Warriors In the News!

Warrior alum & College of Marin star, Ben Herrick, and current Gold Team Warrior & San Rafael Bulldog, John Robertson have been featured in the Marin IJ – take a look at the stories below!

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“In three starts, Herrick has not been perfect, but he’s been pretty darn close. After Saturday’s seven-inning stint against visiting Cañada — he allowed no earned runs and upped his record to 3-0 in a 2-1 Mariners’ victory — Herrick’s earned run average dipped to 0.69. That’s the kind of pitching thathas propelled COM to the top of the Bay Valley Conference pack with a 9-3 non-conference record.”
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 
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“After spending last summer with the Bay Area Warriors club team, Robertson said that he is confident that he is a better player. ‘It was definitely good for me. I played in almost 50 games over the summer, including a tournament in San Diego. I needed to get a lot more at-bats and a lot more experience.’ He ranked first on the team in hits, runs, doubles and stolen bases and was second in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He also led San Rafael in innings pitched.”
CLICK HERE for the full story.

The Greatest Time of the Year

Aaron SBy Aaron M. Smith

With the biggest game of the NFL season swiftly approaching this Sunday, one could make a solid guess at where most of America’s sports focus is aimed. However, I have found my football focus wavering, due to the reality that the baseball season is among us. My San Francisco 49ers will be playing in the Super Bowl this weekend, yet I have been watching baseball movies like “A League of Their Own,” “Bad News Bears,” and “Trouble with the Curve” over the past week. Baseball is here, and I couldn’t be any more excited.

MLB pitchers and catchers report to spring training in two short weeks. Many high school baseball teams are holding tryouts this week, and college teams will be having some of their first games in the following weeks. It’s the time of year for students’ focus to start shifting from their other sports like football, soccer, and basketball, back to the greatest sport in America: baseball.

Many student athletes have been grooming their baseball skills throughout the off-season to ensure that they are in top shape for the upcoming season. The First Base Foundation has had the pleasure of helping many dedicated athletes by providing dedicated coaches and a safe place for students to continue to hone their baseball aptitude. Besides our popular signature summer baseball program, the First Base Foundation has been delighted by the large numbers of dedicated ball players to show up each weekend for our Fall and Winter ball programs. They have been getting extra at-bats both in live games and in the cages. Infielders and outfielders have had an abundance of reps at many different positions, and the pitchers have had many innings against live batters.

Having watched these talented student athletes throughout the Fall and Winter off-season, my advice to them would be: As the butterflies swirl while you lace up your cleats and you grab your gloves to run onto the baseball field for tryouts and first games, trust the skills that you honed throughout the off-season, and have fun playing the game you love. Treat the game with the same amount of respect that the legends who came before you did, and remember that no one player is bigger than the team.

Good Luck Team!

Gold Blooded

 

Since birth I have been a 49er baby. It was the end of January 1982 and my parents were expecting their first child. At the same time, the San Francisco 49ers were making their way through the playoffs in what was a miraculous resurgence from being regarded as one of the worst teams in the NFL for a long time. When it was clear that the Niners would play for their first Super Bowl Victory on January 24th, my parents quietly hoped that I would wait to make my first appearance until after Super Bowl XVI. My parents were able to watch the 49ers win their first Super Bowl and I came a few weeks later.

I was born at the beginning of what would prove to be one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time.  My parents have had season tickets for the majority of my life, so I have had the luxury of growing up watching in person the likes of Bill Walsh, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, “Hacksaw” Reynolds, Steve Young, Ricky Watters, Richard Dent, and many other greats. Each year it was a major disappointment for the Niners to miss the Super Bowl much less the playoffs. Unfortunately I have had to watch the team go through a disappointing stretch for nearly a decade where they have not even been a shadow of their former selves missing the playoffs 7 of the past 10 years. With their second trip to the playoffs in as many years, this recent resurgence with new coach Jim Harbaugh is eerily reminiscent to the one they made during the 1981 season.

My parents were gracious enough to give their two tickets to tomorrow’s playoff game to my brother and I. I couldn’t be a bigger mix of emotions. Joy for the chance to spend time with my brother watching one of our beloved local teams. Excitement for the possibility of watching first hand the beginning of a new San Francisco dynasty. Anxiety behind the fact the 49ers are playing against a formidable foe in the Green Bay packers, and Aaron Rogers, one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League.

Aaron M. Smith

Finding The Right Fit

 By Eno Sarris

Finding the right place to play college baseball is not just about finding a good slot on the depth chart. The coaching staff is worth inspecting, too.

I recently wrote a piece for The Hardball Times Annual about The Stanford Swing: Supposedly the excellent baseball program in Palo Alto is teaching its kids a swing that doesn’t translate well to the professional leagues, so I investigated. Without revealing the conclusions — I wouldn’t mind if you bought the annual, after all — you could say that the school definitely has a unique philosophy when it comes to hitting.

If your swing didn’t line up with some of the things Stanford’s program teaches, it might make sense to think long and hard about the fit when it comes to the actual mechanics of playing the game. Most schools have philosophies when it comes to pitching and specific pitches, too. And you may not get all the information from the school itself — ask about these things, sure, but then see if you can find a knowledgeable person from outside that program to tell you their appraisal. Some focus on the feet at the plate, some want quiet hands, some want their pitchers to avoid the cutter, and some preach ground balls. Every school has a quirk that comes from the coaching staff and is designed to make them more competitive in the college game.

Of course, making a fit between a student-athlete and a college program is a delicate dance. It isn’t just about depth charts, and it isn’t just about the mechanics that the coaching staff prefers, either. And that’s why you get plenty of different-looking swings coming out of Stanford University. Look at Carlos Quentin or Ryan Garko or John Mayberry, for example, and they’ve all got distinct-looking swings. Stanford is no factory, and the different players that have come through it all had their own reasons for attending the school.

There are other ways to find a fit. Successful players in the past may have decided during the recruitment process that they preferred the exposure the Stanford program provided. Since the Pac-12 television channel shows Stanford games, and the program manages to advance to the Super Regionals most years in the College World Series, there are a lot of chances for player to demonstrate his abilities publicly. Or maybe they wanted a better backup plan — a background in Stanford academics provides many options for a baseball player that didn’t make it professionally in the sport. Proximity to family and cost of attending are also important facets involved in your choice of college.

But, even when it comes to the baseball aspects of choosing a program, it’s important to think all the way down to the hitting drills. Does your approach fit the program you’re looking at? How will your swing, or your pitching motion, look on their diamond?

Dedicated to the Game Pt. 2

By O’Koyea Dickson

Baseball has really taught me a lot about myself. I’ve played high school ball, college ball, and now I’m playing professional ball, and I have never stopped learning new things about myself.

For instance, in high school, I was able to get away with not working as hard as I work now. This should not be the case for you. You should start working really hard. Be someone who takes the time to do the extra practice, like taking more reps in the cage, or fielding more ground balls than everyone else does. It might not seem like its making a difference right now, but trust me, you will be grateful for all that extra practice once you start playing ball in college.

I didn’t learn any of this until my third year of college. I had to rapidly figure out how to take my game to a whole new level, because suddenly there were players who were just as good, or even better than me.

The three years I spent playing college baseball were the best three years of my baseball career thus far. I learned so much during that time. I took the necessary time to develop my skills as a player, and did all the extra reps I could. These steps helped me prepare for the games in a whole new way.

As a professional baseball player, I now know that hard work and dedication are what it takes in order for me to improve as a player each and every day.

My message to you is that it’s not an easy road to achieve your dreams, but in the end, it’s all worth it. You have the strength within you to become the best… so why settle for anything less?

Dedicated to the Game Pt. 1

By O’Koyea Dickson

It takes a significant amount of time and dedication every year to prepare for your baseball season. That dedication should come from within you, motivating you to strive to the best baseball player you can be. Whether its working hard in the gym, taking swings in the cage, fielding ground balls, running sprints, eating healthy, or getting enough rest, the dedication and effort you put into your training will help you to propel yourself to play at a higher level.

One of the most essential things I have learned is that eating a healthy breakfast in the morning will give you the energy and endurance to make it through morning workouts, and then help you to maintain that energy throughout the school day.

This breakfast should include a lot of protein. Protein is the necessary ingredient for maintaining your energy levels throughout the day. When I wake up in the morning, I make sure to have enough protein in my breakfast so I can make it through my workouts. An example of this would be a scramble of 5 eggs, chicken, some spinach, and chopped red bell peppers.

As I prepare for my workouts in the gym, I have to get into the zone mentally, and maintain my desire to work hard and improve, and remember not cheat on any part of my workout. When you’re having trouble pushing through that last set in the gym, fight and get through it. When you push yourself to your limit and then past that limit, that’s when you know that you’re getting a great workout.

My trainer is a strength coach for the San Jose Sharks, and he pushes me to a limit that I never knew I had. When I’m working out I always keep one thing on my mind – My dream of becoming a Major League Baseball player. With that dream in mind, I can accomplish any workout. Find your dream, and let it propel you to have the best workout possible.  

Thanksgiving Includes Inclusiveness

 by Eno Sarris

The most emphasized aspect of Thanksgiving these days — other than the early jump on holiday shopping — is the giving of thanks. It’s in the name! You sit around the table with your family and you feel thankfulness about all that is right in your life. It’s an important rite in our culture, and there’s nothing wrong with celebrating your loved ones and their health, with a tinge of remembering lost family members.

But there’s another aspect to Thanksgiving that’s often lost.

The first Thanksgiving meal was one that was remarkable not for what the pilgrims were thankful for, it was remarkable for the people that were included at the table: members of the Wampanoag tribe. The food was a mix of both European and Native-American traditions, and the formerly marginalized tribe was, in effect, celebrated by their inclusion.

We can’t currently focus on inclusion so easily in the Thanksgiving of today — since it’s a family-based holiday, most find their way to their own families. You could celebrate a new addition to the family — a baby, or a spouse — but that’s not quite the same thing the Pilgrims did. The most dedicated among us might spend time at a soup kitchen helping those less fortunate, and dedicating the entire holiday to the inclusion of the excluded in a holiday of warmth.

But there’s a middle way, one that might make sense, and is easy. Before you end up blowing your holiday budget on gifts, consider those currently excluded from your gift list during this day of inclusion. Obviously, here at the First Base Foundation, we’d love for you to help bring those less fortunate into the game of competitive baseball, but it’s a wide world. In New York and New Jersey, there are those that are unable to enjoy Thanksgiving at their own table, and there are great ways to help include them in the spirit of this holiday.

In any case, as is our current cultural tradition, give thanks for those lucky enough to be at your table. And then, like the Pilgrims did with Wampanoag chief Massasoit, it would be mighty decent of you to find a way to celebrate inclusiveness as well.

2012 Oakland A’s Hot Stove League: Part 2 of 4

By: Aaron M. Smith/ @nekroholic

Today’s installment of my Oakland A’s “Hot Stove” analysis takes a hard look at the Athletics’ infield, or as I like to call it, the revolving door.

First Base:
The A’s started eight different players at first base this past season, with no one getting more than 60 starts. It seems that the A’s are finally moving on from the Daric Barton experiment. Another illuminating truth of the second half of the season was that Chris Carter looks as if he is learning to adjust to breaking balls at the big league level. He started forcing pitchers to throw him a fastball, and while he still strikes out a fair amount, at least he’s hitting with power. With 16 homeruns and 39 RBI in only 55 starts, it seems like he is becoming the big league hitter the A’s have been patiently waiting for. I don’t see the A’s making a move of any sorts at first, and they should hopefully find some consistency between Brandon Moss, Carter, and Seth Smith.

Second Base:
What happens in the middle infield in 2013 will completely hinge on whether the A’s re-sign Stephen Drew. I’m sure that A’s brass and fans alike are hoping that Jemile Weeks’ season long slump was just a minor bump in what will be a productive career, but fans and the front office need to prepare as though last season was much more than just a sophomore slump.  If Drew is re-signed, look for Adam Rosales to get most of the time at second if Weeks is weak. Otherwise, I can see Billy Beane going out and getting a veteran at a budget price. Ryan Theriot, Kelly Johnson, or Jeff Keppinger could all be good fits for the position.

Shortstop:
In the offseason so far, the A’s have traded Cliff Pennington, who started 93 games at short, as part of the three-team deal for Chris Young, and declined the 10 million dollar option on mid-season acquisition Stephen Drew, giving him a 1.35 million dollar buyout. With a weak free agent market at the shortstop position, it would make sense for the A’s to bring Drew back for a lesser price. If he doesn’t re-sign however, look for Beane to make a trade for a shortstop or to make some kind of under-the-radar bargain deal. I would not want to place my faith solely on Brandon Hicks or Eric Sogard, so the oft injured Adam Rosales could see the lion’s share of the work at shortstop, if Jemile Weeks is able to recapture the same magic he had at the plate two seasons ago.

Third Base:
It will be almost as if the A’s will be getting a free agent in Scott Sizemore, as he was lost for the entire season early during spring training last March. It may take him a while to completely recover from the ACL injury, but since Josh Donaldson did much better in the second half of the season, the A’s should feel positive about retaining him as a back up.

Catcher:
Oakland saw five different players start at catcher during this last season, with Kurt Suzuki making the majority of appearances. Midway through the season, the A’s turned to young Derek Norris, who they got in the Gio Gonzalez trade. At first, he struggled to adjust to Major League pitching, but by the end of the season and into the ALDS, he had seriously improved. The A’s are going to hope the promising Norris and backup George Kottaras will be able to do all the catching duty, with Donaldson helping out once in a while. I don’t see the A’s signing a free agent for this position, but if they did, it would be to add depth, designed to challenge Norris and inspire him to improve on the spot.

 

UP NEXT: Oakland Athletics Pitching. Stay Tuned!

2012 Oakland A’s Hot Stove League: Part 1 of 4

By Aaron M. Smith / @nekroholic

It is time for owners, GM’s, and coaches to start the mad dash to next season. They’re making trades, signing players, and developing those they already have in their system. At this time of the year, every MLB team starts with a clean slate. Each and every fan feels their team will be the best story of the 2013 baseball season. This is the time of year that fans gather around the hot stove during the cold winter months, and converse about potential player acquisitions for their favorite teams. It is the one and only MLB “Hot Stove League.”

I am going to do a four-part series on the Oakland A’s as they enter the “Hot Stove.” I will focus on outfield, infield, pitching, and the state of the A’s farm system.

Since the amount of spending money that Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff allows Billy Beane to spend is roughly equivalent to a grandmother giving her grandson a $1 and saying, “Here sonny boy, take your girlfriend out on a nice date, and try not to spend it all in one place,” Beane has to make most of his moves through trades and under-the-radar signings. Last season, he proved he was more than capable after pulling off what appeared to be the curious trades of Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey, and Trevor Cahill, while acquiring great pieces at the Major League level, as well as creating impressive organizational depth.

Season Recap:

The Oakland A’s won 94 games, finishing first in the AL West after a remarkable end-of-the-season run. They lost in five games to the eventual American League Champion Detroit Tigers in the NLDS.

What Went Right:

Billy Beane won 2012 Executive of the Year after making a number of great trades that brought the A’s Josh Reddick, Tommy Milone, and Jarrod Parker, and All-Star Ryan Cook, among others. After making trades which resulted in getting rid of three of their best pitchers, many were questioning what the A’s were doing, believing they were intentionally throwing away the season in some strategic attempt to get out of Oakland. While both teams benefited from sending Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals, Oakland and Beane came out of the trade season looking like geniuses. Josh Reddick won the Gold Glove for right field in the American League. Bob Melvin nearly won American League manager of the year. The A’s were also able to land big-time import free agent Yoenis Cespedes, who looks like he is going to be a superstar for a long time to come. The Oakland outfield and the emergence of strong, young pitching were key things that went right all season.

What Went Wrong:

They had absolutely no consistency in the infield all season. They lost third baseman Scott Sizemore in spring training for the entire year, got no production out of Jemile Weeks or the shortstop position for most of the season, and had a myriad of different first baseman. Oakland got little to no production from the catching position, and after trading away Kurt Suzuki they settled on youngster Derek Norris who struggled at times to adjust to the speed of the game at the Major League level. Starting Pitcher Bartolo Colon was suspended for 50 games for the use of a banned substance, and the remainder of the pitching staff fell victim again to the injury bug that seems to haunt them every season.

Outfield:

Immediately after the A’s postseason run, they made a move that has left a number of people scratching their heads. They obtained center fielder Chris Young from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team deal. This has left their outfield more than crowded, and almost assuredly implies that A’s GM Billy Beane is going to make another move. I see him trying to trade incumbent CF Coco Crisp to a team in need of a veteran leadoff hitter with speed. If neither team signs Michael Bourn, the Washington Nationals or Cincinnati Reds could be interested in Crisp. Both teams have minor leaguers about a year or two away from making an impact at the major league level, but need a center fielder in the short term. Trading Crisp, who is set to make 7 million next season, will not only open space for Young in the outfield, but will give Beane an opportunity to add more depth to a Minor League system currently lacking in position players.Therefore, with their current outfield situation, I believe that the A’s will not resign fan favorite and Petaluma-raised Jonny Gomes. In addition to Chris Young and Coco Crisp, they have Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Colin Cowgill, Seth Smith in the outfield, along with top prospect Grant Green who comes up occasionally from AAA in the case of an injury or lack of production.

I predict a starting outfield of Cespedes in LF, newly acquired Young in CF, and 2012 Gold Glove winner Reddick in RF.

Up Next: Infielder Recaps and 2013 Predictions

 

World Series: Game Two – Success!

You have to love the game of Baseball. In the three previous games that the Giants have played at AT&T Park, there has been such an offensive surge of power, it should be considered as a pretty darn reasonable alternative power source for the state of California.

Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday night was no different than the rest. This game was marked by great defense by the Giants, and great pitching from both starters. One of the best parts of the game was that the only two runs were both scored on outs.

Things are going the Giants way. While they have had some obvious good fortune, they have also been executing their style of baseball to perfection. The Tigers have struggled to play the National League’s requisite small-ball, and have been taking risks that have not paid off for them.

Gene Lamont’s decision to send the built-like-a-Chevy-Suburban Prince Fielder home on a double with no outs early in the game was representative of the overall weirdness of the night, as well as the Tigers’ inability to execute.

Tigers’ manager, Jim Leyland, then played his infield deep with bases loaded and no outs in a scoreless game in the late innings. Brandon Crawford grounded into a double play, and Leyland curiously allowed the Giants to score the go-ahead run. This is intriguing because Leyland was implying that the Tigers would get the run back and more once they’d bat; however, they had proven up to that point in the series that they could not actually produce runs under pressure. Clearly, Leyland misread the situation, and underestimated the Giants yet again.

The Giants just plain executed for the whole night. The night after Pablo Sandoval turned the pages of the record books with three homeruns in Game One, the Giants biggest hit of Game Two came in the form of a magical roller off a bunt from Gregor Blanco that refused to go foul. When Pence scored on the ensuing Crawford double play ball, it felt like the Giants had just scored 10 runs. The way the Tigers offense and defense had been faltering during the night, just the one run seemed insurmountable.

To add to the wackiness of the night, the Giants turned to 23-year-old Madison Bumgarner, who has struggled in his past two postseason starts. Posting a nearly 12 ERA and a 0-2 record, the only people left who were confident in Bumgarner were his coaches and himself. Regardless of that impression however, the lefty from North Carolina dealt all night. He fixed the over-rotation in his windup and his arm slot, and he left the Tigers’ hitters off-balance all night long. He pitched a beautiful 7 innings of shutout ball, nearly matching his brilliant performance in Game Four of the 2010 World Series against the Texas Rangers.

Giants Fans have one day off to celebrate these two fantastic games that have occurred so far, and then its back to the torture on Saturday night, as the Giants play a Designated Hitter (American League rules) in Detroit. We’ll just have to wait and see which version of the Giants will be playing then!