Archive for April, 2010

Update: No call coming

Posted in Scouting/Minor Leagues, Training/Workouts on April 30, 2010 by tccsp

Based on a story I saw in the Star Tribune, it does appear that any callbacks that happened occurred yesterday, the day of the tryout. Apparently a couple of pitchers were called back, but neither were offered a spot on the team. A catcher named Ryan Richardson was apparently the only guy offered a spot on the team, and the Saints have already added him to their roster list.

I’m not surprised, of course–and only slightly disappointed. I am intensely curious, however. Curious about where I fell in the pitching coach’s evaluation: was I in his top 5 to call back? Top 10? Was I just too erratic? Too old? Too slow? Would he think I should pitch for a men’s team for the next five weeks and then go to the June minor league tryouts?

I actually just left a message for the same promotions guy that I called a few weeks ago about my cartooning idea, and asked if he thought the pitching coach would be willing to briefly chat over the phone. Anyway, I’m guessing he won’t be interested in chatting with me (if he chats with me, he’ll have to chat with every single guy, he’d say)–but I figured it’s worth a shot.

Thanks for reading–and all of your support. I realize I am a vicarious instrument for many of you–so I’m trying to hold up my end of the bargain.

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The tryout… and waiting …

Posted in Scouting/Minor Leagues on April 30, 2010 by tccsp

Grant Dawson came and shot some video of this morning’s tryout–so I’ll post that whenever he sends it over… but here’s a brief summary of my morning:
7:35am – Check weather.com and saintsbaseball.com, to see if things will be rained out. Then check google directions to Midway Stadium-only 15 minutes away from my house. Convenient.
7:45am – Leave for Midway Stadium
8:02am – Arrive at Midway Stadium, my first visual is seeing 25-30 baseball players filing into the field. Apparently registration opened a bit early.
8:05am – Register at registration table. They asked for very basic information, name, address, phone numbers, my position (pitcher), birthday (2/10/78), and college attended (Wheaton College (IL), last year played (2002) and baseball accomplishments. In the baseball accomplishments area, I just wrote that I led my college team in wins and strikeouts. My wife tells me I should have included high school accolades. She’s probably right–since this is the form the pitching coach was looking at during each pitchers’ session. Oh well.
8:15am – Start stretching and throwing–as well as having brief and awkward conversations with other baseball players. It is clearly a diverse group, both in terms of age and experience–I talked to a couple of 20-year olds who play for community colleges; a 28-year old from Chicago who drove up last night for the tryout; quite a few 23-28 year olds from the metro area who play town ball and are giving it one last hurrah. There was one 20-something guy with a U of MN pullover on who I overheard saying he “was clocked at 91 mph”–that’s pretty fast. I didn’t meet anyone who was older than 29–but someone told me they had talked to a guy who was “over 30”.
9:05am – The tryout begins with the Saints coach telling pitchers and catchers to head to the bullpen, and position players to stay with him. I go with the pitchers and catchers–about 30 pitchers and 10 catchers total.
9:10am – The Saints pitching coach walks us through how things are going to go. It will be just him doing the evaluating–no speed gun, no huddled group of coaches. They’re looking for a diamond in the rough–he says. He will watch and take notes while pitchers throw side bullpen sessions in pairs (two pitchers throwing to two catchers). Pitchers should be ready when it’s their turn. After pitchers throw, they can go home. If the team is interested in seeing them throw more, they will call.
9:15am – He announces the first six names. I’m not one of them. I run to the bathroom.
9:20am – I get back, seeing the second group of two finishing their session. The coach announces names 7 and 8–one of them is “Dan Olson”. Gotta hurry and get warm. A catcher eyes me out–and we go start warming up. Arm feels fine.
9:25am – I’m up. My first few pitches are pretty erratic, including one that cleared the fence that ran alongside the bullpen. “That’s gotta look pretty bad,” I think. I calm down and am mostly around the zone for the rest of the bullpen session. My curve and forkball are pretty sharp, but my fastball leaked outside–something that happens when I rush. Oh well.
9:30am – The coach asks me to throw from the stretch. I do for a bit. Then, he asks me what I do to hold runners on. I tell him I hold with the leg lift and looks, and throw in the occasional slide step. He asks me to show him. (Note, this is to a pitching tryout what parallel parking is to the drivers test–it separates the men from the boys. You see, left-handed pitchers have an advantage when a runner is on first base, since they are actually facing the runner and can see if he’s going to steal or not. But this also requires a lefty to be especially crafty with knowing when and how to hold the runner close, and to have a variety of “looks” and pick-off moves to give the runner to throw him off. When I lift my leg, I can either throw over to first base, or throw home. A “slide step” is when you just don’t lift your leg, and instead gently lift your foot and move quickly toward the plate, which decreases the amount of time for the ball to reach the plate. This gives the catcher a greater chance of throwing out a runner attempting a steal.) With all these factors and options to think about, it is especially important that the lefthanded pitcher be able to continue to throw strikes. So the coach was testing my mettle. I think I at least passed the test, though not every pitch home was a strike.
9:38am – My bullpen session ends. The pitching coach tells the rest of the guys to wait, and runs over to talk to a coach on the other side of the field. Best case scenario here is that he’s talking about me (maybe he said something like, “George, you know how we were talking about how we need one more solid lefty? I think I just saw him throw–and he’s 32!”.)
More likely, he was running over to ask where he wanted to eat lunch–but you never know.
9:45am – After saying goodbye to a few of the other guys I met, and debriefing a bit with Grant, I hopped in my car and headed home. It was all over so quickly.

I’m guessing they only intend to call between one and three pitchers to come back. Of the first 10 pitchers, I do know I was the only lefthander.

Anyway, I’ve spent the rest of the day watching my kids, debriefing things with my wife, friends, and family, and–judging from how drained I felt–realizing I’ve invested more hope in this tryout than I thought. Now I’m wondering if there’s an outside chance that I might receive a call tomorrow (or Monday, I guess)–and, if not, reflecting on whether I should keep working for the June tryouts or not.

If they do call–you’ll all be the first to know.

Tryout Day

Posted in Scouting/Minor Leagues on April 29, 2010 by tccsp

Unless it gets rained out, I will try out with the Saint Paul Saints in eleven hours.

I’ve spent the last few days fighting an attitude of resignation. I’ve been rejuvenated by this challenge I’ve undertaken, but now that it is so close, it has seemed so impossible.

My wife gave me a little pep talk this evening, and I went for a jog and worked out. I’m hoping to waltz into Midway Stadium tomorrow and give it my best shot. Though I don’t have a copy of the song, I’m planning on whistling “Eye of the Tiger” to myself during the drive to the stadium.

If you’re reading this anytime between 9am and 2pm on Thursday, April 29th–I’d appreciate a prayer for a good tryout, regardless of the outcome. Or if you’re not comfortable praying, whistle a few refrains of “Eye of the Tiger” and think of me.

Countdown #1: Five Days to go…

Posted in Personal/Family, Pitching Mechanics, Training/Workouts on April 24, 2010 by tccsp

In five days, I will attend a tryout with the St. Paul Saints. On Thursday, April 29th, I will arrive at Midway Stadium to register around 8am–with the tryout beginning at 9am. I have little idea what to expect. I will bring my glove, my cleats, and will wear a pair of old baseball pants. I won’t bring a bat, since I can’t hit and the Saints’ league uses the DH rule (phew). My friend Grant Dawson has agreed to come, and will capture some of the 32-year old action on video.
Contrary to what I expected, the last week in Birmingham has been a real boon to my baseball playing. Not only did my family and I take a inspiring pilgrimmage to Rickwood Field in Birmingham (the oldest field in the country), but I exercised quite a bit and had two promising bullpen sessions with a 14-year old Birmingham catcher.
In the two sessions, I had decent command of my pitches (I throw a fastball, a curve, and forkball, and am working on a slider), but what was most encouraging was my velocity. We had no gun, but things just felt fast. And the catcher–who has caught for 3-4 minor league pitchers over the last 8 months–told me I throw as hard as a couple of them. He also said my fastball tails “like a righty’s cutter”, and my curve and fork are “pretty nasty”. We both agreed that my command has something to be desired, but my fastball location is improving. While I may be putting too much stock in the evaluation of a 14-year old, I do feel more confident going into the home stretch.
A few of you may have noticed that I changed text on the right [see “The Challenge”] from “The Major League Scouting Bureau’s tryout in June” to “the St. Paul Saints open tryout on April 29, 2010”.
This is not a complete copout–only a mild dose of reality.
I will keep working out for the June tryout if one of three things happen at the Saints tryout: 1) I make the team or 2) they tell me I’m good enough to make the team, but a) need a little work or b) they aren’t looking for another lefty pitcher (which is a possibility if you look at their published roster) or 3) I feel I still could have a shot at the June tryouts, even if the Saints tryout doesn’t go well.
If none of these three things happen, I will return to my softball team, coaching youth baseball, and maybe, just maybe, will try and pitch a few games for a men’s team, just to make some good use out of having my arm back in shape again.
By the way–in the next few days, I hope to post some funny video of my son Charlie. He seems to naturally throw righthanded, but he has watched his southpaw daddy throw so much that he is doggedly committed to throwing with lefthanded mechanics. He’s certainly mechanically confused!

‘Baseball families’ and a 14-year old catcher

Posted in Uncategorized on April 19, 2010 by tccsp

In Minnesota, we are a three-sport state: hockey, baseball, and football (with basketball a distant fourth). So like thousands of Minnesota boys, I grew up in a ‘baseball family’–playing baseball in the summers, cheering for the Twins, collecting Kirby Puckett baseball cards.
My wife, on the other hand, is from Birmingham, Alabama–land of football, football, and more football. There is Alabama/Auburn, Bear Bryant, Nick Saban, and your local high school football sports megaplex. Compared to football, everything else here is ping pong: quaint little competitions, but not serious sports.
Being a ‘baseball family’ in Alabama, then, is like being a Mormon family in Alabama. You are a stranger in a strange land.
Yesterday, I found out from my in-laws that a ‘baseball family’ lives down the street–and that they are, in fact, a friendly and helpful lot.
Their oldest son is in ninth grade, my father-in-law told me, and is already on the Briarwood Christian varsity team. He mentioned a second son, as well.
Excited, my wife and I strolled down yesterday afternoon to chat with them, to see if they had any ideas to help with my workouts this week.
I saw in the newspaper that Briarwood’s team was still in the playoffs–maybe it would help to have me throw to the team?
As we walked up the driveway, a younger 14-year old boy zipped past us wearing a baseball uniform and carrying a bag.
“I’ve got to get to a game,” he said breathlessly to my wife, whom he recognized.
The mother, apparently his driver, followed close behind, pointing us inside to talk with her husband and ninth grader.
Inside, they were also getting ready for some baseball, but seemed pleasantly surprised to meet another baseball player. I explained my predicament to them, and the dad agreed to check with the Briarwood coach on having me pitch. The team is apparently facing a tough lefty on Friday, April 23.
But then he mentioned that his younger son (who we already breezily met) is a catcher. He’d love to catch me all week, the dad said, regardless of what Briarwood says.
So this evening at around 7pm, I’ll most likely be driving out to a baseball field to throw a bullpen session to a 14-year old catcher. Apparently, he has quite a bit of practice catching more mature players: in the winters he catches for a pitcher on the class AA Birmingham Barons. “Baseball families” in Alabama are a tight-knit bunch, I guess. They–or shall I say ‘we’–find each other.

My Twins miracle and a forced week off?

Posted in Uncategorized on April 16, 2010 by tccsp

Wednesday was the second-ever game played in Target field. When the game started at 12:30pm, I was sitting in my office, preparing some documents for a board meeting. At 12:35pm, my boss poked his head in my office and said with a boyish giddiness, “Dan, we’re going to a Twins game!”
A donor had given four tickets a friend of ours, and so we grabbed a couple of lucky Hope students and waltzed out the door. Here’s me making a very strange face and snapping a picture of myself at Target Field.
Dan at Target Field
It wasn’t the most interesting game, but I can always say that I was at the first ever regular season Twins loss at Target Field (they lost 6-3).
Changing topics, tomorrow morning my son Charlie and I will be flying to Birmingham, AL to spend the week with family. For the last few days I have been e-mailing various high school baseball coaches in the Birmingham area–trying to find a team to pitch to a couple of times. Here’s what I’ve been saying:

Coach,
My name is Dan Olson, and I’m a 32-year old lefthanded pitcher who is trying out for the St. Paul Saints on Thursday, April 29 (a semi-pro team here St. Paul, Minnesota). I’ll be spending the week of April 19-23 with my in-laws in Birmingham, and I was told you have one of the best high school teams in Alabama. Would you be willing to have me come pitch to the Vestavia varsity team on any two days next week? I see you’re prepping for games on Friday and Saturday, April 24-25. Let me know!

So far, I’ve had no luck. Two coaches have responded politely turning me down. This is my favorite response.

Dan, I truly appreciate you asking me, and I honestly wish that I could take you up on such a great offer. However, unfortunately, due to past incidents and liability issues, our Athletic Department/BOE will not allow us to use outside help unless they go through our state’s volunteer qualifications in addition to CPR/1st Aid. So, unfortunately I will not be able to take you up on this opportunity. Thank you for understanding, and good luck with your tryout.

Since getting this e-mail yesterday, I still can’t fathom what “past incidents” with a baseball volunteer would have led to this sort of draconian background check and CPR/1st Aide training. I’m glad that my alma mater hasn’t had such bad luck with baseball volunteers–or I’d still be stuck throwing baseballs into a net. Or maybe–after their experience with me–M.A.’s coach may use the same sort of excuse.

But I still do hope to find a way to pitch a bit next week. We’ll see how it goes.

Target Field Trip

Posted in Uncategorized on April 13, 2010 by tccsp

This past Saturday, my son, Charlie, and I went took a pilgrimage to Target Field, the new Twins stadium. The field was closed off, but we meandered around the stadium–dreaming together. Charlie was particularly taken with the statue of Rod Carew. I snapped a photo.

Regarding pitching news, I threw again last Thursday to Minnehaha and it went well. My control was better–I only walked 3 in about 5 innings, one run scored but I struck out at least 9 guys. Only one ball was hit hard–a towering double over the center fielder’s head–and it was off a fastball. I’ll keep telling myself he got lucky.