Updated Oct 14, 2012 - 11:16 pm
Seattle Mariners Blog with Shannon Drayer
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 @ 2:29pm
By Logan Bawcom
Special to 710Sports.com
Hello there, fanaticos. I'm currently in the lobby of the Caracas hotel writing to y'all after running out of the mall following a lockdown. There was an apparent robbery of some kind and I have no clue what exactly happened other than I grabbed my Subway sandwich and sprinted back to safety. No need for a cup of coffee this morning. This was my first encounter with some crazy things about a week before I head out of the country.
Anyway, back to the main reason for this post. The downside of this league would definitely have to be the travel. This is not a normal MLB or MiLB league where you play three-to-five-game series and can settle into the town you're playing in. We typically play one team then leave town and go to another. This requires you to have a few bus or plane flights during each week. This takes a toll on the body no matter how young you are.
I'll give you a few examples of some horrific travel days. This is coming from a kid that played in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League where you have 3 a.m. wakeup calls for 6 a.m. flights and play that night. The worst trip that comes to mind was a PCL-esque travel day to Margarita Island. Now, I know you're thinking Margarita Island sounds amazing and no way the travel could be bad getting to a paradise type place, but you're wrong.
The morning started off quite early with a cab ride to the airport, which took even longer due to congested traffic in Barquisimeto. Then we sat around the airport for quite awhile in the one terminal they have here to take the only flight out to Caracas. We landed around 10 with a 1 o'clock connecting flight to Margarita Island. I came to realize quickly here that times for departures are just an approximate guess. I've never seen anything done on time in the month I've been here. Needless to say, we had about a five-hour layover and didn't ship out until around 3 p.m. with a game that night. We could easily have hopped onto a boat and beat the plane there, in my opinion.
That is an example of a bad flight, but then there are the buses. Luckily we take two buses so sometimes you can get your own seat, but that's hit or miss. Last road trip I had to double up with a fellow Mariner that was in rookie ball this year. The bus trips are usually the same every time because most places are around five or six hours with a couple that are three. Unfortunately these five-hour trips, according to Google Maps, turn into about seven-hours trips. The bus drivers here are not afraid to push the pedal to the metal, which is nice. What is not nice is the ton of government stops along the way where we have to slow down. This is where the many hours tally up from stop and go, not to mention the traffic in some places. It's never fun getting in at 4 a.m. and playing the next day, but it is all a part of the grind.
There is an upside to the long bus rides and flights, though. The Venezuelan countryside is quite beautiful. There are definitely some eyesores along the way with trash on the side of the road, but the mountainous range on the way to Caracas with everything so green makes for good looking out the window to pass some time.
Another thing that is a necessity is movies. I have tons of movies on my laptop that help throw away a couple hours with ease. Also, nothing beats a good book if you can handle the reading with the stop and go on the bus. These are just a couple things I do along with listening to some good jams to pass the time on the bus.
Overall, the bus trips and plane flights at 1 a.m. out of cities are no fun, but at the end of the day it is worth it. Nothing will be this bad back in the States so it makes you learn to take care of your body and eat right and get your rest whenever you can. The best $25 I have ever spent was on a neck pillow in rookie ball and I will never regret that purchase.
Only a few more weeks here until I'm back in the land of the free. I'm off to the ballpark and then headed out after the game back to Barquisimeto. It's going to be another long night on the bus and getting in around 4 tonight if we make it in five hours. Let's see how far down that gas pedal will go, bus driver. Adios!
Follow Logan Bawcom on Twitter @LoganBawcom and on Facebook.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 @ 2:26pm
By Shannon Drayer
The Mariners have released their Cactus League schedule and once again the they will start the spring against the Padres in the annual charity game, which will take place at the Peoria Sports Complex on Feb. 27.
Pitchers and catchers report for physicals on Feb. 12 with the position players scheduled to report on Feb. 17. The first full-squad workout will be held the next day.
The schedule features 16 games at Peoria Stadium and -- in a new twist -- eight night games, the most they have ever played in spring training.
Another twist is that the team will not travel to a neutral site to play the final game of the spring. Instead, they will stay in Arizona for a two-game exhibition set with the Rockies. The two teams will play a 7:05 game in Peoria on Friday, March 28 and then close out the spring with 12:10 Saturday game at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale. The team then travels to Anaheim for a Sunday workout before the season opener against the Angels on Monday, March 31.
Single-game tickets for all Mariners spring games at the Peoria Sports Complex will go on sale Saturday, Jan. 4. For more information, go to Mariners.com.
Friday, November 15, 2013 @ 1:39pm
By Shannon Drayer
A ton of news, notes and follow up from last week to get to. First, some posts may have been missed because they were pushed down in the order quickly because of other news, so if you missed the latest from Logan Bawcom you might want to go back and check it out. His post dealt with a problem that many players from the US run into that no doubt impacts their performance. Also, some thoughts on Hisashi Iwakuma's third place finish and what could be next for him.
A number of you have participated in a mostly productive discussion about the offseason on my previous post. The latest Tweet to cause a stir comes from ESPN's Buster Olney.
Seattle Mariners have indicated winter priorities to others: No. 2-type starting pitcher (Garza?); closer; two frontline power hitters.â€" Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 15, 2013
Jack Zduriencik has said that he wants to add a couple of bats and a starting pitcher. Two frontline power hitters? Well yeah, that would be great. No. 2 starter? Go for it. Love that idea and it may be more attainable than the frontline bats. The closer thing is new. So to recap, Olney is hearing they are aiming high at a lot of targets. A lot of expensive targets. Interesting.
Speaking of expensive targets, I looked into the interest in Matt Kemp story and found out that the Mariners were one of a large number of teams that have asked about him. It does not appear that there has been any sort of negotiation, but rather it was just one of countless asks that no doubt took place during the General Managers Meetings. If the Dodgers are looking to trade Kemp, especially if they are going to eat part of his salary, there will be plenty of teams interested.
Last follow up note: The Japanese posting system is now very much up in the air. MLB submitted proposed changes to the NPB, which was slow to agree to them. As a result, the proposal was pulled off the table for a number of reasons. Interesting read and tough to tell what the final outcome will be and how this will effect the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes.
Medical staff honored
Congratulations to head athletic trainer Rick Griffin, Medical Director Dr. Edward Khalfayan and the entire Mariners medical staff for winning the 2013 Martin-Monahan Award. The award is presented annually to the medical staff that contributed most to their organization. The Mariners had the second-fewest days lost to injury in baseball last season, and only two pitchers spent extended time on the DL.
Former Mariners on the move
Alex Liddi, who was picked up by the Orioles after being DFA'd early last season by the Mariners, has signed a minor league contract with the White Sox. And Randy Messenger (remember him?) is returning to the Hanshin Tigers after signing a three-year contract that some are reporting to be the largest deal given to an American-born pitcher in Japan.
Cleaning out the closet?
The Mariners grounds crew has been up to good. For the third straight year Bob Christofferson and his crew are holding a coat drive to support the Battered Women's Society YWCA and the Boys and Girls Club. You can bring your new or used coats to the front desk at Safeco Field (Third Base Entrance, 1250 First Avenue South) from now until Dec. 14.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 @ 3:38pm
By Shannon Drayer
We're just a few days into the hot stove season and the Mariners' pot is already boiling over. A word of caution to those of you who haven't figured it out by now: The Mariners are going to be linked to just about every free agent and every trade possibility out there.
There are reasons for this. First and foremost - and we saw this last year and to a lesser extent the year before - the Mariners are a team that is seen by the national media, agents and other teams as a) having lots of dollars to spend, and b) having to spend those dollars because they are in a position where they have to improve.
It is impossible to say exactly how much general manager Jack Zduriencik has to spend. We know a sizable amount came off the books at the end of the season as the only players not under club control remaining are Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.
Expect general manager Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners to be linked to just about every free agent this offseason. (AP)
Then there is the matter of the team's assertion in recent years that it can go above and beyond for the right player at the right time. We saw this with Hernandez but have yet to see them land a premier free agent from the outside. There were attempts but limits, which in the case of Josh Hamilton appears to be a good thing.
Despite the recent inability to land a top-tier free agent, the Mariners are still seen as a team with somewhat deep pockets. Not as deep as the Dodgers or the Yankees without A-Rod, but deep enough to be in on any free agent this side of Robinson Cano. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if we heard that one at some point either. We will see them mentioned in a number of trades as well.
The talk is running the gamut right now with reports ranging from the Mariners being hell bent on landing one of Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo to the most recent report of Seattle having no interest in Ellsbury. The team is said to "have expressed interest in Matt Kemp." Who expressed the interest and to whom did they express it?
You are going to have a barrage of names thrown at you as the Mariners are inquiring on a large number of players. That is what you do this time of the year. Some of these players they would love to acquire. Some are fallback plans. Some they are taking the opportunity to learn more about. Word will get out or two and two will be put together and the association will be written about and/or tweeted.
Speaking of which, one of the more interesting and encouraging (if true) tweets I have seen came across Tuesday morning:
#Mariners more immersed in the Beltran-Peralta-Kendry Morales market than Jacoby Ellsbury at this point.â€¢ Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 12, 2013
First, the interesting: Jhonny Peralta. This makes some sense in that there is a good chance we see Kyle Seager at second once DJ Peterson is ready. There was some talk of moving Peterson to first but that didn't happen last season and Peterson recently told me that they put intensive work in at third with him before his season came to an end when he was hit in the face. Peralta could be a placeholder and more importantly a right-handed infield bat.
Also interesting about this possible interest is that Peralta comes from Detroit. Is he a Lloyd McClendon pick or was he on the radar to begin with? Regardless, McClendon knows a thing or two about him. There is nothing better than first-hand knowledge when it comes to acquiring a free agent.
Now, for the encouraging: We will see if this plays out but I would like to see the Mariners make a significant move involving offense in the next week. Strike first. Fill a need. It may not be their prime target but get the ball rolling and most importantly, don't be left high and dry. Don't wait to see what happens with your primary big-ticket target. That most likely is going to drag on perhaps past the holidays.The entire outfield could be replaced and Zduriencik has suggested that he could go with platoons. Great. Go get someone right now.
On U.S.S. Mariner, Dave Cameron suggests Chris Young in his offseason plan. That's one name. How about Rajai Davis? Neither player will cost a ton in years or dollars and a little overpayment to get them early could pay off. Proportionally at their projected salaries, a little overpayment is just that in the grand scheme of payroll. Little.
It is far too early to freak out about names that come out in the media. I would suggest you look at them more as varying levels of interest, and in some cases interesting rather than, "OMG! The Mariners are going to sign ..." And yes, that is going on. Take a second and breathe. Think it through. Case in point, Matt Kemp. Do you think the Mariners are the only team to inquire about him? Of course not. Or not being interested in Ellsbury. It very well could be true but it also could be an attempt by the team to distance themselves from the player to avoid being the team that drives the price up.
By all means feel free to discuss the names and ask questions if you like in the comment section but realize you could hear something completely different tomorrow that may or may not be more accurate than what you heard today.
Welcome to the offseason.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 @ 3:21pm
By Shannon Drayer
Hisashi Iwakuma being a finalist for the American League Cy Young Award seemed like icing on the cake of a great first full season. I don't think anyone expected an upset win over 21-game winner Max Scherzer. I don't think many expected to see him in the top three regardless of how deserving he was. It would seem he couldn't be any more under the radar, but his pitching spoke for itself and was recognized, making this a great starting point perhaps for his 2014 campaign.
Iwakuma is home in Japan getting ready to begin preparations for that campaign, but he was reached by the Mariners earlier this week and with help from interpreter Antony Suzuki we were able to get his thoughts on the honor of being nominated.
"Yes, I am very proud and happy with what I have established here in two years," he said. "I have learned a lot and it has been quite an experience. I started my career here in the big league as a reliever and worked my way up. There is more to learn down the road and more to prove as well, so I look forward to the future."
Iwakuma has been one of the few success stories for the Mariners in the last few years. From his acquisition to being cautious with him coming off injury to re-signing him (which incidentally was probably the best free-agent signing in baseball last offseason), this couldn't have worked out better for the team.
In talking with Iwakuma both at and toward the end of last season, I got the feeling that behind the quiet and unassuming facade there was a competitiveness that was setting his sights high. Why not win a Cy Young? Why not steal some of the spotlight from his countryman, Yu Darvish? He did it in 2008 in Japan; perhaps he could do it again.
Iwakuma is coming off career highs (both here and in Japan) in strikeouts and innings pitched. It is worth noting that it wasn't all smooth sailing for him as he pitched with a blister for the first couple of months of the season and at times had to be pulled from games earlier than his pitching would dictate. We could see better next year.
The key to what we saw this year was the preparation. With a year in MLB under his belt he knew how to better prepare for a full season. As a result we saw him throw 18 more innings than he ever had before. He knows that preparation was effective. Now he would like to take it a step further.
"Last season was my first full season as a starter," he said. "To be successful, you need to maintain your performance for a long period of time. That said, I will need to come up with similar or better results that last season and that is what I look forward to doing."
The work has already begun.
"I have gradually started to prepare/condition myself physically for 2014. I have not thrown a ball yet since finishing the season but will start soon. I look forward to preparing my arm early like I did last spring and be ready to go strong by the start of spring training to stay healthy for another season."
In addition to his training, Iwakuma has been doing good as well. I was happy to see this final quote from Japan.
"I have a baseball clinic coming up on the 23rd of November in Ishinomaki, Sendai, where we had the natural disaster," he said, referring to the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. "During this time of the year, I like to take my time to give back to the city I played for that supported me for many years and give spirit to the people and kids that dream about baseball."
Iwakuma was one of the three Mariners players who along with manager Eric Wedge and members of the Athletics put on a clinic in Ishinomaki in 2012. The children were thrilled to see him and followed him from station to station, often grabbing onto his jersey or even taking his hand. They no doubt will be thrilled to see him again.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 @ 12:25pm
Special to 710Sports.com
Editor's note: Logan Bawcom, 24, is a minor-league pitcher for the Mariners who is traveling abroad to play winter ball for the first time. Follow along as he writes weekly about living and pitching in Venezuela.
Hola from down here in South America. I am currently coming to you guys from -- well, I actually have no idea because I do not have GPS or anything working on my phone to know where we are located. We are headed home with an off day tomorrow so that is always a plus.
There are two things that are not always pluses here. I like to call them the inevitable. One is that within the first week or two you will come down with some sickness and the other is that there is no such thing as a sub-three-hour game here in Venezuela.
I will start with the first subject of getting sick. Most people like to call it Montezuma's Revenge or traveler's sickness, but I like to call it the "Gringo Getter." No matter who you are or how tough you think your body is, it will get you. I thought I had a pretty good immune system and stomach and I could handle their foods and everything down here, and boy was I wrong. From day 1 I was told to not drink the water and I abided by that rule for sure, but where it gets you is the food. You do not always realize that the same water here is used to grow some of the foods you end up eating, and in a roundabout way, it gets you with a haymaker.
I was feeling great after the first week here. I had come from eating pretty clean being back in Texas to getting here and eating chicken and rice and steak. Then I started to get a little more confident and explore the Latin cultures' food. Not my smartest move I've ever made. I went from feeling pretty good to wanting to come home in a matter of one night's sleep. I woke up one morning and could barely walk around my hotel room. When I wasn't frequenting the bathroom over 20 times, I was curled up in my room with the chills. I had no clue what had come upon me, but I knew I needed to get some medication in me to kick this bug. The only thing that would make me feel any better was trying to sleep, and there wasn't much of that because I had to head to the field.
Upon arriving at the field I had even less energy than before. My face was ghost white and all the Latin guys knew I had come down with something. They had seen it many times before with an American guy coming in and getting ill within the first week or two. It's inevitable here, the doctor told me after we met in the training room. He explained that our stomachs are way more sensitive to the Latin foods and initially our bodies do not handle them too well. I can vouch for that. After laying on the training-room table chugging Pedialyte and water and getting some pills from the "farmatodo", I was good to head back to the hotel to try and sleep off this sickness. It's now been a couple weeks later, and I am just now starting to get my energy back full to 100 percent like I was when I came here.
The second not-so-pleasant surprise is the length of the games here. That is one thing I did not realize coming into winter ball. If you thought the Red Sox and Yankees games were lengthy, just come on down to South America and get you some of these. Being a bullpen guy, you have to sit around a while until you get called up in the later innings. The pace of the game here is never addressed so sometimes you can see games lasting around the four-our mark and that's just for nine innings. Back home in a typical game, if you go over the three-hour mark, itâ€™s going to get addressed to pick up the tempo a little bit.
There's a few factors that go into the games being so long. The main one would have to be pitching changes. Rosters here are 35 players every week and many of those guys are in the bullpen. Most big-league clubs have usually one or two left-handed specialist that will come in to face lefties only, and we have five. At any given time in the bullpen, there are a solid 10 people out there. If the starter gets into trouble early, both managers have no problem bringing in another guy due to the depth of your pitching staff. Quite often you will see a left-on-left matchup put together in the fourth and fifth innings rather than the eighth like back home. This adds quite a lot of time to games when you're having to sit around for mound visits and pitching changes.
On home games we will get to the ballpark around 1 p.m. with a 7:30 game time. Most nights I do not get back to the hotel until around midnight or a little after. We have only been into one extra-inning game and thank goodness it went only 10 innings because I have heard stories of them playing until past 1 a.m. That's pretty hard to stay awake and alert unless you have some Red Bull helping you out.
Even though the games do last quite a while, that doesn't mean the fans aren't still into it. They stick around until the last pitch and still get rowdy with the blowing of their horns. The crowd noise keeps you alert and awake when the games do drag on along with the Latin teammates who are in to every pitch and chanting as the game goes. Every game means something here and it's a playoff atmosphere every night. That's why there is pitching changes and bunt coverages and all kinds of little things done each game because we need a "W" every night.
Now it's time to put the laptop down and try and get some shut-eye on this bus ride home. Rest is definitely a necessity here in this league with the travel being brutal at times. I'll give you guys a peek into the travel here next time. I'm off to dreaming about home until the bus driver hits a patch of bumps. Until next time, "fanaticos de los Marineros."
Follow Logan Bawcom on Twitter @LoganBawcom and on Facebook .
Monday, November 11, 2013 @ 11:10am
By Shannon Drayer
Lost in the frenzy of the Mariners' managerial hire last week was Hisashi Iwakuma's well deserved honor of being named one of the three finalists for the Cy Young Award and Raul Ibanez winning the Hutch Award. I caught up with Ibanez late last week to talk about the award and a few other items of interest.
Ibanez and his family are spending their first full offseason in Seattle. They tried this once before years ago but were chased off by the cooler temperatures even before winter struck. Things are different this time around as they are no longer trying out the Seattle area. This time it is home and Ibanez said that he is loving it here.
What made a good Northwest fall day even better for Ibanez last week was receiving the call that he had won the Hutch Award.
"I was shocked and at a loss for words," he told me. "It is a huge honor and a great moment for me. To be on that list, with those names? I am so happy that it happened while I was with the Mariners."
Those names include Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Johnny Bench, Trevor Hoffman, Jamie Moyer, Jon Lester and Mike Sweeney, to name a few. The award is given to the player who best exemplifies the honor, courage and dedication of former baseball player and Seattle native Fred Hutchinson, both on and off the field.
Ibanez is widely recognized as being one of the good guys in the game, having received the MLB Players Association Heart & Hustle Award three times and four times being the Mariners' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, baseball's highest honor for community service. The Sporting News named Ibanez one the "Good Guys" in sports and he also received the Tug McGraw Good Guy Award from the Philadelphia chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Away from the field he has made an effort to give back to the communities where he played with activities that include chairing the annual Mariners Care Cystic Fibrosis Golf Tournament, supporting Page Ahead Children's Literacy Program, being the Mariners' spokesman for Refuse to Abuse, and being involved with Make-A-Wish, Boys & Girls Clubs, Seattle Children's Hospital, Treehouse, Covenant House Pennsylvania and Project H.O.M.E.
Giving back was a staple instilled in him early on in his career.
"Jay (Buhner), Edgar (Martinez), Jamie (Moyer), they talked about it, made a conscious effort to make the community a better place," he said. "When you are a young, impressionable player you can't help but take notice and make it a part of who you are."
Ibanez does his best to pass what he learned from his former teammates to those who are currently in the Mariners clubhouse. He is of the school that playing Major League baseball is a privilege and with that privilege comes responsibility, which includes giving back.
"As pro athletes, it's nothing compared to people who really volunteer their time and dive into it and do the work. As athletes, to show up is really not a big deal," he said. "People at foundations who devote their lives to finding solutions and cures, the lifelong devotion to helping those afflicted, to keep fighting on? It's really inspirational to see these people and also spend time with those afflicted. The kids with big smiles? It is rewarding and eye-opening."
Ibanez will receive the award at the annual Hutch Award Luncheon, which has raised over $3.8 million to support the mission of Fred Hutchinson over the past 14 years. Rod Carew will be the keynote speaker at the event, which takes place Jan. 30 at Safeco Field.
Will Ibanez still be a Mariner at that lunch? He stated numerous times late last season that he would like to continue playing and he is currently preparing to do so. He is in the middle of what he calls the realignment process of his training regimen.
"It is about getting the body back in alignment so it can train in a more functional state rather than dysfunctional state," he explained. "That way I can maximize the work I do to get stronger."
He has yet to speak with anyone from the Mariners about returning but is open to it. General manager Jack Zduriencik appears open to this as well, telling "Wyman, Mike and Moore" last week that there would be discussions.
If Ibanez returns, he would be playing under a manager he is not completely unfamiliar with. He spoke to Lloyd McClendon once last year and came away impressed from the conversation.
"He is spoken of highly by his players and ex-players," Ibanez said. "A no-nonsense, smart manager and a good hitting guy."
I asked Ibanez if he had heard that there were a number of fans who suggested that he should be the next manager or a player-manager. He said he had. In fact, he put a little thought into the possibility.
"I would hit third and play shortstop every day and maybe pitch an inning or two here or there as well," he said with a big laugh, "and dare anyone to challenge it."
Morales and 12 others turn down qualifying offer
As expected, Kendrys Morales turned down the qualifying offer from the Mariners by the 2:00 deadline. Morales was not alone in doing so as all thirteen players who were extended the QO turned it down. These players are now free agents, free to negotiate and sign with any team including those they played for last year. Since introduced in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, no player has yet to accept the QO.
Should Morales sign elsewhere the Mariners will awarded a compensatory pick at the end of the 2014 draft. Jack Zduriencik is interested in signing Morales to a longer term contract and having the draft pick attached to him could make other clubs less inclined to pursue him.
McClendon has company on the bench
The first member of Lloyd McClendon's staff is in place as former Nationals coach Trent Jewett has been named bench coach. Before spending three seasons with the Nats as a first and later third base coach Jewett managed and coached in the minor leagues with the Pirates for 17 years.
If you haven't seen this 30 for 30 documentary short, you should. This is one of those stories that most in baseball know a little about but not enough to share. Up until somewhat recently the MLB schedule was put together not by a computer program but by a husband and wife team from Martha's Vineyard. I say hire them back and pay them double.
Thursday, November 7, 2013 @ 6:34pm
By Shannon Drayer
In putting together a timeline of Lloyd McClendon's baseball career, the one thing that jumped out at me was that there were no gaps. Little League to high school to college, then 15 years of professional baseball that ended with a last go in Triple-A Buffalo in 1995. The next year he began his coaching career and has been in the dugout ever since. "Baseball lifer" does not begin to describe him.
"They probably are going to have to kick me out of the game," he told me Thursday after his introductory press conference at Safeco Field. "My love and passion for the game? I think baseball has the unique ability to bring people from different cultures, different backgrounds together for one common cause. In the end we all speak the same language."
The love for baseball was realized at an early age while growing up in Gary, Ind. The youngest of nine boys in a family with 13 children, McClendon was 8 years old when he experienced a disappointment that many younger siblings can identify with.
"I was 8 and my brother got to play but I wasn't old enough," he remembered. "He got his uniform and I couldn't get one and I knew I had a love for it then because I cried all the way home. I went back at 9 and got my uniform."
Just a few years later, McClendon would become a Little League star. In the 1971 Little League World Series, McClendon earned the nickname "Legendary Lloyd" when he homered in the five at-bats opponents didn't intentionally walk him. He pitched in the championship game against Taiwan but lost in extra innings. A devastating and disappointing loss turned into a moment he will never forget for all the right reasons.
"When I walked off that field and my coach and my dad were there telling me that, 'It's okay, you did the best that you could do and we are very proud of you,' for me, that was the defining moment in my life and I think it certainly helped build the character and helped me become the man I am today, particularly when it comes to baseball."
Words to live by when you are in a results-oriented business. McClendon is well aware of this and well aware that the fanbase is dwindling and restless after suffering through nine losing seasons in the past 10 years.
"I understand the honeymoon period and all of that but the bottom line is winning games," he said. "Developing young talent, making sure they continue to move forward and hopefully when it is all said and done we will be popping some champagne and having a good time."
His first order of business is to get to know his new team. When new managers have been hired in the past, they have talked about studying the team on paper and picking up the phone to call the guys to start the get-to-know-you process. McClendon has other ideas.
"I am ready to ... get on the road and start visiting our players," he said. "I am going to see if I can get a frequent-flyer number – I'll be flying a lot – but I am anxious to get out and meet my players and converse with them and see if we can come up with some things that will work for us."
Those first introductions should be interesting. McClendon was not shy about asserting who he was and what he expected from his players.
"My motto is simple," he said early on in Thursday's introductory press conference. "I respect my opponents but I fear nobody. And I want my players to take on my personality, how I approach the game and how we go about our business."
How they go about their business will most likely be similar to how they went about it in Detroit. McClendon was mentored by Jim Leyland and has learned a lot from the former Tigers manager over the years. Don't expect a completely old-school approach, however. McClendon says he is no stranger to the numbers and embraces the opportunity to work with the baseball operations department.
"I think you would be a fool to not look at the numbers and use it as part of your process to make decisions," said McClendon, who claimed Leyland used them more than people knew. "But you also have to know your personnel, know what you are capable of doing and you also have to trust your gut a little, too. I think it is a combo of all of those things."
The willingness to use the numbers generated by the baseball operations department was important to general manager Jack Zduriencik, who has indicated a couple of times he is looking to do some "different things" this year in that area. We are a long way from seeing that put into action but a step closer with the hiring of the manager.
A manager we got to know a little better Thursday.
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