View Full Version : An AWL Experience (Finale)

02-13-2007, 12:48 PM
It was another beautiful weekend in Yuma for baseball. Joe Safken came by the house at 9:00 AM; we got some coffee and ran a couple of errands, then were on the road to Yuma, AZ. It was a fun ride, listening to music, talking about baseball, and bugging Brent Porciau as we were on the road. For anyone who knows Brent, he does an incredible impersonation of Arnold Schwarzenegger. So, of course, when Joe called him they started their little impersonations going back and forth talking like Arnold. But, believe me, if you ever were able to hear Brent do his reenactment of Arnold from the movie, Predator, you would not be able to stop laughing, as he sounds exactly like him, including the movements and facial expressions.

Joe and I arrived at the yard with plenty of time to spare before game time. We walked into the locker room and there sat Steve Smyth and Garry Templeton talking shop. We got settled in and started talking about memories from the past two seasons. There were some funny stories flying around the room, especially when Mark Parent came in and sat down next to Garry. The two of them had us laughing and cutting up. It was incredible to be in their presence, at least for me. I canít describe the feeling of being able to listen to them and being able to participate in a conversation with them. They both were players on the í84 Padres, whom I used to watch as a little kid every year growing up, even in Spring Training where my parents took me every year from when I was 9 to the age of 14.

I worked up enough courage to ask both Mark Parent and Garry Templeton for a Spring Training invite. Both seemed open to the possibility. What do they have to loose? Nothing at all, as it is I who has to put in the time and go through all the sacrifice necessary to play. But, at the same time, they both could have just been being nice. Not to mention, my play on Sunday may have changed their minds and perhaps blown my only opportunity at closing the book on this chapter of my life.

Time for early work, the team seemed a bit more relaxed today than it had in the past. You could see and feel that they were all relaxed a bit more. During stretches they were all joking with each other, Will Henderson being the leader, an incredible guy who can hit the crap out of a baseball. I saw great improvement in many of the players; quicker hands, better balance, and again their attitude was definitely different.

Game time. Garry was gracious enough to give me the start and let me go all seven. I was to catch Shannon Sprouse. Sprouse can definitely deal and was a great pick up for the league. His breaking stuff was on Saturday, allowing me to call a pretty solid game, mixing in each of his pitches at key times. He made the evening easy for me, especially when he gave way to Steve Smyth and then Brent Porciau. Steve was filthy, moving the ball around with ease, and Brentís change-up offset his fastball, allowing both pitchers to keep the Falcons off balance. We pulled out a win on Saturday.

After the game, Joe and I went to the hotel and checked in. I got all cleaned up and waited to hear from Joe, as to whether we were going to go eat or not. He sounded wiped out and decided he was going to stay in for the evening. I went over to Albertsons, picked up a salad, some fruit, orange juice, and some water. I went back to the room, ate and then tried to go to sleep, finally falling sleep around 1:30 AM. I was a bit anxious for the next dayís game, knowing it could possibly be my final appearance and that a potential Spring Training invite could be on the line.

On Saturday, I had made arrangements with Tomio Mack and Garry Templeton to hit a bit before the game. I got up plenty early and was ready to go. I waited for Joe and off we went to McDonalds to get some grub. I was already not feeling too well, thinking it might have been something I ate the evening before, but also thought that some food might settle my stomach. It took us almost 20 minutes in McDonalds to get our food, making me late to the field. Tomio had already called me, wanting to know where I was; I really hate being late for anything.

We got to the field at about 10:20 AM and I went straight out to start hitting, not even having time to eat the breakfast that Joe had just bought me. I still didnít feel well, but thought it would pass; kind of felt like butterflies. We started hitting and there I was taking hitting instruction from Garry Templeton. He was out there offering his free time to all players, regardless of their team. He was out there to work with one of the Falcon players and you could definitely see the benefits of his instruction in the kid with whom he was working. As for me, from the left side, I was having an incredible time trying to keep my front side closed. But, during the short time with Garry, I was able to hit a few balls solid, showing some promise.

Joe checked the line-up for the day (Sunday) and I was getting the start again. I was a bit surprised and did not feel 100%, but did not tell anyone other than Joe. I was still waiting for whatever it was to wear off, but it never did. I did get some excitement, as I was given the opportunity to finally catch Dustin Gober in a game. Up until this point, I had only caught his pen at home. He has such a heavy ball sometimes sinking down in tight on righties; when on, his breaking stuff becomes un-hittable. This was one of those days, my job was easy, just move the ball in & out, while finding good times to call the breaking stuff. I came off the field in between innings and Garry gave me some great advice about getting the second strike. So, I changed my thinking a little to adjust and it worked well. Nothing like getting and implementing the advice of a Major League veteran, especially when it worked each time. Dustin pitched well and left with the game tied 4-4. The game changed on one play, in my opinion, when I was unable to throw out a runner stealing second base. As I came up and drew back to throw, my arm brushed the umpireís chest. Garry came out and questioned the situation, but the umpire claimed that he did not feel it. Unfortunately, that runner went on to score the winning run. Matt Diaz came in relief, keeping the hitters in check and getting outs. He gave way to Joe Safken, who did a great job at shutting down the Miners hitters. We still had a chance going into the last half of the 7th inning, but the Miners pitcher, Richmond, was just too much for us that day.

Bright spots for the weekend; Dustinís father Ed came in for the weekend. It was great getting to meet him, great family. Of course, there was Mary, Yvonne, and James. It was great hearing them cheering in the stands at least one more time. Every time I hit the field they cheered and while we do our best to not acknowledge while on the field, it adds a great feeling to the time spent on the field. Garry asked them himself to come up to Fullerton and participate.

The fans give each player purpose and definitely make the game. Itís not until youíve truly been on both sides do you clearly understand the value. If thereís a synergy between the players and the fans, it adds a whole different aspect to the game that I believe goes unsaid. I have to say, there were a couple of times during the game on Sunday that I actually had goose bumps and then there were others when I was sad, knowing that it could possibly be my last time on a field at this level.

I learned a lot and met some incredible guys, for whom I wish much success in the game and in life. I have great respect for each of the players I came in contact with during the short time. I have some great memories to take away from my weekends with them and I appreciate any of the time spent with them. For Chris Lanlois and David Ramirez, mad love for ya!

All of the managers, coaches, and floating instructors were incredible; all of whom I along with many others, consider icons of the game. They all played in an era where it was all about talent, not what you put into your body, and they had to work their butts off to be who they were to the game. I know, because I saw them first hand, when I was kid. I watched and imitated some of them growing up as a kid (Garry Templeton, Terry Kennedy, & Mark Parent). I also spent time watching some of them (Tony Gwynn, Garry Templeton, and Marvel Wynn) hit in the cages at Poway High School, while listening to their stories, and then getting to see the end result at game time. It was great getting to see them work with players and witness how much they still love the game, whether they want to admit it or not.

Lastly, Kevin Outcalt. The man is a class act unto himself. Kevin offered me (and other players) the opportunity of a lifetime and did so without asking for anything in return. He took great care of us, through Tana Adams in the Scorpions front office. He followed my progress and offered advice, all the while having a full plate. Not an email or call ever went unanswered, which is rare with a person as busy as he. Many thanks and appreciation goes to him. May you be remembered for the good things done and not the things that negativity blows out of proportion.

So, this is my AWL finale and quite possibly my last hooray (even though I pray otherwise). Thank you to everyone with whom I came in contact over the past month as the result of this kids game I love so much. I wish everyone the best, sincerely.

For the love of the game and no other reasonÖ


02-13-2007, 03:46 PM
Before I put my thoughts down I want to say that everything JD put in his post (that would apply) are true for me too.

My blurb:

Our weekend out in Yuma to see some AWL baseball was seriously fun-fun. Draining, but fun.

James batboyed on Friday for the Scorpions, on Saturday for the Miners and on Sunday for the Dawgs. The only team he didn't get a chance to work with was the Snow Falcons, which is a bummer since that is Ozzie Virgil, Jr's team, but hanging out in the back cages with Garry Templeton made up for that. And besides, James and Ozzie had a long talk about how seasonal allergies and their love a baseball don't really mix. (Note: James, right now, has no idea how freakin' lucky he is to be able to hang out and chat with the likes of Garry Templeton and Ozzie Virgil, Jr, but eventually he will).

He got to shag balls during batting practice almost everyday and on the one day they didn't take BP James was able to spend some cage time watching the guys, then helping out by tossing some softpitch (thanks JD).

Some of the many highlights:

We got to see JD, Will, Joe, Steve, and Brent play ball, so that was cool. Mad props go out to the Commissioner (and Ron Alonzo and the game day staff, too) for taking such great care of us and making us feel at home.

There were a lot of great things going on over in Yuma, and I hope that it carries over to the regular GBL season. The on-field promotions were fun to watch and were quick so it didn't deter from the game too much. The game day personalities were chatty with all the various fans, making them feel very welcomed and important to the game.

Watching Les Lancaster pitch again was cool beans. After a couple of pitches Mary yelled, "Way to be Les! Show 'em the cheddar!" He yelled back from the mound, "That was it!" LOL *falls over laughing* It was brilliant, the whole crowd busted up laughing.

A couple of the Scorpion booster club ladies came over and said hi which was cool. And a lady who remembered us from last years' opening day came over to say hi. She was bummed for us that the Dawgs are no more and she said she wished we were Yuma fans, that it would be fun to have us at more games. How nice is that, eh? Well I do wish we still had a GBL team here in San Diego. I wish for a team to cheer for, players to raise money for, and fans to share the entire experience with.

I can’t imagine us going out to Yuma again for GBL games (tooooo darn hot). But like JD said, Garry invited us up to Fullerton and we like the Long Beach people and facility best of all, so I’m sure we’ll head up to a game or two.

Though, when I mentioned Long Beach Garry said, “No. Not Long Beach, you have to come to Fullerton” then laughed when I said, “How about Long Beach when they’re hosting the Flyers?” He assured me that that would be ok by him. He liked James and made sure I knew that he was welcome anytime. I always give extra ‘cool’ points to people who are nice to my son. LOL

I’m still way sad about the Dawgs and I will always hope for their return, but I must say that over all (certain persons notwithstanding) I owe many, many great memories to the GBL, the AWL and the staff involved in both.

Thanks for two great summers.

02-14-2007, 12:46 AM
Any time you are up in Fullerton, just call me and you will receive first class Flyers treatment! Garry is a class act, and one of the reasons I love my job so much!

Yours in Baseball,

Ed Hart
General Manager
Fullerton Flyers

02-14-2007, 08:13 AM
Um, well, um....er....could I be reason number 2? ;) All it takes is a little nudge in the disbursement draft... :D

Oh happy day...


02-14-2007, 10:12 AM
Any time you are up in Fullerton, just call me and you will receive first class Flyers treatment! Garry is a class act, and one of the reasons I love my job so much!

Yours in Baseball,

Ed Hart
General Manager
Fullerton Flyers

Right on Ed, that's a very kind offer.