Results tagged ‘ Eric Nadel ’
This week I’m taking in my first visit to Surprise, Arizona for Rangers Spring Training, and I’m bringing you with me. If you missed the recap of Day One of my trip, check it out right here.
From what I can gather, you go through a few different phases during Spring Training as a player,coach and executive.
1. There’s the initial burst of excitement over getting back to a baseball field and rediscovering your passion for the game you love. This period is great – until you grow weary of the numerous of meetings, practices, simulated situations and other minutia that, while important, is not why anyone signed up to be a part of this game. All during this time, you’re chomping at the bit to start playing something that at least resembles a game.
2. You eventually do move into this phase, but they’re not real games (granted, Spring Training games are not really like real games, but at least it’s somewhat close); they’re more like scrimmages that you play against the same people you’ve been practicing against for the last week or two.
3. Just when you get to the point where you’re mentally over the idea of facing the same opponent day after day, you start games against other organizations, which is a major refresher for the mind.
4. Then, you just get sick and tired of being in Arizona for up to two months and playing the role of “human sunny-side up egg” in the roasting desert sun. You want to get the season underway and start playing games that count (with real stats too).
The big leaguers are in the midst of Phase 3, while the minor leaguers have just gotten to Phase 2, which I watched begin in earnest on Monday morning at the Rangers’ Spring Training complex in Surprise. Along the way, I witnessed the start of a comeback, a rebirth, the long-term future and the bizarre before finishing the day with a Hall of Famer.
7:45 a.m. – As I alluded to at the end of yesterday’s post, I was not going to play the role of fool two days in a row (at least in this specific respect) and get microwaved by the southwest sun once again. Upon the recommendation of the helpful hotel lobby person, I headed over the nearby “99 ¢ Only Store” (because dollar stores are considered too bourgeoisie here) to purchase some sunscreen. Now, I was just as suspicious as you probably are reading this about buying 99-cent sunscreen. “Wouldn’t splashing a layer of water on your skin be at least equally effective?” Yeah, that ran through my head, but my faith in “Hypoderm Sunscreen” (Note to anyone who thought, “Why didn’t I think of an amazing name like that?”: it’s not a registered trademark, apparently) was rewarded. My burns from Sunday were reasonably contained and my skin did not start falling off at any point. And I feel like a true bargain hunter after spotting this attempt on eBay to charge some poor sap $12.99+shipping for three of these babies. The whole episode felt a little like hitting a three-point bank shot that you didn’t call.
8:15 a.m. – Things are still fairly quiet by the time I reach the complex, probably due to the fact that fans won’t be let into the facility until 10 a.m. There are a few hitters getting some early work in and some of the big leaguers are trickling in for the day. The Rangers clubhouse is divided into two sides: one for the major leaguers and one for the minor leaguers. The minor league clubhouse is a lot bigger, but more crowded because there are so many more players in that camp. I am a bit surprised at how nice the minor league clubhouse is, however. I wasn’t necessarily expecting Bull Durham or some high school level accommodations, but I wasn’t expecting it to be nearly equal in many respects to the big league side. The lockers are made of wood (like the major leaguers) and are certainly an acceptable size, the flood is nicely carpeted and it has a welcoming tone to it. It’s much better than many road stadium clubhouses (and some home ones too) I’ve seen in my baseball travels.
On this particular morning, I meet Alex “Chi-Chi” Gonzalez in the clubhouse and we talk about his outing in the big league “A” game the day before. He allowed three of the four men he faced to reach base before being removed after hitting his 20-pitch limit. A pair of meekly-hit grounders were able to sneak through for hits, so he isn’t overly negative about his performance even though all three men came home to score later in the inning. As for his nickname (which he prefers to go by, by the way), Chi-Chi says it was given to him by his grandfather’s brother; he nicknamed Gonzalez’ two older sisters Nina and Nene, so Chi-Chi seemed to fit the bill for Alex.
9 a.m. – Pockets of minor league hitters are taking batting practice out on the back fields (the big leaguers practice on the two fields closest to the stadium/clubhouse). I stumble upon the BP group that folks who love prospects dream about: Joey Gallo, Nick Williams, Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara. Like many, I’ve heard a lot about these players but have never seen them in person (Ronald Guzman and Jorge Alfaro are also among the super-prospects who are super-young and populated Hickory’s Avengers-like squad last season). Like many, I am impressed at first glance. I didn’t realize how big they all were. At 6’3″, Brinson is the shrimp of the group. The others are either 6’4″ or 6’5″ and aren’t just tall rods with pine tar on their batting gloves. They’re built like stallions and we may see one or two gallop to Frisco by the end of 2014 if things go well.
I have a nice conversation about Cody Buckel with rehab pitching coordinator Keith Comstock, who says that Buckel is throwing the ball as well as he ever has. Buckel, the Rangers’ 2012 Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year, suffered a bad case of the yips last season and spent most of the campaign rewiring himself mentally and mechanically. I hadn’t heard much about Cody since the end of the season and am excited to see him pitch later in the day.
9:30 a.m. – The pitchers meet as a group with new farm director Mike Daly right next to the tall observation structure pictured at the start of the blog entry and it’s not long before Daly is about to give another talk to the hitters. It’s recommended that I join the group if I want a cool history lesson. Daly proceeds to educate the players about notable players from the 1966 MLB draft. The first overall pick was Steve Chilcott by the Mets – a seven-year minor leaguer who never reached the show. The second pick did slightly better. His name is Reggie Jackson. Daly tells the group about Reggie’s career and his epic performances in the World Series before finishing up by talking about the sixth overall pick from that draft: none other than Tom Grieve. I later speak with Daly and we talk about his history lesson. He’s concerned about the relative lack of knowledge many young players have about players who came before them, so he makes it a point to relay some history during camp through his own lessons and visits from legends like Pudge Rodriguez and others. Hopefully Texas’ minor leaguers can avoid the fate of Josh Hart.
10 a.m. – After the meetings wrap up, it’s more practice time on the back fields. The four fields are filled with defensive drills, bunt plays and batting practice. I’ll see infield work before games throughout the season, but never 20-30 minutes’ worth with every pitcher also taking part in these simulated situations. These are the minor leagues, and the minors are all about development. We see that over the course of the season, but the foundation is laid right here.
11:30 a.m. – Most of the big leaguers have left the practice fields to get ready for that afternoon’s game against the Reds, but not everyone has headed back to the clubhouse. On the infield-only field, Greg Maddux is hitting ground balls back to Matt Harrison, Nick Tepesch and Tommy Hanson. So not only the minor league guys work on fielding, and what better mound defender to learn from than Maddux, who only racked up a record 18 Gold Gloves during his Hall of Fame career. With not a whole lot else going on, a crush of fans flock to get in prime autograph position for when the session is over (for Tepesch, obviously).
On my way back to the big league side, I have a short chat with Rangers manager Ron Washington who is about to drive his golf back to the clubhouse. I wish him luck this season at the end of our conversation, to which he responds, “Well thank you baby!” and drives off.
12 noon - I meet Brandon Boyd, who is one of the Rangers’ clubhouse managers and also a former RoughRiders employee. Brandon oversaw the ‘Riders clubhouse from 2005-09 before moving on to Arlington. He takes me into the big league clubhouse, where I catch up with several familiar faces: Mitch Moreland, a RoughRider in 2009 and a rehabber in 2012 & ’13; Ryan Feierbend, a 2013 ‘Rider who would throw a scoreless inning in relief of Yu Darvish later in the day; and Brett Nicholas, Frisco’s best offensive player in 2013. Nicholas has been with the big club for the spring, mostly as a catcher after spending nearly all of last year at first base. Most of the clubhouse is vacant, but that is probably because it is when media is allowed in for interviews (nobody likes the media, especially radio guys).
On my way back to the minor leaguers, I stop to talk to Harrison, who I met during his rehab stint with Frisco last summer. Harrison will pitch for the first time in Tuesday’s game and says he feels completely healthy for the first time in a very long time. He says 2013 was agonizing, but feels like he is in great shape and is ready to get back to what made him an All-Star in 2012.
12:15 p.m. – I return to the back fields to watch the three intersquad games being played (the start of Phase 2 of Spring Training). Basically, all of the players in camp are mixed into random teams and pitted against one another for games that would last approximately five innings. This is once of the coolest parts of the day. On Field 5 I see Jorge Alfaro lace a Kevin Pucetas knuckleball to right-center for a triple. Pucetas is reinventing himself as a knuckleball pitcher after toying with the pitch in Frisco last season. Despite the Alfaro three-bagger, the knucklers dance enough that Pucetas does not allow another baserunner.
When I turn to Field 4, I watch Alex Claudio end an inning with a pickoff at second base with Juremi Profar batting and later Jon Edwards hits 98 on the radar gun. It is tough to keep up with all three games at once, so I miss some action but thoroughly enjoy what I did see. And the players seem to enjoy playing in games for the first time since last season. The minor league guys will play intersquad games on Tuesday and Wednesday before squaring off against other organizations beginning Thursday.
Soon enough, it’s Buckel’s turn to pitch and I am not disappointed. Cody looks a lot like the 2012 Cody; the one who struck out 9.9 batters per nine innings and displayed impeccable control. Buckel gets a strikeout and ultimately retires three of the four men he faces. Afterwards, he tells me that it felt good to finally pitch in his first game action since a pair of early-August AZL contests. He says he didn’t attack the strike zone the way he has in recent bullpens, but chalks that up to the long delay in facing live batters.
As an aside, I don’t want to make Buckel’s outing out to be more than it was. It was a good step in the right direction after a nightmare 2013, not a guarantee that he will never struggle again on the mound in the minors. I hope that he can string outings like this together and get his career back to where it was, and then beyond. Monday was not a definitive answer to anything, but it certainly was encouraging to see.
2 p.m. – Following the intersquad games, I head back to Surprise Stadium, where the Rangers and Reds are well underway. But before I can enter the stadium through the team offices, I encounter an obstacle I just am not expecting: bees. Lots of them. A stone column that sits between the office and the stadium concourse apparently gathered an enormous mass of bees over the span of an hour. There was no hive there previously; they just all swarmed to that spot and just stayed. I’m told it’s probably not safe to walk past them and that pest control is on its way. I agree that missing an inning or so of a Spring Training game in exchange for avoiding hundreds of simultaneous bee stings is probably a fair trade. It isn’t long before a group of close to a dozen people (including Rangers special assistant and former pitcher Darren Oliver) join me to watch the extermination.
A photo essay of the kill:
2:15 p.m. – The Rangers and Reds are in the fifth inning by the time I get past the bees and into the stadium. Yu Darvish is finishing up his outing and both teams get ready to send in position players that 95% of the stadium has never heard of. Now 11 years old, Billy Parker Field at Surprise Stadium holds up very well and seems to be an enjoyable place to watch a game. There’s a big Monday crowd on hand; hopefully most of them do not leave with bee stings.
3:15 p.m. – Because I did not get the chance to see him on Sunday, I make a stop by the Rangers’ broadcast booth to see Eric
Nadel. I’ve met Eric a few times at Rangers games and he has always been kind to me. Rangers fans are lucky to have had him for so long and I wasn’t the only one who was very happy for his Hall of Fame election this past off-season. I don’t want to take too much of his and Matt Hicks’ time during the game, but I congratulate Eric on the honor during an inning break and then scoot out of the booth. In the radio booth right next door, fellow Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman is broadcasting for the Reds’ radio network. Eric calls Marty one of his career mentors.
3:40 p.m. – The Rangers wrap up an 8-2 win over Cincinnati as former RoughRiders Neftali Feliz and Nicholas form the game-ending battery. It’s Texas’ first win since Thursday against San Diego and the last game I’ll see at Surprise Stadium during my stay in Arizona. The team heads to Camelback Ranch in Glendale to play the White Sox on Tuesday and I’ll be there for at least some of it as I hit the home stretch of my stay in the desert.
As always thanks for reading,
We’re just a few days away from the start of another baseball season and, even though Tuesday night’s “Future Rangers Showcase” was rained out, everyone here at the RoughRiders is excited to start our 11th season. Over the next five months, you’ll be a seeing a lot of new and interesting stuff in this space as we help you stay up to date with the team and let you get to know the players a little better. I’ll be keeping you up to date with news from the road the best I can, but since I won’t be the only one you’ll hear from, it’s only proper to introduce to you the other members of our blog team for the 2013 season. In addition to contributing here, Nathan Barnett will join me on the radio broadcasts this season while Ryan Garrett will be helping us run things up in the press box. Since they will undoubtedly do a better job writing about themselves than I can (a hiring prerequisite), I’ll turn it over to Nathan and Ryan so that they may introduce themselves in their own words (if you want to read a far less interesting introduction of yours truly, you may do so here, even if it is not recommended).
The ever-present construction and stop-and-go traffic of I-30. The Dallas North Tollway exit from I-35, curving left over the grandstands of Reverchon Ballfield. The northbound Tollway exit at Royal Lane. The most herky-jerky moments during my ride back from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (then simply known as the Ballpark in Arlington) that woke me from my slumber that had become oh-so-routine.
With heavy eyelids and a grumpy moan I woke from my slumber only to realize that waking wasn’t so bad. The cordial narrative coming from the radio, the smooth voice of Eric Nadel, reminded me that baseball was around me. My interrupted slumber caved way to pleasant surprise.
Maybe it was the waning moments of the game: a Jeff Zimmerman punch-out, a heroic whack from Pudge, or a miraculous feat by Rusty Greer or what was left of the Arlington faithful still screaming their voices hoarse.
Perhaps it was a highlight: “that ball is history,” punctuated at least once in the postgame show. If not twice. Or more (as often was the case with those mid 90s Rangers teams). A familiar and comfortable voice reminding me of the great night that was at the Ballpark, retold as if it was happening all over again—like I was there in my seat, when in reality, I was stuck at a red light at Royal Ln and Preston Rd in the back seat of my dad’s sedan.
I didn’t realize it until I was a college senior, slamming down my LSAT Prep book—never to be opened again (it still sits, dusty and somehow lightly stained on my bookshelf at home)—that it was in that thirty-or-so minute car-ride back home, on a school night, when nine innings was almost never in the cards for a young boy of thoughtful parents, that I found a certain romance in calling a baseball game. That feeling of bringing someone the game.
No, more than that: of bringing someone to the game, away from everything else. Away from the bills, and the traffic and stress of everyday life for someone who doesn’t have the time, money or energy to make it to yard themselves. That is what I find so rewarding about what I (somehow) get paid to do.
This business can be crazy. In all the madness that is working in sports—working 100-hour weeks, pushing out 100 sales calls a day, sleeping on floors and even in dining rooms, broadcasting with the flu, calling games cramped two people to a three-foot wide table, staring at a computer on overnight bus trips—everything melts away when that pitcher toes the rubber for the first time and the batter kicks up the chalk of the box in the first.
One of my first mentors in sports once told me “working in sports beats working.” Getting to do the most fun thing I can imagine within sports—well, it is truly indescribable for me.
With this privilege comes obligation: I hope to bring you to the game not just bring you the game.
And here on the blog, I hope we can all bring you closer to the players, the coaches and to us, so that when and if you do tune in to Alex and/or myself on the air this season, the insights and information this forum can provide help attain that goal.
Who knows, maybe we too can feel like the comfortable and familiar voice I heard riding home, with droopy eyes, hearing my role model bring me back to the ballpark.
Or maybe in reading this here, we just get the occasional chuckle out of you. Or tweet. I sure would love that too.
As a kid growing up in Roswell, NM, baseball was the one sport that I enjoyed playing. I was never the fastest runner, the best hitter (though I did hit the lone grand-slam of my 1999 little league team), or never was really competitive or athletic, but I loved the game and I loved spending time with my dad, who served as an assistant coach.
Through the years, especially after moving with my family to the Dallas area in 1998, my lack of athletic talent forced me to realize I was a better fit for watching the games, being an excited fan in the stands or in the comfort of my own home.
I’ve lived the majority of my life in nearby Rockwall, TX, active with school, church and a local boy scout troop. As a 6th grader, music became my passion and I began to play the clarinet. Through high school, I rooted on my Rockwall Yellowjackets as a member of the marching band, and was also the editor of the school newspaper. It was through the high school paper that I found my love for writing and journalism.
I began my first two years of college life in an unusual way, becoming a member of the Corps of Cadets at New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell (alma mater to Dallas Cowboys great Roger Staubach). At NMMI, I studied journalism and continued my music career, playing clarinet in Headquarters Troop, Regimental Band.
After graduating from junior college, I followed in the footsteps of my parents, sister and 20-plus other relatives, attending Baylor University, majoring in Journalism & Public Relations. I donned the uniform of the Baylor Golden Wave Band, and proudly had a front-row seat during RG3’s 2011 Heisman season, the 2012 National Champion Lady Bears’ 40-0 season, and a tremendous “Year of the Bear” in Baylor sports.
Through marching band, my love for sports has grown tremendously. I enjoy watching all sports, cheering on my Baylor Bears, Texas Rangers, Houston Texans and Washington Redskins (RG3). I graduated from Baylor this past December, and started work with the RoughRiders as the Media Intern in February. I love the game of baseball, and I look forward to this season with the ‘Riders, writing articles, blog postings and game stories and spending game days at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
It’s the longest tenure of any broadcaster in the history of the Rangers’ franchise and the second longest continuous current stint with one team in the American League.
The events of last night’s World Series Game 6 need no further discussion for Rangers’ fans. However, there’s something that needs to be acknowledged that virtually no one is aware of.
After St. Louis tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, it was No. 2 broadcaster Steve Busby, not Nadel, who took over the play-by-play in the top of the 10th inning. Now, for the record, this isn’t anything unprecedented in the history of baseball on radio. Even during the RoughRiders’ extra innings games, Brian and I alternate frames. I typically do the 10th, but there’s certainly no rules for how the rotation works.
I heard Busby’s call of Josh Hamilton’s home run in the 10th that put the Rangers up by two when it hit me: if things stay as they are, it will be Busby who is on the mic when the Rangers celebrate their first World Series championship. Not Nadel.
When the bottom of the 10th began, I suddenly became more focused on who would open up the inning on-air, Busby or Nadel? To my surprise, it was Buzz.
I couldn’t believe it. The Rangers are three outs away from winning it all and Nadel is sitting in the back seat. I immediately wondered if he and Busby had talked at all during the inning break about who would call the bottom of the 10th. Did Buzz offer it to Nadel but Eric declined because he wanted to respect the play-by-play rotation? Wouldn’t surprise me, Nadel is that much of a class act. Maybe that conversation never happened.
After Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay both reached to begin the inning, Scott Feldman came on to pitch for the Rangers, replacing Darren Oliver. The Cardinals, once again, were showing life but had just one out to play with. That’s when Busby said, “Feldman is working as the closer tonight, and we bring in our closer, Eric Nadel.”
Judging by Nadel’s reaction, it appeared to me that the toss from Buzz was unexpected. I could be wrong, but he sounded genuinely surprised. Good for Busby. Good for Nadel.
Eric didn’t get a chance to make the call we all wanted to hear. A call that, if it happens, will be replayed time and time again, forever.
Maybe that call happens tonight. If there’s a chance it does, don’t make the mistake of having your radio turned down.
Aaron Goldsmith and I just returned from Arlington after a fun day. It is official–Leonys Martin is a member of the Rangers organization. He was introduced to the media at noon today, prior to the “game that didn’t actually happen because of rain” between Oakland and Texas.
Plenty of notes on Martin, and a few others, in an off-day edition of the Facts.
- Martin will debut with the RoughRiders Thursday night against the Corpus Christi Hooks. He is expected to be the leadoff hitter for the ‘Riders. In five extended spring training games in Surprise, Arizona, Martin batted .438 (7-for-16) with three walks.
- Here are a couple of thoughts from Martin as spoken by a translator, who was Bill McLaughlin. McLaughlin is the Rangers’ Manager of Cultural Enhancement and an international scout. Keep in mind that McLaughlin, at times, uses third-person when speaking for Martin.
- “He is very happy to be a part of the organization. It’s an organization that has a lot of union, and he’s happy to be here.”
- “I thank them for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this organization, and I have the confidence in me to help bring a championship to the organization.”
- A few other thoughts from Martin during the press conference. He hasn’t had a chance to watch a lot of big league baseball, but he did say that he patterns himself after the Mets’ Jose Reyes. He also said that he is good friends with current Frisco first baseman Jose Ruiz. Ruiz, also originally from Cuba, is currently on the Temporary Inactive List while attending the birth of his child.
- In his five seasons in the Cuban League, Martin hit .314 with 38 homers and 190 runs batted in. During the 2009-10 campaign, his last in the league, he hit .326 with a .935 OPS.
- Martin does not speak English, but he does realize that it will be one of the most challenging aspects of his acclimation process. Based on the way he conducted himself at the presser, Martin seems like a very respectful young man. He appeared to get a little choked up during his opening remarks. The Frisco community should look forward to Martin’s time in the Texas League. It should be a lot of fun to watch.
- Another thing that will be interesting to watch is the ‘Riders’ outfield once Engel Beltre returns from his 15-game suspension Friday. We don’t know how Frisco manager Steve Buechele will put those two in the order and in the outfield, but it will be something to monitor.
- Congratulations to reliever Mark Hamburger, who got the call up to Triple-A Round Rock for the first time of his career. Hamburger was 1-0 with a 1.83 earned run average in 11 appearances out of the Frisco ‘pen. He was the team leader with four saves.
- Back with the ‘Riders is fellow reliever Chris Mobley. Mobley, who ended up starting the season with the Express even though he broke spring training with the ‘Riders, was very solid in his time with Round Rock. The right-hander was 2-0 with a 3.48 ERA. Opponents hit just .194 against him in his 20.2 innings of work.
- Being new to the area, I had not been to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington before. It was a really impressive park, and I enjoyed my time there. Looking forward to catching a game there at some point this summer.
- Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting Rangers play-by-play broadcaster Eric Nadel while at the press conference today. What was most impressive to me was the fact that he was fluent in Spanish. He carried a conversation with Martin after the presser. I asked him how long he has been working on his Spanish, and he said since 1990. He seemed like he knew his stuff. But who I am kidding, I couldn’t understand what he was saying.
Enjoy your Wednesday night. We’ll talk to you again tomorrow for the lid-lifter of an eight-game home stand.