Thursday, September 2, 2010


Oh well, ho hum, another story about another phenomenal young professional baseball player. Is that as good as it gets? Yes, no, maybe so? Hey, who knows, only time will really tell.

So, Aroldis Chapman, the Cincinnati Reds left handed fireballer, a Cuban defector all set to go the route of one Fernando Valenzuela before him. Ah yes, "Fernandomania," what a time that was for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans,(yours truly included), what a time for the game of baseball in the City of Angels and the huge Mexican community it possesed then and now.

That was also a great time for me, having taken my first lesson in the Spanish language, enjoying the opportunity to test personal skills on the interpereted interviews of the (then) non english speaking young pitcher. As for Fernando, maybe not the hall of fame career that most were expecting, but a nice one indeed. He's back with the Dodger organization as a Spanish language broadcaster.

As is the case with most of the up and coming young ballplayers, I got to photograph Chapman in action, starting back in the 2008 Arizona Fall League, continuing through the 2010 Spring Training campaign. Chapman's ride through the minor leagues was a smooth and quick one. No surprise for a pitcher who was clocked on the radar gun with pitches in excess of 100 miles an hour, both in Triple-A (Louisville) as well as in his Major League start debut recently.

Young pitchers of the highly touted category are great to watch, but always in question in more ways than anyone inside or outside the game can even name. Stephen Strasburg, who got off to a great start at the Major League level, recently tore a ligament in his pitching elbow, will have to undergo Tommy John surgery and may be out of action up to 18 months.

Tommy John, the sensational pitcher for whom that surgery was named, I remember as an integral part of the Los Angeles Dodger pitching staff of the mid to late 1970's timeframe. When he tore his elbow ligament during the 1974 season, it was thought that his career may be over, but team physician, Doctor Frank Jobe, performed the first of what would be many successful Ulnar Collateral Ligament reconstruction procedures. With a 10-10 comeback in 1976 and a 20 game win season the next year John would go on to pitch twelve more seasons. Not a hall of fame caliber career but a superb one all the same.

Well, the rookie class in Major League Baseball in the 2010 season has been an impressive one. It will be a tight race for the National League Rookie of the Year award but Jayson Heyward and Ike Davis remain the top candidates, followed closely by Buster Posey. Again, the best is yet to come.

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