Sunday, December 12, 2010

When is the ONseason???

So, my first professional offseason has been exactly that, off. Six months away from the game of baseball is a bit absurd, isn't it? Especially when you consider the fact that I have been playing ball for 11. 5 months out of every year since I was 8. Needless to say, it has taken me a while to adjust to the "rigors" of the offseason. But, as soon as I find myself twiddling my thumbs and checking the App Store every two seconds for new iPhone apps to entertain me, baseball activities have officially resumed. I started playing catch this week and I've began to ratchet up my training. Spring training is still almost three months away, but I'm sure the next three months will move much faster than the last three. Boy am I glad for that. 

Now, I haven't completely been sitting on my behind this whole offseason. Besides from working out and training I am also giving pitching lessons at my old High School. It's really been fun to help out some kids who are in the same position as I was about eight years ago. I feel like I have had such a great baseball upbringing and I am more than glad to pass on some of my knowledge. The funny thing is, as a pitching coach who is supposed to impart wisdom, I feel like I have so much more to learn. I've come to realize that baseball is a process. These kids are just at an earlier stage of "the pursuit" than I am. The day you stop learning things about yourself and about the game is the day baseball has passed you by. I hope I don't stop learning for a long time.

To be completely honest, there has been a lot of sitting on my butt this offseason too; at least compared to the constant hustle and bustle of the season. But, I've found ways to entertain myself. I've learned how to play a few songs on my iPhone piano,  I've become an expert at NCAA football 11, I've watched a few good documentaries on Hulu, and I've made a slideshow from my pictures and videos of this year in Williamsport on iMovie. Special thanks to Rhashan for giving me most of my good footage. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Blah Blah Blah

So life hasn't been too blog friendly lately... Since moving to the bullpen last week, Internet on my computer has been terrible, opportunities to take pictures have been nil, and games have been hard to follow from the telescopic view of the pen. My week which used to consist of 5 distinctly different days has now turned into a damn mush of the same thing every day (not too different than the now famous pb and j sandwiches). I went from starting one game every five days to throwing one to two innings every three to four days. I know it is for my own protection, but I didn't know that it would play on my sanity. But in all seriousness things aren't too bad, they're just more boring. I no longer have my nature runs or my charting to tell you about, now all I have to go off of is bullpen chatter (almost all of which is not suitable for the Internet). So, I find myself still without internet, typing this blog on a recently downloaded app (which needs a few improvements) for my iPhone, telling you about practically nothing. Is this what my blog has come to? Rest assured, no matter how boring the rest of the summer is, I will be blogging about it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Throwback...To The Bullpen

Maybe it was the baseball gods trying to say something, or maybe it was just appropriate that on Friday night during my first relief appearance we were wearing retro uniforms. I realize that it wasn't too long ago since the last time I’ve thrown in relief. Heck, even this year at school I closed on Fridays, but for some reason that feels like ancient history. I have been able to be on a routine as a starter for the last year and I really have grown used to it. I’m a routine kind of guy, I like knowing what I’m going to do and when I’m going to do it. But as a reliever, you have to be at your best all the time because you never know when you are going to have to perform. Luckily I have experience relieving under some high pressure situations and on some big stages so I am definitely equipped to handle this new challenge. Nevertheless, it is a change and I will have to make my adjustments. For instance, Friday the game sped up on me a little bit. I found myself getting out of my mechanics and really rushing through my delivery. Luckily, I was able to fight out of a couple of jams and get the win....I thought it was very funny that I got the win on the day of my once-scheduled start, perhaps the baseball gods still at work.
So, why the move to the bullpen? Well, on Wednesday I was called into Lance’s (the pitching coach) office. He told me that they are very pleased with how I’ve thrown so far and above all else they want to protect my arm. He said that since I threw so many innings this year at school I would move to the bullpen for the rest of the year to cut down on my innings. And that was that, Pettis is back in the ‘pen. At first I was a little surprised by this decision but looking at it know I think its probably a good thing. First of all, to this point I have throw 157 innings this year. Major League workhorses throw around 200 innings per year, and I was on pace to reach that number easily. Now, I have no doubt that I could have handled this workload, but for what reason. There is no award for throwing the most innings in your first year of professional baseball. So my arm will get a much needed breather. Secondly, I think it’s a good thing that the organization even thinks it is necessary to rest my arm. Hopefully, the have seen my early success and value me as a prospect in their system and one that they don’t want to injure. So, despite the minor inconveniences that go with making a mid-season role change, I think I can make the best of it.


My attempt at photographing our throwback jerseys


Then Mario helped (please excuse Borup with his pants down)



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Writer's Block

I had my 5th start the other day and it was a good one. So, you would think that I would have tons to write about and that I would be able to eloquently describe every pitch……..but I can't. This blog has been a lot of fun to do and really something that I look forward to every couple of days. I can write for hours on the promotions in the park or what I have to eat or really almost anything. But, I have been finding it increasingly hard to write about the one thing that I came here to do, pitch. In the beginning it was ok because everything was new and there were a lot of things to say, but now that I've been through it a few times I feel like a broken record. But you know what, as an athlete I think thats a good thing. It's not my job as an athlete to be able to comment on every aspect of my performance, that's for the columnists and the sports writers. My job is to forget about what I did last time and begin to prepare for the next time. It would be almost anti-athletic of me to come here and write a three page blog about every outing. Instead I could give you some standard phrases like, "executing pitches","having a good mindset", "battling", or "setting up hitters". But, that's where the broken record comes into play. So, today, when faced with a writers block about my last start, instead of thinking it was a bad thing I realized that's how my mind is supposed to work. Today, I'm not focused on thinking about my last start. I'm thinking about my bullpen, the 10 three-quarter poles I have to run, and if the weather will hold up for the game. If you want to be the best athlete you can be you have to always be present. If you get stuck thinking about the past, thats when you get in trouble. Now, if my blog suffers then oh well. I'd rather be a good athlete with an average blog than the other way around.


P.S. I was doing my running yesterday around Williamsport and I found an area of town called West Hills....small world.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Promotions


One thing that I have really enjoyed about playing minor league baseball is all the promotions that our ballpark comes up with to try to get butts in the seats. Our head of marketing Gabe, has come up with some really inventive ways to try to create some buzz at the ballpark. Some people might think it's corny or cheesy or whatever out-dated expression you want to put on it, but I think it's kinda neat (another out-dated expression). I see it like this, the fact that people take the time to try to think of ideas for people to come out and see us play baseball means that we are kind of important. All your life you play baseball in near anonymity, but when you're a professional there are actually other people whose sole job is to try to get more people to watch YOU. It's a complete 180 from the family and friend atmosphere of Anteater Ballpark, where everyone knows your name (yes, I just alluded to Cheers). 
So most parks do promotions on an every-now-and-then basis, but our park, good ole Historic Bowman, takes it to a new level. The last six home games we have had a theme of the night. First it was July 4th (on July 3rd I might add), then it was Circus at the Ballpark, next was Irish-American Night, followed by Christmas in July, and Ballpark Beach Party, and finally tonight was Military Appreciation Day..... It has been a little exhausting. Speaking of exhausted, the scoreboard manager must be tired because every night he has had to Photoshop a new effect on our pictures for the scoreboard. First it was Uncle Sam hats on July 3rd, then clown hair and nose, then a leprechaun hat, then a Santa hat, then sunglasses, and finally tonight was an Army helmet (These actually look really cool and I wish I had a good enough camera to take pictures of them). But, I think my favorite part of the whole promotional thing is when on the rare occasion we get to wear a special hat or uniform. Last post I showed you guys the hat for the 4th and today we got to wear camouflage uniforms. I have always loved watching games where teams wore special uniforms, whether it be throwbacks or holidays or whatever, and now I get to be one of those players. It's pretty cool. Although, today I was in the stands charting so I didn't actually get to wear it but I still felt like I was a part of it. I think promotions are one of the things that make minor league baseball unique. It's a little slice of Americana or Irish-Americana or Whatever-Americana that night has in store....
.........On a side note, we drove by the Little League World Series field today. It is awesome. It was almost surreal to see it in person after having watched it for so many years. I'm sure I'll post about it sometime down the road.

CAMO!!!



Howard J. Lamade Stadium



Thursday, July 8, 2010

The No Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Optimism goes to die in Burlington, Vermont. Now, I'm sure its a beautiful place to live most of the year. But for the three days we were there, it was absolute h-e- double hockey sticks. We came into town to face the Vermont Lake Monsters with a gaudy 13 and 3 record. This would be our toughest test of the year so far, not because of the talent of the opposing team, but because the horrible conditions we were up against on and off the field. First of all, it was 98 degrees and humid...Second, the visitors clubhouse (actually University of Vermont's soccer locker room) was a country mile away from the field, had no air conditioning, and was the size of a closet. Third, the field was in horrific condition; concrete dirt, long grass, and an outfield more hilly than the Rockies. It wasn't hard to understand why a team with an ungodly home-field advantage such as this was tops in the league. Needless to say we lost two of three in the series and the Lake Monsters increased their lead over the rest of the league.

I started the one game that we did win in the series. I didn't have my best results of the year but I felt that I executed really well. I can never really get too mad at results alone. Sure, I would have liked to give up only the one run that I felt like I deserved to give up, but its not about that. It's about executing the pitches and making smart decisions on the mound. And I was happy with that during my outing. These hitters were definitely harder outs than the teams I had faced before (hence the 13-3). But, I felt like I constructed good at-bats and made pitches when I had to. I think this outing will really help my development. My last couple outings were relatively easy, I wasn't under a lot of pressure and I never really had to battle my way out of an inning. But, this outing I really had to make pitches in key situations and dig deep to get myself out of jams. I thought I did a good job of "being comfortable being uncomfortable" (a sports psychology saying) and really executing when it meant the most. All in all I can't be too upset with improving my record to 3-0 on the year...

P.S. I think the mascot "Lake Monster's" is the best one so far.

Our 4th of July hats


The Latin's (and Angelle) getting in the holiday mood


The extra-small locker room in Vermont


Our distant view of the field from the locker room



The "death" field






Friday, July 2, 2010

Randomness

Don't really have much to say in this blog of consequence, just some random stuff that I thought would be fun to share. First, remember the video I posted of Rhashan the "Director of Smiles". Well, before his usual sendoff yesterday one of our relief pitchers Siulman Lebron decided to poke fun at our superfan...


Pretty good impression (minus the accent)

Also, I think its about time that I gave a shout out to an American staple, the PB and J. As a minor league baseball player I consider myself an expert on the subject. I have two everyday as part of my pre-game meal (kinda sounds like Happy Gilmore's Subway commercial). But seriously, if you don't like this all-too-familiar concoction as a minor leaguer, you will be in a lot of pain. Because, literally, we have it EVERY day. Luckily for me, I like it. And I have no problem eating the same thing everyday for the rest of my life (don't hold me to that). So, I just thought that it would be appropriate to give the PB and J some love on my blog since its given me so much love the last few weeks....

Typical pre-game spread


An ode to PB and J


Finally, I leave you with some pictures from my run around State College, which is right next to Penn States football field....

Pretty Sky




Penn State Football Stadium



The closest I could get to the playing surface (its the square of light in the distance)


Joe Pa's Statue



Baseball Stadium (left) Football Stadium (right)



Thursday, July 1, 2010

3rd Times Almost a Charm

So I started my third game yesterday and it was a good one. I took a no hitter into the seventh inning before giving up my only hit of the game. While the results were special, I didn't feel like I did anything above and beyond to get the results. Perhaps it was just the right team for me to face at the right time, but I feel like I can pitch like that every game. Now, I don't expect to have the kind of results I did every time out, but as far as execution goes I think I should be able to replicate that on a consistent basis. It was funny, looking back at last night, how relaxed I was. I was on the mound without a care in the world. I wasn't really thinking about throwing a no-hitter, even though I was aware of it. I was just trying to execute every pitch and throw the right pitches in the right situation. That's one thing that I like so much more than college, and I think it makes you better as a pitcher too. In college, your coach calls all the pitches and you have limited leeway to shake off to something you are more comfortable with throwing. But, in pro ball every pitch is your decision so you are thinking through every at-bat so much more than in college. And when it is your pitch that you are throwing it seems to be so much easier to execute than if it came from the man in charge. I don't know, maybe its the type of pitcher I am. I can't blaze my 97 mph fastball by people or throw an absolutely nasty slider and people will get themselves out. I really have to construct an at-bat, set the hitter up, and execute the pitch to get them out. So, its really a nice change for me to be able to call my own game and out think the hitter.

One reporter asked me yesterday, "Through three starts you have some pretty good numbers, as a 35th round pick did you need some early success to give you confidence?" Inside I was laughing my ass off...But I told him, "Definitely not. I don't see myself as a 35th round pick (thats a whole other blog). I expect these kind of performances out of myself and I would not settle for anything less." And thats one thing I've really noticed about this level of baseball. We all know the draft is a stupid process that doesn't reward those who it should, but I didn't know how stupid it was till I got here. Success is not determined by where you get drafted or how much your signing bonus is. Success at this level is determined by how well you play the game. I'm not talking about raw talent either, its about respecting the game of baseball and playing it the right way. A person who knows how to play the right way will beat out someone with better raw skills any day. And you can see it almost across the board, especially with pitchers. Just look at the numbers and then look at the draft position, it's laughable. The whole tools bullshit that scouts look at has nothing to do with being a successful player. Sure, tools help but they aren't necessary or sufficient to making a good baseball player. What is necessary and sufficient is the knowledge of how to play the game and how to get better every day. And that is what I will try to do for the rest of my career.


Here are some links of articles about last night........

Pettis Shuts Down Auburn
Pettis Takes No-Hitter Into Seventh

Monday, June 28, 2010

Karma

Karma is most certainly a bitch, especially when it isn't even your karma that you have to pay for. So, the last two days we were playing in Jamestown, NY and all I could hear was players, coaches, and staff members bitch about how bad EVERYTHING in Jamestown is. "The clubhouse is so small and dirty" "the dugouts are tiny and I almost hit my head on the top""the field is in bad condition""the people here in Jamestown are so weird""Jamestown sucks"....And on and on, it wouldn't stop. And to be honest, ya it wasn't the nicest place to play in the world , but I didn't think it was all that bad. Uncomfortable, yes, but not to the point to where it had to be the theme of the weekend. Even our manager, the field general, the one who is supposed to be the calm operator of the whole team told me, "Pettis, this is the second worst place that you will ever play in your whole career." I'd hate to see the worst.......

Our bitching didn't go unnoticed, the baseball gods were listening. They said, oh you think this is bad, we'll show you bad. So, to pay for our piss poor attitude as a team, we were given the trip back home from hell. About 30 minutes into our 3 and a half hour ride back home, we pull to the side of the road. And I think to myself this can't be good. After a long, suspenseful pause, one of our coaches stands up and tells us that it will be three hours until a new bus can come to pick us up to go another 3 hours. To make things worse, I had a seat-partner on the bus for the first time since I've been out here. So, for the next 6 hours I was cramped in the corner of a freezing cold bus, trying to get comfortable to sleep off the time (I only actually got an hour of sleep) and half watching the movies that were on half listening to music half annoyed and half pissed off. We got back to the field at 5 am after a 5 pm game (which we lost) that was rain shortened. 12 hours of karma courtesy of the baseball gods...

Here are some pictures I took on my run Saturday in Jamestown...


A nearby park


So old that the streets are made of brick



A typical Jamestown house



A distant view of the field (you can barely see it left of the trees)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Circle of Life.....as a Starter

So, yesterday was my second start....But before I comment on that I want to take you through the 5 day schedule of a starter.

Day 1: The day after your start is the most important one in the recovery process. This day consists of a 25-30 minute run to flush out all the soreness in your arm. In college, this is a day to rest your arm, but in pro ball you only have 4 days to recover so long toss is in order. Then, during batting practice, you are on pig tail (the guy who picks up all the ball that the shaggers throw in). Also, during BP the pitching coach will usually stand with you to go over your outing and talk about things you did well and things you can do better next time. Your work is done well before the game starts and during the game you're usually just trying to keep your eyes open.

Day 2: The second day is your day for adjustments. The running is a little less strenuous, 10 three-quarter poles (which is really pretty easy). Long toss again, and then you throw a bullpen. This bullpen is crucial because, unlike in college where you have 2 bullpens a week, a 5 day rotation only allows for one bullpen. So, make sure to make your adjustments today or you can create bad habits in a hurry. Once again, your work is done before the game begins.

Day 3: This is the lightest day for a starting pitcher. Running is quick and painless, 8 half poles and 2 sets of pickups. Long toss again (the Phillies believe in long toss everyday) but you can temper your effort based on how good your arm feels that day. But, on day 3 you are not only a baseball player, you are also a scout. During the game, the two days before you pitch you have to watch the game from the stands and chart. On this day you get the velocity chart and the radar gun (by far the easier of the two charts). I actually really enjoy getting to see the game from this perspective. Its hard to get the whole picture from the dugout, but from this view you get to see it all.

  My view from our home stands on Wednesday 

The velocity chart



Day 4: The day before your start. Once again easy running, just 9 sprints. Long toss and some flat ground to spin your pitches. And another day of scouting. This time you get the difficult task of recording every pitching stat that you can think of. Not as fun to watch the game with this chart in your hands. Although the second time I did it was much easier than the first, so maybe there is just a little learning curve.

My view at Auburn 


The game chart



Day 5: Your start day! 

So.....yesterday I felt a lot better with my performance than the last game. I made a couple of bad pitches that hurt me but other than that I felt like I executed a lot better. I did a good job of pitching out of jams and preventing the other team from getting many extra opportunities. While I will never be completely satisfied with an outing, especially one in which I give up a run, I feel that the progress I made from the last start to this one is promising. If I can continue to improve and execute the way that I did yesterday I think I will be very successful. 


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Smiles Everyone

So this is just a little view of one of the characters that we encounter on an everyday basis in Williamsport. This is Rhashan, the self-entitled Director of Smiles, before our last road trip to State College. We couldn't start the trip before one last cheer....Enjoy




....and here is his official Bobble-head doll


Back on the Saddle

Well, I haven't been able to post in a while because as you can imagine the wireless internet situation in humble Williamsport, PA is less than up to my yuppie Southern Californian standards. So, today in order to post I have propped open the basement door with a folding chair and the screen door with a rocking chair, all in order to steal wireless internet from the next door neighbor. Thank you USR8054, whoever you are.

So the past few days have been very very long but things are starting to feel normal. I've settled down with my host family Fran and Don Pfaff. It's a pretty good set up. Jeff and I have the basement to ourselves, complete with living room, bathroom, refrigerator, and bedroom. I am getting more comfortable with my teammates, and even starting to communicate with some of the Latin guys. And our team is, dare I say, pretty good. We started out winning the first three games and things looked pretty easy for us. We lost last night but I think that is probably just a blip on the radar. Our team is FAST. We beat out infield singles, run balls down in the field, and are overall just a fun group to watch. Now, by no means are these guys polished, and to be quite honest thats what I expected from this level. But you can see the talent....

Oh ya, almost forgot. I started my first game this week. I felt awful, but the results were good. There is no doubt in my mind that if I stay healthy I will do just fine in this league. The balls we use here have smaller seams and the fastball moves so much. It took me a few innings to get used to the extra movement. So, while I was making my adjustment I was a bit sloppy and not really pitching the style of ball I like. But, the last two innings were really good and have my confidence high for the next outing. It's really easy to keep working hard when you get good results like I did my first time out. I'm excited to get out there everyday and try to get better...

So here is what a standard day looks like for me....(except for the 2 days a week that we have to workout @ 930)

Wake up @1030 or 11
Shower and eat
Get to the field @1
Do arm exercises, get stretched out
Pitchers stretch @245
Conditioning then long toss
Everyone stretch @330
Fundamentals @350
Batting Practice @4
Rest in the Clubhouse from 5-630
Game from 7-10
Home by 1030
Sleep @ 1230 or 1 then all again the next day

Thats about all for now.... Here are some pictures from the past week


Our Bedroom





My Bed


State College's field


Post-game Picnic




First-start Baseball









Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Christmas in June

So if yesterday was the longest short day ever, today was the longest long day ever. Did I mention it was long....

First I had my 5 am wakeup call to take a shower and get ready for physicals. I walked with the seven other new draftees a few blocks through downtown Philly to get to the Rothman Institute. From 7am to 10 we were getting ultrasounds, x-rays, ortho and general physicals. I was already tired. After getting a quick bite to eat we had to be back down in the lobby at 1130 to get picked up by the bus on its way to Williamsport.

When I walked into the bus I realized that this was minor league baseball. Twenty some odd new faces, 30 percent of which only spoke spanish didn't even care to glance as I walked on, entranced by their card games. So, I sat in the front next to Jeff and proceeded to be cramped for the next 3 hours. After dropping our bags off at the hotel that we are staying while the host family situation is settled, we were on our way to the field.


Santa must have recently been to Bowman field because there was loads of new stuff waiting for us when we got there. New shorts, socks, hats, workout shirts, cleats, and glove were all nicely packaged in our Phillies bag. It was more and nicer stuff than we had ever gotten at Irvine. Next we picked our numbers....Those who got moved down from low A got first choice, then those who came from extended spring got second choice, and the new draftees were last. Already accepting the fact that I would end up with a horrific number, I was shocked that my second choice #21 was left when it was my turn. So now I am officially #21 in your Crosscutters program and #1 in your hearts.

After a short workout we were back to the hotel, quick meal at Olive Garden, and back to the room for some well needed rest. Today was a long day, but it was well worth it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

DAY 1



  
Day one is the longest shortest day ever. My body has no sense of the time of day. The only thing I know is that I have to leave the hotel at 6:30 eastern, 3:30 body time for physicals tomorrow. But I guess that's what you have to do when your a professional.

I love big cities. Philly is so cool. Our hotel has got to be in the richest area of the city, with the Ritz-Carlton adjacent. Jeff and I walked around a bit today and while the buildings are really cool the weather is not.....at 9pm it felt like we were in a sauna. I guess thats what we have to get used. I looked at the weather for the next 10 days and its anywhere from 85-95 degrees and sticky. Won't have to worry about getting loose.

Anyway, its been a pretty exciting day. Probably the only day for the rest of the season we will be treated like big leaguers (our dinner was comped too). They're giving us a little taste so we know what we are working toward. Tomorrow is physicals and a 3 hour drive to Williamsport.....


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