Questions for JJ Hardy and Darren O’Day

Earlier this week, I got a chance to interview set-up pitcher Darren O’Day and shortstop J.J Hardy. The Orioles signed Hardy in 2011 and O’Day in 2012. They were very nice and I learned a lot of cool things about them. One interesting thing I learned is that even though JJ Hardy plays shortstop as a professional, he was a actually a pitcher in little league! We all want to be in the majors, but it takes a lot of practice. How much did they practice? “I felt like it was always playing, it was not as much practice.” Hardy said. “When you are a little kid practicing it can be a lot of fun. It was more like goofing around, but practicing at the same time.” Darren O’Day recalled, “I had a square on the wall in my garage and I tried to hit it with a tennis ball. My dad didn’t like it, because it was ruining the garage, and he would have to fix it. But after awhile my dad didn’t care.”

On the day of my interview, it was raining and the players were waiting for the rain to stop. Just like waiting for the rain to end and passing time, I wondered what they like to do in the off season while they’re waiting for baseball to start again. “I have two dogs and they are both with me so they demand a lot of attention. They’re really taking away time from my favorite thing to do which is golfing and fishing.” O’day explained. Hardy said, “I love to fish.”

They play 162 games for the season and half of those are away from Baltimore. What ballparks do the like to play at when they’re not at Camden Yards (Orioles stadium)? “Seattle. It’s the stadium that’s right near the water and it’s totally different than any other place. It’s really pretty and it’s a unique city that I enjoy being in. We enjoy being in Seattle’s clubhouse and love the field.” O’Day claimed. Hardy’s favorite ballpark is PNC Park in Pittsburgh, home of the Pirates. “It was the first MLB stadium that I played in.” Hardy recalled.

I asked the players a unique question. If you had to start a team and pick three players that are not on the O’s who would you choose? “Miguel Cabrera (Tigers third baseman), Justin Verlander (Tigers pitcher) and Yadier Molina (Cardinals catcher)” Hardy said. O’day thought, “Mike Trout (Angles outfielder) Miguel Cabrera and Clayton Kershaw (pitcher for Dodgers).

In the end I had a great interview and loved being with the guys. I hope you learned more about them. Thanks for stopping by and wish the O’s luck in the 2014 season…
Go O’s!

Me and JJ Hardy

Me and JJ Hardy

Me and Darren O'Day

Me and Darren O’Day

Without Machado…now what?

As we all know, third baseman Manny Machado hurt his knee last year against the Tampa Bay Rays. It looked very painful. Everybody is wondering if he will make it to opening day. From everything that I have read, I think he will not make it for opening day.

Is this bad for the O’s? We all want him back, but the Orioles are trying out some good third basemen to fill in his place. I think that Ryan Flahtery will play third just to fill in for Machado even though he is usually a second baseman. If Flahtery does not play second then I think Johnathon Schoop will play at second. Even though Schoop does not have a lot of experience he can hit very well and is always fast on his feet. The Orioles also have second basemen Jamile Weeks and Alexi Cassilla. Cassilla has more experience with the team, so he would be good. Weeks could be a good backup, because he has played in the majors. Weeks played last year with the Oakland Athletics.

We all hope that Manny gets better soon so that the O’s can get there ace defense again. What do you think the starting infield will be on opening day? Let me know and thanks for stopping by! Go O’s!

AL East “Closers” Poll!

My time with Tommy Hunter

One of my favorite things to do at a ball game is to get autographs. My first Oriole autograph was from Tommy Hunter at Tropicana field last year when the Orioles played the Tampa Bay Rays. He is a very nice guy and I got a chance to interview him during this year’s spring training. The O’s got Tommy Hunter in 2012. He is a closing pitcher, which is a very hard position. It is hard because the closer comes into the game and is expected to win it for the team by pitching well for only one or two innings. I have confidence that Tommy Hunter will be the ace closer for the 2014 season. As everybody has a favorite player growing up, I wondered who Tommy’s favorite player was when he was a kid. “John Smoltz,” he said, “I grew up in the Midwest and we watched the TBS channel that covered the Atlanta Braves.” He said that he loved the Braves when he was growing up and he wanted to play for them, but now that he’s here with the Orioles, he could not be happier.

As we all know, being a closing pitcher is stressful. I asked Tommy what he likes to do during the off season to relieve some of that stress. “I like to hunt and fish and just be outside a lot”, he said. Tommy also asked me what I liked to do for fun. I told him that I liked amusement parks like Busch Gardens. He thought that was cool and said that he liked them also. “This summer I got to go to an adventure park and I zip lined over alligators”, Tommy said. Wow, that seems scary, but I think I’d like to try that!

As kids, we all need mentors. “My mom and dad played a big role in that (mentoring),” Tommy explained. “They gave me every opportunity I had and I can’t thank them enough.” I am fortunate to have many mentors in my life from my parents to my grandparents, teachers and coaches. I guess you can never have enough good mentors!

After playing hard out in the field, I was curious where Tommy’s favorite restaurant was to go to after a game in Sarasota. “I like Umi Sushi on Main St” he said, “a lot of guys though will probably say Pac Rim (Pacific Rim down in Hillview).” I asked Tommy if he has ever been to Evie’s, my favorite sports restaurant where I like to watch the Orioles games. “Oh really?” he said, “I might have to take my wife there and try it out.” I hope they like it!

All in all I have pure confidence that Tommy Hunter will do well. If he stays cool and works hard in training he could be a star for the Orioles! Getting a solid closing pitcher is hard, but if the O’s get more people like Tommy Hunter, they will have a better chance of getting into the playoffs this year! Thanks for stopping by and Go O’s!

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My day as a professional Oriole reporter!

I had the most awesome day on Sunday! When I first got to the field my mom and I got to park in the player’s parking lot. Jeff Lantz, the Orioles’ media relations representative, escorted us into the media room and gave us special passes. I got to interview the equipment person and I learned a lot of cool things about that job. Then I met Brittany Ghiroli, the Oriole blogger for MLB.com, who walked us to the press box. I really appreciated Brittany coming in on her day off to let me shadow her. She has taught me a lot and I admire her. Being with the media team was very cool because I walked right past fans and security with my special pass.

We had the best seats in the house, right behind home plate! The reporters get a lot of free food! When the game started I saw that most of the reporters were watching the game and writing stories at the same time. Brittany taught me how to keep score and she gave me lots of interviewing tips. Wei-Yin Chen was on the mound and he ended up pitching three great 3 innings. Because it is spring training, not the real season, we got to interview him right after he was done pitching. I asked him a question along with the other reporters. Since he could not speak English fluently, he spoke through his interpreter.

At the end of the game, which the Orioles won 9-2, we walked to the press room to listen to Buck’s post game talk. I asked him a couple of questions. Buck is always so friendly to me. He is really funny and he joked around with all the reporters and me! Over all I had a great day and learned a huge amount. I hope to do it again! Thanks for stopping by….
Go O’s!

Me and Brittany Ghiroli

Me in the press box!

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“Catching” up with… Chris Hoiles

Thanks to my Aunt Terri, I got the chance to talk with Chris Hoiles. Chris Hoiles was the Oriole’s catcher from 1989 to 1998. Chris is an instructor at the Gold Glove Academy, a place where kids learn how to improve their baseball and softball skills. I interviewed him and I wanted to show you some of the questions and answers of my interview:

What do you enjoy most about Gold Glove Academy? ( a place he works)
“I think what I enjoy most about it is helping people, and helping kids with lessons. I do quite a few catching lessons, and hitting lessons and just helping kids get better. I enjoy kids coming in wanting to get better and work and just meeting new people.”

Did you have a favorite pitcher to catch for and why?
“Mike Mussina. Mike knew what he was doing. He knew how to pitch and hit his spots very well. He had a lot of different pitches that he could throw for strikes and was fast, which made my job easier!”

During your playing days, What did you like best about being catcher?
” I think the biggest thing is just being a ball player and being involved in every play. Being a catcher you can call every play. Your catching the ball, and throwing the ball, you got to know the hitters, you have to know your pitcher. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into the game, and I think from a catchers position your involved with almost every single aspect of it.”

What was your most memorable at Camden Yards?
” Probably be the ultimate grand slam I hit vs. the Seattle Mariners. We were down by three runs, and it was the bottom of the ninth, and there was 2 outs and I was able to hit a grand slam to win the game.”

Chris actually asked me what I liked about playing catcher (as I did on my team last year) and I told him that I liked catcher because it had the most action.

Chris Hoiles was a great player and I hope every young catcher will follow in his footsteps. Thanks for stopping by… Go O’s!!

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Orioles infield set… well almost!

The Orioles have an ace defense, probably the best in MLB, but one postion they are still debating on…who will be their second baseman? Now that Brian Roberts is gone, we potentially have four second basemen on the line. Jamile Weeks (we got him from the A’s), Alexi Casilla, Ryan Flaherty and Johnathon Schoop are all possible choices for 2nd base. They are all good but, I think what Buck is looking at is how they bat. Flaherty has the best batting average with .224, he also has the highest amount of home runs with 10. They all have a pretty good on base percentage. I think they should pick Ryan Flaherty, even though he needs to improve his batting, he knows the team well and is a steady infielder. The O’s are in for a great year. Let me know who you think should be at second base. Thanks for stopping by… GO O’S!!

My Interviews With Dan and Buck…The Orioles Leadership!

Recently, I got to interview the Orioles manager, Buck Showalter and the general manager, Dan Duquette. They were very nice to me as I had a lot of questions to ask them. I wanted to show you their answers to my questions.

What’s the best advice anyone has given you as a manager/general manager?
– Buck, “Just be yourself and be honest with the players.”
– Dan, “I was trained by the great Oriole general manager, Harry Dalton. He put together the great Orioles teams from 1966 to 1971. His best advice to me was to find three really great starting pitchers!”

How do you keep the players motivated over such a long season?
– Buck, “You have to try and put yourself in their shoes as much as possible. You have to trust them (the players) as much as they’ll allow you. A lot of times that (their motivation) is evaluated long before we get them. We try not to bring on people to our team that aren’t motivated. If a player needs too much motivation, then they probably are not the right guy to start with. We spend some time with their moms and dads to see what we’re getting.”

Is there a team captain and if so, how are they chosen?
– Buck, “We don’t have one, but we feel like we have 25 of those (captains) instead of just one guy. If we took a vote though we’d probably have about five guys tied for it. We feel like everyone should be the captain of themselves first. I have been on teams that needed it, but this one doesn’t.”

What is the most fun about being a general manager?
– Dan, “The most fun is being around the players and helping them understand their jobs and to do their best. That’s the most fulfilling part.”

Do you first have to be a player or coach before becoming a general manager?
– Dan, “The road to becoming a general manager varies, but it can help if you played baseball as you then have a fundamental understanding of the game. Some have played ball professionally and others have maybe gone to law school. It’s not absolutely required though.”

After spending time with both Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter, I think the Orioles have two really good and fun leaders! Thanks for stopping by my blog. Go O’s!
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A Great Day With The O’s!

Wow, what a great day today! It was my first official visit to work at the Orioles’ spring training facility here in Sarasota. The day started at 7:30am. I arrived and began seeing players come through the door (Ubaldo Jimenez, Suk-Min Yoon, Alexi Casilla, Tommy Hunter and many more). I set up my computer in the media room with all of the other reporters from The Baltimore Sun, MLB.com and WBAL radio station (who cover the Orioles). Everyone was very nice and I will be writing more on my interviews with them later.

I was then told I could go out to the practice field and watch the team stretch, do drills and some situational fielding (like yelling “I got it” during a pop fly!). Before that however, I had the awesome experience of interviewing Buck Showalter, the O’s manager. He was so cool and very nice to me. He answered my questions and took a photo with me. After interviewing Buck, I interviewed Dan Duquette, the O’s general manager. He was very nice to me also and took my dad and I into the equipment room and sized us up for official Oriole ball caps! I wish that was my room!

Finally, I got to see the players take live BP and to work on improving their fielding skills. When we got done watching batting practice, I was introduced to Tommy Hunter and he took time to answer my questions and was very nice. He has a great sense of humor. He said that he’s never been to Evie’s in Sarasota (my favorite place to watch O’s games and eat pizza), but said he and his wife will try it out. Cool!

Look for upcoming blogs from interviews that I conducted today…a lot of great advice and information.

All in all, it was a great day and I had a lot of fun with my favorite team! Thanks for stopping by my blog and GO O’s!

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