Thompson Tuesdays

Seventeen days. A few hours here, a few minutes there, Spring Training is getting here faster than I can believe. I'm telling you, it feels like yesterday I lost the last game of the season in South Bend. So, with all those wonderful things to have to think about this past offseason, I have been taking those game situations and thoughts into each workout.

I switched over from working out with the high school coach in my home town to the junior college team down here.  It has been great for me so far. I have been able to go through my normal program, and I have also been able to work on some of my mechanics. 

There are a few kids that are currently attending the college that have been picking my brain about some drills and specifics on how to better their game.  I tell you, it is kind of crazy going from helping out high school guys, to college level players.  The funny thing is, a lot of the same questions emerge.  As I was helping several of the pitchers with their mechanics, I was able to critique myself along the way.  I know I'm not God's Gift to pitching, but I'm telling you I loved helping those guys out and teaching them the things that I have learned and that have helped me through out the years. 

I was talking with Chad Rangel, (a friend that I played with in high school) who also attends the college and we were talking about his grips and his mechanics and some of the stuff that he was telling me about his last pitching coach took my breath away. I mean once again my ways and philosophies on pitching are not the only way, but "legs are not a part of pitching that is necessary"?  I mean come on, tell Trevor Hoffman that. 

I wasn't sure what to really think of that when he told me, but I went over and visited his family, who are very good friends of mine, and they confirmed what was said and much more.  I couldn't believe it, I'm just so glad that I was able to speak to him about how important that part of your body is for pitching.  You know, when I was younger playing ball, I always remember the token phrases and constant screams from the fans.

"Just you and the catcher, just play catch." 

"Just throw strikes and your team mates will do the rest."

That was just part of the early years of the game.  But let's be honest, shout out "You don't need your legs!  Don't use your
legs its your torso and arm!"

If I heard that on the mound, I might just lie down and cry. 

Anyway, enough of that, and back to the fun stories of minor league ball.  I think that one of the most fun, but also scariest, times was my second year while I was in Eugene, Oregon.  Just picture a nice hot day, a Sunday for that matter, 'Kids Day', just a good old fashion perfect day for a day at the ballpark.  We are getting bashed in 8-0 in the bottom of the seventh.  Now, we were playing in Everett, against the Seattle Mariners short season club.  Everyone knows that we have some issues with the Mariners considering we share a complex with them.

That being said, when Oswaldo Navarro, their shortstop, comes up we, the pitchers, all start to drool.  This guy runs his mouth like a 6th grade tetherball All-Star. Every game he has something to say, he plays dirty, but weasels his way out of any confrontation that he is confronted with.  James Darby is on the mound in the bottom of the 8th, two outs, and on the third or fourth pitch, Navarro gets roasted right in the middle of his scrawny little $1.23 frame. Navarro kinda takes a step toward the dirt in front of the plate, and I'm telling you our bullpen was on our feet. 

Okay, before I go any further, I was slotted to be in the stands on this day because I was supposed to be doing the camera.  Well, since we didn't bring the camera that day, knowing what was going to happen that day, I gladly waved my right to lounge out in the crowd.  So, I was out in the bullpen sitting next to Aaron Coonrod.  The second that Navarro took that initial step, I'm talkin' Coony and I were standing on the tip of the infield dirt. We were so ready and, let's face it, excited, to throw down that day.  Let me tell you, seasons get long, days get longer and hotter, and sometimes when you get that chance to pound someone's head in that you despise, well hey, game on. 

So, nothing really came of that bean ball, Navarro took his purse and went to first base.  By the way, Coony is like 6'4" 225lbs.  I mean just looking at him and listening to him breath next to me while we were waiting for something to happen was getting me charged like you wouldn't believe.  So the inning ended and the top of the 9th was coming up.  Two outs at this point now, and Matt Lauderdale comes up to bat. 

Right about this point the dreadful song was blaring on the intercom, Sponge Bob Square Pants, which would later be known as the song that puts us in the mood.  The pitch comes in and Laudie just wore it in the back. He takes one step toward first base, flips his bat, and then he was off to the races.  He speared this pitcher, and I'm talking Laudie wrestled for a long time, as did I, so let me tell you it was an outstanding take down.  As soon as that happened, I'm on the infield dirt, and then the beast (Coonrod) is running right next to me.

Punches were flying everywhere, I watched Coony throw a haymaker that (unfortunately) didn't connect, but if it had it might have leveled a small community.  As for me, naturally I went in for the standard cheap shots at the pitcher and the catcher while they were on the ground.  You know, "helping my catcher out" and it was very deserved.  Of course half the other teams' players were standing on the side with bats and launching baseballs in to the pile of players that were beating the color out of each other's uniforms.

Actually, you know what, I think that the rest of this story and others that I have can wait until the next time, then I guess we will see who is actually interested and even reading this, because truthfully, I already know the story and the ones who were there know what happened.  See, even before the Spring starts, I'm already pitching, show you the hard stuff and then making the hook disappear.  Hey, if you can wait........

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