Monday, March 18, 2013
In less than three weeks, the “Boys of Summer” will be heading to their baseball homes to begin the 2013 season. As is always the case, all teams are expected to contend for the World Series. That is as it should be. There should always be promise in the season to come, whether it be rookies that look like they can win twenty games, or veterans who can knock the cover off the ball.
The Toronto Blue Jays baseball club has done its fair share of tinkering in the off season. They have brought in a heap of talent, and are listed as a serious contender this season by the experts in Vegas. The starting rotation will look something like this: 1. R. A. Dickey, 2. Brendan Morrow, 3. Mark Buehrle, 4. Josh Johnson, and 5. Rickey Romero.
The Jays play out of Dunedin, Florida, in the spring. They travel throughout the state to get ready. The spring season is dubbed the “Grapefruit League”, and statistics are recorded for the efforts of the teams, and the individual players.
I caution you not to put much faith in those statistics. I remember seasons when the Jays were front-runners in the spring, only to collapse against the mighty opponents in the Eastern Division. At present, the Jays sit near the lower end of the pack, playing .400 baseball. There are many factors to consider regarding these results.
The rosters of all major league teams are temporarily disrupted this year because of the World Baseball Classic. Players represent their respective countries in an Olympic-style event, concluding shortly. Both the Canadian and American teams have been eliminated from the tournament. The Canadian team went down fighting, literally. The entire bench stormed the field against the Mexicans, in a good old fashioned rhubarb.
There are also many players recuperating from off-season surgery, and others working through the aches and pains of playing the game. (I have never been hit in the backside with a baseball thrown 100 miles per hour. I can imagine the pain.)
The Tampa Bay Rays play out of Port Charlotte, north of Fort Myers. I saw them play the Philadelphia Phillies last week, in brilliant sunshine. The Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins use Fort Myers as a home base. All teams have wonderful, compact stadia which hold ten to twenty thousand fans. The contests are, for the most part, relaxed and without great expectation. Management wants to see what the players have to offer. There are a few jobs on the line.
Tommy Hottovy hails from Missouri. He attended high school in Riverside, then proceeded to Wichita State University in Kansas. He was drafted by the Red Sox in 2004, and has had a taste of Major League experience. He appeared in 17 games with Kansas City and Boston the past two seasons. He is currently in the camp of the Toronto Blue Jays.
His career was put on hold in 2008, when he underwent “Tommy John” surgery. Since then, he has redefined his style, and now hurls sidearm.
I spoke with Tommy in Fort Myers, as he toured the Edison and Ford Winter Estates on McGregor Boulevard. “I expect to be with Buffalo to begin the season,” he told me. (To keep out of trouble here, I work as a volunteer at the Estates.) Hottovy was accompanied by a couple of relatives wearing flashy new Jays’ caps. I asked about their choice of teams here in Fort Myers, where Red Sox and Twins rule. Thus I discovered his presence.
Hottovy will be 32 this coming July. He has paid his dues, and would dearly love to move back into the Blue Jay ranks, as the season progresses. He was most affable as we chatted briefly. I cautioned him about the use of his pitching arm as he was carrying his young baby in his right arm. He sloughed off my concern. “No problem,” he answered. “I’m a lefty!”
This week I have tickets for the Red Sox and the Orioles, and the Twins and the Yankees. Nothing like a ball park frank in March!