Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins to host clinic to support Montclair youth baseball

Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins will hold a pitching clinic on Saturday April 10, 2010 at Fred Hill's Baseball Academy in Verona, NJ. Also appearing will be Roberto Clemente Jr. to provide batting instruction to those attending the clinic. The clinic is in support of the Montclair Baseball Club U12 team, to assist in their fundraising efforts to attend a national tournament in Cooperstown, NY.

Mayor Jerry Fried of Montclair has proclaimed April 10th 2010, "Ferguson Jenkins Day", for his unselfish contributions to Montclair Baseball. Jenkins will also be participating in Montclair's tribute to the Negro Leagues prior to the clinic. This season, all of the 5th and 6th grade teams will be representing eight of the most historical teams from the Negro Leagues (Baltimore Elite Giants, Chicago American Giants, Cuban Stars, Homestead Grays, Lincoln Giants, Kansas City Monarchs, Newark Eagles, and the Pittsburgh Crawfords). It is likely you will be seeing the youngsters wearing the jerseys of such luminaries as Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Monte Irvin and Satchel Paige. In addition to having the players wear the uniforms that bear the legacy of the Negro Leagues, their all-star game will be fashioned after the Negro League's East-West All-Star game. The league will be providing continuing education on the Negro Leagues as the season progresses.

Ferguson Jenkins and Roberto Clemente Jr. Pitching and Batting Clinic details:

When: April 10th, 2010
Session I - 2:00 pm until 3:00 pm
Session II - 3:30 pm until 4:30 pm

Where: Fred Hill Baseball Academy
3 Fairview Ave, Verona, NJ
(973) 239-3472

Cost: $30 for EACH clinic, $50 for both (per session)
$50 for pitching clinic with one autographed item by Fergie supplied by participant (All other Fergie autographs will be $25 per signature. Roberto Clemente Jr. will be signing autographs for free.)

Please make checks out to Montclair Baseball Club (Include phone # and session preference)
Send checks to:
Scott Nadison
6 Inwood Terrace
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043

For further inquiries, email Richard Berg at: richardberg@me.com

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Baseball lives in Paul's backyard

February spring break afforded me the opportunity to visit Paul Casanova's baseball academy which exists in literally his backyard. For a baseball diehard such as myself, the experience was gratifying, especially while there was a foot of snow back home.

The crack of the bat can be heard at hours when most people have relegated themselves to watching their favorite sitcoms and the evening news. On a February evening In Carol City, Florida, under the glow of bright lights that illuminate the outdoor batting cage, one would never know that it is after 10 o'clock and the hits are still coming.

Wrapping up sessions that started at 3 PM, former major league veterans Paul Casanova and Jackie Hernandez exude the same vibrance they exhibited when they made their major league debuts 45 years earlier. Affectionately entitled "Paul's Backyard", Casanova's professional baseball academy resides literally in his backyard. The enclave serves as part museum and part training center. Surrounding the hundreds of baseballs, batting cages, video cameras and soft-toss stations are photos that pay homage to the greats of both Latin and American baseball. Autographed and historical photos line the entire area, creating a virtual museum with a focus on the Cuban legends who represent Casanova and Hernandez's home country.

At ages 68 and 69, Casanova and Hernandez run around with the vigor of the players that they coach. Their constant chatter serves as a sweet accompaniment to the sound of baseball's being struck for hours. Their love for the game is quickly evident as they get into their routines with the players that
come there to hone their skills. The backyard entertains baseball players from all levels little league to professional. Part of the lure of the place is the family atmosphere. I had visited during the previous summer with Gonzalo "Cholly" Naranjo, a legendary pitcher for the Almendares club of Cuba and the Pittsburgh Pirates. After a six month absence, upon my return to visit, I was greeted by both men like I had never left the place. Little did I know I would be in for a day full of surprises, laughs and baseball.

The day started with my arrival accompanied by Naranjo. About 30 minutes later, entered former Rookie of the Year and perennial All-Star Tony Oliva, who was in town for a clinic and stopped by to chop it up with his former countrymen. Oliva was later followed by Orlando Peña, a veteran of 14 major league seasons and a teammate of Naranjo with Almendares. An hour later, two active major leaguers came in to sharpen their bats before they went off to spring training. Marco Scutaro of the Boston Red Sox and Juan Rivera of the Los Angeles Angels hit under the watchful eyes of Casanova and Hernandez. The pros exhibited a degree of diligence and humility that goes overlooked in today's coverage of current players. Both were focused on getting their work in, but seemed to easily fit in with the others who were there, cracking jokes and making small talk in between turns in the cage.

What followed next was some top-notch batting instruction from the tag team of Casanova and Hernandez. Treated to some rounds of soft toss, fastballs, curveballs and live batting practice, both men began to shape my swing with their keen eyes from over 50 years of playing and coaching the game. Not only were they quick with their tips, they delivered the instruction in a manner that was relaxing and encouraging. I watched them work with the other dozen players that were there that evening and I saw their efforts manifest fast results over the course of the evening. All of the players training there spoke with the utmost praise for their instructors. They too cited the familial element that draws them to the backyard. I could only imagine if I had access to their talents while playing in college, that my batting average would have risen greatly above its .250 mark.

Upon leaving after 10 p.m., Hernandez - sweaty from throwing a few hundred batting practice pitches - and Casanova - tired from a full day of baseball - sent me off with a grand embrace, a few souvenirs and an invite to return anytime that I am in town. Best believe that when I return to South Florida, I will be there. While I am up north, I can rest soundly knowing that the future of baseball rests safely in the hands of Casanova and Hernandez in Paul's Backyard.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Braves announce Jason Heyward as their starting right fielder

According to Espn.com, the Atlanta Braves have announced that 20 year-old rookie sensation Jason Heyward will be their starting right fielder come opening day. Manager Bobby Cox is ecstatic about his highly touted prospect, saying, "he makes us a lot better. He doesn't just hit, he can do it all. And his makeup is off the charts."
Heyward was the Braves first-round pick in 2007, and has risen quick through their minor league system. As with all rookies with that have displayed strong spring training performances, the season will reveal if he is the next Ruben Rivera or Ken Griffey Jr.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Brooklynite Halama released by the Brewers

Last week, the Milwaukee Brewers released former Bishop Ford HS and St. Francis College standout John Halama. The 38 year-old Halama was signed to a minor league contract in the offseason and was a non-roster invitee to spring training. Halama spent nine seasons in the majors, posting a record of 56-48, appearing in the 2000 and 2001 playoffs with the Seattle Mariners. Halama is pictured left speaking at the GNYSAA Lou Demartino Baseball Clinic in December of 2009.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Book Review: The Mandak League: Haven for former Negro League ballplayers 1950-1957

Mandak League: Haven for Former Negro League Ballplayers, 1950-1957
Barry Swanton -
McFarland Publishing, 2006.
222 pp.

In the early 1950's, with the demise of the Negro Leagues and the availability of better racial conditions, playing baseball in Canada became an increasingly viable option for younger and aging black baseball players. SABR member Barry Swanton chronicles the history of the ManDak League, which opened its doors to many fine talents including Hall of Famers Ray Dandridge, Leon Day, Satchel Paige and Willie Wells.

This work serves as a great reference for the fan that wants to know more about the history of the league and the players involved. Each season is chronicled with details on statistics, pennant races, stadiums, and franchises. The second half of the book is devoted to profiling all of the players of the ManDak League, with special attention given to the former Negro League players.

While the book itself lacks any particularly enthralling tales, it has its place as an excellent resource to connect the dots of the Negro League players that traveled north to continue their careers in relative obscurity.

Willie Davis, 69, Los Angeles Dodgers Centerfielder, 1940-2010

Willie Davis, who was the successor to the legendary center fielder Duke Snider, was found dead at his home in Burbank, Calif. on Tuesday. He was 69.
Davis owns several Los Angeles Dodgers records, including the longest hitting streak (31 games), hits (2,091), extra-base hits (585), at-bats (7,495), runs (1,004), triples (110) and total bases (3,094).
In addition to his offensive prowess, Davis was an excellent center fielder, earning three Gold Glove awards. He was named to two All-Star teams in 1971 and 1973.
Davis spent 14 seasons with the Dodgers before being traded to Montreal in 1974 for Mike Marshall. He went on to play for the Texas Rangers, the St. Louis Cardinals, the San Diego Padres and the California Angels. He also spent time playing in the Japanese and Mexican leagues before retiring in the early 1980's.

More Information on Willie Davis -

New York Times Obituary - Willie Davis is dead at 69

ESPN.com - Los Angeles Dodgers greats remember Davis

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tommy Lasorda inducted into Cuban Sports Hall of Fame

MLB Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda was inducted into the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday in Miami. This makes for the 16th Hall of Fame of which Lasorda has been enshrined. To read the details on Lasorda's induction, click here.