Dwight Smith Watch: A Slow Start

If you didn’t read my post from a month ago, I’ve been keeping an eye on Toronto Blue Jays prospect Dwight Smith Jr. after pulling his autograph in a pack of baseball cards.

Unfortunately, Dwight hasn’t done much to make those hastily scribbled initials worth big bucks during his first couple months of professional ball, as he has struggled throughout the 2012 season with the Blue Jays’s Rookie League Affiliate, the Bluefield Blue Jays.

His stat line hasn’t been that impressive, as he is hitting just .226/.316/.393 in 21 games with three home runs and 11 RBI’s. After a paltry month of June where he hit .219, he has looked slightly better in July, hitting .231. Those numbers would be better, but after last night’s game, he is now in a 1-for-17 slump.

He also, for whatever reason, cannot hit at home, where he has posted a ridiculously low average of .160 as compared to .254 on the road. He also hasn’t excelled in situations where he can knock in runs, hitting just .190 with RISP.

There is no need to panic however, as young Dwight is just 19 years old playing against some competition that is older. It will be interesting to monitor his progress through the rest of the season, to see if he can begin 2013 at a higher level in the minors.

Field Trippin’: Arthur W. Perdue Stadium

As I was going through my camera today, I noticed that I had pictures from a visit me and my family had made during our vacation to Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.

Located in Salisbury, Md., it is the home of the Class-A affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles, the Delmarva Shorebirds. They play in the South Atlantic League, or Sally League for short. It is the launching pad of many Major League careers as is the first stop for many draft picks in their journey to the MLB.

There is nothing quite like going to a minor league baseball game, as it is the game in its purest form. No flashy bells-and-whistles, big corporate influence, and there is just something about seeing big leaguers before they make it to The Show.

Unfortunately, the 2012 season is a bit of a down one for the Delmarva Shorebirds as they just don’t have the highly touted prospects as they have in past years. It has shown attendance wise, as the 5,200 seat stadium had roughly 1,000 patrons despite a beautiful night for baseball.

One thing I also noticed about attending a game here is quite different than other minor league games I’ve attended, as there isn’t really much in the side-show department as compared to other teams. No zany promotions or events between innings, which made the already stale atmosphere seem more so. Part of the fun of going to a minor league game is seeing a ridiculous ice cream eating contest or Dizzy Bat race. The only real quirky gem of the park was a merry-go-round located down the left field line that was a hit with kids in attendance.

While some of the minor league fun was missing from the ballpark, I have to say that Perdue Stadium was a very nice stadium. $5 General Admission tickets for most of the ballpark was a steal, and the ballpark itself was clean and rather large. The staff was also a joy, as you could really tell they enjoyed working there and talking baseball with the fans. Nothing ruins the experience more for me than a cranky staff around a stadium, so kudos to the Shorebirds on that.

As with any minor league stadium, there were great ads that covered the fences.

The ballpark wasn’t located in the Salisbury, but about 10 minutes outside of the city on Route 50. It made for a pretty drab surrounding neighborhood as only trees and a four-lane highway were around the ballpark.

There was also plenty of history lessons throughout the ballpark, including a free Marlyland Baseball Museum, and these banners that were around the main concourse that honored former Shorebirds that made it to the major leagues.

As with any place, there was a Pittsburgh Pirates connection.

Their mascot, Sherman, was constantly roving the ballpark and interacting with fans.

The Shorebirds dropped another game to the rival Hagerstown Suns and saw their record drop to 20 games below .500. I certainly hope they can turn it around for the organization’s sake, as they do many things the right way.

All in all, I’d have to rank Perdue Stadium around the middle of the pack as far as minor league stadiums go. You get a good experience for the price, and if you are in need of a baseball fix while staying at a resort along the Maryland or Deleware coast, it is a great option. However, if you are looking for a true minor league baseball atmosphere, you may want to look elsewhere.

Book Review: Don’t Put Me In Coach by Mark Titus

I’ll start off this review by saying I’m not particularly fond of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I attend OHIO University, something that the folks in Columbus fail to realize when jacking our name to root for OSU, but that is an argument for another day.

However, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by former Ohio State basketball player Mark Titus’s book “Don’t Put Me In Coach”, as it was easily one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.

If you haven’t heard of Titus, it may be due to the fact he was a four-year walk on during his time with the Buckeyes and scored only nine points in his career. But Titus happened to be attending during one of the most successful eras of OSU basketball, beginning with the Greg Oden-led squad in 2006-2007 that made it all the way to the National Championship and concluding with Evan Turner’s outstanding 2009-2010 campaign that saw the team go on another deep run in the postseason.

The true goodness of this book doesn’t come from the story of the Buckeyes, but rather from the storytelling by Titus. He is the incredibly quick-witted college kid that I and many others wish we could be. I constantly found myself laughing aloud at his one-liners and his stories full of over-exaggeration.

Titus’s story of himself, is actually quite incredible. He was picked up by the AAU team that featured future NBA players such as Greg Oden and Daequan Cook after having a hot shooting day against the team. He was slated to receive a scholarship to play basketball on scholarship on Harvard until he was suspended for a high school game that the coaches from the school attended. Then, through the help of Oden and Cook, got a spot as a manager for the Buckeyes basketball team, which Titus turned into a spot on the practice squad and then to full-time walk on status. He began a blog called “Club Trillion” during his college days which catapulted him into cult internet hero status, and landed him a gig writing for Grantland after his college career was over.

Ohio Bobcat fans will appreciate the anecdotes that feature former basketball head coach John Groce (he was an assistant at OSU at the time) and current Bobcat guard Walter Offut (whose misfortunes with Titus in an elevator during a road trip was easily the funniest part of the book.)

If you are a Buckeye fan and haven’t picked up this book already, I have no idea what you are waiting for. As for the rest of the nation, there is plenty of laughs to be had, as Titus shows just how fun sports and our lives can be when we don’t take them so seriously.

Ohio Bobcats Crashing the BCS? Keep Dreaming

“Bobcat Nation” was fired up when this article proclaiming the Ohio football team as the second most likely mid-major to crash the BCS was released on Yahoo!

It seems to be an exciting proposition, but Ohio fans shouldn’t get there hopes up. It won’t happen in a million years.

Yes, the team has a stellar quarterback in Tyler Tettleton, and returns more starters than any team in the MAC, but there are still many forces that will keep it from happening.

Back in spring ball, head coach Frank Solich was constantly disappointed by the play of the wide receiver unit, which is struggling to find their footing after losing Lavon Brazill and Riley Dunlop. There is lots of talent currently with that squad, however they aren’t quite polished yet which should test the offense, especially early in the season. Ohio’s defense is also searching for an answer after losing Noah Keller following the 2011 season.

Ohio’s only game against a team from a BCS conference comes during Week 1 against Penn State, which couldn’t come at a worse time. It will be a challenge for the Bobcats to come out strong against a very talented team with so many unknowns as the season begins. Move this game to later in the season, and I’d be much more confident in Ohio’s chance to pull the upset.

Even if Ohio finds a way to beat Penn State, the rest of the schedule is so lackluster that a 12-0 season would barely register on the computers. College football guru Phil Steele has Ohio’s schedule for 2012 ranked as the easiest in all of the FCS. Until Ohio beefs up the non-conference portion of their schedule (which is easier said than done) they will never get a shot at the BCS.

Ohio football is looking at yet another great team in 2012. They will be the favorites to win the MAC, and another 10-win season including a bowl win is very possible.

But when it comes to the chances that Ohio will crash the BCS, Bobcat fans need to keep dreaming.

Summer Reading: “Wherever I Wind Up” by R.A. Dickey

The past week I took a good, old-fashioned vacation with my family to Ocean City, Maryland. While there I got some much-needed sun, lost my phone in the Atlantic Ocean, and finally got the chance to do some reading for pleasure, a hobby of mine that has gone by the wayside since starting college.

The first book I decided to tackle was R.A. Dickey’s autobiography, “Wherever I Wind Up.”

The first thing you realize while reading this is that Dickey is a very intelligent man, far from your typical jock in the sports world. He was an English Literature major at Tennessee, which clearly shows in his smooth telling of his stories. It comes off as if he is talking directly with you rather than writing.

Dickey is the definition of a baseball journeyman. After he was selected in the first round of the MLB Draft in 1996 by the Texas Rangers, his career almost never got off of the ground when a post-draft physical showed that his elbow was missing an ulnary collateral ligament. Rather than take a risk on him, the Rangers took off more than $800,000 worth of bonus money from his deal but still signed him.

The book then dives into Dickey’s next 14 years of toiling in the minor league ranks and bouncing from organization to organization, as refused to give up his dream of becoming a regular major league pitcher. He turns to the knuckleball in 2006, and his relentless working with the pitch turns out to be a career-saving move. It culminates with his 2011 season, in which he finally gets his shot with the New York Mets, in which he puts together a solid season, his first full one in the majors at the age of 36.

The book goes far beyond baseball, however, which is why it is such a great read.

Dickey’s story about his career alone is incredible, but the book also goes into his struggle with coming to terms with his past in order to move forward with his life. His rough road early in life includes being born into a broken home and being raped by a babysitter at just eight years old. Dickey talks about the struggle of dealing with these problems, and how trying to hide away from them as an adult almost cost him his marriage and even his own life.

In what he calls his “search for authenticity” in life, he comes to terms with his past demons and coincidentally finds happiness and baseball success once doing so. He goes into detail about his Christian faith and the role it played in his life, but it doesn’t come over as preachy.

I can’t recommend this book enough for a variety of reasons. First, it comes off as a great self-help book for anyone that has had doubts about themselves at any point. While we may not have suffered the atrocities that Dickey has in his life, his struggles of  continuing to believe in himself while reaching dead end after dead end is something everyone has experienced. Also, given the situation at Penn State, the book provides perspective as to what the victims of sexual abuse go through, and how it isn’t easy to just be forward about it.

I finished the book in no time and was glad I picked it up. Dickey is having an incredible 2012 season despite being 37 years old and was just named to the All-Star Game for the first time in his career. I highly suggest you jump on the R.A. Dickey bandwagon, and a great start is picking up this book.