Results tagged ‘ Steve Grilli ’

Festival of Baseball Fun

By Samantha Carr

Under beautiful sunny skies, baseball fans from around the country spent Saturday afternoon at Doubleday Field for the inaugural Classic Fest during Hall of Fame Classic Weekend.

Whether it was competing in a trivia game, being fitted for a balloon animal hat, or learning about baseball card collecting, families were enjoying the day and celebrating Father’s Day Weekend on the legendary diamond.

Seven-year-old friends Victoria Marrero and Samantha Shilling met in the morning at the Legends for Youth Skills Clinic. Marrero hails from Brooklyn and Shilling is from Maryland, but you’d never guess these two weren’t best friends.

“We just met this morning,” said Marrero.

Former major leaguers took the field at 9 a.m. to share their baseball knowledge with youngsters.

“We learned how to pitch and hit,” said Shilling.

By 1 p.m. the girls had ladybug balloon bracelets and tried out their skills at the MLB Network Strike Zone, where fans could test their pitching accuracy. Fans got to meet Pappy, the mascot for the Tri-City ValleyCats and even some former major leaguers like Dave Henderson who showed off his 1989 World Series ring.

“Are you fast?” Henderson asked a young fan who replied in the affirmative. “Then I can’t let you try on my ring – because I won’t be able to catch you.”

Henderson joked with fans and posed for pictures along side other players like Steve Grilli, John Doherty and Frank Catalanotto.

A table dedicated to the making of a baseball taught fans that there are 369 yards of string wrapped inside a ball, which would measure almost four football fields. Fans were able to compare a ball from the late 1800s that used lemon peel stitches to a current major league baseball.

“They call is a lemon peel because all the stitches end in a point and you could peel it like a lemon,” said Jennifer Rodger, a member of the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the Hall of Fame for the summer.

Near the infield, Bill “Spaceman” Lee was entertaining fans of all ages, preparing for his role tomorrow when he joins six Hall of Famers and 25 former major leaguers in the position of Designated Humorist in the Hall of Fame Classic.

“Hitting and pitching, that’s all I do,” said Lee. “It’s the running part that I don’t want to do – it’s starting to hurt at my age.”

A jokester known for his wacky antics, Lee pitched for 14 seasons in the majors from 1969-82 and is the third-winningest lefty in Red Sox history. At age 63, Lee became the oldest person to pitch in and win a minor league game on September 5, 2010 when he made an appearance for the Brockton Rox. Lee donated his cap from the game to the Hall of Fame.

“I may need that back because they want me to play another year,” said Lee. “Last year I was day-to-day, but this year I told them I am hour-to-hour.”

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Baseball’s Happiest Place on Earth

By Trevor Hayes

I spent most of my morning chatting with MLB.com’s Marty Noble at the MLBPAA Skills Clinic at Doubleday Field.

As we walked the field, it was filled with smiling faces. The kids were having a wonderful time as they moved from station to station interacting with and learning from Jim Hannan, Jon Warden, John Doherty, Don Demola, Steve Grilli and the other MLB Player Alumni on the field. Many of these MLBPAA alumni had retired even before these kids were born, but for the kids, each of the players was a star.

Several former All-Stars were also instructors. Rick Wise and Bill “Spaceman” Lee were working on pitching mechanics in the right field corner. Dave Henderson – wearing his large gold World Series ring from 1989 – was talking hitting in shallow center.

“Always remember that Dave Henderson taught you to kiss each shoulder,” he’d say, showing the proper follow through of a swing. Before long though, his station always became baseball chatter. It was a chance for him to talk with the younger generation about the game, moving from Derek Jeter’s chance at 3,000 to dealing with making an out (“You’re going to make them, because the game has to end sometime.”) to showing off his ring – to the delight of many of the youngsters who’d never seen one.

One young ballplayer in Grilli’s base running station may have summed up the atmosphere best. Grilli said, “We’re in Cooperstown, but what is Cooperstown?” One youngster quickly shouted out “It’s baseball!”

Truly baseball was alive at Doubleday this morning and it’s as vibrant as the pop of all the mitts in Doherty’s catch station – where players worked the basics of throwing and catching a ball. “We’re working on playing catch instead of playing fetch,” he’d say before each of the groups began.

Once the clinic ended, each young ballplayer got one last chance to shake hands with the Major Leaguers before getting a sheet with their autographs. While we watched the kids go through the line, Noble started laughing. I asked him what he was laughing about and he said, “One of the kids just gave you guys a great marketing line. He said, ‘This place is like Disneyland for baseball.’”

That’s what Cooperstown feels like during the summer, especially during our big events like Classic and Induction Weekend. It’s Disneyland for baseball fans.

Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

A pitch for Cooperstown

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

During a May 29 visit to Syracuse to catch a Syracuse Chiefs home game at Alliance Bank Stadium, I ran into former big league pitcher Steve Grilli. Though fireballing phenom Stephen Strasburg was pitching that night, Grilli seemed more excited about the news he had recently received.

06-17-10-Francis_Grilli.jpg“I just got my invitation to play in this year’s Hall of Fame Classic,” a smiling Grilli said. “If I didn’t, I was going to beg to go back because I had such a wonderful time with my family there last year. It’s a great weekend. I just think Cooperstown is a Norman Rockwell city. You can’t help but have a good time over there.”

Grilli, who calls Syracuse home now, pitched for the Chiefs for four seasons (1978-81) and broadcasts their games on TV and radio. A frequent visitor to Cooperstown over the years, he pitched a scoreless fifth inning to help Team Wagner to a 5-4 win over Team Collins in last year’s Hall of Fame Classic at historic Doubleday Field.  

“I can always say I relieved Bob Feller, which I did last year,” said Grilli, referring to the Hall of Fame hurler. “I was on the same team with Bob and I was one of the relievers that relieved him, so I can always say I pitched with Bob Feller.”

Grilli admits to enjoying the change in format from the previous Hall of Fame Game, in which two big league teams played.

“I think this new way of doing it is exciting because you’re getting to see the Hall of Famers, and the guys that I played with that are in the Hall of Fame had a ball, as well as some of us serviceable players like myself,” said Grilli, the father of major league pitcher Jason Grilli. “I got to ride in the parade with my grandson and rub shoulders with some of the better players who have ever come through the game.”

Grilli finished his four-year big league career (1975-77, 1979), spent mostly with the Detroit Tigers, with a record of 4-3. His claim to fame is as the losing pitcher in the longest game in professional baseball history, a 33-inning International League contest in 1981 that saw Pawtucket come away with a 3-2 win over Rochester.

06-17-10-Francis_GrilliPitch.jpgWhen asked about Strasburg, the Syracuse pitcher we were both waiting to see this night, Grilli had only high praise.

“What I’m most impressed with is his breaking stuff. There are guys in the big leagues that throw 96, 97, 98, this kid was two other really well developed pitches to go along with that 98 mile per hour fastball,” Grilli said. “He pitches at 96, 97, he’ll touch 98, 99, 100 when he has to, but his breaking ball is devastating. I was comparing it to Kerry Wood breaking ball when he struck out the 20 or the Nolan Ryan type of curveball. It’s hard and it’s sharp.”

Grilli referred to a former teammate when asked what it had been like to witness in person all of Strasburg’s Syracuse starts.

“It’s something I can only compare to one thing and that was Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych. I was part of that club when Mark broke in with Detroit when he went 19-9 in his rookie season (1976),” Grilli said. “This kid’s got that same kind of electricity. And the attention he’s drawn in this town is something I’ve never seen.”

With Cooperstown only 60 miles from Syracuse, could Grilli see Strasburg with his own plaque in the National Baseball Hall of Fame one day?

“He has the stuff to be a Hall of Famer some day if he continues to throw as he has.”

Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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