Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ONE WEEK UNTIL OPENING DAY

Hey what's up everyone? As you all already know, on Sunday I was sent down to Minor League Spring Training to begin preparing for our season to start. Our first game is only a week away on April 8th in Portland, Oregon. Over the last few days I haven't really done a whole lot. Towards the end of Major League Spring Training my left hand started to get pretty sore for some reason so I have taken the last few days off of hitting to try and let it heal up a little bit before the season starts. Over those few days I have been spending most of my time fielding ground balls in the mornings and icing down my hand in the afternoons. It hasn't been the most exciting time in the world, but I need to make sure I am ready to go pain free in another week or so. I wish there was more things to talk about but I can't really think of anything cool enough to mention.

I've spent most of my nights watching TV shows like 24 and American Idol. If you haven't seen this season of 24 yet or you are waiting to watch when it comes out on DVD in a few months don't read any further because I'm going to ruin it for you. I like the show and I have watched most of the seasons since it began. I agree that it is the same damn thing every single year except for the origin of the terrorists, but for some reason I still get excited to watch. The thing that pisses me off, like in any TV show, is when they run out of twists and just start throwing in random stuff to fill time. Dana Walsh now has like twelve different identities. There is not enough time in the day to be that many different people, even if nobody seems to sleep on that show for weeks at a time. That is my complaint for the day, although it won't stop me from being in front of my TV next Monday night watching like I always do.

P.S.

Jack Bauer once forgot where he put his keys. He spent the next half-hour torturing himself until he gave up their location.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

CUT DAY

I received an e-mail question yesterday asking if I could explain what happens when a player gets released from a team or sent down during spring training or the regular season. It just so happens that a few days ago at practice I was sent down to Triple-A Portland, so I guess now would be the appropriate time to explain how you find out, and what actually happens when you get sent down.

During the season it is a little different, so first I'll try to give a Spring Training example of what happens when you go from Major League Spring Training to Minor League Spring Training. First off, you never really know when cut day is coming, but usually there will be a group of guys cut on the same day, so if you see teammates being called into the manager's office, take cover. Usually every week or so there will be a cut day all the way up to the end of Spring Training. I showed up for practice a few days ago and quickly realized it was one of those days. Technically it really isn't a true, "cut day". If you are in Minor League Spring Training, cut day is something totally different. If you are cut in minor league camp it means you are done, you've been released. As you can probably guess, this is the absolute toughest day for not only the player, but everyone in the organization. Sometimes you will hear that baseball is a "business" and these type of days remind everyone of that fact. The toughest part about the day is that for a lot guys it is the first time they will ask themselves, "what do I do next?" Most players have never done anything but play baseball for most of their lives. A lot of guys didn't even get a college education. They were drafted out of high school and have put in many years of playing in search of that ultimate goal of reaching the Major Leagues. If you get cut you really only have two options: 1) try to sign on with another team, or 2) look for a new line of work. It really is one of the saddest days of the year. A lot of times a player that gets cut is someone that you have played with for years, and this is the day you realize there could be a chance you might never see the guy again. There have been countless amounts of my friends that have been released a few years ago and I haven't seen them since that day. As tough of a part of the game as it is we all understand that each year there will be thousands of new players trying to take your job and that's the nature of the game.

Now back to Major League Camp. It was around 7 AM when I first noticed some players being called into the office. I went about my normal morning, getting changed, eating breakfast, and heading into the trainer's room to get loosened up and ready for the day's work. I had just laid down on the training table to stretch out when I heard one of our coaches call my name. "Manager wants to see you." Those are the words you don't want to hear if you're a player. The only time something good has come after those five words was when I got the news that I had been called up to the big leagues. I jumped up and headed into his office. It is a pretty familiar scene for me in there considering this was my third Major League Spring Training and the third time I had been called into the office towards the end of camp. I was told that I had done a good job but they had to send me down. We talked for about five minutes before I shook every one's hand and headed out to pack up my locker. As I said a few days ago, I had a very good idea that I wasn't going to make the team, but it still isn't ever fun to be told you didn't make a team you were trying to be on. I grabbed my equipment bag, threw my uniform, glove, bats, and anything else I could fit in there so I would only have to make one trip, and walked it over to the other side of the building to where the minor league camp is held.

That's pretty much it. Once you get over there you are given a new locker in a much more crowded locker room. You receive your new jersey (number 41 for me), your new pants (much tighter and less comfortable ones) and your new daily schedule. You are now part of Minor League Spring Training. Now get to work.

2010

FINAL SPRING TRAINING STATS

TEAMGABRHTB2B3BHRRBIBBIBBSOSBCSAVGOBPSLGOPSGO/AO





















2010SD203771421401820800.378.410.568.9780.67

Monday, March 29, 2010

MINOR LEAGUE CAMP

Bill Lumbergh: Milt, we're gonna need to go ahead and move you downstairs into storage B. We have some new people coming in, and we need all the space we can get. So if you could just go ahead and pack up your stuff and move it down there, that would be terrific, OK?
Milton Waddams: Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler...

Yesterday I was called into our manager's office and told that I would be packing up my stuff and heading over to Minor League Camp. First I wanted to thank everyone that has sent me messages over the last few days wishing me luck in Portland and saying they are sorry to see that I didn't make the team. I appreciate the letters and good luck wishes.

As much as I wanted to make the big league club out of Spring Training I had a pretty good idea that there wasn't a great chance of that happening. Lets face it, the last two years I have done nothing to earn that shot. It is going to take more than a good Spring Training to be back to where I want to be, but it was definitely a good start and I feel like I am back on the right track again. I am really looking forward to getting up to Portland and starting the season. This is the best I have felt in a baseball uniform in a few years and that is always a good feeling. Right now we have about six days left of Spring Training before I pack up my car once again and begin the twenty hour drive up the California coast for Portland, Oregon. The next few days will be spent getting everything prepared for the start of a new season. Lets get it going.

VOTE FOR CHRIS

My cousin, Chris O’Brien, has applied for the Hood Good Sport Scholarship. The first tier selection is based on the total votes each kid receives. The top fifteen kids from New England will then be interviewed and the top eight will receive a scholarship to help pay for college. I'm trying to help him out and would love it if you guys could also help Chris by voting for him. He's a great kid, plus he plays football, hockey and baseball like I did in high school, so you got to vote for him! You can vote once a day, every single day until April 30th. Thank you all very much, and please feel free to pass this info on to anyone you know. The attached link brings you right to the page to vote for Chris. Thanks again!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

GAMES VS. BREWERS AND CUBS

On Friday we traveled to Maryvale, Arizona to play the Milwaukee Brewers. I came into the game in the bottom of the 6th inning at second base. I ended the game going 0-2. In my first at-bat I got to face Trevor Hoffman. It was my first time facing him in my career which was pretty cool, even though he struck me out on his change-up. That pitch is no joke. It really looks like it comes out of his hand like a fastball but stops halfway to the plate. In my second at-bat I hit a ball pretty good to left field but it was caught around the warning track for the final out of the inning. We played another good game as a team winning 9-4.

After the game I was signing some autographs for fans down the right field line when I little kid around eight years old asked me if he could have my glove. I told him I wished I could give it to him but it was my only game glove so I had to keep it. I figured he'd understand and say thank you. Instead he looked me right in the eyes and said, "You stink!" I almost laughed at first but I just kind of looked at him weird and started to walk up the tunnel towards the locker room. After I walked a little bit I heard again from behind me, "You stinkkkk!" I was thinking about when I was a little kid. I would have been scared shitless to talk to a player, never mind tell him he wasn't any good. My dad always tells me that kids aren't the same as they used to be. I always tell him he's just old school, but I'm starting to believe him now.

Yesterday we had a split squad, a home game against the Cincinnati Reds and an away game against the Chicago Cubs. I played in the away game and started at 2nd. I ended the game 1-3 with a single, a slow ground ball to third that I beat to first. These hits kind of feel cheap sometimes, but earlier in the game I hit a line drive that their shortstop jumped and caught, so things even out in the end. The game was low scoring most of the way. It was scoreless into the sixth I believe until they hit a home run to take a one run lead. We ended up taking back the lead 2-1 before they tied it up at 2-2 where the game ended in a tie. Spring Training games only go 10 innings to make sure none of the pitchers are overused. We ended up winning the home game against the Reds 3-2.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

GREAT SUCCESS!

Yesterday I was looking through the people I follow on Twitter and noticed that Ellen DeGeneres has 4.4 million Twitter followers. First of all, that is absolutely amazing. I then looked over at my Twitter followers, 587. That's just shitty. I decided I was going to go out and find some more followers. I planned on launching a campaign to get Ellen to follow me. I'm a big fan of hers and The Ellen Show. She's hilarious, and I like how she dances. I figured it would take a while and I was prepared to stop at nothing to reach my goal. I sent her a message yesterday announcing my mission and less than 12 hours later the job was done. I am now followed by @theellenshow. I highly doubt she had anything to do with this, but I'm grateful regardless. Laugh, Dance, Conquer baby!

Hi, Matt Antonelli.

Ellen DeGeneres (TheEllenShow) is now following your tweets on Twitter.

A little information about Ellen DeGeneres:

4416325 followers
1654 tweets
following 27919 people

Friday, March 26, 2010

I WANT YOU ELLEN DEGENERES! DAY 1

MattAntonelli9

  1. Starting today I will not rest until @theellenshow is officially following me... clock's ticking, Ellen.

MY BOY'S WICKED SMART


GAMES VS. MARINERS AND WHITE SOX

I've been busy the last few days so I know I am a few games behind. I'm going to do my best to try and keep the last few games straight and remember what happened during those days. On Wednesday we played a night game against the Seattle Mariners. I ended up coming in the game in the bottom of the 6th to play defense. In my one at-bat I drew a walk on a six or seven pitch at-bat and finished the game 0 for 0. Most of the game was a pitchers duel, but we pulled out the 2-1 win.

One thing a bunch of the guys on the team were wondering was why Ichiro is the only Japanese player with his first name on the back of his jersey? Does anyone know the answer for this? None of us could figure it out. I am pretty sure he is the only guy. If anyone can think of another player in the MLB that does this let me know. The guy can do whatever the hell he wants either way so it really doesn't matter, we were just curious.

In yesterday's game we played a day game against the Chicago White Sox. We ended up winning the game 5-3. I'm not really sure what our record is, but if feels like we have been winning an awful lot of games over the last few weeks. I didn't get a chance to play a whole lot in this one. I went into the game in the top of the 9th to pinch hit, and then went into the field at second base to finish the 9th. In my one at-bat I hit a line drive up the middle for a single. The ball ended up drilling the umpire in the leg causing a dead ball. It was the first time I have ever hit an umpire with the ball. I felt really bad and actually stopped running for a minute when I saw the thing hit him. For a quick second I actually thought I was out because he threw his hands in the air. That would be a pretty shitty rule by the way. I ended up getting a single, but got an RBI taken away from me. I still feel pretty bad about drilling the guy. That's gonna leave a mark.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

TUCSON TRIP

On Monday we took a bus trip down to Tucson for two days to play the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies. The trip took us a little more than two hours, which for Spring Training is a really long trip, but would be considered a cross town rival if you're in single or double A. Our first game was against Arizona. Most of the game was a pitcher's dual as both teams went scoreless through 6 innings. I came into the game in the bottom of the 6th to play defense at second base. I ended the game going 0 for 1 with a walk and a fly out to center field. It was actually my first walk of the spring, which is odd considering I usually walk a decent amount. We added one run in the 7th, two in the 8th, and another one in the 9th, but they scored four in the bottom of the 9th to push the game to extras. They added a run in the bottom of the 10th for the win. It was a tough loss, but overall we played a pretty good game.

Yesterday we traveled over to the Colorado Rockies Spring Training facility for a 1:00 PM game. For some reason the weather didn't want to cooperate and we played most of the game in the low 60's and high 50's with rain and really heavy wind. It was a back and forth game with a lot of offense for a cold day. We ended up winning 9-6. I got into the game in the 7th and played the last three at second. I had one at-bat in the top of the 9th. At-bats late in the game are sometimes tough to get loose for, but when its cold and rainy it is especially tough. I walked to the plate just hoping I didn't let go out my bat on my follow through and hurt the opposing catcher. The rain was making my bat tough really tough to keep hold of, and the combination of rain and cold weather is never good on the grip. Luckily, I got an 0-1 fastball over the plate and hit a double to left-center and later scored on a single back up the middle. After the game we jumped on the bus and headed the two hours back to Peoria to get ready for a night game against the Mariners the next day.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

MAIL BAG

Mike asks:

When you go to bat, do you have a plan of attack? You have a reputation for being a very selective hitter. Do you look at a pitcher and think about the pitch he's going to throw you in a specific situation? Or do you wait for a pitch that you can hit well and just react.? Like, do you go into a 3-1 count thinking fastball and geared to hit it? Obviously, to some extent you do, but is it more reactions or anticipation? Thanks.

Thanks for the question Mike. I think this is a cool question because even though I have played baseball for a long time and am still currently playing, I wonder what goes through certain players head while they are standing in the batters box. I've also been asked thousands of times, "were you expecting to get that pitch?" I'll try to give a few examples and what I am thinking just prior to a thrown pitch, but I won't be able to cover every situation because that might take all day.

To start off, when I go up to hit I definitely have a plan of attack. If I have never faced a pitcher before I will watch him throw his warm-up pitches before the inning starts to see what pitches he throws and how he controls them, what his arm angle is like, and how fast or slow is his delivery. I'll usually ask around to different teammates to see if anyone has faced him in the past and what information they have on him. After he has warmed up and I walk to the plate I have to think about the game situation that we are in. What inning it is, what is the score, if we have any runners on base, could there be a good chance of a hit and run or a bunt, do I have to hit the ball to the right side to move a runner over to third, is there a runner on third and we need a sac fly, those type of things. Every single different situation makes me think differently about what pitches I might see and where the pitcher is going to try to locate them.

Let's just say I am hitting early in the game with nobody on base and a tied score. This is probably the most basic example I can think of. I walk to the plate against a guy I have never seen before and know nothing about other than he's a lefty with an 88 mph fastball and he likes his change-up against a right-handed hitter. First pitch I would probably be sitting on my favorite pitch, a fastball middle of the plate, and I'm looking to hit something hard right back up the middle on a line. He throws a fastball, a great pitch on the outside corner for a strike. Because it wasn't the location I was looking for and it was early in the count I take it for strike one. Now it's 0-1 and I step out of the batters box. I have a good idea about how his fastball looks. When I step back in I know I can't look for my absolute favorite pitch because I'm behind in the count, but I still don't have to swing at anything just because its a strike. I'll open my zone up a little bit, but still look for something middle-away to drive right back at the pitcher or to the second baseman. I still sit on a fastball, but because I am looking to hit the ball back up the middle or hard at the second baseman I am ready to hit an off-speed pitch if he leaves it in my area. If I was looking to pull a fastball I wouldn't have much of a chance to hit an off-speed pitch hard. Next pitch is a fastball located perfectly on the inside corner. I take it for strike two. Damn this guy is pretty good. I tip my hat to him and get ready to battle. He has thrown two great pitches, something that doesn't happen all the time, but will happen every once and a while. It isn't fun being down 0-2, but now I got to do what I can to put a ball in play. I have to swing at a strike no matter what part of the plate it is located on. I step in and am looking for a pitch away, but ready to react to anything inside. With two strikes this is probably my best strategy. If I look away I still have the ability to react to a fastball in and hopefully foul it off. If I happened to look for a pitch in and got a change-up away I wouldn't have much of a chance of doing anything with it. I also don't just sit on a fastball anymore. I start to sit on something a little softer, and if he throws his fastball I will have to react quickly to fight it off. He throws an 0-2 fastball inside again but this time misses for a ball. Now I'm 1-2, not much better than 0-2, but I have another chance at a mistake pitch left over the plate. I stay with my same approach looking soft away. The next pitch is a 1-2 change-up away but he doesn't put it where he wants it. He leaves it up a little and it hits a good amount of plate. Because I'm looking for something softer and away its right where I am looking. I hit a ball right back up the middle for a base hit.

That is an example of a typical at-bat I would face in say the first inning of a game in Triple-A. When you are in the Major Leagues it is a lot different. Before the game even starts you would look at film of the opposing starting pitcher. I would already know what his fastball looks like, how his change-up looks and how hard it is, and if he has a curve ball or slider to go with it. I would also have a really good idea about how he likes to work right-handed hitters. Before every game we are given a scouting report on the opposing pitcher we are facing. It will give a few words about what type of pitcher he is and what his tendencies are. It will show what percentage he throws each pitch at each count. For example it would say that to right-handers on 0-0 he throws a fastball 72 %, a change-up 22%, and a curve ball 6%. It would have this breakdown for every count possible, so when you get to that count you have a reference on what he might be thinking. Of course, you still have to take the game situation into consideration. If there is a man on 2nd and a base open in a tied game in the bottom of the 8th, that is going to change up his thinking a lot. Same thing if you happen to be a 3 hitter versus a 9 hitter. Baseball is absolutely not an exact science, but any information you can get on someone, even if it is small can help. Players in the Major Leagues are the best players in the world, so even small things can sometimes make a big difference.

Now to give a few examples of in game situations that might change your thinking a little bit. I won't break down the entire at-bat but just throw the examples out there. Say you are hitting with a man on second in a close game with 0 outs and your job is to move the runner to second. Now you could bunt if you wanted, but usually you will take the option to swing and move him with a ground ball to the right side. The first thing I would do is move off the plate a little bit. I do this because I want to hit the ball to the right side, so getting a pitch on the outside part of the plate makes it easier to do than a pitch on the inside part of the plate. By moving off the plate I turn the inside part of the plate into the middle of the plate, and the middle into the outside. Just as you know that your job is to move the ball to the right side, the pitcher knows the same thing and he isn't going to give you a nice pitch on the outside corner to make your job easier. I'm going to look for a pitch out over the plate to make my job easier. He is probably going to try and throw a sinking fastball located over the inside part of the plate or an off-speed pitch to get me to roll over to the 3rd baseman or shortstop. If he can locate three pitches were he wants them it will make my job really tough, but if he makes a mistake I have to be ready to capitalize on it and do my job.

Next, say I am hitting with a runner on third and less than two outs in a one run game. The opposing team decides to play the infield in. Before I step into the box I decide I want to hit a ball in the air to the outfield for a sacrifice fly. In this situation I am going to look for a fastball up in the zone which will make hitting a fly ball much easier. The pitcher is going to try and locate a pitch down in the zone to induce a ground ball. If he has a good sinking fastball he will probably use this, but can also go with off-speed pitches located down. A lot of these situations come down to pitch recognition. Do I know what pitch I am looking for and can I recognize when I am getting it? Then, can I put a good swing on the ball to do my job? If I can I will get an RBI and hopefully help our team get a victory.

As you can see there are different things to think about in different situations. I wish I had more time to keep going into different situations but there are literally hundreds of different situations we could talk about. I hope you found this useful and next time you see a guy up in one of these situations you will have a better idea about what both he and the pitcher are thinking. Thanks again for the question.

Monday, March 22, 2010

QUESTIONS

I want to thank everyone for sending in questions over the last few days. I wish I could have answered every question but I had to pick the first 5 or 6 and answer those. Thanks again!

Matt, growing up you had to have favorite players like Frank Thomas, Griffey Jr, Ichiro, Trevor Hoffman, guys like that. What is it like facing these guys now and being on he same field with them? Do you get a little star struck?

Growing up I was definitely a huge baseball fan, especially of the Boston Red Sox. My two favorite players were Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez. My Major League debut just happened to be against both Nomar and Manny in 2008 when we played the Los Angeles Dodgers. In Nomar's first at-bat he hit a fly ball to shallow right field that I ran back and caught to end the inning. Whenever I make the last out of an inning I always try to find a young kid in the crowd to toss the ball to. For some reason as I was running to the dugout I quickly thought to myself, "I just caught a ball hit by Nomar, I'm keeping this one for myself." About half way to the dugout I remembered that I wasn't a fan today, I was PLAYING in the game. I ended up flipping the ball into the crowd. That was kind of the first time I noticed myself being a fan while playing in a game.

The more you play against the guys that you grew up watching the more you get comfortable in that situation. I remember my first Major League Spring Training game in 2006 right after I got drafted. We were playing the Chicago Cubs and I was playing against guys like Alfonso Soriano, Derek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and all their other great players. I'm not going to lie, when I got onto the field it felt really strange to be playing in a game against these guys. Now in my fourth Spring Training I look at those type of players as my competition and not guys that I watched on TV in high school. It's definitely still cool to play against them though.

How do ya'll occupy yourselves Pre-game in the clubhouse?

Everyone has their own thing that they are known for doing after BP and until the game starts. Usually there is always a group of guys that are playing cards, either Spades or a game called Casino. We have a few guys that like to play Connect Four everyday in the clubhouse. There are also a few guys that like to watch TV. Some guys will make any phone calls that they weren't able to make during the day. Other guys will go on their computers to pass the time or listen to music. There is also a lot of eating going on before the game.

I will usually do the same thing every day after batting practice. We get about an hour and a half before the game starts, so when I get into the clubhouse the first thing I do is sit down for a little while and relax in front of the TV. We will usually have ESPN on a baseball or basketball game. I'll grab some food, usually a bowl of fruit or maybe some cereal to eat while I'm watching. About 45 minutes before the game starts I'll take a quick shower and then start to get dressed for the game. I'll head out to the field about 30 minutes before the first pitch to stretch out again and loosen my arm up before game time.

Who is the best coach that has had an influence on your career so far?

Man, this is a really tough question. I've literally had over 100 coaches in my life, so trying to decide who has had the biggest influence on my career is really tough. I have really tried to take something from every single coach I've had and use that to help make me a better player. Each coach will usually specialize in something, whether it be base running, fielding, hitting, or the mental side of the game. If I can take a little piece of knowledge from everyone I will learn an awful lot.

I guess if I had to pick one coach I would probably say that my dad has had the biggest impact on me as far as a coach. He coached me in little league from the time I was 8 and really got me into the game of baseball. We still work on a lot of stuff together during the off-season and he probably knows my swing better than anyone.

Where does this year rank in your excitement for the season to start?

I am really excited to get this season started. Right now is the most confident I have been as a baseball player in maybe my entire career. After going through a few tough years I want to get back to playing great baseball and making everyone forget about the last two seasons.

Who is your favorite NHL team and who are your favorite players?

My favorite NHL team is the Boston Bruins. I used to be a really big fan of the Bruins back when Ray Bourque and Cam Neely were on the team. Since I have gotten older and have traveled all over the country I have not been able to follow as many games as I would like. Right now my favorite player in the league is Alex Ovechkin. I really love the way he plays the game with such passion and energy. Not only is he the most talented goal scorer in the game, but he will run you over if you get in his way.

What are your options if you don't make the opening day 25 man roster? I imagine you could be optioned to Triple-A Portland, but how many times?

When you get sent down from Major League Spring Training the front office decides what level you will be sent to. The last two years I have been invited to Spring Training I have been sent down to Triple-A. It gets a little bit confusing when you are on the 40 man roster because then "options" get involved. I wish I could explain all that to you, but honestly it even confuses me a little bit.


GAMES 15, 16 AND QUESTIONS

There are only 10 days left in Spring Training before the team heads out of Arizona for California and a few exhibitions games before the season starts. Right now I am on a bus ride down to Tucson, Arizona to play the Arizona Diamondbacks, followed by a game tomorrow against the Colorado Rockies. The great thing about The Cactus League is that most of the teams in the league are within a 45 minute drive of each other. The only two teams that are further than that are the Diamondbacks and the Rockies. They are about a two hour drive away from us. Every player has the option of staying the night down in Tucson or commuting back and forth for the two games. I've chose to stay the night in a hotel and get some extra sleep tomorrow morning.

On Friday night we had a night game against the Los Angeles Dodgers winning 9-4. We played a complete game of baseball getting out to an early lead and building on it as the game went along. I went into the game in the 5th inning to play second base and ended the game with one at-bat. I got up in a tie game in the 7th inning and men on second and third. I got a 1-0 fastball and hit a line drive single to center field to drive in one. We ended up hitting a 3 run home run a few batters later to take the 9-4 lead.

The next day we had a day/night split squad game against the White Sox in the morning and the Dodgers at night. I played in the night game and started at second base playing nine innings. I ended up with four at-bats going 1-4. In the first inning I got up with runners on first and third and hit a 2-1 fastball for a home run to left field. It was my first home run of the spring. We played another great game winning 5-1. Our pitching was outstanding only allowing two hits and one run. We also won the day game 4-1. It was our forth win in a row.

Yesterday we had a day game against the Texas Rangers. I had the day off so I don't know exactly what happened during the game other than we won big 14-5. It was our fifth win in a row and things are really starting to come together nicely for the team. Hopefully we will keep things going today against Arizona.

A few days ago I said I would answer some questions from people regarding anything they wanted. I want to thank everyone who sent in questions over the past few days. Since we are getting close to Tucson I will answer a few questions and throw them up on here tonight after the game.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

QUESTION AND ANSWER

Today I wanted to answer any questions you guys have about Spring Training, baseball, American Idol, or any other subject you can think of. I'll take five or ten of the questions and post them up here with an answer. If you don't mind me using your name I will put it up here, if you don't want me to use it I will just put the question. Any question goes. Leave the question in the comment section or e-mail me at mattantonelli9@gmail.com. I'll put up the answers to the questions within the next few days. I have a night game in a few hours so it will probably but on here on tomorrow or Monday. Thanks!

Friday, March 19, 2010

HOTSTOVE INTERVIEW

Yesterday I did an interview for hotstove.com. Check it out below and let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

GAMES 12, 13, 14 & OTHER STUFF

I'm sorry I haven't been able to write on here the last few days. I'm sitting in bed on our off day watching some NFL Network and I have no idea what game I am suppose to be writing about. It's amazing how I set my alarm today for 10:45 AM, the first day I am able to really sleep in late and I am still up at 8:30 AM.

Camp is really starting to wind down quickly as we have less than two weeks remaining of Major League Spring Training. Our roster has been cut down to around 45 players from the mid 50's or so that we started with. On Monday we had our first night game of the year against the San Francisco Giants. I'm going to have to take a minute and check on Padres.com because I can't seem to remember what the hell the final score was for that game. I remember I went into the game around the 5th inning and played the last four. It didn't turn out to be a great game for me, but as a team we played really well, and that's all that really matters. Over the last few games our team has really started to play some good baseball, which is awesome as we move closer and closer to opening day. We ended up winning the game 7-1 after having one huge offensive inning and nine solid innings of pitching. I was 0-2 on the night.

The next morning we played the Angles. The great part about playing a night game is you finally get a morning that you don't have to wake up at 6 AM. The bad part about playing a night game is that you don't get to bed after the game until past 12 AM and you have to be up at 6 AM the next morning. That was the case when we played Los Angeles on Tuesday. For some reason I'm having a hard time remembering this game. When you get to this point of Spring Training and you've played every day since February 17, days start to blur together. I think we lost a really close game 4-3. I know I went into the game in the 5th inning to play second base. I ended up getting two at-bats again and went 0-2. It was the second game in a row that I didn't get a hit. I still feel really good at the plate, but sometimes that's just the way baseball goes.

Yesterday we played an away game against the Kansas City Royals. It was the first game this Spring Training that I didn't play in. I think I picked the wrong day not to play. We won the game 16-14, one of the highest scoring games I have ever been a part of. It felt like everything that was hit somehow found an open area of grass to land on. I wish there were some other funny things that happened to me during the game but I can't really think of anything.

Today we have an off day and I'll use it to get my body back to feeling really good after playing so many days of baseball in a row. I'll be heading into our complex in an hour or so to get a lift in and do a little bit of running and stretching. You would think that laying around and resting all day would make my body feel better than moving around and lifting some weights, but for some reason it doesn't work that way for me. If I were to sit in bed or watch TV all day today my body would be hurting tomorrow when I had to get running around again. By the way I just saw an interview with Jamarcus Russell on TV. He's driving in his car out of the Raiders complex around 5-10 MPH and some woman is asking question after question from outside the car. That lady needs a raise I didn't even hear her breathing heavy. I wonder why he didn't just stop. Also, I'll be on hotstove.com today at 2 PM Eastern 11 AM Pacific. I think I said that right. I used to always get confused when you'd be watching a commercial for an upcoming television show and they'd say the time in both Eastern and Central time. I don't know why it just confuses me. Anyways, if you want to check it out go to hotstove.com. I'm not really sure what we will be talking about but I'm guessing baseball and this blog. If you want me to say anything special let me know I'll find a way to sneak it in.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

INTERVIEW

Below is a video of me on SO CAL GOLD doing a short interview. I come on around the 42 minute mark if you want to check it out.

Monday, March 15, 2010

GAMES 10, 11 AND WORLD RECORDS

Today I was made aware of a feet accomplished for the first time in the history of sports. I actually have no idea if this has happened before or not. I'm sure it has been, but I'll pretend it hasn't until I know for sure. In yesterday's game in the 9th inning and a man on first there was a ground ball to our shortstop for a 6-4-3 double play. The shortstop was Lance Zawadzki a native of the great state of Massachusetts, the second baseman was myself, also a member of Massachusetts, and the first baseman was Nate Freiman, a third member of the Bay State. I am not sure, but that might be the only "all Massachusetts" turned double play. I don't know who I have to call to find out for sure, but I want in to the Guinness book of world records.

On Saturday we had an away game against the Oakland A's. I came into the game in the 5th inning and ended up with three at-bats going 1 for 2 with a sacrifice bunt. We entered the top of the 9th losing 8-4 but found a way to string some hits together and take the lead 9-8. The A's tied the game in the bottom of the 9th on a two out home run. We were shut down in the top of the 10th and in the bottom of the 10th two things happened that I have never seen before in my baseball career. With one out and the bases loaded we decided to take our left fielder and bring him into the infield to play with five infielders and two outfielders. I have seen this happen once on TV back when I was younger, but I have never experienced it first hand. Our new 5th infielder traded in his outfielder's glove for his first base mitt but was positioned where the 2nd baseman would usually play and I was shifted almost directly behind the pitcher. After two pitches the 1st base umpire called timeout and made our new 1st/2nd baseman remove his first base glove because there is only one allowed on the field at any given time. I had no idea this was even a rule. I figured if you wanted to use a goalies glove you could as long as you felt you could catch a ball with it. We ended up striking out that hitter, but lost with two outs in the bottom of the 10th 10-9.

In Sunday's game we played the Cleveland Indians at home. This was probably our most complete game played this season, winning 5-3. I got into the game in the top of the 6th inning and finished with one at-bat going 0 for 1 with a broken bat ground ball to third. I've used this bat since the beginning of Spring Training so I was a little upset when I felt the thing break in my hands. Baseball player's are some of the most superstitious athletes in the world, so if something is working for you, whether it be your bat, the way you put your socks on, or the number of times you tap your toes while standing in the batters box, you want to keep doing it. I'm hoping my new bat has a lot of hits in it.

Today we have our first night game of the spring against the San Francisco Giants at 7:05 PM.

Friday, March 12, 2010

GAMES 7, 8, and 9

On Wednesday we traveled to Goodyear to play the Cleveland Indians where I made my second start of the spring at second base. In my first at-bat of the game I hit a 2-2 fastball for a single to left field. The game was tied 1-1 in the 4th before the Indians put a big inning together and scored 8 runs. The rest of the game we had to play catch up and were able to close the gap to 10-4, but couldn't push anymore runs across. In my second at-bat I hit a fly ball to right field and ended the day 1 for 2 playing five innings at second before exiting the game.

Thursday we played the Chicago Cubs at home where the stadium was packed with Cubs fans, like usual. I've never been to Wrigley, but the atmosphere there must be unbelievable. Their fans take spring training more serious than any other team I've seen and it really makes the games more exciting.

Personally for me it wasn't my best game. I ended up going 0-2 at the plate. We fell behind early 8-1 but rallied back to make it 8-7. Unfortunately, we didn't get that one extra run to push the game to extra innings. One of the highlights of my day was getting to see sweet Lou Piniella. I know it is only Spring Training and coaches don't usually argue very many calls, but I was hoping something would set Lou off so I could see him kick his hat around a few times, rip first base out, and throw it into shallow right field.

In today's game we traveled to Surprise, Arizona to take on the Texas Rangers. Before the game started I was hanging out down the left field line signing some autographs for kids when I heard someone yell from a few rows back, "Matt, sign my leg!" I kept signing autographs and didn't really pay any attention to it. A few seconds passed and again I heard, "Matt, please sign my leg!" I kept signing while wondering why the hell someone would want me to sign there leg. I was about done signing when another guy touched my shoulder to get my attention, "Hey Matt, can you sign this guy's leg?" I finally looked up and saw a prosthetic leg being held out for me to grab. It was officially my first leg every signed and am pretty sure there is a good chance it will be my last.

As far as the game went we ended up losing 6-2. They jumped out to an early lead, but we did a good job of holding them scoreless for much of the second half of the game. Unfortunately, they did a good job of keeping us off the score board as well. I started the game at second base and ended up going 3-4 with three singles. It was also the first time this spring that I played all nine innings.

Tomorrow we head over to Phoenix to play the Oakland Athletics. I'm feeling a win!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

GROUNDHOG DAY

I can't believe how fast the days have been going so far this Spring Training. It is already March 11, and before you know it the regular season will be starting. Since I have been out here I've done pretty much the same thing everyday. Baseball is definitely a game of routines and repetition. I believe tomorrow will be my 24th straight day of practice since I have been out here. Our only off day is March 18th, something I am really looking forward to. Getting up around 6:30 for 24 straight days can get tiring, especially when your job is out in the sun everyday. I have been getting home from baseball around 6:00 PM every night and by the time I'm done eating dinner I pretty much go right to bed and wake up the next morning to do it all over again. Below is some footage of myself the last few mornings waking up at six.


video

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

GAMES 5 AND 6

On Monday we had a home game against the Colorado Rockies. When we showed up at the ballpark all of our practices fields were totally under water so we weren't sure we would be able to get the game in. The grounds crew did a really good job of getting the field ready to play at 1:00 PM. I came of the bench in the top of the 7th to play the last three innings. I got an at-bat in the bottom of the 8th with a runner on 2nd and hit a ball of the left field wall for an RBI double. So far my swing has felt pretty good and I hope it continues as we move further into Spring Training. We closed the gap from 5-1 to 5-4 in the bottom of the 8th, but were unable to push another run across to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th. We ended up losing by one run. Overall it was a pretty well played game by both teams.

Yesterday we drove about 45 minutes to Tempe, Arizona to take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It was another crappy day out, not the greatest day for baseball. It said the high of the day was around 51 degrees, but the clouds, wind, and rain made it feel more like it was 40. Actually, it reminded me a lot of playing an April game in Portland. Our game was scheduled to start at 1:00 PM, but when we showed up to the park it started to downpour which pushed the first pitch back another 30 minutes. I'm not going to lie, the first five innings were miserable watching from the bench. Earlier in the day I was in a rush to jump on the bus so I forgot to pack long sleeves and a jacket for the game. I came off the bench in the bottom of the 5th to play second base and for that half inning I couldn't really feel my fingers. It usually takes about an inning or so for your body to get use to the cold weather. I got an at-bat in the 8th inning and hit a single to center field, ending the day 1 for 1. It was a back and forth game for a while but we ended up losing 6-5, another close game.

Today we have a split squad game, which means we will have two games, one at home and one on the road. I'm playing in the road game at Goodyear against the Cleveland Indians. The other half of our team will be playing a home game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Ill be starting today and probably get around three at-bats. The good news is it's about 62 and sunny outside without a cloud in the sky. Great day for baseball.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

RAIN DAY

I was talking yesterday about the crazy weather we had here in Arizona over the last few days. We got caught in one of the hardest hailstorms I have every seen out west, followed by one of the biggest and coolest rainbows the next morning. Don't worry about my driving while filming. It's ok! I'm a limo driver!

If you haven't seen Dumb and Dumber I'm sorry. Great movie, you should watch it.

video


Monday, March 8, 2010

TRIVIA ANSWER

The winner of today's trivia question and two Padres Spring Training tickets is Barry from Gilbert, Arizona. Barry if you could let me know what day you would like to come I will purchase your tickets for you. Thanks to everyone who participated and sent their answers in. This was by far the best turnout for answers since I started trivia.

The correct answer to the question was:

1) Leg / knee injury or anything that was close to that
2) Swine flu

Most people got both answers correct, while a few got one or the other correct. Congrats once again to Barry, I hope you enjoy your seats and the game, and thanks once again to everyone for reading!

TRIVIA QUESTION

I will buy two Spring Training tickets to the first person to answer this question correctly. Leave your answers in the comment section below or e-mail me at mattantonelli9@gmail.com

Last year I was put on the disabled list for the first time in my life. I began the season on the DL and was put on it again in July. What was the reason I was put on the DL? This question has two answers so you must get each one correct in order to win. Good luck!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

TRIVIA QUESTION

I will be asking a question tomorrow (Monday, March 8th) at some point after our game against Colorado and the first person to answer that question correctly will win two free Spring Training tickets to a Padres game on the date of their choice. Send your answers to mattantonelli9@gmail.com or leave the answer in the comment section below the post. Good luck to everyone.

GAMES 3 AND 4

Yesterday we faced the Seattle Mariners for the third straight game to open up Spring Training. I ended up getting the start at 2nd base after coming off the bench in the first two games. It was the most action I have seen so far this spring, getting three plate appearances and a few ground balls hit my way. I ended up going 1 for 3 at the plate with an RBI double and run scored. It was definitely my best hit of the spring thus far, a line drive into the left-center field gap. Unfortunately for us we came out on the losing end 7-3.

Today we were scheduled to face the Mariners for the last game of our four game "series", but the weather uncharacteristically didn't want to cooperate. Today is definitely the most rain I have seen in a single day in Arizona, and it's still only 1:00 PM. We practiced this morning for about an hour in the batting cage and now have the rest of the day off to let our bodies relax and recover for the rest of the month. We are only afforded one off day for the entire spring, so it's nice to get another free one thrown in every now and then. I have been in Arizona since February 16th and have practiced or played in a game everyday since I arrived. My body will definitely appreciate the half day of work today. I ended up getting a massage on my legs in hopes that they will feel 100% tomorrow. Just a heads up about massages, don't get one on your IT band. I'm still convinced it was at one time used as a small form of torture. I'm just hoping that all the pain I had to go through today (aka crying like a little girl) will pay off tomorrow.

Tomorrow we have a home game against the Colorado Rockies. Hopefully the weather will be better than it was today and we will be able to get our game in. This Spring Training is a lot shorter than last year's camp so we can't really afford too many rain outs. Opening day for our big league team is less than 28 days away.

Friday, March 5, 2010

LET THE GAMES BEGIN

Yesterday was our first game of the spring against the Seattle Mariners in Peoria, Arizona. I really can't believe baseball games are starting already. It feels like I was just playing in games a few weeks ago and yet it's already the start of a new season. We ended up losing yesterday's game against the Mariners 9-3. We actually played a pretty good game and were tied 3-3 until they scored six runs in the bottom of the 8th to break it open. I went into the game in the bottom of the 5th and played the last 4 1/2 innings. I ended the game going 0-2 but was pretty happy with how the game went. In my first at-bat my timing was still a little off. Hitting is really all about rhythm and timing, and both needed an at-bat before they got accustomed to baseball again. I ended up grounding out to 2nd on an inside fastball, a pitch I was a little late on. My second at-bat went much better. I hit a pretty hard ground ball to 3rd, but unfortunately for me I hit it right at him and he threw me out.

In today's game we had a rematch with the Mariners and this time won the game 9-3. Obviously it was a great game for us. Our pitchers all threw well and we had a big inning where we scored 8 runs. I went into the game in the bottom of the 4th this time around. I ended up going 1-2 with a single to left field. It's always good to get the first hit out of the way. Both days so far have been absolute great days for baseball, around 75 degrees and sunny. You really can't find better weather anywhere else in the country than what it is right now in Arizona. You can tell the crowd is filled with a lot of Seattle people down from Washington to catch some warm weather. They go crazy every time they get a hit or make a nice play in the field. They also have this super fan that plays a trumpet every time a Mariner comes up to the plate. It's pretty funny, but after playing them four straight games my head might start to hurt. Tomorrow we will face off with the Mariners again and I believe play them one more time on Sunday before we get to move on to another team.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

MAIL BAG

Peter asks:
I have followed the Padres since I was eight and am a true fan. How did it feel to make your Major League debut?

I've been asked this question numerous times over the last year or so and I usually give the same response. Most guys will tell you when asked this question that it was a dream come true and something that they had been working towards their whole life. While this is absolutely true, I want to go a bit more in depth about everything that happened leading up to my debut and my feelings about that day.

Playing in the Major Leagues is something I hoped would happen since I was a little kid. When I was younger I loved two sports, hockey and baseball. For most of my life I wanted to be a center in the NHL, or a shortstop in the MLB. I always had a dream as a young kid of playing in the big leagues, but I'm not sure I ever really thought that dream would one day come true. Millions of young kids play baseball all around the world, and they all dream about one day playing in a big league stadium, however the smallest percentage of them ever end up doing so.

My big league call-up was actually nothing like the way I had envisioned it happening. In 2007 I was stationed in Double-A San Antonio, playing the absolute best baseball of my life. It was the first time in my baseball career that I could actually picture myself playing in the Major Leagues. I remember our GM coming into town to watch a few players who could potentially get a call-up for the stretch run and thinking to myself that my debut could be right around the corner. I ended up going into a slump the last few weeks of our season and didn't end up getting that call. Although I was upset that I didn't do well enough to get a chance that year, I felt that it just wasn't my time. I had just turned 22 during that season and it was my first year playing 2nd base. The truth is I still needed a lot of improvement if I wanted to be a Major League 2nd baseman.

I entered the 2008 season at Triple-A Portland, Oregon. Going into that season I was planning on having the biggest and best year of my life. I felt that if I played the type of baseball I knew I was capable of playing, I would receive a promotion a few months into the season. During that off-season I had worked out harder than ever before and entered spring training weighing 220 pounds. I honestly felt I was going to be a 220 pound, power hitting, base stealing second baseman. The previous year I hit 21 home runs and wanted to hit 30 this time around. Anyone that has followed my career knows that things didn't exactly go according to plan. I started the year hitting around .200 and it only got worse as the year went on. August 1st rolled around and my average was around .180 with thoughts of a call-up all but thrown down the drain. It was the first time in my life in which I played a full season of either high school, college, or pro ball and hit under .300. Only this time around I was hitting under .200.

I'm not really sure what happened or why I didn't play well that year. My swing wasn't working the way I wanted it to and I started to make a little change here, and a little change there. After a few months I had literally forgot how to swing. I wasn't just having trouble hitting in games, I was actually having trouble hitting in batting practice too. You could even put a ball on a tee and I would find a way to make the task of hitting a stationary ball look difficult. I usually look at things with the belief that,"everything happens for a reason", and maybe it just wasn't my time to play in the big leagues.

That August I went back to the drawing board, dissecting my swing, tearing it apart, and trying to put it back together. I was mentally beaten down and physically drained, and I couldn't take the striking out, the pop-ups, or the ground balls to 3rd anymore. For the first few months of the season I thought that one day I would wake up and realize everything was just a dream. It took me about four months before I came to the realization that this in fact wasn't a nightmare, but stone cold reality. I started to spend many hours each night watching video of my swing with my roommate Shawn Wooten, at that time a 36 year old veteran catcher who had won a world series ring with the Anaheim Angels. Shawn has a great eye for hitting and was a huge help to me that season. I would literally grab a broom stick, or anything in the room that resembled a baseball bat, and reconstruct my swing from the ground up with his help. If he didn't end up getting traded to us during that year from the Mets, and wasn't my roommate during the end of that season, I don't know if I would have ever figured my swing out.

With his help I ended up hitting almost .300 with 5 home runs that last month of the season. The first four months of the season I hit around .180 with 2 home runs. Two days before the season ended I was playing a game in Tacoma, Washington when I was called into our manager's office and told to sit down. I knew that usually when this happens you have either gotten called up or released, and I didn't think at 23 years old I was getting the "ax". Our manager told me that I would be flying out the next morning to make my Major League debut in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. I honestly didn't believe him when he told me. I thought it was actually a joke to see if I was stupid enough to think a guy that just hit .213 in Triple-A would get a call-up. It wasn't a joke, and I was going up the next day.

Like I said earlier, I want to be honest with you about what went through my head when I got the news. In a lot of ways I didn't think I deserved the shot. There were guys on my team that had great years, much better years than me with the bat, that wouldn't be getting the privilege of putting on a big league uniform that September. I usually don't mention other people's names on here, but for this one time I will. We had a guy on the team, a friend of mine, Peter Ciofrone. The guy had one of the best years I had seen since becoming a professional. He was sent to Portland around May and ended up hitting around .320 with like 16 home runs. The first thing that actually ran through my head when I got the news was that Pete didn't get called up, and I really wished he was also getting an opportunity, because he deserved it.

The second thing that came to my mind was gratitude. I was extremely grateful that the Padres had stuck by me and still gave me a chance to get my shot at what I had always wanted. They could have easily sent me down to Double-A when I started the season slow around .200, or when July rolled around and my average dipped below the Mendoza Line, but they stuck by me and kept writing my name in the lineup everyday.

The third thing that came to my mind was the hard work I had put in and the sacrifices my family and I had made the past ten to fifteen years to get to where I was. Although my call up didn't turn out the way I thought it would, I had still achieved one of the goals I had set for myself years before. I had put in thousands of hours of practice, spent hundreds of days away from my home, family, and friends, and dedicated day after day all year round to lifting weights, running, eating right, and taking care of my body, all for the ultimate goal of playing in the Major Leagues. My parents and family had driven me around to practices all over the state, spent thousands of dollars on traveling teams, and flew to all parts of the country to give me the best opportunities to continue to improve as a player. I was just really appreciative of all the sacrifices they had made as well. All that work had paid off, but much more work will have to be done to be the player I really want to be.

I flew out of Seattle the next morning headed to L.A. for my first game. When I walked onto the field at Dodger Stadium and the lights came on, the national anthem ended, and the first pitch was thrown, it was game time and it really never registered that I was about my make my Major League Debut. I honestly thought it was going to feel a lot different than it did. I'm not going to lie, I was more nervous about the start of this game than I had been at the beginning of any other game in my life, but it still kind of felt like another baseball game to me.

I didn't get up in the top of the 1st, so my first action would be at second base in the field. The first batter of the game for the Dodgers was Russell Martin and he hit a hard ground ball at me. As soon as I made that play and threw to first for the out I felt a rush of calmness come over me. From that point on I felt that I could just play baseball. The next inning I came up to bat against future Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux. On a 1-1 count I got a fastball out over the plate and hit a line drive to center field, one of the cooler moments of my life and something I will never forget. After the game I showered up, went out for a bite to eat with my family, and headed back to my hotel. Like I usually do when I get home after a game I laid in bed and flipped on Sportscenter. After a few minutes the Padres vs. Dodgers highlights came on. It showed a few shots of Manny Ramirez driving in a run, Greg Maddux striking a guy out, and a Jonathan Broxton pitch grounded to short for the last out of the game hit by me. That was the moment it actually hit me that I had played in a Major League game.