Category: Minor League Player Blogs

Down on the Farm with Vermont Lake Monsters Pitcher Brandon Bailey

bb669064Brandon Bailey grew up in Colorado and attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where he struck out 125 batters in 100 1/3 innings while posting a 2.42 ERA in his final season for the Bulldogs. The 21-year-old right-handed pitcher was drafted by the A’s in the 6th round of this year’s amateur draft and is currently playing for Vermont, the A’s Class-A affiliate in the short-season New York-Penn League. Bailey has put up a 3.41 ERA there while notching 32 strikeouts over 29 innings of work, and he recently earned his first professional win while striking out 9 in his last appearance for the Lake Monsters last Wednesday.

Last month, we shared Bailey’s first blog post about some of his experiences in the A’s minor league system in the weeks after the draft, which you can check out here. And last week, we shared his last post about the team’s trip to New York, which you can see here. And this week, we’re happy to share his post about why he hates bus rides, among other things. You can check out Brandon’s personal blog here and you can follow him on Twitter @BBailey_19

 

I hate bus rides, plain and simple. I don’t hate them for the countless hours of traveling on highways. I don’t hate them for the inconvenient arrival times back at our home ballpark after an 8 hour road trip. I don’t hate them due to the fact that there’s only one bathroom. For those of you who are unaware, having only one bathroom is a big deal because of the following scenario…If you have to “drop a deuce” your basically SOL. No one wants to be “That Guy” who is responsible for dropping the stink bomb which will consequently travel throughout the bus, pissing off everybody and their mom after you’ve performed your dirty deed. 35 males farting and burping in a small space is bad enough… Just imagine if someone took a sh*t that lingered until you arrived at your destination. Your only option is to focus up, squeeze your cheeks, and hold it.

Surprisingly, none of the reasons listed above are why I despise bus rides. No, I hate bus rides for one reason and one reason only… I can’t fall asleep. The majority of my teammates would probably say that if there was one person out of the group who should be able to find a comfortable position to catch some Z’s, it would be me. Why you ask? Because I’m a midget in a land of freakishly oversized giants that disguise themselves as incredibly talented baseball players. What ever happened to the good old days when guys over 6’6 dedicated their athletic ability towards making it rain on the hardwood or when guys that weighed over 220 pounds used their God given size to knock the snot out of people on the gridiron? I apologize for my short rant, I’m getting off topic. Where was I? Oh right, the reason I’m a perfect candidate to find a comfortable sleeping position is due to my 5’8 inch frame (5’10 on a good day or when I’m wearing cleats). My undersized stature allows me to maneuver myself into some creative lounging positions that my larger counterparts could not experience even if they tried. Imagine 6’7 left-hander AJ Puk finding a comfortable position to stretch out his freakishly oversized arms and legs… needless to say the man gets his own seat. Now me on the other hand, I’m fun-sized and should be taking advantage of my miniature layout, but regardless of what lounging position I decide to utilize it doesn’t matter. I CAN’T FALL ASLEEP!

Coming to terms with this unfortunate truth, I have recently turned to the essentials of staying awake: caffeine, my Beats headphones, my iPhone 6+, and my laptop. The majority of my time on the bus is spent listening to music, browsing my social media accounts, getting a few good games of Hungry Shark in, and texting my family and friends back home on the west coast. Unfortunately, at the beginning of this bus trip from Norwich, Connecticut back to Vermont, I received a text message from Verizon informing me that I’ve used 90% of my data for the month. Looks like no social media browsing for me. Instead, I decided I would begin working on my next blog post and 426 words later, here we are.

(photo: Greg Bessette)

Brandon Bailey on the mound for the Vermont Lake Monsters (photo:Greg Bessette)

There are only 8 games left in the season and while I’m not ready for baseball to be over, I couldn’t be more excited for the next four months and what they have in store. Classes start at Gonzaga tomorrow which means I’m officially a senior in college…

Not going to lie I just spent the last 20 minutes starring at that last sentence trying to comprehend what I had just typed but inevitably, I’m a senior and truth be told I never want to graduate. Gonzaga is my second home and I while I am currently testing the waters of what it’s like to be an adult in the real world, I’m ready to get back to school and be a normal college student where my only concern is how I’m going to pass my next Sport Law exam.

As the bus continues to make it’s way north towards Burlington, I’ve had a few songs pop up on my country playlist that have caused me to reminisce about my friends and family back home on the west coast. One song in particular is “Drink One For Me” by Jason Aldean. Every line from start to finish speaks to the way I’m feeling, reminding me of all my friends who are back up at Gonzaga celebrating the start of another semester and how I wish I could be there celebrating with them, especially my former Gonzaga Baseball teammates. While I’ve made my decision to chase my dream of playing in the MLB, I still can’t help but wonder what my life would be like if I had chosen to return to Spokane and play my senior year for the Zags. Although I don’t regret my decision, I do miss the Zag community that always made me feel like I was apart of one big family…the Zag family.

The good news is I will be returning to ZagLand in T-Minus 8 days and during those 8 days I get to do what I love most, throw baseballs.

My last outing on August 24th versus the Lowell Spinners (short-season Single A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox) was my best performance as a professional yet. I came out of the bullpen and pitched 5 innings of relief, striking out 9, and walking zero after our starting pitcher Logan Shore threw 3 solid innings before reaching his pitch count limit. Ever since Shore joined the team, he has been my favorite pitcher to watch because of how much he and I have in common on the mound.

First off, we both throw our fastball in the low 90s and posses the ability to fill up the strike zone with 3 pitches. The change-up is the best pitch in our arsenals and we feel comfortable throwing it in any given count. We also both throw sliders and have vocalized to our pitching coach that we want to focus on improving this pitch on the days we are not pitching. I try to take as many mental notes as I can when Shore takes the mound because I am aware that we do have a lot in common and I figure if I can mirror his tendencies and how he attacks hitters, that will only help me improve as a pitcher as well. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to try and model your game after a Golden Spikes finalist…

It should also be noted that Logan Shore is one of the most humble ballplayers I’ve ever had the opportunity to play alongside and he is the definition of what it means to be a professional. He has also become one of my good friends on the team, adding to the list of great guys that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know since the June draft.

While this season with the Lake Monsters might not be one of the most memorable seasons in terms of on-field success (our record is 24-44), it is however one of my most memorable seasons because it’s my first year in professional baseball. Now if I can just master the art of sleeping on this damn bus I think I’ll be alright…

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Down on the Farm with Vermont Lake Monsters Pitcher Brandon Bailey

bb669064Brandon Bailey grew up in Colorado and attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where he struck out 125 batters in 100 1/3 innings while posting a 2.42 ERA in his final season for the Bulldogs. The 21-year-old right-handed pitcher was drafted by the A’s in the 6th round of this year’s amateur draft and is currently playing for Vermont, the A’s Class-A affiliate in the short-season New York-Penn League. Bailey has put up a 3.41 ERA there while notching 32 strikeouts over 29 innings of work, and he just earned his first professional win while striking out 9 in his last appearance for the Lake Monsters on Wednesday.

We shared a blog post from Bailey last month about some of his experiences in the A’s minor league system in the weeks after the draft, which you can see here. And last week, he wrote a blog post about some of his more recent experiences, including the team’s road trip to New York, which he’s allowed us to share with our A’s Farm readers. You can check out Brandon’s personal blog here and you can follow him on Twitter @BBailey_19

 

Well it’s been about two weeks since my last blog post and so much has happened I’m not really sure where to start… So to avoid writers block I’m just going to regurgitate my thoughts onto this post and hopefully it all makes sense.

I’ll begin with the first thing that comes to mind and that’s my 2016 Chevy Colorado pick-up truck. I recently purchased this beauty back in June shortly after being drafted and while it might be cliche to buy a brand new vehicle after signing a professional sports contract, I actually needed a way of transportation due to an unfortunate event that took place in Spokane a month earlier. With about twenty days left in spring semester, “Carrie (named after the beautiful country singer Ms. Underwood)” my 2003 Saturn L300 was stolen outside my off-campus house in the Logan neighborhood. After about a week of waiting, I received a call from the Spokane Police Department informing me that they had found my car totaled and abandon in a parking lot. Just the news I wanted to hear right before finals week and the beginning of the NCAA tournament…

bb13906985_1283173931693703_8667903877788881164_nFast forward to the present and how this relates to me thinking about my new Z71, well it’s simple… This pick-up represents all of the hard work I have put in over the course of the past 12 years and I want to make it AWESOME. The truck was already sick when I drove it off the lot but since this is my first vehicle purchase ever, my plan is to go all out! I decided to have a few minor details done right off the bat which included installing a sunroof, running boards, tinted windows, and having the bed liner sprayed. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of research on what I can do to make the truck even more jaw-dropping; Utilizing the knowledge of my cousin Matt and my new travel roommate Xavier Altamirano in order to make the best decisions in terms of performance and functionality.

Xavier or “X”, actually became my new travel roommate a couple weeks ago after Logan Shore, the A’s second round pick, arrived in Vermont and started rooming with his former college teammate A.J. Puk. Puk, who was Oakland’s first round pick this year, was my original roommate on the road and has become one of my closer friends on the Lake Monsters roster. After the news broke that Shore was going to be joining the team, I had a gut feeling that Puk would want to room with Logan since they both attended the University of Florida. Naturally, I was assigned a new roommate which was Xavier. X, who was recently voted as a NY-Penn League All-Star, has become my closest friend on the team and shares my love for jacked-up trucks. This past week, he provided me with a few great tips on what I can do to improve my new toy and I’ve decided to set a plan into action. I won’t share all the details simply because I don’t want to bore the two people who are actually reading this post but I will say that a 6 inch lift is in the works!

Besides my truck, the next thing that comes to mind is my team’s previous road trip to Brooklyn, New York where we played the New York Mets Single-A affiliate the Brooklyn Cyclones on August 9th through the 11th. It has always been a dream of mine to one day travel to the Big Apple but I never would have guessed this dream would come true at such a young age. During our three day span in the big city, I made it a point to venture downtown to Times Square to do some sight-seeing. X, myself, and another one of my teammates Ty Damron (a left-handed pitcher from Texas Tech) decided to take the subway north towards Manhattan on the morning of our final day in Brooklyn. You could easily tell we were not from the area because we were the only people on the subway attempting to decipher the complex map which was supposed to assist us in navigating our way downtown. After about 10 minutes of head scratching we decided to ask for help and were informed that we needed to take the exit onto 42nd Street.

bbCpmm8AwW8AASdB6Anticipation and excitement continued to build up inside my chest with each minute that passed. Ever since I was old enough to comprehend the game of baseball my favorite team growing up (besides the hometown team the Colorado Rockies) was the New York Yankees. Players like Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neill, David Cone, Mariano Rivera, and Bernie Williams fueled my love for the team in pinstripes. As we moved closer to the city, I could feel my passion for Yankee tradition surfacing. After about an hour of waiting, we finally made it to our destination and quickly made our way up to ground level. The experience I had next is almost indescribable…

Never had I seen something so magnificent, vibrant, and extraordinary. There is a certain aura or ambience that flows throughout New York City; A distinctive atmosphere that is luxurious and subtle, its occupants moving at a speed that seem to be faster than Usain Bolt himself (couldn’t resist mixing in an Olympic metaphor). Surprisingly, I was not overwhelmed. In fact, I felt rather comfortable. As we began exploring what the city had to offer, I made it a point to take as many pictures as possible. I saw the New Years Eve ball drop, Central Park, the Plaza Hotel made famous by one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, NIKETOWN NYC where I bought two new pairs of shoes, St. Patricks Cathedral, and finally the Empire State Building. For those of you who are familiar with New York City you would know that my teammates and I traveled roughly 2.5 to 3 miles on foot and let me tell you… It was worth it!

As far as baseball goes, it seems that the team is starting to get back on track. Before this weekend home-stand where we played the Tri-City Valleycats and won the series 2 out of 3, the Lake Monster’s had lost 11 games in a row. It’s not easy facing adversity over the course of a two week span but we persevered and continued to show up to the ballpark ready to give it our all.

I’ve been throwing the ball pretty well as of late. In my last 3 games I’ve pitched 12.1 innings and struck out 9 batters. During that span I’ve only allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits. I’m hoping to finish the final two and a half weeks of the season strong so I can go into the fall semester at Gonzaga feeling confident about my first season in professional baseball. With 4 starts left, my main goal is to continue to work fast and fill up the strike zone with all three of my pitches. I’ve also been working on developing a spiked curveball and I’m looking forward to focusing on adding this pitch to my arsenal this off-season.

Two and a half weeks left in the 2016 baseball season…The final stretch.

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Down on the Farm with Vermont Lake Monsters Pitcher Brandon Bailey

bb669064Brandon Bailey grew up in Colorado and attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where he notched 125 strikeouts in 100 1/3 innings while posting a 2.42 ERA in his final season for the Bulldogs. The 21-year-old right-handed pitcher was drafted by the A’s in the 6th round of this year’s amateur draft and is currently playing for the Class-A Vermont Lake Monsters in the short-season New York-Penn League. Bailey recently wrote a blog post about some of his experiences in the A’s minor league system in the weeks since the draft. He’s allowed us to share it with our A’s Farm readers and we look forward to hearing more from Brandon about life down on the farm as the season unfolds. You can check out his personal blog here and you can follow him on Twitter @BBailey_19

 

It’s 1 o’clock in the morning here in Vermont and I’ve spent the majority of my off day doing jack sh*t…Which is typically normal for the average joe who plays baseball in the summer time like myself. Off days come few and far in-between during the months of June, July, and August, so when one of these rare (yet desperately needed) occasions presents itself, ballplayers have to take advantage.

If you’re like me, you generally spend the day sleeping in until noon and then casually taking a stroll to the kitchen to devour whatever happens to be in the fridge at that moment in time. When the stomach is full, you retrace your steps back into your bed where you open up your Macbook and watch some Netflix. This is then followed by some pointless online shopping for the newest Nike products to have hit the market in recent months. For players enrolled in summer school, you feel guilty for not touching the homework from the 6 week online course you mistakenly thought would be a cake walk back in March when you were registering for summer and fall classes. After about an hour of hell, the rest of the afternoon is yours to do whatever you so please. For me, I decided to call my mom today to see how things are going back home in Colorado. She informed me that my dad is working late tonight trying to rack up a couple extra hours in order to make up for being absent this upcoming Monday and Tuesday. My parents are flying out to Burlington to spend the weekend with me and I couldn’t be more excited! The only downside, my younger sister Bri is not going to be able to make the trip due to her busy work schedule at The Egg and I, a local brunch restaurant where she is a hostess part time.

bbA1_CCBL-Brandon-Bailey-Gonzaga3It’s only been two and a half weeks since I last saw my family but I miss them like crazy. On Saturday, July 9th, my older cousin Matt got married in Pueblo, Colorado and I was honored to be his best man and lucky enough to even be in attendance. The week prior to the wedding, I was spending my days at Fitch Park in Mesa, Arizona at the Oakland A’s Spring Training Complex. I was playing for Oakland’s Rookie Ball team in the Arizona League and was uncertain if the A’s would be willing to give me a few days off from work in order to attend my cousin’s wedding. After throwing a side (bullpen) on July 7th, I spoke with Keith Lieppman, the A’s Director of Player Development. He informed me that he was perfectly comfortable with me leaving for the wedding and casually mentioned he liked what he saw during my bullpen session. He also informed me that I was being promoted to the A’s single-A short-season affiliate the Vermont Lake Monsters and would catch a plane to Burlington on Sunday morning after the wedding.

Two and a half weeks may not seem like long time to the average person but for summer baseball players, two and a half weeks can feel like two and a half years at times. Distance and the time difference seem to be the two most difficult part about summer ball (at least for me). The past two summers I have spent 90 days of summer on the east coast playing baseball. Last summer I played in the Cape Cod Baseball League and lived in Yarmouth-Dennis, Massachusetts. This summer, I’m playing in the New York-Penn League and living in Burlington, Vermont. While the east coast is a beautiful part of the country, it does not compare to the West Coast, the Pacific Northwest, or the Colorado Rocky Mountains in my personal, biased opinion. The majority of my family and friends live on the West Coast and operate according to Pacific Standard and Mountain Standard time, a 2 hour difference from myself over on the East Coast, making it difficult for me to communicate with friends and family due to my busy schedule during the day.

I show up at the ballpark roughly around 2:00pm everyday and don’t leave the park until 10:30pm that evening. A typical day consists of: an active warm up, team game review, stretching, pitchers throwing program, conditioning, pitchers fielding practice, shagging for batting practice, grabbing a bite to eat off the spread, an individual workout with my strength coach Omar, arm care with the Lake Monster team trainer Toshi, “Suiting Up!” (or in other words put on the old uniform), sitting and watching a baseball game for 3 hours (unless I’m on a chart or pitching that day), shower, eat the post game meal, and finally…GO HOME! Not a bad work schedule for anyone who loves the game of baseball. However, by the time I return home to my host family’s house it is 11 o’clock at night and I am absolutely exhausted. My extreme fatigue would not be an issue if I played in the same time zone as my family or my girlfriend Wolfey because they would be going to bed at the same time as me. Unfortunately, it’s only 8:00pm where they are. Prime time for conversing and FaceTiming.

bb1024px-centennialfSince today was an off-day, I was able to catch up with my loved ones at a somewhat decent hour. As I hung up with Wolfey over our FaceTime chat at 9:00pm in comparison to our typical midnight conversations, I thought about how my summer was going. I thought about how I had just finished my book The Arm by Jeff Passan and how I was anxious for my parents to bring out more books for me to dive into. I thought about my first month in professional baseball and all of the crazy experiences I’ve already had. I thought about Gonzaga and how I missed my former coaches, teammates, and the beautiful stadium which makes up the Patterson Baseball Complex. I thought about Nike and how I passed up on an opportunity to be an intern at their world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon in order to chase the dream of hopefully one day playing in the big leagues. I thought about how different professional baseball is in comparison to the college game. I thought about what my future plans and goals for this offseason would be. I thought about the academic fall semester at Gonzaga and how it conflicts with the Arizona Instructional League in late September and early October. I thought about my signing bonus and how I’ve never been one to bitch or complain about taxes until I received my first of two bonus checks in the mail last week. I thought about pay day and how I needed to save every dime I can to pay for gas and food this fall. With all of these thoughts running through my mind as I lay in bed unable to sleep, I decided now was as good of time as ever to start something that I have been contemplating doing for about 2 years.

I’ve never been one to share my personal thoughts and experiences with more than a handful of people but I feel like this journey through professional baseball is one that I have to document. Being a Gonzaga student, I try to focus on developing my mind, body, and spirit which is part of the University’s core values and principles. Baseball has done a great job of developing my body but recently, I feel like I have been laking in the development of my mind and spirit. Maybe the best way to get the intellectual juices flowing would be to write about my experiences here in pro ball? And as I look at the time it’s 2:44 in the morning and 1,328 words later.

I guess there is no better time than the present to start doing the things you want to do and being the person you want to be.

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Down on the Farm with AZL A’s Infielder Brett Bittiger

bbimage2bBrett Bittiger was born in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania and attended Pace University in New York. The infielder was drafted by the A’s in the 40th round of this year’s amateur draft and is currently playing in the rookie-level Arizona League for the AZL A’s, who are based at the A’s minor league complex in Mesa, Arizona. We look forward to hearing from Brett about life down on the farm as the season unfolds in the coming weeks. You can follow him on Twitter @BrettBittiger

 

When you’re a little boy in your backyard, you imagine yourself in Game Seven of the World Series. Bottom of the ninth, two outs, two strikes. You imagine hitting that walk-off home run. You pretend to throw that game-ending strikeout. You don’t give any thought to how you would have managed to get to that spot.

But then you grow up. You finish little league, and move to the big field. You play high school ball, travel ball, and your scope of competition continues to multiply. Every year, more of your friends drop off–some from a lack of desire, some from a lack of talent. By the time senior year of college rolls around, most of us who have survived that long have gone from visualizing ourselves in the World Series to thinking, “Please, don’t let it end here.” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. It’s inevitable for the idylls of youth to be fractured, pared down by increased exposure to reality. And, as a redshirt senior near the end of his fifth and final year as a college baseball player, I didn’t bear my journey any resentment. I hoped only for a chance to keep playing the game that I love.

A few people have asked me how it felt to be taken in the final round of the draft. I suppose most of them, and even some who don’t feel comfortable asking, expect that there is some sense of disappointment or inferiority involved. I understand the expectation, but it isn’t true–at least not in my case. Everyone wants a million dollar signing bonus, but few actually get one. And, when you’re a redshirt senior who attended a small Division-I school before transferring to a similarly proportioned Division-II program, you’ve never entertained such thoughts. So, when my phone rang on the last day of the draft, after being taken by the A’s with their final selection, I wanted only to know when I could get started. A day and a half later I was on a plane, headed for Arizona.

0DSC04060xHaving lived my whole life in the mountains of northeast Pennsylvania (also having attended college in New Jersey and New York), I knew that I was in for a drastically different environment. At home, there are trees everywhere, covering even the mountains–generally verdant landscapes extending in every direction you look. Here, the landscape deals only in shades of red and brown, from rusted maroon rock to the pale beige of scorched earth. At home, it’s warm in the summer, occasionally humid. But upon my arrival in Phoenix, I caught my first taste of dry heat. And, as fate would have it, my arrival coincided with a significant heat wave (significant in Arizona terms), with the daily high temperatures for the week ranging from 115 to 120.

Let’s call that first week an adjustment period. On the best days, it felt like baking slowly in an oven. At the worst, an intermittent breeze would blow, comparable only to taking blasts of hot, fetid air from a corroded hair dryer to the face. It has cooled down to a manageable constant of around 105 since then, but a northeastern man of my German descent must safeguard his complexion at all times. I haven’t been sunburned yet, but suffice to say that my tan lines are a bit comical.

bbimage1bThe daily routine of pro ball is an adjustment, too. Looking back, college ball was a lot of rushing around. Running from class to practice, from practice to study hall, then maybe picking up a night shift at a part-time job, and finally getting back to your dorm to cram for tomorrow’s exam. Nearly every minute of the day was occupied either by a task or the need to get to the next one. Day-to-day life seems to move a bit slower in pro ball, a decrease in pace that is likely the product of an increase in focus. Simply: this is your job now, not just something you love doing on the side. As such, it requires a greater portion of your time and effort. This leads to longer days at the park and more downtime than college ball, and I relish the change.

At this point, I am only a few weeks in, and just learning everything that pro ball entails. This is a new and exciting chapter for me as a student of this game, and I’m looking forward to the lessons it will offer. It is an invaluable experience to work each day at top-of-the-line facilities, surrounded by tremendously talented professionals who all share the same dream. Even more than that, it is a special feeling to become a new part of something bigger than yourself–not just a team, but an organization. I look forward to contributing however I can.

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

 

Down On The Farm with Stockton Ports Pitcher Seth Frankoff

sf947026bThe 2013 campaign continues for the Stockton Ports, and we’re now already over a quarter of the way through the season. We’ve had some streaks where we’ve played extremely well and others where things just haven’t gone our way. But as I’ve been told time and time again, being able to maintain an even keel is paramount in the success of a ballplayer as well as a team. And this team, through it all, has shown a real knack for being able to remain positive and come to the park with a plan to get better each and every day.

Since my last entry, we’ve continued to play extremely well at home. I’m not quite sure exactly what it is about Banner Island Ballpark, but we continue to win lots of games at home. Maybe it’s sleeping in your own bed, familiarity with the ballpark, great fans, etc. But for whatever reason, we always seem to be in a good position to win when we’re the home team. We’ve seen some outstanding performances the past couple of series, with Drew Granier and Tanner Peters both racking up double-digit strikeout performances on the mound. Tanner, in fact, had a perfect game going through five innings last week. And as a bullpen guy, it’s great to see your starters have success for multiple reasons. One, it doesn’t tax the ‘pen when they’re able to go deep into games, and two, when a starting pitcher goes out there and dominates, he exposes the other teams’ weaknesses, which we in turn can try to exploit when we follow them into the game.

Our outfielders continue to chase balls down in the outfield and make plays for us. It seems like almost everyday Myrio Richard or Dusty Robinson makes a diving catch. And in one of my recent outings, Bobby Crocker made an outstanding catch in the 9th inning to bring back a home run ball for an out. These kinds of things mean the world to a pitcher and to a team. Guys busting their tails out there and giving it their all makes a huge difference and is greatly appreciated.

sfpHXKLdSo2Having now spent more than a month in California and in the Cal League, I feel like I’m starting to get acquainted with the state and the league. Since I last wrote, we have traveled to Modesto, Visalia, High Desert and Lancaster. And I really enjoy getting the opportunity to go on the road and see different places. The California League is referred to as a hitters’ league, and High Desert and Lancaster are notorious as the toughest places to pitch in the league. As a pitcher, you are always trying to keep the ball down to induce ground ball outs but, in places where the ball really flies, you have to be especially conscientious about it.

While the elements may not always be in your favor, the difference between success and failure is really more of a mental battle, especially in this league. If you go out there too worried about giving up a home run, then it most likely is going to happen. But going out there with confidence and a plan of keeping the ball down and executing pitches will always set a pitcher up with a good chance to be successful. As I have been told countless times by my coaches in the organization, “Control what you can control.” There are a lot of factors that go on that we have no influence or control over, but what we can control is our preparation, game plan and execution.

Throughout the course of the season, players are going to have good games and bad games. One thing that’s important to remember is that it’s not one particular game or outing that defines you; it’s a whole body of work. As one of my former managers told me, “You aren’t evaluated over a bad outing. You’re evaluated on your ability to bounce back your next outing and get the job done.” As a player, it’s important not to dwell on things because this game will beat you up in a heartbeat if you let yourself do that. It is important to learn from past performances, both positives and negatives, but not to over-analyze. The beauty of baseball is that, whether it’s a good game or a bad one, tomorrow is a new day and a new game. The important thing to do is to take advantage of your opportunities, work hard to become more consistent, and get better each and every day.

sfBKEngEuCAAIZpFoHaving the opportunity to play this game is a blessing and a great honor. That being said, the season is a grind and every player has to have something to keep them motivated and on the right path. For me, my faith in God and my wife and family help me to stay grounded and focused on what I am trying to do. I had the opportunity to watch an ESPN E:60 piece on former Oakland A’s catcher and current Mets’ farmhand Landon Powell last week. Landon, who is from my hometown of Apex, North Carolina and who went to my high school a few years before me, has always been a role model to me as far back as I can remember. His work ethic was something that I always felt separated him from others, and I tried to replicate that same kind of work ethic in my game.

Landon persevered through multiple health issues in his career to make it to the big leagues and spent parts of three seasons with our team in Oakland. He went through the toughest thing in his life this past offseason in losing a child, a daughter named Izzy. I can’t imagine what it must be like to go through that, but to see him still remain positive and strong in his faith as well as driven to get back to the big leagues is such an inspiration to me. It goes to show you that we all have so much to be thankful for. For me, I am thankful to have a supportive wife, a great family and, as always, thankful to have the opportunity to still play the game I love.

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Seth Frankoff was born in Raleigh, North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He was drafted by the A’s in the 27th round of the 2010 draft. You can follow him on Twitter @frankoff34

Down On The Farm with Stockton Ports Pitcher Seth Frankoff

sf947026bThe 2013 season has started and, to be honest, it seems to be flying by already. It’s hard to believe it’s already been almost three weeks since my last blog entry on opening day. 

The 2013 campaign for the Stockton Ports has started quite well. Through the first 18 games, we have a record of 12-6. Our season began with a seven-game home stand. We swept the first four games against Bakersfield, then took one of three from San Jose. We then began our first road trip of the year, playing the same two teams on the road. We went to Bakersfield and took three of four from them on their home turf, then took one of three again from the Giants in San Jose. And in our last four games at home, we played well, taking three of four from Modesto at Banner Island Ballpark.

For someone who has never been to California before, I was looking forward to getting on the road and seeing other places around the state. I had heard differing opinions on Bakersfield but, all in all, I thought it wasn’t a bad place to play. The stadium is an old historic ballpark, which didn’t have a big press box or full stadium seating like we are fortunate to have at home in Stockton. Dusty Robinson, who is from Bakersfield, had all his family and friends at our games to support him and the Ports. Being born and raised in the Southeast, the closest I have ever been to playing at home in professional baseball has been seven hours away. So I can only imagine the thrill it must have been for him to play in his hometown at a place he grew up going to games at. I think the team played some great baseball on the road at Bakersfield. We lost just one game but we were in a position to win that one, so we have to feel good about the way we played during the series.

bakersfield_caAfter our four-game series at Bakersfield, we actually traveled back to Stockton for our series in San Jose. San Jose is about eighty miles from Stockton and, in minor league baseball, any road game which is under a hundred miles away from your hometown is considered a “commuter.” Commuter trips mean that you travel back and forth from your home city each day to the opposing stadium to play games. While it is nice to sleep in your own bed each night, it also is a grind physically and mentally since you have to travel to and from the opposing city back to your hometown each and every night.

Having never been to the Bay Area before, I didn’t know what to expect in regard to the weather. I became aware as soon as we arrived that we would need extra layers for each night game. The outside temperature really wasn’t that unbearable; however, the constant wind each and every night made it seem a lot chillier than it really was. San Jose has a good club, with some solid bats in their lineup and power arms on their pitching staff. There is a certain amount of rivalry that takes place for us, even in the minor leagues, being members of the two Bay Area teams.  We definitely don’t want to lose any games to anyone, but especially not to the Giants, the other team in the Bay Area.

After our series against San Jose, we returned home for a four-game series against Modesto. We lost game one, but were able to take the next three from the Nuts. We played some pretty solid baseball in all facets of the game and feel good about building some momentum going into our first off day. We saw a dominating pitching performance by Drew Granier, who struck out 10 batters in his outing against Modesto. Max Muncy continued to swing a powerful bat, slugging a few more home runs and taking his season total to 8 through 18 games. Antonio Lamas almost always seems to hit the ball on the barrel and has really been a huge part of our success. It really is a lot of fun to come to the yard each and every day and see guys perform at such a high level.

sfzBEFktaX3As for myself, I continue to work towards becoming more consistent every time I am fortunate enough to get the chance to pitch. One thing that is preached to us is executing each and every pitch, and that is something I strive to do every time I toe the rubber. The biggest thing is not getting ahead of yourself and just controlling what you can control. Preparation is crucial, and we are fortunate to have a pitching coach in Jimmy Escalante who always ensures that we have all the information we need in terms of scouting reports, etc. to put us in a good situation to be successful every time we go out there. Something that we are working towards as a pitching staff is not only pitching to our strengths but also being able to exploit the hitters’ weaknesses. A slogan that we have is that we want to become “big league pitchers, not minor league throwers.” To do so we have to develop big league habits and pitch off our fastball and get ahead in the count. 

On a separate note, I would like to acknowledge and remember the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Too often we get caught up in everything going on in our lives and forget just how precious and fragile life is. We are fortunate to live in a great, strong country which has shown time and time again the ability to persevere through adversity and come back from tragedies like this even stronger. Watching the ceremony before the Red Sox game was quite moving for me. Seeing the emotion the players, fans, law enforcement and government officials displayed during the ceremony was a moment I won’t soon forget. It’s amazing how the game of baseball has a way of bringing people together from all walks of life.

As the season continues, I hope that we continue to improve each and every day we come to the park. After our off day, we go back on the road again for three games at Visalia and then three games at High Desert. I am excited to see more of California, but even more so to continue the season and take the ball every time I get the opportunity. This team is a great group of guys and we enjoy coming to the park each and every day. There is something to be said for team chemistry, and we certainly have a good time playing the game we love. As always, I am still thankful to have the opportunity to chase my dream!

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Seth Frankoff was born in Raleigh, North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He was drafted by the A’s in the 27th round of the 2010 draft. We look forward to having Seth keep us posted throughout the season on how life is going down on the farm for him, his wife, his dog, and the Stockton Ports! You can follow him on Twitter @frankoff34

Down On The Farm with Stockton Ports Pitcher Seth Frankoff

sf947026bHey y’all, this is Seth Frankoff, right-handed pitcher for the Stockton Ports. When I was approached about writing this blog, I felt that it would be a good way for me to communicate to everyone what goes on day in and day out in the life of a minor leaguer in the Oakland Athletics organization. This is my first time writing a blog though, so bear with me!

Spring Training started early this year due to the fact that the World Baseball Classic was taking place. I reported a week before the mandatory reporting date of March 4th for minor league pitchers and catchers. Different guys like to report at different times; however, I felt that getting in before the majority of the other pitchers would help put me ahead of schedule and allow me ample time to prepare for the season. My wife, Bess, who is very supportive of my career, traveled with me last season and will do the same this year, along with our new addition to the family – Addie, our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Everyone has their own opinion of spring training, but I really enjoy it. We get to spend a month in Phoenix during the most beautiful time of the year in Arizona. There are long days with lots of attention paid to each and every facet of the game. Between throwing, conditioning, PFPs (pitchers fielding practice), bunt defenses, BP shagging, and then games, there is quite a bit of time spent on your feet all day. But all the time and effort spent in spring training is meant to prepare us for the grind that is the minor league season.

Team assignments vary quite a bit during spring training and really don’t make much of a difference until the last couple of days. This is when the final rosters are posted and you have a pretty good idea of where you are going to get placed. This time is exciting and tough on a player because you are sometimes unsure of where you will get placed. When I got the news that I was going to Stockton, I was very excited. After beginning the past two seasons in the Midwest League, I am glad to experience California and all it has to offer. For a kid who was born and raised in the state of North Carolina, California always seemed like it was on the other side of the globe to me. So when spring training finally came to a close, we packed the car up and hit the road in a caravan with a couple of my teammates. I would like to say the drive up to Stockton from Phoenix was great; however, I very quickly became aware of the craziness of California traffic. It even started thunder-storming and hailing on the last leg of our trip, which I was informed hardly ever happens out here.

spRoFg4u4YNonetheless, we arrived safe and sound in Stockton and checked into our hotel. I got up early the next morning to get my things situated in the locker room at Banner Island Ballpark before we left for our exhibition game against our Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento. My first impressions of Banner Island Ballpark were very positive. It is a beautiful park located right on the delta of the Stockton Deep Water Channel downtown. Our exhibitions with Sacramento were a home and home series taking place the first night in Sacramento and the second in Stockton. These games were great for both teams because they allowed us to get our work in to make sure we are ready to go on opening day. Sacramento beat us both nights, but I would like to say that we held our own against the Sacramento team. They really are a good ballclub and I anticipate they will have a strong season of their own.

As for our team, let me first say this, we are going to score some runs. From top to bottom, we have guys who can hit the ball with authority and power to all parts of the field. Anytime you can have guys like B.A. Vollmuth, Bobby Crocker, Dusty Robinson, Josh Whitaker, Max Muncy, Tony Thompson and Wade Kirkland, you are going to feel like you have a pretty good chance to win. That is not even including our shortstop Addison Russell, who will be hitting in the leadoff spot for us and who always seems to find a way to get on base. Our pitching staff is anchored by a strong starting rotation of Drew Granier, Blake Hassebrock, Sean Murphy, Tanner Peters and Andres Avila. We know that all five of those guys are going to be able to pitch deep into games and give us quality starts. Our bullpen has some great experience with the likes of Jake Brown, Pedro Vidal, Jonathan Joseph and T.J. Walz. And with the group of quality players we have on our roster, I think we will have a great season here in Stockton.

sfpHXKLdSo2The team so far seems to have pretty good chemistry. If I recall, I have played on the same team at one point in my career with all but three individuals on the roster, and it’s always an added bonus to play with guys you’re familiar with. As for my role on the pitching staff, I believe I will be starting off in middle/long relief. It really makes no difference to me though what my role is. I really just want the ball. As a pitcher, we aren’t fortunate enough to have the ability to play everyday, but I want to have the opportunity to pitch as many times as possible. The biggest thing that I want to work on is consistency. I feel like in my career thus far I have had some pretty good stretches followed by some times where I struggled. I know, from an organizational standpoint, for guys to move, they want to see consistent results day in and day out; therefore, my goal for this season is to be more consistent. I am excited to get the season started. I have put a lot of work in during the offseason and spring training to get to this point. Now is the time to put all that time and effort to use and play the game I love. And as always, I am thankful to still have the opportunity to chase my dream!

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Seth Frankoff was born in Raleigh, North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Since being drafted by the A’s in the 27th round of the 2010 draft, he has seen time in the Arizona League, the Northwest League, the NY-Penn League and the Midwest League, and this season, he’ll be making his debut in the California League. We look forward to having Seth keep us posted throughout the season on how life is going down on the farm for him, his wife, his dog, and the Stockton Ports! You can follow him on Twitter @frankoff34

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