Out of Left Field: This column is in the best shape of its life

MlbHlSqPitchers and catchers. Spring training. This column is limbering up, ready for the new season, and feeling good. Leaner, fitter and happier. Welcome, good people, and observe this column preparing itself for Opening Day.

Just sit back and enjoy the following training montage. I imagine that awful Journey song will accompany it. It gets everywhere.

While the great and the good of the MLB are being put through their paces, your correspondent is in training himself. He’s reading Hemingway’s collected advice to writers, he’s thumbing through Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors, he’s perusing ’10 rules for writers’ in today’s Guardian and he’s scribbling furiously in various notebooks. He’s even thinking about baseball itself (who’d have thunk it?), scanning the Hardball Times Annual, SABR’s free Emerald Guide to Baseball (you need this, people!) and mock drafting like crazy.

And most importantly, your correspondent is honing his eye. Pitchers across the southern states are getting their eye in this week, and so am I. But it’s not easy. Now is time for fluff and bluster in MLB. Nothing of note is happening. This column isn’t looking so promising now, eh?

An aside: how good is life as a baseball professional? You get over four months off (if you’re lucky enough to miss those pesky play-offs), and then on your first few days back you just play catch and wander around in the sunshine. Those lucky things.

No such easy life for this columnist. I’ve had my nose to the proverbial grindstone, and have come up with the following. Bear with me, and be kind, dear reader. 

As Matt alluded to last week, this time of year is all about players being in the “best shape of his life”. If anyone can find a report of a player revealing themselves to be overweight, tired, and completely indifferent about the approaching new season, I’d love to read it. It would make a change from the countless reports of players claiming to be raring to go, feeling better than ever. Those good people at FanGraphs have even started collecting “best shape of his life” stories. There’s certainly no shortage of them.

But beyond all that nonsense, what else has been going on?

Ryan Braun became a friend for life or this particular writer by throwing me a bone with the story that he could have been a professional footballer.  “Soccer was always my best sport…I was a forward on U.S. development teams and did pretty well, but for the future, in this country, it made more sense to focus on baseball.” Funny to think that in some alternative universe Braun will be embarrassing England in this year’s World Cup, rather than hitting the ball all over Miller Park.

Detroit Tigers manager, Jim Leyland has clearly had a mixed winter. On the one hand, he got a call from umpire Randy Marsh, to apologise for missing the key call in last year’s one-off play-off against the Twins. Which was nice, although I’m not sure strictly necessary. I mean, the post-season was hardly short of bad calls, was it?

However, dedicated smoker Leyland’s warm ‘n’ fuzzy feeling didn’t last when he discovered Detroit’s ban on public smoking will apply to Comerica Park. But Leyland’s no quitter. “I’m not saying that I won’t cheat once in awhile, I’m not going to lie.” (Feel free to insert your Tiger Woods/Ashley Cole gag here).

But Korea provides my favourite story of the week. The Korea Energy Management Corporation and the Korea Baseball Organization have put in place plans to make Korean baseball a whole lot greener.

They plan to make games shorter, and thus more energy efficient. So, breaks between innings are being shortened and the game itself is being encouraged to speed up. If a pitcher fails to pitch within 12 seconds of the batter readying himself, providing there are no runners on base, the pitcher will get a warning. And each warning after that will also be counted as a ball. Serious stuff.

That will hopefully keep down the electricity bills, which reminds me of that great, if frankly rather silly, film, Field of Dreams. Kevin Costner can’t afford to keep the farm, right? Then how about turning the floodlights off now and again, eh Kev? It must be costing you a packet.

And finally, fashion corner.

What was ICHIRO! thinking here? That is one terrible, terrible outfit.

And I’m sure the Boston Braves came to regret their choice of cap in 1914. Who was to know what those pesky Nazis would hit upon the same fashion choice in a few years time?

That’s me for this week. I’m off to towel down, have an ice-bath and ready myself for next week. In the meantime, you can always follow my sporadic ramblings on twitter, or leave me a lovely message below.

Have a good week, until next week…

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6 Responses to Out of Left Field: This column is in the best shape of its life

  1. Joe Gray February 20, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    The awesome Mariners blog Lookout Landing (http://www.lookoutlanding.com/) spotted a story about a player being out of shape (my old mate Carlos Silva):

  2. Matt Smith February 21, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Steve, I fear that England will be more than capable of embarrassing themselves against the U.S., with or without Ryan Braun being on the pitch. Good story though.

  3. Steve Keene February 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm #

    Great spot Joe – thanks for that. At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, he has more the dimensions of a pro-wrestler than a baseballer. Will continue to look out for more out-of-shapers…

    Matt – no doubt the US could be a banana skin this summer.

    I thought the story illustrated how much of a quality athlete Braun is. If you can excel in several sports, you’ve clearly got something special.

  4. Matt Smith February 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

    Funnily enough I was reading about the rugby player Danny Cipriani today and that mentioned he played for QPR juniors as well as a youth Surrey cricket team, before settling on rugby with Wasps. Must be tough to have so much talent!

  5. Ron February 22, 2010 at 8:47 am #

    I shot my mouth off and bet 4 people 50 pounds each that the US will win.

    does this mean I might not be able to be seen in public after the match. In other words, England looks as bad as I think they do?

  6. Steve Keene February 22, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Matt – he seems to have done alright in the romance department too!

    Ron – England generally seem to start tournaments slowly, vaguely improve and then lose on penalties to the first decent side they face, so you could well win those bets. The US seem pretty inconsistent though. On their day they can give most sides a run for their money, but have also had some pretty poor results over past year, so I guess it depends on which side turns up…very much looking forward to it though.

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