November 2008

#7–Last Hurrah

Hello out there again and for the last time from Arizona.  The Arizona Fall League season has only one game remaining, so I think you all know what that means: season in review time.  Thankfully for myself and my teammates I get to do this now rather than two weeks ago when the review probably would have read something like this:

frowny face.jpg 


As it stands now I think that on the whole most of us are still extremely disappointed in our individual and team performance overall, but mercifully we’ve been playing much better lately (8-7 in our last 15 games).  Then again, there was really nowhere to go but up at that point, what with being 4-18 and having lost 10 consecutive games and all, but improvement is improvement and we’ll take it.  My personal performance here mirrored my regular season in having a rather dreadful start followed by improved play at the end once I ironed out a few things, so hopefully I can carry that into the offseason (I hear that there are a lot fewer runs scored in the Minnesota Winter-break League).  The off-field experience has been great.  I enjoyed getting out and seeing a bit of the area and hopefully I’ll be able to take in a bit more of it when I’m back out here for spring training in March.  By that time hopefully the people of Arizona will have realized that they can call radio stations to request songs other than “Mrs. Officer” but you never can tell.  Living with Chuck Lofgren and Erik “Rick” Stiller has been great as well and thanks to these two jokesters I think I acquired at least half a dozen new nicknames, but I guess that’s the price I’ll have to pay.  Thanks for surfing over and stopping by and that about does it for me from Arizona.

#6–The Rafters’ Last Sigh

Well, it is official:  with our latest effort (a 16-4 drubbing at the hands of Mesa) we have been eliminated from playoff contention.  Actually, when you consider that at one point we were 4-17 and had lost ten games in a row it is mildly impressive that we managed to stave off elimination as long as we did, but obviously disappointing nonetheless.  Today’s game encapsulates our season pretty well.  There were a couple errors and the concomitant unearned runs, several home runs allowed and a paucity of hits.  I managed to get 2.1 quality innings in but also gave up a solo home run, which pretty much typifies the up and down nature of my fall league experience thus far.

Now that the season is winding down, I’m sure the question on everybody’s mind is “what are you going to be doing now that you can’t ride buses, shag batting practice and all the other things you ‘love’ doing during the year?”  Interesting I should have you ask, because I have the answers right here for you.  In the short term I plan on starting out with a bang by getting back up to Fargo for the North Dakota State v. South Dakota State football game:  the battle for the Dakota Marker Trophy.  I haven’t been to a game at the Fargo Dome in a while and I’m really looking forward to it, but unfortunately it means leaving for Fargo about two hours after I step off a plane from Arizona.  Oh well, I’ll deal.  In the longer term I’m going to be living back in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and trying to strike a balance between recuperating from a long season and getting ready for next year, which can be hard.  At this point of the year the motivation to lift and workout is pretty low but obviously it has to get done so it usually does..  I’ll be heading to Cleveland in January for three weeks for the winter development program which should be a good chance to work with some of the major league staff.  Other than that, I’ll just be trying to enjoy not having to shag bp, catching up with old friends and looking forward to kicking off spring training at our new facility in Arizona.

That’s all for this week, but stay tuned as I’ll be back with another couple installments to let you know how everything wraps up out here and whatever else comes to mind.

“Guest Blogger :Chuck Lofgren”

images23 yeee.jpgA Note on the Personal Side of Chuck Lofgren

   I am a 22-year old professional baseball player who was drafted out of Junipero Serra High School in 2004.  My main goal in life is to get to the major leagues where I would like to enjoy a long career as a pitcher. I am also attending the University of Phoenix where I have obtained my AA degree and I am currently working on my Bachelor’s degree.  My second goal is to obtain a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice within the next two years.
I’ve always enjoyed playing baseball from the time I was seven years old. I played on several All-Star and travel teams when I was young and when I was 15 years old, I was chosen to play on the USA baseball team representing the United States in Vera Cruz, Mexico. We won the gold medal and many of the players who were on my team are now playing for various teams in the major leagues. I went on to play for the USA baseball team in Venezuela when I was 16 years old and in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles when I was 17 years old. I was a two-way player on each of these teams because in addition to pitching, I was also a good hitter.
When I was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2004, my contract was expanded so that I was allowed to pitch and hit. Unfortunately a collision at home plate ended my hitting career abruptly because the Indians did not want me to get injured hitting if they ultimately see me as a pitcher.
I have spent four full seasons in the minor leagues working my way up from Rookie ball to Double/Triple A in 2007 and 2008. I attended major league Spring Training the last two years and became familiar with all the aspects and responsibilities of a professional baseball career.  I am currently participating in the Arizona Fall league where I am playing for the Surprise Rafters. The Arizona Fall League is an exciting competitive program. I’m very happy that I was chosen to participate because, after struggling through the regular season in 2008, I believe I have begun to correct the mechanical and personal issues that have plagued me for the past year and a half.  Although I have not produced a good statistical record in the fall league, I believe I have made great strides in commanding of my fastball and I’ve been able to get ahead of batters in the count in recent games. I’m working diligently to perfect my pitching skills and get back to where I was at the previous years. 
I know I have the confidence and the ability to become a talented major league pitcher in the future.  I have an extremely competitive spirit that burns inside of me and drives me to be a winner. Nothing can stop the hunger I have to reach my dream in being a major league ball player.
While in Arizona, I am living at my house with Neil Wagner and Erik Stiller who are also teammates with the Cleveland Indians. They are both very intelligent, talented ball players who have a bright future ahead of them. We have enjoyed our time together and getting to know each other on a personal basis. We spent time with my parents when we first arrived in September and we were spoiled by my mom’s home cooking for the first two weeks we were here. We’ve been attending our games every day and working out at the gym, running, playing video games and going to movies in our spare time. My parents will be returning next week for the balance of the fall league season and we are all looking forward to more of mom’s good home cooking.
The weather in Arizona at this time is terrific and quite conducive for playing games during the afternoon or in the evening. I’m looking forward to Spring Training at our new stadium in Goodyear, Arizona this spring. I feel very confident this upcoming year will be a good one for myself and let me achieve my goals I have worked towards my entire life.

#5–There and Back Again

Hello again.  Well, I hate to say I told you so but the Surprise Rafters have begun to turn things around on a small scale.  We’ve won three of our last four games and have been playing better overall in all three phases of the game.  To be fair, we are still 7-18 and the “magic number” that eliminates us from playoff contention is six with only 25 games played in a 38 game season, but…small steps.  I have still been pitching in frustratingly close proximity to success but I feel like I’ve thrown the ball well the last couple times out so I guess I’ll just have to hang in there.

I’ve had a reasonably interesting week since the last time I checked in.  I finally got off my duff and got out around the area a little bit over the weekend.  The first place I went was the Boyce Thompson Arboretum about an hour from where I’m staying in Mesa.  The arboretum is run by the University of Arizona and consists of 320 acres of various plants and demonstration gardens.  While it was definitely different than any previous arboretum I have been to up in Minnesota where we actually have water (the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is absolutely gorgeous), there were some beautiful views and landscape arrangements that made the drive and the walking in the heat well worth it.  I also took in the Phoenix Zoo over the weekend, which was enjoyable as well.  As zoos go it was not overly large and we had the misfortune to be there on a hot day when most of the animals were lounging around trying to beat the heat and several others were off exhibit for various reasons, but overall a nice experience.

Other than my two little excursions, the bulk of my excitement has come from trying to put a dent in The World Without End and watching coverage of the recent election.  I was extremely happy to see Barack Obama win, but I was definitely in the minority on our team, as an approximate electoral map of the Surprise Rafters would look something like this:

While I was certainly happy to see that Barack won the presidency, I was almost as happy about my fellow Minnesotans passing an initiative to provide additional funds for conservation, parks and trails, and the arts.  Minnesotans were denied another ridiculous political figure, however, when comedian and former Saturday Night Live contributor Al Franken was defeated in a U.S. Senate race.  Well, I think that’s about all I have for you today but check back next week for another update and whatever else I decide to prattle on about.