April 2009

Notes from Tempe, Day 2

Orangel Arenas
Orangel Arenas was the starting pitcher today for the Tempe Angels against the Phoenix A’s.


Another typical day at the Tempe Diablo minor league complex.

Rehabs everywhere. John Lackey threw about 45 pitches in his bullpen session. He warmed up playing catch with Ervin Santana, who had his own bullpen session yesterday.

Click Here to watch a video clip of Lackey’s bullpen session. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

Lackey’s session was a bit more deliberate and methodical than Santana’s. John took his time, pacing himself, and in the end faced three phantom batters in a simulated inning. His catcher was Ivan Villaescusa, who was the backup catcher last year at Orem.

Bill Lachemann, longtime manager and coach in the Angels system, returned from a brief illness. He’s one of the three Lachemann brothers in professional ball. Marcel once managed the Angels, and brother Rene managed the Seattle Mariners, Milwaukee Brewers and Florida Marlins. Bill is currently a special assignment catching instructor.

The Tempe Angels defeated the Phoenix A’s, 3-2. As with yesterday’s game, these are strictly informal affairs. A manager can call “roll over” if his pitcher falls behind in his pitch count, and that happened again today with Orangel Arenas in the first inning.

There doesn’t seem to be much power on the Tempe bench. The big hit today was a 2-RBI single by catcher Braulio Pardo with the bases loaded.

Other Angels pitchers today were Baudilio Lopez, Ariel Pena and Starlin Feliz. I have video of all of them, which I’ll get around to posting eventually.

Click Here to watch today’s game highlights.

Santana is scheduled for a rehab start tomorrow. The schedule is being rearranged to accommodate his start. The scheduled exhibition game against the Cubs at Mesa has been moved to Thursday at 10:30 AM. Thursday’s camp game will be tomorrow at 9 AM, so Santana can pitch in a controlled environment. Lackey is tentatively scheduled to pitch the Cubs game at Mesa on Thursday.

I’ll shoot video of Santana’s start, but I’m heading home for California right after the game so it may be a day or so before I can get the video online.

Notes from Tempe, Day 1

Jon Bachanov
2007 first round pick Jon Bachanov pitched a simulated game today.


I’m here in Tempe for three days of extended spring training.

For the uninitiated, extended spring training is pretty much what it sounds like. These are players who weren’t assigned to one of the four full-season minor league affiliates. Some of them are rehabilitating injuries. Others were working on a new skill. The rest are valuable enough to keep around until the short-season leagues begin in mid-June.

Two major leaguers, Ervin Santana and John Lackey, are here on rehab assignment. Santana threw a bullpen session today, 40 pitches, and is tentatively scheduled to throw in Wednesday’s game. That game was originally scheduled to be against the Cubs at Fitch Park in Mesa, but the Angels arranged with the Cubs to move that game to Thursday, which was originally supposed to be a “camp day” for intrasquad play. Ervin’s start will now be the intrasquad game, which means the Angels can fully control the environment in which he’s pitching.

I filmed Ervin’s bullpen session today. Click Here to watch. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

I didn’t see Lackey around today, but he did pay for the clubhouse meal after the game. Since he’s one day behind Santana in the rehab schedule, my guess is he’ll throw a bullpen session tomorrow, suggesting he’ll pitch at Fitch Park on Thursday. (I leave after Wednesday’s game.)

Other rehabbing pitchers performed today. Jon Bachanov, the Angels’ first-round draft pick in the 2007 draft, pitched a simulated game. His catcher was in a portable batting cage behind home plate, and various batters would stand into the batter’s box. Because he’s been out so long (after Tommy John surgery), the Angels are slowly working him back into a game environment.

David Austen and Tim Schoeninger, two Angels minor league veterans also on rehab assignment, pitched in today’s game against the Giants camp team. They were followed by John Hellweg and Abe Gonzalez. I filmed video of all four pitchers but probably won’t have time to edit the video until I return home.

The Angels lost 6-5, but as with minor league spring training and fall instructional league these games can’t be taken too seriously. In the first inning, both starting pitchers struggled, so their managers called “roll over,” meaning they called an end to the inning without recording three outs. That keeps the pitch count down, which is especially important for a rehabbing pitcher.

I was pleasantly surprised to find an old friend with the Giants. Brian Cooper, who pitched with the Angels in the late 1990s, is the pitching coach for the Giants’ camp team. Brian is now living in Phoenix, as is his longtime buddy Matt Wise, who also once pitched for the Angels. Matt recently retired too. You may remember tales about Matt having a major jones for In ‘N Out Burger. I told Brian there’s one being built about a block from my hotel, and asked him to pass it along to Matt.

I filmed during the game, but missed almost all the scoring as I was shooting still photography at the time. I may try to put together some video highlights when I return home.

Another video clip now up on FutureAngels.com is a phenomenon I hadn’t seen before. It’s called “Shogun Batting Practice.” Click Here to watch. The way it works is that two batting cages are placed side-by-side, facing two pitching machines side-by-side. One is right-handed, the other left-handed. It was explained to me that a batter must face one machine for four minutes, then go into the other cage for four minutes. The idea came from former Angels minor league hitting coordinator Ty Van Burkleo, who is now the hitting coach for the Seattle Mariners. Ty brought the idea back to the U.S. after playing in Japan, hence the name which apparently he gave it.

Does it serve any meaningful purpose? Your guess is as good as mine. If nothing else, it breaks up the monotony of the same batting practice routine every day.

I’ll post tomorrow night after Day 2. My current plan is to drive home to California immediately after Wednesday’s game, so the Day 3 entry may have to wait until Thursday. Video when time permits. And yes, parents, I’m shooting still photography — Exhibit A being the above photo of Mr. Bachanov.

Stress Test

These are the times that try men’s souls.

— Thomas Paine
December 23, 1776

The Angels won 100 games in 2008, a franchise record, yet lost to Boston in the first round of the playoffs. Pundits claimed it was because the Angels had too easy of a season, winning the division by 21 games. They hadn’t been challenged, the pundits declared, therefore they weren’t conditioned for the pressure of the post-season.

No one can make that claim in 2009.

The Angels look like George Washington’s rag-tag Revolutionary Army, huddled at Valley Forge in the darkest days of the rebellion.

John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar began this season on the disabled list. They were soon joined by Dustin Moseley, who earned a job in the starting rotation, and Darren Oliver, who was pushed into the rotation out of the bullpen.

That would be enough to test any team, but the horrific tragedy of Nick Adenhart’s death on April 9 put the business of baseball in perspective. Baseball is entertainment. This was life and death.

And for good measure, power bat Vlad Guerrero has gone on the disabled list with a torn pectoral muscle. It’ll take a month to determine if he’ll even be able to DH later this year.

The Angels’ pitching staff has become a sad parody. No knock on them, but there are four or five guys on the staff right now who really should be in Triple-A.

Most fans understand the circumstances, but as usual there’s always the instant gratification crowd who are currently trashing fan boards with demands that heads roll. They’re only into themselves, ’nuff said.

Let’s put all this into perspective.

The Seattle Mariners’ magic number is 140.

The Angels are currently 6-10. In 2002, when they won the World Series, they started the year 6-14. We saw the same rants online demanding heads roll.

The press has started to chime in with suggestions that the Angels make a quick-fix trade or sign an aging free agent such as Pedro Martinez or Paul Byrd.

Neither alternative really makes much sense, primarily because Lackey and Santana are about three weeks away from returning to the rotation. It would take Martinez, Byrd, or any of those other options at least that long to build up their pitch count to mid-season form. If one of those guys would take a minor league contract deal with a big-league option, I’m all for that, because they provide depth. But they won’t fix the immediate problem.

A trade to add a quality starting pitcher would help, but those kinda guys really aren’t on the market at this time unless you’re willing to overpay. The Angels don’t have that kind of depth right now. Adenhart was a big bargaining chip — according to media reports, many teams inquired about him during the winter — but his loss left a big hole in trade scenarios. Other teams would probably ask for Jordan Walden, but if he goes then the Angels have no real “top prospect” starters within range of the big leagues.

My opinion is that the Angels will emerge from all this tragedy, tested by fire, united by grief, a team not just in name but in spirit. Assuming no more injuries, Lackey and Santana return by mid-May, Escobar not far behind them, the bullpen calms down and pitches to its abilities, and Guerrero can at least DH. I suspect at some point they’ll find a way to get Brandon Wood’s power bat in the lineup.

All they need to do is stay within range, because once they re-arm they’re the best team in this division, hands down.

I’ll close with this passage from The Crisis by Thomas Paine written on December 23,1776.

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.

Nick Adenhart Memorial Fund

The Adenhart family sent me information on a Nick Adenhart Memorial Fund they’ve created. Here’s the mailing address:

34 Angel Forever
Nick Adenhart Memorial Fund
c/o Geier Financial Group
2205 Warwick Way
Suite 200
Marriottsville, Maryland 21104

I’ll try to get more information when possible.

The Return of “Call My Name”

Back in 2005, when different people were running the Quakes front office, we developed for their new video board a musical montage of Quakes highlights. The idea was to use it as a pre-game introduction, similar to Calling All Angels was used at Angel Stadium.

After searching for the “right” theme, I came up with an obscure piece recorded in 1974 by rocker Sammy Hagar. It was titled Call My Name, and was a demo piece for his first album label. It was never released publicly until 2004 on The Essential Red Collection CD.

The bonus is that Hagar originates from Fontana, next to Rancho Cucamonga, which gave it a local flavor. More importantly, no one had heard of it (unless they played the album), so it wasn’t an immediately recognizable theme such as Let’s Get It Started by The Black Eyed Peas.

The idea was to update it about once a month, using new video footage I shot. Some parts with historic moments, such as Dallas McPherson’s homer off Randy Johnson, would always remain while other parts would rotate in and out to include new players.

That administration departed and Call My Name was no longer used, but last winter the current folks asked me to propose some ideas for the video board. I reminded them about Call My Name, and directed them to the versions in the FutureAngels.com Video Gallery. They agreed to resurrect Call My Name, incorporating new footage.

So the newest version premiered during last week’s homestand. It’s not played every night, because sometimes extended pre-game festivities eat up available time.

Click Here to watch the new version of Call My Name. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

Part of the fun is looking for how many current major leaguers are in the video. There are also “inside jokes,” e.g. Tom Kotchman is in there in a crowd shot watching Casey hit a homer. The players notice it right away, because most of them played for Kotch.

Because I’m probably moving to Florida in June, it won’t be updated any more except perhaps with one more version I’ll try to do before I go with this year’s players.

Photos from Rancho Cucamonga

The below photos are from today’s Rancho Cucamonga Quakes game against the Inland Empire 66ers.

Mark Gubicza throws out the first pitch.
Angels broadcaster and former major league pitcher Mark Gubicza throws out the first pitch.


Tremor and umpire.
Tremor, the Quakes mascot, confers with one of the umpires before the game.


Trevor Reckling
Trevor Reckling was the starting pitcher for the Quakes.


Abel Nieves turns a double play.
Quakes shortstop Abel Nieves turns a double play.


Andrew Taylor
Andrew Taylor made his Quakes debut in relief of Trevor Reckling.


Cephas Howard.
Cephas Howard also made his Quakes debut, relieving Andrew Taylor to finish the game.


Hoyt Wilhelm!

My wife really doesn’t follow baseball other than watching the Angels on TV with me, so she doesn’t know much about the history of the game. That means she never knows the answer to trivia questions, so a few years ago I jokingly told her to guess “Hoyt Wilhelm” because
he had such a long and interesting career

It’s actually worked on occasion, and has become a running joke between us. Anytime a trivia question is posed on a baseball telecast, she’ll say, “Hoyt Wilhelm!”

Today we had an inspector in the house as part of our escrow process. He saw the Angels memorabilia on the wall and asked who was the Angels fan. He said his dad had played for the Angels in the 1960s. I asked who. He said his dad was Ed Kirkpatrick, a catcher-outfielder who signed in June 1962.

After discussing my project to write a book about the history of the Angels minor leagues, we talked about where his dad went after he left the Angels. Ed was traded to the Royals in December 1968. I asked who the Angels got in return; he couldn’t recall, so I picked up an Angels Media Guide to look it up.

You guessed it … Hoyt Wilhelm!

So I turned to my wife and said, “Guess who his dad was traded for, and the hint is the possible answer to every trivia question.”

She said, “Hoyt Wilhelm!”

Once again proving my theory …

This ‘N That

If you’re a regular reader of FutureAngels.com, you know that my wife and I have been planning for an eventual move to Florida.

We listed our house for sale last Sunday. The first couple to walk through made an offer for what we asked, so we’re in escrow.

We can easily fall out of escrow, of course, especially in this economy. But if everything goes as scheduled, we could be on our way to Florida by June 1.

How does this affect FutureAngels.com?

Well, not much.

The main impact should be on Rancho Cucamonga, since I won’t be 45 miles away any more. I won’t be able to drive to Tempe any more, but U.S. Airways flies directly to Phoenix from Orlando so it’ll be just the cost of the flight and a rental car. Delta flies non-stop to Salt Lake City, so I expect to visit the Orem Owlz this summer.

This should make it a bit easier to visit Cedar Rapids and Arkansas, but we’ll see.

I’m tentatively planning to drive to Tempe for extended spring training games April 27-29, but that depends on what happens with escrow.

Owlz fans are familiar with Gandolfo’s Deli, an historic sandwich shop in the basement of what was once the Provo Angels offices until they moved to Orem. Gandolfo’s has opened a shop in Rancho Cucamonga, and the franchise has become a big sponsor of the Quakes. They’re at 9090 Milliken, at 7th Street. Give them a try; here’s their menu.

Has anybody managed to get the Bees webcast to work? Either we get the sports talk radio feed, or the link is bad, or just nothing happens on my end.

The Quakes asked me to write an article for their game program about my memories of Nick Adenhart. This is the original draft I gave them.

The first time I saw Nick Adenhart, he was a batboy.

No, he wasn’t ten years old, although he wasn’t much older. He was actually three weeks short of his eighteenth birthday, assigned to the Angels’ minor league complex in Arizona as he recovered from reconstructive elbow surgery.

Six months before, Nick was ranked by Baseball America as the top high school prospect in the nation. But just before the June 2004 draft, Adenhart blew out his elbow, and was viewed by most teams as too risky to select.

No problem, as far as the Angels were concerned. They selected Nick in the 14th round, offered him half of the usual first round bonus money that year, and paid for his surgery. With nothing else to do but heal, Adenhart was assigned to be the team batboy, collecting bats from the field between at-bats. His teammates nicknamed him “Doogie Howser” after the fictional TV teenage doctor.

A year later, Nick was healed, and on June 26, 2005 he made his professional debut in the Rookie-A Arizona League, pitching for the Mesa Angels against the Surprise Rangers. He got a late-season promotion to the Orem Owlz and won a game for them in the playoffs en route to a Pioneer League championship.

Adenhart’s 2006 season began with another promotion, to the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels in the Midwest League. He started for the West Division in the league’s All-Star Game. In sixteen starts with the Kernels, Nick was 10-2 with a 1.95 ERA.

On July 2, 2006, Adenhart made his first start with the Advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. He was six weeks from his 20th birthday. Nick made nine starts with the Quakes, posting a 5-2 record with a 3.78 ERA. He struck out 46 and walked only 16 in 52 1/3 innings.

Entering 2007, Baseball America named Adenhart the Angels’ #2 prospect behind former Quakes slugger Brandon Wood. He spent the season with the Double-A Arkansas Travelers, turning 21 on August 24. He was one of the youngest top pitching prospects in the minors, and opened 2008 with the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees, one step from the majors.

After injuries to starters John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, the Angels called up Nick after only three Triple-A starts. On May 1, 2008, he made his major league debut against the A’s. Adenhart made three starts before returning to Salt Lake for the rest of the year.

During the spring of 2009, more starting pitcher injuries created more opportunities, and Nick was selected to begin the season with the Angels. On April 8, 2009, he pitched six shutout innings against the A’s. After the game, he was in a car with three friends when it was struck by an alleged drunk driver. Nick and two companions were killed, and the one survivor was left in critical condition.

Nick was a kind, humble, and calm soul. He pitched with an almost detached demeanor. He struggled in his three 2008 starts, perhaps in over his head, but when he joined the Angels this year he had far more confidence in himself. Angels fandom saw the real Nick Adenhart the night of April 8, and it will be the final memory they will have of him.

He was a long way from playing batboy in Mesa.

Nick Adenhart Memorial

Over the years, FutureAngels.com has added permanent memorial pages when we’ve lost a member of the minor league family.

The Nick Adenhart memorial went online today.

If you wish to add your own comment or reminiscence, follow the instructions in the memorial, i.e. e-mail me at home@futureangels.com with your comment, your name and your city/state. Your e-mail address will not be released.

The FutureAngels.com memorials:

I really hope I don’t have to do any more of these …

Photos from the Nick Adenhart Fan Memorial

Angels fans started an impromptu memorial to Nick Adenhart yesterday at the main gate of Angel Stadium. I went by this morning to shoot some photos, which are below.