Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SMALLS TALK: You Play Right Field?

Whenever someone asks me what position I play, I always try to gauge their Baseball IQ before issuing a response. If the person seems to have a grasp on the game - or better yet, some playing experience at a competitive level - it's a no-brainer: "Right Field."

But if the inquirer strikes me as the type of fan who's surprised to discover baseball spikes are actually metal - or someone who would pronounce the first name of Chone Figgins as it is spelled - well, that's when it gets tricky. When fielding the question from this lesser-informed type of baseball fan, my reply becomes decidedly more vague: "Outfield."

The second response is less specific, but it's no lie. Whether you're a corner guy or a center fielder, outfielders are often times labeled by the all-encompassing 'OF' tag.

But while I've played hundreds of games at all three outfield positions, during the last few seasons, I've found myself in Right Field night after night. It's become my everyday spot, and the definite answer to which position I play - so why not just say so? 

Monday, March 28, 2011

MLU's HAT OF THE WEEK: Fort Wayne TinCaps

This logo makes me laugh. An apple wearing a kitchen pot on its head - or is it a pan? Either way - only in Minor League Baseball.

The MiLB team in Fort Wayne, Indiana went from the "Wizards" to the "TinCaps" in 2008, and I must say, I'm a fan of the name change. As whimsical and fun as the idea of a wizard may be, it leaves a little something to be desired as a mascot. Instead of thinking magic and Merlin, I think Gilbert Arenas - or even worse, MJ version 3.0. The word has lost its magic - not to mention, the whole Harry Potter craze has made wizardry more mainstream than Justin Beiber. I'm just thankful they didn't become the Fort Wayne 'Vampires'.

The upgraded name brought a new and improved look along with it. The new logo is both simple and unique, while evoking a certain Dennis the Menace type innocence. Throw this trouble-making apple on a nice green hat, and the fans in Fort Wayne have got themselves a nice new lid to wear to the ball park.

The TinCaps. Who comes up with this stuff?

*The Fort Wayne TinCaps are a single-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres.

In case you missed it, check out SMALLS TALK: Minor League Hats Are the Way to Go

Previous Hats of the Week
Texas Longhorns
Auburn Doubledays
Houston Astros
Lancaster Jethawks
Anaheim Angels
Charlotte Stone Crabs
Superbowl Special (Pittsburgh Pirates & Milwaukee Brewers)
Lehigh Valley Ironpigs
Chattanooga Lookouts
Corpus Christi Hooks
Montgomery Biscuits

Thursday, March 24, 2011

MiLB LIFE: "The Manager Wants to See You"

"The manager wants to see you." These words mark the beginning of the end.

The second this sentence is aimed at you, you're a dead man - and everyone knows it. As you make your way toward the manager's office, you creep closer to the end of your baseball career with each step.

The phrase casts a hush over the clubhouse. For that moment, everyone feels vulnerable. You could be a first-rounder in the middle of an all-star season, but in that instant, you can't help but fear you will be next.

Regardless of your relationship with the player in question, you feel awful. He may be your direct competition for a starting job or a promotion - his release may ultimately translate into more opportunities for you - but for the moment, that's not important. This is a kid who has spent his whole life playing baseball, just like everyone in that clubhouse - and today, the game he loves is being taken away from him.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SMALLS TALK: It's Not Always Sunny in Arizona

After almost two weeks of perfect baseball weather, the Arizona skies finally showed their mortality today. Dark clouds, violent winds, heavy rain- all that was missing was a dog named Toto. The result? A much needed day off. But it wasn't a guarantee. Nope, we had to sweat this one out.

After looking at the forecast last night, we all walked into the clubhouse this morning prepared for a rain-out. Kids who had visitors in town told them not to bother coming to the field; other guys were looking up early matinee movie times, and some even looked as though they hadn't even bothered fully waking up- perhaps prepared to go back to bed immediately after notice of a wash out. We were ready for the rain-out. Mother Nature, on the other hand, was not.

We sat around the locker room in our street clothes waiting for rain that just would not come. After a good half hour, we looked around at each other with uncertainty- the time had finally come for us to get ready to head out to the field. We all tentatively threw on our uniforms, most of us wearing long sleeves for the first time since arriving. This was just a formality, we thought. The second we go outside, it's gonna start pouring. It's almost funny that we're even bothering to put our uniforms on. It was so dark and windy, all signs pointed to torrential downpour. No way would we play baseball today. Right?

MLU's HAT OF THE WEEK: Texas Longhorns

Hat of the Week has finally made its way into the college ranks, and Austin, Texas is the perfect place to start.

Despite winning six national championships and launching a small army of ballplayers into the Big Leagues, it's the Texas Longhorns' uniforms that have baseball fans intrigued.

No other school in the country has been able to completely monopolize a color like the 'Horns have done with Burnt Orange. The color is crisp, and has become synonymous with both the school and the state- not to mention it can really pack a punch when mixed with one of the most recognizable logos in all of sports.

Athough the team is usually seen sporting its trademark white hat with the Capital 'T' emblem, their all-orange cap partnered with the classic Longhorn logo gets the edge in my book.

Ladies and gentlemen, MLU's first NCAA selection for Hat of the Week. Congratulations to Bevo- what a pioneer!

Previous Hats of the Week
Auburn Doubledays
Houston Astros
Lancaster Jethawks
Anaheim Angels
Charlotte Stone Crabs
Superbowl Special (Pittsburgh Pirates & Milwaukee Brewers)
Lehigh Valley Ironpigs
Chattanooga Lookouts
Corpus Christi Hooks
Montgomery Biscuits

Friday, March 18, 2011


It's just sitting there. It's stationary atop the tee, just waiting to be clobbered. It's not moving 95 MPH. It's not curving, cutting, tailing, or dropping. The baseball is just there - helpless.

When you think of professional baseball players hitting off of a tee it's almost laughable. These guys are some of the best hitters in the world, and they're performing an activity that has 6-year olds everywhere smirking with confidence.

As I stand over the tee about to take my hack, I can't help but think of Happy Gilmore practicing his short game at the Putt Putt Mini-Golf Course: "This is embarrassing, I'm a professional golfer for God's sake." Amen.

The ball isn't even moving - where's the challenge?

Turns out, it's not that simple. Go into any college or professional hitting facility and you will find between one and three tees for every batting cage. It's an essential item - a mainstay in any hitting routine. Regardless of your talent level, there's always something to work on - you can never outgrow the tee. Even Big Leaguers are fans of the seemingly elementary tool - Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. was rumored to take over 200 swings off a tee everyday during his lengthy career.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MiLB LIFE: First Day of Spring Training [Part Two]

After an early wake-up, an extensive physical, and a hearty breakfast, it's time to do what we all traveled thousands of miles to do- play some ball.

8:30 AM - Cages Open
After hanging around the clubhouse, catching up with forgotten faces, and digesting my heaping pile of eggs, it's finally time to swing a bat. I head outside amongst a crowd of clones- all outfitted with the same new gear head to toe, bat in hand- as we make our way to the cages for "optional" early work.

Once outside, we are greeted by a row of eight batting cages, all set up to serve a different purpose. For the next half hour we work out the off-season kinks in our swings through tee work, flips, and soft toss- elementary cage drills focused on perfecting your bat's path to the ball.

There's some definite rust on the old swing, but for the moment I'm just thrilled to be outside. Baseball is a game that rewards repetitive practice, so although I may not feel great right now, I have no doubt everything will start clicking again soon after consecutive days of countless swings and hard work.

I look at this half hour as a chance to simply get back into baseball mode, put the bat on the ball a little bit, and really just get excited about the start of Spring Training. After months of swinging indoors, this Arizona sun is feeling mighty nice. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

MLU's HAT OF THE WEEK: Auburn Doubledays

I have not exactly been subtle about my appreciation for red hats. They're my favorite. They stand out without being too obnoxious, and in my opinion, the loud color evokes a certain air of confidence. Partner it with a solid logo and you've got yourself a pretty sharp lid, my friend.

That's what we have here with the Auburn Doubledays. This is a hat that could only be found in the Minor League ranks. While Big League emblems appear more simple and professional, the Minors have a little more fun with their logos. And what better way to pay tribute to the alleged creator of our favorite sport than by throwing a ball cap and an oversized mustache onto a Capital 'A'?

This one's for Abner!

*The Auburn Doubledays are a single-A short-season affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

In case you missed it, check out SMALLS TALK: Minor League Hats Are the Way to Go

Previous Hats of the Week
Houston Astros
Lancaster Jethawks
Anaheim Angels
Charlotte Stone Crabs
Superbowl Special (Pittsburgh Pirates & Milwaukee Brewers)
Lehigh Valley Ironpigs
Chattanooga Lookouts
Corpus Christi Hooks
Montgomery Biscuits

Friday, March 11, 2011

MiLB LIFE: First Day of Spring Training [Part One]

After six months of waiting, the day had finally come.

I arrived at the Arizona hotel at 9:00 PM on Tuesday night experiencing a rare combination of exhaustion and excitement. I had spent the bulk of my day in airports, planes, and shuttles and had finally reached my much anticipated destination.

I lugged my bags upstairs and was eager to do nothing more than immediately test the sleepability of my hotel bed. But as desperate as I was to get some rest, I was even more anxious to awake from that slumber and begin the opening stages of my season. Spring Training was just a night's sleep away- actually, it was even closer than I expected.


I found this team-issued memo sitting on my night stand, accompanied by the aforementioned "cup," of course. Day one was coming, and it was gonna be a long one.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

MiLB LIFE: Packing for Spring Training

Joltin' Joe was known to pack a mean suitcase.

I hate packing. Hate it. To me, the whole process is far more strenuous than it should be. It ought to be simple, right? Bats, gloves, cleats, clothes- what else is there?

It’s that last question that drives me crazy. After more travel experiences than I can remember, I have never departed with a clear mind, focused solely on the excitement of the trip ahead. There is always that irritating worry in the back of my mind that I forgot something. Something essential, no doubt.

Then there’s the laundry list of questions that contribute to the anxiety of the packing experience. How many bags can I bring? Do I have a bag that can fit a bat inside of it? What about seven bats? What’s the weather going to be like? What do I want to wear for the next six months? It’s a draining process- it’s no wonder I always leave it for the last second.

Last year, I grossly over-packed. I went through every possible scenario that could have occurred during the summer months, and made sure to pack the appropriate attire. Whether it was poker with the boys or a last second invitation to an 80’s theme party, chances are I was equally prepared wardrobe-wise.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

SMALLS TALK: Helmet for Pitchers?

(Read Full Article)
Say it ain't so, Baseball! A helmet for pitchers? This cannot happen. Nope, no way. I'll fight it for as long as I live.

Come to think of it, that's probably how traditionalists reacted when the first face mask was worn by a catcher, or when hitters started wearing helmets at the plate. Imagine if those changes didn't happen? It'd sure be a lot easier to tell if a guy was a catcher in his playing days, walking down the street looking like the UFC career record-holder for losses.

But still, it can't happen. I know there have been several scary incidents over the past few years, but the truth is, those injuries are freak accidents. Sure, they're a possibility on every single pitch of any game, but by no means do they happen regularly.

The pitcher is a fielder. As insensative as it may sound, he's responsible for fielding his position just like any other player behind him. Yes, he has less reaction time, and his delivery may put him in a vulnerable position, but once the ball is thrown, he is simply one of nine guys playing defense.

Monday, March 7, 2011

SMALLS TALK: Approaching Spring Training

(This article was written for my friends at

One more day. After months of being asked when I would head to Spring Training, I had developed a signature response: "Not til early March." The expression was in the holster at all times, cocked and loaded, ready to be fired back at anyone who asked the popular question.

I said it so many times that the phrase had lost all meaning. It was a concept that always seemed so distant and irrelevant at the moment. Although I was training on a daily basis, I had grown accustomed to my off-season life- baseball was on the back burner.

But today, as I began cleaning out my apartment and saying goodbye to friends, it hit me. It had quickly become "Early March," and I was a mere twenty-four hours away from the beginning stages of the 2011 season. Baseball was near. One more day.

With that realization, my mind naturally began to wander: Am I ready? Did I do enough during the off-season? What level will I start at? What team will my friends start on?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

MLU's HAT OF THE WEEK: Houston Astros

In a world where orange hats are really hit or miss, this classic Astros lid would qualify as a hit. It's loud color is offset by the simplicity of the logo, and even though I don't own one article of orange clothing, I can't help but think I would look pretty sharp sporting this timeless cap- who wouldn't?

I gotta give it to the Astros- in the 9 week history of MLU's Hat of the Week, they've been associated with one-third of the lids featured. They've got some style down there in Houston- although, don't look for their current Big League hat to be our Sunday feature anytime soon.

Why do so many teams ditch such classic looks? 

*In case you missed it, check out MiLB LIFE: Wasted Hat Collection

Previous Hats of the Week
Lancaster Jethawks
Anaheim Angels
Charlotte Stone Crabs
Superbowl Special (Pittsburgh Pirates & Milwaukee Brewers)
Lehigh Valley Ironpigs
Chattanooga Lookouts
Corpus Christi Hooks
Montgomery Biscuits

Thursday, March 3, 2011

TOP 5: Things I Won't Miss About My Local Gym

I love going to my home gym. I work out when I'm ready, do the exercises that I pick, and the music blasting in my ears? That's my music. I always get a better workout at home, and it's even more fun now that my roommate has become my lifting partner.

We've been on a great routine, mixing up our exercises and growing noticeably stronger along the way.

I even love the overload of testosterone filling the local gym. Every guy in there appears to hate you. Why? Because you're another guy at the gym, that's all. It's like Animal Planet. The second you go near someone, or even a machine they're using, you're a threat- they need to mark their territory.

Everyone walks around pissed off- judging, criticizing, evaluating. It's as if they're all competing to be the gym's "Top Dog" - it's pretty entertaining, actually.

While this setting may be uncomfortable for some, I find myself feeding off of it. I love the fact that I'm on display- that I'm being sized up by an audience during every rep. It pushes me- makes me work harder. I test my limits when I'm under the microscope- come to think of it, I ought to thank my gym's resident muscle-heads for such a productive off-season.

There are plenty of things I will NOT miss about the local gym, however. Here are my Top 5.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

SMALLS TALK: Getting New Equipment

There are few things in this world that excite me more than new baseball equipment. I'm like a little kid on Christmas morning- I try everything on, make sure everything fits, and then log a good amount of time in front of the mirror to make sure the whole ensemble works. It's pretty embarrassing, come to think of it.

But it gets me excited. I become anxious for the season to start so I can sport my new cleats, show off my new batting gloves, and crack that first homer with my brand new lumber. 

My preseason shipment of gear came in yesterday afternoon, and needless to say I'm pumped to begin the breaking-in process during today's training session. New glove, cleats, batting gloves, bats- all will be put to use today, collectively acting as another reason I'm excited to get to Spring Training and get the season underway.

So what will I be sporting heading into the 2011 season? Let's take a look.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Future of Minor League University

Minor League University got me through the off-season. I went to work every day, not dreading the stack of paperwork or staff meetings that were ahead of me, but excited about the hour long block of my day I had set aside to be 'Scotty Smalls'. I was anxious to share little tidbits of my life in the minors, and I couldn't wait to go on rants about anything related to the wide world of baseball. 

My off-season job was perfect. After a long season, I needed a break from baseball, and I appreciated my time away from the game- but for that chunk of the morning I spent writing the day's post, I was right back in baseball mode, and I loved it. In a setting where passion and excitement were lacking, it was a daily reminder of my love for the game- a small way for me to stay connected.

So now that my time at the office is over and my departure for Spring Training is a mere week away, what does the future hold for MLU?

Lawlessness. Sheer lawlessness.