Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I am a horrible sports fan

Why? Well, last night after having dinner and trying to catch up on some of my PVR collection, I headed to the bedroom. Before crawling into bed I switched it to Sportscenter as any good human male should do, when I saw this man giving a press conference. Worse yet, at first I couldn't figure out why he was in a press conference. My superior analytical skills finally led me to the conclusion that, despite any impression I might have had, game 6 of the NBA finals had been played. And I never even suspected it.

Worse news for the NBA, I didn't really care. Is it because I'm not a fan of sports? I don't think so, because I did spend quite a bit of time last night watching and listening to...wait for it... the Double-A Texas League All-Star game (more on that later). What I've concluded is I can no longer tolerate the NBA in large portions, if at all. It's not because it doesn't contain amazing athletes. It's not because my local team isn't good. It's because the officiating, or lack thereof, or the superstar exemptions or the fact that a guy can take 6 step and not get called for a travel, it all drives me mad. What it's done is taken a perfectly good sport with superior athletes and turned it into something I can't stand to spectate. Luckily, I have baseball.

Speaking of which, I did indeed take in enough of a minor league all-star game to catch who might be the next great hope to be Texas Rangers pitching star. I actually watched him pitch a complete game, 105 pitch, 3-hitter last week via FSNSW. Last night was just one inning, but that one inning was glorious. He mad some very promising prospects look helpless. Who? Edison Volquez . This is what Mike Hindman had to say about it in his daily email update on Ranger Minor League goings on (yes, I am a geek. No, I'm not ashamed.) that made me giddy and full of gleeful glee:
I wandered down to the Frisco bullpen in the third inning when I saw the young man in the red jersey get up to throw. I took my position next to the nacho stand, leaning over the top rail to get a close up view of Edison Volquez warm up for what would be his one inning of work in last night’s Texas League mid-summer classic.

A man and his two pre-adolescent sons crammed up against the fence next to me and the man admonished his boys to "watch this guy throw." And for a moment, all was quiet, save the ambient buzz of the massive crowd and the popping of horsehide into leather. This went on for five or six tosses, at which point one of the boys turned to his dad and said, "but Dad, you can’t see the ball!"

Turns out that kid was no different than the Texas League’s best hitters.

Volquez perched himself upon the Frisco mound in front of what was probably the biggest crowd he’s ever seen, on a day when some had to be questioning whether–after just three Texas League appearances–he really belonged in the game, and wrapped his massive hands around a baseball, letting fly called strike one (96 mph fastball). Called strike two (97 mph fastball). Swing and miss, strike three on a dirty change.

Next up, the Texas League leader in homers, Corey Aldridge, who has seen big league action with the Atlanta Braves. Change up for strike one. Eighty mile an hour change up fouled off for strike two. Heater, 95 mph, fouled back. Finally, after seven pitches, a pair of balls (an 81 mph change and a 94 mph fastball). Then Volquez snapped off the one curve ball he threw during his tenure, a nice 11-5 number that came in at 74 mph and Aldridge dribbled a harmless grounder right at sure-handed second baseman Drew Meyer for out number two.

Then the powerful Mike Napoli took his place in the box. Napoli, who led the Cal League with 29 dingers last year, who is second behind Aldridge in the Texas League home run race this year, who is batting .300, and who provided the most awe-inspiring moment of the home run contest before the game with a shot over the green back in dead center (at least 470 feet), is a dead fastball hitter (one scouting report I read reads "will hit an average fastball a mile" and, after the home run contest, I had little reason to doubt the veracity of that report).

So as Napoli stands in, I’m wondering if Volquez knows about any of this–or if he cares. And , quickly, the answer comes. Fastball, right down the gut. Strike one. Fastball, 97 mph, fouled off. Strike two. And then one more time, fastball, 97 mph, as Napoli looks on hopelessly. Called strike three.

So, you see, that kid out at the bullpen was no different than the most powerful hitter in the Cal League who couldn’t see the ball that Volquez throws. And if you don’t get yourself out to Frisco, pronto, you might not see it either.

So, like I said, I'm a horrible sports fan. If you agree call me tonight will I'm at the FC Dallas game.

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