Sunday, January 31, 2010

Through The Eyes Of...The Hitting Coach, Jack Perconte

The following is part of a weekly series I will be doing called "Through the Eyes Of....". In each segment, I will share interviews with or stories about those that I view to be the "Good Guys". I envision "Through the Eyes of..." as a part of my personal crusade to present baseball in all it's beauty, splendor, and goodness, instead of through hashing and rehashing all that is broken with our National treasure.

One such man on the All-Good Guy roster is former major league second baseman and current hitting guru, Jack Perconte. Perconte enjoyed a seven-year major league career from 1980-86, playing for the Dodgers, Indians, Mariners and White Sox.

The diminutive, left-handed hitter had a .270 lifetime average. His most productive seasons were with Seattle in 1984 and 1985, when he hit a combined .281 and stole 60 bases in 68 attempts.

Perconte was a 16th round pick by the Dodgers in the 1976 amateur draft. According to Mike Scioscia, manager of the Anaheim Angels and Perconte's former teammate on the Dodgers, "he had average physical talent but had an incredible ability to learn from experience and incorporate changes into his game to make himself better."

Since his retirement from the majors, Perconte has given over 60,000 lessons to help players of all ages reach their full potential at the Perconte Sports Academy in Naperville, IL.

He is the author of two books, "The Making of A Hitter-A Proven and Practical Step-By-Step Baseball Guide" and "Raising an Athlete-How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport" (I will be reviewing each in an upcoming segment).

Perconte was gracious enough to share his thoughts with me on hitting, coaching, leadership, and his love for the game of baseball. I hope you enjoy Jack's experience, insight, and his sense of humor as much as I did.

Civ: I read on Seamheads that you taught your readers how to hit Mark Buerhle, can
you recap?

Jack: Having watched his perfect game, I wanted to give fans an idea of how hard it is to hit major league pitchingbecause it looks easy watching on TV. I especially wanted to point out how Mark is a real “pitcher” and not just a thrower who tries to overpower hitters. He is a great example for young ballplayers who like to pitch. Sorry, you have to read the article for my advice.

Civ: It's no secret that you are a fan of hitting. Are you for or against the designated

Forbecause I enjoy watching one extra great player per teambut I would
like the same rules for both leagues, whatever they eventually decide on.

Civ: You hit two home runs both in 1985 with Seattle. Were you tested that season?

When you are an average player like I was, every game is a test and challenge to stay in the big leagues.

Civ: You played in 1984 and 1985 with Gorman Thomas, who was known to launch some long home runs. How far do you think Thomas could hit a ball if he juiced?

Jack: Would be fun to see, although I don’t advocate it and wish we never had to deal
with the issue.

Civ: In the '85 season you also stole 31 bases with the Mariners. Are you the only player you know who was a member of the 2/31 club?

Jack: As far as I know, but that was better than being a member of the 0/31 club
that I was the previous season.

Civ: You played briefly on the '80 Dodgers with Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and
Cey. How cool was that?

Jack: It was bittersweet. They were fun to be around to learn from, but no fun to be stuck behind (in Triple A) for a few years. Also sweet, because they gave me a World Series ring by winning the 1981 championship, which I was also a small part of.

Civ: Who was the toughest pitcher you faced, and conversely, was there any pitcher
that you dominated?

Jack: Jack Morris was consistently the best I faced. He was always toughsome guys were tough on a given day, but the next time they were not nearly so tough. Being a slap-hitting singles hitter, dominated and I were not in the same park, but I believe there was one pitcher in Little League that I “owned.”

Civ: Do you keep in touch with any of your old teammates?

Jack: Most of my best friends in the game were guys I came up with in the Dodger minor leagues, and those are the guys I have stayed in touch with. The ones people
would know that are easy to stay in touch with are coaches for the LA AngelsMike Scioscia, Ron Roenicke, Mickey Hatcher and Bobby Mitchell.

Civ: You played with Mike Hargrove. Do you keep in touch with him?

Jack: No, but I was honored to have played with him and had the utmost respect for him for the player and person he was.

Civ: Since your playing days, salaries have skyrocketed. If you had to do it all over
again would you like to play now or when you did?

Jack: Play now because that would be cool to still be playing at 54 years old. Joking asideit would be better for me then because I'm not sure I would be big enough physically to make it with the size of players today.

Civ: What was it like playing in the Kingdome?

Jack: In my opinion, baseball should be played outdoors, but I actually enjoyed it. Playing on turf helped me as a fielder because of the true hops. I did not have
major league caliber hands as an infielder, so the turf helped.

Civ: I really love to eat. What team had the best food spread in those days?

Jack: With my careeranything in the major leaguesgood, anything in the minor
leaguesbad. It had nothing to do with what was served.

What player were you most awestruck by at meeting?

Jack: Sandy Koufax

Any teammates in the Hall?

Jack: Carlton Fisk, Steve Carlton, Don Sutton are a few that come to mind and one that should be inBert Blyleven.

Civ: You have your own blogs that tie in with your books, is that correct?

Jack: Yes, one is called Hitting Tips - Baseball Swing Advice with Jack Perconte, and it offers hitting tips for players of every level, from t-ball to professional. The other is Positive Parenting in Sports – Raising an Athlete. It shares parenting advice when raising an athlete.

Civ: During my high school career, I probably hit .083 over four years. Could your
book even help me hit?

Jack: I’m sure it would. My book, The Making of a Hitter, is mainly for parents and
coaches of baseball players so they not only learn the correct fundamentals to
teach, but just as important, to give them methods on “how to teach” hitting in a
fun, practical way.

One of my favorite sayings as a coach is that “no one who is willing to work at it, is beyond hope, except Todd Civin.” (Civ: Very funny, Jack) Forget that last part. You would be amazed with how kids want to work at hitting and how their mental game (confidence) improves when they learn the correct fundamentals.

Civ: I'm left-handed in everything I do, except swinging a bat. The reason I bat righty is because everyone in my neighborhood did. I've always felt that I see better left-handed. Is there any credence to that? Does a hitter see better from one side of the plate than the other?

Jack: Are you trying to make an excuse for hitting .083? You hit the nail on the headplayers should hit from the side they see the ball best fromhitting begins with seeing the ball. A swing can be developed, but vision issues are tougher to overcome.

Civ: You had 11 sacrifice bunts in '85...Why can't today's MLB players bunt? Can a manager force them to learn?

Jack: Some managers can’t even get some players to look down for the bunt sign, let alone have them bunt. It is unfortunate, and I am not accusing mangers of not doing their job with that previous statement. In this regard, maybe the money has changed the game. Many major leaguers do not know how to bunt, and I assume they don’t put their mind to improving that part of their game.

I am not one of those ex-players who believe everything was better back in the day, but in regards to bunting, the general fundamentals today are not as good as they once were. I wrote an article recently on Seamheads that addressed the bunting issue and how major league bunters should learn how to do it from little league players.

Civ: What made you decide to write your leadership book?

Jack: There were so many concerns that parents of athletes would state to me over my years of instructing baseball and softball that I thought I could contribute some concrete solutions to their concerns. And the ironic thing was that when I looked at their concerns as an outside observer, I realized that often they (parents) were creating the problem.

So I thought I would address the issues that come up in a family’s sports life with the idea of helping parents so that kids can have the athletic experiences they deserve. So I combined all of my playing, coaching, and parenting experiences to write "Raising an Athlete – How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills, and Inspire a Love of Sport."

Civ: Do you coach your own children, and how do they take to you as a coach?

Jack: They seemed to respect me, but that is another reason I wrote Raising an Athlete. I had the experiences of working with my own kids. Obviously, by raising three sports-minded kids, I learned a lot about working with young players and
especially about the struggles involved with working with one’s own kids. I was such a great hitting coach that my one son became a pitcher, currently playing in the Cubs organization. Ha, ha.

Civ: And lastly, how would you like to be remembered in life?

Jack: Loving father, husband, and son.

Both Jack Perconte and Todd Civin are supporters of "A Glove of Their Own," the award winning children's story that is capturing the heart of the nation by teaching sharing through baseball. Please visit and purchase under today's donor code GSB133 Good Sports Boston.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

In the Wake of the Setting of the Sol, McGee Says, "It's All Good"

In the wake of a rather gray day in the brief history of the WPS, following yesterday's announcement of the league's decision to discontinue operation of the Los Angeles Sol, Atlanta Beat General Manager Shawn McGee was quick to remind fans of the WPS a few very important lessons.

Lessons like "When you fall down you need to brush yourself off and get back up," and "Every problem has a soft spot,"and everyone's favorite, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" resonated from McGee's message during a phone interview this afternoon.

Following several weeks of negotiations with a potential new ownership group fell through yesterday, following former owner AEG decision to give back it's ownership stake to the league,Women’s Professional Soccer made the decision to discontinue operations of the Los Angeles Sol.

The rights to the 19 players currently held by the Sol will be dispersed during a special draft for the league’s eight franchises on Thursday, February 4.

"We have so many great things going on with our league, explained McGee, who is busy preparing the Beat for their maiden season in year two of the WPS. "It makes sense that if we couldn't find an investor for the team, that the league not have to support that team over time and use up resources. So now, what you really have is eight stronger teams."

"They'll be stronger on the field, because LA had a lot of good players that will be dispersed to those teams and then obviously there are other teams that investor a lot of money and they'll be able to focus on their teams rather than to worry about having another team to support."

McGee said that the league had hopes of finding a new ownership group to purchase the LA-based team but that with the beginning of the season looming just over the horizon, the league felt it was necessary to suspend operations.

"There were rumblings and we knew that Tonya and the league were working on finding investors. There was certainly a ray of hope that the league could get something done, but the fact of the matter is the league just ran out of time. We have to get the upcoming season rolling and because of that it was just one of those things they had to set a deadline and move forward."

McGee was quick to point out, however, that the City of Angels may not have seen the last of a WPS entry.

"For this season we've moved on. LA is, of course, a great city and an important city to the United States and the sport of soccer, so I think in the future you'll probably see a team there."

So at a time when McGee would normally be thinking of finalizing his roster and signing that last player or two, he's busy preparing for the February 4th Dispersal Draft.

With players like Marta, Shannon Boxx, Karina LeBlanc and Aya Miyana amongst the available players and with Atlanta in possession of the No. 1 pick in the draft, it may seem as easy as adding a few more top quality players to the roster, but as McGee explains there is a lot of additional thought that has to go into this impromptu event.

"We've been told that at this point everything stays the same," he explained. "You must stay within the salary cap and you must also stick with the number of international spots. We're going along with that message and putting our team together based on that information."

"League rules are you can have rights to six International players, of which five can be on your roster. So we've signed four of the five that we can have on our roster and we're in talks to determine who the fifth person will be."

He adds that like any of the drafts that the team has participated in, including the Expansion draft, the International draft and the college draft, that preparation and home work are the keys to success.

"There are a lot of moving parts and you obviously have a lot of league rules to go by, you have to consider salary cap and International roster spots. You really have to have your ducks in a row and our coach, Gareth O'Sullivan, he's brilliant at this stuff. He does his home work and will be well prepared for the draft."

"Anything can happen, you know, not saying that there will be but there could be a player trade or a pick trade in the draft. It's just like a regular draft so a lot of strategy goes in behind it."

McGee also added that though yesterday was a difficult day for all of the players and fans involved as well as for the league, that with strong communication and the ability to put the event into it's proper perspective that there is indeed a silver lining to come out of the event.

"What's the old saying? Good press, bad press, just don't spell my name wrong. Reality is it was a sad day that LA had to suspend operations, but it is what it is and that's part of sports."

He added, "You look at other leagues and there's attrition and expansion all the time. You look at MLS back in 2000 and they had to contract. They got rid of the two teams in Florida and the fact of the matter is, though there was some press on that it actually ended up making the league stronger as a whole and sent the league on to their second generation of maturity and it really made them a stronger league because of that."

"We've been communicating with the players. They know this is a business and know that they must perform every day on the field to maintain their spot, whether they're a starter or a player on the field, so obviously this takes away some spots because there are 22 fewer spots in the league, but you're going to have a stronger line-up."

"We're already the best league in the world, so this just makes it even better."

Before continuing with his draft preparation, McGee was eager to share some good news about the Beat and their new 8,300 seat stadium that is being built in Kennesaw, GA.

The stadium, which will cost nearly $16.5 million to construct is a partnership between the Beat and Kennesaw State University. It will be home to both the Beat and the KSU Owls women’s soccer program and will be the only women’s soccer-specific stadium of its kind in the world.

"Stadium looks great," shined McGee. "Fitz Johnson, our owner, was just out there yesterday and he was down on the field. We haven't laid the turf yet, but he just came in all giddy this morning because it's really coming together.

"We're over 50 percent done with the stadium. All the plumbing and the electrical and all the foundation and our suite level is done and the concessions and the dressing rooms are getting done. It's really coming together."

"Choate, who is the construction company for the project and also Rosetti, is the architect who actually did Real Salt Lake Stadium, both of those groups have just done an outstanding job. And then KSU, our partner has just been unbelievable."

"They're working really, really hard. They were laying concrete at 3:00 AM last week on Thursday night and Friday morning and they work weekends and nights all the time. They're just doing an outstanding job."

McGee concluded with his thoughts on how the team is shaping up in their first season in the WPS. The Beat and the Philadelphia Independence are the two expansion teams to be joining the six remaining teams in the WPS.

"We talk all the time. Fitz uses the phrase called "Best in the World". This league is already the best in the world and we want to be the best team in the best league in the world and we want to be considered the best organization."

"Everything we're doing is pointing to that. We're still a young organization. We're going to make mistakes, but I think we've done a good job and part of that means winning championships, so we're working hard daily on making that happen."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Getting Silly With A Lady Longhorn; Boston Breakers' Kasey Moore

The following is part of a weekly series in which writer,Todd Civin, presents the lighter side of the Boston Breakers of Women's Professional Soccer (WPS).

The league is built based on the down-to-earth nature and approachability of its athletes. "Getting Silly with the Breakers" is an fun-filled way to create a comfortable bond between the fans and the professional athletes who are the Boston Breakers.

A special thanks to Erica Hunt, the communications director for the team, as well as the players themselves for making this approach possible.

Born in Riverside, CA and raised in Mission Viejo, Kasey Moore has probably spent more than her share of time in one of three places: the beach, the mall or a traffic jam.

Then what would motivate a girl from the valley to decide to pack her beach-ball and surfboard and take her game to the University of Texas to play for the Longhorns?

Cowboys? Chewing tobacco? Tumbleweed?

Spurs? Mechanical bull riding? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.

They say you can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl and if the same holds true for a Valley Girl, one can assume that Kasey Moore looked like a fish out of water walking down Main Street in University Texas.

As you can see from the interview for this week's segment of Getting Silly with The Breakers, Moore apparently settled in just fine and even got herself a pair of cowboy boots before shipping off to Boston.

Check her out in the video below sporting her bright orange Longhorn T-shirt opposite her bright orange curly hair. No one says "Hook 'em" like the Breaker's defender, Kasey Moore.

Now y'all come back now, ya hear?

Todd Civin: You went to college at University of Texas....can I assume you watched the National Championship game against Alabama?

Kasey Moore: I had the date marked on my calendar since football season started knowing we were going to make it there and I was lucky enough to actually be at the game on. I am from Southern California, but my family was having a hard time finding tickets. We found some tickets for my parents and I to go a few days before the game and decided to go for it and get them!

Needless to say it was a tough loss, but that game may have been one of the best games I've ever been to! Hook 'Em!

TC: Who was more popular on campus the Men's football team or the Women's Soccer team?

KM: As much as I would like to say women's soccer, I don't think any sport is even close to being as popular as the football team. I have had some of them in my classes and lets put it this way... no one is coming up to the women's soccer players in the middle of class and asking for their autographs!!!

TC: What was the biggest transition going from CA to TX to Boston?

KM: Being from Southern California, I am a beach bum and moving to Texas was a little different because there were not too many beaches.... OK, actually no beaches close to me.

I finally got used to Texas and even bought my first pair of cowboy boots and then moved to Boston. Boston was unlike any city I've ever lived in and I love it. Between living in Orange County, CA, Austin, TX and Boston, I am just loving life.

TC: You were a three time All-American from University of Texas, more than Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, Vince Young and Cedrick Benson. How does that make you feel?

KM: Wow! I had never heard that stat before. I see Earl Campbell around campus all the time when I am in Austin and that man is a legend. To even be mentioned in the same sentence as him is amazing. All those guys have done such great things for UT and are just larger than life!

TC: Which would you rather eat from your favorite restaurant, the Renaissance, Dana Point? Would it be the Terragon Chicken or the New York Sirloin?

KM: Renassiance is amazing! My grandpa has owned the building since I was a little kid and have been going there forever, but I would actually have to go with their Black and Bleu steak. Hands down without a doubt one of my favorite meals!

TC: You will forever go down as the second pick in the history of the Boston Breakers of The WPS, how did that make you feel?

KM: It was just such an honor. I didn't really know what to expect on draft day and for them to pick me as their second pick was just an amazing feeling!

TC: Is your hair naturally curly? Is it humanly possible to straighten it?

KM: Yes my hair is naturally this curly and if someone has four hours and would like to straighten my hair for me, give me a call because there is no way I have the patience to do it myself!

TC: You scored three goals in the 2003 Snickers National Championship game. Did they give you a life time supply of candy bars?

KM: I wish! If they did gave a lifetime supply of candy bars I probably would have ended up Biggest Loser or something by now.

TC: Who is a crazier teammate, Nobis or Latham?

KM: Latham hands down. That girl can have me rolling on the floor laughing in like point two seconds and gotta love that she is from the BIG 12.

TC: How did you feel when Jon and Kate divorced?

KM: It broke my heart. Those kids are so cute I can't handle it. If I could adopt Aiden, the little one with the glasses, I would do it in a second. I watched the show just because the kids were so cute.

TC: Favorite sports movie of all times?

KM: Bull Durham, without a doubt. I could watch that movie over and over again and it never gets old. Crash Davis may be my all time favorite sports character ever!

TC: What was it like for you playing next to the MedImmune Defensive Player of the Year, Amy Lepeilbet?

KM: It was great. Amy is one of the nicest people I have ever met and then she gets on the field and you are like "Whoa this is hands down one of the best defenders I have ever seen". I was so happy when she won the award because she works so hard day in and day out and deserved to be recognized for it!

TC: Who were you playing with the first time you said to yourself "Holy Cow, I'm playing with...."?

KM: Kristine Lily. I remember being one of those annoying, screaming little girls at the 1999 Women's World Cup final game against China and now to be playing with her just blows my mind. I was cleaning out my room in California over the break and I found some stuff signed by Lil and just started laughing. Things have definitely come full circle.

TC: And just to prove there's still some valley left in you, you graduated from Capestrano HS. Have you seen the Capestrano Cougar tackling the Diablo Mascot on youtube? Do you approve?

KM: I totally approve!!! That is actually one of the things I remember most from high school. One of my best friends, Matt Ankeny, who was this basketball player and over 6 feet tall was the cougar and he got suspended from school for like a week for doing that. He had no idea, but there was actually a girl inside the Diablo costume and people were not too happy with him after that. The students loved it, but the faculty was not too pleased.

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now, and Seamheads. He also shares his top stories on his blog The 'xoxo' of Sports. He is a supporter of Team Hoyt, the Father/son marathon and triathlon team of Dick and Rick Hoyt. He encourages you to support their movement of "Yes, I Can" by visiting their website at

Getting Silly With The Breakers' Funny Girl Jenny Nobis

The following is part of a weekly series in which writer Todd Civin presents the lighter side of the Boston Breakers of the WPS.

The league prides itself in the down-to-earth nature and approachability of its athletes, and Civin believes that "Getting Silly with the Breakers" is an fun-filled way to create a comfortable bond between the fans and the professional athletes who are the Boston Breakers.

A special thanks to Erica Hunt, the communications director for the team, as well as the players themselves for making this approach possible.

In last season's series called "Meet The Breakers", I described Jennifer Nobis as "a person who marches to the beat of a different drummer."

Though I hadn't met her at that point, it was clear from Nobis' Boston Breaker bio, that she tends to walk slightly out of step. A free spirit. A non-conformist.

This season's series "Getting Silly," has allowed me to get up close and personal with the Breakers and has afforded me the opportunity to see these professional athletes with their hair down and slightly tangled. After getting to know Nobis a bit better through this Question and Answer format, I now describe her a wee bit differently than I did before.

As you will see from her Saturday Night Live-like wit, I now aptly describe the pride of Quincy, Ill. as being a few fries short of a Happy Meal. A few crumpets short of a proper tea. A few beers short of a six pack.

In truth, Nobis's sense of humor and quick wit, must make her an absolute joy to have as a teammate. Aside from the fact that she netted two goals last season, Nobis is sure to keep things light during those times when any team starts to press too hard.

And though, she may indeed march to slightly different music than many, I am happy to say that I am right out of step with her. I hope you enjoy this week's segment of Getting Silly as much as I did, creating it.

Civ: Rumor has it that you are the funniest player on the team, is this truth or legend?

Jennifer: I wouldn't say I'm the funniest player on the team, but I am by far the most random.

Civ: You played in Sweden, which is not a very big country. Did you ever see Tiger Wood's wife, Elin, while you were there?

Jennifer: No, because I was too busy looking for my stove that my apartment never had!

Civ: And I'm going to assume you have never met Tiger, correct?

Jennifer: Correct. Everyone would know if I met Tiger Woods.

Civ: Can you say anything for us in Swedish?

Jennifer: Mitt forsta ar i sverige kande hag mig utanfor sa jag blonderade haret for att se ut som en svensk.....Blond och bla ogd! My first year in sweden I felt left out so I dyed my hair blonde to look like a Swede. Blonde haired and blue eyed! haha

Civ: I know you are very much into oral hygiene, did this inhibit you from eating Swedish Fish while you played there?

Jennifer: Funny thing is, they don't have Swedish fish! But, there chocolate is to die for!!

Civ: And about your teeth, how often do you floss? Have you considered becoming a sponsor for a tooth paste company? Do you use the rubber tip on your gums?

Jennifer: I use to brush and floss five times a day, until I got in trouble with my dentist. So now I floss once a day and brush three times. Sooooo- putting it out there. My goal is to be sponsored by a dental product and maybe one day be in a commercial. I have had this dream since I was five.

Civ: You have stated you would like to attend dental school after you retire from soccer, how do you feel about dentists asking questions while they are working in the patient's mouth and will you do this?

Jennifer: I will definitely do this. But, I love to talk and talk and talk and talk. So this is the best job for me because I can talk all day long and they can just listen! We both win!

Civ: In your youtube interview you say that you like to hang out with other athletes, can you tell us who you hang out with on the Boston scene?

Jennifer: I can't mention any names, but I have gotten to meet some of the football, basketball and soccer players within the Boston scene! But, what I have enjoyed doing is meeting lots of new faces in the Boston area!

Civ: You also state that doing your nails and straightening your hair are two of your pre-game rituals ... do any of your opponents ever comment on how nice you look?

Jennifer: No one has ever commented on how nice I look. But, feel free to do so if you want. A lot of fans have noticed my nails and love seeing what nail design comes next. And I am thinking about purchasing Barbie's new nail machine, so maybe next year my nails will be even more glamorous!

Civ: You scored twice for the Breakers this season, how awesome was that?

Jennifer: The feeling was amazing and shocking at the same time. Now I know I can score against great players and I plan on scoring more this season!

Civ: Your bio states you want to have your own radio talk show. Will you do all the talk or will you allow guests to speak as well?

Jennifer: Well, first I would like to have someone write the show for me. Obviously, I would do most of the talking. But, who would want to hear me talk all day? I would love to have guests on my show who are famous but, also people that I have met along the way of making my dream come true. You never know who has funny stories!

Civ: I saw your youtube show, Boston Breakers Breakdown where you did an interview with a British accent, will you use that on your show?

Jennifer: Like I said if I write the show, it will be random and you never know from day to day what will be said or how it will be said! It is a possibility!

Civ: On your WPS bio it states you if you "What are three things you never travel without?" You reply your underwear, your cell phone and your tooth brush....What if you could only bring two items? One?

Jennifer: If I could bring two, it would be my cell phone and toothbrush. One? TOOTHBRUSH, of course.

Civ: Your bio also states, If you had a dinner party, who are the four people you would invite (can be living or dead)? You answered God, Beyonce, Lil Wayne, Benjamin Franklin. What would you serve that that quartet would all enjoy?

Jennifer: I would cook them Fried Rabbit or Squirrel with Mashed potatoes and corn on the cob! My families favorite.

Civ: You're a twin with your brother, Tyler. Is he envious that you are more famous than he is?

Jennifer: Tyler and Tommy (my other brother) have claimed they taught me everything I know, so without there help I wouldn't be where I am today! And no matter how famous I ever get, they can still beat me up!

Civ: You say you love to shop for shoes. How many pair do you own?

Jennifer: 25-plus

Civ: Your three favorite athletes are Drobga, LeBron and Tiger...Still?

Jennifer: Ha, ha. Yes, still. I believe nobody is perfect and people deserve a second chance.

Civ: And amongst your three favorite cities is Phucket, Thailand. Have you ever been there and what do you like most about Phucket?

Jennifer: I have never been there. But, everyone in Sweden vacations there and I have heard so much about it!

Civ: Did you hit any Brazilian restaurants with Fabiana and her host, Becca?

Jennifer: They took me to Midwest Grill and, of course, I ate more than them and they are Brazilian!

Civ: You majored in General Studies in college. What did you hope to do with this and who is your favorite general?

Jennifer: Hahaha! General Lee! There is not much I can do with my general studies degree, except go back to school. So, dental school here I come.

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report , Sports, Then and Now , and Seamheads . His top stories can be found on his personal blog entitled "The 'xoxo' of Sports." He is a supporter of A Glove of Their Own , the award-winning children’s story that teaches paying it forward through baseball.

Though Grilli's Moved On, His Heart Remains with Rocky Mountain Deaf School

Cleveland Indian's pitcher Jason Grilli has a career record of 18-18 with a 4.74 ERA. Good enough by all standards to make him one of the top middle relievers in the game, but the Hall of Fame is not yet calling. According to the record book that really counts, however, Grilli is a winner of the Cy Young Award, MVP and slated for induction into Life's Hall of Fame.

After chatting with Grilli, it is clear that he is one of the good guys. Soft spoken, humble, and committed to helping those less fortunate than himself are attributes that don't show up on the scoreboard. He is a man who thinks about family, friends and those less fortunate than himself long before he is concerned about his wins, losses or earned run average.

For those who are keeping score at home, Grilli is throwing a perfect game.

Grilli became involved several years ago with the Rockie Mountain Deaf School (Charter School) shortly after he was traded to the Rockies. Even though he has since been traded to the Texas Rangers and now signed with the Indians, he has become a regular fixture at the school to this day.

"I really wanted to do something for the community because that's the type of person I try to be," explained Grilli speaking from his Florida home. "My sister was a sign language interpreter, so when I got the letter from the school, I figured things happen for a reason."

The letter Grilli refers to was part of a fund raising campaign sent to him by Kay Bohan, who's son Troy is a student at the school. When the school was forced to move for the fifth time in 11 years Bohan started the "Sign's of Summer" event to raise money for a permanent building.

"I sent out letters along with sports memorabilia to over 1000 athletes across the country. My hope was to get them to autograph the items so we could auction it off at our first event. I got back about 600 items, which was great," explained Bohan.

"But I only got one phone call from an athlete asking how else he could help. And that was from Jason."

Bohan explained that when Grilli got the letter he was so touched that he called his dad, Steve, who was also a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays from 1975-79. Then he called his wife and his sister and read them the letter as well.

"I knew I had to help," explained Grilli. "I called Kay and told her that signing autographs is the easy part. What else can I do to help?"

The two started talking about communication and how challenging it is for the deaf to
communicate. At that point "a light went off" and Grilli told Kay about the Globallinx Video Phone, which he brings on the road so he can see his family when he calls them.

"I bring it so I can see my family and they can see me during times away from home", explained Grilli. "So I sent Kay and Troy a video phone to see if it helped him communicate."

Grilli has since donated several to the school to help the other 55 deaf students who attend. The 5 Linx company that manufactures the phones also gave away two video phones at the Signs of Summer fundraising event, as well as, paid for a one-year phone bill subscription for each one. Grilli became a company rep for 5 Linx and continues to market the phone through his Perfect Pitch Marketing company and his Wildpitchmarketing blog.

"Meeting Troy for the first time, made me melt," explained Grilli. "These kids have such special needs. I have a son of my own and I would hope that someone helped him if he had the need. I just love them."

Grilli went on to explain, "I hope you understand. I don't do this so Jason Grilli get's a gold star next to his name. I do it because it's the right thing to do."

Bohan, who described herself as "just a mom" is not employed by the school, but simply a very involved fundraiser.

"The school really lacks funding as the state cut our budget by over $134,000.", explains Bohan. "The school is funded strictly by state funding and private donations and this fundraiser really helps out."

Grilli is also involved with the award winning book "A Glove of Their Own", the children's baseball book which has captured the hearts of the nation.

"Both Jason and I are good friends with Bob Salomon (a team member that created "A Glove of Their Own" and the book's promoter). Through sales of the book purchased from the A Glove of Their Own website using the Rocky Mountain Deaf School donor code, Salomon and Grilli donate $3.00 from each sale to the school.

Before hanging up the phone with Bohan and Grilli, I asked her if his involvement has lessened since he moved away from the Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Deaf School.

She laughed, "He's as committed to the cause as I am. He's on a mission and he and Troy are friends for life."

Rocky Mountain Deaf School is founded on the belief that deaf children can and should succeed. The driving force behind the school is a theme of excellence in research-based academic programs In this intellectually stimulating environment, communication is totally accessible throughout the day from every person in the child’s environment. Each student’s potential is maximized as teachers continue to instill in each child the joy of living and learning.

To learn more about GlobaLinx, Perfect Pitchmarketing and the new New GlobaLinx CU-3000 WIRELESS phone, visit Jason Grilli's website at

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, Now Appearing in the Center Ring...

As many of you already know, I write differently than a lot of people. Not better. Just different.

I write sports and love the X's and O's, but I love to write about life's events; the stories that make the legends. I guess it's my niche.

The pages are like an artist's easel. We start with a blank canvas and create our journalistic masterpieces. Sometimes about sports, sometimes about ourselves.

My wife frequently reminds me that sports writing is my hobby and that chasing that elusive next job should be of greater concern. And it is. But writing is what gives me life. Writing is what gives me the confidence and courage to chase the next pay check.

Writing allows me to get up each morning, get dressed, and build my confidence before trying to sell myself to the Five and Dime known as employment.

We are in the midst of financial confusion in the world today. I was laid off in November and have done everything possible to keep my head held high. I try to keep my spirits from getting stomped on daily by the reality of the situation. My friends consider me one of the lucky ones because they have to go to work, while I can play with my dog.

I smile every day despite not having a place to go. I suspect my friends think that unemployment isn't bothering me. My friends are wrong. They don't know how green their grass looks to me, how intimidating that Help Wanted section or can be.

And so, in writing, I find solace. I find peace and tranquility. I have fans. I have friends that I've never met. Friends who tell me I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread. (Frankly, I like to tear mine off the loaf in chunks as opposed to slicing it).

But as writers, we have fears, too. Am I any good? Will they like me? What if I don't get any reads? Should I delete it or let it stay on my profile?

Metaphorically, we are sort of like the guy on the tight rope, balancing himself along the overhead wire of life. And no, this story isn't about sporting events per se, even though the World High Wire Championships are held every May. This story is about walking the high wire we refer to as Life.

And so...I present to you...The Tight Rope Writer.

Where nearly half a day earlier laid the desolate sun-scorched field, now stands a towering circus tent. Through the dark of night, erected pole by pole, rope by rope, draped with canvas the size of a football field, stands the once bright but now faded shroud of the Big Top.

The wind of the early fall morning races across the surface of the crisp brown grass, only to be blockaded by the tattered red and white tapestry that will soon house center ring. It is far too early to inhale the familiar odor of hot, buttered popcorn.

It is hours before the clown smears on his first fistful of white disguise. The ring master has yet to bellow his forever famous, "Laaaadies and Gennnntlemen," yet the excitement of the circus has the small Midwestern town bursting with anticipation.

In the middle of the center ring stands a slight man, clad in faded gold tights, covered with the glimmer and shine of a thousand sparkling sequins. He slowly walks towards the towering pole at the side of the ring and pauses for what seems like an eternity.

His left arm rises slowly as he grasps the first rung of the ladder, which appears to travel to the heavens. Seconds pass before another muscle flexes in his slightly quivering arm.

The circus calliope plays tunes in the background as he reaches for the next rung. A deep breath, a nod of the head, and his right arm reaches skyward. His white knuckles leave a trail of perspiration on each rung.

The slight man finally reaches the small platform atop the mountainous pole and begins to weep. He recalls a day when he ascended the same, brightly painted pole with the confidence of a matador preparing to wage war with an on-rushing bull. His every breath was heightened by the joy he felt upon hearing the thunderous applause as the ring master bellowed, "The one...the only...the magnificent...."

Now quickly snapped back from his day dream, his hand trembles as he reaches for his pole. The pole that had always supplied his life balance. Only days before, his pole had betrayed him as he tip-toed halfway across the steel wire, barely one-inch wide, bouncing high above the straining necks of the crowd below. Step behind step, he deftly made his way across the cord overhead.

Then, suddenly, as if someone had kicked his feet out from under him, he faltered. The wide-eyed children shrieked as he tumbled, tumbled, bounced into the tightly woven safety net below. Their parents, who had been transformed into an equally wide-eyed bunch, "oohed" and "aahed" as he bounced down..up...down, finally nestling into the web that had rescued him from doom. The crowd exploded into a deafening ovation.

He, however, laid silently, the sole person under the inflated Big Top, who knew that his descent to earth had been a stumble and not part of his meticulously choreographed routine.

Over the side of the net bounced his balance pole, as if forever deserting him. Onto the sawdust-covered floor tumbled his pole, his courage, his confidence.

Now...he finds himself snapped back to reality, inching toward the edge of his perch like he's returning to the scene of the crime. Frame by frame, he sees himself tumble toward the earth, much like a film editor carefully examines each clip of his upcoming feature film.

He tightly squeezes his pole, face quivers, his heart quickens, and his Adam's apple bounces as he swallows hard. He suddenly takes a step backward, his grip loosens, and he heaves the pole from the platform. It does not even bounce, but slips through a space in the net and punctures his confidence which has been swept into a pile below the net. He slowly descends the ladder, leaving a trail of fear on each rung. He reaches the dusty ground and walks away, his head hanging low.....

....At a desk in a dimly lit room, sits a man. Before him rests three sheets of paper, one flat and pressed, two crumbled into balls of frustration. On the floor below lies a trail of previously aborted attempts at literary success.

He grasps his pen, knuckles white, heartbeat heightened. He slides to the edge of his seat and gazes at the blank sheet below. He attempts to write of the tight rope walker at the small mid-western circus. A bead of sweat forms on his brow and drops slowly from his forehead. It flips in mid air and stains his "Center Ring."

He recalls a day when words seemed to flow from mind to hand with the swiftness of a flood-swelled river. These days, however, the flow is that of a stream in the midst of a midsummer drought.

His hand trembles as pen approaches paper. His face quivers, his heart quickens, and his Adam's apple bounces as he swallows hard. He suddenly pushes himself from his desk and heaves his pen like a javelin toward the slightly opened door.

The pen lands at the feet of a young boy, who picks it up and hands it to the now-weeping man. "Here, Daddy," says the wide-eyed young boy. "You dropped this."

The man smiles, dries his tears, and takes the pen from the hand of the small child. He hugs him, takes a deep breath, and begins to write feverishly on the page below.

Life back in perfect order.

"Laaadies and Gentleman," he writes. "Now appearing on the dangerous high wire directly overhead...the one, the only...The Magnificent."

The slight man is now accompanied by a small boy, identically clad in sparkling tights. The boy hands him his balance and smiles. He smiles and waves wildly toward the wide-eyed crowd below.

Latin Youth Baseball Helps Rochester's Youth Fly With The 'Aguilas'

The definition of a true hero is not a guy who leaps tall buildings in a single bound but more realistically a person who heaps the world's problems upon his or her broad shoulders without regard for their own personal health or well-being. A person who sees a situation and devises a solution, rather than to turn their backs and complain.

By definition that would qualify Frank Guzman as, more than just a baseball coach, but as a mentor, a leader and yes, a bona fide hero in the eyes of everyone who knows him. When assisting those in a state of crisis from his security position with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Guzman has turned his passion for baseball into a rescue for many of Rochester, New York's Latin population.

In 2005, Guzman, founded The Latin Youth Baseball Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit, to offer the Latin community of Rochester and it's surrounding communities a positive opportunity as a replacement to the negative alternatives, which often find their way into the lives of inner-city youth.

In an era where many find it easier to simply ignore the unpleasant, Guzman witnessed the rising incidents of delinquent behavior and gang violence that is prominent in our cities today and saw it as an opportunity to make a lasting impression on Rochesters' youth.

Rochester, which was named the sixth most livable in the United States in 2007, has a population of approximately 220,000 inhabitants, with nearly 14,000 being classified as Hispanic.

"I wanted to create a program for the kids of Rochester to have a positive experience
through baseball and to collect all the tools that will help them in the future," explains Guzman. "My goal is not just to teach them baseball, but to captivate the kids. To bring them into baseball. Maybe get in their heads a bit."

I try to encourage these kids to get their high school diplomas or their GED. To instill values in them. This is what coaches did for me back in Little League and what I hope to give back to the kids today."

Guzman, 42, was born in Puerto Rico before moving to Bronx, NY. When he was in his mid-teens he and his family moved to Perth Amboy, NJ, before relocating to Rochester in 1996.

"My family was very important to me growing up. The values that I teach to children today are the same values that were taught to me growing up. Values that my parents instilled in me every single day of my life and unfortunately the same values that are often missing in kids who get involved in drugs and gang violence."

"I saw the need in the Latin community to give kids more than just an opportunity to play baseball. Through the sport, we are able to teach the children about self-esteem and discipline and about trust and teamwork. These are the values that are going to turn them into positive adults."

The league, which was created for children of all ethnicity's from ages four to eighteen, kicked off in 2006 with a spring season followed by a popular wood bat tournament called Carnaval Relampago (Lightning Carnival). Carnaval has been held each September since and allows participants from all over New York state to enter teams to participate in tournament style play, as well as, a Home Run Derby, base-running and throwing competitions and a Coaches Home Run Derby. Authentic Spanish food is served at every game.

Though league play lasted for only the 2006 season, Carnaval has continued each of the past four seasons and has evolved into one of the elite wood bat tournaments in the game today.The 2010 event will be for players ages four to eighteen as always but this year will include a 19-20 year old division.

This season Guzman is bringing back league play for children four to eighteen, which will also include softball for those girls ages seven to fourteen who don't choose to play baseball.

I asked Guzman what would be the first thing a fan would notice while watching the games in LYB. Perhaps this was the most impressive response which makes one immediately realize the type of organization that Guzman has created.

"Our field conditions are as close to major league as possible. The grounds are
perfectly manicured. All umpires, coaches and players are in uniform and the uniforms must be clean and crisp. We provide a clean and organized facility with constant supervision of the games and surrounding areas."

"And their is no smoking. If a parent wants to smoke or behave in a manner that is inappropriate, they will be asked to leave the premises."

Equally impressive was the criteria that Guzman uses to select the Most Valuable Player from the Carnaval Relampago.

"We select the MVP as the player with the best attitude. He or she needs to be a player who plays well, but more importantly a kid who has a great attitude and exhibits teamwork throughout the tournament. That is what is meant by MVP."

Guzman is always looking for sponsors and is appreciative of those organizations that contribute their time or resources to LYB. Aquafina Water will be holding the 2010 Pitch, Hit and Run Competition hosted by LYB. This event allows youth to compete totally free of charge. One winner will be selected to participate in the PHR Finals at the Major League All-Star. Guzman is hoping to drum up sponsorship from a major national sponsor like Goya Foods.

He is also eager to gain support from any of Major League Baseball's Latin players who could provide financially or sponsor an awards dinner or simply to come up to talk to the kids in the league.

Pitch in For Baseball (PIFB), will be providing equipment and uniforms to the league this year. Angela Marcantonini, the program director for PIFB, has worked with several Latin American communities in the States and around the world through Pitch In For Baseball, and recently has spent a lot of time working with the Puerto Rico baseball community. She met Guzman and joined the LYB group via Facebook.

"We began chatting and the more I talked to him and the more I heard about what he had done with LYB, the more impressed I was," explained Marcantonini. "Frank and I had similar views on how playing baseball can teach leadership skills and promote a positive attitude."

Marcantonini continued, "It is not just about putting a ball or bat or glove in a childs hand, but how we can use that ball or bat or glove to teach a child the skills to make better choices in life through the game of baseball. Our mission at Pitch In For Baseball fit together very well with the LYB mission."

"We will be assisting LYB with baseball equipment and uniforms," added Marcantonini, who has connected with several of her baseball contacts in the States and in Puerto Rico to help Guzman's mission. "I thought his message was something that should get out. We need more people like Frank to step up to the plate and make a difference. I look forward to working with Frank in the future to help him spread baseball to the Latin American communities of Rochester, and then to other parts of the country!"

Diego Ortiz, age 20, began playing for Guzman when he was 15. Ortiz, currently a criminal justice major at Monroe Community College, told me that Guzman "always shows the players that he cares."

"That is something that is often missing in a kids life. I know quite a few kids that would have ended up in gangs or doing drugs if it wasn't for Latin Youth Baseball."

The highlight of Ortiz' LYB career was winning the championship in the 16-19 year old division with his team, Los Aguila's or Eagles. I suspect with Guzman's help, Ortiz and his teammates have learned to soar amongst them.

About Latin Youth Baseball

Latin Youth Baseball Foundation was founded in 2005, by Frank Guzman. The foundation is an independent foundation focused on the youth of Rochester, New York. The mission of LYB is to serve the inner-city youth with positive experiences through their participation in the sport of baseball. These positive experiences will promote personal, athletic, and academic/vocational growth.

About Pitch in For Baseball

Founded in 2005 by Executive Director David Rhode, Pitch In For Baseball (PIFB) is the central organization for the collection and redistribution of new and gently used youth baseball and softball equipment to under-served communities both in the U.S. and around the world. PIFB has distributed equipment and uniforms to more than 65 countries worldwide and more than 250 communities around the United States impacting over 75,000 children in need.

Based outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania PIFB is 501 c 3 not for profit organization. For more information, visit or contact Executive Director, David Rhode at

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Coach Tony Talks Breakers' Draft

With last week's 2010 Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) Draft fading away into the rear-view mirror, I checked in with Boston Breakers ' chief cook and bottle washer, Tony DiCicco, to get his views on how things fell into place for his team.

DiCicco, the head coach and Director of Soccer for the Breakers, connected with me from California where he and the other coaches are performing duties with the US National Team.

The Breakers were in possession of the second and eleventh picks in the draft, following last September's trade with the expansion Philadelphia Independence. In that swap, the Breakers sent last year's No. 1 selection, Amy Rodriguez, and the No. 5 pick to the Independence in exchange for their two first round picks.

DiCicco, like most of the coaches, had a game plan going into the draft and hoped to find those players on his wish list available when it was the Breakers turn to select.

"We have a pretty good idea of who we want going in," he explained. "But it's no secret out there who the top players are. They're known by all of the teams."

Following the No. 1 selection of Tobin Heath, by the expansion Atlanta Beat, DiCicco selected UCLA and US National Team forward, Lauren Cheney, with the second pick in the draft. Cheney is a player that DiCicco is very excited about adding to his current roster.

"We needed a center-forward, back to the goal, good passer, goal scorer so she was my first choice in the draft," explained DiCicco, who coached the U.S. U-20 Women's national team to victory in the U-20 World Cup in Chile in 2008. "And I think she is getting better. She's worked herself into a starting position with the US National team."

I asked DiCicco who he would have selected if he had the first pick in the draft again this year.

"That would have made my decision a little more difficult," he explained. "But I still think I would have taken Cheney."

Following the selection of Cheney, DiCicco had his sites set on two players from his U-20 Women's National Team, Nikki Marshall and Kiersten Dallstream. Unfortunately, Marshall was selected with the seventh pick in the draft by the Washington Freedom and Dallstream with the No. 9 pick by the Los Angeles Sol.

"I had Nikki wasn't going to be there. Kiersten was a little bit of a surprise. I had spoken to her the night before and told her we were going to try to get her with eleven, but she went at number nine. The coaches obviously did their homework."

With the Breakers' second pick of the first round and number 11 overall, DiCicco selected goal keeper, Alyssa Naeher. Naeher, the first of seven keepers selected in the draft helped lead Penn State to their 12th straight Big Ten Championship. She and coach DiCicco have some history together though as she's played the past two years under his guise with Soccer Plus Connecticut.

"We thought Alyssa may go to FC Gold with the No. 10 pick. We were fortunate that she didn't go there and we grabbed her at eleven. We may have waited until the 16th pick to take her if Marshall or Dallstream were still around."

DiCicco explained the two time outs that he and his draft team chose to take during the draft, timeouts that surprised many of the draft's onlookers.

"You're trying to get it right. Everyone has pluses and minuses and we felt it was better to take our time and get things right."

I asked DiCicco if he thought he had found a sleeper in the draft, someone who went lower than he expected, but who he has high hopes for.

"I'm hoping a bunch of them are like that. Gina DiMartino (selected with the last pick of the sixth round and 56 overall) went lower than I thought she would. So we are hoping that she's one."

DiMartino, who's sister Tina will be playing for the Los Angeles Sol this season, is another one of DiCicco's selections who previously played for him on the U-20 National Team. Her younger sister, Vicki, was her teammate at Boston College and is currently a defender for the U-20 National team.

DiCicco reminded me that no matter how well prepare he and his staff were for the draft, it is still an in-exact science.

"Here's the bottom line, Todd. Last year there were three players who weren't drafted that ended up starting for us. It's very similar to Brady (Tom of the NFL Patriots) being drafted in the sixth round. The NFL has data on every player and films on every player, they've seen every player. No one does it better than the NFL and here you have Brady going in the sixth round."

Unlike the NFL, however, where the General Manager is the big deal at the draft, DiCicco explained that it is he and his coaching staff who handle the draft day decisions for the Breakers.

"I'm Director of Soccer Operations for the Breakers, while Andy (Crossley) handles all the business side. As far as the players go, I handle that and, frankly, I wouldn't want it any other way."

Overall, DiCicco felt a bit more at ease at this years draft than he did at last year's event and felt that things went much more smoothly because of it.

"Last year, I had just gotten back in December from the U-20 World Cup and I felt somewhat behind. This year I felt a lot more confident regarding who was out there. A lot of the players had come in with my U-20's at one point or another. They may not have made the final team, but I was familiar with them."

Where last year's draft was used to fill the Breakers roster, DiCicco feels that this year's selection will provide some depth for the 2010 squad. Despite the losses of Angela Hucles (retirement), Heather Mitts (free agent to Philadelphia), Kelly Schmedes, and Sue Weber (expansion draft to Philadelphia) and Stacy Bishop (free agent to Atlanta), DiCicco is excited about his returning squad.

Off-season additions of Leslie Osborne and Tiffany Weimer, who both played for FC Gold Pride last season, are expected to join veterans Kelli Smith, Kristine Lilly, Christine Latham, Jennifer Nobis, Kasey Moore, Maggy Tomecka, Amy LePeilbet, and Allison Lipsher on the 2010 version of the Breakers.

Free Agent Fabiana is also expected to resign with the team after solving some paper work challenges with the Brazilian government.

Overall, DiCicco is eager to get started and see if he has made the right choices to lead the Breakers to the playoffs.

Todd Civin is the Community Leader for the WPS and writes for the Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now and Seamheads. His top features can be found on his blog, The "xoxo" of Sports.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Zephyrs' McCoy Waxes About Baseball's Road to the Show

"Some of these guys are going to make it. Most won't. But they all share a dream and passion for the game of baseball. Nobody tells their compelling stories of hard work, determination and sense of tradition better than the players themselves."

That sums up the story of "The Road to the Show" the much awaited project of co-creator and producer, Larry Richards. "The Road to the Show" tells the real life stories of players as they fight their way through baseball's minor leagues in hopes of getting their day in the sun as full-fledged Major Leaguers.

Richards, a graduate of Syracuse University, has been working on the "original baseball docuality" for better than two years and continues to work tirelessly to get it into the hands of those who will make his personal baseball dream a reality, as well.

As Richard's states on the show's web-site, "Somewhere in the minor leagues is the next legend".

Richards recently released the following video and accompanying email to the media while sharing his interview with Gary McCoy, the strength and conditioning coach for the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Triple A affiliate of the Florida Marlins.

In the video, McCoy shares his views on life in the "bushes" as well as his thoughts on Richards' project. And to steal a quote from Jimmy Scott of Jimmy Scott's High and Tight, "Plus, Gary McCoy has a funny accent."

From the desk of Larry Richards...

"On a chilly January evening in Orlando, I interviewed New Orleans Zephyrs (AAA, Florida Marlins) 1B and Strength & Conditioning Coach, Gary McCoy.

Gary gives an extremely well-spoken, educated and insightful look into the world of the minor leagues. Among the topics we cover: what the lives of the players and coaches are like, what his job entails, the sacrifices that are made and yes, why a show like ours, "Minor League: The Road to the Show", can work - not only for the fans, but for the teams as well.

During our 45 minute interview, Gary said so many terrific things that I had a very difficult time trying to edit down the footage - so the final piece is a bit long but definitely worth it.

For those who love baseball and who want to hear some terrific first hand experiences and good, positive stories about minor league baseball - as well as those watching this to get a better sense of what our show will illustrate in terms of quality and depth of story-telling - on behalf of Road to the Show Productions and Cream Cheese Films, I invite you to watch this video in its entirety. It was a 'down n' dirty' shoot and edit - nothing fancy - just the facts but the facts are pretty cool.

Please feel to contact us with any comments, suggestions or if you'd like more information about "Minor League: The Road to the Show."

Enjoy and thank you for watching!

Sincerely yours,
Larry Richards
Co-Creator and Producer, "Minor League: The Road to the Show",

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now and Seamheads, as well as, posting his best of on his new blog The xoxo of Sports. He is a supporter ofd the award winning children's story, A Glove of Their Own, which teaches pay it forward through baseball.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Baseball Rubbing Mud: Road to the Hall Is Paved with Good Inventions

I suspect that when Lena Blackburne glanced down at his statistics, he came to the gut-wrenching conclusion that his numbers just might not be Hall-worthy. After all, with a .214 lifetime average, four home runs, and 139 career RBI over a 19-year span, the Hall of Fame simply wasn't knocking down his door.

Not blessed with the God-given talent of his White Sox teammates, including Hall of Famer Eddie Collins, Blackburne resorted to some good ol' fashioned Yankee ingenuity and simply took what the earth gave him to pave his way into Cooperstown.

A place where Lena Blackburne's Baseball Rubbing Mud resides today.

As baseball lore tells it, our story begins in 1938, when an umpire was "chewing the fat" with Blackburne after a game. He complained to Blackburne, then third base coach of the Philadelphia Athletics, about the deplorable condition of the baseballs used by the American League.

In those days balls were prepped with mud made from water and dirt from the playing field or using the players' tobacco juice spit. This is, in fact, how the tradition began of passing the ball around the infield after a strikeout.

When using the infield mix of mud or tobacco spit, the ball's cover became too soft and opened the door for tampering. Baseball needed a compound that would preserve the shine on the ball but wouldn't soften the hide.

Blackburne returned to his home in Burlington County, NJ and waded through the mud along tributaries of the Delaware River. He came upon some thick gray muck that possessed a texture that he felt would work.

He took a bucketful to the Athletics' field house and rubbed up a few balls, and it worked like magic. The mud was odorless and didn't turn the balls black, much to the delight of the umpires and the players.

From there, Lena Blackburne and his Rubbing Mud were one step closer to Cooperstown.

To this day, Major League Baseball rule 3.01c states that before a ball is put in play, an umpire must rub down the required number of balls to minimize the gloss of newness. This ensures that it's not too slippery and won't glare in the bright summer sun.

Though the rule doesn't specifically state what is used to rub down the balls, every team uses Lena Blackburne's rubbing mud.

Upon his death, Blackburne's business, along with the secret of the mud's source, was passed on to John Haas, who had worked with Blackburne on his mud-finding junkets. Haas later turned over the enterprise to his son-in-law, Burns Bintliff. Burns in turn passed it on to son, Jim, and his family.

Though the location of the mud hole in South Jersey remains a secret still today, Jim Bintliff and his wife, Joanne, supply the mud to the Major Leagues and nearly every other league across the country.

"I come from a family of nine," explained Bintliff, who operates a printing press when not harvesting mud. "I knew the business would be passed to one of us, but I didn't know I'd be the guy."

Bintliff began harvesting mud with his Grandfather when he was only nine years old.

"In those days, we'd harvest once a year in the fall, and we'd spend about a half a day harvesting. Now we do five or six smaller trips."

These days, Bintliff gets up early and takes his truck to his secret mud hole under the dark of the New Jersey dawn, equipped with eight to 10 five-gallon buckets, and harvests the mud much like a farmer harvests a crop.

He sells about 1,500 pounds of mud a year in eight, 16, and 32-ounce containers and makes about $20,000 a year selling to all major and minor league teams and many college and youth organizations.

"We used to go to trade shows but found out that most of the people there were already our customers."

His website also carries his own line of "Got Mud" t-shirts and polo shirts, as well as a handful of other baseball t-shirt designs.

To date, no one has been able to manufacture a better product than Lena Blackburne Rubbing Mud, though Bintliff shares a story about Rawlings' attempt to manufacture mud.

"They tried to duplicate it and actually sold mud for several years. It didn't take off, I guess, so they stopped."

"Rawlings has a traveling caravan that goes around today, showing how to make a baseball," he adds. "The final step shows how to rub a baseball. Makes me proud that they use my mud and not theirs."

I asked him if his wife makes him wipe his feet when he returns from a trip to the river. He laughed and said, "No, but she makes me hose myself off in the garage."

Now is that any way to treat the owner of a baseball monopoly, the president of Lena Blackburne's "Hall of Fame" Rubbing Mud? TC

Todd Civin is a freelance writer for Bleacher Report and Seamheads. He can be reached at for comment or hire. He is also a supporter of A Glove of Their Own, the award-winning children's story that is capturing the heart of the nation by teaching sharing through baseball.

AGOTO has recently been adopted by Dick Drago, Luis Tiant, Phil Niekro, Ed Herrmann, and The Joe Niekro Foundation as part of their fundraising campaigns. Visit and purchase the book using today's donor code LTF223, The Luis Tiant Foundation.