This will the last time that I post a blog entry about my experience in the Arizona Fall League. The offseason will hopefully begin on Sunday, which would mean that the Peoria Saguaros played in the AFL Championship on Saturday. The Fall League has only 3 days of regular season games remaining on the schedule and the top teams from each division meet for a one-game championship on November 22nd. Our record is 24 – 11. We are tied for first place in the American Division with the Mesa Solar Sox and play them at home on Wednesday.
I am extremely excited to get home and see my family and friends. Most of the players out here are starting to get pretty tired right about now. Most of us have been playing baseball for nine months now and it is hard to believe we will be shutting it down in less than a week. I plan to head back to Houston, TX on Sunday and am looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday – a great day of family, food and football. I am definitely thankful for having the opportunity to play in the AFL – it has been a great experience getting to play against this calibur of player for a couple months. I know this experience will help me at some point next year.
I want to thank Jonathan Mayo of mlb.com for selecting me to blog on behalf of the San Diego Padres organization during the Fall League. And I greatly appreciate all all of the readers out there who were interested in hearing about my AFL experience. Your comments were greatly appreciated and I hope to have the opportunity to blog in the future. I will end this blog with a quote that I think all baseball players can relate to:
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Guest Blogger — Mike Baxter
Hey everyone, this is Mike Baxter writing you from sunny Peoria, AZ. I am originally from Queens, NY, so the fact that I am still wearing shorts and t-shirts in late November is pretty amazing. That all comes to an end, though, Sunday when the Fall League ends and I head back to the city for Thanksgiving with my family. It’s been a pretty long year, and the idea of some time off is pretty exciting. I will spend about a week in NY before heading back down to Nashville for the rest of the offseason where I train with some other ballplayers at my old college, Vanderbilt. Nashville has become my offseason home the past few years, and the coaches there have been awesome as they let us all come back and use the facilities throughout the winter. I’m not sure where I would be today without them.
The Fall League has been a great experience as it has given me the opportunity to keep working on my game against some very talented players. I ended up getting more playing time than originally expected, and have been lucky to come across some very knowledgeable people out here. Every morning we show up it’s a certainty that Eck, Jack, and Jimmy Lefebrve (our hitting coaches) will be in the cage ready to get to work, and I have learned a lot from these guys. Hopefully, I can take their lessons into the offseason and keep working on my swing.
Right now the Sags are tied for first place with Mesa as we make our push for the Championship over these next four games. It’s coming down to the wire and keeping each day exciting at the end of a long season. We have got a really great group of guys on this team and everyone is still locked in and ready to play. Hopefully we can pull through and end this year on a great note. Thanks to everyone for following all of us Padres out here, and let me know if you guys have any questions or comments I can answer.
Guest Blogger: Sean Kazmar
My name is Sean Kazmar and I play for the San Diego Padres. I was born in Valdosta, Georgia, but raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. I now live in the West Valley of Arizona. I attended Las Vegas High School where I played shortstop. After high school I went to Southern Nevada Community College for two years where I also played shortstop. While at CCSN we won the Junior College National Championship. One of my prouder moments before making it to pro-ball. After my sophomore year of college I signed to go to the University of Georgia, but instead signed with the Padres. I have been with the Padres organization for going on five years now. This last season I played AA in San Antonio and was called up for the remaining two months of the big league season. After season was over, my next step was to attend the Arizona Fall League. This year in the AFL I was hoping to accomplish a few different things. My main goal was to get some at bats and see more live pitching, while working on my consistency at the plate. My second goal was to learn how to play outfield and get playing time in new positions. With the season coming to an end, I have had a chance to work on both of these goals. I have faced some good pitching and have had the opportunities to work on my swing and my approach at the plate. Each day I feel more and more comfortable playing the role of a utility guy also. This has been the first chance that I have had the opportunity to play outfield, and against this caliber of talent, I feel that it has been coming along very well. With a few weeks to go, I hope to continue working on these skills and I hope to end the season on a good note. I have gotten to know the team and coaching staff well and I have had a great experience so far. I have learned a lot and enjoyed the opportunity to work with different coaching styles from different organizations. The guys on the team have also been great to play with and my experience in the AFL has been memorable.
Week 5 and Still Alive
I am calling this blog entry “Week 5 and Still Alive” for the following reasons:
(1) The Peoria Saguaros currently lead the AFL American Division (Mesa is one game back), so our championship game hopes are still alive and well;
(2) This is the longest season I have ever had – never played baseball in the month of November – but I still feel good and have not yet hit the wall.;
Hope everyone is doing well. I usually post a new blog entry on Mondays during the Fall League, but this week, I waited until today because I did not want to take any attention away from the U.S. Presidential Election 🙂 Tuesday was a historic day in America. Regardless of my personal political beliefs, the election produced a record turnout at the polls and the nation’s voice was heard. I hope that everyone – Republicans, Democrats, whoever – just does their best to work together and do whatever it takes to make the kind of positive changes that both Obama and McCain talked about during the campaign.
Last Friday night was Halloween and I attended the “Ghost Ball,” which was an event in Old Town Scottsdale put together by Steve Levine Entertainment. I know Steve Levine personally – great guy and I definitely appreciate what he does out here. There were a lot of Arizona Fall League guys at the event and everyone seemed to have a really good time. A group of players from the Phoenix Desert Dogs team won “Best Group Costume” – 15 guys dressed up as “The Running of the Bulls” and one player wore a bull costume and chased them around throughout the night. Absolutely hilarious.
My parents will be in Arizona this weekend. I am very excited to see them – always nice to see your family when you have been away from home for a while. They will attend my games on Friday and Saturday and I am sure we will go to dinner both nights and just catch up. I talk to them pretty much every day or two, but it will be very good to see them in person. As you know, baseball is a long season and the support of your family just makes the journey that much easier – my Mom and Dad really know how to help me keep things in perspective when times are tough. Definitely appreciate everything they have done for me and know that I will never be able to fully repay them.
It is hard to believe that we are about to finish Week 5 in the Fall League. After this weekend, we only have one more full week and then four regular season games in Week 7. I hope that our team will be able to maintain our division lead and have the opportunity to play in the AFL Championship Game on Saturday, November 22nd.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and please send any questions or comments.
Rising Stars All-Star Game Recap
I played in the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars Showcase on Friday night at Surprise Stadium. It was a very exciting and intense game. We got off to a good start when we scored four runs in the second inning – Josh Reddick (OF/BOS) and I each hit two-run home runs off Phil Hughes (RHP/NYY) to give our team an early lead. Our starter, Tommy Hanson (RHP/ATL), continued his dominance in the desert – he had seven strikeouts in three scoreless innings. Ultimately, we lost the game 7-6 with the National Division winning on a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the 9th inning. Regardless of the outcome, I enjoyed getting to know more guys from around the league and it was a great overall experience. Thank you to everyone who came out to the game – heard there were close to 3,000 fans in attendance.
Well, we start Week 4 tomorrow. I cannot believe we are almost halfway done with the Fall League. I am really enjoying the AFL and am just going to try to finish the season strong and use the remaining time I have out here to work on my game. This is the most I have ever played in a single year, but I feel good physically and mentally and am in no hurry for the season to end. There will be plenty of time to rest after the Fall League before I start to get ready for spring training. In the off-season, I will live and workout in Houston, TX. Houston is home, my parents and one of my older brothers still live there and several major and minor league players living in or around the area work out together just north of Houston at the Tomball Sports Medicine Center – the program is led by a guy named Dennis Fay and he is great at his job.
Well, that’s about all I have for now. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like for me to talk about anything in particular – ideas are greatly appreciated because even great bloggers like myself (joking) experience writer’s block every now and then.
Week 2 Update
It is hard to believe that we are already heading into week 3 of the Fall League – the saying “time flies when you’re having fun” is definitely true. We are 8 – 3 after two weeks. I have heard that winning is not the number one priority during the AFL, but I feel like our team is approaching each game the same way as the regular season and we are taking pride in being on top of the division. We had one rough game this past week – we took an 18-10 loss at home. But overall, it was a solid week and we are ready to get going in week 3. Additionally, I was excited to learn this weekend that I have been selected to play in the 3rd Arizona Fall League “Rising Stars” Game.
My time out here so far has only furthered my appreciation for the city of Scottsdale and the surrounding areas. I have already had the opportunity to spend a lot of time out here because the San Diego Padres Spring Training facility is in Peoria. It is a great place to be. I really enjoy all the different restaurant choices, the malls (Fashion Square and Kierland Commons) and all of the beautiful golf courses (although I have not had a whole lot of time to get out on the course). This city really has everything you need and the weather at this time of year is phenomenal.
In my last blog entry, I mentioned that one of my older brothers, Royce, played in the 2004 Arizona Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions. One addition to that impressive lineup that I left out is Dustin Pedroia (2B/BOS). He has definitely done a lot of good things since his time in the Fall League. My other older brother, Scott, played football and baseball at Rice University and both he and Royce have had a big impact not only on my career, but on my life in general. I have always looked up to them and I do not believe that I would be the person or player that I am today without their unconditional love and support. They definitely were not afraid to give me tough “brotherly love” at certain times when I was growing up and although it was sometimes hard, I am so glad they did it. We remain close today and I am lucky to have them in my life.
Well, I am now about to finish watching the Red Sox-Rays Game 7 and start getting ready for bed so that I can be fresh for tomorrow’s 12:35 p.m. game. As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will be back with another blog next week.
Guest Blog: Mike Ekstrom
Hey everyone, this is Mike Ekstrom writing to you from the mighty Peoria Saguaros (we’re 8-2 and in 1st place) of the Arizona Fall League. For all of you who aren’t familar with me, I have spent four seasons in the Padres minor leagues and spent this whole season as a member of the San Antonio Missions. This September I made my major league debut with the Padres and made eight appearances for the big club.
So far the AFL has been a lot fun for us. Not only have we been playing well, but it’s a good group of guys, the weather’s awesome, and we have some great coaches.
I must say the game’s seem to be played a little differently in the fall league. In the regular season if you look at a box score and see that seven pitchers threw in the game it might be a red flag that things went badly. In the AFL that’s just another day. It’s pretty nice though to have our set routines and know when we pitch a couple days in advance. Also, maybe you see a team score nine runs in a game once a week in the regular season, here games are routinely 9-7 or 11-6. Today we lost 18-10 for example. Maybe some of the football season is rubbing off in our scores.
One other thing that’s been interesting for us is to see how other organizations go about their business. Our team is made up of Padres, Cardinals, Nationals, White Sox, and Mets. For the most part we all do the same stuff, but everyone has their own fine points that are different. I think it’ll be really helpful to see other ways to do our work and maybe I’ll find something that works better for me. You never know right.
Well that’s about all I got for y’all, hope I could shed a little light on the AFL experience for ya. Thanks for reading, Mike.
First Week in the Fall League
The first week in the 2008 Arizona Fall League is officially in the books and after five games, our team is in first place in the American Division with a 5-0 record. Our success can be attributed to both quality pitching and good hitting. We enter Week 2 with the best team ERA (2.80), the most runs scored (40) and are second in batting average. I know it takes a while for a group of players from different organizations to learn to play together, but we have really come together in a short amount of time and I am already very excited about this team.
We had our first game on Tuesday night at Scottsdale Stadium against the Scottsdale Scorpions. We won the game 9-3 and I hit a solo home run in my first AB – definitely nice that are team started with a win and I was happy to get the first home run under my belt. I played three games in our first week and felt good about my contribution to our team’s early success. It is a little different not playing every day, but it is understandable with the amount of talent that we have on our roster. Even on days when I know that I am not going to play, I come to the ballpark with the same mentality. Each day is an opportunity to get better and I approach my work – batting practice, infield, etc. – with the same mentality regardless of whether my name is penciled into the lineup.
We have completed one week of games out here, but I can definitely say that I am a big fan of the Arizona Fall League. There is a tremendous amount of talent out here and I am grateful for the opportunity play the game against such quality competition. I was somewhat familiar with the AFL because one of my older brothers, Royce, played for the Scottsdale Scorpions in 2004 when he was a member of the Houston Astros organization. He has given me valuable insight on what to expect and tips on how to go about my business so that I can maximize this experience. I was amazed when he told me that his team in 2004 included players such as Russell Martin (C/LAD), James Loney (1B/LAD), Carlos Quentin (OF/CWS), Conor Jackson (IF-OF/ARI), Willy Tavares (OF/COL) and Rickie Weeks (2B/MIL). I will write more about the positive impact Royce and the rest of my family have had on my baseball career in a later blog entry.
Thanks again for your support and I appreciate your comments.
Greetings from Arizona!
Hey, everybody. Chad Huffman here with the San Diego Padres/Peoria Saguros. Since this is my first blog entry, I want to first give you a little background information about myself. I grew up in Missouri City, TX – just outside of Houston. I attended Elkins High School where I played football and baseball. At Elkins, I was teammates with James Loney (first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers). We won back-to-back state championships in 2002 and 2003 as well as the mythical national championship in 2002. After high school, I attended Texas Christian University (TCU) on a football scholarship and played quarterback while also playing baseball.
All we have done is practice during our first week out here in Arizona. The practices have been pretty laid back, which is great for the players because it gives us an opportunity to get to know each other a little better before we start playing games on October 7th. It has been a lot of fun to see so many talented players on the same field. Our coaches are great – they are very approachable and seem very enthusiastic about coaching in the AFL.
One of my first memorable experiences in professional baseball involved our Fall League pitching coach, Wally Whitehurst. I remember walking up to him on the bus and saying, “Hey, I’m Chad Huffman.” He replied, “That’s great, now go sit down.” No hi, my name is Wally or anything – that was it! So I just sat down in my seat on the bus – which had no A/C, by the way – and thought to myself, “so this is what pro ball is all about.” I now actually think that story is pretty hilarious. Wally and I got to know each other pretty well during my time in Eugene, Oregon (Short-Season). Wally is a great coach, an even better guy and I am excited to have the opportunity to work with him during the AFL.
For all the readers out there, if you have questions about anything, just write me a message and I will be more than happy to answer them for you.