For Ben and Raymond, they maintain a sentiment of baseball as religion; men of faith putting their trust both in the word of God and Vin Scully. They both believe in the Miracle of the Resurrection and Game 1 of the ‘88 World Series. Both have been unfaithful baseball bigamists; Raymond with the Angels and Ben with the Red Sox. Their faiths have undergone as much change as their favorite team's roster. So they write about it. They write about Baseball and they write about God.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"My UnderNuts are Itchin'!"

Speaking of minor league managers, do you remember Rick Burleson? He was the skipper for the Lancaster JetHawks in 1997 and ’98. (Didn’t your folks have season tickets to The Hangar? And isn’t “The Hangar” the most clever nickname for a ballpark? In a region built on the aeronautical industry and a team name like the JetHawks, it’s nothing short of a stroke of genius. Sure beats The BOB, the acronym for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Bank One Ballpark.)

Anyways, my first job ever was as a bat boy for the JetHawks, the summer after my sophomore year in high school. Rick Burleson was the manager and he was a mean old cuss. I never saw the man smile. He was also a former big leaguer. An all-star and a gold glove winning middle infielder for the Red Sox and Angels. In fact, Rick still owns the record for the most double plays turned in a Red Sox uniform. I remember coming home and telling my dad how angry Rick always acted. Lou Piniella was the manager of the Seattle Mariners at the time, the JetHawks’ parent ballclub. And Lou is just as famous for his scowl and his temper tantrums than anything else. Do you remember that time he argued with the umpire and ripped first base off the field and hurled it down the right field foul line? My dad said that affiliates often try to hire managers in the mold of the team’s big league ballclub. Gets players used to playing for certain personalities. Which makes you wonder about the Atlanta Braves farm system. Are all the Braves minor league teams managed by wife beaters who win the division year in and year about but never win it all? Brace yourself for my “Good Riddance, Bobby Cox” column. I can’t WAIT till he retires at the end of this next season.

5 Things I learned while retrieving bats, providing balls for umpires and buying Mango Madness flavored Snapple for picky third baseman Carlos Villalobos…

1. Pitchers are a different breed: Eventual big league hurler Joe Mays used to spend the morning of each day he started, playing an imaginary round of golf in front of his locker using imaginary clubs and imaginary balls.

2. Umpires are ill positioned: You know how 1B and 3B umpires have to make the call on check swings? They’re WAY outta position. I’ll bet more strikes and balls are blown this way. The best place to be is in the dugout. The catcher shoulda been pointing at ME to make that call.

3. Ballplayers don’t give a rip about rules: Even though there was a Minor League ban on chewing tobacco, several players used to hide tins of Chaw in the small crease between the helmet cubby and the dugout ceiling.

4. The Minor Leagues are filled to the brim with siblings and cousins who weren’t exactly the MOST athletic ones in the family: The JetHawks had Shawn Buhner (little brother of Jay, a big league all-star) and Cirillo Cruz (nephew to Jose Cruz, and cousin to Jose Cruz, Jr: guess which one of the 3 never made it to The Show?) These guys were the Jan Bradys of their families. For those of you who don’t know baseball, this would be like if Lou Pearlman put together a pop band with Drew Lachey, Aaron Carter, Jamie Lynn Spears and Solange Knowles. Yuck.

5. Ballplayers have the most creative ways of describing their body parts: I saw more NakedMan penis than a teenage boy should. But do you remember that time when I snuck you into the clubhouse after a game and Shane Monahan, clothed in nothing but a pair of shower shoes, exclaimed, “god! My undernuts are itchin’!!!”?

Postscript: I hope your last column won’t include the last reference to Jimmy Dugan. And yes, Tom Hanks was definitely Actor of the Decade in the 90s. Did I ever tell you how I saw him and his wife at Disneyland? He was wearing a hat and sunglasses to try and be incognito. Guess which insignia was stitched to that cap he wore? A Dodgers bright and white “LA”.

Post-Postscript: Let’s play a game of Six Degrees of Lancaster JetHawks. A.J. Hinch (the manager you mentioned in your last post) was recently fired by the Arizona Diamondbacks, which replaced him with Wally Backman, former New York Mets all-star and 2004 Minor League Manager of the Year for the…you guessed it, LANCASTER JETHAWKS! Welcome back to the big leagues Wally!

Post-Post-Postscript: I love jokes about Todd Hundley. Keep ‘em comin’. When I was studying at Harvard, back when the Dodgers were always more than just one piece away from making the playoffs, my dad would send me newspaper clippings outta the LA Times that always looked something like this, “Todd Hundley is scheduled to come off the disabled list, just in time for the playoff push,” as if he was the answer to all their problems. My dad used to think that was hilarious. What’s even funnier is he musta sent me articles like these every September for 3 straight years. That’s how bad we were.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My heart will always leap when I see a note in the paper about Hundley. A steroid catcher who went from mediocore to king of the hill to bottom of the barell. Last note seen was in '07 when he was pulled over driving erratically while driving his children to school. He had taken several vicodins to ease the pain to his legs. (The life of a cathcer)

November 30, 2009 9:47 PM


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