February 24, 2010

Matt's Mailbag: February 24, 2010

Gustavo asks: Congrats on making it all the way to Arizona safely, but may I ask why you didn't just catch a plane? Did you want to see the scenery or experienced a long road trip?

Matt answers: I have told hundreds of people that I drove out to Spring Training this year and every single one of them responded with the same question. "Why the hell would you do that?" I figured I'd take the time here to let everyone know exactly why I decided to drive so maybe I won't ever be asked again, or at least not as much.

Two years ago while playing in single-A at Lake Elsinore, California, I had my car with me and loved every minute of it. Not having a car makes life miserable. Just think if you didn't have your car with you everyday. You might make it a day, maybe two, but to survive eight straight months without a ride would probably drive you crazy. I hate having to depend on other people for things, and I hate to ask people for rides even more. I've done two years in Portland, Oregon without a car and I never want to do it again.

In July of that 2007 season I was called up to Double-A in San Antonio, Texas. I needed to fly out the next day to meet my team in Midland, Texas, so I had a company ship my car. I hate the idea of handing my car over to complete strangers. At this time my car was only a few months old and I had spent a good amount of money on it. It was the one gift I bought for myself after getting drafted and I'm really anal about making sure nothing bad ever happens to it. I wouldn't have let my grandmother drive the thing at this point, except maybe for one of her quick trips to Stop and Shop, so I sure as hell didn't want some random kids taking it across the country.

If you haven't had a car shipped before, it's a pretty simple process. They show up with one of those huge trucks you see driving down the highway with tons of cars strapped to it. It depends how far they are traveling, but usually taking my car across the country will take about two weeks. Because I was only going from southern California to Texas they told me it would take a few days at the most.

I stuffed most of my belongings in my car and watched them strap it onto their truck. They said they'd see me in Texas in two days and drove away. I jumped in my host families car and got dropped off at the airport for my flight.

After arriving in Texas and playing for almost two weeks I called my car service to find out why the hell it hadn't arrived yet. I got a few different excuses like, we hit traffic, we had to pick up another few cars along the way, we didn't know how to start your car, and we needed to change drivers. I really did hear the excuse that they didn't know how to start the car. I started to worry when I heard this one, but in the end they were professionals (so I thought) and I gave them the benefit of the doubt and waited. They told me the car would be there the next day.

A week more had passed and I was just getting home from a road trip when they finally showed up and left my car at my apartment and took off. At this point I hadn't played my XBOX in almost a month and really wanted to play some Madden. If you have read my blog before you know that I love video games, and a month away from them is a long, long time. Before I ran down to my car to grab my XBOX I joked with my roommate, "Dude what would happen if I opened my car and my XBOX was gone?" I said it joking around, never actually thinking it wouldn't be in there.

I ran downstairs to my car and opened the trunk where I had my XBOX, about 30 games, my DVD collection, all my electronics, my clothes, and a bunch of other stuff. I was basically moving all of my belongings to Texas in my car. When I opened my trunk I couldn't believe what I saw. Someone had stolen pretty much everything. The only thing they left for me was some of my clothes.

I guess they must not like my style of clothing!

A few weeks earlier I had played in the Single-A All-Star game in Stockton, California. I know it is only Single-A, but it was my first All-Star game as a professional. Whoever took my stuff ended up taking my All-Star jersey that I was given, along with a plaque, an All-Star bag, and a bunch of other signed baseballs and things from some of the guys on that team. None of these things could be replaced, which was really upsetting.

I opened the driver's door and jumped in looking for any other clues of abuse I could find.

I found a women's hair clip in the center console. "That son of a bitch used my car to take his date out!" Now I was really pissed. I called my girlfriend and anyone else that would answer to tell them about the clip I had found. She let me know that it was her hair clip and no one took a girl out on a date. It made me feel better, but not very much. I turned the car on to make sure it started OK. I looked at the odometer to see if they had driven it anywhere. Turns out they put more than 800 miles on the car. I paid them $1200 to ship my car about 1000 miles and it turns out they put almost that many miles on the car. I could have driven myself to Texas, saved my $1200, and actually had my possessions when I got there.

I got on the phone with the company and told them exactly what happened. They said it wasn't there fault, and there was no way I could prove they stole anything. They said that someone must have opened the car and stolen my belongings while the car was parked overnight. Last time I checked I don't think a thief would take a car off the back of a truck, drive it 800 miles, steal all of the belongings in the car, and then take the time to put the car back up on the truck before they took off.

That doesn't make much sense to me.

Either way, I really didn't have any proof, and they said they weren't liable for anything. I ended up filing a police report and had some of the things covered by my insurance company. I never did get back any of my all-star stuff.

Well, now you know why I am forever afraid of shipping companies and why I probably won't be shipping my car anywhere else. 40 hour drive from Boston to Peoria it is.

Matt Antonelli is a second baseman in the San Diego Padres farm system. Do you have a question for Matt? Drop him an email at mattantonelli9@gmail.com or here in the comments section!


BallHype: hype it up!

Welcome Aboard Matt Antonelli!

It's with great pleasure that I welcome into the fold here at The Hall of Very Good, San Diego Padres farmhand Matt Antonelli.

Matt is expected to do two things this season...compete for the starting gig at second for the friars Triple-A Portland Beavers and provide The Hall with a unique perspective unmatched by many independent baseball blogs.

In what will be a regular feature, "Matt's Mailbag", the Peabody, Massachusetts native will answer questions posed to him by fans. He will also be providing commentary and sharing insight on many of the topics The Hall will be tackling this upcoming season.

Now...a little about Antonelli.

Matt was drafted by the Padres in the first round (17th overall) of the 2006 Major League draft and quickly worked his way up through their minor league system.

In 2007, he was part of the Double-A San Antonio Missions championship team and almost a year later (September 2008), he was making his big league debut. In his first at bat for the Padres, Antonelli laced a single off future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.

Antonelli called Portland home in 2009 and, currently, is taking grounders and hitting the cage at the Padres spring training facility in Peoria, Arizona.

Send him an email at mattantonelli9@gmail.com, cross your fingers and hope your question is the next one answsered as part of "Matt's Mailbag".



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February 22, 2010

Talkin' Baseball with...Me?!?

When I joined the 140-plus strong Baseball Bloggers Alliance last summer (I proudly wear number 32), I had no idea what I was getting into. Suffice it to say, it's been a fun ride thus far.

A couple of weeks ago, curator and founder Daniel Shoptaw (check out his site HERE) sent me some questions and, essentially, turned the tables on me with his own "Talkin' Baseball".

Enjoy.

DANIEL: How and why did you get into blogging?

HOVG: Ever met the guy who sits there at the bar and instead of drinking or playing darts…he’s talking wise about, no, not the game on the screen, but, rather, the history of baseball? That’s me. I’m a self-confessed “contrarian” and, good or bad, was encouraged by far too many people to write things they can read since, you know, their alcohol-impaired minds couldn’t remember my thoughts on Albert Belle and the Hall of Fame or the time I saw Rickey Henderson walking into a hotel with a woman on each arm.

DANIEL: Do you have any blogging projects planned for the off-season?

HOVG: Since The Hall is, more or less, nicheless…I’ve compiled a master list of things (interviews, topics, etc.) I’d like to explore over at the site. Hopefully, it’ll entertain everyone else as much as it entertains me. Now, if I can stop time to complete them…I’ll be in good shape.

DANIEL: What’s been your most enjoyable experience as a blogger (particularly well-received post, a high-profile link, a connection you wouldn’t have had otherwise, etc.)?

HOVG: Sitting down with Fergie Jenkins and talking to him about mustaches, his stint with the Harlem Globetrottes and steroids was a good time…he’ a good good guy and I think I touched on subjects he doesn’t get asked about. Having Lee Smith stop what he was doing (he was signing autographs at a Menards grand opening) to read what wrote about him was cool. And appearing on 720 WGN to talk Mustache May and baseball with latenight radio host Nick Digilio. The list could go on and on.

DANIEL: How did you find out about the BBA and what attracted you to the group?

HOVG: I honestly don’t remember if I found the BBA or if it found me. I love the group because it is a good way to make friends with some good guys (James Yasko, Larry Granillo, etc.) who share a similar passion…and it beats going back to stripping.

DANIEL: What do you want to see out of the BBA in the coming year?

HOVG: Is having six of us carrying Murray Chass’ casket out of a big church to much to ask? Seriously, I’m hoping that we can all work together to drive traffic to one another’s sites and become a true blogging network.

DANIEL: Where did Twitter Tuesday come from?

HOVG: A guy at work and I use to email entertaining tweets to each other and one day at lunch I asked him “if I compiled a bunch of baseball tweets…do you think people would read them.” His answer was “yes” and suffice it to say, people do. It’s a different way to get people to the site and, so far, I haven’t really seen anything else like it among baseball bloggers. ESPN, coincidentally, also had a “Twitter Tuesday” feature during their daily NFL show…but I think we all know who was first. Haha.

DANIEL: Is it easier or harder, do you think, to write a general baseball blog rather than a team-centric one?

HOVG: I have no idea. All I know is that I fell into a coma for a year, it would be easier writing about Chipper Jones and his Hall of Fame chances than it would be to catch up on how the Nationals did.

DANIEL: Is there a team you follow more than the rest?

HOVG: I’m a Red Sox fan, through and through. There are players that I have relationships with (Jon Adkins of the Reds and CJ Wilson of the Rangers)and therefore I track their teams, but I’m a Boston guy when it comes to my fandom. Is that even a word?

DANIEL: Do you ever post just to stir the pot, as it were?

HOVG: I’ve been accused of pot stirring and I’ll leave it at that. No, in all seriousness, I think we all do to some extent. I mean, if we ALL thought Bert Blyleven was a Hall of Famer…he’d have made it in 13 years ago with 100% of the vote. Thankfully…we all don’t share a mind like the chimps over at Baseball Think Factory. And yes, I did just call that site a bunch of “chimps”. Pot stirrer…me?!? Never.

DANIEL: Who would be your Top 5 Hall of Very Good players?

HOVG: I’m not sure exactly what you mean, but in no order…Albert Belle, Dick Allen, Ron Guidry, Harold Baines and Billy Martin. I’m sure there are others, but those five, plus Lee Smith, are the ones that people question my sanity about the most.


You can check out the BBA at their site and thanks to the growing power of the internet...you can hear them too. Odds are I'll be showing up at some point.

And yes...the mustache above was part of last year's Mustache May celebration. Start planning your 'stache today!


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February 17, 2010

"Ocho Uno" Reports for Spring Training

In a town that has brought the sports world such colorful characters as “Charlie Hustle”, “Sparky” and the “Nasty Boys”…reliever Jon Adkins is prepared to stake his claim.

“From now on I will be known as Ocho Uno for I will be wearing #81 in Spring Training with the Cincinnati Reds!!” Adkins said recently via his Twitter feed.

“I am very happy to be back with the Cincinnati Reds,” Adkins told The Hall exclusively in December after signing a deal with the organization. He added to that sentiment Tuesday night, “just being with the guys here in the United States will be great again.”

Last season with the Lotte Giants, Adkins was 3-5 with a 3.70 ERA and a Korean Baseball Organization leading 26 saves. In 119 Major League appearances, he has compiled a 5-5 record and a 4.54 ERA.

“I had it great in Korea,” Adkins continued, “I had an American manager but if I were on any other team wow it would’ve been really tough.”

Why?


Adkins thinks it’s the difference in attitude between American ball players and those overseas.

“Korean players play a little uptight because in their culture, the managers are very strict with them. They will pull them in the middle of an at bat when pitching and if they make an error sometimes they call timeout to yank them on the spot.”

Adkins is expected to start the season with the Triple-A Louisville Bats, but what remains to be seen is whether or not the newly dubbed “Ocho Uno” can make it back to the Majors with the “Big Red Machine”.

Regardless, Bats Vice President/General Manager Dale Owens is hopeful.

“If Jon can save 20 games or more we'll put whatever he wants on the back of his uniform,” Owens said of the team’s 2008 co-MVP. “I can't wait for ‘Ocho Uno’ to arrive in Louisville!”

Right now, Adkins is busy getting ready to begin spring training at the Reds’ beautiful new facility in Goodyear, Arizona. No word yet if Bengals’ superstar Chad Ochocinco will be showing up to greet the Queen City’s newest Ocho.

I guess we’ll have to wait to see if he’ll make that trip down Second Street from Paul Brown Stadium to the Great American Ballpark when Adkins hits Cincinnati for his second tour with the club.

And yes, he has been contacted.



BallHype: hype it up!

February 16, 2010

Twitter Tuesday...February 16, 2010


This past weekend brought us Pebble Beach, the kickoff of the Winter Olympics and the Daytona 500.

None of those will be discussed here.




Spring training is around the corner...so why not check in with some thoughts on how guys are preparing for 2010.

EYJr (Eric Young, Jr.): Spring training week is finally here! Going to get my work in and make this team! Pray 4 me!

mattkemp27 (Matt Kemp): It doesn't get any better than this!!! Workin out wit 2 great outfielders Torii Hunter and Future Hall of Famer Gary Sheffield.

DrewStoren (Drew Storen): Good bullpen this morning now just relaxing and enjoying the beautiful day in Melbourne.

Gator4God (Matt LaPorta): I just passed the sports test here in vail. I able to resume full activities.

thisisdspan (Denard Span): I hit today with ryan Howard.

MattAntonelli9 (Matt Antonelli): Pissed we missed 24 tonight...I need me some Jack



I realize that Tommy probably has thousands of pictures...but some days, I just want to see the entire collection and not just one.

TommyLasorda: Twitpic of the Day: Fernando and I started a mariachi band.



I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest to everyone that they follow good friend of The Hall Jon Adkins. Jon is beginning his second tour of duty with the Reds this spring training but this time...he's not going by "Jon Adkins".

BallHype: hype it up!

February 12, 2010

Frank Thomas is officially "done"

With “The Hurt Locker” up for nine Academy Awards and the retirement of the “Big Hurt” both making news, only an idiot would try to connect the nominated movie to Frank Thomas.

Ladies and gentlemen…I’m that idiot.

This year, the Academy expanded their Best Picture category from five to ten to seemingly accommodate such favorites as “Up”, “District 9” and the all-time money getter…”Avatar”.

Now, I’m not suggesting that when Thomas is up for the Hall of Fame in 2014, the BBWAA does their part by expanded the number of players they elect (please start your “big Hall” versus “small Hall” debates now)…but given the depth of the ballot, they might want to consider it.

I’m telling you, gang…2014 is going to be the year that Cooperstown implodes assuming the steroid tinged ballot of 2013 (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa) doesn’t do it first.

Consider this, with the official retirements of Thomas and Tom Glavine (he hung it up for good Thursday), first timers now include Greg Maddux, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina and Jim Edmonds. Throw in Luis Gonzalez and Moises Alou (not Hall of Famers…but potential vote getters) and you’re looking at the potential of there being the most first ballot inductees ever.

And since you’re wondering…what year had the most? In 1999, there were three…George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount, but I digress.

Living just outside of the Windy City…I get inundated with news about the White Sox and Cubs whether I want to hear it or not. Problem is, unlike most of the people I associate with…I DON’T want to hear about them. Ever.

That was until, Thomas made it official that he was, without a doubt, NOT coming back this year.

Sure, he didn’t play last season, but the "I'm done…I'm happy where I'm at right now” he delivered to a packed Chicago hotel ballroom Thursday night appears to be the definitive end of a storied career.

Before the “Pale Hose” envoked their horsebleep “diminished skills” clause following their Championship run in 2005…the “Big Hurt” was already one of a very, very elite group of players.

Currently, Thomas is one of FOUR players to have a .300 average, 500 home runs, 1500 RBIs, 1000 runs and 1500 walks during their career.

Who are the other three? Mel Ott, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth…not too shabby.

Matter of fact, Thomas has a handful of goofball records like that…records that no one REALLY knows how to put into context.

For example, Thomas is the ONLY player in baseball history to have seven consecutive seasons of a .300 average, 100 runs, 100 RBI, 20 home runs and at least 100 walks.

Did you know that he was only the seventh member of the .300 average and 500 home run club and is one of six players to have amassed 1600 walks and 500 home runs?

How about this gem? Thomas was the first player to win two silver slugger awards each at two different positions.

Here’s my favorite…Thomas is the ONLY player to hit more than 90 sacrifice flies (he has 121) and not collect a single sacrifice hit.

Okay, so we know (or at least we’ve been told) how good Frank Thomas was. His stats stack up favorably to some old school Hall of Famers that we’ve all heard of…but frankly, they are merely footnotes in history.

Who here actually saw Mel Ott play? How about Jimmie Foxx?!? Case rested.

So, let’s talk about how good the “Big Hurt” was compared to those he played alongside.

You know that “Thomas is the ONLY player in baseball history to have seven consecutive seasons of a .300 average, 100 runs, 100 RBI, 20 home runs and at least 100 walks” I referenced earlier? Well, Thomas did this to START his career and it includes the strike shortened season of 1994.

The only other cat who has come close to that…Albert Pujols.

Yes, THAT Albert Pujols.

Minus the walks (Pujols doesn’t have the knack to frustrate pitchers the same way Thomas did) and one season where he had 99 runs scored…we’ve got virtually identical players at the plate.

Let’s take a look at their first seven seasons.

Both finished in the top ten in MVP voting each of those seven seasons. Thomas brought home two awards…Pujols one, although he did add back-to-back awards in 2008 and 2009. All in all…both now have nine top ten finishes.

Let’s get back to the numbers.

Going into 2008 (Pujols’ eighth season), “Prince Albert” had 4054 at bats. At the same point in HIS career, Thomas had 3821…but remember the walks, people.

Pujols does have the edge in runs (847 to 785), hits (1344 to 1261), home runs (282 to 257), RBI (861 to 854) and average (.332 to .330), but one could argue that we’re in more of a power era than 1991 to 1997 when Thomas was in his heyday.

As an aside (and I am not insinuating in the least that Pujols touched “the juice”), look at Thomas when he broke in and look at him now…he’s pretty much the same size…a far cry from Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi.

Here’s a guy was the ONLY active baseball player interviewed for the Mitchell Report. He was so sure of his cleanliness…he did so voluntarily.

So why has Frank Thomas seemingly been forgotten up until now? Is it because he was mostly used as a DH?

Possibly. But the idea is to help your team win ballgames, right?

Thomas did just that…and did it better than a large percentage of the players ever to put on the cleats.

So again…why is Thomas forgotten?

Fifteen years ago, I would have said that Thomas got lost in the fanfare surrounding Bo Jackson, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. Simply put, he just didn’t have “it”.

Fast forward to today…David Ortiz has a hard time stringing together more than a few words of broken English, yet he has more endorsement deals than I can count. Outside of a 1995 Super Nintendo game, I couldn’t tell you one other time that I saw Frank Thomas being celebrated and as I referenced earlier in this diatribe, I live near the belly of the beast…the one city that SHOULD recognize excellence when the have it.

I guess we’ll have to wait four years to find out how Thomas was viewed on the national level.

I'm hoping that the "small Hall" mentality doesn't win out.



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February 10, 2010

Talkin' Baseball with Dick Perez

With the start of the 2010 baseball season getting closer and closer, I am reminded of my childhood and my lifelong fascination with collecting baseball cards.

Long before subsets were all the rage (and saved or killed the industry…depending on what side of the debate you’re on), my neighbor and I created our own. We’d group together All-Stars, top rookies and separate our collection by teams…not numerically.

And then the 1982 Donruss set hit the scene and brought with it their wonderful Diamond Kings.

Diamond Kings were fantastic! There was one per team and, hopefully, it was the team’s best player. They were, in a sense, card collecting’s first true subset.

In 1985, we were introduced to the man behind the brush, artist Dick Perez when he was commemorated with his own trading card. Recently, I had a chance to catch up with him.

PEREZ: Your opening comments regarding subsets tells me that it was probably more fun to do it your way than having the card companies create them for you. In a way, that is what I did (along with my partner Frank Steele) for the Donruss Diamond Kings and it was a lot of fun, though not as much fun as the painting. I guess subsets were a nice innovation to baseball trading cards, but a lack of moderation precipitated the downturn in the industry. In the 80s when court rulings opened the gates to allow more participants to produce baseball cards, combined with MLB spreading its licensing wings, an immoderate number of companies got into the act, and, undisciplined, produced too many cards and subsets in order to outdo each other. Collectors were confused, frustrated that to complete anything would cost a fortune, and lost interest. I mean, how many Ken Griffey, Jr., did you need? Baseball card collecting lost the two things that are inherent to collecting, the hopeful chase, and rarity, not to mention the smell of the gum.

HOVG: Anyone who knows anything about baseball cards is familiar with your work. I mean, we’ve all seen the Diamond Kings. Tell me…how did you get started with your art?

PEREZ: As far back as I can remember, I had a desire to draw. On the margins around my school notebooks there were caricatures of school mates and images from my imagination. After I realized that there was no way I would ever achieve my real dream of becoming a professional baseball player, I concluded that I had to choose a real life career. I chose art, another risky avenue to success. I went to art school at night to become a Graphic Designer, a practical choice, in order to earn a living. My vision was to become an art director at an ad agency, or graphic artist at an art studio to design ads, brochures, etc. It was a rough beginning to an uncertain ride, but eventually I got on the right bus.

HOVG: And how did that bus ride transform itself into a career painting athletes?

PEREZ: I am frequently asked by aspiring artists/illustrators, how is it that I wound up doing the dream gig of painting a subject that is the object of so much personal passion, and make a great living at it. There is no applicable answer. I can only relate my own fortuitous experience, and I usually answer this way…"I began as a graphic designer, by chance wound up doing design work for university sports information departments and met a fellow who eventually became general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles. My work for the Eagles caught the attention of the Philadelphia Phillies, which led to meeting Frank Steele, who was smart, connected, and a marketing genius who loved my work. At the time my work was so so, but whatever he saw in it combined with my willingness for hard work, his own aspirations, how I fitted in them, and a common belief in taking risks, led to a breakthrough." I did work hard, mostly self taught, to master all mediums, observed, studied, and absorbed the works of the great masters, (Diego) Velazquez, (John Singer) Sargent, (Thomas) Eakins, (William) Merritt Chase, Rembrandt, and others.

HOVG: What went through your mind when a relatively new company came to you and pitched the idea of painting portraits to put on their trading cards?

PEREZ: Actually, they had no idea what it was we could do for them. Donruss was not a new company. They created Elvis cards, golf cards, cards for TV shows, and a variety of other entertainment cards, but knew nothing about baseball. They somehow managed to get a baseball license and found themselves on a Monday morning wondering, "now what do we do?" New York sportswriter Bill Madden (and this year's winner of the Baseball Hall of Fame J.G. Taylor Spink Award) was commissioned to write the backs and offer ideas on how they could separate themselves from Topps and Fleer. Bill was acquainted with our work (Perez-Steele Galleries) and suggested they talk to us and see what we could do. So I guess in some way you can lend credit to Bill Madden for the creation of the Donruss Diamond Kings.

HOVG: Were you apprehensive at all?

PEREZ: Not at all. I have always been a risk-taker. I grew up in the 50s with the '53 Topps, and the Bowman cards. At the time I didn't know why but these cards looked different and more appealing to me. I discovered later on that they were illustrated cards as opposed to photo cards. They were the last of the art cards. Perez-Steele Galleries was created to bring back art to baseball cards through the products we did in connection with the Baseball Hall of Fame. I saw an association with Donruss a grand opportunity to bring art back to baseball trading cards in the main street marketplace. It seemed like good idea to them. We worked out a nice deal, and the rest is history.

HOVG: What was the process? Did you have any say at all…or did Donruss provide you with a list of players?

PEREZ: Not only did we choose the players, but Frank Steele was a brilliant man who knew the collector mentality, was a passionate baseball fan, and had great business acumen. He was responsible for many of the art subsets and photo sets. All of which I designed. Because of the long lead time, we based our selections for Diamond Kings according to a player's performance the year before they appeared. There were many years that some teams had no stellar standouts, but I felt it was important that each team be represented, sort of like All-Star selections.

HOVG: Do you have any favorites?

PEREZ: My favorite year was 1995. I really had fun with those, experimenting with color and geometry, and departing from traditional tonal values. My favorite of those was Chili Davis, so I guess that makes him my favorite, though you hate to choose a favorite child.

HOVG: You don’t have to, but are there any duds that you’d like to admit to?

PEREZ: Duds didn't see the light of day, and are erased from my memory. I had very few do overs, but I am sure there are some renderings that fans found less than perfect. There was one piece that I did for Topps' Allen & Ginter, one of one cards that, after it was submitted, I thought was horrible and I got called on it by a collector who had a web site. I apologized for submitting something sub-standard, but overall I have had a better batting average than I would've had as a baseball hitter.

HOVG: Were there ever any “oh, no…I have to paint THAT guy” moments”?

PEREZ: Mostly it was, "We can't use this guy, his year is going into the toilet" so we re-selected. Remember, I was painting for the following year. Some guys would have a great season beginning, but dropped from radar in the last third or quarter of the year.

HOVG: Most artists don’t have the blessing and curse of having every kid who collects cards or millionaire ball players who appears on them as critics. What have you heard, both positive and negative, from your “subjects”?

PEREZ: The positive feedback from fans and league officials through emails, letters, and personal contact has been overwhelming. Not so much from the subjects of my paintings. For most athletes the art disciplines are not in their line of vision. Their concentration on what they have to do to succeed is so mono-focused that a painting of them is just another image of their likeness to be used as cards, promote MLB, their teams, or to exploit them. But having said all that, I have had some positive encounters with many of my subjects. To name a few, Ted Williams knew, liked and appreciated what I did, Ichiro Suzuki, who has a great appreciation for art and the history of baseball, commissioned a painting, Steve Carlton, Joe Morgan, Dale Murphy, Nolan Ryan, Terry Francona…all gentlemen.

HOVG: Not that long ago, you made the jump to Topps…how did that come about?

PEREZ: An introduction by a mutual acquaintance. I have always felt that Topps was and is the true card company, though I was impressed by the quality that Upper Deck bought to card making. When Topps called I responded knowing that if I was to be associated with baseball cards, Topps had to be on my resume. In addition, Topps has an understanding of the baseball trading card legacy and has emulated the great cards of the past. To re-visit the classic card designs of the past was Perez-Steele Galleries' main emphasis, so I wanted to contribute on a larger scale through my association with Topps. That relationship is now on hold in order that I complete my art retrospective book, due out this summer.

HOVG: A lot of people out there don’t realize that you were also the official artist of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. What line on your resume (for lack of a better term) are you most proud of?

PEREZ: My title of "Official Artist of the Hall of Fame" ran from 1984 until 2001, a great run of which I am most proud. But we moved on, me to fulfill many other interests (and make a lot more money), and they to give other artists the opportunity to participate up there. Many of my paintings are there on their office walls and archives, so I am quite humbled by that. But the pinnacle of my career was to be honored with a solo exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum in Philadelphia, PA, the nation's first art museum and art teaching institution. The exhibition called Art At Home Plate - Philadelphia Baseball Legends on Canvas was the unveiling of a series of 32 original paintings commissioned by the Phillies to be the centerpiece of a permanent exhibition in the new Citizens Bank Park. There had never been a baseball art exhibit at the Academy, let alone a one man display of it. Ironically, and unbeknownst to me at the time, the exhibit was installed in the salon that the great American realist Thomas Eakins taught. I credit Eakins with the very first, true baseball painting "Baseball Players Practicing", painted in 1875.

HOVG: You’ve met and painted Presidents, Hall of Famers and numerous sports icons…any stories you want to leave us with today?

PEREZ: There are many stories and too little space. One can get a glimpse of some of those experiences in the
"Photo-Op" section of my web site, and I hope to be blogging more of them in the future.

HOVG: So…what’s next?

PEREZ: Sometime this summer I hope to publish the definitive baseball art book. It will be a 12"x12", 564 page visual history of baseball seen through the lives of the 292 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. It will provide biographical sketches, lifetime statistics, and short historical accounts of each of the baseball eras...Origins, Deadball, Golden, Depression, War and Post War, Expansion, and Modern. This is primarily an art book, a retrospective of my career work, over 1000 pieces, complemented by 402 new works that took over two years to create. 338 of these new works have never been seen, the rest have never been published. Carefully researched action paintings will show the evolution of equipment, uniforms, ballparks, fans, etc.

Dick Perez was born in 1940 in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico. He lived from the age of six in New York City's Harlem and moved to Philadelphia in 1958. Perez attended the Philadelphia College of Art (now The University of the Arts) and the University of Pennsylvania. You can stay connected with his work over at his website,
www.dickperez.com.


BallHype: hype it up!

February 9, 2010

Twitter Tuesday...February 9, 2010

First off...a big thanks to those of you who hit the site to check out the interview with Batting Stance Guy. If you didn't read it, you can check it out HERE.

The plan is to have another winner up tomorrow...so please check back.



Sunday was the SuperBowl and it seemed like everyone had a prediction...some better than others.

ESPY_TEAHEN (Mark Teahen): I'm pissed the 2 weeks of talking about every possible detail of the Superbowl is almost over.

JarrodBParker (Jarrod Parker): Let's go colts!

TheMayorsOffice (Sean Casey): Diggin out of the snow in Pitt but gonna watch SB...Colts gonna win!! Just think in end Peyton manning is gonna be to much!!

DrewStoren (Drew Storen): Colts by 14. That's my call. What's yours?

thisisdspan (Denard Span): I want the saints to win for the city but they got lucky against the vikes so I think they will lose by a modest margin of 2 tds

hanrahan4457 (Joel Hanrahan): I'm gonna throw my prediction out there now, I got the colts, 18 Is really good, not good enough o beat the gators but good

TheRealBJUpton (BJ Upton): Watching the game at the crib- i say colts by 3

realjustinupton (Justin Upton): OK so here is my Super Bowl Prediction- Saints 31- Colts 24- MVP is Drew Breeeeeeeeees.



What the fu...?!?

TommyLasorda: I met this guy at a disabled vets event. He lost his eye and replaced it with a Dodger eye!



Based solely on this tweet..."If New Orleans deserved the Super Bowl, how many gold medals does Haiti deserve in the Winter Olympics? All of them?" I am suggesting you follow OverTheBaggy.

Sure, Parker and I are both members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, so maybe I am biased...but any way you slice it, the dude brings the funny.


BallHype: hype it up!

February 3, 2010

Talkin' Baseball with Batting Stance Guy

I’m pretty sure that, as a kid, Gar Ryness was like the rest of us.

He watched baseball.

He played baseball.

He lived baseball.

Armed only with a WiffleBall bat and his trademark backward cap and some well worn Converse All-Stars, Ryness would spend hours mimicking the plate antics of his favorite major leaguers.

Years later (and perhaps one too many Shooty Babbitt references later), Ryness has transformed into the internet superhero “Batting Stance Guy”. And instead of just humoring his friends and family, he is entertaining the masses with his wide array of imitations.

Head over to his website and you’re greeted with a simple welcome and a reference to what he calls “the least marketable skill in America”. But after millions, yes MILLIONS of YouTube hits and more hours up in the air traveling from city to city than Ryan Bingham…the “least marketable” skill has made the 36 year-old Ryness a household name to anyone who loves our nation’s pastime or a well executed Tommy Herr impersonation.

Recently, I had the chance to talk to Kent Hrbek’s number one fan and the only other guy I know on the planet who can appreciate a well-timed Tom Brookens reference…”Batting Stance Guy”.

HOVG: Obviously, you’re an incredibly huge baseball fan and most everyone knows the story of YouTube success. When exactly, did you realize that you had something there?

RYNESS: Three months after posting the Red Sox video and the videos for about 15 or so other teams, the Minnesota Twins FoxSportsNorth contacted me about making a pre-game show appearance. That was a big moment, but the HOLY SMOKES moment was during a Dodgers pre-game show when Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Bard, Wally Joyner and a bunch of other Padres told me they watched all our videos in the clubhouse. Huh? Really?!?

HOVG: Have you seen some of the pretenders out there? What makes you THE guy?

RYNESS: Right time, right place? I’m also young enough to know what YouTube is and old enough to know 30 years worth of baseball. My friends and family are pretty certain there’s a mild form of mental illness involved. Some of the younger pretenders have reached out to me for advice which is pretty cool. Some players are really good at imitations, like (St. Louis infielder) Brendan Ryan and (Milwaukee slugger) Prince Fielder.

HOVG: Did you grow up playing baseball?

RYNESS: Yes. It was always the main love of my life. Our towns’ little league all-star teams were always great, twice making to Williamsport. However, (New York Yankee) Randy Winn made it farther than me.

HOVG: Who did you root for?

RYNESS: I grew up in the (San Francisco) Bay Area but my first love was the Montreal Expos. It makes no sense, but I also loved the ‘80/90s Twins because Kent Hrbek became my favorite player. I’ve attended a million Giants and A’s games including the earthquake game in 1989.

HOVG: I've read that former Giants Jack and Will Clark are the easiest to imitate, but who was the first?

RYNESS: Second grade Halloween I went as Pete Rose.

HOVG: Who are you working on now and when can we see them unveiled?

RYNESS: This offseason has been a blast. We got a book deal. It’s a fun look at baseball framed around the 50 greatest stances of my lifetime. We have lots of categories, like best facial expression, best hair and most unbuttoned shirt. It is a celebration of baseball’s quirks and comedy.

HOVG: Last season, The Hall of Very Good celebrated “Mustache May”...have you ever considered donning a 'stache and doing a "best of" mustached players?

RYNESS: Awesome idea! This off-season I let the beard grow. I looked like Willie Wilson while writing the book. What’s the best setting for a ‘stache video? Front of a barber shop? Police Station? Fire Truck? Jeff Kent’s house?

HOVG: Do you have a Hall of Fame of sorts for your favorite stances? I don't mean Hall of Famers, but more like stances that are your favorite to do.

RYNESS: The top 50 in the book represents my stance Hall of Fame. I’m sure there will be some former players surprised they made the list.

HOVG: About a year ago or so, you served as the stand in for MLB The Show…how did it come about?

RYNESS: I had received a dozen or so emails that I figured was a friend playing a joke on me. That one was certainly one of those. I get the email saying, “We want you to help us with our motion capture, blah blah blah.” My thought is, how did my friends secure an email address with Sony Playstation in the title? Sure enough, it really was Sony Playstation. It was really fun and the first time I felt pressure to know the entire Pirates and Royals roster.

HOVG: What stance is most like your natural stance? Do you even have a “natural stance” at this point?

RYNESS: There are some VHS tapes in existence with me standing like Ryne Sandberg in real baseball. In college and post-college softball I like hitting lefty like Dave Justice, or when I’m trying to go opposite field…Will Clark.

HOVG: Since you are the foremost expert on hitting, have you ever been asked to give hitting advice?

RYNESS: Yes, mostly from young moms asking advice for their kids. If there is something I’ve learned from studying my favorite wacky stances, it’s that MLB players do whatever they do to get comfortable at the plate. Kids should do the same. This doesn’t count as advice, but I was walking through the Metrodome service hallways over the summer and was met by a blonde guy jogging who said, “Hey Batting Stance Guy. Can I see me? I’m Hank Blalock.”

HOVG: Has anyone ever tried giving you hitting advice?

RYNESS: I take flak for “swinging too high” online. Yes. I know Bernie Williams doesn’t swing at balls at his eye level.

HOVG: How would you fair against live pitching?

RYNESS: If ex-Giant Felix Rodriguez throws his patented straight fastball and I swing at the right time, I’m making contact. Everything else…not so much.

HOVG: What players have been the most receptive?

RYNESS: Mike Cameron and Prince Fielder put me in the center of the Brewers stretching circle last season. Cameron either laughs really hard at everything, or enjoyed himself. Honestly, I could have never predicted the player’s responses. To have Joe Mauer, Ryan Howard, Adam Wainwright, Todd Helton, Adrian Gonzalez, Pablo Sandoval, Alcedes Escobar, Mike Lowell, Corey Hart, Eugenio Velez and Kevin Youkilis all introducing themselves to me? Seriously, the world is upside down.

HOVG: Who has been critical?

RYNESS: Josh Beckett didn’t love me talking about imitating Mike Napoli hitting a homerun off him versus Mike Napoli hitting homeruns off the rest of the league. *Crickets* Nothing. Blank stare. Very awkward.

HOVG: This past season, you went stance to stance with the Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez...what did “Man Ram” have to say?

RYNESS: Manny is great to me. I’ve done pre-game shows for visiting teams at Dodgers Stadium and Manny will always scream and whistle across the field while I’m filming. “Do Ethier! Do Ethier!” I’ll then hold up a finger, as if to say, “Hold on Manny, I’ll come over there after this.” The first time that happened the Cardinals TV staff said, “wait, do you know Manny?” That’s when it hit me how weird the last two years have been.

HOVG: This past year, you’ve blown up…probably a lot more than you could have ever imagined. What were some of the highlights?

RYNESS: Getting in the middle of the stretching circles of Brewers, Dodgers, Giants, Twins, Angels, Cardinals, Red Sox and Rockies. Meeting Will Clark, having ESPN in my backyard, FoxSportNet taking me to lunch disagreeing with me that this is the least marketable skill in America and lastly, meeting Biff Henderson.

HOVG: You met Biff while in New York for your Late Show appearance in July. Describe how the whole Letterman thing came about.

RYNESS: His talent coordinator emailed me asking if I’d be available around the All-Star game week. It was surreal, figured I’d be a stupid human trick or small sketch and when friends called me saying they saw my name on their DVR for Monday’s Late Show, I found out they wanted me as a real guest. Crazy. The most insane part of it…my brother is on Broadway in the musical HAIR. He was on Conan the same night. Our parents don’t have TiVo. Luckily Kelly Clarkson went after me, so they got to see Bryce on Conan two minutes after me on Letterman.

HOVG: I think that is all...thank you again for allowing me this time. Anything you would like to add?

RYNESS: Livin’ the dream.

When he’s not in his backyard imitating the batting stances of some of baseball’s all-time greats (and not-so-greats) or hanging out in the batting cage, taking cuts with the Boston Red Sox, Ryness is a married father of two living in Southern California.

As referenced, “Batting Stance Guy” is looking to take his swings at another medium this summer when he releases his first book. In the meantime, you can check out all his videos over at his website or, if you’re lucky, he’ll be appearing at a stadium near you.





BallHype: hype it up!

February 2, 2010

Twitter Tuesday...February 2, 2010

Alright, so what in the world happened around here while I was away...can't a guy take a week off without craziness ensuing?

Twitter Tuesday regulars Mike Bacsik was accused of grooving number 756 to Barry Bonds, with no hint or preview, Seth McClung got picked up by the Marlins and lastly, one of my favorite tweeters, Jose Canseco is talking about wanting to fight Herschel Walker.

God...I loveTwitter Tuesday.



Because Canseco is proving to be one of the most random tweeters out there (dude posts everything from pictures of his girlfriend to re-tweets of people praising him)...and I love him for it.

In 1989, I had a 40-40 poster hanging on my walls...and I was nowhere close to being an A's fan. Because of that, this week's Chatter is all you, Jose!

"This day in history: January 31st, 1865 ~ House passes 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in the US."

"Just came back from horse riding with my daughter & GF. My ass is chapped & my balls are bruised! Damn i hate riding horses."

"Meetings starting up tomorrow to kick start my next move. Everyone keep your fingers crossed it goes as planned!"

"I have a few television projects and a couple different movie opportunity's coming to life."

"I guess I may have to show Herschel Walker who the real bad Boy of the Sports industry is. If the powers that be are reading, I want in."





So...Nick Swisher appears in an episode of How I Met Your Mother and people are going nuts about it. Here's hoping that CJ Wilson achieves his lifelong dream of appearing on LOST before it ends in May.

Earth2Kim: Nick Swisher on How I Met Your Mother?!? I didn't recognize him without his A's uniform.

swarheely: nick swisher on how i met your mother was hilarious! hahah

SnapTheJap: Could Nick Swisher LOOK like a bigger douche??

Jessie__Louise: Nick Swisher is on How I Met Your Mother. He's got a lame fauxhawk though. Looks good otherwise

mpaynethird: If How I Met Your Mother wasn't my favorite comedy before it definitely is now that it has had a Nick Swisher cameo

houtexmajorin: how the hell did Nick Swisher get a spot on HIMYM? was Quinton McCracken unavailable? John Vander Wal?

ayetortuga: i was really enjoying tonight's episode of himym right up until the point where Nick Swisher walked into the bar

15munson15: Nick swisher for an Emmy




Raise your hand if you knew Tommy Lasorda was Canadien. Wait...what?!?

TommyLasorda: Congrats to Paul Quantril and Alan Roth for being inducted into the Canadian Baseball HOF. I was inducted in '06



Not that I usually do the old "Follow Friday" thing (I reserve it for Tuesdays), I DO have to give a good friend his due (again) and suggest that you all follow Gar Ryness.

You see, Gar has the "least marketable skill in America" and with that, comes a gazillion YouTube hits, a book deal (more on that later...stay close to this site) and an invite to appear on David Letterman's show.

If you're not following him already, please check out Batting Stance Guy.


BallHype: hype it up!