Saturday, February 28, 2015

BASEBALL IS JUST A SMALL PART OF LIFE

Baseball is a game we love to play, and for those blessed enough to play it well the sport can be parlayed into a fruitful career venture.  Yet, every once in a while we are reminded that sports are merely sports, and in the overall spectrum of things just a small part of life.


Such has been the case this past week with the news that Josh Hamilton of the Los Angeles Angels admitted to MLB that he suffered a setback in his battle with addictions that have haunted him.  To his credit, Hamilton didn’t wait for a failed test or for a YouTube video to go viral.  Instead, he was one of few and far between that stood up and insisted on being accountable for his actions.  The rumor making its way around social media is that the fallen Angel will be suspended for 25 games.
Even though I am a lifelong, die hard New York Yankees fan, I’ve always admired Hamilton – and not just because he helped me to three fantasy baseball championships. 


I had heard about his early battles with drug and alcohol addiction and how they robbed him of the early part of his career (he was suspended from 2003 – 2005) and watched him hit the ground running upon his return. 


I read how in Texas he surrounded himself with support and turned to his faith in finding a source of strength on a daily basis.  I loved how he played the game – an endless display of wearing his heart on his sleeve in going full tilt down a baseline or laying out to make an otherwise impossible catch.


Many in New York will remember his incredible performance in the home run derby at Yankee Stadium.  In spite of the fact that he wasn’t one of ours, we chanted his name repeatedly as he launched ball after ball deep into the right field seats.  Josh Hamilton was at the peak of his game.
Over the last couple of years Hamilton has battled one injury after another, and as I write this article he is recovering from shoulder surgery.  It is the price a player like Josh must pay simply because of the way he plays – sacrificing the body for the good of reaching base or robbing a hitter of a certain double.


Only, the drawback is that those injuries add up and the body no longer performs the way it once could.  Suddenly the player is a step slower and the batting average drops while opponents’ outs turn into hits.  It weighs on the psyche of someone like Hamilton and obviously opens the door back up to the demons that lie within.
Many may look at Hamilton’s transgressions as just another spoiled, rich athlete who can’t handle his fame.  Only, to me this one is different.  As I pointed out, Hamilton has never shied away from admitting his problems.  He doesn’t hide behind lie after lie like so many former and recent stars do.  He recognizes his weaknesses and genuinely wants to fix them.  Having been a fan of his, I know how deeply he cares for his family and how much he values his faith.


Yes, he has a rich contract, but he’s used his own monies to create things like the Triple Play Ministries Foundation as well as an orphanage in Uganda.  He has a wife and four daughters.  In short, he has a life outside of baseball that is bigger – and frankly more important than – the sport.
In an article by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Roy Silver – a close friend and mentor of Hamilton’s – says he thinks Josh should retire. 
"It seems like he's struggling with things. When you've been given three, four and five chances, and it's still not working, it's best to say, "This is it.'

"His life isn't over, but his baseball career should be.''

Ultimately, the decision on what happens going forward is all Hamilton’s.  Only he knows what it will take to battle the disease (yes, these addictions to alcohol and cocaine are a disease) during a long baseball season.  It’s not something he’ll need to fight week-to-week.  It’s a moment-by-moment battle that will last the rest of his life and will be littered with temptations every step of the way.  I, for one, would understand if he didn’t want baseball as an added distraction.


The best part of Josh Hamilton is that, unlike others he’s willing to admit that he’s one of us.  He’s human, and has human flaws.  He more than welcomes his accountability for those flaws.   In this day of half-hearted apologies in front of cameras or in the published media, Hamilton instead simply admits to his setbacks and gets to work on correcting them.
Yes, this year I’ll be rooting for my Yankees to get back into the post-season, but I’ll be rooting even harder for Josh Hamilton to get his life back in order.
After all, baseball is just a game that in the context of life is just a small part.


    

--Steve Skinner, BYB Senior Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1


  

 
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Friday, February 27, 2015

KIDS TO WATCH: LUIS SEVERINO


With Spring Training being upon, Bleeding Yankee Blue is continuing this series, highlighting the kids that are vying for a coveted spot on the major league roster. We are going over their respective backgrounds – how they have been playing, their strengths, their weaknesses, and what to look for.


Luis Severino is a 21-year old right-handed pitcher who is coming up through the Yankees’ farm system. He started last year with the Charleston RiverDogs, achieving a 2.79 ERA and 9.3 K/9 over 14 starts. He moved on to the Tampa Yankees, where he continued to impress. Four starts, a 1.31 ERA, 28 strikeouts over 20+ innings, and he was sent up to the Double-A Trenton Thunder. He finished the season there, continuing his remarkable productivity, to the tune of a 2.52 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 25 innings over 6 starts.


Severino threw his first bullpen session in Spring Training this past weekend, and all the coaches and scouts came out to watch. He has three strong pitches that he can deliver. His best pitch is his fastball, which he can throw in the mid-90’s. He can mix in an off-speed pitch in the mid-80’s with decent control. Finally, he has a good slider in the mid-80’s, but the scouting reports say that he has work to do to control it. Severino should be able to dominate hitters with that mix of pitches, and the strikeout ratios speak for themselves.


The limitation on Severino is clearly the pitch count. He works within a pitch limit in his outings, not going very far into games. This spring, the Yankees will be looking to see how long he can work and how durable his arm is. So, while we have stats on his pitch velocity and strikeout ratios, we do not yet know how his arm strength holds up deep into games.




Most reports have Severino as a top prospect for the Yankees, likely seeing some major league action sometime in the middle of the upcoming season. With the Yankees’ starting rotation being what it is, he may see an opportunity for a spot-start. Likely, he will be a September call-up and get some time there. Either way, he will be a key player in the Yankees’ plans for late 2015 and going into 2016.



--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
Twitter: @KingAgamemnon
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row



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BABE RUTH & LOU GEHRIG SPEAK!

This is very cool. It's a recording of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, audio only, doing alittle comedy.


It's funny, I've talked to kids in my own town right around baseball season each year about guys like Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Some of the kids are as old as 11, and when I mention Babe Ruth, they'll say stuff, like "Wait... was he real?"  With Lou, many are more unfamiliar with him, only that he died from a disease.


These Yankees were truly larger than life in their time, and for as long as I can remember, great card companies like Topps continue to bring Babe and Lou's history and legacy to kids and adults everywhere. 

The problem with kids of today, compared to say, kids like me in the 70's and 80's... is that kids don't collect cards like they used to.  I mean, Topps does it's best to keep people informed of the all time greats, but it's a different time, filled with multiple spring sports and video games these days.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's a much different world, and sometimes the greats are forgotten. And that brings me back to this comedy routine. Rare finds like this are terrific. 


We've heard Babe speak in old tapes, but I don't remember every really hearing Lou Gehrig other than his final speech to Yankee Stadium.  That was sad... this is comedy.


Anyway, if you have 5 minutes, check this out.  And share it... keep the history of the Babe and Lou Gehrig going. 

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MARK TEIXEIRA REINVENTS HIMSELF...AGAIN


According to YES Network's Yankees Hot Stove, Mark Teixeira always looks to reinvent himself in some way during the off season.  One year he decided to overdo it with the amount of early swings he took, which eventually took its toll on his wrist.  Last year, he did a little broadcasting stint called Foul Territory.  This year, he is gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free and he feels brand new.


"Teixeira, who turns 35 in April, hasn't played more than 123 games since that 2011 season but thinks that with his new diet he will cut down on the inflammation in his body. He said he will use the diet, which consists of no bread and a lot of buffalo meat, the rest of his playing career. He said he reconfigured his body, adding 13 pounds of muscle, while losing fat," reports ESPN.com this week.  YES Network Hot Stove put it this way, "The Yankees don't care what Teixeira eats; they just want him to hit more balls over the fence."  What if I said, going gluten-free could actually help him do that.


According to an article in the Washington Post, "Nutritionally speaking, gluten is useless,” according to Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children. “It doesn’t do anything for us,” he says. “For the [first] 99.9 percent of our human evolution, our species has been gluten-free.” The protein entered our diets only about 10,000 years ago, when our ancestors began domesticating crops, he says. As a result, our bodies don’t contain the digestive enzymes to break it down. Eating a lot of gluten is akin to “asking your GI system to do an impossible mission: to digest something that’s not digestible,” says Fasano, a pediatric gastroenterologist.


I have been 95% gluten-free since June and the after effects are amazing.  I sleep better, run better and I have more energy.  It has helped my running splits, my endurance and my metabolism.  


"After gaining a reputation of being unpredictable, prone to sickness and even out of shape — something that commentators often blamed on asthma — Djokovic went gluten-free in 2010. The next year, he won 10 tennis titles, three Grand Slam events and 43 consecutive matches. He’s now ranked No. 1 in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals. “My life had changed because I had begun to eat the right foods for my body, in the way that my body demanded,” he writes.


So, will changing his diet really help Mark Teixeira perform at a higher level? "If everything is working as it should, then your immune system can ‘clean up’ those undigested fragments of gluten, and everything is fine. But eliminating gluten frees the body from this dead-end mission, allowing it to focus on carrying oxygen to the muscles. This, some theorize, is why eliminating gluten may boost athletic performance."  According to ESPN, "Teixeira's belief in his new diet and renewed weightlifting program makes him believe that he can stay fully healthy for the first time since 2011. If he does, Teixeira thinks he can be a 30-homer and 100-RBI player again."


I really hope that Teixeira's new health regiment helps him and it's not just another one of his stints to reinvent himself.  We really need him to hit and to bring an energy burst to our team.  If he sticks with it, going gluten-free can positively affect your life.  Stay with it, Mark.  I'm with you!




--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Senior Staff Writer

BYB Hot Stove Columnist
Twitter: @suzieprof




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IMPOSSIBLE TO DISLIKE AROD


With Spring Training getting under way, and Alex Rodriguez making his much 'anticipated' return to the Yankees, we're going to be hearing a lot more about him. If only briefly. Broadcasters will be weighing in on their opinions of his performance and everything else.  It's unavoidable. Suzyn Waldman, radio broadcaster, and voice of the Yankees, already spoke up, and gave a rather unpopular opinion, the New York Daily News reports.

"I find him impossible to dislike. I'm not defending him. I think what he did was stupid more than anything else. I know he's lied. He's made every wrong decision. He says things and does things and you just want to say 'Why?' I also know you can't go wrong for dumping on Alex. This is what it's become. What's he supposed to do?"

I know what you're thinking. It's easy to dislike ARod. He lied, and cheated and has made many mistakes. And, hey, you're totally entitled to your opinion. But I think Waldman's comments are a little deeper. How many of you dislike ARod? Now how many of you actually know ARod? And before you tell me you don't have to know someone to dislike them, think of all the times your were unfairly judged by someone who didn't know you. Didn't feel so nice, did it?


Waldman knows the man. She knows a side of him not presented to us by the media. And she isn't the only person that has ever said something positive about him. His teammates always say that he is a good person to be around in the club house. Just the other day, Mark Teixeira told the New York Post  "Alex is a great teammate. Ask anyone that's played with Alex."

And let's not pretend that this hatred started with steroids. It didn't and we all know it. ARod was always judged unfairly. Some trace it back to the deal that took him from Seattle to Texas. I happen to think it started with the Rookie of the Year race between he and Derek Jeter, but that's my opinion. People want to throw stones at ARod for having gone to Texas "for the money," but Seattle didn't want him. They had no intentions of resigning him. What was he supposed to do? Let's not pretend that he was washed up. He was an incredible talent, and any team that signed him back then would have gained the best short stop in the game.

Look, say what you will about Waldman, but the lady knows her stuff. The bottom line here is that a lot of that hatred is media generated. Sure, ARod has done some stuff that is cringe worthy, and doesn't at all help to curb the media, but it gets a bit ridiculous. I mean, they printed a story attempting to destroy his character that was dedicated to his hygiene routine! And people ate it up!


Hey, if you dislike ARod, rock the hell on! If you are a die hard ARod enthusiast, more power to you. But let's remember one thing... You do not know him personally. You may dislike, or like, what he has done within the game. But let's not pretending he is the Anti-Christ. You don't know him from a hole in the wall, but the people who do know him have only ever said positive things about him.

When it is all said and done, the greatest tragedy is that no one knows him, yet he remains so utterly hated by so many. It must be a lonely existence.




--Erica Morales BYB Senior Writer 
Twitter: @e_morales1804





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