minute, I just wanted to update you on a few on-going efforts regarding helping out those impacted by the flooding in the Midwest. A couple of days ago, I wrote about Trevor Bell and how he was donating $100 for every strikeout in a recent start, which meant a total of $700 when all is said and done. Well, after surveying the area a bit, Bell wrote a check for $2500 before being moved back up to Rancho Cucamonga. It’s reported in that city that Angels GM Tony Reagins promised the Angels will make a donation to the city as well.  Stephen Smith, over at FutureAngels.com, passed along some information on his blog. The Cedar Rapids Kernels now have a local relief fund up and running. Send dontations to:

Kernels Foundation Flood Relief
PO Box 2001
Cedar Rapids, IA  52404

I also just got a release from Minor League Baseball announcing the formation of MiLB Charities and that $50,000 will be donated to Iowa flood victims as the charitable arm’s first act.

More to come from Princeton as action unfolds…

For whom the Bell tolls…

I have to give kudos to Trevor Bell, the Angels prospect now back in the Midwest League afterBell follow through.jpg being sent down from Rancho Cucamonga recently. He clearly has not let the demotion affect his sense of responsibility

He started on Tuesday afternoon for the Kernals and agreed to donate $100 for every strikeout he had in the start to local flood relief efforts in Cedar Rapids, one of the areas worst hit by the flooding in the Midwest. He struck out seven, so he’ll donate $700 to the relief effort. Bell spent the 2007 season in Cedar Rapids, so he clearly has a connection with the community.

Stay tuned for a lot more here, and on the site in general, on ways to help out in the relief effort, as the region is going to need plenty of assistance in the coming weeks, months, years. Here’s hoping more players get directly involved on their own like Bell has.

Beckham set to start pro career

I threw up the official release over on my draft blog, but wanted people over here to know as well that Tim Beckham officially signed with the Rays today. The No. 1 overall pick will head to Princeton, West Virginia, to begin his pro career in the Appalachian League, alongside his brother Jeremy. As I get info on when Tim will be making his debut, I’ll pass it along…

More from Midland

So, folks, there’s been something on my mind for a while and I wasn’t sure how to address it. But at the FanFest this morning/early afternoon here for the Midwest League All-Star Game, I saw some things that made me want to speak out now.

I’m talking about autographs.

Today at the All-Star FanFest, all the Midwest League All-Stars spent an hour signing for fans. This I’ve got no problem with. It’s a great way to interact and it’s for a set amount of time and fans of all ages, shapes and sizes seemed to enjoy chatting with these future big leaguers. But there were several “fans” on hand who clearly weren’t there just to collect the John Hancocks from their favorite prospects.

You know the types. Heck, maybe some of you reading this are those types. I had one person suggest to me that writing something like this would be “biting the hand that reads me,” but so be it. I’m talking about those who show up with five sheets of cards or a box full of balls — or both, in the case of this event — and ask these young players to sign all of them.

I guess people are entitled to do whatever they want, but I just don’t get it. It was painfully obvious to me — and to some players, I’m sure — that these weren’t fans who simply planned to keep the 40 signed Ben Revere cards they got. I kept checking ebay during the game to see if any of these “collectors” had turned these products over that quickly. They hadn’t, but I assure you it’s only a matter of time.

I’ve got a problem with this on many fronts. First of all, it monopolizes the time of the prospects while other, more non-profit oriented fans had to wait longer. Second, it’s truly taking advantage of these young players and the setting. They’re here for an hour to sign, so they’re very unlikely to say no — they really can’t given the circumstances. As youngsters just starting out, they’re not established — and perhaps not world-weary — enough to cut someone off at a FanFest (the Great Lakes Loons and perhaps the Midwest League bear some responsibility for this — there was no one really around to monitor that there weren’t autograph hounds asking for multiple signatures like this).

This was mostly a first-round feature,
of course. These guys knew what their bread-and-butter were. Guys taken in the first round of last year’s draft — No. 9 Jarrod Parker,parker_autos.jpg
No. 16 Kevin Ahrens, No. 18 Pete Kozma and No. 29 Ben Revere were swarmed with requests. And with no place to go, they signed everything. When they’re at the ballpark, pre-game, there are some built-in outs. Players can say they’ve got BP, or a meeting in the clubhouse, or they can simply retreat to the dugout.

But even that is fraught with possible problems for a young prospect. A kid could sign a few cards one day and none the next, or tell someone that they’ll only sign a certain amount of cards and they easily can get labeled with not being fan-friendly (or worse). I used to wonder about kid who were thought to have an attitude, who big-leagued fans early in their pro careers. Now not only do I understand it somewhat, but in some instances I can almost encourage it. It is simply wrong to assume that a player should be willing to help you make money by signing dozens of items. It’s even worse when someone starts bad-mouthing a player for actually cutting things off or — gasp — saying no once in a while.

Yes, these first-rounders got very nice bonuses to become pros. And yes, I presume these signing-seekers have the right to try to profit from getting these prospects’ autographs on balls and cards. But what I saw at FanFest today is something that needs to stop. Or at least be monitored. At the very least, players should be able to set a limit — say one sheet per autograph seeker — without having to worry about ruining their reputations.

Travelblogue: Midland

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to dust off the ol’ “Travelblogue” term and figured now would be a good time to do so, it being the Midwest League All-Star Game and all.

I wrote in detail about Midland, the area, the history and the ballpark, when were here back in April 2007. Still a good town, still a great ballpark and I was able to get another burger and shake at Daddy O’s on Main Street. So all is right with the world.

Last night, they had the obligatory home run derby. I must admit, I’m growing tired of them, but the fans still love ’em (think about it, the folks here in Midland don’t get to see derbies as often as I do) and the kids put on a good show, with Felix Carrasco winning the title over the Midwest League home run leader, Ian Gac. You can read my story about it here, along with info on tonight’s starting pitchers and a note on a former All-Star in attendance.

They’re getting ready for batting practice at Dow Diamond currently, so I’ll have to keep this short. It’s a great league for talent this year, with the all-star roster having four players from last year’s first round. And that’s just the top 30. There are two more sandwich picks and a second rounder here as well tonight.  That doesn’t include the legitimate international prospects, not to mention the guys not from the 2007 draft class.

All of that leaves us (myself and producer Joe Cronin with plenty of options. Look for a feature on Jarrod Parker as well as interviews (we hope) with fellow ’07 first-rounders Ben Revere and Pete Kozma.

Stay tuned for more…I’ll try to post a recap of the evening’s festivities when I have the chance.

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