Friday, April 29, 2011


Ok, it's gross. But once you get over the whole spit flying everywhere thing, you gotta admit - it's pretty cool.

It's become an on-deck ritual of mine, and it can either make or break my entire psyche as I approach my next at-bat.

The Spit Hit is simple, really - you spit into the air, and in one fluid motion, you take a full swing, hoping to square up your target and blast saliva particles in every direction. Hey, I already admitted it was gross.

In the game of baseball, confidence is everything. The Spit Hit is simply a last second confidence booster - a tangible reminder that I can hit anything. What a sharp eye! And such lightning quick hands! After barrelling up a loogy, I head to the plate feeling invincible. And as disgusted as on-lookers may be, deep down, well, they're pretty impressed.

I first saw the Spit Hit in college. The kid who brought it to my attention was our team's best hitter and an eventual top draft pick - he had to be on to something, right? I'd watch him do it before games and think to myself, "Now that's a hitter. Someone who can just pick anything out of mid air and put the fat part of the bat on it, no problem."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

SMALLS TALK: Being Friends With Pitchers

For some reason, all of my close friends are pitchers. I never noticed it until the other night. About seven of us were sitting around the kitchen table playing Poker, and I remembered a funny line our hitting coordinator had dropped during a hitters' meeting earlier that day. I broke out my best impression, delivering the line with such an uncanny precision and attention to detail that for a second, even I almost thought our coach had barged in, bought in for five bucks and was blabbering away at the end of the table. It was dead-on.

The reaction? Crickets. No one knew what the hell I was talking about, I couldn't believe it. Surely somebody present understood the reference. I looked around the table, searching for an ally - someone to back me up here. Pitcher. Pitcher. Pitcher, pitcher, pitcher. Pitcher. None of them had been at the hitters' meeting because, well, none of them were hitters. 

Wait, really? For months, I had been totally unaware that I was the token position player in our group of friends. I was baffled. Why were all my friends pitchers? 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Easter from MLU!

I hope everyone enjoyed their Easter! I'm finally settled in at my new apartment and after a week of pretending I know anything about routers and modems, my roommate finally stepped in and finalized the Internet situation.

I spent seven days without access to the World Wide Web, and as a result, MLU came to a stand still. But fear not - this week marks the triumphant return of Minor League University. Eager to bring some type of enjoyment to my empty afternoons, I hope to start pumping out blog posts at a production rate that rivals Manny in his prime.

Keep an eye out this week for upcoming posts and, as always, feel free to contact MLU with any topics in the world of baseball that you'd like to see covered. Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

MLU's HAT OF THE WEEK: Norfolk Tides

It's pretty much been established: any team sporting light blue on their cap will be featured on Hat of the Week. It's one of the best colors going, and combining it with other forms of blue - in this case, royal and navy - makes the look even better. In this case, it's simply a bonus that the Norfolk Tides happen to have one of the best logos in the game as well.

I mean, if the color scheme alone didn't have you standing and applauding, how about capping the "T" with a wave? Just sheer genius. Somewhere the designers of this logo are feeling pretty good about thesmelves.

This hat has all the criteria one could ask for looks wise - but, as the 3-13 Tides can attest to, a sharp hat doesn't win you any ball games. (Although I wouldn't be surprised if two of those wins had something to do with the hat.)

*The Norfolk Tides are a Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

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

Previous Hats of the Week
Arizona State Sun Devils
Fort Wayne TinCaps
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

Friday, April 15, 2011

DUGOUT LINGO: "Ugly-Finder"

No matter where you are on a baseball diamond, the ball will find you. The dugout is no exception. Line drives, ground balls, pop flys, you name it. Whether you're hanging on the top step or sitting by the Gatorade cooler playing movie trivia, you're closer to home plate than the players on the field. Might wanna keep your head up.

So there you are, sitting in the dugout, racking your brain trying to come up with a 'Y' to clinch another 'Baseball Name Game' victory - Yogi and Yadier have already been used, of course - and you hear that crack of the bat. It's not a loud blast, but it's solid wood. You look up and see the ball gaining ground on you. It takes some choppy bounces, but it's got some steam on it. You do your best to avoid the incoming projectile, but the ball's locked on to you - its target is picked. 

Plunk. It gets you - usually on the shin, or some pure boney spot offering little to no meat for protection. You express your pain with some expletives, the dugout erupts with laughter, and those around you offer up their best wise crack. And then, you hear it: "Ugly-Finder!"

Adding insult to injury - literally. It always comes from the other side of the dugout, and it always gets at least a couple genuine chuckles. And the beauty of "Ugly-Finder" is that the "Ugly" portion is, of course, interchangible with hundreds of insulting phrases. As you can imagine, "Ugly" is far more tame than some of the more popular options - some can get downright nasty.

So next time you're in the dugout, be ready. If a foul ball finds you, it will undoubtedly be deemed a "_____-Finder." Unless you're really curious as to how your teammates will choose to make fun of you, save yourself a bruise to both body and ego - just get out of the way.

"Pick Him Up"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

MiLB LIFE: Extended Spring Training

I find myself in Baseball Purgatory. It's not Spring Training. It's not the regular season. It's not even a plane ticket back into the real world job market. Nope, it's Extended Spring Training - and both the length of my stay and my next destination are unknown.

When Spring Training ended last week and team rosters were published, my name was nowhere to be found. As teammates and friends began to pack their bags for greener pastures, I stayed put. I was a man without a team - and Spring Training was far from over.

There were about twenty of us left behind. A few days later, forty more guys who hadn't been invited to Spring Training showed up.

Suddenly, it was day one all over again - the introductions, the meetings, the drills. As my friends prepared for the start of a 140-game season, I was beginning Spring Training all over again.

As discouraging as it is to be in Extended, I do take comfort in a simple phrase that has served as consolation to millions before me: "It could be worse." It's true. I'm healthy, I didn't get released, and I'm living in a city that is far nicer than any town I'd be playing in had I made a roster. It could be worse.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

MLU's HAT OF THE WEEK: Arizona State Sun Devils

I love a good alternate cap. Over the course of a long season, it's always nice to mix things up - and that's exactly what the Arizona State Sun Devils do with their secondary logo: the pitch fork.

Lettered logos can be timeless, but they don't get me going like this kind of play on a mascot. They could have easily decided to go with the school's other logo - the mustachioed running Sun Devil - but instead, they went next level on us. The pitch fork is sharp - (couldn't resist) - and represents the Sun Devils with a certain subtlety that leaves me nodding in approval.

Mix in a classic color scheme and you've got a winner of a hat - it's no wonder they're a mainstay in Omaha.

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

Previous Hats of the Week
Fort Wayne TinCaps
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

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

MiLB LIFE: Big League Picture Day

What you can't see are the mesh shorts and shower shoes that DJ's sporting underneath that stoic pose.

It's the picture you want everyone to see. Family, friends, thousands of screaming fans - if they see it, you've made it.

Yesterday was picture day at the ballpark for all Minor League players. After finishing breakfast, we were instructed to make our way to the media room where a photographer had set up shop. Once we arrived, we were each given a jersey and a hat - a Major League jersey and hat. This was no ordinary mugshot - this was the picture that would be shown on stadium scoreboards if you were to play in a Big League game at any point during the season.

It seemed ridiculous to me. Over the course of the morning, over 100 players lined up to get their mandatory headshots taken. With each player I saw in line, I estimated their odds of making the Bigs by year's end. Most players received an insensative, yet realistic 0.00% - yet there we were, in a line that rivaled the wait at the DMV.

In reality, maybe a handful of players in that line will get to experience a call to The Show this year. Their pictures will be shared with the world - the rest will likely be deleted and forgotten.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

SMALLS TALK: The Yankee Core

For the last seventeen years, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera have worn pinstripes for the New York Yankees.

Seventeen years - longer than any other threesome in the history of sports. That's a whole lot of backhand jump throws, barehanded at-bats, and Enter Sandman's. That's also a whole lot of wins.

Since 1994, these three have been teammates. Colleagues. Coworkers. Friends? Maybe. Or maybe they can't stand each other. Maybe they wake up every morning and dread walking into that clubhouse and seeing the faces of the other two. It's possible.

Posada may resent Jeter for being so publicly named team captain. And maybe Jeter is jealous of Rivera for serving as the focal point of nearly every nail-biting Yankee victory. Or perhaps Rivera gets irritated by Posada's pitch calling - cutter, cutter, cutter... We get it, Jorge - let's mix it up.

Friday, April 1, 2011


"Pick him up!" Depending on how a game's going, you'll hear variations of this saying anywhere between six and fifty times per nine innings of baseball.

Picking a guy up can mean one of two things.

1) To give a guy a high-five at the entrance of the dugout. 

This can happen after any number of occurrences: he scores a run, bunts a runner over, hits a sac fly, knocks a homer, pitches a shutout inning, or does anything else to help the ball club - you pick him up. 

Or it can also be used when things aren't going as well.

2) To bail a teammate out.

A pitcher may come in after blowing a lead, and it's now up to his hitters to "pick him up" - help him out, right his wrong, make people forget about his blunder. A guy strikes out in a key spot with the bases loaded? He's hoping the next batter picks him up.

You pick a guy up after he does something to help the team win, and you hope to pick him up when he lets the team down.

Good teams are picking guys up all day long.


SMALLS TALK: Opening Day

Today, everyone is undefeated. Each team is in first place. Thirty ball clubs are in the driver's seat, all in control of their own destiny. 

The annual rebirth of baseball season brings hope to sports fans all over the country. Whether you're from Kansas City, New York, San Francisco, or even Cleveland - they still have a team, right? - the glass is always half full as your squad approaches game number one. "This is the year" is a sentiment that echoes throughout stadiums from coast to coast. Is there anyting better than Opening Day? The correct answer is No. There is not.

Spring Training games are fun and relaxed, but they're merely a warm up - meaningless in the grand scheme of it all. Today, every pitch matters as each team sets out on this year's quest toward a World Championship.