Tuesday, August 16, 2011
The LL Chronicles #11: 2011 Rookies Red Sox Scouting Report
This past Saturday, I signed up my son Jalen for our Little League district's fall season. But, I can't move on to the next season without one last look at the previous season. These are YOUR Spring 2011 Rookies Red Sox, y'all.
Starting first row, far left
Andrew: One of our best three players on the team, despite his consistent ability to drive his coaches crazy. Personally, I could look past his unusually steady stream of groundouts to first base. (Early in the season, over a three-game stretch, he grounded out to first ten straight times.) I could not, however, accept the way he wore his baseball pants. Here is a facsimile image of Andrew standing on base. And, here is a reenactment of a dugout conversation that might've happened between Andrew and one of his teammates. MLB Equivalent -- Denton True Young
Robert: Previously, I've coached kids who've never played baseball before. After our first practice, I wasn't sure if Robert had ever heard of the word. I gave him one of Jalen's old aluminum bats after he showed up carrying the equivalent of... this.* All season long, his two-step pregame tradition was (1) examine the lineup card and (2) ask me, "Coach, where's centerfield (or shortstop or right field or second base, etc.) again?" While his swing had all the fluidity of a steel chair shot, I worked with him -- apart from the other kids -- before games and he turned himself into a decent little player. MLB Equivalent -- Michael Jordan
* -- Engraved, personalized novelty baseball bats were part of the gifts I gave the groomsmen in my wedding party. Mrs. Bootleg gave her bridesmaids cold and impersonal bracelets from Tiffany's. I think we know who won THIS marital round. Am I right, fellas?
Steven: The ubiquitous back-handed academic compliment ("If he only applied himself more.") is appropriate here. He was easily our team's best hitter, but was maddeningly disinterested in every other aspect of the game. His lethargic practice habits were positively Iversonian. On defense, he often played with his hands behind his back and reacted to positioning suggestions from the coaches with a dismissive, disdainful roll of his eyes. And, while he was never appropriately admonished (save for a bad-hop groundball that popped him in the face), I think the coaches and I taught him a valuable life lesson. MLB Equivalent -- Manny Ramirez
Jack: My favorite non-Jalen player on the team and one of the most incessantly pleasant little boys I've ever known. During our very first practice, he ran right up to Jalen and declared, "We have the same haircut! We look exactly alike!" (All season long, the two of them periodically rubbed each other's heads while waiting their turn to bat.) I rooted for him to reach base -- knowing he'd blithely ignore my instructions as the first base coach -- just to hear how he'd respond to me. Once, after I explained the whole "two outs, run on anything" concept, Jack replied, "Did I tell you we got a goldfish? I named him 'Milo'!" And, while his teammates gulped bottles of water and sports drinks in the dugout; Jack politely sipped Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccinos. Every game. MLB Equivalent -- Nick Swisher
Starting second row, far left
Joseph: For most of the season, he swung the bat with a pronounced downward thrust -- as if he were wielding a sledgehammer. We'd literally have to coach him from pitch-to-pitch on making level contact. Watching him run the bases is one of my favorite memories, as Joseph owned the longest, skinniest legs on the team. This artist's rendering isn't far off. Quiet and respectful, his commendable attitude was a Little League coaches' dream. And, at our end-of-season pizza party, he wore a child-sized hat identical to this one. What's not to love? MLB Equivalent -- 1986 Barry Bonds
Danica: The only girl in our entire district -- at any level. With the possible exception of her pink batting helmet, she carried herself like an established Major League player. For example, her batting stance was a perfect replication of longtime Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell. And, sometimes, she was...uh, "emotional". Like, Carlos Zambrano emotional. She cried when she struck out...or grounded out...or popped out...or was forced out on the basepaths. From time to time, her tears turned into an absolute meltdown. I mean, when Jalen is playing the role of consoling teammate... Still, she was better than a LOT of the boys she played against. And, much more watchable than those embarrassing baseball scenes in A League of Their Own.** MLB Equivalent -- Milton Bradley
** -- It's been nearly 20 years since its theatrical release. When will it be OK for America to admit this wasn't a good film? If I can't convince you that Field of Dreams was meandering pap, then I'll refocus my retroactive critical campaign to A League of Their Own.
Johnny: His swing began in the very back of the batter's box. As the pitch approached, he'd take the equivalent of a "walking start" towards the ball before swinging from his heels. Wondering if I have a YouTube reenactment queued up? Wonder no more.*** Johnny was also good for one or two inexplicable snits per game. For reasons that were only occasionally explained, he'd go to the end of the dugout bench and bury his head inside his batting helmet -- refusing to bat or play the field. When he did play, he was a crowd-pleasing kamikaze. He dove for EVERY groundball or fly ball hit in his vicinity. During warm-ups for a 9:00 AM Saturday morning start, he was sopping wet after unleashing his act on top of the dewy grass for 45 minutes. MLB Equivalent -- Eric Byrnes
*** -- I was at this taping of Monday Night Raw from the San Diego Sports Arena in May 1999. Half of the broken "bat" landed one row in front of me. It was clearly painted Styrofoam. I thought you should know.
Brandon: The best athlete on the team, he had two excruciating tics that -- at times -- overshadowed his physical skills. Brandon would not bat until he slipped on his batting gloves. Actually, "slipped on" implies that he did this quickly. He did not. He needed at least a two-batters-ahead-of-him warning from the coaches to start putting his batting gloves on. We lived in constant fear of Brandon leading off an inning. And, after each pitch, he'd fiddle with his gloves (Velcro strap on, Velcro strap off, make a fist, fan out fingers) even more. When he swung, he'd fall into these odd funks in which he'd stop the bat just as it crossed the plate. He led all of Little League -- worldwide -- in check-swing infield singles. Look it up. MLB Equivalent -- Nomar Garciaparra
Peter: He had the prettiest swing on the team...and, yes, he was the only left-handed hitter in our lineup. Peter joined Steven and Jalen as the Red Sox representatives on the All Star team. His two huge defensive plays at second base in the bottom of the final inning preserved the win for the East All Stars. I...might've already covered that. On Opening Day, Peter's mouth was the unfortunate recipient of an errant warm-up toss from Jalen. He played the entire game with a grotesquely swollen and bloodied bottom lip. But, his teammates will most remember the night Peter's parents brought sacks and sacks of McDonald's for the postgame "snack". Judging by the delirious enthusiasm, it was obvious their immature palates had not yet rejected McDonald's off-tasting, meat-flavored discs. They will, children. They will. MLB Equivalent -- Chase Utley
Nash: Never listened to the coaches. Never moved on defense. Terrified of the thrown or batted ball. His exasperated mother would sometimes parrot the coaches' instructions from the bleachers as Nash struck a statuesque pose in centerfield. He could hit a little and did contribute with the bat from time to time, but that's really all I've got on him. Oh, wait...one more thing. He'd come to the games absolutely slathered in sunblock -- most noticeably on his face. I can't lie. I thought of this celebrity lookalike six months ago and I've been DYING to use it in this annual post ever since. MLB Equivalent -- Derek Bell
Thanks for a wonderful season, Red Sox.