• Keith Mendel 2013 MVP, George Kerst 2012, 2016 MVP
  • Joe Neira 2017 MVP, Adam Bransfield 2018 MVP
  • 2007/2012 A Division National Champs, 2018 AAA Semi Finalist
  • Rick Scheetz 2014 MVP, Marty Jones MVP 2015
  • 2018 Semi-finals!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
News

2018 Wrap Up

November 30, 2018

The Blazers had a successful debut in the 53 and older Legends Division at the Hobbs World Series in 2018. After so many years in the 45’s, it was tough moving up, and leaving some old friends behind (for now), but it seemed like time, so here we were.

It turned out to be one of the best group of guys, and best group of ballplayers that the Hobbs had ever put together. The team got to the semi-finals of AAA division, and lost that game to Nova Scotia b an eyelash, but that game could have gone either way, and we would have had the opportunity to play for another championship. But I think all agreed that this would not be the last team this team got this far, and I expect some championship hats in the closet sooner than later.

But in what has become an annual tradition that is a true honor to put together, here are this years’ honorees and accolades. At the end of the last heartbreaking loss, I had to name a team MVP in order to get the reward engraved. I honestly hadn’t given it much thought, as I fully expected to be moving on to the final, and never truly grasped that it was over until the last out was made.

There could have been three or four MVP’s and even that might have been short. As is often the case, the stats were gaudy in some cases. But my rationale was who could we least afford to have played without. Frankly I was still stumped. George Kerst was absolutely fabulous, isn’t he always? I had the thought once during the tournament that I would be far more surprised if George didn’t come through in some situation, than if he hadn’t. Of course, he did. He led the team in hitting for the week at .586, in hits with 17,  slugging at .862, played an unbelievable shortstop, fielding .950, and even threw a couple of innings. Just a total team player and the best of dudes. He’s not the MVP? I should be ashamed.

Ric Moots told me he could catch, truthfully I’d never seen the guy behind the dish, plus he’d been down the entire week before, he had to be tired. I figured he was just going to be around for the slick Southern accent. Well all Ric managed to do was catch three solid games, plus a big chunk of the 20+ runs given up game against the Texas guys. He pitched 4 innings, in fact played just about position on the field defensively, and all very well I might add. Cat hit .500, was on base .567, didn’t strike out the whole tournament, and in terms of indispensability, it would be tough to argue against Mr. Moots as our MVP. Yet he was not.

Rick Sanders hit .474, drove in 5 clutch runs, fielded .958, threw 9 innings to a 2.00 ERA and deserved a better fate in the semi-final game, those guys really could swing it, and he held them at bay. Plus he started that whole gangster talk thing, which took me the better part of three weeks to get over, see? Well deserving of MVP status. Winner? No.

Then of course there was the guy who any sane manager would have awarded the hardware to hands down, end of discussion. Carlos Ruperto found this young man on a scouting trip to Venezuela. Willie Castro. All he did was throw three complete games, 25 innings, with a 1.44 ERA, 19 K’s and a 0.88 WHIP. Most importantly, he will forever live in Blazer lore as having thrown a doubleheader, back to back complete games in some decent November heat. We quite simply would not have gone as far as we did without Willie, not even close. He was remarkable, and could not possibly have been a better teammate. We didn’t get him any AB’s to speak of, but I can tell you having thrown BP to him, he can mash. MVP? Couldn’t quite go there this year.

I had two dark-horse candidates this year. My oldest baseball pal, who started playing with my Reds in 1996, near as I can recall., Jeff Albertson finally joined, or rejoined the Blazers this year. If the guy couldn’t play a lick, he would be a blast to have around, just love Jeff, and Wendy and Katrina and her hubby. Just happens he can play, and play he did. A cool .500 for the wily vet, tied for the team lead in RBI with 8, the only pitcher on the team who didn’t give up an earned run (OK it was over 2 innings..:), and he made all the plays sharing 3rd with Joe. Some years he would have been a shoe-in for MVP, but not this year.

Joe Hamilla hit .458 with 11 hits, pitched great, taking a tough luck loss in that deciding game, with a bunch of seeing eye hits, and plays that could have gone either way, and manned a tight third base defensive duo with Jeff the rest of the time. On some teams, sometimes, not this time, however for MVP.

Dean Hill is one of those guys who is just a gamer. Quiet, intense, focused and plays the game the right way. He hit .407, took the ball when he clearly indicated he would have preferred not to I the infamous Johnny Wholestaff game, and was second on the team to George with 4 extra base hits.

My pal Tony Caruso is just one helluva ballplayer. I’ve been writing these things up long enough now that it gets tough to say something new about a guy, but this giant of the Central Florida baseball community just does so much to help a team win. Once again, he was left as an arrow in the quiver, if we could have advanced that championship game, a rested Tony would have given those Mass Chiefs all they handle. Additionally TC started and pitched a good game at Terry Park, hit a tidy .308 and made some sensational grabs in the OF, as well as some throws home to nab runners that we’ll talk about for a while.

Alfredo “Fettucini” Jimenez was a wonderful addition to the team, hitting .286, but collecting 8 walks for an OBP of .545. He also made a mound appearance during the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and made several nice grabs in right, and I thought played strong out there all week. He always had a smile on his face, and I hope he comes back. Plus he’s the only guy I’ve seen that bivouacked in a camper in the stadium parking lot all week.

The baseball Gods are a fickle bunch and unfortunately they don’t always smile on everybody every year. This year they cast their evil eyes on Dennis Smith and Danny Acevedo, but let me tell you something, they may not have had the statistics that they would have liked, but I thought each was a critical piece of our club. With a couple of our flychasers backing out in the last minute, Dennis had to play a lot of innings out there, and he made some great grabs, covered a ton of ground and hit the cut off every time. That’s the kind of ballplayer I love, and we would have been in a world of hurt without him. He’s a good hitter too, just hit in some tough luck. It’s always somebody every year, so chin up, you snoring bastard. (Yeah, I know, but hey, I’m the one writing this…J) Danny has a gorgeous swing, and even though he didn’t get untracked to his liking, he played a solid first base, and I think his swing was coming around as the week went on. Plus he was having some eye issues. But he never let it get him down, just a super guy to have around, I really enjoy his company.

Our part-timers were Mark Maznicki, Carlos Ruperto and Joe “North” Greene, three  “Hall of Fame” players and “Hall of Fame” dudes. Mark hit a cool. 385 before he took off for Montreal or someplace. There is literally no nicer human to play ball with, and he finds a lot of holes. Carlos had to go racing with his son after Wednesday, but my other long term pal was heating it up just as he took off, and I think it made a measurable difference in him. This game can wear you down, but it can also lift you up, and Carlos lining a couple of knocks seemed to lift his spirits, after all he has been through health wise in the last few years. People sometimes forget that this fellow could really swing it not so long ago, hope he’s back! Great tournament “Pancho”! And Joe Greene was set to take us to the promised land along with Tony Saturday afternoon on the mound, if fortune had smiled upon us that morning. Joe is one tough ballplayer, and threw a great game in the stadium on Wednesday, when the opportunity presented itself to go ahead and win that game. He drove all the way down that afternoon and threw a beauty that night. One of these years we’re going to get him for the week, he just gets a ton of outs, and can play baseball, without a doubt.

Have I teased it long enough? Somebody had to be MVP, as I’ve said, it could have been any one of a bunch of you guys. But this year’s Hobbs Blazers MVP is the manager of the A’s, Adam Bransfield. I have been begging this guy to come down to Hobbs for the better part of two decades. I knew when he finally relented last year that I had him for the long term, because Adam, above all else, loves to play.” Not catching? Where do you want me? Infield full? Benn catching fly balls my whole life. Sure I’ve caught doubleheaders, lets go for 3!” My guy loves to play, and boy, can he. Played the toughest position on the field, and shut down any semblance of a running game by our opponents (as did Ric and Joe, honesty compels me to add.) He hit .571, 16 hits, 4 doubles, stole a couple bags, 1.327 OPS, the guy just played in that rarified Kerstian air, and I just thought, you couldn’t shine a light between them, lets give to AB, since George already had a couple.

Anyway, thanks to everybody, this was one of my favorite years, and not just because we played well and had some success, but because you guys were truly a pleasure to hang with. I love every little thing about it, from picking up the BP balls, to trekking back to the car after the final loss, to the old guy asking you to buy a 50/50 ticket every time you walk by. Cussing too much, eating too much, hurting too much, and generally playing this great game with a bunch of like-minded individuals is one of the great privileges I’ve had and hope to have for years to come.  See you on the diamond somewhere soon, and as always, wait until next year!


4-0 Blazers Face Texas Stars in Seeding Game

1:45 at Jet Blue Field 4 is the time and site for the Blazers next appearance in Ft. Myers. Don't miss it, sure to be a tough ticket. Seriously, stay to the right as you enter the complex, there is a fair going on out there apparently. Great wins out there boys, I guess we might as well keep it rolling!


Rookie Willie Castro, signed by Superscout Carlos Ruperto, came up huge in his Blazers debut, twirling a complete game and scattering 12 hits to a good hitting Chicago Giants team. The Blazers were led offensively by Adam Bransfield, who had four hits, George Kerst had three, including  2 doubles and a triple, Dean Hill had three hits and drove in what turned out to be the winning runs, and Ric Moots had three hits to continue his hot streak carryover from last week. Jeff Albertson had a pair of hits, as did Rick Sanders. The Blazers pounded out 19 hits, and made most all of the plays, and Willie did the rest, walking zero Giants, which minimized the big innings that so frequently get you in the tournaments. Great win, let's see how the rest of the week turns out!


Welcome to another edition of the Roy Hobbs World Series Orlando Blazers, this year making our debut in the 53+ "Legends" division, after what we think was at least 12 years in the 45's and a few in the 35's. "Rookies" this year include William Castro, Joe Greene, Alfredo Jimenez, Mark Maznicki, and Ric Moots. Returning after several years away is my oldest baseball buddy Jeff Albertson, with second year guys Adam Bransfield, Dean Hill, Danny Acevedo and Pockets Hamilla. The Old Guard consists of George Kerst, Tony Caruso, Carlos "Don't Call Me Pancho" Ruperto, Rick Sanders, Dennis Smith and yours truly, Buzz Lightyear.


2017 Wrap Up

November 9, 2017

A week ago tomorrow we were getting ready to start up our quest to win another championship, seems longer somehow…it sure was a great tournament, we just ran into a tough pitcher, and we all know how that often turns out…of course, that’s not always true, which is why we play them. In any event, another Hobbs tournament has come and gone, and I wanted to take a moment of your time to thank each of you for coming out and making the week such a pleasure. We were pretty good, weren’t we? Six straight wins before losing for the only time is nothing to sneeze at, I wasn’t sure what we had, but as it turned out, we had a lot! I want to thank each of you individually, if you’ll indulge me.

Jose Tavarez, one of these years you’re going to come down and spend the week with us, it’s always such a treat to have you down on pitching scholarship, but I know you’d be an invaluable full-time member. I thought he did a great job holding down those 4A bashers in the last game, plus his willingness to drive back and forth for the chance to maybe play is pretty special. Jeff Shebovsky is starting to take on some real Blazer qualities, and although he may have hit in some bad luck this week, he made some nice catches out in left, pitched great in Game 1, and drove in 6, tied for third on the team. My old pal Rick Sanders was there the whole week, which may have been one of my favorite things about the week, two quality pitching performances, some great AB’s and just as fun a person to be around as you can imagine. My guy Guy Robinson had a strong sophomore tournament, with 6 RBI, a couple doubles, and played a better than expected first base, no offense Guy! Great team man as well. Tim Lysik was hurt early, took some kind of treatment, and came back like a man possessed, hitting line shots all over the field. Not sure how you did it Tim, but it is always fun having you on the Blazer club, was this year 4??

Scottie Donelick was Mr. Wednesday again, and did he throw a beauty, a complete game masterpiece. He came into the tournament hot as heck with the stick, but only took a few AB’s, much to my chagrin. But just a super guy, willing to do anything for the team, I know the Blazers wouldn’t be the same without him. Danny Acevedo was a Blazer rookie this year, and despite having some leg issues that limited his ability to run, batted a cool .400, and split time with Guy at 1st with some strong play. Great guy with really good teeth, I forgot to ask him what kind of paste he uses. Great having you on the team Danny! Adam Bransfield has been promising me for decades, and I do not exaggerate, that he would go to a tournament with me, and he finally did! He was stellar, as always, catching half the games, hitting some “at ‘em” balls, but always with the quality at bats. Just one of my favorite people, a true baseball guy and competitive as hell. Dean Hill was a gift from the heavens, picked him up as a bit of a surprise and he proceeded to hit .364, second on the team in RBi with 7, and moved around the infield to eat up those valuable innings of relief to give some needed rest. Joe Hamilla is now a second year veteran and he was super, making all the plays at third, hitting the ball consistently hard, and one of the better dudes you run into, love having Joe on the club! If Mattie Conrad isn’t going to come down, tell him my NEW favorite player is Dave Gushleff, such a weapon, leads off, gets on, steals second, scores on a knock, easy peezy… He led the team in runs scored with 10, stolen bases, and made a lot of great catches in center, including a couple in that final game that were a half mile away from the plate.

Which brings me to the moment of suspense. Who was the MVP of this particular edition of the Blazers Hobbs team? The way I saw it, on a team of many candidates there were four finalists, if you will. Any one of these guys could be the winner, and you couldn’t argue too much. George Kerst has won it twice before, and besides being an absolutely fantastic ballplayer, for this or any age, he is a better person, in an era where that phrase gets overworked. The man hit .474, slugged .579, pitched brilliantly in his relief outing, and I believe played a flawless shortstop, a critical position in tournaments, in baseball in general. Great tournament Georgie!

Ruben Correa was a marvel, batting a cool .529, an On Base % of .680, drove in 5 at or near the top of the order, pitched admirably in a win in his lone appearance on the hill, and played a spotless 2nd base. Most years, he runs away with the award. Love his demeanor, he seems to slow the game down, makes it look easy, and we all know how far from the truth that is.

Tony Caruso, the Blazer Godfather, the original, the man, what a tournament, tidy. 500 BA, , 1.202 OPS, made a some great catches in the pasture, and most importantly, 2 quality starts, including a CG beauty in our lone playoff win against the Washington All Stars. Plus one of my dearest friends, the greatest teammate you could hope to have, and just one helluva guy, any other year he and Rubie are wrestling for the prize, which BTW, means not much, just shits and giggles.

But this year there could be only one winner, and it has to be the guy who hit 1.000. (almost) I’m sure he would have liked the last couple of games to go a little differently, but, he built up too commanding a lead in the first 5 to be overtaken this year. That’s right, your 2017 MVP for the Blazers has to be Joe Neira, here are his final numbers .625 BA (1st), 10 Hits (1st) 9 RBI (1st), 1.340 OPS (1st) Caught half the games and did a great job behind the plate, AND for good measure, picked up a save in Ruben’s win on the mound. Case closed, the man went off at the right time, and we got to see a guy who was not retired in the first 5 games in the tournament.

Lots of fun, congratulations Joe, we will have some hardware coming your way. SO it’s a wrap, thanks to everyone for taking precious time away from loved ones, jobs, and lives, but it sure is a lot of fun, isn’t it? Not sure what the future holds for the Blazers going forward, there has been some rumbling about moving up in age bracket, but we would certainly welcome back each and every one of you if you are eligible for whatever bracket we end up in in years to come.

Thanks again. Go Blazers!


Blazers Take Two, Undefeated in Pool ROund, Await Our Fate

November 1, 2017

Scott Donelick went the distance against the Oakville Golden A's as the Blazers cruised to victory, then Ruben Correa and Joey Neira pitched the good guys into the playoffs in the nightcap in the stadium against the Chicago Knights with an unblemished 5-0 record. What that means is beyond the pay grade of this intrepid writer. Suffice it to say that it will be problematic to come up with a lineup for the championship quest, as it seems just about everybody on the team is hot with the bat!

Great games by too many to count hitters, and I'm tired. I'll give some nods tomorrow sometime. Stay tuned for our first round opponent in the playoffs. I would expect that we will be playing at 10 AM Friday morning, but that remains to be seen. Congratulations Blazers, you were as good as it gets through the pool round, here's hoping for more, wherever they put us.


Blazers Herd Up Rhinos

October 31, 2017

Blazers Hobbs 2017 continued with another win Sunday afternoon. Nobody would confuse this one for a clinic, the final score was 16-13 good guys. Ruben Correa was player of the game with 4 runs scored! Rick Sanders allowed 8 runs, but only one was earned, as the defense continued to fight it a bit on the crushed brick fields of Terry Park. But we did what we had to do to win, and another 17 hits was the key. Joe Neira continued an unblemished  mini-season with 2 more hits, George Kerst had three hits, Dean Hill had a coupe more hits, with a 2 run double, and Danny Acevedo had a couple of RBI singles. Doubleheadewr tomorrow boys, get some sleep, BP at 8:30 under the stadium at Century Link. Looking forward to seeing you there!


Game 2 - Break Out the Bats!

24 Hits, a slew of extra base hits, and beautiful fall weather were the day's highlights at Century Link. Jose Tavarez and George Kerst were the pitchers responsible for holding the Senators in check, and they did fairly well, considering it was unbelievably tough to see and judge fly balls and popups on a cloudless, crystal clear autumn morn. Joe Neira stayed hotter than a firecracker with another 4 hits, but he wasn't alone in the multiple hit heroics, Tony Caruso, Adam Bransfield and Dean Hill had three hits, Scott Donelick, Jeff Shebovsky, Ruben Correa and joe Hamilla had two hits each, and Rick Sanders had a triple. An offensive explosion that will hopefully continue, at least to some  degree. BP at terry Park shortly after noon tomorrow, 2 PM game time. Looking forward to seeing everyone. We will be missing a couple of the wounded, so rest up tonight, girls, we're going to need ya!


Welcome to the 2017 Edition of the the Hobbs Blazers!

We're off and running for another great year of Bobbs Blazers baseball. We won our opener 8-5 against the Akron Brewbirds, as Tony Caruso and Jeff Shebovsky combined to hold the Brewbirds to 9 hits. Joe Neira was the offensive star of the game, with a couple of hits and 3 RBI. He also caught the whole game and did a great job.Ruben Correa drove in a couple more, and Dean HIll had a long double. The second game in the stadium was postponed until Wednesday, more on that to come. Tomorrow we have the St. Paul Senators, right back at CenturyLink. See you there, BP at 8:30.


2016 Round Up

With the benefit of a couple weeks to heal and ponder, I just wanted to say thank you for a great week of baseball. The Blazers were up against it from the jump this year. A combination of our great performance in the pool games of 2005, and some of the 4A teams moving to other divisions this year had us squarely lined up to face the very best from the beginning of the tournament. It was fun, but when the dust cleared and the results were in, we came up a run short in our 3A alternative game, and the week once again ended on a Friday. While this was disappointing, it was a great week in Ft. Myers with some of the best guys to hang with that I know.

Special thanks to Jose Tavarez and Rick Sanders for coming down to help us out. We were short-handed in many ways this year, and we’d have been in the soup without their solid pitching and contributions in limited plate appearances. Thanks for driving down twice guys!

Andy Sorenson made his return this year, and ended up catching the lion’s share of the innings. That isn’t easy in the best of circumstances, but considering how long it had been since he played regularly, it was remarkable. I owed him some AB’s in more playoff games, but he took it like a champ and was a great guy to have on the team.

Billy Mussacchio got hurt in the very first game, and not only wasn’t able to help us out at catcher or 1st, but missed three games trying to heal up. Still he hung with us for the week, brought his wife, hereafter known as “The Fan”, and was just getting back to full strength when we bowed out.

Carlos Ruperto was critical, he of the broken ribs…I know how much he missed playing, but it was great to have him down for the week, telling stories, laughing it up.

Scottie Donelick threw a great game, he seems to raise his game at tournament time. He also made some dandy plays in the field. Great stick as well, better guy.

Lilio Alvarez never got his bat going the way he would have liked, but he looked like he was starting to swing it, I would have liked to see how he did over the weekend. Some great plays in the field as well. Additionally, threw a complete game at a time when we really needed to realign the pitching order, he gave us a chance, and that’s all you really can ask for.

David Johnson (DJ) banged it out at a .364 clip, toughed out a couple of games behind the dish, nursing injury, which isn’t easy to do, and made all the plays at third when he was out there. Great dude, awesome teammate.

Guy Robinson made his Hobbs debut this year, may not have got the results he wanted, but played a heckuva 1st base, never got exposed with that arm he’s toting around, and definitely hit the hardest ball of the tournament, a one-iron double to the wall that never got more than 5 feet off the ground. He even abstained from the Buttery Nipples, to my knowledge.

Tony Caruso was his fantastic self, didn’t get it going on the mound or at the plate this year, but if you know Tony, you’ll take him to one of these tournaments any time, I’ve seen him have ridiculously good weeks down here and at other tournaments. Plus one of the best guys I know.

Ruben Correa was wonderful, 2nd year we’ve had him on the team, and it was a pleasure. Hits, made all of the plays, steals bases with a seriously painful plantar fascia foot (sic?) Plus ate up some innings for us in whatever kind of game you call that second one of the 4A deal. Hope you come back Ruben!

Dennis Smith was a kick to have on the club again. He ran into some bad luck with some “at ‘em” balls while hitting, but made all the plays in the outfield, and he’s always fun to hang out with.

Jeff Shebovsky had a solid tournament, hit .316, ate some innings for us in the stadium, and made several good grabs in the outfield. Plus he adjusted Tony a couple of times for free!

David Gushleff is my new favorite player, at least until we can get Mattie Conrad back. He stole 6 bases, (what a weapon that is in old men baseball!), made some nice plays in the OF and set the table from the lead off position. He missed a few holes, didn’t hit as well as he would have liked, but was ready to take over if we had continued to advance.

Tim Lysik couldn’t stay the whole time, but was a great guy to have on the field, happy to fit in and fill in wherever needed. Hopefully his niece had a great wedding on Long Island, we missed him towards the end.

But our MVP this year is a repeater. You know him, you love him, it’s George Kerst, Hobbs Blazer veteran, winner back in 2012. It wasn’t close, really. He hit .421, 50 points higher than anyone. Slugged .632, 250 points higher than the next guy, plus he led the team in ERA while pitching, had one of the 2 wins, and made a ton of gorgeous plays at short. Hands down, the 2016 Hobbs Blazer Most Valuable Player.

Thanks to all of you for making another indelible memory for me, and for taking time away from your families and jobs for a few wonderful days playing ball!

 

 


2016 World Series Off and Running!

October 30, 2016

Blazers Make it to Quarterfinals in AAA - 2015

It’s been a few days now, I just wanted to reflect on a week of baseball with a super bunch of guys. It’s always a fun week at Hobbs, but it was a particularly great week this year. It’s often a hit-or-miss proposition trying to put together 20 personalities and temperaments that can play the game a bit, and we lucked into a great situation this year.

5-0 in the seeding round is a team record, and we seemed perfectly poised to make a serious run at the Triple A bracket crown, which is the highest level we’ve ever competed in. But we ran into a hot pitcher who threw a great game, and an ex-pro who hit almost 300 home runs in the bigs, and that proved too much this time, and we got bounced first round.

With the benefit of hindsight we might have been better off in a lower bracket, particularly with the way we had the pitching set up, but personally I wouldn’t have done anything differently. That’s tournament baseball, which is a big part of the fun of it all, I suppose.

In any event, I wanted to brag on you guys a bit, if you’ll indulge me. First off, a huge thanks is owed to our scholarship guys. Rick Sanders came down Sunday, tossed a beauty at the Oakville Canada A’s, with Kenny Cripps closing it out with relative ease. Rick deserved a better fate in the playoff game, I thought his line wasn’t reflective of how well he pitched. I thought the ump got real tight on some of those ball/strike calls, and a few extra chances for a hard-hitting club like Glory Days was all they needed with that tough lefty on the hill.  Kenny and Scott Cervenka stayed down the whole week, and it was crucial having two guys to run and slot for the guys who got a little banged up. Scott threw parts of 2 great games, and only allowed 1 run over the last 4+ innings in the playoff game, but the outcome had pretty much been determined by the time he came on. Finally my old pal Steve Haugh came down twice, got a win in the infamous blowout game in the City of Palms Stadium, and was ready to go if we’d advanced to the Saturday games. I feel guilty having him come all the way down for a DNP, but you had to think we had a great shot to move on. I thought these guys were critical to the team’s success, and all four were nothing but a blast to hang with, thanks men!

Lilio Alvarez was a great guy to play with, always hustling, made some great plays at third, and had some big hits for us. My old pal Tony Caruso got back to his old ways, ripped out a .435 average, made some great sliding catches in center, and was poised to bring it home with a well rested arm if we had made it to Saturday. Always a pleasure playing with TC! I’d seen Ruben Correa around a bit over the years, but what a ballplayer this guy is, settled in to the leadoff spot, and just made it happen all week, a tidy .444 average, all the plays made at second, and a gem to be around, thanks Ruben!

Scottie Donelick is just as steady as they come, another great tournament at the plate, and a sparkling performance on the hill in Game 5, which was crucial to setting up our pitching for the final run. Sounds redundant, but another super guy to have on the ballclub. I hadn’t seen Rob Gonzalez in a few years, and while he hasn’t got any prettier, he did a helluva job at short and at the plate for us. Another .400+ hitter, and a blast to hang with. Joe Hamilla was a late add, a Georgie Kerst recommendation, and he was sensational behind the plate as our #1 catcher. Better than advertised in all areas, and George built him up high, so would love to have Joe back anytime he cares to come!

David Johnson (DJ) was a beast in the 5 hole, made all the plays at 3rd, caught a couple of games in stellar fashion, hit nearly .400 and he just makes me laugh, something about his schtick kills me. As a dude and a ballplayer, DJ is aces in my book.Tim Lysik was Mr. Versatility and a tireless outfielder. He was a clutch hitter, and along with Dennis was out in the outfield for virtually every inning. Great guy to have on the ballclub, he kept everybody up and in the game, and made a couple of great grabs out there!

Bill Mussacchio, aka Moose, is tremendous, fun to be around, consistently gives you a tough AB, and played a great first, and caught the better part of 2 games as well, no easy feat in these tournaments.  He took a couple of years off, but he’s one of the Hobbs Old Guard now, and he gets a bonus for bringing his lovely wife, who was officially our only fan until the last game!

Carlos Ruperto, is my boy, hit .300, played a great 1B, lent his insight in just the right measure, and was an awesome coach, except for sending the old guy home to be gunned at the plate in the deciding game when we’re down 7 or whatever it was. Fortunately that didn’t figure into the outcome, or we might not be speaking at this point….Love ya C!

Jeff Shebovsky had a tough first Hobbs as a Blazer, got hurt literally on the first day, but bounced back to hit .375, made some great catches in left, and threw a few innings of quality work. Plus he provided free chiropractic therapy to guys who asked, so he’ll get the Team Doctor discount next year, thanks for joining us Jeff! Dennis Smith came down this year for the first time, and it was great spending that much time with a guy I had known for so long, played with and against, then finally came down for  the tournament. Great guy, great hitter, (.467 average), hot coals, gotta love Dennis!

Which leaves us with the big 2. As you may or may not know, we have to pick a team MVP for the Hobbs archives. How in the hell do you choose between George and Marty? I purposely didn’t even ask Carlos, Tony or Moose, because I didn’t want them to be as torn about it as I've been. First off, both are super gracious gentlemen, who are as competitive as they come, with social graces to match their prodigious baseball skills. Everybody loved playing with them, and boy was it fun to watch! George hit .640, that is not a misprint, with 16 hits in 25 AB’s, including 3 doubles. Additionally he made every play at short, and oh yeah, threw 2 and a 1/3 scoreless on the bump, and was set up nicely for the Saturday that never came.  But this year I flipped a coin and gave the award to Marty Jones, who was off the charts good. A badly strained groin/quad/muscle thing severely hampered his ability to run and even swing early in game 4, but he hung in there, and we simply would not have done what we did without him. Looking for an eye-popping stat? How about 16 RBI in 6 games! A double, 2 triples and a homer! .810 Slugging…the list goes on. Plus a scoreless 3 innings on the hill., also in preparation for a Saturday date.  But choosing Marty over George was tough, you can argue this all day. Eenie, meanie….

I just hope we get the chance to do it all again, it was an absolute honor and pleasure to serve in the capacity of manager, and I want to thank each and every one of you for making one more baseball memory for me and for the Blazers.

Looking forward to seeing everyone on a field someplace soon!

 

BlazerBall!


Blazers Bounced Early After a Great Week - 2014

How do you summarize the 2014 Roy Hobbs World Series for the Orlando Blazers? It all came together perfectly in so many respects, we just came up a run short when it mattered, and we were headed home. I’m sure we all feel a little shell-shocked, but I suppose that’s what makes the week so compelling.

No need to wax philosophic about it, it was what it was. As disappointed as we all feel, I think it’s important to thank all of you once again for making it happen, I feel we had a helluva team, and a bunch of great guys who played their hearts out, we just came up a run short, and we were done for this year.

We hit, pitched and played defense exceptionally well, it just didn’t work out this time. In the dozen or so incarnations of the Blazers over the years, no team outperformed this one in any aspect of the game.

Individual kudos go to each of you. I don’t think there was a ballplayer on the roster who we could have done without. Pete Correa threw 4 innings of shutout ball, made all of the plays at 2nd, and even though he was late for his playoff start at the plate, hit the ball hard in his too brief plate appearances.  What can you say about my pal Tony Caruso, he never got his magic wand working at the plate this year, tough for a guy who is a career .500+ Hobbs hitter,  but he more than made up for that with some great catches and a save in Game 1. He was also rested and ready to shine had we won the first game Friday, but that didn’t happen…Mattie Conrad remains my favorite player, he caught 40+ innings in 5 days, hit the ball hard, and tossed in a shutout inning on the bump for good measure…BTW he also threw about 100 rounds of BP, thanks Mattie!

Our pitching scholarship guys, Rick Sanders and Jose Tavarez were critical, Rick won Game 1 against some tough hitters from Tampa, then came back and threw great against the Puerto Rico Yankees in the playoff game, enabling us to keep our pitching rotation in perfect order had we been able to prevail in Game 1. He also drove back and forth to the other side of Leesburg to help us out. Jose pitched his tail off in his start, and made some fine plays at 2nd as a bonus. He would have been set to start the semis or finals fully rested had we been so fortunate. Thanks men.

I ended up shorting Tim Lysik and Bill Musacchio some plate appearances, somebody always seems to take that hit, but both were critical. Tim made all the plays in left, ran when we needed it, and had a wonderful team-first attitude about the whole thing, I hope he will continue to play with us. Billy caught a great game, (ripped a double the other way, haven’t seem too many of those out of that guy!),played some quality first base,  kept the bullpen in good order and kept a great book, all with his great attitude and plus his wife Nancy was our lone fan for much of the tournament, thanks Nancy, and Happy Anniversary!

Scottie Donelick pitched what may have been the best game of the tournament for us in the seeding game on Thursday. Unfortunately their guy held us down and we couldn’t get him a richly deserved win. I know he wasn’t happy with the way he was swinging it, but I thought he was just hitting into some bad luck, the sample size was too small. Just a great guy to have on the team. My other old pal Carlos Ruperto was also hitting into some bad luck, but he manned the third base coaching box with skill and patience. Other than wanting Tony to bunt with 2 strikes in the fateful game, I agreed with every call, J! Sometimes it’s difficult to sit back as a coach and let the hitters take care of things, but with an offensive juggernaut like we had, you had to, and he did, great job C!

Chad Wilson and Jose Rosado were solid performers in the outfield, and tough outs at the plate. Chad came up lame with a couple of hammies, but battled to the end, and had a big hit in the final game to push us ahead one more time. It’s not easy combining squads, like we did this year, but Jose facilitated that with grace and dignity, making every guy feel a part of the Blazers, I thought that was remarkable and seamless. Also, please, if you haven’t gotten with Jose and Tony for the uniform/practice $30, that would be much appreciated. It’s easy to put this one in the rear view mirror, but please make that right as soon as possible.

Dave Gushleff was a revelation, made all the plays in center that Tony didn’t and had one of the dominant performances in the playoff game, going 4 for 4. He hit .500 for the tournament, stole 8 bases and gave us a critical weapon on the paths the games he didn’t hit.  David (DJ) Johnson had to play most of the innings at 3rd, made some outstanding plays, and drilled the ball all over the yard, getting hotter as the week wore on, finishing at nearly .400 and 4th on the team in RBIs.

George Kerst was his usual fantastic self, with a couple of great performances on the mound, some incredible play at short, that arm that won’t quit, and line drives everywhere, while scoring a team leading 7 runs. Steve D’Ercole made up the other half of the impressive shortstop tandem, such an important part of tournament success, making all the plays, turning a ton of double plays, hitting a cool .368 and while he would tell you he thought things could have gone better in the playoff game, I thought  most of the hits were better placed than struck, fortune just didn’t smile on him or us that day.

Which brings us to the Big 3. Roy Hobbs has a provision for a small award to go to the team MVP. How do you choose between these guys? In alphabetical order, Freddie Cardenas was flat scary. The guy hit .647 (not a misprint), earned a win in one of the pool games on the mound, and drove in 5, with four extra base hits.  Joe del Valle was a beast, hitting 2 homeruns, including a bomb in the playoff game at a crucial point, slugged 1.056 to lead the team with 5 XBH, and drove in 9 men to lead the team.  Rick Scheetz hit .579 with 6 doubles, and even his outs were hit hard. The guy just hits the ball hard every time, it’s truly uncanny. How do you choose between these guys for the right to be team MVP? Frankly I would vote to share it amongst all of you, but it’s only a small token of gratitude from Hobbs, and given the limitations, I’ll award it to Rick, given the fact that he also had a high quality start, (1.29 ERA), and was set up to pitch the semis or finals when/if we got there. But that takes away nothing from anyone else on this team, every one of you played an essential role, and I’m truly grateful for each and everyone of you.

 

Thanks for a great week, I was honored to watch, manage and play alongside you, I’m sorry we couldn’t extend it into a championship. Looking back, as the shock wears off, I have no regrets, I hope you don’t either.


Blazers Reign Ends, But What a Reign It Was!! -2013

November 9, 2013

 

What a tournament it was! When you bring 2 shortstops, arguably the most important defensive position, and they are both injured in the 1st game, never to return to the position, you had to figure you were there for the sun tan. But somehow this bunch of scrappers managed to pick themselves up and battle to within one inning of the championship game!

 

I don't know about you, but that last game against the NJ Rangers is a burr under my saddle. I know there were hundreds of at bats and fielding plays and pitches made or not made during the course of the week, but it so often comes down to a play here or there. If we'd somehow been able to hold on to that game, we would have been sitting pretty with a relatively fresh Scott Donelick coming off a great start, and staff ace Matt Conrad with only 15 innings in his arm...(ONLY??)

 

Georgie Kerst pitched his tail off for 6+ innings, and it was looking really good for the boys in Blaze, but he tired in the 7th, and the Rangers caught up. Then in the fateful 8th, the leadoff hitter got on and stole second, then advanced to third on a ground out. I made the executive decision, and it was mine alone, Mattie and Keith tried to talk me out of it,  to walk their 4 hole guy and look for the double play ball to get out of it. Hindsight is always 20/20. The next guy hit a solid grounder to 2nd with what would have been a perfect double play ball, but the Rangers one-upped me, putting the runner on first in motion, forcing Ronnie Nerf to concede the base and the runner on third and take the out at first. If we'd had the infield in, Ronnie could have checked that guy on third, and we might be fitting ourselves for rings now, but that's what's so fun/frustrating about this confounding/fascinating game.

 

Anyway, it was an honor and privilege to lead you guys for this tournament, I tried to make it as even as I could, there wasn't a guy out there who I wouldn't place full confidence in their ability to get the job done. Special thanks go to our scholarship guys, Moosie came down for most of the week and was invaluable, probably stroked the longest blast of the series, a long double, tough to do with limited plate appearances. Joe Neira was nails, pitched a couple of great games, and turned around and manned short like a soldier. We simply wouldn't have gone as far without you Joe, thanks! Rich Hogarth came over and had a couple of rough appearances, but you haven't played much baseball if you haven't had a day or two like that, and frankly the 2nd day was more of a fielding implosion than anything else. I thought he handled it all as well as anyone could, and watching his stuff, I thought he just caught a couple of hot-hitting teams on their good days.

 

Now for my core roster guys. The MVP was Keith Mendel, he handled the pitching staff perfectly, most of whom had never thrown to him. He shut down running games. He picked guys off first, and kept everybody up. He also hit .500 for the week, 2nd only to some flare artist for the team lead. THe guy is just a ballplayer.

 

We could have just as easily given it to his buddy Gary Lamb, who tied for the team lead with 11 hits, made all the plays at 2nd and was his usual positive team leading self in all facets of the game. Gary is a dream to have on a tournament team.

 

Our fearless leader Tony Caruso was right up there, hitting a hard .364, and another 5 or 6 bullet "at-em" balls. He also was a horse on the mound, made some critical catches in the outfield, and played some tough shortstop to boot. Thanks for spending your birthday with us T, wish we could have brought home the gold again.

 

Don Payan, or "Frank Howard" as Mark Tito named him, led the team in RBI with 9, hit .444 with no wheels, literally, and put together a lot of great at-bats. He also hit the longest ball in the stadium, the only one to flirt with a dinger to remember. He was also a great teammate, and kept the book in great shape, much appreciated Don!

 

Mattie Conrad is just my favorite guy on the team, with apologies to others. He is a great catcher, but only saw limited duty because of the Kiko option, but he found time to throw a complete game for a win, among several solid pitching appearances,  hit the ball on the button all week, and found time to throw BP to about a thousand guys, all while being the definition of a team player, encouraging others and putting together some solid dugout banter, second only to the next guy.

 

David Johnson, DJ made some truly amazing plays at third, and I didn't seee him give away one AB all week, remarkable for his first long tournament. You know this guy is just going to get better every chance we get to get him out there. He also has the best BS going, and I for one appreciated it.

 

My oldest baseball buddy Jeff Albertson came down for the week, and it made a great week even better for me. He never quite got untracked with the bat, at least to his expectations for himself. If you've played with Jeff much, you know he's one of the great amateur hitters around, and if I can convince him to come back he'll be a force, I guarantee it.

 

Mark Tito was as advertised, a pain in the ass, but a tremendous ballplayer, and a good guy and teammate. I've had the privilege of playing in a number of tournaments with the guy, and he always hits, this time a polite .417 with pop. His mouth sometimes gets in the way of his skill as a ballplayer, but I'd have to look hard to find a guy I'd take over him in a clutch spot. Love ya, you bastard.. BTW with one less hit you'd of had a higher batting average than fielding average, a feat never accomplished in the history of baseball...just sayin'....:)

 

Scott Donelick was outstanding, his pitching performance was tremendous, and he was the proverbial arrow left in the quiver, if we'd reached that final, I just know he was going to take us home. He also drove in some big runs, and played a lot of OF with some great grabs and played 9 innings of 2nd base, less than a day after throwing about 150 pitches. Great guy and teammate, no doubt.

 

Don Smith was new to me, and was a fantastic addition to the club. The guy is a ballplayer, I thought another guy who always worked counts to his advantage, and put some great swings on the ball. It's not easy fitting in with a bunch of new guys, and he felt like he'd played with us for years. Don, I hope you come back, he let me move him all over the OF, made all of the plays, and played some solid 1B.

 

Ronnie Nerf was his usual solid self, always gives you a tough AB, jumps in whenever you need him and is unceasingly supportive of his teammates. I keep wondering if he could have jammed that DP ball in there on the fateful play, but I think he made the right call, really the mature baseball call, less experienced guys might have tried and failed, and who knows how many runs might have resulted. We still had another inning after all, and all the tough hitters coming up. Great call Nerfie!

 

Rico Thoman is a personal favorite, he is just one of those guys who is just a great player without being flashy about it. Dude made some serious grabs in CF. basically played out there the whole time, and was impressive in his lone mound appearance, damn manager should have got him out there more. Great hitter too.

 

Charles Georges was a great pickup, hit, stole bases, and made some terrific catches in the OF. Wish we could have had him the entire time, good guy and good ballplayer.

 

Finally, 2 guys who deserve special mention. The defending MVP Georgie Kerst was a huge blow for the Blazers, the guy was dominant last year. 1st game of the tournament he jams his knee badly on a hard slide into 2nd, and can't move the next day. Most of us would have headed for home and the couch, but not Georgie, he stays, gets several treatments at the doctors, and comes back to pitch a miraculous game in the semis, man I wanted to win that one for George most of all. His tales of shots in between the tendons and bones sent shivers down the spine, the guy loves baseball, and we just wouldn't have got as far without his efforts to recover. Thanks George, as far as I'm concerned, nobody will ever trump you for guts, cajones and perseverance.

 

Last but not least, my old pal Carlos Ruperto. Not sure all of you know, not even really sure he wants everyone to know, but I remain an asshole, so I'm telling. C had a cardiac episode, better known as a heart attack this year. I can't even imagine what all he has been through this yhear, not just physically, but emotionally, spiritually, everything. Those of us lucky enough to know him a little bit know what pride he takes in this facet of his life, his ballplaying, and he did a great job, but the fact that the guy is even out there, much less coaching, running the paths, patrolling the OF, is nothing short of inspiring. I just know he'll be back to his old self before too long, the man is a force of nature.  

Again, thanks for a great week, I wish we could have brought it home again this year, but I can’t imagine a better bunch of guys to spend a week playing ball with. What a great game it is.

Stats are finalized, hitting, pitching and defense. You can click on the top of each category for leaders in each. I look forward to seeing you guys out there again next year!


Blazers Win Roy Hobbs World Series in 2012 (A Division)

November 6, 2012

With the better part of a couple of weeks passing since our championship week, I just wanted to take a moment to thank you guys for a great week that ended with a championship. I had a blast, I hope you did as well.

 

There were so many great stories at the 2012 Roy Hobbs World Series, it's difficult to know where to begin. Frankly it would have been tough to predict the championship for this team at the outset of the tournament, a rash of last second cancellations and changes of plans had the team short in numbers, and thin in several positions.

 

But it seemed like every time we had an obstacle in our way, we figured out a way around it. I’m sure every team had their issues, but we managed to come back from each. The doubleheader on Tuesday meant we would be without the South Florida boys, but we managed to split a pair. Miguel Ramirez came down and ate up some valuable innings, saving our staff some serious wear-and-tear, thanks Miguel! Then Eddie Hernandez had to leave when his father suffered a heart attack, thank the Lord he seems to be on the long road to recovery. Eddie also managed to hit the bomb of the tournament on Tuesday, short hopping the 375 sign in left, we missed you Eddie!

 

Things once again looked grim when Miguel came down with a case of bronchitis and couldn’t return for the playoffs, but my old pal Tony Caruso came up huge in the first elimination game, tossing a complete game gem. Jose Tavarez was absolutely critical to our success, throwing a shutout in the opener, then coming back to win our quarterfinal game to get us to Saturday.

 

Then Kent Milliken returned Saturday, which was crucial since Miguel was out, and most of the other arms had been exhausted. All he did was proceed to win both the semi-final game and the championship, going 13 innings on the bump in one day! That allowed us to save "ace-in-the-hole" Matt Conrad as long as we could, and he came in and shut the door over the last 4 innings for us to seal the deal and wrap up the crown. This despite the fact he told me he wasn’t even a pitcher on more than one occasion.

 

Which brings me to the point of this long-winded diatribe, we gave the MVP to George Kerst, and he certainly deserved it, he played every inning at short, made all the plays, and just hit shots all over the field for all 9 games, and had big hit after big hit. BTW, he doesn’t even play short on his league team! But we could have given it to just about anyone and I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.

 

I thought Candido Ramirez was amazing, he hit over .500 + for the week to lead the team, pitched amazingly well, stole 7 bases, made several diving catches in the OF, and also spent time at 1st, 3rd and caught! Matt Conrad is simply a ballplayer, led the team in RBI for the week, caught and pitched, threw BP to everyone who even looked like a Blazer, and put up with my massive over-thinking about when best to deploy him.

 

Tony C was nails, in addition to lowest WHIP of the pitchers on the team, he banged out a .471 average for the week, this guy’s tournament credentials are nothing short of incredible, I’ve never seen him have a tough tournament, and I’ve played with him probably 15+ between Hobbs and Disney..Throw in the catch of the tournament in the semis when he made a grab in deep center that would have made any highlight reel..

 

Gary Lamb is such a good player, and great guy, 31 for 31 on fielding chances for the week at a tough position, and despite missing a couple of games, anchored that middle of the lineup with a plus .700 OPS, he just gives you a great at bat every time.

 

Joe Del Valle was a heckuva add, he showed up late, but was a force, Slugged almost .1100 for the week, second only to George, and raked at a .486 clip with 9 RBI, and he kept telling me he didn’t feel quite right at the plate.

 

His buddy Jose Rosado quietly was dominant, .481 BA was good for 3rd on the team, and threw out not one but two guys trying to take an extra base from right field in the same game, as I recall…not to mention he recruited Joe, which was critical!

 

Keith Mendel had to miss Tuesday’s DH for work, then showed up to Friday’s games in street clothes, which is never a good sign. That would mean that Matt would have to come out of the rotation and catch, and our chances would go from slim to none. Somehow he made the recovery of the century and came out to catch both games Saturday. For good measure he added a couple of long doubles and fielded the toughest position on the field flawlessly and completely shut down opponents’ running games.

 

Ron Nerf had to put up with me using him as the designated emergency guy for a lot of the time, and still made some great plays all over the infield, 1st, 2nd and 3rd were all his at times. He also was a clutch hitter, drove in a run every four AB’s, the highest rate on the team!

 

Rick Thoman was right there in the MVP race in my mind, hit a hard .355 and ran down 16 balls in center, including some super catches. An injury early in the semis prevented him from being on the field with us in the end, but he had as much to do with us being there as anyone.

 

Finally my other old buddy Carlos Ruperto, who couldn’t run, couldn’t field, just hit, and hit he did, despite having no running speed at all, which is usually a big part of his game, he banged out 9 hits, about half of which would have gone for extra bases if he had been right, and stuck in there for the entire week. Nobody would have blamed him one bit if he had had headed home.

 

Most importantly, what a bunch of great guys to spend a week with. Didn’t hurt that we won, sure, but I had a great time getting to know each of you, And how about that weather!

In any event, I’m overly long, no shock to those who know me. Let’s do it again, Hobbs 2013, if not before.