Thursday, April 15, 2010

AJ Pierzynski: Give it a break!

Most of you know how big of a Pierzynski fan I am. I have a signed AJ picture hanging on my wall next to my bed. I have an AJ bobblehead that I got at Sox fest... mostly this turns up missing because my roommates 4 year old son like to jack it and keep it in his room but.. regardless.. I do. I even own 2 different Pierzynski t-shirts. (size kid's large for those of you who wanna donate Sox shirts to the Dickson/Wambold pro-Sox fund.)

I like my players feisty. Going back to the purpose of this blog, I'm a huge Buck Weaver fan. I love men who play the game for the sheer principle of being able to play. If that means you get let go by your team and have to play independent league ball for nothing then... so be it. If you have passion- I love it. Passion. Pride. Tradition.

I've loved AJ since he played with the Twins. Sorry, Sox fans. I love my players scrappy. I love them feisty. I love a player who plays with his heart on his sleeve and goes into the game giving two shits about what's going on. I love a player who gets so frustrated with his lack of offense that when he walks out of the batters box and adjusts his gloves you can visibly see him mouthing "F*ck!" I love that he cares. I'll never dislike a player for any reason like that, whether they play for the Sox or not.

I hate people that dog on AJ. I hate that people find it amusing to routinely write stupid SHIT about him just for the purpose of writing it. When/If I become a professional writer for a national organization, and I fall into writing things like the "Phantom" AJ HBP, I beg each of you to send me a letter with a clip out of my column with a big red "X" over it to remind me that I need to find something better to write about.

In Tuesday's game AJ may or may not have been hit by a pitch. He may or may not have faked it. Who knows? Those of you who sit around tweeting and facebooking about how "That's AJ being AJ... it didn't hit him." Well.. unless you're AJ Pierzynski I don't really see how you can have a definite opinion. Unless you were there and it happened to you, you don't get to say "it did" or "it didn't." You just DON'T.

You know who's job it is to have that opinion? The umpires. It's HIS JOB. That's was MLB pays him to do-- to look at AJ and say "no you're full of shit.. get back her and finish your At-bat"... instead the home plate ump in Tuesday's game was all for AJ taking his base. If you have beef... take it up with him!!

I'm just sick of hearing it. AJ isn't well liked. We all know that. We get it. CHRIST! For numerous stupid pro-media related reasons no one likes AJ.

Guess what. AJ probably doesn't care. He has the attitude where he plays for his team. He plays to win. And the simple fact is, those of us who are paying $60 a piece to watch HIM play, he doesn't really care about our opinions. You know who he cares about? Buehrle...and Peavy.. Danks... Floyd.. Garcia. Those are the guys he cares about. And rightly so.

I'm so sick and tired of hearing about people dogging on AJ for stupid reasons. People are even comparing this to the dropped strike 3 in the 05 WS. Guess what- NOT THE SAME!

AJ is a tough player. He's feisty and he cares. If you don't like it- don't cheer for him... I don't care! I've loved him for years and I will always love him... those of you who are freaking out about him and the "phantom" HBP need to get a life. HPB's occur EVERY DAY in baseball... they just do! If anyone else did what AJ did last night (if it in fact, DIDN'T hit him), then people would be calling that other player a "hero" and "smart." Because AJ is who he is, people are calling for his execution.
You know what?

Get OVER IT! find something better to write about! Find something better to talk about!!! AND FOR GODS SAKE... quit writing about it!! There has to be more in major league baseball for and to write about.... FIGURE IT OUT! Journalism 101... stop searching for BS crap to write about.. I'm sure you're getting paid much more to write about something that I can't easily blog about. If not, then someone need to send my resume to Sports Illustrated. Pretty sure I could take over a few jobs there.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Race for a Contract

I always liked Orlando Hudson for one reason. He talks a lot.
I talk. A lot. All the time. I don't shut up. My parents used to have to go to McDonalds and get a chocolate shake to get me to stop talking in the car when I was little. My boss today still tells me he wishes he had a volume control for me. I'm that girl who is really really intelligent (aside from my admittance to not being able to spell for crap.) but will literally be standing there and say "I want vanilla pudding. We should start buying vanilla pudding." and then be stared at like "wtf... where did that come from?"

I have ADD in my head, I swear. Orlando Hudson has always reminded me of me. If I were a baseball player, I would be Orlando Hudson personality wise.

However Hudson and my moral opinions differ extremely and over the last year or so I've become more and more annoyed with his media outbursts.

After today, I'm pretty confident I've reached my tolerance limit of crap spewing out of Hudson's mouth. I'm really ashamed of his comments about the reason why Jermaine Dye hasn't been signed to a major league contract.
Orlando says "We both know what it is. You'll get it right. You'll figure it out. I'm not gonna say it because I'll get in a lot of trouble." in context to his opinion on why Dye hasn't been resigned, he alludes to it being because Dye is black.
I can't stand that crap.

Orlando Hudson is ridiculous. There's absolutely no racist reason on why Jermaine hasn't been signed by another team.

Dye hasn't been signed because he's asking for too much money. He wants at least 1/4 of his $11.5M contract with the Sox last year. He wants a full time outfield position and has said that he "might" play 1st here and there but that he mainly wants to be in the outfield full time, and won't even considering being a 4th outfielder or DH. He has been declining in talent in both offensive and defensive categories.

Dye has been offered deals with the Nationals, Toronto, and Tampa Bay. He hasn't signed because of his pickyness of position played, salary, and wanting to play for a contender. If Dye wants to play, he would play. Thome wanted to keep playing and he, who is willing to play specifically to be in a rotating DH system, was willing to pick up a contract with the Twins for a $1.5M/1yr contract. Maybe Dye should stop being so picky?
The history of baseball has been skewed with racism, true, but I'm someone who feels as though in this day-in-age we make our own destiny. If you hold yourself back saying "I'm not going to be able to do this because of race, age, or gender" then the only person holding you back, is you.

Major league baseball has been making ridiculous strides to appeal to the African American community, including working hard to bring baseball into inner-city neighborhoods with the RBI Program. No one can force a kid to want to play baseball. He has to play because he loves it. You can bring him a bat and a ball and a mit, but you can't make him throw or hit, no matter what color their skin is. If Orlando Hudson or anyone else is mad because of a declining number of African American's in MLB then they should be working toward bringing the spirit of the game to kids they think have talent. They should not be running their mouth off to the media making themselves look like victims because of another player's lack of contract.
If Hudson thinks that the reason the Sox didn't resign him is because of racist reasons, then maybe he should take a look at our GM and manager. We have an African American GM and a Venezuelan manager. This might be a bit of a stretch but I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that racism... PROBABLY not the reason we didn't re-sign Dye.

Hudson also says that he has "a lot to say" after he retires. Awesome. If it's anything like this stretch of crap, then save it, please. I have no problem with people being opinionated but I do have a problem with ignorance.

I wish Jermaine Dye the best of luck in what's left of his major league career, and I wish Orlando Hudson would shut up.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hey Jays Fans...There's No Crying in Baseball!!

It's safe to say that the fact that that White Sox finally broke a 10-game losing streak in Toronto was slightly over-shadowed by Alex Rios' return to the Rogers Centre.
Even during batting practice, Comcast's Chuck Garfien reported on twitter than Rios was getting heckled by the fans. Playing along, Rios tipped his cap to the fans. Ozzie Guillen took a direct punch at the kidney's of Jay's fans and responded with "We need people in the ballpark just to come out and boo Alex. Please, we haven't seen many fans out here in the last 3 or 4 years. Come out just to boo him."

The question is, why were Jays fans booing Rios so harshly?

Rios was offered a contract with the Jays in April of 2008 that promised him $69 over 7 years. They had little trade options last season based partly on their contractional obligations to Rios. The Jays simply didn't have any payroll flexibility. Not surprising when your team pulls on average 8,000 fans a game- there's not a lot of revenue coming in on a nightly basis.

Jays fans who actually paid attention to their team rejoiced when Toronto placed him on waivers, begging any team to take him off their hands so they could secure Halladay for another 2 years. I remember specifically when Rios was placed and it was rumored that KW would pick him up. All I heard from Jays fans was "good riddance!"

What's mind boggling is that Jays fans were offering to give up Rios for a few ash bats and a Vernon Wells jersey and now, when Rios returns to Toronto, they're booing him as if he broke their hearts by leaving.

Let's examine what I like to call "AJ Pierzynski Syndrome."

In a ballclub that routinely pulls one of the lowest attendance in the majors, on opening day you're going to get a packed house full of bandwagon fans. You just simply are. So one guy starts booing Rios because he thinks its funny, and then everyone other d-bag in the stadium follows. People have no idea why they're booing Rios, but they do it, laugh, and cuss at him the entire game. Classless and unintelligent.

I've spent the last few hours this morning talking to Jays fans and most of them, who are real Jays fans, can't understand why the booing went on. They were happy that Rios was playing well this year, and proud of his accomplishments on their team.

What I'm realizing is- the majority of the people there just simply had no idea why the booing was going on. They were going along with the pack. Hence "AJ Pierzynski Syndrome." Just because Minnesota and San Fransisco boos AJ, the entire rest of the fans in the MLB do it. They dont know WHY they do it for the most part, they just do. Because, you know, it's AJ Pierzynski and that's the thing to do.

Ozzie equated the entire thing to when Cleveland fans booed Thome we he came back to their park, but honestly it's not even the same situation. Jays fans wanted Rios gone for the simple fact that their idiot GM, J.P. Ricciardi decided to actually sign Rios for that $69m/7yr deal and Kenny Williams had to come bail him out and pay off his debt. Alex Rios didn't leave on horrible conditions. He didn't request a trade. He didn't end his contract and decide to take up a larger contract with another team. He was placed on waivers.

Okay. For those of you who I've been going back and forth with on Twitter, let me explain something to you.

Waivers are a tricky thing and sometimes hard to understand.

When a team is in a situation such as the Jays were with their contractional obligations to a mediocre player like Alex Rios, they can chose to place him on waivers. (actually, a team can chose to place a player on waivers at pretty much any time at all during the season, but most people tend to pay attention to the waiver claims that happen after the trade deadline.)

When that happens, 3 things can go down.

The team that places the player on waivers can either a) trade him outright to the team that claimed him for another player, b) take back their offer and call the whole thing off completely (if that happens and the team decides to place the player BACK on waivers again, then they aren't allowed to use the option of taksies-backsies a 2nd time) or c) allow the team that claimed the player to have the player, take on that guy's payroll, pay a small waiver fee to the waiving team, and place the player directly on the 40 man.

A lot of the time, teams will grab a player on waivers strictly to blockade any other teams from getting them. If that happens a player is claimed by more than one team, then priority is as follows:

The team in the same league as the player (With Rios, it would have been the American League) with the worst record gets him. If no team in the player's league claims him, then the team with the worst record in the other league gets him.

A player can also "clear waivers" which means that if after the 3 day span of being able to be claimed, no one claims him, then he's cleared waivers and the waiving team can option to send him to the minors. When that happens a player can either go down, or refuse assignment and become a free agent.

The entire thing is really just a cat and mouse game, but a good tool to help managers shape their team.

In this instance, the Jays put Rios on waivers, the Sox claimed him, taking on his entire contract, and Toronto rejoiced. Sox fans freaked a little with the new acquisition of Jake Peavy earlier in the week and the thought of taking on such a high contract, but adding Rios helped shape our roster for the 2010 season after we freed up some money by not resigning Thome or Dye, two big salary roster spots.

So Alex Rios was dealt by their front office to the White Sox, and didn't technically WANT to leave Toronto, where-as Jim Thome, he was the Indian's 13th round pick in the 1989 draft, came up through their organization, and was the most loved player on their team, decided to LEAVE Cleveland to pursue a larger contract in Phillidalphia ($85m/6yr as compared to $60m/5yr)

As classless as it is to boo someone like Jim Thome in my opinion, I can see where the Indian fans kind of had their hearts ripped out when Big Jim decided to go to the Phillies.

Jays fans don't have the same argument. They rejoiced when he was signed to a 7 year contract, confident that the tag-team of Wells/Rios would bring a championship to Toronto along with ace Halladay. I didn't hear fans booing Rios when he played in Toronto once.
Were there fans that wanted Rios gone to free up their payroll? Absolutely. However to be fair, the majority of baseball fans don't pay that close of attention to payrolls. I don't know a lot of fans that didn't love Alex when he played in Toronto. Most were shocked and surprised when we picked him up, and the backlash is based solely on his leaving the organization.

This is where AJ Pierzynski Syndrome comes in.

Take one ballpark that can fit upwards of 40,000 people, add 8,000 REAL fans, and another 32,000 who are there for beer and hot dogs, and what do you get? An entire fan base of Canadians who are booing Alex Rios for leaving Toronto.

So Rios didn't really live up to the potential of a $69 million contract. Somehow that's Rios' fault. Remember in my last post I talked about how I found it wrong to heckle a rookie player for "sucking" when it was actually management's fault for not keeping him down in the minors to season and get to the point where he can become a solid big leaguer? It's the same with a player who is signed to a huge contract and doesn't technically produce.
So Rios hit upward of .300 for the majority of his career with Toronto and after 1/2 a season of batting under .270, and being traded to the Sox, the fans are ready to call him a joke and a waste.
Toronto fans do nothing more than simply prove to me that there are more idiot fans out there than there are intelligent ones. I talked to a Jays fan on twitter this morning who just kept telling me "He sucks." as the reason why the fans were booing him.

Really? "He sucks"? THAT'S your argument? That he sucks?? The kid doesn't bat under .291 for three straight seasons and after 4 months of a mediocre batting average, he SUCKS? No. He doesn't "suck." Your ex GM sucks. The Rios contract threw away money and was ridiculous. It's one of the many reasons he got fired after last season, and is THE reason why Rios was placed on waivers and let go to another team. It was because your GM was stupid enough to make an idiot contract that allowed him no room for payroll diversity. You should have all been booing your front office, not Rios.
Another smaller reason why people say they were booing him is because of a video leaked on youtube last year in which a fan continuously heckles Rios for not signing autographs as he leaves a charity event. Rios responds by telling them to "F*ck off." Well, you know what? If I was being bombarded by a bunch of clearly unintelligent fans who were spouting off at the seems about ignorant things, I'd tell them to "F*ck off" as well. One Jays fan used the argument "he's mean. try saying hi to him after a game and see what happens."

Well. I'm pretty confident that Alex Rios would not freak out if I came up to him and said "hi." Now if I followed him out to his car screaming "You're useless Rios, you're a horrible player! You're lucky you even have a job! You're lucky anyone wants you! You're f*cking horrible!" I would expect him to tell me to "f*ck off." Just sayin.

Maybe I'm just annoyed with the lack of intelligence, I don't know. However I just don't understand the concept of Jays fans booing him so mercilessly yesterday. I wasn't the only one who didn't get it either. The Jays broadcast team had questions about the booing as well, chucking at the sheer ignorance of it.

The fact is: He was claimed off waivers, he left, the Sox took on his payroll and freed up issued the Jays were having with it. The fans should be happy, or at the very least, indifferent. So he yelled back at a fan who was heckling him last season. The guy he yelled at clearly wasn't a "fan" so who cares? At least it fires Rios up and he clearly fed off the negativity at the Rogers Centre last night going 3-5 with a run scored. But then again, you know. He sucks.....

Booing a player for un-baseball related reasons is for the bar. Keep it out of the ballpark.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I'd like to name this post something I can't.. so it's staying with.. Prospects: Ryan Tatusko

Ah the world of Twitter. You'll never believe who you'll meet on that thing. My entire friend base makes fun of my tweeting. One of my best friends, a beat writer for, exclaims on a regular basis that there's not much the world doesn't know about me because of twitter.

And there's not a lot the world doesn't know about fellow tweet-freak, Ryan Tatusko.

When I first started this prospects blog I tried to start following some minor league guys, which lead me to my previous interviews which were really nice. I actually became fast friends with Ryan despite there being no interview involved. We bonded over our Catholic religion, interesting stories, my wanting to live vicariously through him while he was in Spring Training and I was enjoying a 6-inch snow during the middle of March, and jeering back and forth over his love for the Cubs, and mine for the Sox.

So we finally toyed around with the idea of actually doing an interview together. This is the first time I've ever actually interviewed a friend- and I have to tell you, it's a lot harder than interviewing a stranger. I already knew a lot about him so it was kinda pick and choose what my readers would want to have him share. Ryan's an out going kid so getting a face paced (and by that I mean.. this kid really talks VERY FAST) interview out of him wasn't hard. Keeping up with him was, and usually is, the opposite.

Me: You're a level headed guy, and a huge Cub fan. Big Z is known for his emotional outbursts on the mound. Have you ever had any Big Z moments?

Ryan: Uhm I've had a couple really emotion moments. I try not to get too emotional. That's none thing I was instilled at a very young age. All my coaches told me that with a good pitcher you should never know if he's up by 10, or down by 10 on the mound, but sometimes it's really hard to not have those emotional moments.

Me: How did your reviewing tapes this off season help with your mechanics?

Ryan: It helped immensely. When I went back and reviewed I noticed I had mechanical faults that were causing me to rush and I was losing all power in my legs. I realized I needed to stand on my back side a whole lot more. So that's all I focused on all off season. I really focused on standing up on my back side and getting the drive out of my legs that I needed.

Me: You've been reading Mind Gym. How is that affecting your pitching approach this season?

Ryan: I'm really not too much into the book right now buts it's all about learning how to control the stuff you can't control which is very hard. As a pitcher by nature you wanna be a micro-manager. You have to focus on just controlling the things that you can control. When you're in a game and things don't start going your way... that's really the thing you need to focus on. Keeping a level head on the mound and trying to get out of the situation with minimal infliction. It's really gonna help me a lot as I get further into the book.

Me: I know you have a little good luck charm you keep during a game- tell me about it.

Ryan: The medal in my pocket,It's Saint Rita, the Patron Saint of Impossible Hopes and Dreams. It's actually really weird because I carried the medal in my back pocket before the movie The Rookie even came out and in the movie he gets the medal and its hanging on his rear view mirror. I was given it as a gift from my grandparents before the movie but people think I copied but actually I had it first.

Me: You know that movie was a book before it was a movie

Ryan: Yes I read it

Me: I'm gonna leave that statement alone, haha. What else did you do during Spring Training this year to kind of pass the time away?

Ryan: Most of what we did.. we got up early during the day especially when games started so all we really wanted to do was hang out. We had a hot tub and we utilized that a lot. Especially for soar muscles and aches and pains. Billy butler lives right downstairs and he'd come up and hang out and play MLB The Show. It was fun to play a video game with the guy actually sitting right next to you. Mostly a lot of video games and relaxed. We knew we had to get up early the next morning.

Me: And I know you're a big music fan as well as video games. What are your top 5 "pump me up" songs on your iPod?

1- Linkin Park- Bleed it Out,
2- Metallica with the SF Orchestra- Wherever I May Roam
3- Metallica with... wait, what's the name of the song?

Me: This is your story.

Ryan: It's Mariano Rivera's player intro song.

Me: I have no idea...

Ryan: You're this baseball nut and you don't know??

Me: Do you want me to google it?
Ryan: Enter Sandman!

Me: Light bulb! Okay.. keep going.....


4- Skillet- Monster
5- Skillet- Rebirthing

Me: Okay okay... serious question. Tell me about Pitcher's Power Drive.
Ryan: It's a device that my pitching coach back home introduced to me. We realized that I had some problems staying back in pitching but he was never really a gimmick guy. Drew Storen and I were playing catch together during the off season and Jay Lehr introduced us to this and said that it was something he really believed in. Drew and I started messing around and tinkering with it. It really helped us find our mechanical flaws. We probably worked on it 20-30 minutes on it every day. It's really really helped me. Ive picked up about 3-4 MPH
on my fastball just from last year.

Me: So do you sponsor it?

Ryan: I have some comments on the website and he's put me on the website and sent me a few things. I introduced our pitching coordinator with the Rangers to it , and some other teammates I've introduced to it. I really think it will help other people as well.

Me: Jay sounds like a pretty important guy to you. I know you're really close with both your dad and your step-dad. Who else has helped you shape yourself and your career?

Ryan: Yeah absolutely Jay Lehre, our pitching coach from Indianapolis. He's really the last 3-4 years helped shape my mechanics and fine tune things and has helped me become the pitcher that I am. Especially flip flopping between the bullpen and starting and getting ready for both.

Me: You've been starting primarily and this year you're starting out the season in AA as a bullpen pitcher. How are you going to approach your role in the pen this year?

Ryan: I don't think its gonna be much of a change because I'm going to be the long relief guy and I'm throwing multiple innings. I'm really gonna try to keep my routine... I'm gonna have to expedite my warm up routine. I have to realize that the game for me starts the inning I go out there. Obviously with long relief guys they try and get you in there with a fresh inning and if I'm afforded that opportunity I'm gonna try and approach it as a starter and keep the most familiar routine that I can even though ill be in the bullpen.

Me: I was asking you earlier what jersey number you got this year- you told me 40. I know you have a thing with the number 40. Is it just a superstition?

Ryan: Yeah its mostly a superstition. I was 40 in my final year of HS and I had an ok year besides having Tommy John. I was 40 my three years at Indiana State. It was always something I carried over. I was 40 in Low-A. In High-A I settled for number 20. It's just a number I'm comfortable with and I'm used to seeing myself in. Just another one of those baseball superstitions. Everyone has the number they feel comfortable in. It's a little bit of a motivational factor. If you go back and look at great players who have worn numbers there's not a lot that have 40-- so in my mind set its kinda motivational that I can go out there and do something great in the number.

Me: Tommy John surgery your senior year of HS. Walk me through that.

Ryan: My ligament blew completely. I went in a regular season game against a rival HS in our conference. I still remember the pitch. It was a 6th inning fastball and it just went off on me. I got multiple diagnosis that all said tendinitis. Even though I'd never had anything major, the swelling wouldn't go away. Finally after I went and saw an elbow specialist they diagnosed it as an ulnar collateral ligament injury and I wound up having surgery a week later.I missed the rest of my senior year due to surgery. I also missed my entire true freshman year of college due to rehab.
The hardest part about having the injury was the mental aspect. You're stuck for 3-4 months not allowed to move your arm past 90 degrees. To really think you have to throw a ballgame when you cant move your arm is hard. 6 months into the 18 month rehab is learning to get a full range of motion back in your elbow. Afterwards you start tossing with tennis balls up to 90 feet. 30 feet with baseballs, flat ground, then to the mound, working on your pitches. Your minds playing tricks on you with aches and pains and you're thinking "am I doing enough?" "am I doing too much?" "Am i doing everything correctly?" You really can't get a good grip on whats going on. The hardest part is getting on the mound day in and day out. It's a scary thing to do and you get back on the mound there's a huge sense of accomplishment. Nothing can parallel it. That's nothing I've ever felt in my entire career.

Me: You're a mature kid. Is that where you get all your focus from? Because seriously Ryan. You're focused to the point where it's annoying- but in a good way!
Ryan: Yeah it almost gets to feel like that you have a second opportunity at baseball and when you're given that opportunity when you think everything taken away from you you cherish being at the ballpark and being a the field. The greatest thing you can realize is the game can be taken away from you tomorrow. I don't wanna look back at my career and think "what if," I wanna look back and think "I gave it my all." I wanna look back with satisfaction and know I gave it my all.

Me: You have a great opportunity in Frisco this year. From what I've heard the stadium is gorgeous. How excited are you to be playing there?

Ryan: Being inside that stadium that's that amazing brings out the little kid in you. You get there and look around and look at the scenery and realize you're fortunate enough to play in one of the best minor league stadiums in the nation. You get giddy to come to the ball park. Tomorrow's Opening Day and we're sold out with it holding over 10,000 people. You get excited to see how the games gonna be and the reactions of the fans. It creates an electric atmosphere. You have something to be excited about every day.

Me: Alright Ryan you knew this was coming: Favorite ballplayer of all time.

Ryan: Nolan Ryan. I love the way he attacks hitters. he was a fierce athlete throwing mid-90s in his 40s. The way he goes after batters is the way I try and model my game. He was aggressive and had total conviction. No matter what he threw whether it was a strike, ball, home run, hit, knew it was the right pitch. I try and have the certain conviction that he had. Not only that but the work he did to lead up to a start was unmatched.

You Can Put it On the Board...... YES!!!

Do you ever just sit at a ballpark and take in the sights and sounds around you? Stare at the fans, all involved in their own analysis of the game, breath in the smell of kosher hot dogs and beer, envision yourself standing on the dirt in the infield?

Sometimes when I'm at a ballgame I get this "wow-factor" feeling.I feel like it's like my first time at a ballgame. I'm entranced by the geometry of the baselines, the perfect green of the outfield, the players spotted across the field all paying intense attention to a little ball about to leave a glove.

And it's like life is perfect.

I could have cared less what was going on outside of that stadium. When I'm at a ballgame I feel at home. I feel alive- like this is where I'm supposed to be. In the 5th inning of Monday's home opener, I turned to my friend and said "You know that 'is this Heaven line' on Field of Dreams? I honestly haven't ever agreed with something more. When I die, I want to sit right here. Right at this field- every single day... and watch players execute a game. That is perfect- that's Heaven."

He looked at me, laughed, and said "It's a good thing I've known you for like a year and know you routinely go all baseball poetic on people, or else I'd tell you I'm not going on any more margarita runs for you today and cut you off."

My point here is- Monday's White Sox home opener was one of those spine tingling, goosebumb games. From the pitching, to the offence, to Buehrle's web gem of the year, to Rios and PK going yard, to the return of a glimpse of Ozzie ball (get em on, get em over, get em in). It was one of those games that reminds me of how much I love baseball- and why I spent the entire off season praying for first pitch to get here as quickly as possible.

I'm not going to try and mask myself into some professional blogger who drove to Chicago, got there 30 minutes before the game, and sat nicely in my seat keeping score and eating nachos. Instead I'm going to be real and honestly recount my day- because it was awesome. Yes I drank, yes I had a good time, and I plan on honestly depicting it to you all. Those of you who know me would call "bullshit" if I even attempted to pretend like I was all professional baseball fan on Monday's game anyways. :)

I left Peoria around 7:30 anticipating traffic- It wasn't too bad and I listened to Mully and Hanley on 670 The Score. That's a pre-game ritual of mine that I tend to annoy my friends with when they drive to Chicago with me. I don't like the drives to games by myself, but I have always been a "coffee and MLB Network in the morning" kinda girl, and sipping on a 24 oz black coffee and listening to sports news talk calms me and helps the time pass. I also enjoy all the pre-game talk and excitement as fans from the Chicago area call in and give their "professional" opinion on the upcoming 2010 season.

Around 9:20 I started getting into what I like to call the "oh shit" part of 55. That's right after you pass Arsenal Bridge about 50-60 minutes from Bridgeport. I hate Arsenal Bridge with every bone in my body due to bridge inspection last season on my way to SOX/LAA that caused my roommate and I to miss the Sox opening video which, if you know me, is the equivalent to missing the previews of a movie, only way worse. I effing hate it. I'm a creature of habit and if I miss seeing that video, people will hear me bitch for a good 2 innings. I hate to drone on and on about it but it needs to be said that I cure Arsenal Bridge every time I pass it regardless of traffic.

Anyways, as soon as you pass that bridge it's like passing into an alternate universe. It's as if God drops 40 additional cars on the highway and you start "Chicago Driving" which means you literally play cat and mouse with everyone around you, and you get points above your car for how many different times you can touch all 3-4 lanes. In and out passing gets you 5 additional, by the way.
I was calling and getting calls from my two friends, Steph and Brandon who were both going to be at the game as well- a pack of beer in my passenger seat screamed out the inevitable: It was almost 10:00am and I needed to start tailgaiting.

Around 10:15 I finally found my way to the Ashland Street exit. Most of you are probably wondering why I take Ashland off 55. I'll tell you. It's so much easier to take Ashland the 2 miles down to 35th and take 35th up to USCF. I only say this because, and Amanda will attest, I will always, and I mean always, take the wrong exit on the Dan Ryan. It never fails. I will end up in downtown Chicago and almost get run over by a semi and then end up crying trying to figure out how to get on Lakeshore and then remember which exit I was supposed to actually take.

I shouldn't be allowed to drive in Chicago. Honestly.

After arriving at USCF, I threw some beer in my purse, and sought after my friend Stephanie who was there with her friends and co-workers from the Bulls/Sox Training Academy. After running into a very awesome Ron Kittle who scared the crap out of me when he came up and said "Hey I'm loving the jersey!" (yes it was throw back, no it wasn't a Kittle. It was Baines. I'm sure Ron didn't mind though), I gave him a hug and we conversed briefly.

Ron Kittle may be one of the coolest guys in the world. He's always super nice to everyone, reaches out to his facebook followers daily (in fact, one lady came up to us while we were talking and said "I'm your friend on facebook!"... Ron just has one of those faces) and makes time for all his fans.

Right afterwards I ran into Dr. David Fletcher- my boss and founder of the Chicago Baseball Museum. He was busy rushing around and tending to our special guest, Bob Feller. I wont go into the specifics because you're going to get a huge blog on it later- but we hosted Feller for the 70 year reunion of his no-no pitched on Opening Day against the White Sox when he played for the Tribe. (In attendance at our event was also Moose Skowron. Talk about cool).

After finding Stephanie, another run in with Kittle, and finding my friend who had my ticket, I finally got a chance to knock down a few beers.

One of the coolest things is that one of the ladies in attendance in Stephanie's pack of friends had a legit Sox World Series ring. Don't ask me what she did in the Sox organization to get the ring, because I have no idea. All I know is that I got to wear it. Now that, my friends, is a surreal experience.

So it's 20 minutes before game time and my check-list is as follows:

5 beers- Check
Run in with former White Sox great Ron Kittle- Double Check
Meeting with baseball legend Bob Feller- Check
Wearing the White Sox World Series Ring- Check.
Needless to say things were starting out well- and they were only going to get better.

Like I said I'm really particular about getting inside the ballpark to see the opening video. If you guys haven't seen it, the youtube video is right under this paragraph :) It's insane how cool it is. It starts off going through a trophy case of just tons of historical White Sox memorabilia (the fans always cheer the loudest passing over the names and jerseys, pics, etc of guys like The Big Hurt, Harold Baines, and of course all the guys from the 05 Season)... then it goes to a video montage of all these awesome historical moments from the past years to the song "He's a Pirate" from Pirates of the Caribbean. Whoever put the video together is just genius. I love how they show Fisk's double tag at the plate, the lights being shutout for the last time at Old Comiskey from an aerial view, Bo Jackson's homer, when Luke Appling got his car at Luke Appling Night, Tony LaRussa throwing the base when he managed here, the 2000 AL Central celebration at the Metrodome, moving across from Old to New Comiskey, Burl's Perfect and no-no, Brian Anderson's diving catch to end game 163 in 08,and of course different highlights from 1917 season, Go-Go Sox, Winning Ugly, Southside Hitmen, etc.

Well rest assured, I made it in in time to watch it, getting goosebumbs as usual.

The National Anthem was sang as members of the armed services brought a whole-field American Flag out and an aerial show ended the anthem. I've personally never seen one of the aerial shows before. I have no idea how they time that out so perfectly when those US Navy jets fly overhead, but it really is just the icing on the cake on Opening Day. It's like the whole world is cheering for you. I don't specifically mean for the White Sox, but for baseball. When you're in the stadium it's like you're shut off to the world. You're not really caring nor are you paying attention to anything else that's going on outside. Sure it's an open stadium but there's 35,000+ people there are concentrating on the same exact thing for over 3 hours... and you tend to forget that there are other things going on in the world, the jet's are kind of a proverbial "Play Ball!" that just gives you chills.

I was excited to get things going with Mark Buehrle on the mound. I mean, who doesn't want to see Mr. Perfect? I knew it would be a shorter game (I was right, the game's official time ended up being 2:24), because if there's one person who will go out on the mound and work with purpose, it's Burls. He didn't disappoint. Two ground outs from Cabrera and Sizemore and a fly out from Choo ended the inning in quick 1-2-3 fashion which follows Buehrle's pitching style perfectly-his fielders always backing him up as he's not a big strike out guy.

I have a weird superstition- I don't get up before there's a hit made in a game. I psych myself out and feel like if I get up when the visiting team is up before someone gets the first hit, then they'll hit it... and if I get up before the first hit is made and the Sox are up, then they won't get a hit. So I stay in my seat. I spent the middle of the 1st trying to find Anthony, the jet-pack margarita man (Yes I'm on a first name basis with him. Don't judge me), and finally settled on a beer as I didn't want to miss the first at-bats of the Sox 2010 season. Pierre and Bacon both grounded out but TCQ solved my superstitious problems by doubling on a line drive to right field.

I'm just glad I didn't get up to go meet my friend Brandon before Paulie's at-bat. With Quentin on 2nd, PK stepped into the batters box and launched a long fly to right field. It was the first "rise to your feet" moment of the season and I nearly spilled my beer everywhere as Quentin and Konerko rounded the bases and the exploding score-board went off for the first time this season. Na-na-na-na hey hey hey... goodbye!

White Sox 2, Tribe 0.

After a home run is hit with two outs in the inning you still DON'T GET UP. You just simply dont. Long balls give a team momentum and even with 2 outs and no one on base, you expect the adrenaline to be pumping and the fans are only hoping for the best. So I stayed in my seat and watched Kotsay take a walk after working the count full.

Rios' first at-bat of the 2010 season lead to a force out with Kotsay out at 2nd. The inning was over, and I was ready for a margarita (I've really never been a huge beer girl at ball games. Especially since you get to keep the cups the margarita's come in, and they don't make you put ice in them. Fun fact- go to a ballgame and ask for no ice in your drinks like premade vodka/lemonade. You just simply get more liquor. Win-win.

I moved down to the left field seats right behind the bullpen to sit with my friend Brandon, one of the local weathermen for our CBS affiliate down here in Peoria, and fellow huge White Sox fan. Brandon and I have a tendency to get really loud, really obnoxious, and become huge smart asses when we're together- but Brandon's worse than me. It wasn't long before we were taunting Cleveland left fielder Michael Brantley, and our own bullpen rookie, Sergio Santos. "Hey Santos! You're not at Wrigley! Quit lookin at the girls and pay attention to the game! We don't do that on the Southside.. we PAY ATTENTION THE THE BALL GAME!"

I have no idea if Santos even knew what we were saying, but it didn't cease to be funny. I have no problems taunting our own players. Last year I was at a game where Ryan Sweeney was just brutalized. I felt kinda bad for him, because a lot of the time when a young player "sucks" we should really be screaming at our front office and management for not sending him down to get the at-bats he needs to become a good player, instead of bringing the player down for not being developed enough to be in a big league uniform. However, when players pull crap like flirting with girls in the stands when they're in the bullpen, they deserve to be ridiculed. Santos needed to recognize that that's not how we role on the Southside. If he wants to play around during the game and pass out his number to anything with a bra strap showing then he can go elsewhere (and I'm sure you all know where I mean by elsewhere). Here on the Southside we take our baseball seriously.

The first hit of the game for the Tribe came in the Top of the 2nd from Travis Hafner but didn't capitalize into anything as LaPorta quickly grounded into a DP after a fly out from Peralta.

Another thing my friends and especially my roommate will tell you is that I don't allow people to talk when AJ Pierzynski is up to bat. I seriously love him as a player. If I could say I have a favorite player on the team, it's AJ. I love his attitude and how he plays the game. Not to mention he's just plain good and a highly under appreciated catcher.
Well, AJ grounded out in his first at-bat of the 2010 season, something I noticed a lot of during Spring Training. Teahen walked and was then out caught stealing 2nd after a fly out from Ramirez.
Another single started the 3rd but is followed by another scoreless inning despite hits from both Grudzielanek and A. Cabrera. That would be the last hit Buehrle gave up to an Indian for the rest of his outing.

The Sox scored another 2 runs in the 3rd off a Beckham single, Quentin HBP, Beck's taking 3rd on a wild pitch during PK's at-bat, Konerko walk to load the bases, force out by Kotsay that scores Beckham, and another wild pitch by Westbrook to score Quentin.

Sox 4, Tribe 0

Now here's where we get the difference between the 2009 White Sox and the 2010(at least the way they played Monday). In 2009 we would have loaded the bases eleventy billion times and ended the inning on a strike out by just about anyone on the team. True we capitalized off poor defense by the Tribe but get em on, get em over, get em in, right? I'm not going to be picky on exactly how we get em in.. as long as they get in!

Now I'd like to jump straight up to the 5th inning when after a ground out by Mark Grudzielanek, Burls worked a count to Lou Marson 2-2. What happened next is typical Buehrle. I say typical because this guy rarely does anything that doesn't amaze me.
Marson hit a sharp ground ball up the middle which Buehrle DEFLECTED off his shin. He said post-game that he wasn't even thinking, he just knew that if the balls coming in that direction he's going to throw any body party that he possibly can out there to deflect it. It deflected off to the first base side and Burl's took off after it. AJ came up to cover Paulie but he didn't need to.

Mark Buehrle, proving why he is being presented with a Gold Glove this Saturday, ran past Marson, shuffled to the ball, grabbed it with his gloved hand, flipped it backwards BETWEEN HIS LEGS without looking to Paul Konerko who barehanded it, making the out. (Video below)

I mean... wtf. I can not even explain to anyone reading this the thought going through my mind when I saw that play. That is the 2nd time I've been at USCF when Mark Buehrle has given me goosebumbs (the last time was of course his no-no in 07). I just remember looking at Brandon going " ARE YOU FRIGGIN KIDDING ME?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!" Buehrle got up off the ground, started laughing (this guy laughs when he does something awesome. Have you noticed that? It's like he cant believe it happened to him, and guess what- no one else can either!), and AJ fist pumped as he and Paulie congratulated him.

The entire crowd went nuts, yelling "MVP! MVP!" and "BUEHRLE!"... I just had a disbelief moment. I couldn't comprehend as I watched the replay on the jumbo-tron how he could have possibly made that play. Paulie catching it barehanded was just icing on the cake.

Buehrle got out of the inning and we backed up our awesome starting pitcher again with a double by Beckham, Carlos Quentin getting ANOTHER BB with a hit by pitch (this guy really crowds the plate- in case you haven't noticed by his record setting HBP's), a walk to Konerko to once again load the bases, and another ground out by Mark Kotsay scoring Gordon Beckham.

White Sox 5, Tribe .........stilllll 0.

Buehrle continued his Tribe masacre to the 8th, ending up with a stat line of 7IP, 3 Hits, 3 SO, 1 walk, and a steller 0.00 ERA.

JJ Putz, newly acquired from the NY Mets, showed us his stuff as he struck out his first two batters faced. To say the crowd was on their feet is an understatment. A single from Michael Brantley (and more taunting from our section) followed by a fly out by Cabrera ending the 8th and we were home free.

Enter Alex Rios.

Talk about being awesome at the plate, and defensively on Monday. Not only did he make a diving catch to end the game in the 9th after a lights out performance from Matt Thornton (2 strike outs and a line out), but he also hit a solo bomb after being down 0-2 in the count in the 8th- just to solidify our lead for Mr. Perfect.

So Burls got the win his 8th Opening Day start this year which sets a franchise record previously held by Billy Pierce. (Had he started in 2007 instead of Contreras it would be 9 straight and we wouldn't have seen Sizemore go deep in the first at-bat of that God-awful season. I also believe that was the same year that Buehrle got hit by a ground ball up the middle that took him out of the game and caused Nick Masset to come in for the REALLY REALLY long the 2nd game of the season.) Buehrle now also officially leads the majors in Quality Starts with 189.

AJ Pierzynski, as I mentioned before is an extreamly under appreciated catcher. He caught his 10,000th inning on Monday.
Paul Konerko also set a record with opening day starts as well, surpassing a record previously held by none other than The Big Hurt.

After the game was over, it was time to head down to Schallers for some Jameson and lemonades with my friends. To say we were all on a huge high for the 2010 season is an understatment. We couldn't have been more excited. The field rang with echos of "Let's Go White Sox," "Buehrle," "Ozzie," etc. It was one of those games were you stop and stare at the field after the game and just thank God that such a sport exists.

There's something so poignant and beautiful about the game of baseball. It takes you away from every hard ship you may have or any worry in the world and puts you in a dream where the most important things in life are hard hit line drives in the gap, solid strike-outs, a good manager who makes you laugh, bubblegum, sunflower seeds, beer, and Kosher hot dogs with extra grilled onions and mustard. For 9 innings the only thing you have to worry about is strike zones and good defense and hanging sliders.

How many times can you go somewhere and see someone make an out like Mark Buehrle did and spend the entire day talking about it with people you don't even know? Baseball brings us all together as Americans. This is our sport- this is what we live and die for. There may be deception and drama and greed in the creases of the American Pasttime, but they're ironed out by moments when the crowd rises to its feet from a long ball, a diving catch to end an inning, a bullpen that comes in with comrodery to get a starter out of a jam, and the 5 year old in front of you playing with his AJ Pierzynski bobblehead.

So to all my fellow White Sox fans, Cub fans, Cardinal fans, and fan's of any other team that just love baseball as much as I do- welcome to 2010. It's going to be a pleasure chronicalling the season with all of you and I look foward to any and comments and feedback about games/plays/etc. You don't have to agree with my opininos (they will not always be pro-sox) but I think we can always agree that we are a family in one aspect: our love for baseball.
I also urge all of you tonight to catch up on what's going on with your local Minor League affiliate teams, as it's opening day for them. To those minor leaguers of you who read my site- good luck in continuing your chase to the dream. I hope someday to be writing about you on Opening Day when you're sporting a major league uniform :)