Saturday, January 7, 2012

Look what I found today:

I used to buy a lot of card packs, um, 15-20 years ago. Just found the box in the attic. Got hundreds more. Pretty cool, eh?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tank Thames channels Miyamoto Musashi

When I first interviewed Eric Thames in April 2010, he'd just finished reading "The Book of Five Rings" by Samurai sword master Miyamoto Musashi of the 17th century. Thames seemed to carry his baseball bat everywhere -- and he explained why: "(Miyamoto) says if you have a craft, you should spend all your time and energy trying to perfect it. It's baseball. You can't really perfect it, but you can make the attempt."

Thames homered four times in four days that week and finished the year with 27 homers and 104 RBI. His hands are so fast -- and his swing path so short and direct -- that he could hit a bullet. Tank is now on Twitter @EThames14.

Eric Thames, who possesses a quick and powerful swing,
will compete for a starting job in left field this season.
Kevin Littlefield photo

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fisher Cats, Primaries and Granite State Mountain Men

Today I got swept up in the political realm and wrote a page 1 centerpiece for the New Hampshire Union Leader, attempting to capture the atmosphere and vibe of downtown Manchester, N.H. "You are the presidential Super Bowl,” a 72-year-old visitor from Wisconsin said. Having the first presidential primary is a pretty cool thing. The Double-A Fisher Cats were actually named the Primaries for a couple weeks in the winter of 2003.

Fans, however, didn't like the name Primaries because they didn't want baseball mixed with politics. Thousands of fans protested by signing an on-line petition, and soon the franchise conducted a Name the Team contest. The Fisher Cats name defeated the Manchester Millers (by 22 votes), followed by the Granite State Mountain Men, New Hampshire Granite and New Hampshire Primaries. A Fisher Cat is actually a "fisher" or weasel-like creature that is often blamed for any missing cats in New Hampshire. It's nasty night hunter that's known to chow down on porcupine and rabbit.

One day when I arrived at my father's mountainside home in Bridgewater, N.H., this fisher was hanging in a tree, shot by a neighbor.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mailbag Q-and-A on my 41st birthday

"Were you surprised by the level of outrage that came your way after the "Darvish-to-Toronto" fiasco? Why do you think you got hit so hard in the aftermath?" -- Brian from Bus Leagues Baseball.

I wasn't surprised at the level of outrage and comments. I saw the comments on my blog, but I haven't seen more than one message board. The first one I check was headlined with "RIP Kevin Gray," which was a little odd, kind of like reading your own obituary. The fans were so excited to add Yu Darvish, and when it didn't happen, they directed some anger at me. Like I said before, I had sources with direct knowledge of what was going on that night inside the Blue Jays front office. I was told they were ready to announce they'd won the Darvish bidding. It was definitely a wild night, and the story had legs for a few days. The publisher of my newspaper came to my desk and told me he admired the way the whole thing was handled. (The story was not published in my newspaper, just my personal blog.) John Lott of the National Post wrote a sports column about that night and was fair. He also complimented me in an email, saying how I've demonstrated professionalism and integrity many times over. That meant a lot.

"Why would your 'trusted sources' lie to you? If true, you got duped, and I forgive you. If false, just tell the truth bro, at least there's honour in that." -- Anonymous

Nobody lied. I've got the call records and texts from my guys who had a perfect record giving me good info. The Blue Jays really thought they'd won the bid, at least from what I was told, and they had bad info. "Two, not one, two people in the organization told me Alex would announce at 9:30 p.m.," I was later told. I shouldn't have been so definitive in my tweets and on my personal blog. I was playing with fire and definitely got burned.

"I cannot imagine the amount of wrath and venom that has been heaped on you. I hope that as much as Blue Jays fans forgive you that you are also able to forgive the Blue Jays fans and the city of Toronto after receiving such scorn." -- Anonymous

I was already feeling closely connected to Jays' fan through the blog, and this incident ratcheted up things. So many fans have taken the time to write or send tweets. Anonymous commenters don't really pack a punch but fans sending positive thoughts and recognizing my coverage through the years have made this into an unbelievable experience. There are about a dozen people in Toronto I'm dying to meet. I'm looking forward to visiting Toronto more than ever.

"After being around Travis d'Arnaud during the season, how do you feel about his overall attitude and maturity?" -- Dave Rouleau

I thought it was excellent. He worked hard and pitchers enjoyed throwing to him. He's a quiet leader. Travis can be kid-like and have lots of fun, but he understands the business side of the game. When I asked him about being compared to J.P. Arencibia, he said, "J.P. is a great person and baseball player. It's an honor for people to consider me that type of player, especially when he is so good." He took the moment to give props to JPA and came out looking great in the interview. Travis just gets it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Joey Bats is only warming up

Years from now, when Jose Bautista is being discussed as one of the greatest hitters of his time, someone is going to analyze The Trade in the context of historically awful baseball deals. Pirates GM Neal Huntington, who traded Joey Bats for a PTBNL (Robinzon Diaz) in 2008, will be an easy target. At the time, the Jays got a 27-year-old utility-type player, and the Pirates picked up a 23-year-old catching prospect. We know how the story goes: Bautista finds his stroke and blossoms into a two-time homer champion while Diaz fades into oblivion.

Jose Bautista batted .280 with 97 homers the past two
 seasons. Kevin Littlefield Photo

Let's hope the Mayans were wrong

Happy New Year everyone!