Thursday, April 28, 2011

SPRING TRAINING

Hey what's going on everybody? I just finally got internet back in my hotel today so I'm sorry I haven't been able to post anything over the last week or so. I really hate hotels.

Since the NFL draft is one of my favorite times of the year I have been spending most of my days outside of the field thinking of draft strategies for the Patriots to employ. I'm still not really sure why I waste my time doing this, considering I have no say whatever in what Belichick decides to do, but it still feels fun to me. I guess it's good practice for my fantasy football season coming up in a few months.

Anyways, a few weeks ago I wrote a little story for The Biz of Baseball about my 2011 Spring Training with the Washington Nationals. I cover a bunch of topics including what it was like being the new guy on a new team, the differences in Spring Trainings, and a bunch of other random stuff. I hope you enjoy.

After spending my entire five year professional career with the San Diego Padres, arriving in Viera, Florida for my first Spring Training with the Washington Nationals was definitely a strange situation. Most baseball players look forward to routines, the same thing day in and day out. We like things to be the same when we arrive to the ballpark each day. Comfort comes in knowing where we will hit in the batting order and what position we will play that night. After playing for so many years with the same team, you know what your day is going to look like. You know what you will eat when arriving at the clubhouse that morning, and who will join you for company. You know where "cage two" is for early batting practice, which shower head has the best water pressure, and who to go to for help if your jock strap doesn't want to cooperate.

My first day walking into a new clubhouse felt a lot like that first day of high school, expect I was a transfer student and everyone else had already been giving the freshman atomic wedgies for the past two years. I didn't know anyone. Not one coach, one player, one training staff member, not a janitor, nobody. Luckily for me, all baseball players have experienced it at one time or another in their career. We've all played on dozens of teams throughout our journey in professional baseball. We've all been the "new kid" at one time or another. The first day you feel like the odd man out, when nobody knows your name or where you came from, but a week into Spring you feel like you've been there your whole life. I spent the first few days meeting teammates and coaches, learning how the Nationals do things on and off the field, and understanding the schematics of the clubhouse. It's never cool when you're looking for the bathroom and half the team witnesses the new guy mistakenly stroll into a storage closet.

You may think that all organizations are the same, follow similar plans, and have identical rules and goals. But many teams have different ways of doing things. During the first day with my new club I met with management to understand the rules and regulations I had to adhere by. Next up was to get with my coaches to understand our team philosophies. Each organization will teach hitting, base running, and fielding a little differently. Some teams want you to be extremely aggressive at the plate, while others may want you to be more selective. Some may bunt, steal, and use situational hitting to account for most of the offense, while others will wait around for the three run homer. It is important to understand how your team plays and how your game fits into the system.

When practice started I quickly learned a few things about my new team. They like to teach, and take pride in developing their own players. As I said earlier, all organizations are different. Some have big budgets, using free agency year after year to put together most of their big league club, while others look to the farm system to develop their future stars. One of the reasons I chose the Nationals was because of their commitment to their minor league program and how they want their minor leaguers to one day make up their Major League roster. You can see this by the way they teach, their attention to detail, and the hard work the staff puts in day in and day out. In a lot of ways it is very similar to the way the Padres did things with their minor league system.

Most Spring Trainings are used to dust off the cobwebs resulting from the three to four months away from baseball. For me, this Spring Training was much different from those of the past. The last time I had played in a baseball game was March, 2010, almost a full year ago. The last time I had played in a baseball game where stats were kept and would displayed on the back of my baseball card was the beginning of August, 2009. Baseball is one of those sports where a week off feels like a month off, a month off feels like a year off, and a year off feels like you might as well be playing a foreign sport. I think I took for granted how quickly I would be able to get my swing back and start playing like I had never stepped off the field. After hitting batting practice with the team the first few days I realized it would be harder than I had thought. Reality was setting in, and I knew I had to be patient about getting back into form. I can honestly say that even after a month into Spring I still did not feel comfortable at the plate. Curve balls seemed to be moving way more than I had remembered. Change-ups didn't seem to be fair. And when the hell did they decide to widen the standard seventeen inch plate?

The toughest part for me to deal with was the fact that I knew it would take time to get back to playing good baseball, but I was with a new organization and wanted to do everything I could to assure them that signing me was a good decision. This was the most frustrating part of joining my new team. Like they say, you never get to make a first impression twice, and I didn't want my first impression to be one that resembled my skills back in tee ball. I decided I would do my best, take my lumps, and in the end, Spring Training was still what it always was, a month and a half to shake off the rust.

As Spring Training neared an end I was called into the office and informed that I would be starting the year with our Double-A affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators. I had spent the last three years playing either Triple-A ball or briefly in the Major Leagues, so many might see this as a demotion. The truth is, I haven't been healthy in almost two years, and when I was healthy I didn't play well. I've said it hundreds of times, baseball is a "what have you done for me lately" business, and I haven't done much except get out or get hurt. I have to prove to not only my team but to all thirty teams around baseball that this is the beginning of a new career for me and the best is yet to come. In the end it doesn't matter if my opportunity came in Triple-A, Double-A, Single-A, or in the California Penal League, it is an opportunity to display my baseball skills, and after being out of the game for two years that is really all you can ask for. I'm looking forward to joining my new team in the next few days and getting my game back to where it should be.

Here is the article on The Biz of Baseball if you would like to read it here Matt Antonelli and the Road Back to the Show

Monday, April 25, 2011

ABOUT ME

Hey what's up guys? I hope everyone had a great Easter holiday yesterday! Unfortunately for me, the Easter bunny wasn't able to find my hotel room, but I still went out to eat last night and pretended it was my Easter Sunday dinner. I've received some suggestions to expand on the "About Me" page of my blog, so I added a little more detail to it yesterday and wanted you guys to let me know what you think. If there is anything you would like me to add or expand on please let me know. I appreciate everyone's suggestions to help make things on here better, so don't hesitate to write me. Thanks again!

About Me

On April 8th, 1985 I was born in Peabody, Massachusetts, where I grew up and still currently live. Peabody is a city of just over 50,000 people about fifteen miles north of Boston. As a kid I loved to play sports. It didn't really matter which sport it was, as long as there was a ball involved (or puck) and I could dribble it, kick it, throw it, or shoot it, I played it. I can still remember rushing from soccer practice to baseball practice, then from baseball to basketball, all while changing uniforms in the car ride from one to the next.


I decided to attend high school at St. John's Prep in Danvers MA, a Catholic school home to about 1200 students, where I played four varsity seasons of football, hockey, and baseball. During my Freshman year I was lucky enough to win the state championship in baseball. I wish I could say I was the main ingredient to the teams successful playoff run, but instead I only played a few innings in left field and used most of my energy cheering from the bench. As a Senior I shared the football field with a tremendous amount of great athletes as we made our way to the state championship game and national ranking. Unfortunately we lost a heartbreaker to perhaps the most storied high school football program in Massachusetts history, the Everett Crimson Tide. I've played in thousands of sporting events throughout my lifetime, but high school football possesses the top spot in my memory. I was fortunate to meet great people, make fantastic friends, and play alongside devoted teammates during my four years of high school. The Prep, as it is known around the area, helped prepare me for life in college and as an adult.


During my Junior year of high school I realized baseball would provide me the best opportunity of accomplishing my goal of playing a professional sport. I took unofficial visits to the University of Virginia and Georgia Tech, and official visits to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University. The University of Virginia was the first college baseball program to contact me early in my Junior year of high school and invite me to watch a baseball game against and Florida State University. After watching both teams play I told my dad there was no way I would ever be good enough to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but if Virginia made an offer to me I would take it and happily sit on the bench for four years just to be a part of ACC baseball.


A year later I ended up being drafted after my senior year of high school by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 19th round. I had always wanted to play professional baseball, so deciding to decline the offer and instead go play college baseball was a tough decision. In the end, I valued a college education and knew if I continued to work hard on the field I would receive another chance of being drafted. I decided to attend and play baseball for Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina from 2004-2006. While at Wake I majored in Communications, although when my friends ask what I majored in, I tell them I majored in Baseball. Anyone that has attended Wake Forest knows that I'm joking (they don't call it Work Forest for nothing) Although managing my time between baseball and school work wasn't always easy (yes I actually did study) it undoubtedly prepared me for life in the real world and I'm happy I chose the college route. While in school I was able to play in the acclaimed, Cape Cod Baseball League, where I created some of my favorite baseball memories. I also got to play three great years of ACC baseball, something I had always dreamed of doing.


After my Junior season I entered the 2006 Major League Draft and was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 1st Round (17th overall). Being drafted again was a special moment, but having the opportunity to be the first pick of a Major League organization was a privilege. I spent three seasons working my way through the Padres minor league system. I've had the chance to spend my summers and play in a host of great cities along the way, including Eugene, Oregon, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Lake Elsinore, California, San Antonio, Texas, and Portland, Oregon. On September 1st, 2008 I was fortunate enough to make my Major League debut at 2nd base against the Los Angeles Dodgers and get my first hit during my first at-bat against future hall of fame member Greg Maddux. That day is one I will definitely never forget. In December, 2010, after missing most of the previous two seasons with a broken hand and other ailments I was non-tendered by the Padres, consequently making me a free agent. A month later I signed a one-year contract with the Washington Nationals for the 2011 season. I am continuously trying to improve my game in hopes of receiving another shot at the Major Leagues. If there is anything else you would like to know about me just ask! I would love to answer your questions.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

MAIL BAG VIERA, FLORIDA

Hey what's up guys? I have a few different things to talk about today. First, I will be doing a trivia question tomorrow and give the winner a pair of batting gloves. I know a lot of people ask if they can receive a game used pair of gloves or an autographed pair, so I will give the winner whatever it is they want when it comes to the gloves. The question will be asked on Twitter since I've done the last few on here, and the person to answer first will get the prize. It should be around 4 PM Eastern Time and I will send out a tweet a few minutes before the question. Follow me at @mattantonelli9 to participate. Good luck to everyone!

Secondly, I've been slacking a little bit when it comes to answering my email and Twitter questions. I took some time today to answer those questions on Youtube. Thanks to all that wrote in, and if I didn't get to your question I will try to do so in the next few days.





Lastly, I couldn't forget about my main man, and twin brother, Keenan Cahill. Everyone have a great weekend!







Monday, April 18, 2011

WANTED ---> MR. MIYAGI

You want to hear the most annoying sound in the world? Watch this video.

video

Ok, now do you want to hear the most frustrating thing in the world? I don't have a good video to explain, but I can type it out. It's when bad stuff happens to you and you have absolutely no control over it. Doesn't that just drive you nuts? I know it drives me nuts. Saying that I've had a tough time staying on the field over the past year would be quite the understatement. I've experienced more severe injuries than the goalie for the local dart team. They have caused me to play in only about sixty games over the past two-plus seasons. Listening to all the people tell me, "Matt, you're just injury prone," or "You're just one of those guys that gets hurt a lot," makes me want to rip my newly grown creepy mustache right off my face. (It probably wouldn't be that bad of an idea, considering how much I'm scaring the kids at our town movie theater) The crazy thing is, I went my entire life without getting hurt. I spent most of it playing two of the most dangerous sports in the world, hockey and football, and I never missed a game. I never missed a high school game playing three sports for four years. Never missed a college game in three years. Then all of a sudden in 2009 I got a visit from the injury fairy, and she kicked my ass.

If 2009 I had a mysterious knee injury after diving for a ball and landing awkwardly. I woke up the next day and literally couldn't walk. It took me almost three months, and about five cortisone shots to get rid of the problem. Couple that with missing three weeks due to the Swine Flu, that's right the %#$*ing Swine Flu, and there goes most of my season. All while this was going on I was experiencing pain in my left hand. I guess I was so preoccupied with my 105 degree temperature and near death experience that I just played through the pain when I actually had a chance to hit. That all stopped in 2010 when during Spring Training the pain got so bad I couldn't take a practice swing without keeling over in pain. As most of you know, I ended up having a broken bone in my hand and then later found a cyst in my wrist. After six cortisone shots, one PRP injection, two surgeries, and enough medication to kill a small horse, my season was flushed down the toilet.

Don't worry though guys, because it's 2011 and the bad luck is in the rear view mirror. That was until about a week left before the regular season started and I hit a double into the left center gap. On my way to second base I felt a strange feeling in my hamstring. I had never really hurt a muscle before, especially a hamstring, so I figured it was just a cramp that would go away the next morning. Unfortunately, when I woke up the next day I knew it wasn't just a cramp and I had strained my hamstring.

The good news was that resting my leg for about a week should give it time to heal and I'd be back on the field practicing again. Ten days later I was back to hitting when I attempted to run down the first base line and felt my hamstring "grab" again. To make a long story short (probably already too late for that), every time I've gotten to the point of leaving Florida for Pennsylvania my hamstring has not wanted to cooperate. I ended up hurting it again about four days ago and am in the process of resting for a week to seven days. The worst part about this whole thing is the fact that I can't do anything about it. I feel great other wise. My hand has absolutely zero pain in it. My swing is feeling the best it has since last Spring Training. But I can't start my season because of my leg. I'm hoping I can finally get some luck on my side and have this thing heal up over the next week or so. If it doesn't I may have to give my old friend Mr. Miyagi a call. Hey, it worked for Daniel-san.

video

You're the best!
Around!
Nothing's gonna ever keep you down!

Man this song rocks! Have a great day while I put this on repeat.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

BASEBALL TIP OF THE WEEK

Hey guys! I have received a lot of requests, mostly from Little League dads, but also from some young players, to give a few baseball tips so ballplayers from around the country can continue to improve their game. Since I love to coach and teach baseball, and spend most of my off-season helping Little League and high school players from around my area work on all aspects of their game, I thought I would throw a video up today that I made a few months ago. The video is me explaining some of the techniques used to turn a double play, but if you are not an infielder or just aren't that interested in infield play you can check out a bunch of different videos I have put together here ---> Touch 'Em All Baseball Also, if you have any ideas for new videos or have any questions please let me know! I hope you enjoy.


Monday, April 11, 2011

EXTENDED SPRING

Hey guys! I've received a lot of emails and Twitter questions asking where I am and why I haven't made my debut yet this season. The last time we talked I let everyone know that I strained my hamstring a little bit and the club wanted to make sure I didn't rush back to playing before I was fully healed. Although I've never really strained a hammy before, from what I hear they are something that you absolutely do not want to pull. If you do, you can throw a good month or two of the season down the drain and also won't really be able to run full speed for a good portion of the year. Because that is the last thing I want, we want to make sure I have no tightness at all in my leg before I head up to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for the start of the season.

Over the past few days I've been in Viera, Florida practicing with the Extended Spring Training team. For those of you that aren't really sure what Extended Spring is, it is where all players not assigned to Single A, Double A, Triple A, or the Major Leagues will practice and play until Short-season A ball starts in June. It is also a place for injured players to get healthy for their return to the season. We have been practicing down here for a little over a week and today played in a six inning scrimmage game. Because my hamstring has been feeling really good lately I played three innings in the field and also hit every single inning. I finished the day going 0-1 with four walks and a HBP. It was probably the first time I have ever walked four times in a game before, but right now I'm just looking for at-bats and trying to get a feel for seeing the baseball again since I haven't played in a game in around two weeks.

As of right now I am hoping I will play in a few more Extended games before shipping out for Harrisburg. It will come down to how well I am feeling and also what the front office has for a game plan. Well, I have to wake up at 6:30 AM tomorrow, so I'm off to bed. Enjoy your Tuesday!

Friday, April 8, 2011

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

Since not much new has happened over the past few days I thought I would take some time to share an interesting story with you. You may not think this is as interesting as I may, but I'll tell it anyways.

For those of you that aren't aware, today is my 26th birthday. For some reason it feels like a really weird birthday for me. I don't know why, but 26 seems a lot more older than 25. I feel like I am almost 30, and there is no way I feel I should be making my way so fast to the big 3-0. Anyways back to the story. Twenty six years ago to this day I was born in Melrose, Massachusetts. On that day the Boston Red Sox had their home opener at Fenway Park against the hated New York Yankees. The Red Sox defeated the Yankees that day to a score of nine to six. It just so happens that my favorite two numbers are both nine and six. I wore number six throughout my high school career, and when I went to college and was unable to wear number six I changed to number nine. I continued to wear number nine through college and as a professional. Nine was also the number I wore when making my Major League debut. You may think, OK that is somewhat weird, but who really gives a crap.

Well, the weird thing is today, twenty six years later, again on my birthday the Red Sox had their home opener at Fenway Park against the hated New York Yankees. Once again the Red Sox were victorious by a winning score of nine to six. You may once again be thinking that is somewhat weird, but who really gives a crap. If you do think that, I guess there is no helping you, but I think it's pretty damn interesting. That is the end of my story. Goodnight, and happy birthday, to me!

P.S. Thanks to all that wished me a happy birthday today! I really appreciate it!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I LOVE HOTELS

As many of you know, I chose to live in the team hotel this Spring. It is the first time I've been back at a hotel during February and March since 2007, so it takes a little getting use to. There are definitely a lot of pluses and minuses to living here. There are plenty of good things, like a warm breakfast of waffles and bagels prepared for me, my bed being made every morning, and fresh towels and toilet paper available whenever I want. Then there are the bad things. Here you go.


This really didn't bother me that much, but I still found it funny. Man, are these walls thin.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

BASEBALL IS BACK

Hey guys, how are we all doing? How good does it feel to have baseball back on TV and in stadiums across the country. Although Spring Training was being played in March, for me it was kind of a dead time of year for sports, with no football, the NBA playoffs still a month away, and the NHL never being shown on national television. My nights finally have sports again, which is always a great thing. Over the last few days I've watched pretty much every national televised MLB game, with a special focus on following the Nationals and Padres since a good amount of my friends are still playing over there.

Personally, a lot of stuff has happened over the last few days so let me get everyone caught up on what's going on down here in Viera, Florida. The first new thing to happen is finding out that I will be starting the season off in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with our Double-A affiliate. I had worked out with our Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs team all of Spring Training, but in the end they decided I would receive the most at-bats with Harrisburg so that is where I'll be. I know a lot of people that have found out recently on Twitter that I will be in AA instead of AAA are asking me all kinds of questions about why I would be going back to Double-A when my last time playing there was in 2007. I obviously want to play at the highest level possible, but in the end the most important thing for me is to be somewhere that I will have the opportunity to play everyday and get my at-bats. The last time I played in a real baseball game where stats were actually kept was August of 2009. That is almost two years ago, so simply being back on the field with a real team and getting an opportunity to play is most important for me right now.

Unfortunately, a few days ago while playing in our AAA spring training game against the Detroit Tigers I hit a double to left center field and on my way to second base I felt tightness in my left hamstring. I've never had any problems with my legs throughout my career so I was a little nervous when I first felt something wrong. Turns out a have a slight sprain and have used the last few days to receive treatment and let the staff work on me. I played in a game today and the leg still wasn't 100%, so we are going to make sure we take it slow over the next few days. The last thing you want is to totally pull a hamstring in April and be out for two months. As of right now I will probably not be playing in our opening day game on April 7th. The temperature in Harrisburg that night is suppose to drop down into the 30's during the game, which is not very conducive to testing out a tight hamstring. I am not sure exactly when I will be making my 2011 debut, but it shouldn't be very much longer than a few days.

Today was officially our last day of Spring Training, so all of our players have either boarded planes or jumped in their cars and headed towards their regular season homes. I will be down here in Florida for a few more days to stay in the warm weather and continue receiving treatment on the leg. I hope everyone has a great start to the week, and good luck to whichever Major League teams you may cheer for!