A’s Sign Hiroyuki Nakajima from Japan

hiroyuki-nakajimaYes, the A’s lost several players to free agency, Brandon McCarthy and Johnny Gomes to name two, but they just signed Japanese shortstop, Hiroyuki Nakajima, according to an article from the Contra Costa Times, complete with videos. Nakajima can hit the long ball, and he can field, as you will see in the last video on the page.  The A’s signed him to a 2-year, $6.5 million contract, with an $5.5 million option for 2015.

Here’s a link to the article:

http://www.contracostatimes.com/athletics/ci_22214104/video-new-oakland-shortstop-hiroyuki-nakajima-action-japan?source=email2013

Where do you think the A’s will finish in the AL West in 2013? Leave a comment with your response.

2013 is going to be a very interesting season.  I, for one, am looking forward to it!

Go A’s!!

News Flash: The A’s made a move!

Brandon Hicks was sent to the New York Mets yesterday for an undisclosed amount of cash.

Hicks was designated for assignment by the A’s on Nov. 20th, the day teams had to finalize their 40-man rosters before next week’s Rule V draft.  He played 22 games with the A’s this season, and batted .172 with three home runs and seven RBIs during two different stints with the A’s, who briefly used him as a platoon player at shortstop.

Hicks was claimed off waivers by Oakland from Atlanta March 13 and spent most of the season at Triple-A Sacramento, where he hit .244 with 18 home runs and 61 RBIs in 90 games.

Sounds like a good deal for the A’s as he probably wasn’t going to be part of their plans going forward.

A’S DESIGNATE ONE FULL SHARE OF PLAYOFF MONEY TO CHARITY!

Here’s a press release one of the Oakland A’s Boosters alerted me to:

“OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Athletics players have decided to donate one full playoff share to eight local and national charitable efforts, a total of $34,325.16.

Reliever Jerry Blevins, the team’s player representative, informed the front office that he and his teammates voted to donate one playoff share to charities – including Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. The other charities are the MLB Players Trust, UMPS CARE, Oakland A’s Community Fund, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area, United Way of the Bay Area, Donnie Moore Ministries and the ”Strike 3 Foundation.”

The AL West champion A’s lost in five games of the AL division series to the Detroit Tigers after a sensational final week of the regular season that included a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers to capture the division crown.”*

The A’s full share of Playoff money was $2,124,312,75.  The players decided to split the money into 51 full shares, 9.786 partial shares, and 20 cash awards. They took the 51st full share and gave it to charities of their choosing.  We all knew that this team was special.  This is another example of what wonderful human beings these guys are.

Apparently, Johnny Gomes (now with the Boston Red Sox) was the player who urged the others to set this share aside for charity at a team meeting held in Texas near the end of the season.  It seemed a long shot at that time, as the A’s were 5 games back of of the Rangers with only a few more games than that left to play.  But do it they did, winning the division on the last game of the season against Texas!

As Casey Pratt of CSN wrote, “Some of the lowest paid players in the league offering up their hard earned money to people that need it more. That tells you all you need to know about the character of these Oakland Athletics.”

* * *

An Apology:  I started this bog a few years ago while I was writing my book, Contract Year: a baseball novel.  During the final rewrites and publications phases, I neglected my blog, posting only sporadically.  To my followers, I am truly sorry.  But now that the book is published, I will have more time to devote to it and will try to live up to my original promise to post at least 3 or more times a month.  Today is the first step in that direction.

People have asked me how the book is doing, and the answer is very well.  I am proud of the fact that it enjoys a 5-star rating on Amazon!  Check it out on my website by clicking on this link:  www.contractyearnovel.com where signed copies are available as well as ebook versions in both Kindle and iPad versions.

That’s all for today.  See you again here soon, I promise!

Bee

*Press release courtesy of Yahoo Sports.

Contract Year is Doing Well!

Contract Year: a baseball novel is doing really well and has a 5-star rating on Amazon.com.  Check it out at www.contractyearnovel.comHere’s what one writer said about it:

“Contract Year tells not only the story of a superstar’s emergence in the key year of his baseball career, it presents the journey of a superstar’s heart in the most pivotal year of his personal life and shows how the glory we seek is sometime right under our nose.  A great read.”  (Rick Hurd, National Baseball Writer.)

If you’d like a signed copy, or to buy the ebook version (Kindle or iPad), visit the website above.  Otherwise, it is available at Amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.

Ninth inning. Seventh Game,  (You’ll have to read the book to understand the significance of this!)

Bee

“Contract Year” Has Been Published!!

I am pleased to announce that Contract Year: a baseball novel has been published! Here’s a bit about the book:

Larry Gordon has it all. He’s a successful major league pitcher and is dating the perfect woman. He’ll earn big money in the free agency market at the end of the upcoming season if he plays well during this, his Contract Year. But his girlfriend walks out on him and turns his world upside down. Larry heads off to spring training to forget about her and get ready for the season. He learns quickly that his self-absorbed carefree way of life won’t cut it anymore, that he’ll have to find a new way to succeed on the mound and in his personal life. Follow Larry’s funny and poignant journey, and get a peek inside the world of professional baseball.

For more information and to purchase a copy, click —> HERE to go to my website.  That way you can get a signed copy.  The book is also available on Amazon.com.

Recent praise for Contract Year:

Contract Year tells not only the story of a superstar’s emergence in the key year of his baseball career, it presents the journey of a superstar’s heart in the most pivotal year of his personal life and shows how the glory we seek is sometimes right under our nose. A great read.” — Rick Hurd, National Baseball Writer

“The author gives a good glimpse into the trials and tribulations that a professional baseball player faces, including the stress and outside distractions we deal with on a daily basis. Although I am the polar opposite of Larry off the field, its’s a good story and I enjoyed reading it a great deal.” – James Simmons, Oakland Athletics pitcher

“Memory of a fan waving a sign “Marry Me!” was the inspiration for Contract Year, and the author lit up with joy and excitement.  I know.  I was there.  And it’s been a joy watching Bee Hylinski develop the plot, deepen her characters, enhance the scenes, and tighten the writing, all for the love of baseball, and for the love of love.”  — Clive Matson, author Let the Crazy Child Write! and Chalcedony’s Songs

“What fun to experience a young man’s success as he struggles to become more than he ever imagined becoming! When we first meet Larry, he seems a shallow and callow youth with a one-track world view: his baseball career and himself. But then–slowly and not too willingly–he looks beyond and sees more in his universe than himself, and he begins to change, to open up, to become. For this reader, he moved from a boy I did not much like to a person I enjoy knowing.” — Jean G., Walnut Creek, CA

“I just finished Contract Year and the ending was wonderful.  Wish we heard more stories like that.”  Ray D., Walnut Creek, CA

“It’s really good!  Very well written.”  Ned L., Seattle, WA

KEEP THE A’S IN OAKLAND!!!

For almost 3 years, Major League Baseball has been “studying” whether or not the A’s can move to San Jose.  Commissioner Bud Selig has done nothing to move the issue to a resolution, despite the fact that he is the fraternity brother of A’s Managing General Partner, Lew Wolff.  Despite comments from Selig that “the issue is on the front burner,” there is no guarantee that the fate of the A’s will be on the agenda at the opcoming Owners Meeting later this month.  If past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior, it won’t be discussed or acted on.

Fast forward to yesterday:  Don Knauss, the CEO of Clorox held a gathering of business leaders to send a message to Major League Baseball, they they want the A’s to stay in Oakland and are willing to commit significant  corporate dollars to make sure that happens.  In addition to those from Clorox, executives of a dozen Oakland-based companies were in attendance, including Kaiser Permanente, Safeway, Pandora Internet Radio, Cost Plus World Market and Signature Development.  Mayor Jean Quan and other Oakland city officials were also on hand for this “public display of affection,” as Knauss called it.

Mayor Quan said that she had had breakfast recently with one of the Giant’s main owners who was adamant (his word) that the Giants will not give up their territorial rights to San Jose.  Sounds like a stalemate to me.

Knauss also said that if the current owners of the A’s cant commit to Oakland or don’t want to, a group of investors,(presumably including some in attendance at yesterday’s love fest) would be willing to buy the A’s to keep the team here.  He declined to talk about how much such investors would be willing to pay, but some had pledged a total of $1 million to keep the A’s in Oakland in 2009 when Bud Selig first appointed the 3-man committe to evaluate the A’s Bay Area choices.

Lew Wolff has repeatedly said that the A’s are not for sale, that the current ownership plans to remain in place for “at least another generation.”  He was recently asked what the A’s planned to do if MLB denies the move to San Jose.  He responded, “We are not sellers.”  He also has said that, “We have no plan B, but it can’t be in Oakland.”

The latest Forbes estimate of baseball franchise values has the A’s in last place with a value of $321 million, well below the average of $523 million.  That is an estimate of what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller, and we apparently do not have the latter.

So we all wait with baited breath to see if the A’s future is decided at the opcoming owners meeting, or not.  I am keeping my fingers crossed.  MLB’s indecision is costing the A’s money (they can’t or won’t invest significant money in the team or stadium until they know where they will be allowed to play), and it is costing them fans, as they have done about everything they can to alienate the faithful short of going out of business.  We have very loyal fans, but their loyalty is fading with every day that MLB declines to give the A’s an answer.

Job Opportunity with the A’s: Developer – Baseball Systems

The A’s are hiring, and the press release below indicates that they are looking to develop a new player information and evaluation  system.  Very interesting!  If you know anyone with the requisite skill set, this looks like a great opportunity.  Feel free to pass this on.

Here’s the press release:

The Oakland Athletics are currently seeking a full-time Developer – Baseball Systems. This position reports to the senior Baseball Operations staff and will assist in the development and operation of an aggregated player information and evaluation system. This position requires strong statistical, database management, and software development skills and experience, as well as a demonstrated ability for independent thought and for working within a team framework.

Duties/Expectations: Responsible for, but not limited to the following:

• Work with senior Baseball Operations staff to develop and implement player management system, including regularly reporting on progress once project is underway • Employ an iterative software development approach to ensure quick roll-out along with incremental improvements to developed player management system over time • Create specifications for application through gathering and documentation of user requirements • Prepare detailed design specifications defining system architecture and object relationships and functions and review specifications with Baseball Operations and IT management to validate design • Design underlying data architecture for player management system while adhering to rules of normalization and database design practices to produce efficient and intuitive data structures • Create database tables, stored procedures, and views using Microsoft SQL Server and associated tools • Develop player management application using Microsoft VB.NET and other relevant tools while making use of industry best practices and recommended coding standards to write clear, readable, and efficient code • Coordinate with 3rd party providers of data and multimedia to effectively integrate those systems into underlying data architecture and player management system • Design and develop procedures to calculate advanced player statistics and manage player evaluations, rankings, and other information into a coherent and cohesive system • Program graphical and tabular layouts of information as appropriate to optimize user experience for Baseball Operations staff • Continue to identify features and functions to be incorporated into the player management system, including solicitation of feedback from Baseball Operations staff and involvement in staff meetings to evaluate system and prioritize additions/improvements • Responsible for training staff on use of system, including in-person training and development and maintenance of a reference manual • Provide ongoing support and troubleshooting of system, including upgrades to take advantage of new technology • Work with IT department to address any infrastructure needs (hardware, bandwidth, etc.), and provide regular updates to Baseball Operations staff on ongoing and future software development costs for budgeting purposes

Qualifications/Minimum Requirements:

• Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Information Systems, or equivalent; advanced degree strongly preferred • Minimum of 3-5 years of experience developing enterprise level applications using Microsoft VB.NET and SQL Server • Experience with software development, including requirements definition, design, development, testing, implementation, and iterative improvement • Ability to design and implement complex database structures using SQL Server tools • Experience integrating multiple data sources, formats, and media into a single application • Familiarity with the following programming languages: C, PHP, Javascript, and Perl • Working familiarity with advanced statistical concepts, particularly those relevant to sabermetric player evaluation techniques including experience implementing statistical calculations, derivations, and graphical representations into software applications (Experience with R programming language a plus) • Ability to communicate effectively with all aspects of Baseball Operations, Scouting and Player Development staffs, and understand their job functions and subsequent software needs • Passion for baseball, strong intellectual curiosity, and ability to work within team framework highly desired • Candidate must be available to work non-traditional hours (various nights, weekends, holidays)

Please apply at: http://baseballjobs.teamworkonline.com/teamwork/r.cfm?i=42846

All cover letters and resumes must be received no later than Sunday, April 1st, 2012.  No phone calls please.

Thanks to Jason Pomrenke of SABR for the press release.

What’s in a name: Stomper

At the pool where I take a water excercise class, there is a life guard who always wears an A’s hat.  Recently I found out that his name is Thomas Proell, and he named Stomper, the A’s Mascot.

In 1997, when Thomas was a second grader at Indian Valley School, in Walnut Creek, CA, his teacher asked the kids to come up with a name for the A’s elephant that was and still is the mascot of the team.  He went home and talked it over with his mother and said he wanted to submit the name “Stomper” as his choice.

Stomper was chosen as the best name submitted by the class, and his teacher sent it on to the A’s who were running a contest to come up with a name for the elephant mascot. 

“Stomper” was selected by the A’s, and Thomas and his family were invited to the opening day game on April 2nd where the name was unveiled.  He got to throw out the first pitch that day, and he and his family got to sit in a box for the game.  In addition, he was given season tickets for 4 years after that.  He has remained an A’s fan ever since, as evidenced by his hat.

Thomas is 22 years old,  has completed the required coursework and is certified as an EMT.  He is currently lifeguarding and taking classes at Los Medanos College in fire science and other classes related to becoming a paramedic.  He lives in Pittsburgh, CA.

Thank you Thomas for naming Stomper.  It’s a great name!

The Novel is Done!!!

I am pleased to report that the novel is done and is in the publication process.  As soon as it is out, I can have my life back.  Well, I’ll have to market it, but that sounds like fun to me.

Anyway, I thought I’d give you a teaser of sorts, in the form of a chapter that was removed “because it didn’t move the plot,” as my esteemed editor, Rick Hurd, told me many times as we were trying to whittle it down from 465 pages to 330+.

In this scene, my character and  starting pitcher, Larry Gordon, and his buddy, Rick Wycliffe, a relief pitcher, are in Seattle for the start of the baseball season.  They flew up a day early and have some time to kill.  After going up to the top of the Space Needle and eating lunch in the revolving restaurant, they walk towards the downtown area and come upon the Pike Place Market.  Here is what happened there:

Pitching Fish

Rick and I continue south along the Seattle waterfront until we come to the Pike Place Market, an old fashioned wharf-side fish market that sells more than just things from the sea, and we decide to wander in and have a look.

Pike Place Market

We pass stalls decked out in the vibrant colors of vegetables, berries, fruits, and flowers in a rainbow of hues, and booths that sell candy, aromatic coffees, teas, spices, and ice cream.  Our noses are greeted with a strong aroma of cinnamon as we approach a lighted case containing warm sticky buns that make our mouths water.  Even though we just ate dessert, they smell too good to pass up, and we buy one to split.

Next door is one of the fish mongers, and something flying catches my eye.  Rick and I move to the left to watch a guy tossing a large silvery salmon to another guy at the other end of the stall.  He lays it out on the crushed ice heaped on a slanted display shelf at the front of the stall.

Fish Monger's Stall

We watch several more flying fish, and I can see by the expression on Rick’s face that he’s hatching something.  He gives me an evil look.  “Hey, bro.  If you ever get injured and can’t pitch, I bet you could get a job here.”  He pauses for a second for effect.  “Nah, you’d never do it,” and gives me a jab in the ribs.

“Who says?”  I rub my side and wink at Rick.  After a few seconds, I vault quickly over the barrier between the stalls and land in front of the flabbergasted fish tosser,  “Can I try that?” I ask.

I’m sure this guy in a bloodstained apron and wool fisherman’s cap thinks I’m a raving loon, but he says, “Okay, if you want to.”  Then, eyeing me quizzically, he says:  “You look familiar.  Do I know you?”

I say in a low voice:  “That guy over there is Rick Wycliffe and I’m Larry Gordon.  We’re in town with the Renegades to play the Mariners.”  Recognition spreads across his face.

Before he can say anything, I say, indicating Rick, “He bet me I wouldn’t do this, and I want to make a liar out of him.  Can you help me out here?”  I put on my most appealing boyish smile and hold out my hands.

He looks at me dubiously but decides to go along with the program.  He hands me a somewhat cleaner apron than the one he is wearing, which I slip over my head.  He tells me to turn around and wraps the apron strings around me so I can tie them in the front.  Next he holds out a pair of long rubber gloves and I slip them on.  I don’t want to think about what kind of fish guts are inside them.

Then he retrieves a huge glistening salmon from a crate behind him and places it into my gloved hands.   He calls down to the guy at the other end of the stall, “Hey, Mike, incoming!”

Mike yells back, “Ready when you are, Chuck!”

“Go for it!” Chuck says, and stands back to give me some room.

I make sure I have a good grip on the slippery fish, take a few practice swings to get the feel for its weight, and launch it into the air in Mike’s direction.  He deftly catches the salmon, places it carefully next to the previous one and gives me a thumbs-up.  The few people who saw me vault into the stall start to clap.

Chuck hands me another silvery fish, and I fling it toward Mike who lays it out next to my first fish on the ice.  I look over the counter to find Rick.  I see him standing behind the burgeoning crowd, shaking his head, but smiling.

I turn back to Chuck who thrusts another fish into my hands, clearly amused by this whole scene.  I send it on its way, a perfect strike, right into Mike’s waiting hands.  This is a piece of cake, I think.   Much louder applause this time.  We’ve drawn quite an audience.

After a few more perfect pitches, I hear murmuring in the crowd.  Uh-oh.  I bet we’ve been found out

“Thanks for the fish-pitching lesson,” I say to Chuck.  “It was fun.  But we’ve got to get out of here.”

I peel off the gloves and the apron, thrusting them at Chuck,  and jump back over the barrier to more applause.  People are now pointing at me.  I sprint to Rick and we take off away from the crowd before Chuck can confirm who we are.

We emerge into the sunlight, put our sunglasses disguise back in place, and dissolve into hysterics.  It feels like the time when I was a  kid, and my best friend and I reduced a neighbor’s ancient grape arbor to kindling by pulling it apart with our bare hands.  When we heard a car pull in the driveway, we snuck off through the adjoining back yards, and no one but us ever knew who had done it.  We chuckled about that in secret for years afterwards.

Rick and I head back toward the hotel with a bounce in our steps, and he teases me about how fishy I smell now.  In all my current turmoil, it sure was nice just to goof around for a while.  Rick and I used to do this a lot when we first met in A-ball, before he got married and baseball got so serious.

We duck into a bar for a beer along the way and thank our lucky stars that no one we know was on hand in the Pike Place Market to witness our shenanigans.  Rick says, “You know we could never get away with anything like that in the Bay Area.”

“Yup.  It’s one of the few benefits of being on the road.  We can go out in public,” I say, and chug the rest of my beer.

Rick and I decide to grab an early dinner at a small restaurant near the hotel.  It’s a little hole in the wall place but the menu posted outside looks promising.  In honor of my fish-pitching exploits, I order salmon, which is delicious.  Rick has Alaskan King Crab legs which are huge and very messy.  His Dead Head tee shirt will never look or smell the same again.

We pay the check and walk back to the hotel completely contented.  He heads off to his room to call Cindy.  I crawl into my bed and bury my head in my Michael Crichton novel until the oblivion of sleep claims me.

* * *

Hope you enjoyed this little vignette.  BTW, the pictures are not in the novel.  I just wanted to break up the text for the blog.

I’ll keep you posted on the publication process.  The book should be avaliable sometime before the baseball season starts.

The End of an Era: Tony LaRussa Retires

Yesterday, Tony LaRussa announced his retirement from Baseball.  He managed the Chicago White Sox (8.3 years), the Oakland Athletics (10 years), and most recently the St. Louis Cardinals (16 years).  You can read about his retirement HERE.

Tony was signed as a amateur free agent by the Kansas City Athletics in 1962.  He played 2nd base and shortstop for most of his playing career, though he made appearances at 1st and 3rd, as well as in the outfield.  In 1976, he pitched in 3 games (.300 ERA) for the Iowa Oaks in the American Association (AAA).

He had “cups of coffee” with the Kansas City A’s (1963), and the Oakland A’s (1968+69),  and longer stints in Oakland in 1970 and 1971, when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves.  He bounced around the minor leagues with the Braves (cup of coffee in 1971),the Cubs (another cup of coffee in 1973), the Pirates, the White sox, and the Cardinals, who finally released  him in 1977(AA).

In 1978, he managed the Knoxville Sox of the Southern League (AA), and in 1979 was promoted to the Iowa Oaks (AAA), replacing Joe sparks.  During that year was called up to the Chicago White Sox to replace Don Kessinger, who was fired after losing 60 and winning 46 games.  Under Tony that year, the Chisox went 27-27.  In 1983, his White Sox won their division (99-63.)

As a manager, Tony certainly found his calling.  He won the American League Pennant 3 times, and the World Series once, in 1989 (“The Earthquake Series”) with the Oakland Athletics.  He won 3 National League Penants, and 3 World Series, all with the Cardinals, including the exciting 2011 series just over.  He also won Manager of the Year 4 times, with the Athletics in 1983 and 1988, and with the Cardinals in 1992 and 2002.

He says of his retirement, “It’s Time,” and we have to honor his decision.  We will miss him from the the baseball scene, but wish him the best in whatever he decides to do next.

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