The Game

We are now a week into the 2017 baseball season. My high school team is 2-0, the Mets are 2-3 due to a lackluster offense, and surprisingly the Diamondbacks and Twins have the two best records in the MLB.

During the winter, exciting basketball games make me forget about how great baseball is. Baseball seems to beckon the summer, as it comes with warmer weather and the school year winding down.

The complexity of the game makes other sports seem so simple. Of course, every sport comes down to the little things. However, I can’t think of a sport with more little things than baseball. If the pitcher had gotten that sacrifice bunt down to move the runner to third, the fly ball would have scored a run. If that 0-2 curveball was in the dirt and not left in the strike zone, maybe the hitter wouldn’t have hit a home run.

I could go on and on. Moreover, when you have less than a second to decide if the small sphere coming in at 90 miles per hour is a ball or strike, and then manage to put a good swing on it. That is, if it’s a fastball. It could also be a curveball, cutter, slider, changeup, or even a knuckleball. Point is, getting a hit 3 out of every 10 times is considered great for a reason.

Then comes the mental part. Having struggled with the mental part of the game myself, I know a few things about it. Knowing what to do on every pitch, being able to interpret signs, and being able to anticipate the play aren’t even that hard compared to the most challenging aspect of baseball: having a short memory.

Baseball is a hard game. It was built like that for a reason. When you strikeout, are you gonna be able to put it behind you, or are you gonna be thinking about it during your next at bat? If it’s the latter, chances are you’re going to strike out again. Baseball is different from basketball, soccer, hockey, and lacrosse in terms of time when the ball is in play.

Baseball games usually range from two and a half hours to three and a half. Out of that time period, the baseball is in play (on average) for about 20 minutes. If you have a calculator, you’ll notice that there’s quite a bit of time when it’s just you and your mind. While the ball isn’t in play, it is so easy to replay your last strikeout or error in your head, and dwell on it for way too long. Doing that is suicide. If you’re dwelling on your past failures, rather than confidently approaching the upcoming pitch, chances are you’re gonna make another error.

All of that being said, baseball is incredibly hard – which makes it so fun when you succeed. I’ve basically been playing with most of my teammates since we were 8 years old, and this is our last year together. The first month and half has been a blast, and our bond helped us come together and rally to score 7 unanswered runs to beat Nutley 7-2. I’m really excited and looking forward to the rest of the spring and (of course) the summer.

The Mental Part of the Game

As an exciting March Madness comes to a close, the 2016 baseball season kicks off. The transition from basketball to baseball also implies that the end of school is just around the corner, so life is good.

For me, leaving basketball behind has never been easy, even if it’s just for a couple months. But once April comes around, all I can think about is baseball: from eye black to short hair to sunflower seeds.

Baseball is a game of failure. The best hitters get a hit just three out of every ten at-bats. When you break it down, It can’t be easy to hit a fastball moving from 70-95 mph, let alone curveballs and change-ups. The tempo of the game puts pressure on the pitcher, batter, and fielders for every pitch.

Evidently, it’s not the easiest game in the world. It is the best feeling to be on a hot streak, when you’re just seeing the ball well out of the pitcher’s hand. On the other hand, slumps build up a ton of frustration.

Coming off a successful basketball season, I was reluctant to completely switch my efforts to baseball. When I started swinging a bat, eventually, nothing felt comfortable. During pre-season, I had my high points, but still wasn’t comfortable in the batter’s box.

In our last pre-season game, I capped off my performance in a blowout loss with a strikeout. I was furious, and I let my emotions get the best of me. Rather than leaving it in the past, I took my anger out onto the field the next inning, and made multiple mental errors.

Looking back on it, I am more disappointed in my reaction to the game than my performance. Fortunately, it was only pre-season, and I can learn from the experience.

Between pitches, every player on the field has to think and focus on their responsibilities for the next play. To succeed, you need to know what you’re doing, and to think you’re gonna do it perfectly.

I saw first hand what can happen if you can’t conquer the mental aspect of the game. Just as every baseball player should, going forward I will continue to improve at having a short memory, and focusing with a positive attitude.

A player can’t succeed in the physical game of baseball without conquering the mental game first.

 

The Dark Knight Rises

Baseball season has just begun. It’s been all positive so far, especially since my high school’s varsity team is 10-1. They have a sophomore pitcher whose fastball has hit 90mph, and rumors suggest he’s already been contacted by MLB teams. Speaking of the MLB, the unthinkable is occurring.

Through 12 games, the New York Mets have the best record in the National League. They are undefeated at home (6-0), and have won seven games in a row. It’s about time. They’re hitting extremely well, as Michael Cuddyer, Lucas Duda, David Wright, and Travis d’Arnaud lead the offense.

Meanwhile, the pitching has been incredible. The team ERA is 2.74, which is 3rd in the MLB. Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon, and Matt Harvey all have multiple wins already. Matt Harvey’s return has been particularly good for the Mets.

In late October of 2013, Matt Harvey (known as the Dark Knight) underwent Tommy John surgery. This was a huge blow for the 24 year old, who started the All-Star Game for the NL at Citi Field earlier that year. He would miss the entire 2014 season, recovering from surgery.

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No one was sure he would come back the same. The Mets, with high expectations this year, needed him to pick up right where he left off. And that’s exactly what Harvey has done. He’s 2-0, with 17 strikeouts in two starts.

But, that’s not even what made me fall in love with Harvey again. It was the 5th inning, Mets vs. Phillies. The Phillies pitcher had hit two Mets previously in the game. So what does Harvey do? He throws a 95mph fastball that drills the Phillies no. 3 hitter, Chase Utley.

Most pitchers don’t retaliate when their teammates are hit, but not Matt Harvey. He’s willing to do whatever it is for the team. He is the face of the 2015 Mets, who look to be very competitive and successful through the rest of the season.

The Dark Knight of Gotham is finally back.

A Giant Game 7

History occurred last night. The final game of the 2014 professional baseball season was last night, between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco  Giants. It was Game 7 of the World Series, as the series was tied 3-3. Heading into Game 7, the Giants were seeking to win their 3rd World Series in the last five years. The Royals, on the other hand, hadn’t been to the playoffs since 1985, which is the year they won the World Series.

The Royals were a surprise to make it to the World Series. They squeezed out a victory against the Oakland A’s to claim the last spot in the playoffs this year. Personally, after watching Moneyball, I thought the Oakland A’s were gonna win the World Series! I just had that feeling. That was when Kansas City got really hot. After eliminating the A’s, the Royals won 7 straight games, knocking out the Angels and Orioles along the way. Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ ace, handed the Royals their first loss of the postseason in Game 1 of the World Series as he pitched seven innings, only allowing one run.

However, the Royals bounced back with two wins in a row, obtaining the series lead. The Giants captured a victory in game 4, tying the series up at 2. Madison Bumgarner got the start in game 5, pitching in front of his home crowd for one last time this season. Bumgarner showed why he was the NLCS MVP. The Giants regained the lead of the series as Bumgarner tossed all 9 innings, preventing the Royals from scoring a single run. With the series on the line, the Royals exploded for seven 2nd inning runs, propelling them to a 10-0 victory in Game 6, to tie the series.

And then it was Game 7. Game 7 of the World Series. The highest stage of America’s past time. October 29th, 2014, in Kansas City. There was a sea of blue surrounding the field, and millions of people tuned in on FOX to see how this game would unfold. Jeremy Guthrie got the start for Kansas City, while Tim Hudson got the nod for the Giants. This matchup made history, as the two starting pitchers’ ages add up to the highest age ever in a game 7 of the World Series (74 years). However, it wasn’t these two starters that made the difference.

The Giants struck first in the 2nd inning. Guthrie loaded the bases with no outs, and the Giants took advantage. Michael Morse and Brandon Crawford each provided a sacrifice fly, which gave them a two run lead, heading into the bottom of the 2nd inning. But, the Royals came right back. In the bottom of the same inning, Alex Gordon smacked a double that drove in a run. A few pitches later, Omar Infante’s sacrifice fly drove in Gordon, to even the score at 2. Tim Hudson was removed from the game in the 2nd inning.

In the 3rd inning, Guthrie got the first three batters out, including a strikeout to allstar catcher Buster Posey. The Royals led the bottom of the 3rd off with a base hit. Then, Eric Hosmer, one of their best hitters, smacked a grounder up the middle. The rookie second basemen, Joe Panik, dove towards the ball. He extended his glove just enough to snag it. From the ground, he flipped the ball with his glove to second base, where Brandon Crawford caught the ball and threw it to first for a double play.

It was an incredible play by Joe Panik, that turned a situation in which there would be runners on first and second base, into a situation with two outs and no one on base. It was pretty sick to watch. Kelvin Herrera, the Royals’ stud reliever, took over for Guthrie in the 4th inning, with a man on third base. Michael Morse took a pitch from Herrera into right field for a base hit, and Morse’s 2nd RBI of the night. This gave the Giants a 3-2 lead.

In the 5th inning, Giants manager Bruce Bochy made his 2nd pitching change. This time, he brought in his ace. Madison Bumgarner. After allowing a single to his first batter, Bumgarner shut the door. He retired 14 straight batters. The Royals bullpen did their part, shutting down the Giants offense for the rest of the game. So, it was 3-2 Giants in the bottom of the ninth. Alex Gordon stepped up to the plate, with two outs.

On the 2nd pitch of the at-bat, Gordon ripped a line drive into left center field. He slowed up around first, thinking it was a single. Suddenly, he starts sprinting towards 2nd base! The Giants’ center fielder had misplayed the ball, and it got past him! The ball rolled to the wall. The left fielder came over to retrieve the baseball as Gordon rounded 2nd base. The left fielder bobbled it before throwing it in. Gordon settled into 3rd base safely.

It was like the Royals were meant to get the W. That error almost cost the Giants the lead. Meanwhile, I was mad. I was sick of the Giants winning. I wanted to see the Royals win at home. I was mad at Alex Gordon for slowing down at first. Because if he hadn’t, he would’ve scored on that play. Now, I understand why he slowed down, and I probably would’ve done the same thing. But if only he didn’t slow down….

Anyway, the Royals had a man on third base. Bottom of the ninth. Down to their last out. Salvador Perez hobbled up to the plate, barely able to run after he was hit by a pitch in the 2nd inning. The tying run at third base, the winning run at the plate. Boy, how amazing would it be if Perez hit a home run. It would be like a fairy tale. But Madison Bumgarner wasn’t having any of it. Bumgarner got Perez to foul out, and the Giants won the World Series.

Bumgarner set the MLB record for most postseason innings pitched (52 2/3) and maintained an ERA of 1.03 throughout the playoffs as well. He was named the 2014 World Series MVP, at the age of just 25. We’ll be seeing a lot more of this guy in the future. This World Series capped off a good MLB season, and even though I was really tired this morning, it was worth it to watch the whole thing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mental Part of the Game

Baseball is a game of failure. I’ve been told this many times. Heck, the best single-season batting average recorded in the history of baseball is .440, which means this player didn’t even get a hit half of the time.

Getting a hit three out of ten times is considered very good. Now, this is where the mental part of the game comes in.

I, myself, have been in a terrible slump lately. Over the years, I have learned that I can’t let these things get to me. It took me awhile, I admit that. Let’s just say that there were several episodes of “losing my cool” in the past.

Now I understand that when you let these things get to you, it affects your game negatively. Also, it makes you look bad. You have to approach the game with a positive outlook, regardless of how many times you fail.

I bring up this topic because I am currently in a slump, as I mentioned before. In the spring I felt I was doing much better. But for some reason, I guess I just got out of rhythm this summer.

However, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. This year a bunch of kids left for club teams, so we knew we lacked some talent out of the gate. Still, I thought we would be competitive. I was wrong. So wrong. We finished 0-12, getting mercied in most of our games.

Sometimes it was because the other team was very good, and sometimes it was just because we were terrible. We were the Bad News Bears, subtracting their playoff run.

But throughout my life, I have learned to just keep plugging away. And fortunately, I got invited to play for a club team for the rest of the summer. I will get more reps, and more at-bats. Baseball is a game of repetition as well, so the more games the better.

You can be insanely talented, but if you can’t handle the mental aspect of baseball, forget about it. The great players today have mastered the mental and physical part of the game, some more than others, and I strive to do the same!

Springing Into Action

 

That was probably the longest winter ever. There was a ridiculous amount of snow, and it just stayed there forever. And still, in late March, we had days below freezing. That’s just insane.

This was bad for three reasons. First, I got sick way too much. Second, I slipped and fell numerous times on ice. Third, and more importantly, baseball and soccer came around too fast.

Usually, I play winter soccer, so I’m already in the zone. However, this year I chose not to play two sports in the winter, coming off a torn MCL. The snow didn’t go away until recently, and we have had our first practices for soccer on turf, since the fields are too wet.

I actually thought I was going to be rusty, but for some reason soccer always comes back to me easily. After all, it is (in my opinion) a lot less complex than baseball. Point is, I thought I played pretty well after missing a whole season.

Baseball, is a different story. Opening day is supposed to be tonight. That is unlikely, considering it’s been raining so much. Regardless, I haven’t been on a baseball field in months.

Baseball is a sport that takes time to get into rhythm. I would say a lot of the kids in my league play only baseball, so they are practicing year round. However, I always have a different sport in every season.

So, I haven’t been playing baseball. At all. I am probably going to be pretty rusty, and not so great my first time out on the field. I am really hoping my swing comes back, because I thought I hit the ball pretty well in the fall.

And boy, that swing has been all over the place in the past couple of years, and I definitely know what a slump feels like. If the weather permits, hopefully we can get some practices good practices in, so I get comfortable before the 1st game.

I have several goals this season, but one of them is to master the changeup. Everyone throws a curveball now, but no one really has an effective changeup.Also, the greatest benefit of a changeup is that it doesn’t hurt your arm like curveballs.

Many people have told me to put three fingers on the ball for a changeup. Problem is, I throw my fastball with three fingers, which gives me more control. I personally value control more than speed. And honestly, the three-finger grip is more comfortable for me. However, I’m definitely going to start throwing it with two fingers.

If I can master a changeup, I will have an effective off-speed pitch that won’t hurt my arm. That’s an ideal weapon for any pitcher. And last but not least, there is something else that is a necessity in baseball- looking good.

You have to look sharp when you’re out there. It’s a MUST. I have my evoshields, wristbands, and I ordered my new cleats. Unfortunately I couldn’t get metal cleats since they’re prohibited in the recreational league, but I still got some nice cleats.

As you can see, I’m pretty excited for baseball, and soccer. After all, this is my last spring of soccer and baseball, before I go on to play High School sports. I look forward to finishing my rec baseball and Cougar soccer career!

The Rise of the Dark Knight

Yeah, the Mets actually have a starting pitcher in the All-Star game, along with David Wright starting at 3rd base and hitting clean up. Now, this is bigger than you think. Matt Harvey starting this game could mean way more than you ever imagined.

The Mets are still rebuilding, and I am surprised about the progress they’ve made. First of all, we actually have a legitimate, young pitching staff. Matt Harvey is probably one of the best pitchers in the game right now.

Zack Wheeler and Jeremy Hefner are two young pitchers with a lot of potential, and have already shown that they can be a dominant force and contribute to a fierce pitching staff.

Jon Niese and Dillon Gee aren’t great in my eyes, but they have a few moments. They will do as our 4 and 5 pitchers in the rotation.

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Now, the lineup is where we need big help. Wright is a fantastic 3-hitter, so he is locked in to that spot. I love Eric Young. He is good and speedy. I like him in the outfield and leading off.

Daniel Murphy has been hitting up a storm, and playing a solid 2nd base, so he’ll hit 2nd. Now, many people still have faith in Ike Davis, like my dad. Other people want him out of the lineup.

Unfortunately, I think we have seen enough of big Ike. He honestly just isn’t the answer. The Mets need some big bats, and he doesn’t even have a bat. We can’t make the playoffs with Ike Davis hitting 4th.

The Mets young catcher, Travis d’Arnaud is supposed to be great. I have a lot of faith he will be a great catcher and a solid hitter. Omar Quintanilla is a solid shortstop, and I am fine with him hitting 8th. Marlon Byrd is good, but not long term, and he’ll be good trade bait. So, the Mets need two outfielders and a 1st Baseman. In these three guys, I want big bats.

 

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Now, back to Harvey and Wright in tonight’s All-Star game. Most fans would say, “Awesome! Harvey and Wright are in the All-Star game!” And then they’d move on. However, I see it differently.

Players like Shin Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury (both free agents after this year) see that the Mets have an ace (Harvey) and the starting 3rd baseman/cleanup hitter (Wright), and that attracts them to the Mets.

To top that, the Mets are in New York, and the players get lots of publicity, much more than Cleveland and Boston. This situation, in which Harvey starts and Wright hits 4th in the order and plays 3rd base, could potentially affect the Mets organization for many years to come in a very positive way.

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The rise of the Dark Knight, they call it, referring to Matt Harvey coming to the rescue of New York, has given the Mets an incredible opportunity to sign players that they could’ve ever had a chance to sign, in addition to the opportunity to be successful.

I will be going to the All-Star game tonight, and it will be a special moment. Picture it: Matt Harvey starting the game for the NL, David Wright at 3rd and hitting cleanup, in an All-Star game being played at Citi Field.

It will be a night to remember, and a start to a bright future, for the New York Mets.

Taking the diamond with a positive attitude & cool accessories

Well, I have officially begun my spree to get stuff for summer baseball season. Baseball is the one sport I play that rattles with your emotions, and that gets to my head sometimes. But this year has been different. To snowball that, I feel like I am more dominant on the big sized field, rather than 50-70 fields.

I don’t know why, but you would think my size would be a big disadvantage, being the shortest kid on my summer team. However, I am consistently hitting the ball to the outfield, and have a high on base percentage. Also, surprisingly, I have found myself to be quite dominant on the hill.

So, I am extra excited for this summer! Since our town is hosting the State-wide Cal Ripken tournament, our team will most likely get a BYE to the States, regardless of our success in the District tournament. That will be so fun! Also, we have a tournament in early June!

And then, of course, the actual league and potentially the playoffs. Obviously, I have to look good for all of this, cuz what if some hot chicks walk by! So, I have gone a little crazy this year getting stuff I want for the season.

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First I got an evoshield: It is white, and is basically a padded wrist band. They are compressing and look so cool! Evoshield is a  brand with its own logo, and it basically makes sports gear, and protective equipment for baseball. So, that’s my first pickup!

Second, I got myself customized eyeblack. Basically, it is  a black sticker, that was originally used for shielding the strong sun. However, now it has become a style. So, I got eyeblack stickers with my number and team name! How cool is that?

Additionally, I have a reversible Nike wristband, that I wear. One side is red with a white swoosh, and the other side vice versa. On the white side, I have a signature from Al Leiter, a great old pitcher on the Mets. I met him at the 2010 all-star game, and he tought me how to throw a cutter in a private room while we ate dinner at Morton’s steakhouse.

That’s pretty awesome, but on top of that, he coaches Summit’s travel baseball team that’s my age, because his son plays for them. So, we saw him after a game in a tournament both of our teams were playing in, and he signed my wristband! Unfortunately, he didn’t remember me at all from the All-Star game.

And believe me, I am not done. I am going to get new cleats soon, and they are gonna be so fresh. Also, I am going to get the long, baggy version of our team pants, instead of the scrunchy bottom. Maybe I will also get some sweet batting gloves!

The Big Field

Well, as basketball season comes to a close, baseball is almost underway. Spring recreation evaluations are next Sunday, and I honestly don’t think I’m ready. I haven’t played since July, so I’ll probably be a little rusty. The good part is that it’s only recreation, so it doesn’t matter. It’s basically practice for the summer travel league.

Me and my best friend Avery are always on the same team, because our dads coach together. Between the two of us, we make up the middle infield- he plays 2nd base, I play shortstop. Our teams have been pretty good over the years, yet we didn’t win last year.

My pitching has gotten much worse, even though I have added a curveball to my options when I’m on the hill. This is because of an accident a couple years ago. I was pitching in a rec game, and I threw a fastball.

The batter hit a hard line drive and it nailed me right in the neck. The pain was excruciating and I went to the hospital on a stretcher, in an ambulance. It just so happened that my parents were at a Bar Mitzvah during that particular game. However, my dad met me at the hospital.

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Luckily, nothing major was wrong, just bruising and a lot of soreness. Ever since, I’ve been playing baseball tentatively, and kind of scared. I’ve kind of gotten into a bad habit:  I wince and turn my head when there’s contact with a metal bat and the ball. It’s very bad when I’m pitching, and holds me back from my potential.

This year, we’re moving up to Babe Ruth. In this league  the distance between bases is 90 feet, and the distance from the rubber to home plate is 60 feet (major league standards). Now, I’m only 4 foot 10.5 inches. That’s pretty short, especially with a bunch of 14-15 year olds playing in your league.

Yeah, so my height is definitely not an advantage. However, being successful on the big field entails more physical strength and power, and I also need to try to stay away from those bad habits. So, big field- here I come!

Have you ever had an experience that affected your game? Tell me in the comments and let me know if you have any advice on getting past it.