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Pro Tips

Pro Tips for Kids: with former Expos reliever, Don DeMola

Don DeMola is a former pitcher for the Montreal Expos in the mid 1970’s. He was drafted by the Yankees in the seventh round of the 1970 Amateur Draft out of South High School in Commack, New York.

“I was 18 years old when the Yankees invited me to Spring Training in 1971,” he said. Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Thurman Munson and Bobby Murcer were there. I felt like I was in heaven!”

DeMola signed as a free agent with the Montreal Expos in January of 1973. The New York native referenced former 20-game winner, Mike Torrez as a mentor. Torrez was pitching for the Expos at the time of DeMola’s signing.

DeMola pitched one season in the minors before making his major league debut. He appeared in 25 games in 1974, 24 of which came in relief. The hard throwing righty went 1-0 and posted a 3.12 ERA, striking out 47 batters in 57.2 innings.

“Montreal is a great city and they really loved their Expos,” said DeMola. “They’re very passionate people and I enjoyed my time there very much. I hope they do get another team.”

The Expos reliever pitched two seasons in the major leagues. He owns… Continue reading

How To Do Everything in Baseball: With Former All-Star Outfielder Bob Watson

In the next installment of our “Pro Tips for Kids” series, I sat down with former Yankees’ outfielder Bob Watson to discuss all things baseball!

Bob Watson (Courtesy of ootpdevelopments.com)

Watson began his Major League career in 1966 as a member of the Houston Astros. He made his Major League debut at the age of 20 and spent most of the next four seasons going back and forth from the Minors to the Majors. Watson became a regular in the Astros’ lineup during the 1970 season and his performance blossomed. He was selected to his first all-star team in 1973 due to his .312 batting average and 94 RBI.

Watson was the centerpiece in one of the more historic moments in baseball history. On May 4, 1975, the Astros were playing the Giants at Candlestick Park. All around the country, fans were anticipating the scoring of Major League Baseball’s one-millionth run. No one knew who would score the legendary run, but everyone knew that the run scorer would “score” one-million tootsie rolls as a prize. Major League Baseball and it’s sponsors were giving the player who scored the run the sugar prize of the millennium.

Watson scored on a three-run… Continue reading

Pro Tips for Kids: with former Padres’ Pinch Hitter Mark Sweeney

In the next installment of our Pro Tips for Kids series, I sat down with Mark Sweeney, perhaps the greatest pinch hitter in baseball history, to discuss all things baseball!

Mark Sweeney (Courtesy of spokeo.com)

Sweeney was drafted in the 9th round of the 1991 MLB draft by the California Angels. After a few seasons in the minor leagues, he would go on to make his Major League debut on August 4th, 1995 for the St. Louis Cardinals. Sweeney went hitless in four at bats, though he did pick up an RBI.

“My favorite moment was my very first MLB game,” said Sweeney. “My whole family was in the stands.

Sweeney played a majority of his games as an outfielder in the minor leagues. However a majority of his Major League career was spent as a pinch hitter. A pinch hitter will typically get just one at bat per game, if that.

“The mindset in being a pinch hitter is to prepare, embrace the challenge and hunt the fast ball,” said Sweeney.

Sometimes youth baseball players fall into situations where they are benched are do not start every game. During these times, they have to learn how to become effective… Continue reading

Pro Tips for Kids: with former Yankees’ Outfielder Billy Sample

In the next installment of our Pro Tips for Kids series, I sat down with former Yankees’ outfielder Billy Sample to discuss all things baseball!

Billy Sample (Courtesy of tradingcarddb.com)

Sample was drafted in 10th round of the 1976 amateur draft by the Texas Rangers. He spent two seasons in the minor leagues before coming up to the Major Leagues during the 1978 season. Despite playing only eight games that season at the MLB level, Sample hit .467, with seven hits in 15 at bats. While an impressive stretch, Sample had an even better moment in his MLB career.

“I remember watching a highlight of my only ‘walk off’ homer, before they were even called such,” said Sample. “I generally wasn’t a very expressive player, but I exalted quite a ways from third to home as the teammates joined me at the plate. We were trailing at the time I hit it, with two outs.”

Sample played nine seasons in Major League Baseball, batting .272 with 127 career doubles. He had his best statistical season in 1983 with the Rangers, collecting 152 hits while stealing 44 bases. In fact, he was fifth in the American League in stolen bases that… Continue reading

Pro Tips for Kids: with former Yankees’ Pitcher Chase Wright

Chase Wright was born on February 8th, 1983 in Wichita Falls, Texas.  Growing up, Wright would always tag along with his older brother.

Chase Wright (Courtesy of riveraveblues.com)

“My brother is my idol because growing up, we were so close,” said Wright. “We played the same sports together growing up and were always together.”

Wright, as a child, and his family vacationed in Arlen to watch Texas Rangers play. The Rangers were Wright’s favorite team growing up. In high school, Wright played three sports on a very high level, but his favorite was baseball.   He was drafted out of high school in the 3rd round of the 2001 MLB draft by the New York Yankees.

After five years in the Yankees’ minor league system, Wright made his Major League debut on April 17, 2007. He went five innings, giving up three runs on five hits, while striking out three batters and got the win.

“The feeling was overwhelming,” said Wright. “It was amazing and it is something I’ll never forget. I will never forget pitching in Yankee Stadium.”

What made Wright a special Yankee was his attitude towards the history of the team, both past and present. … Continue reading

Pro Tips for Kids: with former Cardinals’ Pitcher Eric Rasmussen

In the next installment of our Pro Tips for Kids series, I sat down with former Cardinals’ pitcher Eric Rasmussen to discuss all things baseball!

Eric Rasmussen with the Padres (Courtesy of privateerisland.net)

 

Rasmussen was drafted in the 32nd round of the 1973 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s rare for a 32nd round pick to last in professional baseball, let alone make the Major Leagues. However Rasmussen proved doubters wrong and made it to the Major Leagues a few seasons later. He never let hitters see him sweat and pitched each game with passion and desire.

“All hitters are a challenge in the big leagues,” said Rasmussen. “You can never let your guard down. I didn’t like facing guys who had caught me before like Ted Simmons and Gene Tenace. I felt like they knew what was coming.”

His first game in MLB was one for the ages, pitching a complete game shutout against the San Diego Padres on July 21st, 1975. However his favorite career moment came a few days prior to his start.

“My first walk into a MLB ballpark (Candlestick) was awfully special,” said Rasmussen. “Putting on the Cardinal uniform for the first… Continue reading

How to be a Pitcher: with former New York Yankee Steve Karsay

In the next installment of our Pro Tips for Kids series, I sat down with Steve Karsay to discuss all things baseball.

Steve Karsay (Courtesy of mlbreports.com)

 

What defines a champion? Is it the amount of World Series rings that they have on their hands? Or is it the heart and passion that fuels their drive for the game? I believe the second choice outweighs the first considerably. As a pitcher in the Big Leagues, Steve Karsay was that type of champion. This is the story of Steve Karsay; a man with a dream and a legacy of heart.

Karsay was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round of 1990 MLB draft. His ultimate goal was to make the big leagues, and that he would do. However his career took a pretty unique turn at first. Before being called up in 1993, Karsay was traded from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Oakland Athletics. He was part of the deal that sent former AL MVP and future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson to Toronto. Even though he was traded, Karsay did not wavier. It added no extra pressure on him being traded for Henderson because all… Continue reading

Pro Tips for Kids: with former New York Mets’ first baseman Mike Jacobs

In the next installment of our Pro Tips for Kids series, I sat down with former Mets’ first baseman Mike Jacobs to discuss all things baseball!

Mike Jacobs (Courtesy of mlbreports.com)

Jacobs had a long road to the Major Leagues, being taken in the 38th round of the 1999 MLB Draft by the Mets. He spent five seasons in the Minor Leagues before making his Major League debut on August 21st, 2005. Jacobs hit a pinch hit, three-run home run off of the Nationals’ Esteban Loaiza, a moment Jacobs calls the favorite of his career.

Jacobs was originally drafted as a catcher and played the position until suffering an injury in his first minor league season. Thus he has professional experience as both a catcher and a first baseman.

“Well for first basemen, they need to take a lot of ground balls,” said Jacobs. “They should also work on picks in the dirt so they’re ready for them in game. As for catching, a lot of blocking and practice throwing to the bases is needed to be a good catcher.”

Jacobs finished his rookie season with 11 home runs in thirty games. He was traded to the Marlins the following… Continue reading

How to be the Best: with former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone

In the next installment of our Pro Tips for Kids series, I sat down with former Braves’ pitching coach Leo Mazzone to discuss all things baseball!

Leo Mazzone (Courtesy of Turnermagic.com

Mazzone began his coaching career in 1978, as manager of the Kinston Eagles of the Carolina League. He then became a coach in the Braves’ organization prior to the 1979 season. Before becoming a Major League coach, Mazzone admits he had to learn about the game.

“My mentor as a coach was former all-star pitcher Johnny Sain,” said Mazzone. “Out of every man I met in Baseball, Sain had the most knowledge. Only Bobby Cox knew as much as Sain did about baseball.”

(Sain was a three-time all-star for the Braves, Yankees and Royals from 1942-1955. He won 139 games in his career and was a three-time 20 game winner.)

Mazzone was the pitching coach for the 1995 World Series Champion, Atlanta Braves. He coached three of the greatest pitchers in MLB history (John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.) However Mazzone’s favorite career moment is more sentimental than most people realize.

“Game one of the 1996 World Series was special for me,” Mazzone recalled. “I grew up a… Continue reading

How to be a Baseball Player: with former Mets’ Pitcher Brian Bannister

In the next installment of our Pro Tips for Kids series, I sat down with former Mets’ pitcher Brian Bannister to discuss all things baseball.

Brian Bannister (Courtesy of nytimes.com)

Bannister has baseball in his blood, being the son of former all-star pitcher Floyd Bannister. He used the skills crafted from his father’s teachings and was drafted in the 7th round of the 2003 MLB draft by the Mets. However before being drafted, Bannister experienced what he calls his favorite career moment.

“Pitching in the College World Series in Omaha was my favorite moment,” said Bannister. “That was my dream growing up and it was the first time that I pitched in front of 25,000 people on ESPN.”

Bannister made his Major League debut in 2006, going 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA in eight games with the Mets. It was with the Mets where Bannister recalled a funny encounter with former CY Young award winner Pedro Martinez.

“When they were passing out my first paycheck in the big leagues with the Mets I was really excited, but they replaced mine with Pedro’s (Martinez)” recalled Bannister. “Needless to say there were a few extra zeros next to the total amount and… Continue reading

How to be a Closer: with former all-star Gary Lavelle

In the next installment of our pro tips for kids series, I sat down with former Giants’ closer to discuss all things baseball.

Lavelle pitched thirteen seasons in the Major Leagues, primarily with the San Francisco Giants. He is the Giants’ all-time leader saves and was a two-time National League all-star. (1977, 1983)

“My favorite career moment was pitching in the 1977 all-star game at Yankee Stadium,” said Lavelle. “I pitched in the third and fourth innings. I struck out Reggie Jackson and Carl Yastrzemski on fastballs. Reggie wanted to take me deep, but I managed to get him.

Lavelle noted his best pitches were a “two-seam fastball and hard slider.” His pitches seemed to work best the during the 1978 season. Despite not being named an all-star, Lavelle was one of the National League’s best relievers. He won 13 games, all in relief, to the tune of a 3.30 ERA.

Pranks are forever a part of Major League Baseball’s culture, something Lavelle was no exception to. He recounted the funniest moment of his Major League career, which involved a baseball Hall of Famer.

Gary Lavelle (Courtesy of bleacherreport.com)

“In Spring Training one year, we pulled a prank where we… Continue reading

How to play Defense: with St. Louis Cardinals’ Outfielder Jon Jay

In the next installment of our pro tips for kids series, I sat down with St. Louis Cardinals’ center fielder Jon Jay, to discuss all things baseball.

Jon Jay: Courtesy of bleachereport.com)

Jay was drafted by the Cardinals in the 2nd round of the 2006 Major League Baseball draft. He made his Major League debut with the team on April 26th 2010 against the Atlanta Braves, striking out in his only at bat. He rebounded and had a great rookie season, batting .300 in 105 games. The following year, he and the Cardinals defeated the Rangers in the World Series.

“Playing in the World Series was a dream come true,” said Jay. “It’s an incredible feeling. Winning a championship is the ultimate goal and I was lucky to do it so young in my career.”

Despite his youth, Jay is already considered one of the best defensive center fielders in Baseball today. He holds the National League record by a center fielder for most consecutive games without an error (245). Jay broke the record which belonged to former Cardinals center fielder Curt Flood, who set the record between the 1965 and 1967 seasons. Defense is an important part of baseball,… Continue reading

How to be a World Series Champion: with former All-Star Keith Foulke

In the next installment of our Pro Tips for Kids series, I sat down with former Red Sox closer Keith Foulke to discuss all things baseball.

Keith Foulke (Courtesy of soshwiki.com)

Foulke made his major league debut with the San Francisco Giants on May 21, 1997 and would soon become one of baseball’s most feared closers. However he would start eight games in his rookie season. For Foulke, the transition from starter to reliever wasn’t a difficult one.

“I don’t think young players need to change how they think about starting or being a reliever,” said Foulke. “Young players need to learn to be a pitcher. I pitched the same way no matter what the score was or what inning.”

Pitchers like Foulke need to be able to trust their abilities on the mound. Foulke gave no indication to a singular best pitch, instead stating the faith a pitcher must have.

“My best pitch was being able to control and trust my pitches,” said Foulke. “When you have confidence and don’t hesitate to any pitch in any count, you keep the hitter off balance. That gives you a big advantage. Sometimes doing the unexpected gets you easy outs on tough… Continue reading

How to be a Catcher: with former New York Yankee Chad Moeller

In the next installment of our Pro Tips series, we sat down with former Yankees’ catcher Chad Moeller to discuss all things baseball.

 

Moeller played eleven seasons in the Major Leagues as a catcher. To do so requires a balance of offensive and defensive skills. He believes catchers should be skilled in both areas.

Chad Moeller (Courtesy of mlbreports.com)

 

“There’s saying that as long as you catch well the offense is a bonus,” said Moeller. “The reality is being a great catcher will help you make a team but does not guarantee getting on the field. Almost every coach will put the better bat on the field over the better glove, as long the difference isn’t too great. I would say the breakdown should be 50/50.”

 

Moeller was known for his solid defensive work as a Major Leaguer. There were some key drills he performed to keep his game on top.

 

“I like the tennis ball drill with no glove to work on soft hands and turning the hand,” said Moeller. “Catching bullpens will help the most as time goes on to learn the pitchers and what there ball does. I like to do blocking drills… Continue reading

How to be a great Pitcher: with 288 game winner Tommy John

In the next edition of our Pro Tips series, I sat down with former all-star pitcher Tommy John to discuss all things baseball.

 

Tommy John (Courtesy of bleacherreport.com)

Tommy John, known for the surgery that became his namesake, revealed just how slim the chances were that the surgery (Tommy John surgery) would work in the first place.

 

“The doctor explained that I would never pitch again unless I had the surgery,” said John. “There was only a one or two percent chance the surgery would work. I wanted to keep pitching so I decided to go for it.”

 

John overcame the surgery and became one of baseball’s most consistent pitchers. He offered advice for youth players recovering from injuries saying that they apart of the game and that players need to accept the circumstances and “allow nature to take it’s course.” John referenced how he spoke to Mets’ pitcher Matt Harvey after his Tommy John surgery. Harvey said that he was ahead of schedule, which left John to say there is no schedule. Every player is different and you can’t rush yourself through injuries.

 

John was a three-time 20-game winner (1977 with the Dodgers, 1979-1980 with… Continue reading

Jake Wood: Baseball’s Humble Man

It is rare to meet a man who’s accomplished great things in life, but remains humble and mindful about what’s truly important. That’s the impression I took after interviewing former Detroit Tigers’ second baseman Jake Wood.

Jake Wood (Courtesy of 1965topps.blogspot.com)

Wood, who made his Major League debut with the Tigers in 1961, was one of the first African American players in the Tigers’ minor league system. Wood grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey and had suffered from a culture shock going to Lakeland, Florida for Tigers’ spring training.

“There was no real division within the team on the field or off the field. We played together and worked together,” said Wood. “But I was shocked to see how differently people were treated. I grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey and going through this was a real culture shock.”

Despite the culture shock, Wood worked hard through the minor leagues. He made his Major League debut with the Tigers on April 11th 1961 vs. the Cleveland Indians. His first Major League hit came against future 200-game winner Jim Perry; a home run to the deep part of left field at the old Tiger Stadium. Wood said he felt “elated” to… Continue reading

“How To” Pitch Effectively: with Baseball Hall of Famer Tom Glavine

In the next edition of our Pro Tips series, I sat down with former NL CY Young award winner Tom Glavine to discuss all things pitching. 

Tom Glavine as a Met (Courtesy of aolnews.com)

 

Tom Glavine was known for hitting his spots and getting batters out.  He didn’t have the power fastball of Randy Johnson or the disappearing splitter of Roger Clemens.  One thing Tom Glavine did have was a smart baseball mind. 

 

“My out pitch was my change up, however I had to establish my fastball in order for that to work, even though I don’t throw hard” Glavine said.  Tom’s career fastball velocity was 84.9 miles per hour.  He relied on his wit and ability to outthink his opponents in order to win ballgames.

 

For a pitcher who made a living off control, Tom had to have an amazing work ethic.  He told me some drills he to practice his control:

 

“I suggest practicing to portions of the plate, outer and inner halves, then 1/3’s then corners, establish 1/2’s first then move on to a new pitch.  In terms of exercise; Throw and run, keep your… Continue reading

“How To” be a Base Runner: With former New York Yankee Mickey Rivers

In the installment of our “Pro Tips” series, we sat down with former Angels all star and Yankee great Mickey Rivers to discuss all things baseball!

Mickey Rivers at the Plate! (Courtesy of blogs.democratandchronicle.com)

Mickey Rivers was an excellent base runner. That’s why baseball fans called him “Mick the Quick.” In 1975, Mickey Rivers stole 70 bases to lead the American League and was selected as an all star in 1976. And though he may have lost some of his speed since 1976, Mickey still knows a thing or two about base running. I asked Mickey what his best advice would be for base runner trying to improve. He told me “The best thing a base runner can do is wind sprints. Also they should look at a pitcher’s footwork in order to get better timing.”

Many coaches stress that baseball players practice their craft. However many coaches are often confused to how much time kids should be practicing the game. Mickey gave me insight into how long he practiced as a child saying “When I was a kid, I played baseball twelve hours a day.” This shows how dedicated Mickey Rivers was to the game of baseball.

In today’s… Continue reading

“How To” play Baseball: With Former MLB All Star Bret Boone

 In the next installment of our Pro Tips series, I sat down with former Seattle Mariners (and all star) second baseman Bret Boone to discuss all things baseball.

 

Bret Boone: All Star! (Courtesy of blog.seattlepi.com)

Bret Boone was considered to be one of the best defensive second baseman of his era. Any advice from Boone in terms of defense is advice worth hearing. I asked Bret what advice he would offer young second baseman. He said:

 

Not only 2nd base, but baseball in general is played with your feet,not hands. Its all about putting your body in correct position. I would get in my fielding position(athletic position as if u were covering Kobe Bryant)and stay there for 15 minutes. This is great training for your legs.”

 

There is a big debate going on in baseball in terms of whether players should be training in weight rooms. I asked Bret’s opinion on the matter and he gave me a unique look into the hard work and determination he had in his career. “The weight room is huge, especially nowadays. It’s not only great for your body, but more importantly, your mind. My goal was to… Continue reading

“How To” be the Greatest Hitter Ever!: with all time hits king Pete Rose

 In the next installment of our Pro Tips series, I sat down with Major League Baseball’s all time hit king Pete Rose to discuss all things hitting!

Pete Rose batting right handed (Courtesy of theredzonereport.com)

 

It’s such a rare opportunity to learn from one of baseball’s greatest hitters. The first question I asked Rose was what approach did he have at the plate and if that approach changed at all. Rose was direct in his answer by saying “My approach at the plate is to look for a fastball and hit the baseball hard.” Pete Rose was the Wee Willie Keller of his era; “he hit them where they ain’t!”

 

Not many baseball fans realize that Pete Rose was a switch hitter. He was a career .293 hitter batting right handed and a career .307 hitter batting left handed. In other words, Pete Rose could hit the baseball in every way possible. Pete explained how he practiced his switch hitting by saying “My tips for switch hitters are that lefty batters need to hit of off right handed pitchers. Right handed batters need to hit of off lefty pitchers. You can’t just practice on side of… Continue reading

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