Saying Goodbye to all that at Petco Park, Escondido Style

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It was all over, especially the shouting, little that it was, as the San Diego Padres wrapped up their 2015 home schedule at Petco Park.

And oh, by the way, in this season of their continued discontent, the Padres humbled their apparent arch-nemesis Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 behind Ian Kennedy’s best game of a 9-15, .428 ERA season. Believe it or not, the Brewers had won the last five games in a row against the not-so-fabulous Friars.

Escondido has had a checkered past when it comes to Major League Baseball, the type of game they tried, and often failed, to play at downtown San Diego’s Petco this year. Just five years ago, pseudo Padres owner Jeff Moorad declared his intention to buy the Padres AAA Tucson franchise and move it to Escondido.

Keep in mind, the ambitious former celebrity player’s agent Moorad never really bought the Padres. He leveraged a buyout of Rancho Santa Fe’s John Moores and tried to pay on time with what was for all purposes a liar’s loan. We’re talking 2010, guys, when the entire real estate and financial markets did the same and bankrupted the country.

In this case, MLB eventually wrested the team back from Moorad, returning it to Moores, a close friend of then-commissioner Bud Selig. As fortune would have it, Moores’ fortune to be precise, at that point the regional Fox Sports networks sprung up paying outrageous prices for the rights to televise MLB games.

Live sports programming just happens to be the sole revenue generator on commercial TV with all other formats bleeding money.

When Fox came calling with Moores in charge, he made out like a bandit flipping  the team over to Ron Fowler, another long and not so good story, for $800 million. Moores used the money to buy super-glamorous hotel properties and do what he does in the wonderful world of charity and jet sets..

As for Escondido’s AAA franchise, that dream lasted all of six months. The plan was to build a $50 million stadium at the site of the Escondido Flea Market with redevelopment bonds as financing.

The California Legislature stepped in along with the California State Supreme Court and blocked the use of government funds to finance private sports stadiums. Sorry, Jeff, but then again, he blew more smoke than a chimney anyway.

From Hidden Valley to Major League

Escondido also has featured a motley crew of ballplayers, MLB-style, over the centuries. Gavvy Cravath led off at the age 27 in 1908. Called “Cactus,” don’t ask, Cravath patrolled right field at historic Shibe Park for the old Philadelphia Phillies. He played in the Dead Ball era, yet managed to lead the National League in home runs six times, as well as RBIs, total bases and slugging from 1913 to 1920,

The Coscarart brothers were next up in the 1930s. Joe Coscarart was an infielder for the Boston Braves from 1935-36. Younger brother Pete Coscarart had a longer career. He played second base and shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1938 to 1941 and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1942 to 1946. He played in the 1940 All star Game. He helped start a player’s union, scouted and worked for decades in real estate.

Troy Afenir and Randy Johnson, each from Palomar College, played some major pro ball. No, not THAT Randy Johnson, the MLB Hall of Fame Cy Young perennial Big Unit, our Randy Johnson played third base for the Atlanta Braves from 1982 to 1984. He then went sushi and sayonara, playing for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp from 1987-88. He now scouts and is based locally.

Afenir donned the tools of ignorance for the Houston Astros in 1987, Oakland A’s from 1990-91 and Cincinnati Reds in 1992. He hit .190 with no home runs in 79 MLB at-bats and now coaches at Palomar.

But we digress.

Petco Park, Andrew -- UGHHH!!!! --Cashner on the mound.

Petco Park, Andrew — UGHHH!!!! –Cashner on the mound.

This day, Thursday, Oct. 1 is a day that will long live in American Pastime infamy, or something like that. This was the last Padres home game of the season. When the game ended, what was left of the Padres squad of unfortunates literally gave the shirts off their backs, one game-worn jersey each to lucky fans who won a charity raffle prize.

About 22,000 fans sat in the comfortable Petco air, laid-back as one would expect witnessing a 3-1 game that for some unGodly reason lasted more than three hours. What the heck was going on all that time?

Between, the beer and the barbecue, nobody seemed to care. Even when the giant video boards that now make Petco look like downtown Ginza in Tokyo at night implored the crowd to make some noise, it was so nice and polite almost like a library where they played a little rounders, don’t you know, between bouts with a smart phone.

Great Gatsby of Petco Park

One of the final games highlights was the giant left field HDTV scoreboard looming like the Great Gatsby’s Eyes of T.J. Eckleburg spitting out so-called fan-cam images aimed almost entirely at making fans look as ridiculous as possible.

Many times, the screen would put a celebrity image in the left and the image of a fan who might or might not resemble that person on the right. Justin Bieber? Check. Johnny Depp? Check.

This fan-scam went on for about six innings. The seventh inning proved its grand demise. The screen flashed an image of Chewie from Star Wars on the left. It presented a mountain man of a fan who, it must be said in all fairness, looked a lot like Chewie on the right.

Guess, fan-scam doesn’t have a live 5-second delay, because the fan in the cam flashed the universal finger of displeasure at the screen long enough to humiliate the fan-scam cameraman. So that fan-shall-we-say-friendly feature went by the wayside. No more fan-cam for you, fans.

No need to say, what with the technology flashing and jiving all over the park, closer Craig Kimbrall finishing off the Brew Crew and a long day’s baseball turning into night, that was all she wrote for another season in the sun at ye olde ball yard.

Heading north towards home, un set in the west, sure enough to rise again tomorrow in the Annie east, rest assured Escondido Padres fans, another season surely will come, maybe with a few more wins and wonders to savor.

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The calendar may say February but the training says spring. WAKE UP!

For more good study, visit http://escondidograpevine.com.

It happens every spring. As the MLB.com screen says: “Welcome Back!”

Baseball sprang into full fast-forward on Monday, Feb. — FEB? — 28 as teams played from here to there and back. Or at least at Casa Fan-tastic, the fan cave with all TV’s and computers blasting like it’s hot, as in July.

Washington 9 New York 3 in the top of the 9th Inning and Mike Morse is shining bright. coming off a power-laden, if platooning year, the man behind the code blasted  Igarashi late of Yakult, now of the new Bowery Bums.

We say Bowery Bums since Mets ownership got Madoffed and reportedly took a last-gasp $25 million MLB loan that outraged former commissioner Fay Vincent this weekend.

And let us not forget the beloved Bums, as in the Duke, Brooklyn legend and Fallbrook, Calif. resident, who passed this weekend. Mr. Snider, we presume, is shagging flies today somewhere around Field of Dreams, Dyersville, Iowa. Condolences and memories collide.

Now, the new breed, baseball’s always promising future comes into play. Enter Bryce Harper who looks good. Looks great, less filling, a good-looking guy destined for destiny and Double-A. Hey, it’s spring, can you say majors in September.

Speaking of being a little rusty, hello Dioner Navarro. Little leaguers, YO, don’t try what he did at home…plate.

An artful Dodger, Navarro got away with it once, though, going all Pudge behind the dish, throwing from his knees and nailing the fleet attempted thiefster Juan Pierre — I always rinse, repeat, rinse that name in giant letters — JUAN PIERRE JUAN PIERRE, just ’cause it sounds cool. Out at second base and with EXTREME prejudice the first stolen base try of the spring.

But Dioner, bless his spring heart, got greedy. Attempting the same feat as Pierre tried to steal third base later in the game, Navarro squat, cocked, and threw the ball far north of the infield, wide and to the left fielder. Can you say…Embarrassing.

Thanks goodness for spring training though, for fans as well as playas. Breaking open our many MLB interfaces for the first time in 2011, sticking our faces into the ever-emerging baseball portal; games are on TV, games are on the computer, games, games, games everywhere and not a moment to re-consider.

Keith Hernandez is to the left computer screen. speaking wisely of Carlos Beltran’s move from the center square. Tommy Lasorda is to the right TV, reminding us the Duke never showboat dove for a ball. That’s right. It’s back, back, back, baby. Hallelujah!

I’m rusty, yes, but willing. MLB.Com has Mets-Nationals, obviously. MLB Channel has Dodgers-White Sox, obviously, and the radio feeds buzz with a dozen, or so, preliminary skirmished contests.

It will take a few days to get back up to speed for me, and you, but we’ll be going good as gold gloves by next week, plenty of time to be there and be squarely in the baseball mood.

And with that said, film at whenever,  I’ll be back online in a few…

So, you want to throw a fastball — 2- and 4-seam grips

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So, you want to throw a fastball. There are two kinds of grips: Two seam and four seam. First you have to get a grip on the ball. Put the fingers on top of the seams with the thumb underneath. Don’t choke the ball. Put it out between the two pads on the fingertips.

The two seam grip starts with outing the two fingers on the seams. This grip makes the ball move somewhat. Infielder use the four seam grip to get better. they wrap the finger around the seams. People refer to the two seam pitch as a straight fastball. the pitch goes fast but has some movement. The most common grip keeps the fingers close together along the seam. The thumb touches the ball slightly. The more pressure applied with the index finger, the more movement on the ball.

Two seam fastballs aren;t quite as quick to the plat as four seam fastballs. Analysts believe they’re several miles per hour slower. However, the movement factor makes the pitch just as effective. The more the pitcher spins the two seam grip as he throws, the more the ball moves. Breaks on the ball vary greatly depending on the pitcher’s arm strength and finger position. It’s a natural grip that is taught to players at an early age and remains usable throughout their careers.

Leading Major League Baseball pitchers past, and present, known for using the two seam grip include:

  • Greg Maddux
  • Jake Peavy
  • Yu Darvish
  • Dave Price
  • Max Scherzer
  • Felix Hernandez
  • Jamie Moyer

Four seam fastballs are a bit tougher to throw and are sometimes know as a rising fastball. They also bring the high heat with the rising ball coming in at the fastest possible speeds. This is the one pitchers hump on in the majors for 100 miles per hour. It’s designed for speed, not comfort.

Challenging a batter at the purest reflex level, pitchers grip the four seam ball with index and middle finger across the seams, perpendicular to the digits. Grip the ball on top of the seam horseshoe pattern with the seams facing away from the body. Put your thumb underneath the ball the same as in the two seam grip. The back of the thumb should be lightly touching the underneath seam.

The four seam ball is released with a straight-ahead motion. It can be thrown from any arm angle. As the ball slides off your grip;s middle fingers, it spins a little. The spin causes the ball to move as it rises in the strike zone. It’s designed to go straight through the strike zone. A lot of pitchers grow up throwing with this grip because the four seam fastball is the most reliable pitch in baseball and most natural for the wrist and arm.

Some of the best four seam baseball pitchers in 2013 included:

  • Lance Lynn
  • Bartolo Colon
  • Anibal Sanchez
  • Zack Greinke
  • Madison Baumgarner
  • Matt Harvey
  • Clayton Kershaw

The key to throwing a great four seam baseball is the grip. Hold it like an egg in your grasp. Maintaining a gap between your hand and the ball is important. Keeping a loose grip on things keeps friction off the hand to a minimum. The ball goes faster with less friction.

Back to the two seam grip, it needs to create more friction to maintain greater ball movement. That calls for a tighter grip. This makes the horsehide run in and back up aligned with the throwing hand motion at speeds of one to three miles per hour slower than the four seam grip.

If you’re a right-handed pitcher, throw the two seam ball to the right of the plate and the four seam fastball to the left glove side. This makes the break tail away from hitters. Left-handed pitchers grip and throw the ball to the left for the two seamer and right for the four seamer.

When it coms to throwing a fastball, the grip boils down to comfort level, hand size and personal preference. Some pitchers mix and match grips depending on situations. It all boils down to which grip fits you best. The four seam fastball will overpower hitters. The two seam fastball will get there almost as fast with a sink and a twist.

Palomar College baseball field now in play

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Palomar College has one of the top junior college baseball programs in the nation. Now it has a $10.2 million baseball complex second to none if the JUCO world.

The brand spanking new baseball complex opened play on Jan. 27 with the Palomar Comets taking on the College of the Desert Roadrunners. A brief ribbon cutting and ceremony preceded the game.

Baseball and Palomar sports lovers can thank local voters for the new digs. Proposition M bond measure passed by voters in November 2006 raised $694 million to improve the San Marcos campus, the satellite Escondido campus and build a new Fallbrook campus.

Tyler Saladino batting for the Palomar Comets.

Tyler Saladino batting for the Palomar Comets.

The new complex features a natural turf field with a subsurface drainage system, artificial turf foul territory, stadium-chair seating for approximately 300 with additional upper seating on an artificial turf slope, seven full batting cages, five bullpen mounds, an elevated press box with a state-of-the-art public address system, and a designated warm up area with artificial turf.

The facility  replaces aging Myers Field just off Mission Road which originally was constructed in the early 1950s by the late Palomar head coach Ward “Rusty” Myers, his players and volunteers.

Palomar College is known for its baseball program. Darren Balsley, the longtime acclaimed San Diego Padres pitching coach payed there. So did Nick Vincent, a Padres pitcher, as did Tyler Saladino, Chicago White Sox third baseman.

Troy Afenir a catcher with the Houston Astros, Oakland A’s and Cincinnati Reds; third baseman Randy Johnson — the OTHER Randy Johnson — of the Atlanta Braves; George Hinshaw, second baseman with the Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers; Jim Scranton, a Kansas City Royals shortstop.

Another seven former Comets now are on MLB rosters. Too many former players to name here made it to the Minor Leagues. Twenty currently are in the minors.

Among Palomar’s many baseball honors: California State Tournament Runner-Up 2005; South Central Conference champions 1957, 1962; Pacific Coast Athletic Conference champions 1988, 1989, 1993, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.

Saladino batting for the Chicago white Sox

Saladino batting for the Chicago white Sox

Palomar College’s baseball team has won five consecutive Pacific Coast Athletic Conference championships and is ranked No. 2 in Southern California in the preseason.

Palomar last year was ranked second in the nation by Perfect Game USA entering the California Community College Athletic Association State Championship Final Four in Fresno.

The Comets finished third in the state tournament behind champion Orange Coast College of Costa Mesa and runner-up San Joaquin Delta College of Stockton.

MLB may be playing regular season games in Europe?

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Reports circulating say Major League Baseball may play a few regular season games in Europe in the near future.

Several knowledgable MLB sources said Bud Selig, MLB commissioner, was poised to announce games played in Europe as his last great initiative before he retired from his post in January. Among other accomplishments, Selig has been at the baseball helm for expansion of league efforts throughout the world.

Regular season games have been played in Japan and Australia at the beginning of the season for several years now. Games that count also have ben played in Mexico and Puerto Rico. Furthermore, the World Baseball Classic, played every three years, has generated increased international interest in the game. Baseball programs and leagues have sprouted in many locations from Russia and Israel to the Far East and beyond.

Several sources were tweeting the news. Eric Fisher of Sports Business Journal said Selig was hopeful that an announcement would be made soon with London and the Netherlands viewed as potential landing spots for regular season games. Jon Morosi of Fox News said Amsterdam was viewed as being the best prepared to host games next year.

While England hasn’t fielded teams in the WBC, London has been the scene for several successful regular season and exhibition Nation Football League games. The Dutch are viewed as having better baseball infrastructure. The Dutch team has done well in the WBC even reaching the semifinal round in previous years.

The New York Times has reported that a $15 million ballpark expansion at Hoofddorp, Netherlands could expand that stadium to 30,000 seats. Hoofddorp is an Amsterdam suburb, about 15 miles from downtown near the airport that is home to more than 70,000 people.

Hoofddorp stadium officials have said they were renovating the stadium to meet MLB standards up to and including locker rooms of more than 4,000-square-feet. They also have installed a gravel, silt and clay field similar to those at MLB ballparks.

Most recently, MLB opened the 2014 regular season with games between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers. The 2012 regular season kicked off in March with games at Tokyo between the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners.

Let Teddy Win: The Week of Memorial Day in MLB

Don’t ask me about the weather around here. Don’t tell me what day it is or where to go for food stamps. I don’t care.

Reading through these scribbles on a yellow steno book, I see many times written let Teddy win. But that buffoon is worse than the 1962 Mets, or 1962 Senators for that matter.

Woe unto Teddy (giant racing Roosevelt head) never wins. He hasn’t won the D.C. president’s race since last year when he surprised crosstown rival Oriole bird mascot.

Last week, however, the bird took the annual crosstown match more seriously and quite poor-naturedly mugged Teddy, not once, but twice.

That’s baseball. Oh wait, that’s not even baseball. That’s nice.

On the field, David Eckstein was doing his Marcel Marceau impression as he pantomimed pain while serving as a human pitching backstop getting hit several times in the ribs, on the shoulders, all over the place last week. Ouch. It hurts just to watch, or contemplate.

Then, I had a good one for A. J. Burnett that he almost, but not quite ruined, by finally pitching decently and blanking the Rangers on Wednesday; Wednesday, right?

After a recent Yankees walk-off, Burnett smacked hero Johnny Damon in the face with a shaving cream pie. I was all set with the only thing he can hit with a pitch is Johnny Damon’s face with shaving cream pie, but as I said, Burnett tried to resemble that remark.

Viva Clay Zapata, I mean Zavada. It was hard to tell the difference since Zapata, I mean Zavada, featured a perfect Emiliano Zapata — that Zapata — mustache. Zavada is throwing better than kinsman Zapata giving up no earned runs in four innings, including Tuesday, so far. So viva Zavada.

How bad was it for the Cubs during their recent losing streak. They started wearing rally caps in the first inning. That doesn’t exactly buoy my confidence in their chances.

Yeah, Mr. T got very ugly with the Take Me out crowd at Wrigley Field seventh inning stretch. I swear I’ve heard him sing before on some variety show, or nightmare, and he sang pretty well. So, I’m wondering if that whole deal wasn’t total shtick. I’m shocked, shocked Mr. T would do something merely for publicity purposes.

Speaking of publicity, two players who need mad pub immediately if not sooner. Adrian Gonzalez wasn’t even top six for National League all-star first base voting. Are you kidding me? Talk about below even under the radar. He is having an MVP-type season.

And in the junior circuit, Ryan Sweeney. For all the Tori Hunter, Andruw Jones et al,  hype, this guy is the best defensive outfielder in baseball. Too bad he hasn’t hit much yet.

One final note, earth to B. J. Upton. And I am so frustrated I put this in all caps:

YOU PLAY TOO FREAKIN’ SHALLOW IN CENTER FIELD. MOVE BACK SO YOU ACTUALLY CAN CATCH SOMETHING AT THE WARNING TRACK. PLEASE, FOR HUMANITY’S SAKE…

Streaking: Chorizo breaks through while Adrian Gonzalez homers in a forest and nobody knows

Without any fanfare, Adrian Gonzalez on Saturday, May 16 stood at the precipice of one of MLB’s most illustrious streaks.

And nobody knows.

Well, some people know. Gonzalez hit yet another home run Friday. It was the fifth consecutive game in which he had homered.

The consecutive game home run streak once was considered one of baseball’s greatest achievements this side of Joltin’ Joe’s 56 straight games and Lou Gehrig-Cal Ripkin’s iron man experiences.

Hitting home runs in consecutive game after game is considered just about the highest degree of batting difficulty.

Eight games by Dale Long from May 19 through May, 28 1956 for the Pirates set the modern record. Don Mattingly for the Yankees from July 8 through July 18, 1987 and Ken Griffey Jr. for the Mariners from July 20 through July 28, 1993, each tied the record.

What do you know a home run record with modern players in no way influenced by steroids. Now, there’s an oddity.

Going the steroid (allegedly) route, Barry Bonds had a seven game streak and three six game streaks.

Gonzalez is the Padres offense, period. So, it’s been surprising he has been pitched to on a consistent basis, although that appears to be changing. Who knows how long teams will continue pitching to the Padres sole offensive presence, how long Gonzalez will continue maintaining patience at the plate,

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Speaking of streaks, Chorizo, the expansion pork in the Milwaukee Brewers sausage race, finally broke through victory lane. Chorizo had lost the first 20 races of the season, and its expansion career, before breaking through on Wednesday, May 13 during the Brewers-Marlins game.

There was much talk before the fateful race that Marlins utility player Alfredo Amazega, a native of Ciudad Obregon de Mexico, had coached his home boy Chorizo before the upset. So, Amazega may have a future in some type of coaching gig, sausage or otherwise. Obviously, Chorizo was no mere fermented cured smoked sausage on the occasion of its upset victory. (Insert your own Randall Simon joke here.)

For the record, as of Friday, to no one’s surprise, big bully Hot Dog led with seven victories, followed by arch-rival Bratwurst at six, Italian Sausage — Mama Mia — at four and fellow slacker Polish Sausage at two wins.

Speaking of sausage races, now everybody seems to have a knock-off. Guess the copyright laws don’t cover this franchise.

Pittsburgh had been doing pierogi. Oakland has some kind of dots. Washington’s is the most ignominious of all, however, with G. Washington, T. Roosevelt, Jefferson, and Lincoln sloshing it up in da house.

Actually, I find the copycat races somewhat tiresome, except fans at the park win a free coke or something. My feelings are decidedly mixed, especially about he president’s race in Washington. It’s sort of funny, sad, pathetic and disrespectful at the same time. These guys are America icons, a lot more so than the Nats, so the entire spectacle looks cheesy in an uncomfortable way.

With that said, they keep stats for everything in baseball these days. So, feed these results in your sabermetrics chart:

Lincoln is the big face in front with seven wins this year, followed by TJeff with five, Georgy “Boy” D.C. Washington — in da house — with three, and that big loser, no doubt slowed by that darn big stick, T.R. with what the little boy shot at, nothing.

President race highlights, according to the authoritative source on all things presidential race-related, http//blog.letteddywin.com/presidents-race:

April 13, Teddy & “The Cat” spoil Thomas Jefferson’s birthday;  April 22, Teddy stops mid-race to pass out Earth Day goodies, and, of course, who in attendance could ever forget May 1, Presidents race blindfolded. Teddy runs the wrong way.

Is there any doubt why that goofball T.R. is winless so far this season.

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Friday’s gone as are these baseball oddities of the week…

1. Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump looking very, like, ugly together at Yankee Stadium. And they expect the Yankees to win with karma like that in the front row? The Donald’s hair, by the way, hit for the cycle.

2. Ichiro gets physical. Somebody better check his vitamin supplements, wink wink. Two home runs in consecutive innings to beat Jon Lester and the Red Sox single-handedly.  The score was 5-4. Ichiro drove in three runs and scored two.

3. Speaking of face-offs, Heath Bell v. pinch hitter Adam Rosales for the final out in Padres-Reds.  As two of the most visually emotive, and emotional players in the game, each made an incredible show following the final encounter in which Bell smoked Rosario to preserve a rare Padres victory. No brotherly love in that game, either. Jerry Hairston twice lined out to brother love Scott. Darn.

4. Sometimes, the crowd doesn’t know what to make of a situation. Take, for example, the strange scene at Boston when the Red Sox scored 12 runs in a row before Mike Lowell made the first out in the sixth inning against the Indians on May 7. The crowd didn’t know what to do — After all, he made an out, that’s bad, correct? — before breaking out in very scattered, and confused, applause.

5. Oh those darn Indians, B.J. Upton capped a seven run Rays comeback Friday, winning the game 8-7 in the bottom of the ninth inning with a solo blast, But I don’t care. He plays way too shallow in center field and has missed balls over his head all season. Back it up, dude.

6. Adam Jones has been great this year, but he didn’t look so hot the other day when he made an out on Ball Four. Didn’t know you could do that, huh? Alphonse-Gaston, we presume. You’re safe, he’s out. Jones attempted a steal as Nick Markakis took ball four, then over-slid the bag and was tagged out by Derek Jeter — shortstop, six, unassisted, if you’re scoring — and who does these days, nobody — end of inning.

7. In a special note for those following TV instead of, or alongside, baseball on Friday. They had their choice of ingenious counter-programming. “Farrah’s Story” went head-to-head with “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

Do I stay or do I go? Decision, decisions…