Monday, February 18, 2013

The After Look.. Hudson Baseball Center.. worth the wait

Thirteen months ago I previewed Central park legend's Raf Hernandez 
Before picture Jan 2012
Before Jan 2012
Before Jan 2012
new small business venture. The insider has long has been proponent of small business and his dream 
Feb 2013
Feb 2013
has been up and running for a few months now
FEB 2013
FEB 2013
FEB 2013
FEB 2013
video

Raf has been teaching players for a living professionally long time, knows what he is doing, and I highly recommend him. Upon touring the facility I liked the following:

(1) The Tunnel Space - you could take live BP


(2) Instructors - As Raf would say we teach “Our way”

(3) Fair pricing
(4) Emphasis on Player development rather than just mindlessly sticking tokens in a machine
2

(5) Most importantly - Feel - by feel it wasn't too commercial - yes it is a business but it had the hard core old school player development feel that I look for in a place.

I highly recommend.

Not to many people get to do what they love for a living. Raf does. That's very cool. The insider  wishes him the best of luck. Check his spot out - Insider approved

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day feel the Love .. Announcing my 1st New Team of 2013

Hope you're all having an awesome Valentine's Day as the Insider and Mrs. Top Ten


wish you much love. Yes I am a sucker and bought Astrid a card on this fake commercialized holiday, always will. Love you.

As many of you are aware recently I completed my 11 part series detailing my memorable 2012 season, but with Valentine's Day love in the air and pitchers and catcher's reporting this week, I can think of no better day to announce my first new team for 2013.
My team's name is "The Twins"and I have my uniform













A Manager


Special senior advisor

A dugout

Gear for my new 2013 teammates


and of course we have 2 promising rookies on the roster who are developing everyday




 
I am going to be a Father in 2013. Finally!!!!!!!!!

I'm everything right now:
  • Scared
  • Excited 
  • Nervous
  • Happy
  • Everything
While I know I only have easy uncle and godfather


experience, I also know that I've always been a late bloomer and at almost age 44 (June) that I can still do the job. I'm looking forward to playing with, developing, and teaching this new team everyday for the rest of my life.

Yes I know less softball, less sleep, more worrying, more bills, but this is special. Astrid is almost 20 weeks pregnant with twins, and my championship dream of seeing her hold our children in her arms is coming true. She so deserves it as she is beautiful inside and out. She will be an awesome mother.

As for senior management, she had a hunch something was in the works

, but was still very surprised about Twins


 and of course, pumped up


for the new season and acquisitions.Even my former club partner, best man at my wedding, and long retired softball friend Ed "Liberace" Garcia is looking forward to seeing my new team

(Ed finally made the blog and he lost at poker that night - how awesome is that )
And of course you my softball family, thank you for sharing this with me. Like every parent I want my children to avoid the mistakes that I've made and become more in life than I ever attained. I also don't want a rift to exist between me and my kids like I experienced with my father for many years before patching it up. Hopefully my kids will read the blog one day and will understand

Patience at the fatherhood plate will be needed as it's going to be hard, but worth it.

Another new great season lies ahead. In more ways than one.

Holler!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Season Review 10 of 11 .. Old School Inwood Fall Ball - "More than One Way to Win a Championship"

In 2012 I was committed to and played on 11 softball teams. Yes 11. You read that right. This is the tenth of an eleven part season review series that provides a review of their trials and tribulations (yeah I skipped number 10 yesterday as it deserved it's own championship day)
Season Review: Old School - Fall Ball 

Record : 16-3
Final Standings : Inwood Morning League Champion

Insider Analysis: I wanted to bring a team back to Inwood this season, but I need someone to run the team. I needed a manager with the following skills on his resume:
  • Organized - emails, lineups, knew how to do book, order shirts
  • Dedication and prompt - he had to be committed every week till the end
  • Warrior - good player who you wanted to play for and could play himself 
  • Winner - no substitute for that experience 
  • Confident - if you don't believe in yourself in this game, then find something else to do. 
  • Softball Smart - knew the X's and O's
  • Interpersonal skills - someone that could manage egos and characters - this isn't fantasy baseball
  • Recruiter - knows how to get good players that will show up
  • Had played above 96th street
I picked a guy that met all those qualifications Michael Peckins
He got the job done on the field as a player, recruiter, and manager as we dominated the so called "Inwood B League".

What I didn't expect from Mike was his managing style which was different and in some ways better than mine in the following areas:
  • He doesn't change things unless broken. If the team is winning he makes very few if any changes on both sides of the ball regardless of performance. 
  • Accounts for egos and personalities more in his decisions  He knows which guys motivate themselves and which guy needed coddling. "I like my players happy" was his quote even though he couldn't make everyone happy. No one can
  • He places more emphasis on statistics, but not at the expense of the points I mentioned above.
  • Longer leash on his starting pitchers. 
While at times I didn't understand or agree with some of his decisions, I did respected them and him. It was time for me to swallow my ego/pride. I reminded myself that "maybe I don't know it all. It's his team and maybe there is more than one way to win a championship." I also reminded myself that the name of our team was Old School and There is No School like the Old School. Old Schoolers don't wine, bitch, and make excuses. We play. And play we did, as in end his style, produced a winning formula.


I definitely hired the right guy
















   


Best Line of the Season : In a game Mike was getting hit hard and I went out and told him "Mike maybe it's not your day" and he responded "I'm pitching well they are just hitting me hard". Funny. I laughed, said "OK", and went back to my position. Gotta give him credit, the man has confidence. That's what makes him successful. To his credit he then settled down and we would have won, if the defense would have made some routine plays.

Best Dramatic Moment of the Season: In a late season match up against one of the leagues better teams, Hell's Kitchen "HK", we were down by one with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Mike reached base and then Christians blooped a single  Not only did Mike score to tie the game, but Christian miraculously came all the way around the bases as HK wildly threw the ball.

Last Word: The team will be back to defend with Mike at the helm. The insider salutes Mike who knows how to live life both on and off the field.

HOLLER!!!!!!!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Counting Teams = Counting Drinks


My 11 blog series on my 2012 season documents all the teams I played on last year. While writing these entries and throughout a season I frequently get asked "How do you play and keep tracks of all the teams you play on?" I usually respond by telling them that playing on a lot of teams is like counting drinks at the bar because

Top Ten Ways playing on a lot of Teams is Like Drinks at the Bar

10. No Count Factor
Bar - If you count your drinks you’re more likely to mess up your high. 
Softball - If you count the number of teams you’re on your also more likely to stop and mess up your high. Why stop doing something you love? 

9. Safety   
Bar - You don't count your drinks if you’re not driving home because a friend or cab will get you home safely.
Softball - Not only do you want to get home safely and score, but if your health allows you to play then do so as much as you can. Do it as long as you can as time has a way of getting away from us.

Bar - Drink responsibly. If you become an alcoholic get a sponsor. 
Softball - Play financially responsibly. Playing can be expensive so go get a sponsor.

6. Flavor - needed in both
Bar - wine, beer, or rum without taste is useless. 
Softball - without competition, a goal, or something to prove is useless

5. Unemployment
Bar - the less you work the more you drink. You're more likely not to count.
Softball - the less you work the more you play. You're more likely not to count.

5. Escape from Reality and Stress Relieving
Bar - When you want to blow off steam and get away from everything you're more likely not to count drinks
Softball - in the time spent at the field there is no recession, no bills, no work, it's a sanctuary. No need to count teams, if the game makes you feel this way.

4. Quality over Quantity
Bar - It's not how many drinks you have its knowing which ones make you feel nice. Quality matters, bottom shelf liquor is nasty
Softball - At some point quality does become more important than quantity. Best of Both worlds is having both.

3. Ugly/Stumble
Bar - After a lot of drinks even the ugly girls look good and you're bound to stumble when you drink too much.
Softball - There is bound to be some ugly games when you play on a lot of teams. You're bound to stumble at some point

2. Fly Factor
Bar - Bar flies sit around a bar all day and don't count drinks. They just drink and drink all day. It's what they do. No need to count drinks
Softball - Not only do you catch fly balls while you play but softball versions of bar flies just play and play and play all day. No need to count teams.

and the number one way playing on a lot of Teams is Like Counting Drinks at the Bar

1. Score
Bar - Unfortunately, you're going to have settle the score at some point with the owner so at least have an idea of how many drinks you've had
Softball - Count the game score and wins & losses, not the number of teams. 



Season Review 11 of 11 .. Kings - Holding On

In 2012 I was committed to and played on 11 softball teams. Yes 11. You read that right. This is the eleventh of an eleven part season review series that provides a review of their trials and tribulations (yeah I skipped number 10 for now. I will be back tomorrow, one more guys, then it's on to 2013)

Season Review: The Kings - Fall Ball Nights
Record 7-1
Final Standings: Heartbreaking Loss in 2nd Round of Playoffs on December 6th, 2012

Insider Analysis:
Like anyone else in life who holds on to something too long, I held onto softball to long in 2012. 11 teams will do that to you as too much of a good thing is bad for you. Like the softball whore that I am in, I played in that wack ass monopoly late night fall weeknight softball league in the city (can't mention that classless ripoff organization here) as a member of the Kings. 

I wasn't just at bat seeking here, I wanted to win. I knew these guys could play and were hardcore softball players that I really liked/ respected a lot like Johnny Blazon,  Jason Yadoff and of course Christian,
I uh mean Cano

Very Good Guys - Funny stuff.

From experience I knew what I was getting into in regards to the late starts associated with this league. This year the game times actually worked out for me as I had just revitalized my career with a new job so I experienced the best of both worlds by staying late at the office and then trekking off to games. 

What I failed to plan for was the league's irresponsible cold weather byes in conjunction with Super Storm Sandy that further delayed the season. Long layoffs broke our entire team's focus, mojo, and momentum. We just couldn't turn it back on at playoff time; it's not an excuse, just a fact. Our final game was Thursday December 6th, that's just too late for softball and created a situation where when there was some part inside of you that was glad the season was over. That's not good and a sign that you've hung on too long

In our final game, we were off our game, but still managed to rally from an early three run deficit to take a one run lead. That lead was short lived and heading into the bottom of the sixth we were down by two runs and that's when it just wasn't meant to be as:
  • In the 6th we had runners on the corners when a hard hit liner was turned into a back breaking double play. 
  • In the 7th with one out, I shook off excuses and singled to start a rally. The next two hitters followed suit with singles, but on each hit I ran the bases extra conservatively as we trailed by 2 runs. Base loaded now, one out, and the next batter hits a sinking liner the outfielder makes a brilliant diving catch on. I was on 3rd, didn't anticipate the catch, was late in tagging, then went back to tag and was thrown out at home. What I wanted to avoid happened. So Embarrassing. So Stupid. So Terrible.  I had hung on too long and all the good I had contributed that fall was gone. What a horrible last play of 2012. Painfully reminded me how humbling this game can be.
I hope to play again with these guys again, but next time I hope to avoid that hanging on too long syndrome.

Season Review 9 of 11 " Pray for Rain" ... A Staten Island Tale

In 2012 I was committed to and played on 11 softball teams. Yes 11 you read that right. This is the ninth of an eleven part season review series that provides a review of their trials and tribulations
Season Review : Pray For Rain
Pray for Rain Manager Mike Morello
Regular Season Record : 8-4-2 - 2nd place
Final Standing: Disappointing Exit in the Semi-Finals

Insider Analysis: 
Even though the young ladies in the clip below are pretty fun/cool rappers    
Staten Island "SI" as a whole gets a bad wrap. Regardless of any "SI" stereotypes on every Saturday Morning in the fall I call it my softball home where  I play for "Pray For Rain"and games take place at the ASA Softball complex where every time you drive in you your reminded "The Future Belongs to Those Who Believe in the Beauty of their Dreams"
The awesome field plus 
  • Convenient early morning start time
  • Exciting double elimination playoff structure,
  • Use of the clincher gold 
  • Competitive Saturday League action - rare
  • Tough opposition pitching (at times)
makes it an attractive league. On the negative side it is outright sling pitching and non ASA sanctioned Miken Ultra  II bats are not allowed.  You just have to be ready and deal with it as it is softball "buyer beware".

Our team was coming off a championship season

but the old saying "What a difference a year makes" went against us in 2012. We had a lot of talent, but taking a queue from its fellow borough most famous movie and quote - A Bronx Tale"Nothing is Worse in Life Than Wasted Talent " 


As a team we definitely underachieved in 2012. I knew we were in trouble by early October because we only showed glimpse of championship play, commitment  and desire. We were a bad team with a good record. Bad season

On an important side note, the team that defeated us "RAS" went on to win the league



were not only worthy undefeated champions, but were playing for a cause. Unfortunately they lost two team members during Hurricane Sandy. Crazy. No way the softball gods were letting them lose. The game was an escape and healing process for them ... It is more than just a game.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Nevermore

"And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming, And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted - Nevermore!" - The Raven Edgar Allan Poe


Raven 34 49's 31

It's been 24 hours since the Ravens defeated the 49's in a very well played and exciting














Super Bowl. Damn I wished I still gambled because this is the one year I was on the money with my pick - The Ravens.  

I am a big football fan of their leader Ray Lewis. As a player. I would always want him on my team as he was fast, vicious, powerful, and a crazed football machine. That Warrior attitude 

served him and his team well, as it helped them hang on to dear life and victory. 

While his on the field career ended on a winning note his off the field reputation did not. Lewis failed to clear his name of murder charges and HGH allegations in his pre-game interview with Shannon Sharp


Lewis made like the Raven "And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming, And his soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted - Nevermore!" Instead of out right declaring "I am innocent" he referenced God and spoke in riddles. This "out there" double talk made him look bad. really bad.

I will believe him Nevermore.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Ghetto Movie Review

How the hell does Major League Baseball (MLB) Network even talk about baseball at this time of year? Hell how do I? I mean its Super Bowl eve, the dead of winter, and only the true diehards are even thinking about the game. For the hardcore, they do it through interviews, player rankings, previews, analysis, and movies. Yes Movies, specifically baseball movies.

To fill airtime and help us navigate through the Void MLB Network has been airing an off season series of baseball movies. Sports movies are a tricky proposition and baseball flicks are literally a hit or miss thing with fans and critics
 
but a good one is treasure and timeless. Like our game.

Watching MLB's play list selection of movies has kind of given me the urge to play baseball movie critic as I have some experience in both baseball, softball, and cinema criticism realm. My film critic experience is driven primarily from my experiences with my wife. You see when we go to the movies I embarrass her by giving a thumbs up/down


Ghetto review whenever a preview comes up on the screen. When perfuming my ghetto review on a baseball movie I use the same qualities I use to define a good game to define a good movie
  • Realism - too fake or easy is wack in both
  • Competition - good players and actors 
  • Meaning - It's more than just a game
  • Sentimentality - I'm a sucker for heart break
  • Conflict - Tension and Pressure are thrilling
  • Drama - a must, but must happen naturally
  • Fun 
My Top Ten Baseball Ghetto Review list is as follows:


 10. Sandlot
 
True kids movie. "You throw like a girl" - best line in flick. Very fun.

 9. Major League
 
Pure late 80s early 90s comedy. You can't take this movie seriously especially Wesley Snipes swing. Yikes

8. Damn Yankees


Yeah I know you’re thinking "that's a musical", but it was also made into a movie. More importantly, who hasn't never contemplated selling his soul to the devil for a hit or win in baseball? Plus every Yankee hater loves the title

7. Bang the Drum Slowly
 
classic tear jerker. Sorry but this movie does prove "Their is crying in baseball. Uh but that's another baseball movie.

6. Bull Durham - This film is number one on many baseball fans list, but only makes #6 on mine. Great movie and very realistic. Maybe too realistic. However, I cannot deny that it is well made. Crash Davis 
  
was the Man.

5.Original Bad News Bears - ghetto 70s little league to the fullest.


Coach drinking at the field (coaches still do it). Cursing, Asshole parents. Mean politically incorrect kids. Peer pressure. Little League trauma and drama to the fullest. Awesome

4. Field of Dreams  - 

"If you build it they will come" - true mystical quality takes center stage. Last scene with Costner and ghost Dad catching proves the game is about Fathers and Sons.

3. Eight Men Out 


"Fixing" the World Series. How can you go wrong with that storyline?

2. The Natural - "My name is Roy Hobbs the best their ever was". The softball gods would approve of this movie. P.S. The Wonderboy bat


would sell for a lot more than a Miken

and the #1 Thumbs Up 

Baseball movie on my Ghetto Review is


1. A League of Their Own -


The film captures so many things to perfection: 
  • how precious time is 
  • history
  • family
  • heart break
  • underdogs
and much more.   

Love this film as I never get tired of it. 

My favorite part of the movie is when Geena Davis tells Tom Hanks that she is quitting "because its too hard". he replies "it's supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great". 

P.S. You know a film is good when Madonna doesn't mess it up


A critic wouldn't be a critic is he doesn't do a thumbs down baseball movie blog. Soon.