Monday, April 23, 2007

Anticipation for Draft Day!

Hello Baseball world!

I dont know about the weather across the rest of the world, but the sun has finally shown itself in the northeast, and everybody seems to be outside trying to catch up on lost time. The doctors have allowed me to resume training and I took full advantage; going the very next day to YU to have a day of practice with my old coach, Norman Ringel, and fellow IBL'er Benji Englehart. Because I have been out of training for a little over a month, and Benji is one pretty jacked individual, he had to slow it down a bit for me, but we still had a lot of fun.

A lot of people don’t realize how easy it is to practice the fundamentals of baseball without a diamond, and without a team, and sometimes even without anyone else. But personally, I always like to practice with someone; it helps push yourself to do more, to try harder, and gives you another set of eyes that is so important to correct mistakes, and point out spots for improvement. Benji and I took turns throwing ground balls right at each others feet, a really simple drill, to force the fielder to look down when they are fielding the ball, and 'see the ball into the glove.' We practiced throwing motions, and after all these were done, we worked on reaction timing by having coach stand behind the L screen and throw us right from about 15 feet. The goal is to just work on getting the barrel of the bat out in front of the ball, and keeping your weight back on curves and off-speed pitches. Not easy stuff when you haven’t worked in a month!

Finally we put the screen all the way back in the cage and threw each other the first live pitching we'd seen in a bit. It was great. Now I want to diverge from the topic for a minute and talk about bats. Ever since I got that crazy, dream-come-true call that I was going to be a part of this league, I began working with wooden bats. From the little leagues up through high-school and even the NCAA, everyone uses metal/aluminum/graphite etc., but all big leagues use wood. If you have ever connected with a metal bat, you notice the soft ping, and effortless flight of the ball off the metal.

But wood, man, it makes this amazing crack, the kind that makes Robert Redford say to Glenn Close "God, I love baseball" (*The Natural*, though I don’t think I have to explain the quote). After feeling, and hearing the wood crack, there is no, and I mean no way going back to the ping. It was almost painful to the ear when we were practicing, so off I go tomorrow to buy some more wooden bats (the downside to wood being, sometimes those 'cracks' are actually cracks).

So little by little all the guys are getting ready, but this week is the big day, and I hope you all can tune in soon after to the internet, and see where we all end up! All the tryouts have ended, the players have signed, and the most exciting moment so far this season, the draft is coming and can be seen via the IBL web site on April 29! I am actually going to be there in person when they call out the names, so as soon as I know which city, I'll let everybody know who to root for (my team) and who to root against (the Yankees). So everybody, get your foam fingers out, and get ready to start cheering: "GO ra'ananatel-avivnetanyatikvabeitmodiin!!!" and of course, the sox. For now the red, who knows, maybe by weeks end, the blue...

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Happy Passover

Chag Sameach, Happy Passover, and for those of you really technical folks, Moadim Le'simcha. I'm signing in to just say hello and wish everyone some happy holiday greetings, hoping the brisket and matza ball combo in most of your stomachs is sitting well. As for me, well, I am lucky enough to be celebrating the holiday in the place where it all began; no I don’t mean Egypt, but rather Israel. For the past 4 years, I have been dragging my family along with me to Jerusalem for the opportunity to have our seder in the same spot our ancestors ate, debated, and most certainly argued with the rest of their relatives. Truth is, I promised in my last blog to talk all about the training regimen I do with the Yeshiva University baseball team, but there hasn’t been much exercising lately. The past few weeks I had been in bed with a pretty horrible virus, the one that doesn’t let you exercise, go out, pretty much do anything for months at a time. It was even a question on whether or not the doctors would allow me to go to Israel for Passover, but I wouldn’t take no for an answer; at least for the vacation.

That being said, before I found out I shouldn’t be practicing or exercising, I had a couple of amazing experiences with the YU team. The coaches, Norman Ringel, Howie Blitz and Ramon Batista all tell us that 'once a part of the YU team, always a part of the YU team' and they truly mean it. So when I go down to their practices, I am running with them, warming up with them, and getting yelled at when I miss a ball just like a regular player. On one very unique night, we went out to the field to practice under the lights to get a familiarity with the home turf. Now the reports said that the night would stay clear until close to midnight, but the snow started just after we had fully warmed up and taken the field. None of the players were willing to give up the chance to take some live ground balls so the coaches obliged and started practice. (A side note: there is nothing, and I mean nothing, better than taking ground balls. Maybe its the die hard infielder in me, but I truly believe any infielder could take ground balls and fielding drills for hours at a time.) About halfway through, the flakes were about the size of quarters, and when they come down like that, the ball looks about the same size. It was one of the hardest and most fun practices we ever had... people diving on purpose just to get a chance to make 'snow angels' in the infield, in between catching flakes on our tongues. Soon after though, we really couldn’t distinguish between the ball and the snow, and had to call the practice off about a half hour early. Still, we had a great time, and a good workout against the elements. It was a good experience for the team, but I don’t know how many 20 degree games I will be playing in the summer in Israel!

Ok, so now that I am doing a little bit better, I really hope to write about what I do during my routine to prepare with the team and on my own. I will be writing about regular routines this week, and when I get back from Israel a lot of the guys (one of them being Dan Rootenberg, who also has a blog) hope to get some practices in together, just to start to get an opportunity to get to know each other before this whole thing kicks off! So to everyone out there, have a wonderful Passover, Easter, Spring, Whatever, and get excited for the REAL opening day baseball June 24!