December 2012

Spike Owen & Harold Reynolds

As the title of our blog suggests, our blog is about one thing:  our family’s baseball adventures.  I don’t write about trades or trade rumors, MVP debates, player values, or Hall of Fame elections.  I have strong feelings about all of those things.  But I’m not a sportswriter.  It’s not my job to tell people what I think they should think about the current happenings in our great sport.  There are hordes of paid sportswriters for that.  I’m here to document my family’s personal baseball history, and that’s about it.

This makes the offseason pretty quiet around here.

But there is baseball and baseball stuff going on in the Cook household year round.  I recently wrote about Tim’s first winter clinic for his little league.  There will be another clinic in a couple weeks, and we’re eagerly looking forward to it.

In my downtime, I’m still working away updating our Baseball Logs (which I get behind on during the season) and our online Baseball Museum, and planning our 2013 season (fyi, be on the lookout for three generations of Cook boys in the Lone Star state in 2013).  But lately, there are two additional baseball items taking up some of my time and, since they fall in line with the concept of documenting our personal baseball history, I thought I’d do a short update about them.

They’re not so much “items” as they are people — two of my favorite former-Mariners:  Spike Owen & Harold Reynolds:

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Spike Owen was my original all-time favorite baseball player.  I have two distinct “where was I when” memories about Spike.  I was standing right here…

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…at my elementary school (there used to be a baseball field there) when my assistant baseball coach explained that Spike Owen played short stop for the Mariners (fyi, I played short stop for the Sherwood Eagles!) and he wore number 7 (fyi, I also wore number 7!).  From that very moment, Spike was instantly my favorite player.  Several years later (1986), I was in the basement of my family home (sitting on a cabinet/desk thingy to be exact), when my buddy, Dan Mosely, called to tell me the unthinkable:  Spike Owen was traded to the Boston Red Sox!  By this time, I was already a huge Mariners fan, but had never paid any attention to the postseason.  As a result of Spike’s traded to the Red Sox, I watched the World Series for the first time ever and REALLLLLY wanted Boston to win.

After 1986 (with no internet), it became pretty hard to follow Spike Owen, particularly during his years in Montreal.  Basically, all I could do was read box scores in the newpaper (people used to do that in the 1980s).

While Spike became my absentee-favorite ballplayer, over the next several years, I never officially announced a new favorite Mariner.  In retrospect, it was clearly Harold Reynolds.  That is, it was Harold Reynolds until 1989, when Ken Griffey, Jr. showed up on the scene.  Since 1989, Griff has held the title of my all-time favorite player and, unless Tim and/or Kellen make the pros, I assume he always will be my favorite baseball player.

So, why am I spending time thinking about Spike and Harold all of these years later?  Let’s start with Spike.

I have been a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) for a number of years now (4 or 5 years, I guess).   But I’ve never been an active participant in SABR.  However, recently I have been chatting with another local SABR member who is active in the SABR BioProject.  Through the BioProject, SABR is trying to have its members write 1,500+ word biographies of EVERY MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER EVER!!! (plus, managers, umpires, owners, etc., etc.)  They have a loooooooooooooong way to go to reach that goal.  So, I decided to get involved.

When I first considered getting involved, I quickly realized that the only way it would interest me is if I could have my participation in the BioProject compliment my efforts to document our family’s personal baseball history.  My first assignment of choice became clear:  I would volunteer to write the BioProject biography of the man who played a foundational role in my life-long love of baseball and the Mariners, Spike Owen.

Shortly after putting in the request, I was officially assigned the Spike Owen biography by the BioProject Committee.  Lately, I have been researching Spike’s career (and life) via the internet and I have learned a whole lot of stuff I never knew about Spike.  I thought I would share a few interesting things I have uncovered.  My favorite old article I have found (from shortly before Spike’s call up to the Mariners) highlights the relationship between Spike and his minor league roommate and double play partner, Harold Reynolds:

owen-reynolds combination clicks

Two other interesting notes, (i) Spike was the short stop for the Expos during Dennis “El Presidente” Martinez’s perfect game in 1991 and (ii) Spike was the Captain of the 1982 Texas Longhorns baseball team where his teammates included his future 1986 Red Sox teammates, Roger Clemens and Calvin Schiraldi.

Spike’s relationship with Harold Reynolds extended beyond the minors.  Spike was called up to the Mariners before Harold.  Spike played about 60 games for the Mariners in 1983 before Harold was called up and played his first game on September 2, 1983.  Interestingly, Harold made his Major League debut as a pinch runner for Ken Phelps following an at-bat when Phelps pinch hit for Spike.  Three days later, Harold started his first game for the Mariners.  Spike hit lead off with Harold in the nine-hole, meaning that Spike was on deck when Harold had his first career at-bat in the Major Leagues.  Twelve years later, Harold played his final game in the Major Leagues as the starting second basemen for the California Angels.  His teammate and starting third basemen for the Angels that day:  Spike Owen.

Let’s talk some Harold Reynolds.

harold card

Harold played almost his entire career for the Mariners.  He was awesome.  People in Seattle loved him (at least that was my perception at the time, I certainly loved the guy).  He collected over 1,000 career hits for the Mariners, he was a 2-time All-Star and 3-time Gold Glove winner for the M’s.  Plus, he won the 1991 Roberto Clemente Award for his charitable efforts.

It has never made sense to me that Harold has never been inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame.  He is an obvious choice to me.

So, last year, I created a Twitter account called @HR4MarinersHOF with the intent of posting pro-Harold tidbits as a sort of grassroots campaign to get Harold enshrined in the Mariners Hall of Fame.  Unfortunately, almost immediately after I created the account and started posting a few Harold factoids, the Mariners announced that Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson (both great choices, as well) would be enshrined as new Marines Hall of Famers during the summer of 2012.  So, I decided to put @HR4MarinersHOF on hold until the 2013 Major League campaign.

Now is the time.  If you’re a Mariners fan and appreciate what Harold did for the Mariners, please give @HR4MarinersHOF a follow, a tweet, a retweet, or whatever you want to do to voice your feelings about Harold Reynolds and the Mariners Hall of Fame.

Happy New Year and we’ll see you in 2013!

Liberty Baseball’s Winter Clinic

So it’s cold these days in Pennsylvania.  We’ve been playing a lot of catch with foam and plush baseballs in the kids’ playroom.  But it has been a while since we’ve been able to get out in the backyard for some real baseball.

And just as the metaphorical winter rust was starting to form, along came Tim’s Little League, Liberty Youth Baseball, with its Winter Clinic!  We all met up at the Life Sports Center at Albright College.  The clinic started out with a little pep talk from Liberty’s fearless leader, Jason Weigand (in blue), and…

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…Kutztown University’s head baseball coach, Chris Blum.

The indoor training facility was really big and cool.  It was split into four separate areas.  After the boys split into groups, each group headed off to one of five stations.

Tim was in the youngest group.  Most of his ground were 5-6 year olds and a couple were 7-8 (I think).  Their group started in the hitting station.

First, a coach went over the proper grip of the baseball bat, stance at the plate, and swing:

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Next, half of Tim’s group went to a batting cage and the other half went to a group of three batting tees.  Unfortantely, I was chatting with someone while Tim was in the cage hitting live pitching (thrown by former Major Leaguer, Eric Valent,) and I forgot to get a picture of him hitting.  But here he is exiting the cage after his final hack:

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Although he hadn’t hit live pitching in probably a month, Tim hit pretty well.

And then it was off to the batting tees:

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By the way, I only had my phone to take pictures and this training facility has huge windows all the way down both sides of the building…so it was tough to get pictures that were even half-way decent.

And here is my favorite picture that I go today:

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After everyone in the group had hit in the cage and at the batting tees, all of the groups switched stations.  Tim’s group moved all the way to the other end of the building…

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…where they practiced fielding grounders…

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…and making the throw to first base (although, in reality, it was more like throwing to third):

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All of my fielding pictures were blury, but here is one of my favorites:

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The next station was pitching and catching.  But the 7-8 year old division in Liberty (which will be Tim’s division for the 2013 season) is coach pitch, so Tim’s group just practiced catching:

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The day after our final MLB game of the season, Tim got a new Tim Lincecum signature glove that he’s still getting use to.  But he did a good job catching normal throws and little pop flies tossed by Eric:

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Tim really likes playing catch now.  I love it.

The next station was practicing baserunning.  Once again, I was busy chatting.  I failed to take any pictures during the baserunning station.

At the final station, the boys practiced taking grounders and fly balls like they were playing in the outfield.   After fielding the ball, the boys practiced making strong throws in to the infield:

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The most amusing part of this station was that the kids were also supposed to be practing calling the ball like an outfielder.  The comical part was that the boys were screaming out, “I got it!” and “Mine!” while they were at the back of the line, but then you could hardly hear the boy at the front of the line calling the ball.  and a lot of them wouldn’t call “I got it” until right after they caught the ball.

Here’s another shot of Tim winding up for a big throw:

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After the final station, the boys gathered again for a few parting words…

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…and then they came in for a big “Liberty” chant:

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And that was that.  A great clinic.  Lots of fun.

On the walk back to our car, Tim posed with a nice silver fire hydrant:

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(If you haven’t noticed yet, getting his picture with fire hydrants is kinda Tim’s thing).

On our way home, we stopped off at the local Rawlings outlet store.  And then we capped the afternoon off with a 1-on-1 game of baseball in the backyard while Kellan napped.  We practiced all of the techniques taught during the clinic and Tim was looking really good as he beat me in our game — of course, he never actually let me bat.

We’re aleady looking forward to the next Liberty clinic in January!

Every Team At Every Stadium

With our 2012 games all written-up here on our blog, I am now in the process of updating our Baseball Logs.  There are still nine teams (the Rangers, White Sox, Tigers, Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Reds, Brewers and Astros) that Kellan has not yet seen play a game in person, and he has only visited 17Major League ballparks he has yet to visit.  (But, heck, he’s only 2 years old…so he’s doing pretty well for himself as a baseball fan).  Tim and I, on the other hand, have now seen every Major League team play at least one home game and at least one road game:

touch em all checklist

It felt great to finally check off our final stadium.  But I don’t feel like our journey is now complete.  Far from it, in fact.  I want to visit every stadium a lot.  I want to get to know every stadium inside and out.

So, with my little “Touch ‘em All Checklist” complete, it is time to move on to the BIG LIST that I have often though of, and just finally put together:

Every Team At Every Stadium

Okay…yeah, this one is going to take some awhile.

Hmm…I wonder if there is anyone alive who can actually say they have seen every MLB team play at every stadium.  I doubt that I will ever be able to complete the chart.  But I plan to have a lot of fun with my boys trying.

Bring on 2013!  (And welcome to the A.L. West, Astros).

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