Tag Archives: MLB

This superstar is big enough already

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred no doubt meant well when he said some nice things about Mike Trout, who is generally considered to be the best player in baseball.

He said Trout, a center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels, would be an even “bigger star” if he “spent more time marketing himself.”

How about that? The commissioner is encouraging a young, relatively humble star athlete to engage in more self-aggrandizement.

Then came the response from the Angels organization. It was classic. The team’s response? Mike Trout is not wired in the way Manfred would like: “Combined with his talent, his solid character creates a perfect role model for young people everywhere. Each year, Mike devotes a tremendous amount of his time and effort contributing to our Organization and marketing Major League Baseball. He continually chooses to participate in the community, visiting hospitals, schools and countless other charities.”

Trout said: “I do as much as I can. But it’s a long baseball season. I got to pick and choose when I want to do things and go from there.”

It’s rare these days to see blue-chip athletes who earn millions of dollars annually to play a kids’ game who are not interested in looking for ways to improve their brand.

From all that I’ve read about Mike Trout — admittedly it’s not a great deal, but enough — he seems to be the genuine article. He is one hell of a baseball talent. He’s well compensated for his skill as a hitter, a defensive player and as a great teammate.

I won’t condemn the MLB commissioner for seeking even more glory for one of his sport’s premier athletes.

I will salute, however, Mike Trout and his team for saying, in effect: Thanks … but no thanks.

It’s all about baseball ‘marketing’

I am beginning to soften my view of those goofy finalist names for Amarillo’s new minor-league baseball team.

But only just a little.

I still dislike the five names they came up with. However, I am beginning to grasp the marketing techniques that the AA minor-league team ownership is using to sell the team to the public when it begins play in the downtown Amarillo baseball park in the spring of 2019.

The team’s general manager spoke this week of creating a “wholesome family entertainment” product that will play baseball at the multipurpose event venue.

They aren’t going to go with the usual Major League Baseball team nicknames, such as Cardinals, Giants, Tigers, Marlins … etc.

So what did the Amarillo management do? They pored through more than 3,000 submissions and came up with Jerky, Bronc Busters, Sod Poodles, Long Haulers and Boot Scooters.

If I had to choose a favorite among those finalists, I would settle on Bronc Busters. The worst happen to be Jerky and Sod Poodles.

An ABC 7 morning news anchor, Lisa Schmidt, noted this morning that she has lived in the Panhandle her entire life and has never heard the term Sod Poodles to describe prairie dogs. I’m hearing a lot of that around Amarillo over the past few days.

However, I am beginning to get why the team management has embarked on this goofy course. They want to establish a unique brand for the minor-league team that will play hardball in downtown Amarillo.

Let’s hope the brand sticks.

Be careful of the ‘magic word’ in social media spats

It’s an acknowledged truism in baseball that when you get into an argument with an umpire, uttering the “magic word” will get you ejected from the playing field in a New York nano-second.

What, pretell, is that magic word? It is “you.”

That’s right. Shout the word “you” at the ump and he’ll toss you. As in “f*** you!” or “you son of a b****!” or “you blind b******!”

The profanities? No sweat. Just don’t attach “you” to the vilest epithet you can utter.

That rule of thumb ought to apply to social media spats. I quite frequently witness these arguments erupt along my social media networks, namely my Facebook news feed. They usually originate with an item from High Plains Blogger that I distribute to my Facebook “friends” and my actual friends, who also happen to read these musings on Facebook.

Two or more readers of the blog then will get involved in arguing back and forth about a point I seek to make in the blog. I usually stay out of it. I prefer to let them go at it, tooth and nail, hammer and tong.

I’ve been fortunate in this regard: Whenever I do exchange thoughts with critics of my blog, the folks on the other other end usually are civil enough to respond like ladies and gentlemen. I don’t have to invoke the Baseball Rhubarb Rule that gets activated whenever someone blurts out the magic word “you.”

I don’t like name-calling when dealing with just plain folks like myself. Yes, I’ve been known to attach a pejorative description or two to people in high places. The president of the United States, for example, has received his fair share of name-calling from me. But, hey, if he can dish it out … right?

I’ll continue to seek to stay above the nastiness that erupts occasionally along this particular social media network, but I won’t stand for anyone dropping the magic word on me as their way of impugning me.

Hey, everyone has their limit.

It’s time to name that baseball team

Amarillo’s upcoming minor-league baseball season, which commences in April 2019, will welcome a new team nickname to the region.

The Elmore Group, owners of the team that will play hardball at the multipurpose event venue under construction in downtown Amarillo, has opened up the team-naming process to the fans.

I welcome this challenge. I likely won’t submit a suggested name, but I’ll watch from the peanut gallery as the team ownership ponders what to call this new team that will move to Amarillo from San Antonio.

The team now plays under the name of “Missions.” It’s a AA ballclub affiliated with the National League San Diego Padres. San Antonio will get a AAA franchise that will relocate there from Colorado Springs.

Hmm. Think of that for a moment. Maybe the new Amarillo team will have a sort of religious name, given that “Padres” can be construed as having a religious meaning, just as “Missions” is so interpreted.

Well, whatever. The last time I lived in a community that went through a pro franchise team-naming exercise, the name that came forward was initially greeted with derision. That was in 1970. The NBA awarded my hometown of Portland a pro basketball franchise. They had to name the new team. I preferred “Lumberjacks,” given the huge impact the timber industry has on the Pacific Northwest.

Instead, they came up with “Trail Blazers,” which as I remember it was meant to honor Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led that “trail blazing” expedition from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean in the early 19th century.

Still, I didn’t like the name initially — but it grew on me and the rest of the community.

Thus, I caution baseball fans in Amarillo to be patient with whatever name comes forward for the new team that will play ball at the MPEV. The name might grow on you, even if you don’t like it at first.

And, come to think of it … the ballpark needs a name, too.

Still enjoy waiting for baseball to begin

I don’t follow big-league baseball with nearly the fervor I did when I was a kid.

Free agency managed to wreck it for me in the late 1960s, allowing big leaguers to sell their talents to the highest bidder. Players have switched teams, causing some upset to those of us who long associated players with teams.

Mickey Mantle: New York Yankees; Ted Williams: Boston Red Sox; Stan Musial: St. Louis Cardinals.

Sure, some post-free agency players stayed with the same teams throughout their careers: Tony Gwynn: San Diego Padres; Cal Ripken: Baltimore Orioles; George Brett: Kansas City Royals.

All six of those guys are first-ballot Hall of Famers.

OK, now that I’ve stipulated that I don’t follow Major League Baseball the way I used to follow it, I remain anxious as we get ready for the first pitch to be tossed out. I still like old-fashioned hardball. It remains in my mind and heart the National Pastime.

I don’t await the start of pro basketball or pro football with this kind of anticipation. Pro hockey? Umm. Not even close.

Baseball is still a bit different for me.

I follow a couple of players more than the rest of ’em. By fave at the moment plays for the Los Angeles Angels: Albert Pujols, who’ll enter the Hall of Fame on the first ballot when his time comes up. Pujols is set to get his 3,000th hit this season. He’ll get his share of home runs to add to his ninth-best career total of 614. My hope is that he can put together at least one more career year to match the seasons he piled up in St. Louis before he decided to shop his skills around before he ended up in LA.

So, with that I’ll await the 2018 MLB season with some enthusiasm. I’m no longer a kid. Baseball no longer is quite the same as it was in those days.

They still play good hardball and, brother, they get paid lots of money to play a kid’s game.

MLB honors Say Hey Kid

This story kind of slipped past us as we have been fixated on Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery and assorted troubles afflicting the Donald J. Trump administration.

Major League Baseball has announced a new award it will bestow in honor of one of the greatest men ever to play professional hardball.

The Willie Mays Most Valuable Player Award will go henceforth to the player who earns it while playing in the World Series.

Willie Mays is now 86 years of age. He played in four World Series. His New York Giants won one of them, in 1954, against the Cleveland Indians. During that Series, Mays made “The Catch,” in deep center field off the bat of Indians slugger Vic Wertz.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement on the 63rd anniversary of that spectacular catch.

Mays crafted an iconic career over more than two decades playing for the Giants — first in New York and then in San Francisco — and for the New York Mets. And just so you know, I got to watch Mays play ball in August 1964. It was in Candlestick Park in San Francisco against the Cincinnati Reds. If memory serves, Mays went hitless that day … but, hey, he’s Willie Mays, man.

I am glad to see this great athlete’s name placed on an award that will be given in his honor.

Willie Mays could do it all. And he did it with verve, panache and tremendous skill.

Do we call it ‘MPEV,’ or something else?

They’re going to start construction soon on Amarillo’s newest attraction soon.

It’ll be built downtown, across the street from City Hall. It’s going to be home to a AA baseball team that’s moving here from San Antonio. The team intends to open its 2019 season at the place that’s come to be known colloquially as the “MPEV.”

MPEV stands for multipurpose event venue. It’s a descriptive term, given that it also will play host to many other community events other than baseball.

Some residents refer to it as The Ballpark. Critics have attached unflattering names to the structure. “Boondoggle” comes to mind. I don’t consider the construction and opening of the MPEV as a negative occurrence.

It’s going to cost about $40 million. Amarillo’s voters approved a non-binding referendum in November 2015 on the MPEV back when the price was a “mere” $32 million.

Here’s a thought, however, on what kind of name ought to go on this new venue. Why not honor someone by putting his or her name on the building?

I’ll begin the discussion with this name: Tony Gwynn.

Who is this man? He once played baseball in Amarillo, back when the city was home to the Gold Sox. The Gold Sox were a farm team for the San Diego Padres, which interestingly enough, happens to be the Major League Baseball team affiliated with the new outfit that’s coming here. He only played 23 games in Amarillo in 1982.

Gwynn eventually got called up to the Big Leagues. He did quite well. He compiled a .338 lifetime batting average, got more than 3,000 base hits, played in a World Series with the Padres — and comported himself with class, grace, good humor and dedication during his storied MLB career. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Gwynn died in 2014 at the age of 54, which means there is no way he can sully his stellar reputation.

Tony Gwynn Park. It has a nice ring. Don’t you think?

Slugger tells it straight about home run record

Giancarlo Stanton is a young man after my own heart.

The Miami Marlins baseball star has declared that Roger Maris’s 61 home runs during the 1961 season is the legitimate single-season record. Why would the Marlins’ slugger say that? It’s likely because he stands a chance of hitting more than what Maris hit during his epic home run battle with New York Yankees teammate Mickey Mantle.

Maris’s total no longer is the major-league record — officially. The record actually belongs to Barry Bonds, who hit 73 during the height of the Steroid Era in Major League Baseball. Indeed, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa also hit more home runs in a single season than Maris, but they, too, were juiced up with performance-enhancing drugs.

“When you grow up watching all the old films of Babe Ruth and [Mickey] Mantle and those guys, 61 has always been that printed number as a kid,” Stanton said.

I am one baseball fan who has serious trouble accepting Bonds as the home run king, either for a single season or a career. I continue to consider Henry Aaron to be the all-time HR monarch, as he hit 755 dingers during his storied career. He did so without the chemical help that Bonds — who hit 762 home runs during his career — received along the way.

Maris surpassed Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home runs — which The Babe set in 1927 — while battling Mickey Mantle during the entire 1961 season. They were neck and neck all season long. Then Mantle went down with an injury late in the season — and became his buddy Roger’s greatest cheerleader as Maris continued his chase for baseball immortality.

That’s the record worth chasing now. To that end, I am pulling for Giancarlo Stanton to surpass it.

Jackie Robinson stood tall and proud

They unveiled a statue today at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

It honors a young man who 70 years ago stepped onto a baseball field while wearing a baseball uniform. He played for the Brooklyn Dodgers back then.

But this wasn’t just an ordinary young man. His name was Jackie Robinson. He had black skin and started playing Major League professional baseball at a time — the year was 1947 — when only white players were allowed to take the field.

Many of those who ran Major League Baseball knew at the time that this would be a special athlete. He was a gifted hitter, fielder and base runner. His contribution to the Grand Old Game, though, went far beyond his prowess on the field.

He became a champion for the rights of all Americans to pursue their dreams. Robinson’s was to become a professional baseball player, to play the game in the big leagues.

I wrote about this young man a year ago in a piece for Panhandle PBS, which broadcast a special in Robinson’s memory.


Major League Baseball recently retired the No. 42, which was the number Robinson wore on his back. It’s the first time MLB had done such a thing. Each year about this time, teams take the field with all the players wearing that number. They do so to honor the courage Robinson showed in facing down the racism he encountered when he took the field.

They also honor the man he became after he no longer played ball. He remained an iconic figure in the battle to obtain equal rights for all Americans.

Robinson died too soon, in 1972, from diabetes-related complications.

This great man’s legacy, though, lives on in the young African-American and Latino athletes who came along right behind him on that trail he blazed.

Tim Tebow: baseball ‘stunt man’


I am fascinated by what I perceive to be a stunt being performed by one Tim Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy-winning college quarterback who couldn’t cut it in the National Football League.

He’s now trying to become a professional baseball player. He wants to play professionally a sport in which he hasn’t participated in since, oh, high school.

I keep wondering about a certain aspect of this fellow’s change of career plans: Does his celebrity status make him more marketable than his actual talent? And does that status as a media star prevent another, more deserving young athlete from obtaining a spot on a baseball team roster?

Do not misunderstand me. Tim Tebow appears to be a fine young man. He made news when he started kneeling after scoring touchdowns; he would say brief prayers of thanks to God, which endeared him to many God-fearing football fans.

I like that part of the young man’s character.

Then that persona took over. It made bigger than life in some people’s eyes. It followed him everywhere. NFL teams were criticized by some fans for cutting him from their roster because the fans perceived a bias against his devout religious faith.

Baloney! The guy’s pro football skills at quarterback don’t measure up. He’s a heck of an athlete. Tebow is a tremendous physical specimen. He’s built like a linebacker and he might have become a good defensive player, or perhaps a tight end.

Now we hear that at least two Major League Baseball teams are interested in this guy: the Atlanta Braves and the Colorado Rockies.


It’s fair to ask: Is their interest based on what they see on the baseball field or is it based on how he might boost attendance at baseball games, given his celebrity status?

Remember when basketball legend Michael Jordan tried his hand at pro baseball? I remain convinced to this day that he was awarded a minor-league spot on the basis of his acclaim as a basketball player, denying someone else a spot who likely deserved it more.

Thus, are we talking about furthering another young man’s baseball career or allowing him to perform a publicity stunt?