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, it’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.
Thursday, November 7, 2013 @ 11:22am
By Shannon Drayer
Lloyd McClendon no doubt heard the word that he had an excellent chance to take over for Jim Leyland in Detroit. He coached there for eight years, and was seen as an extension of Leyland and someone who could provide a seamless transition. The odds appeared to be in his favor. Still, he threw his hat into the ring for the Mariners' managerial vacancy while awaiting word from the Tigers. He had interviewed in Seattle once before and told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Brock and Danny" Thursday morning that he had his eye on the managerial position here all along.
"When this opportunity came around again, obviously I considered it a golden opportunity, and I am extremely happy," he said. "I told [general manager Jack Zduriencik] before any decisions were made, for me this was the most attractive job, and if I had the opportunity, this is where I wanted to be."
Why was that?
"No. 1, you have got a guy by the name of King Felix that makes anything attractive. Then you have got another guy by the name of Iwakuma that makes it just as attractive. Then you have got a couple of power arms that mix into that rotation that are going to make it real real attractive," he answered.
"Pitching is the name of the game. And I think the plan here has certainly started to come to fruition. You have some power arms that are going to be real good with this organization for a long time, and I am excited to be a part of it."
McClendon has seen big arms turn a franchise around once before.
"I remember coming to Detroit in 2006," he said. "That team was coming off 119 losses the year before and things seemed very abysmal, and there was a lot of negativity in the city of Detroit.
"But they had a couple of power arms. A guy named Verlander, Zumaya, Rodney, and we went out and made some key acquisitions that seemed to be off the radar somewhat but they fit in and they complemented very well. Jim had that charisma and that understanding with his players to get them to play for him, and I certainly think I bring those same qualities."
McClendon likes what he sees in the Mariners' arms and admitted that as the Tigers' hitting coach he was happy to see Taijuan Walker shut down before Seattle faced Detroit in late September, but not so thrilled that they had to face James Paxton.
"I saw some tremendous arms, power arms in the bullpen," McClendon said. "I remember making a comment to Jim that these guys have got a chance to be really good really quick. I think the learning curve is going to be shortened quite a bit, from what I see."
While he clearly appreciates the arms, McClendon knows that pitching alone will not turn things around for the Mariners. His Tigers teams made some big additions to the offense and he is hoping Seattle can do the same.
Felix Hernandez and the Mariners' other talented pitchers were a big draw for Lloyd McClendon, but he knows the club will need to bolster its offense. (AP)
"If the timing is right and situation is right, hopefully we can get those guys. I don't know who they are at this point but we will sit down and talk about those things."
While it more often than not comes down to talent in winning or losing baseball games, co-host Danny O'Neil wanted to know what role McClendon as a manager could play in that.
"When it comes to X's and O's, I'm no smarter or dumber than anybody else," he said. "I know when to hit and run, when to bunt, when to change pitchers and I think most guys do. When you talk about leadership in the clubhouse, I think that is the responsibility of the manager to make sure his clubhouse is running in the proper order. I would never put that on anyone else. My biggest challenge is to make sure I am communicating and getting my players to relax and perform on the field.
"Give me the criticism and give them all the credit. I have got broad shoulders and I can certainly handle it, but I've got to get my players to a state where they are relaxed and they are performing on the field."
There is a lot to be learned about his new team, and the team that he sees in Peoria, Ariz. in February could be very different from the team he saw from across the field in Detroit last September. Moves will be made, the roster will be changed. This has no impact on his expectations for his first season as the Mariners' manager.
"My expectations are always the same," McClendon said. "I don't ever ask a team to go out and win on any particular night, but I do expect my players to be prepared from a mental and physical standpoint to go out and give their best on that night. One thing I can promise the fans of Seattle, I am going to give you everything I have got to prepare my team and get them ready to win ballgames, and I will ask the same from my players. Give me everything you've got, every night, and at the end of the day, we will take our chances."
"The one thing I know is if we can get our team believing in each other and believing in the word teamwork and teammate," he concluded, "we have got a chance to be real good real quick."
Wednesday, November 6, 2013 @ 4:09pm
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik joined 710 ESPN Seattle's "Wyman Mike and Moore" Wednesday afternoon and gave insight into why he chose former Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon as his next manager before giving some quick thoughts on a number of free agents Seattle might pursue.
McClendon, who will be introduced to the media Thursday afternoon, was a finalist for the Mariners job in 2010 when Eric Wedge was hired. Why now and not then, Zduriencik was asked?
"He's a tough guy, he's a quiet guy," M's general manager Jack Zduriencik said of new skipper Lloyd McClendon. (AP)
Zduriencik admitted that McClendon's managerial experience was a factor in his selection but revealed that he wasn't the only candidate who had managed at the big-league level.
"Experience as a manager helped but we had many discussions with guys who had managerial experience before that," Zduriencik said. "At the end this was the group of five that we thought were the best fit for us."
Part of the vetting process included talking to numerous players who had played for McClendon. Zduriencik liked what he heard.
"To a man, even the players in Detroit right now had great things to say about his demeanor," Zduriencik said. "He's a tough guy, he's a quiet guy, very humble. It's not out there, it's not in-your-face personality but it is a very confident inner quietness about him, but his players play hard for him and they respect him."
Most view McClendon as an "old-school" type of manager much like the man he coached under for the past eight years, Jim Leyland. The Mariners, however, have been moving toward using numbers more, and utilize an entire analytics department in baseball operations. According to Zduriencik, this is something McClendon is ready and willing to work with.
"We went over a lot of the things that we are doing – some of the stuff we view that we are going to do in the future – presented it to him, and Lloyd's response was, 'This is great. I am all in on everything. Anything that is going help us get better, give us an advantage, I am going to be wide open to. I am looking forward to sitting down with all your baseball ops guys and hear their contributions as well as the old-school baseball guys and kind of put the whole package together and make decisions and move forward with that thought process.' "
With the manager search behind him, it is now time for Zduriencik to turn his focus to the roster. Jim Moore went rapid fire with his question for Zduriencik and got the following responses:
Moore: "Will you be pursuing Jacoby Ellsbury?"
Zduriencik: "Good call."
Moore: "Shin-Soo Choo?"
Zduriencik: "Good call."
Moore: "Masahiro Tanaka?"
Zduriencik: "Outstanding talent."
The closest Zduriencik came to actually answering a question about pursuing a free agent was when he was asked if Seattle would bring back Raul Ibanez.
"Raul was a integral part of what we have been done and certainly we are going to have discussions with Raul, no question," Zduriencik answered.
Finally, Zduriencik addressed the question of what he personally could do through player acquisition to help interest the fanbase again. He pointed out that in addition to having "a lot" of payroll flexibility this year he believed that the young players would take another step forward with another year under their belts and that there should be excitement for what we saw from the young pitching in September.
Despite the positives he sees, he understands that at this point of the year it is nothing but talk.
"I realize that the proof is in the pudding," Zduriencik said. "You have to prove it on the field. I am not going to make great promises right now. We have to do it in spring training and when the season starts, but I can tell you we have worked hard for five years to get us to a point where we have young talent. We have that and I think if we are able to augment it this winter, it is going to be good times moving forward. And we have paid the price.
"Trust me, I understand where the fanbase is, I understand the apathy that is out there."
Wednesday, November 6, 2013 @ 2:14pm
By Shannon Drayer
On Thursday we will learn a lot about new Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, as the introductory press conference will be held at 1 p.m., and he will do the rounds on TV and radio as well. (Programming note, McClendon will join the Brock and Danny show at 10:30.) I wanted to get a jump on that and spoke with a number of media members and one former player about him and the situation in Detroit for my own knowledge, but will share a few things here with you.
The reaction around baseball was generally positive about the hiring, with many expressing that this was a long time coming and well deserved by McClendon. The question that was asked by many of the fans however was, if he was so great, why didn't Detroit hire him?
Interestingly enough, McClendon came with the endorsement of Jim Leyland and Tony La Russa, but the association with the former may have in part cost him the job.
By all accounts there was some conflict between wanting the continuity of keeping McClendon, who had sat next to Leyland for the past eight years, and bringing in a new voice. Brad Ausmus tipped the scale. Quite simply, he blew them away in the interviews.
Lynn Henning of the Detroit News shared his strong feelings about this on 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz" Tuesday.
"After eight years, Dave Drombowski knew he had fan fatigue with the current administration," Henning said. "It wasn't anything born of hostility or people not realizing they had a good run here but very analogous to a presidential administration where you have had someone in office for eight years. People are generally ready for a new direction.
"Along with that, I thought Lloyd McClendon was probably getting the shaft because of that natural fan fatigue, and that he would be perfect for the M's," he continued. "He's got the experience you need, he's a strong character, good man, he's solid. You don't have any worries about how he is going to handle a clubhouse or dugout situation, so I think you did very well."
Just how much input did McClendon have in Detroit? That is hard to tell. Leyland runs the show in a different manner than most managers. He put a high priority on having a number of coaches that specialize in different areas of the game, and up until last year sacrificed the bench coach position in order to carry another specialist. Those I talked to said that he didn't feel he needed a bench coach. He was going to make his decisions himself, and if he needed input he had a number of coaches to go to.
There did appear to be a hierarchy of coaches, however, with McClendon and Gene Lamont being closest to Leyland. "Cut from the same cloth" is how one person I talked to described them.
I think there is little doubt McClendon is old school. How receptive he is to numbers and metrics is another question. The Mariners have an entire department devoted to baseball analytics. How does this fit into the mix with McClendon? We will have to see. What we do know is McClendon has managed before. He has been the guy before, so there should be no transition or growing pains in that department, according to Henning.
"He is a steady ship captain you are going to need to run all the phases of the game and run them well," Henning said. "He ran a lot of the spring drills. He has an ability to know how to get the guys to laugh, and he does it with command. The general in him has not disappeared since Pittsburg."
Tuesday, November 5, 2013 @ 2:21pm
By Shannon Drayer
After numerous outside confirmations of the initial report from the Puget Sound Business Journal, the Mariners have announced that they have hired Lloyd McClendon to be their next manager.
M's general manager Jack Zduriencik said new skipper Lloyd McClendon is "a tireless worker and is very respected by the players with whom he has worked." (AP)
With McClendon, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik bucks the trend of hiring a manager with no big-league managerial experience as McClendon managed the Pirates from 2001-2005. Since then he has coached under Jim Leyland with the Tigers, handling the hitting-coach duties since 2007. The association with Leyland was something that appealed to Zduriencik.
"Lloyd is a bright and articulate guy," Zduriencik said in the press release. "He has Major League managerial experience and has served in a vital capacity in Detroit under one of the game's best managers. He is a tireless worker and is very respected by the players with whom he has worked. We look forward to Lloyd embracing our players as we move the Mariners forward."
McClendon was a finalist both for the recent managerial opening in Detroit and for the Mariners job that eventually went to Eric Wedge in 2010. Zduriencik had familiarity with McClendon, whose time as a player with Pittsburgh overlapped Zduriencik's tenure there as director of scouting.
McClendon is a so-called baseball lifer, having transitioned straight into coaching after an eight-year playing career. While in Detroit, he was seen as the right-hand man to Leyland (who did not have a bench coach until last year). He is well regarded within the game and many are happy to see him get another opportunity to manage in the big leagues.
As a manager he was known as a fiery competitor who often was at odds with the umpires. It is said that he has mellowed considerably in this regard since. Despite this, those who know him say to expect him to bring an element of toughness to the team.
Heading into the manager search, Zduriencik said that he was looking for someone who would be a teacher first and foremost. McClendon's most recent experience comes with a veteran club but it appeared there was plenty of teaching going on. When we visited Detroit in September there was the impressive sight of the Tigers on the field for early work three of the four days we were there. Popup drills, infield practice, bunting drills and baserunning work were all things we witnessed before batting practice – with a veteran club. There was a considerable amount of work put into the fundamentals.
Other finalists for the position included Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, Athletics bench coach Chip Hale, former White Sox bench coach Joey Cora and Dodgers third-base coach Tim Wallach.
A press conference to introduce McClendon will be held Thursday.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013 @ 11:02am
By Logan Bawcom
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.
Hello to all of your Mariners faithful here reading this blog on winter ball. Or should I say, "Hola fanaticos de los Marineros." I am picking up on the language here as I slowly recall my high school Spanish classes that I semi paid attention in.
I am currently coming to you from Caracas, Venezuela. Yes, that is the same Caracas that is the most dangerous city in the world due to the high number of homicides, most of which go unsolved. That is definitely comforting, knowing the facts when you are coming in to play a series here versus the Tiburones or Leones.
They have two teams that play here in the capital city of Caracas. Upon hearing how dangerous the city was, my family and girlfriend fear every day I have to spend in this city along with the rest of my family. Little do they know they take really good care of us and I actually feel pretty safe.
Venezuela may get a bad reputation for crime and other things, but as long as you go where you are supposed to go and do not venture out too much in places you are not familiar with, you are actually safe. This especially goes for Caracas. If you stay in the hotel and mall areas where they put you up, you will have little to no trouble. The craziest thing that might happen to you will be in the mall if a fan comes up to you and hounds you for a picture or an autograph.
The team puts us up in one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in during my professional career. The hotel is the Gran Melia right down the street from the ballpark. We usually have roommates on the road trips due to the 40-something guys that come on each one. Somehow, I scored my own room. That sounds great and all, but I actually somehow got my own three rooms. They hooked it up with a three-bedroom suite all to myself with a jacuzzi tub and all. I was pleasantly surprised and was hoping we were staying here for more than one night. I don't know if I just drew the right straw or if someone likes me, but heck, I'll take it any day!
This is the first time we have played a team back-to-back games. Most the time we play one game then bring in a new team or head out to play another. It's very different from a pitcher's standpoint because in a series, you can learn how to pitch guys and get tendencies. With only a one-game series, you have to watch a lot closer and remember guys later on when you play them a few weeks later.
The trip to Caracas was memorable to say the least. As I wrote in the previous blogs, the fans here are rowdy and enjoy the game passionately. Some a little too much so because they place some bets on the game and when you lose, they lose. It was around the seventh inning in one of our games and there was a bang-bang play at first base that the umpire called us safe. The manager came out very upset and the fans got rowdy. They chant "sucio", which means "dirty" in Spanish. That would be enough to probably scare the umpire with how loud they chant, but then came the tossing of things. This was my first encounter with things being thrown onto the field in my career. You see this stuff on TV, but I was living in it now. They hurled ice cubes at him for a little bit until someone with pretty good aim got him in the back. This halted the game and they almost cleared the field until the announcer told them to stop.
Most of the time the fans will point out who hit him and then they will be ejected from the stadium. Apparently last year, one of our catchers got hit in the face with a piece of ice and was cut open and got stitches. That being said, you always have to have your head on a swivel here because you just never know.
One thing you do know is that there will be a band there everyday playing the drums. Yes, just like a high-school band with trumpets, tubas, quad and bass drums. Interesting to say the least.
So far in Caracas we are 2-0 and got another game to play here today. Those just so happen to be our only two wins this year, which is not so hot (Editor's note: these first few posts are a week behind). We are playing pretty good baseball, but not in the later innings. After a lot of meetings, we seem to be turning things around. You have to here or they'll get rid of you because winning here is everything.
I am off to the ballpark now and have to check out of my suite, unfortunately. When I get to the ballpark, I'll be checking into my locker, which is in a hallway. At least I got a great night's sleep here and hopefully next time I am in the world's most dangerous city, I can score another suite. Until next time, "fanaticos de los Marineros." (Use Google translate if needed)