Top 100 Baseball Blog

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Colin Kaline: The Legacy

                Most people can only see the positive side of somebody having a relative who has already become renowned in the field that they are pursuing. But, for every Ken Griffey, Jr., there is a Craig Griffey. The pressure to live up to expectations and to legacies must be enormous. I got a first-hand taste of that this past week when I met Colin Kaline, the grandson of baseball Hall of Famer Al Kaline.

                Although I was only with Colin one-on-one for a few minutes, it was enough to see what he must deal with on a daily basis. I met him prior to one of his games and while I was preparing to interview him, several people came up and started talking with him. Not one of those people ever asked Colin how he was or about his own baseball experience. Everyone asked questions about Al. What’s Al up to these days? Think Al would sign an autograph for me? Al help you get drafted by the Tigers? By the time I was ready to start my interview, I have to say that I felt glad I was able to intervene on the thoughtless peppering he was getting. 

                In speaking with Colin Kaline I found a guy who is his own player. He is not trying to emulate anyone or be like his grandfather. He plays baseball because he likes the game, and his dream to reach the Major Leagues is like everyone else he plays with. As he was drafted in the 26th round by the Detroit Tigers, his path to reach that goal will be as tough as any, but he definitely has the spark to make it happen.

                My quick scouting report of Colin is that he is a smallish second baseman, listed at 5-10 and 150 pounds. Size is no longer as important as it used to be, as guys like Dustin Pedroia and Prince Fielder have proven that production comes in many heights and weights. I was able to see Colin warming up and playing over the course of a few days, so my analysis is purely observational. I don’t see that he will ever be a power hitter, but he has some speed, and is what I like to call a real “grinder” on the field. There is always a guy who ends up with dirt all over his uniform by the end of the first few innings of a game, and Colin seems like that type. More importantly, it was obvious from what I saw that he was a leader on his current team, the Connecticut Tigers. I will be curious to see how he is doing when he comes back to Vermont to play in August.

                It is impossible to say right now how far Colin Kaline will go in professional ball. What I can say is that however far that might be, it will be on his own terms and not because he might be the next Al Kaline. I love seeing hard working guys like him, because they get the most out of their talent and are the most likely to advance. I would advise everybody to keep tabs on him because you might be seeing him in the Major Leagues one of these days. 

Interview with Colin Kaline:

Did you have a favorite player or team growing up?:   The Tigers were always my favorite team growing up. Being from northwest Detroit and growing up watching them on tv and going to those games, so it was pretty special being picked by them after them being my favorite team when I was a kid.

Has your grandfather Al given you a lot of instruction as you have progressed as a player?: He’s given me some instruction. He’s very hands off until I come to him for help. He’s always been very clear that its my decision and he doesn’t want to be the reason that I am doing anything.

Is there a particular player you model your game after?: Not a particular player, but there is a type of player I envision myself being. A hardworking guy that doesn’t let people outwork me and stuff like that.

What was the draft process like?: You know, I had no expectations going into the draft. Being a senior and graduating, I really had no idea of where I would go. I hoped someone would give me a chance. A couple of organizations had been in contact throughout the school year and the Tigers ended up taking me, so that was a thrill.

Where did you play in college?: Florida Southern College.

How was your college playing experience?: That was great. Actually, the first Tigers game of the year is an exhibition game against Florida Southern, so I got to play against them for four years.

If everything goes as planned, how long do you hope it will be before you make it to the Big Leagues with the Tigers?: I really don’t have an amount. I’m just going to take the process as it goes and enjoy every level and enjoy every step. Just do my best to keep improving and keep moving up.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Aaron Fultz: Persistence Pays Off

            Professional baseball players who progress through the minor leagues must feel increased pressure each year of the career that passes without getting called up to the Major Leagues. After all, that puts them one year closer to being possibly out of baseball, and in many cases facing an uncertain future. I always thought that must be one of the toughest aspects of professional baseball; knowing when to give up and when to keep striving to make the Big Leagues.

            Aaron Fultz pitched eight seasons in the minor leagues before finally getting the call. I am sure it must have been tough for him to wait so long, but it turned out that he made the right decision about sticking with the game, because it paid off with an eight season Major League career. It is not often that players go that long before getting called up or being cut, but Fultz survived that gauntlet.

            Drafted in the 6th round in 1992 by the San Francisco Giants, the left-handed pitcher had just one season of college ball under his belt when he decided to turn pro. He began his minor league career as a starter, even winning 14 games in his second year. However, in late 1993 he was traded to the Minnesota Twins as part of a deal that brought Jim Deshaies to the Giants. Fultz languished for several seasons in the Twins’ system, putting up lousy won/loss records, but good strikeout numbers and earned run averages. He was never able to break into the upper levels of their system and after the 1995 season, he was released. However, within two weeks he signed as a free agent with the Giants.

            Resigning with the Giants seems to have jump started Fultz’s career. He was turned into a reliever, and spent several seasons with AA and AAA teams, getting his bullpen seasoning. After a stellar spring training with the Giants in 2000, he made the team out of camp and never looked back.

            In researching this entry I had assumed that Fultz was a one-out guy because he was a lefty, but I was wrong. Over his career he actually averaged more than an inning per appearance. He pitched 2000-2007 with the Giants, Rangers, Twins, Phillies, and Indians, appearing in 463 games, all but one in relief. He posted a 25-15 record with 3 saves and a 4.26 ERA. More information on his career stats can be found at .

            In life it can often be tough to make the right decisions. Aaron Fultz made a great one in sticking with baseball, despite taking a little extra time to reach the Majors. Though never a star, he was a solid player for a number of years, pitched in 3 post seasons, including the 2002 World Series, and got to witness one of the greatest modern spectacles in baseball, during the Barry Bonds home run chase in 2001. It is a story like this that gives all players out there the hope and will to continue for one more day because through patience, anything is possible.

Interview with Aaron Fultz:

How did you first get interested in baseball?: Baseball was the only thing I ever really did. The city where I’m from, basketball and football are okay, but baseball was always what we did.

Who was your favorite players growing up?: Well I have two. Mike Schmidt was my favorite because if you remember watching the year he won MVP and went to the World Series 1980 when I was 7. And then, also, Nolan Ryan because he was the best pitcher of the era. I actually got to meet both of them and that was pretty cool.

What was it like getting drafted by the Giants in 1992?: Well I actually graduated in ’91 and was drafted by the Reds in like the 41st round. But I went to college for a year instead and got drafted by the Giants. That was the whole reason for me going to a junior college.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Dusty Baker is my favorite manager. I think he was the best manager I ever had. I didn’t see any of that [mishandling pitching staffs] when I played for him. I have read that, but to me he’s a good man and a great manager.

What pitches did you throw?: Fastball, curveball, changeup, and slider. In my prime my fastball was probably 89 to 93. But anywhere from 86 to 91, typically at the end.

You pitched for eight seasons in the minor leagues before getting called up. Was there ever a point where you doubted that it was going to happen?: Yeah, I think any player in the minor leagues does. I spent 3 or 4 years in A ball, so that’s kind of the way it was for me. As soon as I advanced out of A ball it moved very quickly. After you are playing for so long and you see players you played with or against keep moving up and you’re still there, it does get pretty frustrating.

What was it like being part of the 2001 Giants during Barry Bonds home run chase?: It was really impressive just watching him do what he did. I was actually on second base when he hit number 72, so that was actually really cool. Watching what he did the last part of the year was just super impressive. He’d only get one pitch to hit and he wouldn’t miss it.

How was Bonds as a teammate?: Barry was always really, really good to me. He treated me really well. He treated my kids really well. We didn’t socialize off the field a whole lot, but he was a good teammate.

If you could go back and do your career over, is there anything you would change?: With me I would have rather went to college first just because I’m kind of egotistical and I guess I want a college degree and it’s harder to go back now. That’s the only thing I would change would be just me going to school.

Was it difficult to transition from being a professional athlete to “private” life when you retired?: No, not too bad, only because physically my arm really couldn’t handle it too well. I was throwing from 89, 90 to 82, 83, so physically I didn’t really have it any more. I hate to put it like that, but that’s the way it was. I’ve opened up a baseball academy here in my hometown and it’s going pretty well.

Do you envision eventually getting back into professional baseball as a coach?: I got two kids. One’s a senior in high school and the other one is in eighth grade. I‘m actually trying to get back into scouting right now. I would have somewhat control, of my schedule. Coaching, I don’t know… It may be when my younger kid gets out of school I probably would like to.

What is the strangest thing you ever saw during a baseball game?: [long pause] I guess it would probably have to be Cleveland when we were playing in the fifth inning and got about a foot of snow. We got snowed out after four innings.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Calvin Pickering: The Professional Hitter


What I remember most about watching Calvin Pickering play is always thinking that he must be so intimidating for whichever pitcher was facing him. Generously listed at 6-5, 255 pounds, Pickering was one of the most physically imposing players to ever play the game. He was a threat to hit a home run every time he stepped to the plate, but unfortunately never received the opportunity to play every day in the Major Leagues.

When he was drafted in the 35th round in 1995 by the Orioles, Pickering was an intriguing pick because of his size and power potential. Once he started in the minors, he did not disappoint. Playing in 15 games with the Orioles’ Gulf Coast League team in 1995, he hit a blistering .500 with 22 RBI. In each subsequent year, he hit over .300 with substantial power, before getting called up and making his debut with the Orioles against the Angels on September 12, 1998. In doing so he became just the 10th player in history from the Virgin Islands to play in the Majors. He struck out in all three of his at bats in his first game against knuckleballer Steve Sparks, but just a week later picked up his first hit, a home run against David Cone and the Yankees.

For whatever reason, Pickering never stuck as a full time player in the Majors. He did have a penchant for striking out, but he would have also been a lock for 30-plus home runs if given a full slate of at bats over the course of a season. He bounced around, playing 1998 and 1999 with Baltimore, 2001 with the Reds and Red Sox, and 2004 and 2005 with the Royals. In 95 career Major league games, Pickering hit .223 with 14 home runs and 45 RBI. 

When the Red Sox picked up Pickering in 2001 I recall being excited about Pickering for two reasons. First, we were just getting over the Jose Offerman first base experience, and secondly, because I salivated at thinking about what Pickering would do to the Green Monster. I am still surprised they only gave him 17 games there. Even so, he hit .280 with 3 home runs. Over the next couple of seasons, the Sox trotted out the likes of Tony Clark and Brian Daubach at first base. Those are guys I admired, but certainly were not exempt from some competition from Pickering.

Pickering was much more of an impact player in the minors. Over 1115 career games, he hit .298 with 246 home runs and 862 RBI. Displaying a patient eye, he also had an impressive .410 career on base percentage. He last played in the minor leagues in 2005, but did have two seasons of independent league ball in 2007 and 2008. More information on the statistics of his career can be found at .

Recently I had the opportunity to ask Calvin Pickering some questions about his career over email and received some great in-depth answers which I have posted below.

Calvin Pickering Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: Well MY GRANDFATHER was a big baseball fan back in the VIRGIN ISLANDS. I use to watch baseball on tv with him when I was 3 years old. MY mother always use to say that when baseball was on tv they couldn’t change the channel because I use to catch a fit and start screaming so they would have to turn it back to the game. We use to always watch the CUBS and BRAVES games on tv those was the only two teams that was always showing ON TV in the islands at the time. Also my uncles use to play ball at the time and they use to take me to their games with them all the time . Then around 8 years olds I started playing street ball with some friends and one day one of my friends told me that he was going to sign me up to play little league which was name after( ELROD HENDRICKS ) WELL KNOWN VIRIGIN ISLANDER AND FORMER MAJOR LEAGUER… RIP. That’s where it all began for me

What was it like getting drafted and signed by the Orioles in 1995?: It was the ONE greatest DAY of my life for me and my family... I left the VIRGIN ISLANDS at age 17 on a mission to make my dreams come true. So when I got the call from my scout HARRY SHELTON I knew I was few steps away from making my dreams come true by playing in the major league and nothing was going to stop me from getting there at that point. So I very happy that Baltimore was the one team that give me that opportunity to fulfilled my dreams and making real. But without my MY MOM, AUNT LOIS, AND COACH MACALUSO for everything they done for me.  I want to give them a special thank you.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: I can honestly say I played for some great managers and coaches. But Sam Perlozzo, he was just cool very laid back and easy to talk to about the game

Who was the biggest character you ever played with or against?: Jose Lima. He was the life of the club house, he knew how to make everybody relax and loose before a game … The best part is when he use to start singing in the clubhouse. He was cool.

What was your favorite moment from your playing career?: My first Major league hit ... HOME RUN OFF OF DAVID CONE IN BALTIMORE.


Who was the toughest pitcher that you ever faced?: PEDRO MARTINEZ MOST DEFINITELY. I remember when we was playing them in Boston and they told me that I was in the lineup and Pedro was pitching. I was like cool so the first AB I think I walk then the second AB I hit a home run off him but the funny part about that AB is that he threw all fastball and I hit a home run so the 3 AB he threw me all CHANGEUPS and I flew out so when I was heading back to the dugout he told he pick you showed me that you can hit my fastball so I wanted to see if you could of hit my change up... I just started laughing on the way back in ... ever since that day we been cool.

Is there anything you would do differently if you could do your playing career over?: I'm very proud of what I have accomplished in my career and grateful for all the teams that have given me the opportunity to represent the organization on and off the field.

Are you disappointed that you didn’t get more chances in Majors?: I would be lying if I say I no. .. But my dream became REAL ONCE I MADE IT. One thing I learned from playing this game is that you only can control what you do on and off the field, and not in the front office. I did my job GREAT :) and to the best of my ability. But life goes on and now I find joy in teaching my son and other kids how to play the game. I was fortunate to learn a lot from some great players that ever the game. So now I can TEACH what I learn over the years I played this game.

How many autograph requests do you typically get?:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jorge Cordova: The Mentor

                Jorge Cordova was born to coach. You can tell that after spending a only few minutes with the man, or watching him counsel young players on the field. He combines his vast knowledge of the game with one of the friendliest personalities I have ever come across. It is hard to imagine that Jorge would ever be happy at any other job than being on the baseball diamond, so it is a good thing that he has remained in the game now that his playing career is over.

                Jorge was signed as a youngster out of his native Venezuela as a right handed pitcher. Leaving to play baseball marked the first time he had ever truly been away from home. He made slow, but steady progress through the minor leagues; first with the New York Yankees organization, and subsequently the Florida Marlins, the Cincinnati Reds, and finally with the Detroit Tigers.  He alternated between starting and relieving, his teams not knowing where he fit best. Regardless, he always seemed to do well with whatever role they gave him, and he became a fringe prospect.

                In 2003 he was pitching with the Erie Seawolves, the Double-A affiliate of the Tigers and reached the crossroads of his career. It was near the All Star break and he was told that he would be called up to the Big Leagues the following week, when a self-inflicted injury occurred. The injury kept him out for some time and the call-up never happened. By the end of the 2004 season, Jorge, plagued by injuries decided to retire from pitching. In his six minor league seasons, he posted a 33-23 record with a 3.79 ERA over 200 games (52 starts). He also notched 15 saves an averaged close to a strikeout per inning. More information on his career statistics is available at .

                I know I would personally be incredibly disappointed by getting so close and not getting to play in the Major Leagues for at least one game. However, Jorge is stoic in contemplating his own experience, firmly believing that everything happens for a reason and that his own journey has not yet been completed. More importantly, he believes he is exactly where he needs to be. There are no guarantees in baseball and no player is defined by one play, moment, or mistake.

These days Jorge is the pitching coach for the Connecticut Tigers, the low-A level affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. It is his second season as the team’s coach and he also served as Detroit’s Venezuelan Summer League pitching coach from 2006-2008. It is obvious that a new generation of young pitchers will benefit from his tutelage, as he seems to love baseball as much as anyone I have ever met. He is a credit to baseball and his story is one of the most unique I have ever come across. If his players are smart, they will make sure to hang on his every word, as he has the experience and knowledge to help them realize their dreams of playing in the Major Leagues.

Interview with Jorge Cordova:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: It was a long time ago when I was 6 years old, down in my country in Venezuela, South America. I was just trying to play basketball and try to practice karate, but when I saw somebody playing baseball it got my attention. I loved it a lot. Baseball is my life now.

What was it like getting signed? You must have been young?: Yeah, 16 years old. Because in Latin America you sign like a free agent. So I went to an American in Mexico and the New York Yankees saw me there and signed me when I was 16 years old. I played my first season when I was 17 years. 

My first time away from home was really sad. I was miserable because I had never been away from home from my Dad and my Mom. Different culture, different food, different language. But here I am! After 16 years I just moved down here to the Unites States. So I changed my country I guess for a better one.

What type of pitches did you throw?: I threw a fastball, a two seam fastball, split finger, curveball, and a slider.

Did you have a favorite player or team when you were growing up?: Yes. My favorite player was Roger Clemens and I still love him because I like the way he pitches. I like when he pitched inside. I like when he threw over the head of somebody to let them know they were in the shadow of the mound... Throwing the bat to Piazza…

If you could go back and do anything about your career differently, what would you change?: Yeah, don’t punch a wall. Because that was a stupid thing, a mistake I made that took me out of baseball in 2004. In 2003 I was on the 40 man roster with the Detroit Tigers. So right then in the middle of the All Star break, I was going to get called up after the All Star break when Detroit was losing pretty bad. That season they lost 119 games. So I got a bad game in Double-A Erie and I punched a wall and broke my knuckles. So they called me to the Big Leagues after, but I can’t pitch, so I never make it. So I stayed on the 40 man roster for two years, but I never came back. So if I had to do something different, don’t punch a wall. That’s why I am coaching now and make sure my kids don’t make the same mistake.

What was the organization’s reaction after you hurt your hand?: Everybody just put their hands on their heads. “Oh my God, what did you do! This is your opportunity and we need you in the Big Leagues right now and your hurt yourself!” They fined me. The team fined me $1,000. That’s pretty bad for the minor leagues. $1,000 is a lot of money. But, I have to pay the price for the stupid things or the mistake I made. But I believe in God a lot so I think God put that mistake in my way to keep the young guys away from that and the stupid things you can do as a player.

Do you think the Tigers looked at you differently as a prospect after that incident?: Not really because after that it was really tough to get my release point again, my feeling in my fingers because it was the knuckles. After that I pulled a hamstring, I broke my bicep tendon too, so a bunch of things happened after that. A bunch of injuries happened after that. There was nothing about my personality, there was nothing about the mistake I made, it’s just not for me. Many players sign to get in professional baseball, but not too many get in the Big Leagues. 

What is your coaching style?: I try to be just person to person, really close to the player. I like to be friendly. That’s why I don’t like when they call me coach or when they call me sir. When they come right after college or right after high school when they get drafted, and they used to call the coaches, “yes sir” or “yes coach.” So I just want to balance the relationship between the coach and the player. We try to be friends, with respect, but we try to be really close friends.


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