Results tagged ‘ Ken Griffey Jr. ’

Report date almost here…

The Reds complex was a little quieter Tuesday than on my first day around — not surprising since pitchers and catchers officially go to work Wednesday. Lots of players were still getting in workouts and Jared Burton threw to Devin Mesoraco catching in the bullpen.

One of the things I watched was Aroldis Chapman long tossing with bullpen coach Juan “Porky” Lopez. Chapman was chucking balls from the center field warning track area to Lopez, who was at the foul line just beyond first base. Let me tell you, these were some impressive heaves.

chapman 021511.JPGI later had a nice chat with Lopez, who had a busy winter with his kids. His son, Jack, is a star high school shortstop in Orlando and likely to be drafted this June. Jack also signed to attend the Univ. of Miami on a scholarship so he is a kid with options when the time comes to make decisions.

Among the people I saw in camp today that I didn’t see yesterday were Corky Miller, Daryl Thompson, Dave Sappelt, third base coach Mark Berry and catching prospect Yasmani Grandal.

Again, the weather is just spectacular today. I heard it might get colder by week’s end. And by colder, I mean the highs will be in the low-to-mid 60s. Don’t hate me for writing that.

ESPN and the Reds made news twice today.

Former Reds great Barry Larkin joined the network as a baseball analyst, it was formally announced today. Word had gotten out yesterday. Larkin had been with MLB Network since it launched.

Also — Baseball Tonight revealed its Spring Training tour itinerary and it will be in this camp on Wednesday. Larkin is not among the talent.

An item I didn’t expect was announced today. Ken Griffey Jr. is joining the Mariners as a special consultant. The club says Griffey will be involved in Major League Baseball operations and player development, as well as their Minor League system, marketing, broadcasting and community relations. Junior will also be at Spring Training this year. I always thought Griffey would lay very low after retiring so he could be with his kids. He went out quietly in the middle of last season. I’m glad to hear he’s going to be involved with the game to some degree. 

Today’s story on the Reds site and MLB.com will be on Dontrelle Willis. It will be very interesting to see how he fares in camp and whether he can earn a spot in a crowded bullpen.

Things really get rolling on Wednesday. There will be physicals in the morning, a meetings and the first formal workout should commence in the afternoon. Manager Dusty Baker will also be in camp for the first time and his daily sessions with reporters will also begin. 

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Votto a Sporting News All-Star

The first of likely several postseason honors came Joey Votto’s way today. The Reds first baseman was named to the Sporting News National League All-Star team. The ballots are filled out by fellow players. The last Reds players to be on the Sporting News All-Star team were Ken Griffey Jr. and Felipe Lopez in 2005.

Here is the press release from the Reds.

http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20101020&content_id=15734896&vkey=pr_cin&fext=.jsp&c_id=cin

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Wishing Junior well

This was the statement from Ken Griffey Jr., released on Wednesday:

“I’ve come to a decision today to retire from Major League Baseball as an active player,” Griffey said. “This has been on my mind recently, but it’s not an easy decision to come by. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to play Major League Baseball for so long.”

Obviously it was time and we knew this day was coming for a while. But it’s sad to see Griffey go out the way he did…on the end of a bench and playing sparingly if at all — batting .184 with zero homers for the Mariners, the team where he achieved most of his fame.

I feel fortunate to have covered Junior despite the fact his years in Cincinnati weren’t his most productive of his Hall of Fame career. I still got to see him hit his 600th home run. I got to see him do things other players wished they could do. I got to see that swing.

I also had numerous chances to talk to him in the clubhouse. This guy hated talking about himself, even about big moments coming up — like 600 homers, or his first time back in Seattle in 2007 as a visiting player. He also could make interviews more complicated than they needed to be.

Then again, he could talk and talk about anything else, especially his three kids. You could shoot the breeze about other sports or people in the news — many of whom he knew personally. It was often stuff that wouldn’t really go into stories. He was always sitting on that big black trunk near his locker giving teammates a hard time with jokes or running commentary. I’m not going to lie and say we were uber close but we always seemed to get along and he treated me well and with respect.

Fans rarely could see all the things Junior would do for kids that visited the ballpark. If the Reds had a child from Make A Wish, it was Junior who would personally take him/her into the clubhouse to meet teammates, give them candy and gum and spend time talking. All of this was done without seeking publicity. Some players turn on their smiles and good intentions when the red camera light was on. Griffey did most of his best things behind the scenes when the camera was turned off.

For many reasons that pre-date my time on the Reds beat, Griffey had a love-hate relationship with  Cincinnati and Reds fans. They heaped mountains of expectations on him and the injuries and the perceived failure of him to meet the demands to bring a World Series winner created friction with the people. It’s too bad for everyone that it didn’t work out better with the Reds.

Good luck in retirement, Junior.

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Best/Worst of 'The Aughts'?

Obviously, this week has been one of reflection about the decade that’s about to end. In terms of the Reds, I was trying to think of the best moments of the “aughts,” and then I tried to ponder about some of the watershed events in Cincinnati sports in general. It was tougher for me since I spent half of this decade not living in Cincinati.

So, what did I come up with?

The bottom line: This has been one rough decade for the Cincinnati sports fan. If you’re reading this, I guess I’m not telling you something you don’t already know.

I thought about Kenyon Martin breaking his leg in the Conference USA Tournament in 2000, ruining the Bearcats’ possibly best chance at a National Championship. There was Kimo Von Oelhoffen plowing into Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer’s knee during the playoffs in 2006. There was Bob Huggins’ 2004 DUI and subsequent fall as head coach of the Bearcats. Even one of the feel good stories — the UC football team’s undefeated 2009 season — was marred at the end since head coach Brian Kelly bolted for Notre Dame before he could take the team to the Sugar Bowl.

And then there were the Reds. Remember how optimistic everyone was when the decade started? In 1999, the Reds were one game away from making the playoffs and seemed poised for good times when Ken Griffey Jr. arrived for the 2000 season. That would be the one and only winning season for the Reds this decade. There have been numerous managers and general managers that have come and gone without success and many more players.

There have been some nice Reds moments, of course. Griffey’s 500th and 600th career home runs (in 2004 and 2008, respectively) immediately come to mind. Jay Bruce’s debut week in the Majors in 2008 was sensational. There was Adam Dunn’s 535-foot homer to the driftwood on the banks of the Ohio River in 2004. Brandon Phillips and Bronson Arroyo arrived in 2006 and Joey Votto hit the scene in late 2007. Phillips had a 30-homer, 30 stolen base season in 2007. The 1990’s most popular Reds player, Barry Larkin, retired in 2004.

Here’s the question for you to ponder as 2010 approaches — what is your favorite two or three Reds memories from 2000-2009? And while we’re at it, how about your favorite Cincinnati sports moment?

Hopefully, the next decade will be more fun for the Cincinnati sports fan. It almost has to be, right?

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Cheering in the press box

I’m guilty for violating the golden rule of media (no cheering in the press box)…couldn’t help it. My colleague and friend Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News was saluted on the field before he heads off into retirement at the end of the season. Quite frankly, anybody that works 46 years in one place — including 37 years on the Reds beat — deserves a standing O.

If a man’s wealth is measured by the number of friends he has, Hal would be a billionaire. During a reception at the ballpark, Hal’s colleagues at the Dayton Daily News, current and former Reds and sports writers all turned out. His family, including his wife Nadine, was on hand of course. 

0916_hal_nadine.jpgAnd there was former Reds star Aaron Boone. Now with the Astros, Boone caught Hal’s ceremonial first pitch (it was a one-hopper but a strong effort.) Hal credited Boone with saving him from quitting in 2003. That spring, Hal lost his vision and became legally blind overnight. Boone talked him out of giving up. He’s kept working the last six years and hasn’t let it stop him.

During the game between innings, there were video tributes from players Hal covered — such as Sean Casey, Lou Piniella, Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn.

I’ve been fortunate to have known Hal the last four years I’ve covered the Reds. He’s always been good to me and even though I’ve competed for stories and scoops with him, I’ll never stop appreciating everything he’s done for me and I count myself lucky to be considered his friend. 

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One down, many more to go

Mid 70s with a nice breeze — you couldn’t ask for a more pleasant day to start Spring Training on Saturday.

The 29 pitchers and seven of the eight catchers hit the field after morning physicals on the report day. It was basic stuff — pitchers doing PFP drills (fielding practice), bunting drills and bullpen sessions. Aaron Harang, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey were among those that threw in the ‘pen.

Some of the observations from day one:

 

Cueto looked in better shape than last year. He looked to be throwing pretty well too. His catcher, Ramon Hernandez repeatedly was praising the right-hander in Spanish after several of the throws.

Also in great shape was Harang. He went from around 280 lbs. to 255 lbs.

Non-roster catcher Humberto Cota was the only catcher missing. He was still en route from Mexico.

Here’s a quiz for you — do you know who the most tenured Reds are now that Griffey, Dunn and Freel are gone?

1. Harang – since 2003 (six years)

2. David Weathers – 1998, 2005-pres (five years)

3. Edwin Encarnacion – since 2005 (four years and he’s only 26)

4. Bronson Arroyo – since 2006 (three years)

Harang, Weathers and Bailey are the only three pitchers left that started camp in 2006. Bailey was just in camp for a first look but not a roster contender. Arroyo arrived mid-camp after being traded from the Red Sox.

“How weird is that? That’s a lot of turnaround,” Weathers said.

Finally — in prank of the day…someone left bears, balloons, and hearts at Jay Bruce’s locker for Valentine’s Day. The nice touch was the framed picture of his girlfriend on the chair.

 

On the ground in Sarasota

I just landed less than an hour ago — the Florida air feels good at first contact when walking out of the airport.

I made a bee-line for the Reds complex and picked up my credential, said hello, etc. The report date for pitchers and catchers is Saturday and for position players, it’s Tuesday — but there were a bunch of players already ready to go.

Jay Bruce got to camp on Thursday and I talked t him for a little bit — it’s going to be a different camp for him. Last year he was trying to make the team and knew his chances weren’t great once Corey Patterson was signed. This year, he is the right fielder.

Chris Dickerson, Francisco Cordero and Bill Bray are also here and I saw prospects Todd Frazier, Matt Maloney and Devin Mesoraco. The first workout on Saturday is at 1:30 p.m. ET after the physicals.

One thing that struck me as weird was walking into the clubhouse and not seeing the big black trunk that belonged to Ken Griffey Jr., even though it’s been gone since July 31. He was the only one that had it and he sat on it everyday to talk and poke fun of people. Griffey was the only player at camp to get two lockers — now everyone has one.

The report day is usually without drama, but not always. During my first spring of covering the Reds in 2006, the late Josh Hancock was cut on the first day because the club said the reliever came in overweight. 

Everything gets rolling Saturday — hopefully you will check in here from time to time to get updated.

 

 

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