Results tagged ‘ Brewers ’

An old Cardinals fan, back in St. Louis

This is a special weekend for me. Family members and friends from  my hometown of Pine Bluff, Ark., are coming up to St. Louis to watch me. My mom, uncles and cousins, they’re all coming. Some people who haven’t seen me in a long time are here. Even the doctor who did my arthroscopic knee surgery when I was 16 from football, back in 1992, is going to be here: Dr. John Lytle. It’s great knowing all these people who mean so much to me can see me play.

The Cardinals were my team growing up. My granddad loved the Cardinals, and we’d watch them on TV every chance we got. They were the team everyone in Pine Bluff pulled for, being the closest to us and also for being so good and exciting.

I grew up watching Ozzie Smith and Vince Coleman, Willie McGee and Tommy Herr, all those guys. The Runnin’ Redbirds. They were fun to watch, flying around the bases the way they did. Everywhere you looked in Pine Bluff you saw those red Cardinal caps and T-shirts. I’m wearing a different shade of red now with the Angels, but the Cardinals are a big part of my past.

I’ve always enjoyed Interleague Play and has some success against the National League. It’s fun being in a different environment, playing against guys you didn’t see all the time. Our natural rival with the Twins was Milwaukee, so we saw the Brewers every season.

The last time I played in St. Louis was in the old ballpark in 2001. That series didn’t turn out too well. We got swept in three games. My first trip here, in 1999, was a lot more fun. We won two out of three, and I had hits in all three games, a couple of doubles, an RBI.

Playing here is a thrill when you think about all the Cardinals history. They’ve had some great center fielders, from Curt Flood to Willie McGee, who was one of my favorites, to Ray Lankford to Jim Edmonds. Flood is one of the real historical figures of the game from a player’s standpoint. Because of his impact on free agency, he helped create a whole new world of opportunities for guys like myself who came along behind him. On top of that, he was a tremendous center fielder, one of the best ever.

Now the big man here is Albert Pujols. I have to admit I’m looking forward to watching him play. He doesn’t know it, but I’ll be studying everything he does. He’s one of the greatest hitters of our time — of all-time, actually.

I hang out with him during the offseason with his work for the fight against juvenile diabetes, and I like the guy. Even though we’re rivals now, trying to beat each other, I get a chance to watch him hit. No matter how long you play this game, you can pick up things from different guys – and he’s one of the best to study. That man knows how to hit.

Time to go to work now. We won two in Chicago against the White Sox, and we’re trying to build some momentum, get this thing going in the right direction. I’m hoping we can put on a good show for everybody this weekend – especially my mom and family, of course.

 

       

Hangin’ out with the Globetrotters

I had a thrill on Friday night when I got to hang out with the Harlem Globetrotters for one of their games in Glendale, Arizona, in the Coyotes’ NHL arena.

I was actually on the floor for a while with my old buddy, LaTroy Hawkins, doing a routine with a basketball that the Trotters put together for us. LaTroy is pitching for the Brewers. We go way back to when I was 17, just getting started in baseball with the Twins. We were roommates back in 1993. So that was definitely a lot of fun, being part of our little act together.

Here I am, 34 years old, and I’m acting like I’m 10 around these guys. No matter how many times you’ve seen them – this was my fourth time in the past 10 years – they always crack you up. They contacted Tim Mead, the Angels’ PR man, and asked him if I could come out and do a skit with them. We invited them over to camp on Friday, and they entertained the guys before we went out to our workout.

Everybody had a great time, especially Bobby Abreu. He’s a part-owner of a basketball team in Venezuela, and they said they wanted to try out for Bobby’s team. Bobby’s got a great sense of humor, so he loved it.

I’ve always loved the Globetrotters. Being around them now, I have a whole new respect for what they do and the way they do it. These guys work out, eat right, keep themselves in great condition. You have to be in shape to travel the world and entertain people the way they do.

They’re on their way to England next and will be on the road for a month. Some of them have family in the Phoenix area, so they were enjoying that while they could before going back to work.

These guys are legends. They were in every household on TV, in cartoons.  It was these guys and Scooby Doo for me. They had their own cartoon show, and every Saturday we’d watch them. To have a chance to hang with them, talk to them and laugh with those guys, it’s really something special.

These guys are athletes, dancers, perfectionists. They take their job very seriously, and their job is to make people laugh – kids, middle-aged people, old folks. Everybody loves the Globetrotters.

Think about all the good will and joy they’ve spread over the world, and it’s awesome, really. I was looking around the arena and parents were cracking up right along with their kids. They had that old routine where one of the guys would run out carrying what everybody thought was confetti – but it turned out to be water, and he splashed some people.

Spring Training can get a little monotonous at times, going through drills day after day when you really want to just go out and play the game. But you have to prepare yourselves right to be ready – it’s part of the deal. Lucky for me, I got one of the best breaks in the routine you could possibly imagine when the Globetrotters invited me to be a part of their show.

It’s one of those things I’ll never forget. I wish all those guys the best in their travels.

 

Hangin out with the Globetrotters

I had a thrill on Friday night when I got to hang out with the Harlem Globetrotters for one of their games in Glendale, Arizona, in the Coyotes’ NHL arena.

I was actually on the floor for a while with my old buddy, LaTroy Hawkins, doing a routine with a basketball that the Trotters put together for us. LaTroy is pitching for the Brewers. We go way back to when I was 17, just getting started in baseball with the Twins. We were roommates back in 1993. So that was definitely a lot of fun, being part of our little act together.

Here I am, 34 years old, and I’m acting like I’m 10 around these guys. No matter how many times you’ve seen them – this was my fourth time in the past 10 years – they always crack you up. They contacted Tim Mead, the Angels’ PR man, and asked him if I could come out and do a skit with them. We invited them over to camp on Friday, and they entertained the guys before we went out to our workout.

Everybody had a great time, especially Bobby Abreu. He’s a part-owner of a basketball team in Venezuela, and they said they wanted to try out for Bobby’s team. Bobby’s got a great sense of humor, so he loved it.

I’ve always loved the Globetrotters. Being around them now, I have a whole new respect for what they do and the way they do it. These guys work out, eat right, keep themselves in great condition. You have to be in shape to travel the world and entertain people the way they do.

They’re on their way to England next and will be on the road for a month. Some of them have family in the Phoenix area, so they were enjoying that while they could before going back to work.

These guys are legends. They were in every household on TV, in cartoons.  It was these guys and Scooby Doo for me. They had their own cartoon show, and every Saturday we’d watch them. To have a chance to hang with them, talk to them and laugh with those guys, it’s really something special.

These guys are athletes, dancers, perfectionists. They take their job very seriously, and their job is to make people laugh – kids, middle-aged people, old folks. Everybody loves the Globetrotters.

Think about all the good will and joy they’ve spread over the world, and it’s awesome, really. I was looking around the arena and parents were cracking up right along with their kids. They had that old routine where one of the guys would run out carrying what everybody thought was confetti – but it turned out to be water, and he splashed some people.

Spring Training can get a little monotonous at times, going through drills day after day when you really want to just go out and play the game. But you have to prepare yourselves right to be ready – it’s part of the deal. Lucky for me, I got one of the best breaks in the routine you could possibly imagine when the Globetrotters invited me to be a part of their show.

It’s one of those things I’ll never forget. I wish all those guys the best in their travels.

 

Dodgers, Angels project proud heritage

For a couple of years now, people have been talking about the decline of the African-American player in Major League Baseball. The sport has made it a priority to get inner-city kids interested and involved in the game again, and the players have also done their part. I have the Torii Hunter Project, CC Sabathia has his, Jimmy Rollins has his thing going, Derrek Lee. Guys are doing what they can to get inner-city kids back into the game.

This is important to us, because it’s our heritage. Back in the days of the Negro Leagues, baseball was huge for African-Americans. They played in front of 20,000, 30,000 fans. Everybody was all dressed up, men in suits, women in dresses, everybody looking fine and having a great time.

The last 10 years we’ve seen a decline in African-Americans in the Majors, but there are signs it’s coming back around. Two years ago it was on its way to 7 percent African-American representation in the Major Leagues, but now it’s up to 10, 11 percent. That’s encouraging. It tells me these programs and projects are starting to work.

This series with the Dodgers is especially exciting for me. I’m always into the game — I don’t hide my love of playing baseball — but this Interleague series is definitely special. I look over at the other side of the field and see Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, Orlando Hudson, James Loney, Juan Pierre, Cory Wade. And Xavier Paul just went on the disabled list. That’s a lot of African-Americans on one team.

Over in our clubhouse, we’ve got Chone Figgins, Howard Kendrick, Darren Oliver, Gary Matthews Jr. and myself. It really feels good to see African-Americans playing the game and showing kids how they can have long, productive careers — and make a lot of money in this sport.

Like anything worthwhile, it’s never easy. It takes a lot of mental toughness. It’s a humbling game with a lot of failure involved. But it’s worth all the time and effort, believe me. I signed when I was 17, and I’m signed through 37 years old. That means I’ll have 20 years in the game, at least. How many guys do that in the NFL and NBA?

Last year it was the Angels, Rays and Brewers who had the highest percentage of African-Americans, but it looks to me like it’s the Dodgers and Angels now. Two L.A. teams, playing an exciting brand of baseball — old-school style. We go first to third, run the bases hard, play great defense. We compete..

I will have a big smile on my face tonight. I feel a lot of pride in what I’m seeing. I want inner-city kids to understand how great this game is, how you don’t have to have a 40-inch vertical leap or be able to run through a building to play baseball. You need desire, a strong work ethic, and you have to know how to handle failure and adversity.

The game is getting back to speed, moving away from all the focus being on power. You see how important the stolen base is again, with guys like Carl Crawford and Figgy. Heck, I’ve even got eight bags. Bobby Abreu is stealing bases.

This is the game our grandparents and their parents grew up loving. Knowing everything the Dodgers have represented for bringing Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella into the game and breaking down that color barrier, I’m so happy to see the team they’re putting on the field now.

I’m always excited to play the game and never take for granted how fortunate I am. This is going to be a great weekend of baseball. 

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