Hopefully all of you are just as excited for spring training as I am. Lucky for you fans who are heading out to Arizona in March, you will get there just a couple weeks before me. Right now I am currently rehabbing my arm from some slight tendinitis and will be headed to extended spring training at the beginning of April. In these upcoming journal entries, I hope to share experiences from spring training, rehab, my season and anything else exciting that comes along the way.
Let me start off by giving you all a quick background of my baseball career. I’ve been to two high schools and two colleges, and, no, I wasn’t expelled and didn’t get into any trouble at either. I played Little League baseball like every normal kid in America. I was chunky (always loved the cupcakes parents would bring after the games) and uncoordinated, but played a solid hot corner in my younger years.
That is also when my hitting days ended and I knew I had to become a pitcher. I still to this day have never hit a homerun. I have had many people running the bases around me, but I have never had the luxury of doing it myself. Last season following a game at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, California, my teammate Trent Peterson and I ran the bases with the kids hoping to get the feel of hitting a home run. Now I know how you all feel Ian Stewart, Troy Tulowitzki, Reid Brignac, etc. ... Thanks!
Side note: I do take pride in my fungo hitting skills and will challenge any pitcher in any organization in a Fungo Olympics.
My parents sent me to the private high school called Miami Country Day hoping that I would receive a better education than in the public school system. At this point in my life, I was still playing baseball for the fun of it. It was not until my junior year that my parents and I felt that we needed to move to a better baseball school to challenge myself athletically.
For my senior year, I transferred to Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale. My coach there was Rich Hofman who previously coached at Westminster Christian in Miami where notable players such as Doug Mientkiewicz and Alex Rodriguez played. While playing at Westminster, we won the 2000 state championship and finished ranked second in the nation. During my time at Westminster, I was recruited by the University of Florida and signed a national letter of intent with them.
I attended UF in the fall 2000 where Andy Lopez was the head coach. After my first season, Coach Lopez was fired and Pat McMahon from Mississippi State took over. I stayed at UF for another year prior to transferring to the University of Tennessee. At Florida, I, along with other teammates, was looking for more playing time and felt a need to transfer somewhere else.
Transferring to Knoxville was a tough choice coming from a kid from South Beach who was used to board shorts and flip flops year-round. Although the climate wasn’t the friendliest, it prepared me for similar conditions, like Kane County in April and May.
In June 2004, the Oakland A’s drafted me and I’ve been a part of the playoffs every year since. I haven’t won a ring yet, but I have learned tricks to keeping those cleats white. Wearing white cleats has become something I've been accustomed to, coming from shoe collector who has more than 150 pairs of Jordans and rare Nikes at home. Because white cleats are hard to find unless your agent has an “in” with some company, you see guys in the locker room “ewwing and awing” over whose Nike swoosh is blue or green or asking where a guy got molded spikes instead of metals. It's pretty interesting to see who gets which styles throughout the year.
In my next entry I plan to let you know what I have been doing this off season, which included a trip to the MLB Winter Meetings, planning the Jim Brown Celebrity Golf Tournament during the Super Bowl, and the rehab process. Please feel free to email me any questions and I will do my best to answer them. I leave you with a riddle from the bullpen “What is closed when it is open, and open when it is closed?”