Saturday, October 31, 2009

WILL SOMEBODY GIVE THIS KID A HAPPY MEAL?!?!

Last night, I went over my grandparent's house to celebrate my grandfather's 79th birthday. My grandfather and grandmother were born in Italy in the early 1930's and lived there for more than 20 years. They both decided to follow family to America in search of new jobs and better opportunities. Since arriving, they have had to learn how to survive in a completely different culture, while working at a wide variety of different jobs thoughout their lifetime. Last night, they were telling my cousins and I about what life was like coming to a very different country in the 1950's. They each agreed that the most challenging part was facing a completely new language barrier. They shared tons of funny stories about learning the language, and the difficulties this barrier presented as they traveled between New York, where my grandfather's family had settled, to Boston, where my grandmother's family resided. It got me thinking about when I was forced into a culture very different from my own a few years ago.

At spring training during the 2008 season, the Padres and Dodgers traveled to Beijing to play in the first professional baseball game ever held in the country of China. We took a 14 hour direct flight on one of the biggest planes I have ever seen in my life. Each player was given a row of seven or so seats to himself to stretch out and sleep when needed. One of the coolest parts of the flight was being allowed to sit with the pilots in the cockpit when we were 30,000 feet in the air. The view from up there is unbelievable. Once we arrived, the toughest part about China for me was the food. I am an extremely picky eater. I could survive in a world filled only with meat and potatoes for the rest of my life, and be perfectly happy doing so. The hotel we stayed at was one of the largest, most beautiful hotels I have ever seen. A few guys on the team and I decided to eat at the hotel buffet, which offered hundreds of different choices, such as jellyfish, bamboo shoots, and sea horse. Honestly, these were really the food choices, and people were actually eating them. Needless to say, I passed on the meal and decided to walk around the city to find something a little more appetizing. A popular thing in China is for people to set up small tents and offer food and vegetables to the public, much like an American farmer's market. I decided to check it out, before noticing my choices for lunch were again sea horse, cockroach, and some other large insect I wasn't really in the mood to eat. I was about to give up, deciding to starve and return home in a week, 25 pounds lighter than I had arrived. That was until I found one of the greatest establishments of all time, McDonald's. A Big Mac and 10 piece nugget with barbecue sauce had never sounded so tasty and nutritionally satisfying as it did at that moment. My troubles had ended and I could now relax and eat peacefully. That was until I decided to place my order. Asking for a number 10 didn't work the way it does in the States. Neither did pointing at the large board above their head and yelling, "chicken!" When they realized were weren't getting anywhere, they gave me a menu on a small piece of paper so I could point to what I wanted. They did understand Coke, which was outstanding, but they didn't have any BBQ sauce. In America, I would have been pissed, but in China, chicken without the right type of sauce still sounded a lot better than insects on a stick. I wanted to bring the food back and eat at the hotel so I asked for a bag. After a few blank stares, one lady went behind the desk and gave me three straws. I took them and tried to explain with my hands the shape of a bag and how you would carry food in it if you wanted to leave. She nodded seeming to understand exactly what I said. She returned with five or six packets of sugar. I don't even know why I would want sugar. I didn't order coffee, and Coke already has enough sugar to keep you wired all night. At this point, I was starving and decided the straws and sugars would be all I needed. I stuffed my Big Mac in one pocket, my nuggets in the other, and carried the rest back to the hotel. In the 4 days we spent in China, I ate McDonald's 10 times, and that isn't a joke. My Chinese didn't improve very much, but I did learn to forget about take out and just eat my food there. I've got to give a ton of credit to both of my grandparents for being able to survive in a new culture for all of those years. Now I understand why they love eating spaghetti and meatballs so much. It definitely beats fighting with the McDonald's guy.


Below are some of the pictures and videos I took while spending a week over in China.



Me sitting at the top of the Great Wall of China

The view from outside my hotel room in downtown Beijing

Tiananmen Square

My golden arches




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Walking up the Great Wall of China (video)

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The field where we played 2 games against the Dodgers (video)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

BASEBALL LESSONS

Over the past three off-seasons I have been giving hitting and fielding lessons and clinics to players of all ages. I will be once again giving lessons this off-season until I leave for Spring Training on February 14, 2010. If you are interested or know anyone that might be don't hesitate to e-mail me at mattantonelli9@gmail.com. Thanks!

Below are a few clips of some of the lessons I gave last year.

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16 year old high school junior

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15 year old high school sophomore

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11 year old little league

Monday, October 26, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

GOLF 101

Today, my buddy Nick SantaBarbara and I played 18 holes at the Sagamore Country Club in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, where I attempted to play 18 holes of golf for the first time. I left the course on Sunday realizing how hard the game of golf really is, but also knowing that I did much better than I expected. It is a little intimidating the first time you do anything, especially when that thing is golf and you know that you are not a very good player. I assumed I would definitely be the worst player there, but after a few holes of seeing some of the other guys on the course, I realized they had just as hard of a time with the game as I envisioned myself having. My first shot of the day was probably my best shot, when I hit a 3 iron straight down the fairway (I only used my driver on par 5's, which I think really helped out). My confidence was riding sky high until I pulled my wedge out of the bag and was introduced to the dreaded short game. It took me about four or five shots from 50 yards out to get on the green and then three puts to get in the hole. I probably would have had more success taking Happy Gilmore's advice and bringing my hockey stick instead of my putter. The rest of the day went pretty much the way you would expect. I made a few shots which made me think the game wasn't that hard after all, followed by shots where I hoped no one was looking. The success of the day probably came from the fact that I only lost three balls, after bringing 25 just to be sure. I finished the day shooting a 114, 34 over. Nick is also a beginner, but has been on a course about a half dozen times or so. He shot a 101 on the day. The videos below are of Nick and I on the last hole of the day. As you can see, playing while being filmed can add a little pressure to your game.



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Thursday, October 22, 2009

GOLF BALL WACKER GUY

Every baseball player in the world that has ever even looked at a golf club has heard someone say, "golfing will hurt your baseball swing." At least I know growing up I steered clear of the golf clubs, and instead stuck to footballs, basketballs, and hockey sticks. Well, after two seasons in a row of not exactly having the greatest baseball swing in the world, I've decided to give golf a try. For the last two years, golf has been something I have become more and more intrigued with, but have always thought of it as something I will play when I am done playing baseball and have more time to dedicate to it. I still plan on becoming a good golfer when my baseball career is over, but I've decided to start practicing a little during the off-season, at least while the weather is good enough to allow me. I have a tee time scheduled for Monday with a buddy of mine and went to the driving range last night to see just exactly how much I might embarrass myself in a few days. This will be the first time in my life I will attempt to complete 18 holes. When I was in single-A in Fort Wayne, Indiana, back in 2006, I lived on a golf course. One day a few guys on the team asked me to play nine holes with them. I told them I had never been to a golf course before and only had been to the driving range a few times in my life. They told me it was "no big deal" and if I could hit a baseball I could hit a golf ball. Well, to make a long story short, I decided to give it a shot, that was until my first tee shot destroyed a poor old ladies house. Now, I hear all the time,"don't worry, no one buys a house on a golf course and doesn't expect to have a ball hit at their house every now and then," and I totally agree with that statement, most of the time. The lady in the house that I hit probably felt pretty secure when she bought it considering it was almost exactly next to the 1st tee, one that not even Happy Gilmore could find a way to hit. My shot went straight sideways, hit her house, I jumped into my cart and gunned it towards the flag, acting as if I made the shot of a lifetime and reached the par 4 green in one. Thankfully no one was out on her deck, cleaning the gutters, or had decided to give the house a wash that day. I wasn't even given an opportunity to yell "fore", which would have made me feel at least a little more like an actual golfer. The ball went way to fast from the club to the house, I couldn't even get a "ffff" out before the damage was done. I ended up dropping a new ball somewhere near the green, and after about 9 or 10 shots to put the damn thing in the hole, I decided golf would have to wait. I am hoping come Monday my mind has totally forgotten about my bad golf experience. Either way, here is some footage I took of me hitting balls yesterday. It was actually a lot better than I had expected. The driver is about the only thing I had some success with so I'll save myself the embarrassment and leave out the iron shots. I went with a friend Athan Goulos who is also in the video. Athan is ALOT better than I am, and served as my cheerleader, while also helping with my technique. He is one of the top Long Drive competitors for his age in the country and played on his high school golf team as a 7th grader. Wish me luck on Monday, or just hope I don't kill someone.





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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

RICO

Got to give a shout out to our dog Rico. We got him about a year ago from an animal rescue shelter when he was only a few months old. He was born and lived the first few months of his life in Puerto Rico, before being rescued and sent to Massachusetts. We don't know exactly what type of dog he is, but we believe he is half Whippet and half Lab. A few days ago we caught Rico watching Marley & Me on the television. Usually dogs pay no attention to t.v. so my sister grabbed her phone and video taped him. He didn't seem to care very much.



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Monday, October 19, 2009

FRIGHTLAND 2009

Every Halloween my sister's boyfriend and his family build a Haunted House for the families of all neighboring cities and towns to enjoy. The house is over 4000 square feet and features over 10 different rooms. Below are a few pictures from last years house, where over 1000 people attended throughout the week. Go by to check it out and have some fun.


Free Admission (Donations Accepted)
October 23rd-25th & October 30th-31st
6:00pm-10:00pm
23 Stillman Road, Lynnfield, MA















My sister Lynn Antonelli (left) and her boyfriend Andy Kolinski (right)
Amazingly no make-up was needed for either costume.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

HOME SWEET HOME

I left Arizona today where the weather was 100 degrees without a cloud in the sky. I landed in Boston at 6:00 p.m. and was welcomed by cold and windy 30 degree weather. It wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, or expecting on October 17th, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised living in New England. Being home now and looking back at the last month of baseball, it was exactly what I had needed after not being able to play much this season because of injury, and when I did play, not being very successful. After playing so many games during the season and being on the road for so long, the last thing most players want to do is go to an instructional or fall league. Although you may not always want to do it, it is almost always beneficial for you. After putting in a lot of work in the batting cages and in extra b.p. over the last month, I really have come to understand my swing much better and what I have to do to be successful. Over the last two years I have played in hundreds of games, but never had a whole lot of time to look at my swing, and more importantly, play in games that don't count so I could work on things and not worry about the results. It is hard to make major changes during the season when you know each at-bat counts. I ended up having a really successful Fall League and can now use it as something positive to build on come Spring Training. It feels good to go up to the plate and be able to do the things that you have worked on in practice correctly. Over the past few seasons I would work on different parts of my swing in practice and not be able to go into the game and perform them. There is nothing worse in sports than going into a game and not feeling confident about your ability to get the job done. I went a long time without that confidence, but over the last month I have found a way to regain many of the things that I had lost, and attack every at-bat feeling confident in doing my job. With that being said, I am still a long way away from where I want and need to be to perform at the level that I want to, and I need to keep working on getting better. Like our coaches say, "You never stay the same. You either get better or you get worse, and its up to you."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

TAKE NOTES

An important lesson I learned a few years ago, but haven't put into effect until now, is to write down notes about your swing when things are going well for you. We all have those times during a season when everything goes the way you want it to. The baseball looks like a beach ball, and no matter what you do, you just seem to find a way to put a good swing on it. The problem is there have also been times when it looks like your trying to hit skittles, and although they may taste good, they're damn hard to hit. What I would advise doing is taking a notebook and writing down some of the things that you are feeling when you are hitting well or are "in the zone." You want to write down some of the things you are thinking about, or the game plan that you are taking to the plate. One of my main thoughts over the past few weeks has been to hit the ball hard, on a line, back up the middle. I get in trouble when I start to think too much about pulling the ball. By writing this down I can periodically look over my notes and make sure I keep that good mindset constant. Some other thoughts you might write down are, "see the ball deep," or "quick hands." You don't want lots of thoughts going through your head when your hitting, but sometimes a simple phrase like these can help put you in a positive and simple mindset. You also want to write about how you felt physically. What did your body feel like? How was your stance feeling? Sometimes my stance will change from week to week without me even noticing. If I were to take notes on how I feel in my stance right now I would say that I have my hands very relaxed. I feel like I am barely holding onto the bat. My elbows are soft and relaxed and my hands are back. I am starting my weight slightly on my front foot before transferring my weight slowly to my back side. Now if in a few days or weeks from now I just don't feel right at the plate I can go back and use my notes like a checklist to see what has changed and what hasn't. It is a good way to keep track of yourself, especially during a long season. Try it out and let me know how it works.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

WE TALKIN' BOUT PRACTICE

Time is starting to fly by, with only one week left in the Fall Ball season. This week we had four games, two away games against the Reds and Indians, and the Royals and Rangers, and two home games against the Dodgers and White Sox, and the Reds and Indians again. In the first game I played five innings at 2nd base and went 0-2 with a fly out to center and a line drive out to left field. I decided after that game that I wanted to try a new pre-game routine to see if I would have any different results come game time. Starting early in the morning I would hit balls off of the tee, only using the opposite field. For some reason when I think opposite field I do a really good job of staying short and inside the ball, but when I think pull I get around the ball and roll over way to much. When batting practice started I did the same thing, not trying to pull anything, but instead hit hard ground balls and line drives to right field. Later that day I took the same approach into the game and ended up hitting four balls hard, going 2 for 4 on the day. I repeated the same process the next day throughout practice and went 2 for 2 with a walk. Again, today I kept my same routine and went 2 for 2 with two doubles in our game. I don't know if my pregame work had anything to do with it or it was just a coincidence, but I would be stupid to get away from what has gotten positive results. I think every hitter needs to have a routine that is working for them and stick to it. You should have a goal everyday you show up to practice, something you want to work on to get better. Baseball is a game of repetition, and sometimes that repetition can be very monotonous. If you pick a specific thing you want to work on before practice it keeps things fresh and exciting, instead of the same thing everyday. For me, someone that tends to get "pull happy" every now and then, it's good to let the ball get deep in practice and work on staying through and inside balls to right-center field. You need to look at what you do well and, more importantly, what you do not do well and find different ways to make your weaknesses your strengths, while making your strengths even stronger. Give it a shot and see what happens.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

TWINS VS. TIGERS

I'm sitting in my extremely luxurious and spacious La Quinta Inn hotel room watching the Minnesota Twins play the Detroit Tigers on my 46 inch high definition t.v. Actually, my roommate and I are still cramped in our one person bedroom with our 19 inch hazy television. You don't realize how great HD television is, especially for watching sporting events, until your forced to watch a game on a hotel t.v. Anyways, what a game this is, with both teams battling back and forth for twelve very long innings. It reminds me of watching one of my favorite sports movies, Rocky IV, where the Italian Stallion and Ivan Drago trade punch for punch until Rock knocks out the Russian in the last round. The thing that amazes me is how each team continues to deliver when its back is against the wall. The Twins were facing a one run deficit in the bottom of the 7th and in the bottom of the 10th, and both times found a way to tie the score. It is nice to see a small market team like the Twins, who aren't afforded the luxury of being able to spend as much money as teams like Boston and New York, continue to be successful year after year. It really speaks volumes to the importance of developing players within your organization, and also confirms the idea that you don't always need the best players to win, you just need the right players. Being a small market team, most people have not seen the Twins play very much on national television, but I am looking forward to watching them play the Yankees tomorrow night in Game One of the playoffs. Any baseball fan that wants to learn a little more about the game should tune in and watch how the Twins play the game.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

NOT MUCH HAPPENING

The last few days have been rather uneventful here in Peoria, Arizona. I twisted my ankle a few days ago rounding 1st base and have been working on getting that back to 100%. Amazingly, it is the first time I have ever hurt my ankle and had to have it taped in my life. Some of the nagging injuries that occurred during the summer have been giving me a little bit of a problem the last few days. We are getting to that part of the year where every one's bodies are aching from the eight months of baseball we have played. Even though we don't play a contact sport, we do play just about every day for 3/4 of the year, and that takes a huge toll on your body come September and October. I was given off of practice yesterday by the training staff, spending most of the morning in the training room receiving treatment to prepare for next weeks games. Coaches will always tell you, "stay out of the training room", or "you can't make the club in the tub", but without the help of those guys I don't know if I would have been able to play the last few days. I only have a little less than two weeks remaining before I return home, so I hope my body holds up for a few more days.