Results tagged ‘ Glendale ’

Be prepared

During the final days of the 2009 regular season, Ozzie Guillen made it abundantly clear as to how White Sox players were expected to come ready to play from the first day of Spring Training, 2010 in mid-February. Don’t use that time at Camelback Ranch to first get going.

Those same strong comments were made by general manager Ken Williams during his last chat with the media and by White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in a talk with the players before batting practice on the final home weekend. Simply put, the White Sox brass was not going to tolerate another sub-par year such as the one just completed.

Apparently, a few weeks away from his team’s 79-83 finish haven’t softened Guillen’s stance on this particular topic.

“Kenny and Jerry made it clear to everyone–come ready to play in Spring Training,” said Guillen during a Tuesday conference call, in which he discussed the team, as well as Gordon Beckham’s selection as one of the 2009 Sporting News Rookies of the Year.

“We expect to win next year, like we expect to win every year,” Guillen said. “So, they better be prepared.”

Guillen’s conference call response came at the end of a question concerning Freddy Garcia. The veteran right-hander, who closed out his 2009 campaign with seven quality starts in his last eight trips to the mound, had his $1 million 2010 option picked up by the White Sox.

The starting rotation alignment has Garcia currently penciled in at No. 5, a hidden luxury when considering Garcia’s vast pitching knowledge and big-game success. But despite Garcia and Guillen basically being family members, Garcia won’t be cut any extra slack if he shows up to Glendale out of shape.

“Freddy know what he have to do, and if he’s not ready for Spring Training, then we make a move,” Guillen said. “I’m not going to babysit him. But he has to stay strong for him, not just for us. Just work hard and take care of himself. Freddy won’t have any problem.

“Everyone has that same responsibility. Jerry made it clear. It doesn’t matter how much money you make. If you are not prepared, we will find another home for you.”

Grand Opening

Camelback Ranch plays host to its first official contest Sunday afternoon, appropriately between the Dodgers and White Sox, with the first pitch scheduled for 2:05 p.m. CT.

Jordin Sparks, a Glendale native and American Idol winner, will sing the National Anthem, punctuatd by a fly-over by four F-16s from neighboring Luke Air Force Base. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and managers Joe Torre and Ozzie Guillen will participate in ceremonial first pitches.

Count Guillen as one of the many who is most excited to break in the new ballpark.

The only thing I can say is I was first at three different fields,” Guillen said. “I was the first at new Comiskey Park, the first at Sarasota and now this one. It either means you are getting old or you have been around the same organization a long time.

I think it’s going to be great. With the Dodgers, 50 years since the last World Series (in 1959, between the two teams). I feel proud to be part of that. I’m always pleased when baseball gets better and better.

“You can see baseball moving forward when you build a new facility like this one for Spring Training,” Guillen said. “Hopefully, I’ll be around long enough to enjoy this complex a little while. And hopefully, I no manage long enough to move somewhere else. It’s going to be a special day for the White Sox organization and we have to enjoy it as much as we can.

Mark Buehrle gets the start for the White Sox, before he heads home to Missouri for the birth of his second child and first daughter.



Tucson Tales, Day 1

I actually arrived in Tucson on Wednesday night and had a great dinner at McMahon’s with my friend Sarah, probably the most upbeat person I know. I had the salmon, she had the swordfish–both outstanding meals. Actually, I’ve never had a bad meal in all my year’s of going to McMahon’s, so if you are in Tucson, stop by and tell them Scott Merkin sent you. It probably won’t do you any good, but I always wanted to have that kind of pull.

On Thursday night, I dinned at Risky Business, one of my favorite sports bars in Tucson. I was the rebel at the restaurant on this night, as every one of the 25 or so televisions was on the Arizona game. The hostess was nice enough to put one of the TVs on Michigan-Purdue.

Great win for the Wolverines! They should be in the NCAA Tournament, but if they end the season with a win at Minnesota, assuming a loss at Wisconsin, they have to qualify.

During my 6 1/2 years in Tucson (split one Spring Training between covering the Cubs and White Sox while working for another organization), I always enjoyed the city. Still do, but I have to admit I’ve grown accustomed to the Glendale area.

But that’s not why you called. Here are a few brief observations from the victory over Colorado, which probably got overlooked in the bulk of the coverage:

–Gordon Beckham walked in his first at-bat in the 7th and showed a little attitude with a bat flip after the walk. Attitude, as in confidence, not in a bad way. He then proceeded to swipe second base, one of three White Sox stolen bases on the day. I know it’s one game, but this kid has the feel of a ballplayer.

–Speaking of ballplayers, keep an eye on Brandon Allen. The 23-year-old had 29 home runs and 17 stolen bases combined last year and had one hit, one run scored and a stolen base on Thursday. He moves very well for his 6-foot-2, 235-pound size. Ozzie Guillen also has taken notice of Allen.

“I love the way he swings the bat,” sad Guillen of Allen. “He’s a name I’ve talked about with (general manager) Kenny (Williams).”

–Jack Egbert, D.J. Carrasco and Lance Broadway all hurled two scoreless innings apiece, while Jhonny Nunez closed out the victory with the look of a closer.

–Corky Miller had three hits and also had the longest distance for a 2009 Spring Traning bat toss, with it landing in the stands behind the White Sox dugout. Nobody was hurt, thankfully, and Miller traded another bat for the one the fan caught.

More updates to come later, after the game against Arizona is complete. Hope I remember how to get Tucson Electrc Park.

By the way, I just noticed the time of this blog entry as 11:11:11. Weird, right? Maybe I should view 11 as my lucky number for the rest of Spring Training.


Things I learned … Recently

–Apparently, I need to go see Slumdog Millionaire.

–I still think Mickey Rourke should have won Best Actor for The Wrestler. Then again, that was the only movie I saw out of the nominations.

–Michigan won’t be going to the NCAA Tournament unless the Wolverines win their next three games or win the Big 10 Tournament. What happened to Manny Harris, is what I want to know?

–Taking a nap from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. is not conducive for falling asleep later that night. I tried this trick out on Saturday. It won’t happen again.

–There are FAR too many pseudo-reality shows on VH-1. Keep Rock of Love and dump the rest.

–I’m looking forward to Cactus League games actually beginning. Trips to Tucson on Las Vegas on the horizon in the next week.

More later. It’s 85 in Glendale today, by the way.


Beckham, meet Baines

Welcome to the big leagues, Gordon Beckham.

The White Sox top pick from the 2008 First-Year Player draft was the subject of his first team prank on Monday, following a Sunday batting practice session when he reportedly asked A.J. Pierzynski “Who is Harold Baines?”

Joey Cora, the White Sox bench coach, was the evil mastermind of this put on, live from Glendale, beginning with what he called a game of “Who am I?” after making the morning announcements before team stretch.

“Maybe a couple of you guys know exactly who this person is. He’s a special person,” Cora said. “This person is ranked 18th in games playd, all-time, in Major League Baseball.

“No. 26, ALL-TIME, in Major League Baseball, in at-bats,” said Cora, emphasizing all-time for effect. “No. 28, ALL-TIME in Major League baseball, with 1,628 RBIs.

“Total bases, 33rd ALL-TIME in Major League Baseball. Forty-first in hits, ALL-TIME, with 2,886 hits. Fiftieth, ALL-TIME, in extra-base hits, with 921.

“It’s unbelievable,” Cora added. “This guy should be in the Hall of Fame.”

At that point, general manager Ken Williams chimed in.

“He was clutch, too, wasn’t he?” Williams said.

And, then Cora produced the exclamation point for the joke.

“By the way, a lot of you guys who have played at Cellular Field, whoever hasn’t played there, there’s a statue in right field of this guy,” Cora said.

Cora held up a black and white copy of a photo of Baines standing next to his statue and asked, “I wonder who it is? Let’s take a crack at it.”

Somewhere around half-way through the set up, Beckham saw the joke coming his way and didn’t flinch when answering, “Harold Baines.”

Baines and Beckham shook hands, and Baines signed the picture for the phenom. But the prank was not complete without Jermaine Dye encouraging Beckham to explain how this situation originally began.

“I knew who Harold Baines was,” Beckham said.

“Maybe you didn’t,” Pierzynski and Brian Anderson responded.

“A.J. asked why I was No. 80, and I said, ‘I don’t know. What number do you think they should have given me?'” Beckham said. “A.J. goes, ‘I thought they were going to un-retire Harold’s number for you. And I said, ‘Who’s Harold?'”

Clearly, Beckham won’t ask that question again.

“Now, I know,” Beckham said with a smile.

Beckham might want to share that information with a fan at Camelback Ranch, who greeted Baines on his way to the practice fields Monday by announcing, “Good morning, Jermaine.”


Exploring Glendale

Thought I would share with you my Monday adventures with Danielle and Stacy from the White Sox community relations department in an area of Glendale called Westgate. Think of a glitzy, sort of in-your-face type of shopping complex like you would find in Las Vegas, only without gambling and the Kardashian sisters. At least, they weren’t at our restaurant, and trust me, I always look.

As for the restaurant we visited, the food was not really good enough for me to recommend the place–although it was just one visit. There was one sort of interesting service moment, when I ordered my entree and then asked the waitress about also getting a side dinner salad. Little did I know, salad came with the entree so she actually brought two for me.

Clearly, it was my mistake, but when I told her I wouldn’t have ordered another salad if I knew one came with the meal, she looked at me, smiled and said, “Awww.” As they say in the game of baseball, she clearly owned me. But she also took the salad off the bill.

We followd up dinner by visiting an establishment called Saddle Ranch Chop House, where I watched a White Sox staffer ride a mechanical bull. My goal is to tackle the same challenge before I leave Arizona, although my two brothers are taking bets as to what I injure if I actually go through with it.

If you make the trip here for Spring Training, and I encourage everyone to do so to see Camelback Ranch, if nothing else, Westgate seems to be a nice evening venture after baseball. Just be careful of the parking crunch if the Coyotes are playing, since the stadium is bascially attached to the complex.

I also would liked to extend a belated Happy Birthday wish to my friend, Katie, and my Facebook friend, Denise Richards.





Thome talk

My apologies for accidentally skipping a day blogging from glorious Glendale (I still miss Tucson, but Camelback Ranch becomes more impressive every day I’m there).

I had fully intended to blog when I arrived back at my spring condo last night, but first laid down on the couch and started watching the 20 worst divorces of all time on the E channel. By the way, how is the Paul McCartney divorce not No. 1? The dude has Beatles money and no pre-nup. Anyhow, I fell asleep at 6 p.m. and woke up disoriented around 11 p.m. I should have blogged then, but I was just trying to figure out where I was at the time.

Anyhow, to borrow a line from WWE announcer Jim Ross, business is about to pick up at White Sox camp. Thursday marks the official day for all position players to report, meaning it’s also the first full squad workout and the first Ozzie Guillen speech of Spring Training. From what I’ve been told, since the media isn’t allowed in the clubhouse during these meetings, Guillen’s humorous but direct dissertation would sell millions on DVD.

We had a chance to talk to with Jim Thome today, and it was interesting to hear him recognize how the end of what I think is a sure-fire, Hall-of-Fame career might not be that far away. I would guess three years would lock up 600 home runs for Thome, allow his young son to gain a greater appreciation for what dad does and give Thome three more chances to win that elusive World Series title.

I had the chance to speak with Thome a few times during the offseason, and he talked then about just taking one year at a time and thoroughly enjoying the present season to the fullest instead of thinking about 2010. That plan certainly hasn’t changed, but on Wednesday, he sounded as if a little more thought had been put into the final stage of his illustrious run.

Along with being one of the nicest humans you’ll ever meet, what really impresses me about Thome is how much he truly enjoys his life. I wish I enjoyed my life half as much as he does. If more people took Thome’s positive approach, there would probably be less crime in the streets or at least fewer people honking and yelling when the car in front of them fails to go on green (one of my pet peeves).

Thome also uses his vast baseball fame to help others, which holds true for MANY players and personnel throughout the White Sox organization. I’m sure that charitable aspect of Thome’s life will continue, even when baseball is done. As a side note, anyone who has never attended the Joyce Thome Benefit for Children’s Hospital of Ilinois, in Peoria, hosted by Thome and his wife, Andrea, should do so immediately–like January, 2010, immediately. Great event and a great cause

Thome might not be a .280 hitter anymore. But you can write in pen today that barring injuries, Thome will hit at least 35 home runs and drive in at least 90 in 2009.




Welcome to the show!

Friday the 13th marks my first move into the world of blogging, which in some way, seems somewhat fitting. So, welcome to my new White Sox blog, Being Ozzie Guillen, which could see a name change as the season progresses. After all, anyone who has covered or spoken to him knows that Guillen stands out as one of a kind in a truly good way.

For those who don’t me, I’m Scott Merkin, beginning my seventh season covering the White Sox for I worked for the Tribune Company prior to this job, live in Chicago and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1987. Any White Sox fans who have read my previous Mailbags can expect a few mentions of Michigan sports along the way in the blog.

My goal is to bring you a little more inside information than the abundance already provided through the entirety of coverage at Most items will pertain to the team. Some will deal with little bits of information I’ve observed outside of baseball along the way. Here are a few to get started.

1) Following a short hiatus, White Sox Mailbags are returning and at a perfect time with White Sox pitchers and catchers reporting Sunday. They will now be called the White Sox Inbox, but send your questions in as before and I’ll get to as many as possible.

2) I sat next to a lovely and intelligent girl named Alexandria from Rockford on my Thursday flight from Chicago to Phoenix. She is a big White Sox supporter and picks Guillen’s crew to win the American League Central in 2009. She also swears by a restaurant called Texas Roadhouse. Anyone else know about this place?

3) Extremely tough loss for Northwestern last night, but that setback might help Michigan get into the NCAA Tourney–if the Wolverines ever win again. There looks to be five teams as locks for the Big 10 and another four competing for one additional Tourney spot.

So, here’s just an early sample of the blog. Check back frequently, as I’ll try to update when I take a little driving tour of the Glendale area following maintenance coming to my Arizona condo to make a few crucial repairs.