Tuesday, February 28, 2006

February 28th, 2006 - Giants Idol

It was an amazingly fun day at the ballpark today. It started out with Rob Schneider (all 4 feet of him) playing catch with 6'5" Jamie Wright. Couldn't Rob have found a smaller person to play catch with? He still would have been a head shorter than anyone else on the team...but it wouldn't have looked like Mutt & Jeff out there. Suffice it to say that Rob Schneider is not the most athletic person I have ever seen.

The "Giants Idol" competition was just hilarious. There were only 6 performers today. I found out when I got the park that there will be a SECOND day of competition tomorrow morning with the remainder of the rookies performing. There were hardly any fans there today, so I am guessing that when the word gets out, it should be a full house tomorrow.

Omar Vizquel acted as Ryan Seacrest and hosted the event. He introduced Ray Durham as Randy Jackson and then Jeff Fassero as Simon Cowell, but the real shocker came when Barry Bonds stepped out of the dugout, in drag, as Paula Abdul. Omar only announced Paula Abdul and did not say who it really was. I was surprised that a number of the fans didn't recognize Bonds. I had to tell about a half-dozen people who it was. Bonds in a wig and dress is still Bonds and is (IMHO) very recognizable.

Durham did a great impression of Randy Jackson, he had the voice and mannerisms down pat. Jeff Fassero was not good as Simon. He didn't even attempt a British accent. Neither Fassero or Durham wore any kind of costume. Bonds on the other hands was fully decked out in a wig and dress and had Paula Abdul down pat. He obviously watches American Idol. He talked in a falsetto voice, refused to say anything bad about a performer no matter how much they stunk; he was rocking out and dancing in his chair when he liked a performer and even twirled and fiddled with his necklace all the time (something I never noticed, by my wife swears Paula Abdul does it constantly). One of the funniest things I have seen in a long time. So much for Barry Bonds never participating in team events.

The performers were surprisingly in to this thing. I was sure that the performances would be half-hearted "get me off the stage" efforts. Not at all so. All of the performers sang along with taped music, with the exception of Billy Sadler, who accompanied himself on an acoustical guitar.

The first performer was Brian Wilson. He was dressed as Billy Idol and sung "White Wedding". He lipsinced the first part and only sung the chorus. He, like most performers, was pretty bad......but he made up for it with enthusiasm. The judges gave Wilson mixed reviews. Next was Brian Munhall, who sung Brad Paisley's "I'm Going to Miss Her". You have to know the song, but his props of a fishing pole (complete with a rubber fish on the line) and a bottle of Budweiser were spot on. Unfortunately, his voice was like fingernails on a blackboard. He was cut off very early by the judges, who just lambasted him.

The best singer of the day, by far, was Billy Sadler. He sang Tim McGraw & Faith Hill's "It's Your Love". Unlike the other performers, Billy played the guitar and sang a capella, without the help of the artist's recording. Billy was a little out of tune in a spot or two, and occasionally he had to slow down and look at his left hand on the guitar to get the chords right....but all in all he did a great job! The judges universally gave him a thumbs up.

Next came Justin Hedrick, who sang "I'm In Love With a Stripper". I had never heard that song so I have no idea who the artist who originally sang the song is. Justin had the best prop of the day.....a blow up doll with a pole stuffed up her........uh.......dress. I have heard better singers (I'm being nice to Justin here) but he had a lot of enthusiasm. He even yelled at the judges when they cut him off early. He actually wanted to sing MORE! Poor shy individual.

The last player to perform was Joe Bateman as Metalica. I don't know what the song was......I am not a metal fan. He was the most "in character" performer of the day. He was yelling and screaming an acting like he was a big rock star. He even jumped from the "stage" (the top of the dugout) down into the crowd when his performance was over. I am sure he had the trainers a little worried with that jump. That is not a short distance. I thought his singing stunk........of course I think Metalica stinks too.........so he may have been good for all I know.

The last performers of any kind were 3 Training Staff Interns (wanna be trainers). I don't know what it was they were singing.....but it was just about as bad as everyone else.

All in all, with the exception of Billy Sadler, the singing was pretty bad. I was however, shocked at how much effort the kids put into this. I was expecting half-hearted, shy performances.....but what I saw was in-your-face confidence. Can't act shy in front of your boys I guess.

Bonds was amazing and stayed in character until the very end. At one point he pretended that he disagreed vehemently with Fassero (Simon). Bonds jumped up and dropped out of his falsetto voice and acted like he was going to fight Fassero. You know that old Paula Abdul vs Simon Cowell stuff from the real show. Then he suddenly grabbed Fassero's head and thrust it into his fake breasts. Pretty darn funny stuff.

Oh......there was a practice after the Giants Idol competition..but I was laughing so hard I have no idea what happened. As I mentioned yesterday....the team seems to be enjoying itself more this year than I have ever seen. If camaraderie helps a team at all.....these guys should win the World Series. I can't wait until tomorrow's second episode of Giants Idol. The kids who will perform tomorrow have some tough acts to follow.

Another Group shot....L to R...Rob Schneider, Billy Sadler (Tim McGraw), Training Staff Interns, Jeff Fassero (Simon Cowell), Barry Bonds (Paula Abdul), Brian Munhall (Brad Paisley), Another Intern, Justin Hedrick (?), Ray Durham (Randy Jackson) and Joe Bateman (Metalica). Notice that Joe Bateman is STILL in character!

Group Shot.....all of the morning's performers plus the judges. Look at Barry's smile........still in character.

The judges......funny thing.......Barry kept feeling himself all morning long. I think he is a boob man.....of course......who isn't?

The judges; Jeff (Simon Cowell) Fassero, Barry (Paula Abdul) Bonds & Ray (Randy Jackson) Durham & host Omar (Ryan Seacrest) Vizquel

Randy Jackson (Ray Durham) gives his opinion to Ryan Seacrest (Omar Vizquel)

Paula Abdul (Barry Bonds) evaluates a performer......what a miserable man and a terrible teamate ;-)

The new Scottsdale Stadium scoreboard announces the morning's activities.

Brian Wilson (Billy Idol) sings "White Wedding"

Brian Munhall as Brad Paisley.......singing "I'm Going to Miss Her"

Brian Wilson as Billy Idol

Billy Sadler as Tim McGraw....singing "It's Your Love".......easily the best singer of the group.

Justin Hedrick sings "I'm In Love With a Stripper".....anyone know the artist? Showing either my age or my music preference I guess.

Justin Hedrick's girlfriend.....er prop.

Our old buddy Justin Hedrick as I don't know who because I had never heard his song before

Even after he left the "stage" Joe Bateman had a hard time getting OUT of character. He may really think he is a rock star!

Joe Bateman sings Metalica

The Singing Interns - The veterans even made the Training Staff Interns perform

Special Guest Star - Rob Schneider

Two Clowns......Rob Schneider & Steve Kline

Monday, February 27, 2006

February 27th, 2006

Yet another beautiful Arizona day. It hit about 80 today. The Giants had a short practice with both the vets and the youngsters finishing by 12:15. The Giants stetched, ran, had a bunting competition, had infield/outfield practice and finished with batting practice thrown by the coaches. No live batting practice today......as a matter of fact, I didn't see the pitchers do much of anything today. I assume they either threw bullpens or worked out on the half practice field, but since I can't get to those locations.......I can only guess.

I don't know if you have been following the press the last couple of days.......but the Giants camp is really becoming quite the little social setting. They held a bunting competition today. Omar Vizquel, Ray Durham and Steve Finley competed to see who could lay down the most bunts within little rectangles that had been drawn on the infield (see photo). The entire team gathered around (including Bonds) and cheered their favorites on. From the way they were hooting and hollering, I am pretty sure that some money must have been put down on the competition. They sounded like a group of Little Leaguers out there. Steve Finley won the competition with 5 perfectly placed bunts, Vizquel had 4. I didn't see how many Durham had, but I am sure it was less than Vizquel. At any rate.....I have never seen anything like that in a Giants practice....they are usually pretty business like. I don't know what (or who) it is, but there is a different vibe in the Giants camp this year. They all seem to be having a lot more fun. That can only be a good thing.

During batting practice, no one really lit the joint up today. Niekro, Alou & Finley each had 3 HRs to lead the team today. I saw Ellison hit for the first time in several days and he was spraying linedrives around the field. Bonds really did not hit well. He only had one HR and really only a dozen or so well hit balls. After he finished batting, Bonds grabbed Luis Pujols (who had been pitching) and wrestled him to the rear of the batting cage, all the while claiming it was Pujols' poor pitching that caused his poor batting practice session. Like I said......a lot more horsing around this year.

Tomorrow, the Giants are holding a takeoff on the American Idol series. The sixteen players who are in their first Major League camp, will be required to dress up and sing, with the vets acting as judges. Comedian Rob Schneider, who is in town and is a big Giants fan, will help out by hosting the "show". I had read about this event in the media, but I was surprised to find out today, that the event will be open to the public. The entire Idol parody, will be held on top of the 1B dugout and the park will open an hour earlier (at 8:00am) to let the fans in to watch. The Giants will be asking for voluntary contributions from the fans and the players have promised to match the contributions with the total amount to be donated to charity. I am really looking forward to this event. Even my wife wants to come & watch. Don't be surprised if the entire post tomorrow has to do with the "Giants Idol" competition.

Only two more days of workouts before Spring Training games start. I hope the Giants are able to find a little time between their social events to work on the art of playing baseball ;-)

Ray Durham, fielding a groundball at 2B

Firstbaseman of the future(?), Travis Ishikawa

Our new 4th outfielder, Steve Finley. I wish I looked like that when I was 41!

Pablo Sandoval.....just in case you need another view

Lance Niekro throwing to Kevin Frandsen during infield practice.

Omar Vizquel, heading to the dugout at the completion of practice.

Here is Bonds again acting like a loner. Actually, he was as much into the bunting competition as the rest of his teamates.

Two of the all-time greats.........Joe Garagiola and Mike Murphy

Kevin Frandsen, trying to make himself more valuable......taking groundballs at 3B.

Here is the "course" for the bunting competition.

Dan Ortimeier, waiting his turn to bat

Here is Bonds again by himself, not socializing. OH..no it's not. It is Bonds playing catch and talking with AA outfielder Fred Lewis.

Here is Barry Bonds all by himself, not socializing with his teamates. OH....no it's not, it is Bonds laughing and smiling and cutting up with his teamates.

Here is a sight you won't see every day. Reliever Tim Worrell taking groundballs at second base.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sunday, My Day of Rest

Just so no one keeps checking back in looking for an update today. My bad back was acting up this morning, so I decided to take a day off today. Back at it tomorrow. Can you believe Spring Training games begin on Thursday?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

February 25th, 2006

OK....I want to admit to a bone head move right off the bat. I took photos for the first half-hour of the workout or so before my camera display said the battery had run dead. No problem, I thought....I had just bought 3 jumbo packs of AA batteries two days ago. However,I found out that there was, in fact, a problem.....it seems that BUYING the batteries does you no good if you forget to actually put any of the batteries IN your camera case. So.........due to a totally preventable error on my part.......I do not have the number of photos to chose from that I usually do.

At any rate.......same workout drill today, except that before live batting practice, the team worked on rundown drills. With a full squad in the field, a pitcher would throw the ball home, a runner would start for the next base and a coach would hit a ball directly at a fielder in order to start a rundown play. I found it very interesting that the team really didn't seem to stress running the runner back to the base furthest from home plate. As long as the runner ultimately got tagged out.......the coaches didn't seem to care. So, next time you see a rundown at AT&T Park......and the Giants throw the ball back and forth 8 times before they finally tag the runner out sliding into the forward most bag, you will know why. Apparently, the old rule of running the runner back to the bag from whence he came is dead.

During the live batting practice round today, Armando Benitez, Tim Worrell, Jack Taschner, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez threw. The batters are catching up somewhat. They are now making contact 50% of the time, but the solid basehits are still few and far between. Moises Alou had another good day against live pitching. Barry Bonds hit a couple of line drives. Benitez did not seem to be throwing quite as hard as he was the other day, but the batters were still not making solid contact. I thought Taschner threw exceptionally well. The batters were consistently making contact, but they were late late late on practically every pitch. That tells me that Jack was throwing strikes.......but that he was throwing heat that the batters could not catch up to.

During batting practice thrown by the coaches, Barry decided to back off a little. Oh......he still lead the team with 4 HRs, but he was considerably behind yesterday in both frequency and distance. Steve Finley was hitting the ball well and was second to Bonds with 3 HRs. Lance Niekro continues to stroke the ball well. He only had two HRs, but he was hitting linedrives all over the field. I do not remember Lance having so much off field power. One of his two HRs was the opposite way, but he consistantly hit linedrive after linedrive, from foulpole to foulpole, that one or two hopped the fence. No one else, including Bonds had the consistant linedrive power to all fields that Niekro displayed. Like I said, I remembered him as a pull hitter. I must not have been watching closely enough.

I noticed what I would think was a strange relationship developing. During batting and outfield practice, Bonds and Finley are constantly talking with each other. They can usually be found somewhere within close proximity of each other and usually either laughing or talking about what the pitcher is throwing, or how far their last drive went or some other topic. I don't know why.......but I just think that is a strange pairing.

I tried to watch a little more of the prospect's batting practice on the secondary field today, but that is almost impossible to do. Fans only have access to about 1/2 of the 3B line in the outfield area and since the field is bounded by 1/2" thick iron bars......you can't see most of the field. I found that if I strained just right, I could see homeplate.....but I could not read the numbers of who was at bat. I could see who was pitching, and I could see the result of the batter's swing, but I could not tell who the batter was. Pretty hard to write a review of the young talent under those conditions.

One thing I did notice is that although both fields started the live batting practice at about the same time........the youngsters were still facing live batting practice after the veterans had completed the second round of batting practice thrown by the coaches. That would explain why only 5-6 pitchers throw live batting practice in the main stadium per day. It appears that ALL of the other pitchers in camp are throwing on the secondary field. Also, while the veterans were completely done with practice by 12:30, the kids were still going strong with live batting practice when I left at 12:50. The kids didn't seem to mind, towards the end of the day they were playing for ALL of the Major League coaches who came to the practice field after the vets were done on the main field. Just for info.......the kids are having even more problems facing live pitching at this point than the vets are. I don't think I saw a single ball hit out of the infield in about 45 minutes (off and on) of watching the kids take live BP.

Another beautiful day, 78 degrees, with a bright blue Arizona Sky. After the practice I made my first visit of the season to the Blue Moose. The Moose is a must visit bar/restaurant about 2 blocks from the stadium. If you go to Spring Training you must swing by and visit the good folks at the Blue Moose. Chances are once the games begin, you will find me there after most games.

This is the new patio above RF. They added the tables today. Looks like it is going to be a heck of a party!

Noah Lowry

Matt Morris - with Pedro Feliz, Jose Vizcaino & Todd Linden in the background.

Our old buddy from the Prospect Thread......Justin Hedrick

Mark Sweeney.....starting a rundown play

Another look at Brian Buscher......I don't think he is quite as "soft" as my photo yesterday led you to believe.

Kevin Correia, Tyler Walker, Todd Greene & Omar Vizquel...killing time

Another look at Pablo Sandoval

Armando Benitez - looking downright svelte

Rundown Drills

More Rundown Drills

Friday, February 24, 2006

Dr B...here is another shot of Sandoval. He is certainly not a "skinny mini".......but he is not the fat pig we were led to believe either.

Outfielder - John Bowker

February 24th, 2006

Today was another beautiful, sunny, mid-70's day in Scottsdale. The Giants went through their usual workout; ground balls to the infield, flies to the outfield and batting practice, but added a couple of drills I had not seen. One was a popup drill where a full squad, including pitchers, fielded popups from a pitching machine. The intent was to get the players to correctly call for the ball. Outfielders had to call off infielders when appropriate, infielders had to follow the infield protocol, ie: SS has priority, 2B next, pitchers last and so on.

I also saw the young outfielders complete a baserunning drill. In this drill the players practiced leading off from the bag and either held or took off for the next base depending on whether the coach (acting as a pitcher) held the ball, threw a strike to the catcher or threw the ball into the dirt. It was very obvious that the kids took this drill very seriously.......I wonder if the veterans would have done the same?

Also at the end of the practice I saw another drill I had not seen. The coaches used a pitching machine, set up at shortstop, to shoot balls into the ground very close to the firstbasemen, simulating an errant throw from SS. This drill provided a good way for the firstbasemen on the team to field shorthop after shorthop, thereby improving their skills in this area. I am amazed how they can take ball after ball into the dirt and not flinch.

The team again took live batting practice thrown by the pitchers, followed by a second round of batting practice thrown by the coaches. The pitchers today were; Noah Lowry, Pedro Liriano, Tyler Walker, Scott Munter, Michael Tejera and Kevin Correia. The batters are still behind the pitchers. The only HR of the first round of BP was Todd Greene off of Michael Tejera. It seemed like Lowry was having trouble throwing strikes. The batters only took half a dozen swings off of him on 40 pitches or so. Barry Bonds was the only batter that made solid contact sending one pitch to the warning track. The batters weren't swinging and missing.....they were just letting the balls go by.

In the second round of BP, with the coaches pitching, the batters fared much better. Barry Bonds had a monster round hitting seven, mostly very long homeruns. Barry hit all seven HRs toward the end of his round. At one point he hit back to back HRs, one of which CLEARED the patio in RF on a line and the second one of which landed about 4/5ths of the way up the grass berm between the RF power alley and dead CF. At another point, he hit back-to-back-to-back HRs. Not as long as the other two, but none of them were cheapies either. Yeah.........Barry can still hit. Moises Alou had a very good round, hitting linedrive after linedrive. Lance Niekro continues to hit the ball VERY well as does Todd Greene. Randy Winn still has not found his stroke. The kids took BP on the practice field, so I was not able to see any of them hit.

I have received a number of requests for photos of the younger, Minor League players. I tried to focus on that request today. The photos of the outfielders were taken during the baserunning drill. The photos of the infielders were taken during the popup drill. The photos of the pitchers were taken during the live batting practice.

I have not seen any noticible limping from Barry Bonds. Of course he really hasn't run hard yet either. I don't think he has gotten used to his knee brace yet, though. He doesn't limp, but he sort of drags the leg that has the brace a little bit. I have read in the media that the brace is a large cumbersome contraption. I am not so sure that is 100% correct. While the brace is visible through Bonds' pants leg, you have to be looking for it and he has to be in the right position for it to be easily visible. The press has also remarked how slowly Bonds moves around the field, but anyone who has ever seen Bonds around the park will tell you he has always walked very slowly when he doesn't have to exert himself. I really don't see much difference in the way Bonds walks now as opposed to the way he walked a couple of years ago. As an aside, Moises Alou is another player who has always moved very slowly from place to place . If Bonds and Alou had a race walking from the field to the batting cages.....I'm not sure who would win. Their slowness is not age or injury related though, they both have always walked as slowly as molasses in January.

I continue to be surprised at the number of fans present each day. I imagine it is because it is MUCH more comfortable for the fans to watch practice at Scottsdale Stadium than it was at Indian School Park. The fans are also closer to the players at Scottsdale Stadium. It really is a good time for an avid baseball fan.

Batting Practice on a beautiful Arizona day.

Pitcher - Michael Tejera

Barry Bonds, up close and personal

Barry Bonds carrying hs bats to the batting cages.