Before Thanksgiving, I published my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Kids, which has a whole bunch of ideas for presents that I know kids who love baseball will love to receive. How am I so sure? Because I’m a kid, and it’s a list of the things that I use myself or want to get!
I made sure to include things of all price ranges, from $10 to $300. I also contacted a bunch of the companies that make these gifts to let them know how much I like using their products, and some of them decided to give them away to MattsBats.com readers! Make sure you follow me on Twitter and subscribe to my blog email (see link on right), because I will continue to have giveaways.
You can enter below to win some of these products for free! (I am using a site called Rafflecopter to help manage the giveaways). All you have to do is click on the links below and put in your email address so we’ll know how to contact you if you win. I am giving away extra entries for doing things like following me on Twitter or visiting my Gift Guide.
Enter to Win Sports Illustrated Kids Hardcover Book Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball
Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball by the writers of Sports Illustrated Kids is a very good hard cover book for kids who want to learn unusual baseball history and facts. The book has lists of pretty much everything in baseball- from the best facial hair, to the ugly uniforms in MLB history, to the best minor league team names. You can but it for about $15, but enter using this link win it for free!
Also from my 2014 Gift Guide, are 3 books that any kid who loves baseball would like to Christmas or Hanukkah– Baseball: Legends in the Making, The World Series: All About Pro Baseball’s Biggest Event, and The Best of Everything Baseball Book. If you bought them on Amazon, they would cost a little over $20, but you can enter to win them for free!
Spot It! MLB is a great card game for the whole family. It’s made for kids 7 years and older, but even my 3 year old sister loves to play it too. This is a compact card game that you can take with you if you are traveling for the holidays. The MLB edition uses symbols from the baseball world, including logos, catchphrases, equipment, ballpark food, and mascots. If you’re the fastest to make a match, you get the card. You can buy Spot It! MLB edition on sale for the holidays for about $13, or you can enter to win it for free!
Play Ball! by International Playthings is another fun little card game for baseball fans of all ages. I kind of think of it as a baseball version of Wheel of Fortune because you use a spinner to move your players (little helmets) around the field and see if you get a hit, get tagged out, or maybe even hit a home run. For under $10, PlayBall! is a great stocking stuffer, but you can also enter to win one for free!
GOOD LUCK! For more great ideas for baseball (and some not baseball-related) gifts for kids for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, please check out my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Kids. If you don’t find anything there, you can also check out the list I made last year, which still has some great ideas for presents that kids will love. I’m also happy to give you ideas if you send me a tweet (@MattsBats), comment on this post, or send me an email.
Editor’s Note: Matt writes Matt’s Bats as a hobby for the love of the sport and to practice his writing skills. It is helpful to promote his blog if you do your holiday shopping– or any of your daily shopping– using the links in his post or through his Amazon associates link. Doing so will help increase his blog’s exposure and reduce his parents’ costs of shipping products to winners. Thanks! ~AE
Today we celebrate Thanksgiving, when we sit down as a family to give thanks for the things we have and to remember the Pilgrims that came to America, the turkey takes center stage. Because it’s Turkey Day, let’s look back at the Biggest Turkeys of the 2014 MLB Season– the goofiest plays and biggest bloopers people made. Like I did last year, this post is meant to show a lighter side of the grueling sport of baseball. These guys are all professionals, and everyone makes mistakes, so I am not meaning to insult anyone. But sometimes you just kind of look like a turkey! So before you sit down eating your turkey on a cold Thursday night, here are the Top 5 Turkeys and Bloopers of 2014!
Also, when Thanksgiving is over and you are ready to start your Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday shopping, be sure to check out my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide to find the perfect presents for kids and adults who love baseball! (And also a few other gift suggestions for kids in general).
5. 50 Cent Pitch Worth 50 Cents
On May 27, rapper 50 Cent went to the Mets-Pirates game to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. And this may rival Ba-Ba Booey and Carly Rae Jepsen for the worst first pitch ever. It traveled halfway to the Mets dugout, and almost hit a cameraman.
4. The Dome Strike
On September 3rd, the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays were experiencing technical difficulties during a severe thunderstorm in the Tampa area. So as the Rays dealt with a power outage Super Bowl-style, the weather gave some laughs to the baseball world. When Melky Cabrera stepped into the Tropicana Field batter’s box, a lightning strike occurred outside of St. Petersburg and Cabrera made a show of flinching after the strike.
3. Bat Blunder
In May, the New York Mets and pitcher Bartolo Colon played the Pittsburgh Pirates. Facing pitcher Bryan Morris, Colon took three adventurous swings. He first lost his helmet, followed with a foul ball that threw off his helmet, and then once he hit a comebacker to Morris, he carried his bat with him.
2. Broken Bat Blooper
On June 1, the Phillies were playing the Mets when the impossible happened. He was facing starter Jonathan Niese, and when he took a harmless whiff at the ball, he broke it. Yes, not even a foul ball. He swung, and it broke like a pencil after you crash it on your knee.
1. Baserunning Blunder
Also in June, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones was playing R.A. Dickey and the Blue Jays. He hit a weak ground ball to 3B Juan Francisco, and after and overthrow, Jones accidentally stepped on 1st Base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt’s foot, and he tripped. That was a HUGE turkey on Jones’s part.
What do you think was the biggest Turkey of 2014? Take the poll below. And if you remember something that isn’t on my list, leave a comment or send me a tweet @MattsBats.
And remember to check out my Holiday Gift Guide!
MattsBats.com 2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Kids!
I am excited to reveal my Holiday Gift Guide for 2014-2015! Last year so many people asked me what presents to get for their baseball-loving kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews that I published a Gift Guide (https://mattsbats.com/2013/12/06/2013-gift-guide/). It turned out to be one of my most popular posts in 2013.
Everything on last year’s gift guide would still be really good choices to buy for kids in your life this year, but here are some of my new favorite books, games, baseball equipment, and other fun things updated for 2014-15. These are all things that I have, use, or really want myself, so I know whatever kid you buy these presents for, he or she will love them. I made sure to include something for everyone’s budget, from $10 – $300, and there are links in here where you can buy them right through Amazon.com. Some of the companies who made these products have given me some to give away to Matt’s Bats readers. Check out my post to WIN some of these for FREE; I’ll also be tweeting out information (Follow me on Twitter @MattsBats)!
BOOKS & VIDEOS
As you probably know, I love to read, especially books about baseball! Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball by the writers of Sports Illustrated Kids is a very good book for kids who want to learn unusual baseball history and facts. The book has lists of pretty much everything in baseball- from the best facial hair (ATTN @JWerthsBeard is not included) to ugly uniforms to minor league team names. I think this would be a good book for kids in elementary school. This book is also perfect for kids that aren’t huge baseball fans but want to get interested in the game. I love reading this book and your son, daughter, niece, nephew, cousin, or grandkids will love it too. And for only about $15, it will not give you a pain in the wallet. Get it today!
I also really liked to read these other Sports Illustrated Kids books:
- Baseball Legends in the Making (Spoiler alert Nationals fans- there’s a section about Gio!)
- The World Series – All About Pro Baseball’s Biggest Event
- VIP Pass to a Pro Baseball Game Day (a great behind-the-scenes view into a baseball game)
- Side by Side Baseball Stars
- The Ultimate Collection of Pro Baseball Records
- The Best of Everything Baseball Book
- Goodnight Baseball (a great bedtime book for really little kids)
Or, I would also recommend a subscription to Sports Illustrated Kids magazine. I have a subscription, and it has great articles, photos, and tips geared especially for kids.
I also recommend the first 2 books to come out from Derek Jeter’s new Jeter Publishing from Simon & Schuster.
The first book he published, of course, is a book written especially for kids called The Contract. You may remember that I wrote a long review of the book when it first came out. It’s a fiction book based on Jeter’s childhood and the promises he made to his family that helped him succeed into one of the best short stops in Yankees history and the history of baseball. Derek Jeter liked what I had to say, so he put my review on his Facebook page. I liked the book so much that I had to include it in this year’s holiday gift guide. I also gave away a few copies during the summer, and people who received them wrote to me to tell me how much they liked it. That’s why I recommend Derek Jeter’s The Contract for any kid who’s a baseball fan. Get it here!
The second book to come out this Fall from Jeter Publishing is called Jeter Unfiltered. Unlike The Contract, this is not a book made only for kids, so adults will like it too. It is a picture book taking you inside the last year of Derek Jeter’s Hall-of-Fame-worthy career, with photos from photographer Christopher Anderson that have never been seen before. This would be a great addition to a bookshelf. Get Jeter Unfiltered here.
OK, Yankees fans, I have another book recommendation for you! The Closer by Mariano Rivera is an autobiography written by the Yankees all-time great closer. This is a book about his life, starting from his childhood in a hut in a fishing village in the middle of Panama. He has a great story to share, and this book will inspire your child from fourth grade and up. From the stories Mariano tells to the Mo’s Notes pages where he writes tips for life, this is another highly recommended book for the baseball-loving kid in your life. Get it here.
There is a new classic baseball movie to see. Million Dollar Arm debuted back in the Spring, but it is now available to watch at home on Blu-Ray or DVD. Based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm tells the story of sports agent J.B. Bernstein, portrayed by Jon Hamm. When he loses one of his biggest clients, Bernstein held a contest in cricket-obsessed India to find the first player with the speed and stuff to pitch in Major League Baseball. The country has over a billion people, and there’s got to be at least one person who can compete in the majors back in America. Two kids, named Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, win Bernstein’s Million Dollar Arm contest and they travel to the USA and learn how to become big league pitchers. They then hold two tryouts for major league scouts. I won’t tell you the outcome because you need to see the movie. This movie is an inspirational story and is geared for kids, and parts of it are also really funny. It’s rated PG and was made by Disney. This would be a great family night movie this winter to get you in the mood for warmer weather and the start of spring training. For less than $20, buy a copy of Million Dollar Arm on Blu-Ray or DVD to own for life and watch it over and over again.
My fellow MLB Pro baseball blogger Matt Nadel from Baseball With Matt wrote his first book Amazing Aaron to Zero Zippers – and Matt is still a teenager! Its a very good baseball history book, an A to Z look at baseball’s past. This is a good book for maybe middle school and early high schoolers. The profits from the book are being donated to charity. It is available as an e-book, so for less than $5 you can get a full lesson in baseball history to read on your Kindle, iPad/iPhone, Android phone or any device with the free Kindle app from Amazon here.
I was lucky to try out the 2015 Mako Torq bat from Easton. The bat is very cool, as its handle grip rotates every time you swing the bat, which trains you to grip and swing properly to get a shorter swing to the ball. I tried out the bat at my local batting cages and it was very effective. It is super-lightweight and has an enormous sweet spot. This is an ideal bat for kids who are serious about baseball– like if you are on a travel baseball team and want to take your hitting to the next level. During my session in the cage, I got two very impressive hits. One was a deep fly ball, which would be destined for at least a double in a game, and a sharp line drive up the middle. If you know someone looking to upgrade their bat, I recommend the Mako Torq. Get it here. It’s expensive, but worth it for a serious baseball player.
Do you know a kid looking to track and improve their pitching speed? They should try out the Speed Sensor ball by Markwort. I have a lot of fun playing with my Speed Sensor ball. It calculates the speed of your pitch, and it seems to be pretty accurate. (It says I pitch about 35-40 mph, which seems about right for a kid my age, unless your name is Mo’ne Davis, and then you would be double that).
First, you set the pitching distance, which is programmed at settings for 20′, 40′, 46′, and 60′, etc. Then, let that ball fly! What is cool about this ball is that it tracks how fast you pitch the ball, from the time you let go of the ball to the time it hits the catcher’s mitt. For Little League pitchers like me who want to be able to figure out how fast you throw and try to improve, this is the perfect holiday gift. I can tell you firsthand that every single baseball playing kid in America would like to know how fast they’re throwing, and this baseball does just that with some tech involved. It only costs about $15, and you can buy it here.
The Louisville Slugger Genesis glove is the baseball glove I use every day when I play baseball. It has a finger hole like the pros, soft, furry inside, a checkerboard webbing and many others. It is soft leather that doesn’t need to be worked in too much after you buy it, so you can start playing catch right away. If you buy the Markwort Speed Sensor ball, this glove will be perfect add on. Put the Louisville Slugger Genesi baseball glove on your Black Friday holiday shopping list. Get the glove here!
Spot It! MLB is a great game for the whole family. The box says its good for 7 year olds, but my 3 year old sister loves to play it too. This is a compact card game that you can take with you if you are traveling for the holidays. The object of the game is to match up a symbol on your card with a symbol on the middle card. Unlike regular Spot It!, this game uses symbols from the baseball world, including logos, catchphrases, equipment, ballpark food, and mascots. If you make a match, you get the card. The winner is the person with the most cards at the end. It is an extremely fun and addicting game you can play for hours. It will be a classic for the years to come. Get Spot It! MLB edition from Blue Orange Games here.
The card game Play Ball! by International Playthings is an fun little card game for baseball fans of all ages. This is a fun game because they have little helmets which represent the players that run around a field made of cards. You use a spinner to see your fate– did you get a hit, get tagged out, or maybe a fly ball. It is sort of like baseball Wheel Of Fortune, which I think is awesome. Get it here!
To go with all the great books I’ve recommended, I am also recommending the new Kindle Fire tablets from Amazon. This is a GREAT gift for kids. I’ll tell you why. A couple of weeks ago, Amazon released the first Fire HD tablet for under $100, the Fire HD 6. I have an older model Fire tablet that I use all the time for reading, playing games, watching movies, and even for doing Twitter. My brother, who is only 7, also has a Fire tablet.
The Fire HD 6 starts at $99. The Fire HD 7 starts at $139, and has a bigger screen. It’s about the size of an iPad mini and does just about everything the iPad can do for a lot less money. The Fire HD 6 is about the size of a paperback book, but for only a little more money, I think the Fire HD 7 is the better choice because the screen is a lot bigger for watching videos, playing games and reading, but the only thing different between them is the screen size. For a little more money, you can upgrade to the Fire HDX for $179. Then, there’s the big one– the Fire HDX 8.9. These were the prices before the Black Friday sales. Now they’re even cheaper!
I play the free game MLB Big Stars on my Kindle, which is a very addicting baseball game. I also have the free MLB At Bat App so I can follow along on games. The Fire tablets run on a version of Android OS and you can download tons of apps in the Amazon app store. These are really amazing tablets for adults and for kids. Amazon has built in a lot of features that make it a great gift for kids.
Just to show you how kid-friendly the Fire tablet is, Amazon has announced the new Fire HD 6 Kids Edition, PERFECT for kids age 8 and under. It is the same size as the HD 6 but comes in a specially-designed case. It also comes with a free 2-year warranty, which is also great for the Kids edition because it will eventually drop, break, be flushed down the toilet, etc. If anything happens to it, Amazon will replace it for free, no questions asked! Get the $149 Kids version here.
Microsoft’s new video game console Xbox One is super realistic! You could be playing a sports game and someone could mistake you for watching a real one on TV!
I got the super special opportunity to play Xbox with Stephen Strasburg last weekend. We played (Kinect Sports Rivals). Kinect allows you to control the game with just your movements– no controller. Check out this picture of me “bowling” with Stephen Strasburg on Xbox One.
You can buy an Xbox One here for about $350. For about 1/2 the price, you can get the Xbox 360, the system I recently got. It’s also a very good video game console that kids will love, even if it is not the newest, newest one. If you go with the Xbox 360, add MLB 2K13, which is actually the most recent and most realistic baseball game for the Xbox. But for the best Microsoft has to offer in video gaming, get the Xbox One here.
* * * *
If it’s at all possible that you didn’t find anything you like on this year’s Gift Guide for children who like baseball, check out the list I made last year of baseball presents for kids. It includes classic games like Strat-o-Matic, Fathead decals, and books by authors such as Cal Ripken, Jr., David A. Kelly, and Dan Gutman.
Also, remember to check out my Black Friday Giveaways post and
@MattsBats on Twitter to win some of the items mentioned in this post!
And if you still can’t find anything, or you want some ideas for gifts that are not baseball-related, here are a couple of good lists that I found:
I hope that everyone has a happy Thanksgiving! Take time to remember the reason for the holiday and be thankful for the things you have in your life that are special and important to you. Then, when you sit down to eat your Thanksgiving meal, pretend that the turkey is the Braves. Then eat it!
Do you miss baseball? So do I. Lets relive the Washington Nationals‘ best moments of 2014 with this post. I included video embedded below. You may not be able to see them if you are reading this in an email, so make sure you visit MattsBats.com.
10. March 31: Extraordinary Opener
The Nationals started the season with promise. After Stephen Strasburg gave up 4 runs over six innings of work, the Nats rallied back and tied the game at 5 at the end of 9. In the tenth, the Nats scored four to eventually win the game, 9-7.
9. July 20:Walk-Off Winners
On July 20, the Nationals took on the Milwaukee Brewers. Going into the 9th, the Nationals had a 4-3 lead until Rickie Weeks singled in Logan Schafer to tie it. When Jayson Werth hit a ground ball down the line with Anthony Rendon on first, third base coach B0b Henley windmilled Rendon home, winning the game. Henley saw left fielder Khris Davis double-pump before throwing the ball in, and it gave Henley the idea to send him home.
8. September 3: Astounding Adam
September 3rd was a very interesting baseball game. There were no runs scored until the 7th inning, when utility guy Dodgers Justin Turner demolished a pitch to center field. Adam LaRoche, who was sitting out the game because he was sick and injured, came in to pinch hit in the 9th, and actually drove a Kenley Jansen pitch over the left field wall and slowly trot around the bases. He had tied the game. Denard Span singled in a run to make it a 3-2 game, and in the 9th, with a chance to win it, Jayson Werth missed to catch Justin Turner’s fly ball that would have ended the game to score a run. In the 10th, Craig Stammen and Aaron Barrett split to leave the bases loaded, same with Jerry Blevins in the 11th. LaRoche singled in two in the 12th, after being hit in the 11th, and the win was taken away when Carl Crawford homered to tie it later that inning. Rochy got his fifth RBI when he drove in a run on a force out, only to be followed by another Asdrubal Cabrera clout. Blake Treinen closed it out in the 14th, to end a crazed day for everyone.
7. June 24/25: Sweet Sixteen
I hope that you went to bed early on June 23. The next day, blanks filled the Miller Park scoreboard in a game that took two days to complete. Jayson Werth got the first run scored in the 1st, surprisingly, and only until the 5th was another run scored. Ryan Braun singled in two to be (eventually) the last runs Milwaukee scored. Anthony Rendon proved himself clutch in the 8th, with a home run that tied the game at 2. We then waited a day to see the outcome. Ryan Zimmerman finally took a Mike Fiers pitch and homered into left field. That took care of the drowsy Brewers, who wasted five hours to see their team lose.
6. October 4: Phenomenal Postseason Pitching
On October 4, the Nationals came off a loss to the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. They took a lead early, making it 1-0 for most of the game. But the spotlight of that game was Jordan Zimmermann. Coming off his no-hitter on September 28, Zimmermann hadn’t missed a beat in the game. Jordan had enough to go the distance, until Matt Williams pulled Zim after 8 2/3 innings of work, and Drew Storen gave up a RBI single to Pablo Sandoval and the rest, they say, is history. The Nats lost the game in 18 innings, the longest post-season game in history. This is also the only Nationals loss to make my Top 10 list.
5. April 9/10: Double Trouble
On April 9 and 10, the Nationals played the Miami Marlins. And when they needed it, both Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond came up big. They both hit a grand slam to help the Nats win. On the 9th, Jayson homered to help the Nats come from behind against the fish, and Ian added insurance to take it from a 2-run game to a 6-run game.
4. August 24: Comeback Columbidae
A wild win for the Nats against the Giants on August 24th because of the Rally Pigeon. Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, and Bryce Harper all hit home runs to help the Nats. The Rally Pigeon stood on the field to help the Nationals win. The Nationals came back in the 6th from an early deficit. Columbidae is the species of bird pigeons come from. Thanks to my 7-year old brother for helping my write this one!
3. August 12-August 21: Double-Digit Doozy
From August 12 to August 21, the Nationals went on a tear, beating the Mets, Pirates, and Diamondbacks. It all added up to three sweeps and one 10-game win streak– tied for the longest streak in Nationals history. The Nats had walk-offs galore to help them take ten, highlighted by Jordan Pacheco’s error in the last game against the Diamondbacks.
2. September 16: Clincher Climax
September 16. One year before, the Nats were set to play the Braves until the Navy Yard shooting incident occurred. The game was canceled, and there was a doubleheader the next day. A year later, in 2014, the Nats were in Atlanta this time, on the verge of clinching the National League East division title. Ian Desmond absolutely teed off Aaron Harang in the 6th, to give the Nats a 2-0 lead. In the 9th, Nats now leading 3-0, Drew Storen got Justin Upton to ground out to Asdrubal Cabrera and the Nats were NL East winners.
1. September 28: A Fantastic Finish
If this isn’t number 1, what is? At the beginning of play on September 28, F.P. Santangelo said that he would like the Nats to be 96-66 rather than 95-67 because it is easy to remember. Not only is it easy to remember, but starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann did more than that. In the 2nd inning, Ian Desmond unloaded for his last regular season home run. Zimmermann had a perfect game through the 5th, until 1st baseman Justin Bour walked. Zimmermann also surrendered a dropped third strike baserunner, until Wilson Ramos picked him off. In the 9th, Steven Souza made an unbelievable catch to finish off a no-hitter by Zimmermann, first in the Nationals history and the first in the Nationals/Expos franchise since 1981.
Have any other memorable moments? Tweet them to me @MattsBats!
The new Microsoft store at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, MD is celebrating its grand opening on Saturday, November 22 (next Saturday) with an event that no Washington Nationals baseball fan will want to miss. Nationals star pitcher Stephen Strasburg will be there to play Xbox One with 200 guests!
I am so excited because the people from Microsoft invited me to meet to Stephen and try out the new Xbox One with him at the event. Stephen has been known to be a very serious gamer and he brings his system on the road with him during the baseball season. He plays games against his Nationals teammates and friends across the league. So whether he beats me or not, how cool is it to tell all your friends that you played video games with an All-Star pitcher from your favorite baseball team?
This is the Stephen Strasburg’s only appearance where you will get a chance to play video games with him. Fans will get a picture and an autograph, but the main event is getting to play Xbox One with him. I am so incredibly excited for this event. I have been practicing my Xbox skills to prepare.
You can get all the details about the event at this link, but here’s the main information you need to know:
- The Microsoft Store opens at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 22, 2014. The first 200 people in line will receive one free meet and greet ticket for the Xbox One event.
- The event with Stephen Strasburg begins at 2:00 p.m. for people who have tickets and will go until about 4:00p.m.
- Since so many people will want to play Xbox with Stephen, Microsoft is letting die-hard fans camp out at the mall overnight beginning at 10:00p.m. on Friday, November 21 at the California Pizza Kitchen entrance. They have promised some cool giveaways at the event, including really special things for the people who camp out or arrive super-early.
- Even if you don’t get a ticket to play Xbox One with Stephen, don’t worry. Microsoft is giving away gift cards to the Microsoft Store to the first 500 people in line for the grand opening, ranging from $10 to $1,000. 100 of these gift cards will be worth $100 or more!
- There are also going to be door-buster sales. Anybody who comes will be able to buy a Toshiba Encore 2 8-inch 32GB tablet or an Xbox 360 4GB for $99.
People say that Microsoft puts on amazing events for their store grand openings, and this year they have gotten some pretty big-time athletes to open up their stores across the country. For example, Stephen Strasburg is opening the Bethesda store, Shaquille O’Neal is opening a store this week outside New Orleans, and Jose Altuve opened a store near Houston. They’ve even brought out musicians like Kelly Clarkson and Macklemore to play concerts at some of their grand openings. You know it is going be a really cool event they are putting on for the Westfield Montgomery Mall store!
Since the event is mostly geared for fans, there won’t be a lot of press coverage. So I will be sure to take lots of pictures and tweet them on @MattsBats. Be sure to read my post about it at MattsBats.com after the event, including how I did playing against him.
Make sure you check out the Microsoft Store’s Facebook page for all the information you need about the event next Saturday.
On Wednesday, November 5, I attended the second annual Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. This year’s recipients were Tommy Lasorda, Hall of Fame manager of the L.A. Dodgers; Nick Swisher, MLB First Baseman, Outfielder, and Designated Hitter from the Cleveland Indians; and Senior Chief Petty Officer Carl Thompson of the U.S. Navy. It was so exciting to be there again this year (also be sure to check out last year’s post).
The Act of Valor Award honors Bob Feller, a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Cleveland Indians from 1936 to 1956. Feller threw no-hitters in 3 different years, including the only no-hitter ever thrown on Opening Day. “Rapid Robert” Feller was also called “The Heater from Van Meter” after his hometown of Van Meter, Iowa because he threw some of the fastest fastballs in baseball history. He pitched 3,287 innings, threw 44 shutouts, and rang up 2,581 strike outs in his career, which was interrupted by serving 3 years as a gun captain on the U.S.S. Alabama in the Navy during World War II.
Feller was the first American professional athlete to enlist in the military after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He enrolled just one day after the attack. His service inspired other pro baseball players like Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and Hank Greenberg to serve their country.
The Act of Valor Award is given out to three people who share the characteristics of Bob Feller: an active MLB player, a member of the Navy, and a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Award winners are selected because they are dedicated to serving our country and share the values and integrity of Bob Feller. Among the award presenters this year were Peter Fertig, founder of the Act of Valor Foundation, along with other VIP guests such as Mrs. Anne Feller, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, , retired four star admiral Hank Chiles, and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens, who is the most senior enlisted member of the Navy.
Tommy Lasorda is the Hall of Fame former manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has been with the Dodgers organization for 66 years. Lasorda managed the Dodgers from 1976 to 1996. He won two World Series in 1981 and 1988, and his number 2 is retired at Dodger Stadium. Before becoming a manager, he was a left handed pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Kansas City Athletics. He also managed the 2000 U.S. Olympic baseball team, and won the gold medal. Lasorda was honored for his military service in the United States Army during World War II.
Nick Swisher is a current first baseman/left fielder/designated hitter for the Cleveland Indians. He previously played for the Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox, and New York Yankees. Swisher was honored for his participation on USO tours and Operation Homefront, and his own charity, Swish’s Wishes (now known as the Swisher Family Foundation). Swisher and his wife, actress Joanna Garcia, visited troops at forward operating bases in Afghanistan during their honeymoon. Nick was a member of the 2009 World Series Champion Yankees and was selected as an All-Star in 2010. He is the son of former major leaguer Steve Swisher.
Sr. Chief Petty Officer Carl Thompson is and Engineer Laboratory Technician in the United States Navy serving the aircraft carriers U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and his current ship, the U.S.S. George Washington. In 2012, he served in Djibouti as the Command Security Manager for Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. Senior Chief Thompson is active in volunteering in community service in the places he is stationed. He lives now with his wife and 2 kids in Yokosuka, Japan, where he traveled from to win the Act of Valor Award. He has won the Joint Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, and Good Conduct Medal. He is a native of Custer, South Dakota.
The other MLB nominees for the Award were Oakland Athletics closer Sean Doolittle, Miami Marlins Pitcher Mike Dunn, Colorado Rockies OF/1B Michael Cuddyer, Milwaukee Brewers C Jonathan Lucroy (finalist), Cincinnati Reds OF Jay Bruce, Boston Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia (finalist), Baltimore Orioles P Darren O’Day, Pittsburgh Pirates P Charlie Morton (finalist), Arizona Diamondbacks P Brad Ziegler (finalist), Kansas City Royals DH Billy Butler, and Washington Nationals 1B Adam LaRoche (finalist). They were honored in a slideshow at the ceremony, and each received a quilt during the regular season from Quilts of Honor.
People told great stories about Bob Feller and the great things the winners of the award did. In fact, when Tommy Lasorda came up to accept his award, he said, “after hearing that introduction, I thought I had died.”
Indians Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, Bob DiBiasio, talked a lot about Bob Feller’s achievements. Feller is the only baseball player ever to pitch a no-hitter on Opening Day. He told a story about Opening Day 1994, when the Indians were getting no-hit by Randy Johnson. Feller, who was in attendance at the game, stormed into the broadcast booth to go on the air with ESPN announcer Chris Berman in the 8th inning to start talking about his accomplishment in 1940 to try to jinx Johnson’s no-hit bid. Just when he and Berman started to talk about it, Sandy Alomar, Jr. singled into right field. Feller returned to the press box to a round of applause.
The Honorable Ray Mabus spoke next. He said that he was supposed to throw out the first pitch at Nats Park in Game 5 of the 2014 NLDS, so he was mad at the Giants fans in the house whose team took that opportunity away from him. He told about Nick Swisher’s one major league relief appearance. The Yankees were down 15-5 in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. They had used up all their pitchers, after Chien-Ming Wang only went about an inning. They called in Swisher, who threw a scoreless inning and clocked a 78-MPH fastball. The last time Swisher pitched, he said, was in high school. Still, he now has a lifetime major league 0.00 ERA. Mabus also spoke about Sr. Chief Petty Officer Carl Thompson. While stationed in Djibouti, he spent time teaching English to the local citizens.
When Nick Swisher took the stage to accept his award, he was so thankful. He said the reason he helped the military is because his grandfather was in the army. I was able to speak to Swisher a little more about his volunteer projects, what it meant to him to win the award and other topics. Click on the short video below to see part of our interview.
It was then Carl Thompson’s turn. He was so glad to be honored in front of his mother and father from South Dakota, as well as his wife and kids. His kids were asleep during most of the ceremony because they came in from Japan and were still on Japanese time. After the ceremony, I asked Senior Chief Thompson what it was like to be honored alongside Lasorda and Swisher, and he told me, “it’s truly a great honor. I am very proud and happy to be recognized in the same context as them for all the service they’ve done for their country, as well as the troops when they visit the all the forward deployed bases and troops. It is a great honor.”
Finally, the last speaker of the night was the hilarious Tommy Lasorda. He spent a lot of time telling jokes and about funny experiences coaching players Steve Sax. There were a couple of funny stories about players missing bunt and steal signs. You should take a few minutes to watch his whole speech here: http://dodgers.mlblogs.com/2014/11/06/video-tommy-lasorda-accepts-bob-feller-act-of-valor-award/. Even though he his 87 years old and has been married for 65 years, you can tell that Lasorda still loves baseball. He said that his wife accused him of loving baseball more than her, and Lasorda replied, “Yes, but I love you more than football or basketball.”
You can also tell that Lasorda loves his county and the people who serve in the military. “I don’t care if you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. You need to pull for the armed forces,” he said during his speech. He also talked about how he cried at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, when the national anthem played after he won the Olympic gold medal. He said that when he won the World Series for L.A., no one really cared in San Diego or especially in San Francisco. But when he won the Olympic gold, it was a celebration for all Americans.
I also got a few minutes to interview Lasorda, my first interview with a baseball Hall of Famer. I asked him what it felt like to be given the award named after Bob Feller. “I’m honored. As a great player I looked up to, Bob Feller was my hero when I was a youngster. To receive that award, I am very, very fortunate. . . . There are so many other people who could have gotten this award, so for them to select me to receive it, I’m very, very appreciative and it’s a blessing for me to be able to get the Bob Feller award.” He told me that Feller, along with Lou Gerhig, was his favorite baseball player growing up. When I asked him how his military service affected his life, he said, “it made me a better man to serve two years for my country.” Finally, I asked him what lessons baseball taught him. “It taught me how to be respectful and how to be energetic. It taught me when I put that uniform on to give it 100%. It made me realize that I was fortunate enough to be to be playing professional baseball and that I was fortunate to be able to do that.” At the end of the interview, Lasorda told me, “you did a good job,” which is a compliment that I will always remember coming from him.
Check out a few more pictures from the event:
As this week we celebrate Veterans Day, I dedicate this post to the service men and women who risked their lives and made personal sacrifices. Thank you for your generosity to the country. Learn more about the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award at http://www.actofvaloraward.org/
Now that the 2014 MLB season is over, the hot stove is going to start to warm up and people will be talking about trades and signings. Some of these things have already happened, like the Cubs signing Joe Maddon to be their manager and the Twins signing Paul Molitor to be theirs. I want to take a look at what the Nationals might do.
In 2014, the Nationals acquired or claimed many players to help progress to eventually clinch the National League East. They have a few players not under contract for next year, and they have already released their options on a few others (and picked up their option on Denard Span!). The biggest ones are Adam LaRoche, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Rafael Soriano. There are also questions about what the Nats will do with Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann, who both have one more year under contract before they become free agents. And there is also a lot of trade talk too. So I am going to look at some of the most talked about Nats players from 2014 and ask: WHERE ARE THEY GOING THIS OFFSEASON?
Now, these are just guesses based on where I think each player would play best. They are not always the most realistic, but sometimes you can never predict trades. Just ask how the Nationals got Doug Fister for Ian Krol and Steve Lombardozzi.
Asdrubal Cabrera– Asdrubal came over in a trade with Cleveland over the mid-season trade deadline. He played shortstop for the Indians, but filled in as the starting second baseman for the Nats. The question is who will be the Nats’ second baseman? Is it Danny Espinosa? Do they re-sign Cabrera? Do they move Rendon back to 2nd and give Zimmerman another shot at 3rd or sign someone like Pablo Sandoval to play 3rd? Do they acquire a second baseman like Brandon Hicks, Emilio Bonifacio, or Kelly Johnson? My guess is that Cabrera is probably leaving DC. He was an excellent second baseman, but he is also the best free agent short stop. Maybe the Yankees, who will be suffering from the retirement of Derek Jeter. Let me say this: I like Cabrera’s bat, as he is a good, doubles or triples hitter. Cleveland and Washington have fairly smaller ballparks, and with above average speed, he could get some big hits in some ballparks. That’s why I am thinking he might be good in a place like Miami. The Marlins are in the middle of a rebuilding process, and with a ballpark that could fit 3 blue whales, it would be an ideal ballpark for Cabrera to call home. They’ve got a nice shortstop in the making in Adeiny Hechavarria, but they could move Donovan Solano to the bench and have Cabrera at 2nd. San Diego would also be a spot if Everth Cabrera or Jedd Gyorko were not at 2nd and short, and so would AT&T Park. He needs to be in a big ballpark to succeed, so Cabrera would fit perfectly in Miami. It would be great for him to come back to Washington, too.
Rafael Soriano– His status in DC was very controversial, and the Nats have already decided not to give him an offer for next year. The era of the “Soriano Save”– where he almost gives you a heart attack by putting the game on the line– is over. He played excellent baseball in the first half of the 2014 season, but the second half was a disaster. He lost his closing job to Drew Storen down the stretch. Still, Rafael showed that he still has pretty good ability, and he definitely makes the games exciting to watch. I think that Rafael could play in a ballpark with smaller gaps, as when he gives up hits he doesn’t give up many home runs. Cincinnati would be absolutely perfect, but there is absolutely no way that will happen since Cincy already has one of the best closers in Aroldis Chapman. But what about as the setup man? Soriano doesn’t pitch as well in non-save situations, but if it meant having a job in the big leagues for 2015, he might be able to do it. Other options: Detroit, which needs relief pitching badly, 0r back to New York. Boston would be good too, but a lazy fly ball in to the outfield there could be a home run easily. Also, San Francisco may be a spot for Rafael, because their closer status is shaky and he pitched well in the NLDS there.
Adam LaRoche– It became clear when the Nats did not pick up LaRoche’s option that next year Ryan Zimmerman would be playing first base. That really wasn’t unexpected. I might have guessed that Adam LaRoche would head to Milwaukee, but the Brewers just announced a trade for Adam Lind in exchange for Marco Estrada. So what’s my next best guess? I think he will find his way up to Minneapolis. Joe Mauer is aging, and if LaRoche can play 1 or 2 seasons up in Minnesota, then he would be a good age for him to retire. Another option would be Miami but Justin Bour is a future star there.
Matt Thornton– One simple word: Toronto. The Blue Jays do not have a true closer, and Thornton has past success as a closer for teams like the Red Sox and the White Sox. He would also good setting up in a place like Detroit, where the ALDS showed that the Tigers’ pen STINKS. They also would need a lefty specialist, and that is exactly what Thornton is. Another team that could use him is the Mariners. But I would think the right place for Matt would be in Toronto.
Nate Schierholtz– One place that would be good for Schierholtz would be Houston. Space City is in the middle of a rebuilding process, and a player like Nate would go perfectly with a team doing something like Houston. Nate does not have overwhelming power, but a team with Matt Dominguez, Chris Carter, Nate, and in the near future Colin Moran and Carlos Correa, the Astros may be the powerhouse of the 2020s. You will have to watch out for Houston and Chicago in future years.
Kevin Frandsen– As much as he proved himself to be a great personality in the clubhouse and an excellent situational hitter off the bench, he may not be coming back to Washington. Frandsen would be perfect hitting baseballs into the Ohio River in Cincy (BTW, has anyone ever hit a baseball into Kentucky at Great American Smallpark?). I also think he’d be a good fit in the Bronx or Boston, where fans would see lots of home runs off the bat of Frandsen. If he doesn’t return to the Capital, who could replace him as a bench and utility player? How about Mike Aviles or former Nat/fan favorite Michael Morse? Morse would be great filling in for Zimmerman at first or LF, and Aviles could be an everyday second baseman or fill in for Desmond. However, keeping Frandsen would give the Nats a lot more options to use him ; he can back up Zimmerman, 2B, Desmond, and Rendon, and also play outfield.
Danny Espinosa– Almost everyone thought Danny would be part of a trade last year. I really like Danny Espinosa as a player, but I’m sorry to say I don’t think Danny will be in Washington for the entire season. I don’t know if Danny himself feels comfortable as a bench player, so he may want to be traded. His defense is always amazing, but if he could just get his hitting down, he would be one of my top picks for the job out of everyone in the league. However, I think the Nats will say that they have given him enough chances already, and I think they will make a signing this offseason for a new starting second baseman. Again, watch out for Mike Aviles going to DC or maybe a Kelly Johnson or Brandon Hicks. Asdrubal Cabrera made a lot of fans in DC this year at 2B, but I think he will get a better offer from another club looking for a short stop. Other options are Jed Lowrie from the A’s, Didi Gregorious from the from the D’backs, or Daniel Murphy from the Mets. Danny may not be going anywhere- should the Nats fail to acquire a 2B, I am guessing that he and Will Rhymes will battle for the spot on Opening Day. I think Danny will start but the Nats will acquire a 2B while the season moves into the playoff hunt.
Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond– Two of the biggest questions are whether the Nats will sign long-term contract extensions with Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond. Both have been amazing players. Zimmermann threw the Nationals’ first no-hitter in the last game of the 2014 season, and Ian Desmond went 20/20 again this year. I think Zimmermann will sign a long-term contract extension. Pitching is not really a problem for the Nationals, but both Jaime Garcia and Jeremy Guthrie will be on the market in 2015 if they don’t sign extensions. Having either of these veterans would be great additions for this ballclub. If Zimmermann signed a 5-year deal, he would only be 33 by the time his contract expires. It is a little controversial, but the Nats could trade Zimmermann this offseason. He is coming off one of his best seasons and only has 1 year left on his contract, so if they got someone good in return, it may be worth it. Desi, however is more likely to resign with the Nationals. The Nats don’t have a lot of depth in their middle infield positions, and Desmond is the rare Golden Glove and Silver Slugger at short stop. He should get an extension because he is harder to replace. Plus, Ian Desmond has done so much for our community, and is so nice, that seeing him put on a Tigers or Astros jersey would seem wrong– like a 3-dollar bill or the Braves winning the World Series.
The free agent market is ready to be exploding. The Winter Meetings are at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront between December 7 and 11, and lots of very important trades. Be ready- I’ll be writing about most free agent pickups and trades. Speaking of which…..
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned with some amazing posts coming up. For example, I will be attending the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award ceremony tomorrow and telling you about an exciting opportunity to play a game against a Nationals All-Star.
Only about 150 Days until Opening Day!
Yesterday, November 2, was the annual Breathe Deep DC event on the National Mall to raise money and awareness for lung cancer, sponsored by the lung cancer charity LUNGevity. This is the event I raised money for last year and this year because my grandfather died of lung cancer. Lung Cancer is the leading cancer killer in the US, but it is the least funded type of cancer. It kills twice as many women than breast cancer does.
It was very windy and cold morning but it was great to see fourteen people that took time out of their Sunday morning to be part of Team Matt’s Bats to walk to help find a cure for this terrible disease. I walked the entire 5K even though it was so cold and the wind was blowing so hard that it made it hard to carry my sign.
My team was pretty big this year. More than a dozen people came out on Sunday and walked with my family, and there were many, many others who donated money online. I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to them too!
So how did I do at my fundraising? I set my goal this year to raise $5,000. Last year, I raised an amazing amount– over $11,000! So far, I am just under $5,000 this year: $4,684. That is still a huge amount of money! I want to thank each and every last person who donated. Even though the walk is over, you can help me finish my goal by donating here.
The event itself raised about $250,000! Over the past 6 years, Breathe Deep DC has raised over $1.5 million! I am glad that I have been able to be a part of it.
I promised to give away a Tyler Clippard bobblehead to my supporters who donate. I am sending an email to the person who won, and I will announce the winner on Twitter when I do.
Take a look at some of the pictures:
— Karen Loss (@cancertrek) November 2, 2014
— Jen Underwood (@vandygirl1998) November 2, 2014