“I am excited to introduce the first of my guest bloggers. Norm has just about seen it all when it comes to baseball. He has worked in the clubhouse of a minor league baseball team, umpired and much more that you can check out on the About The Authors Page. Norm is a fellow autographer and his insight into baseball is both insightful and hilarious.” Josh Randolph 9 Inning Know It All.
By Norm Ordaz
People always ask me, “Who’s your favorite player you have ever met?” I’m not really sure how to answer that question. Over the years I have met many characters. For the most part, all were pretty cool guys.
One of my favorites is Mark Reynolds, who is currently in the thick of the playoff run with the Baltimore Orioles. Mark broke camp with Lancaster in the Spring of ’06. They really didn’t have a position for Mark at the break of camp. But, with the spring he had hitting the ball they couldn’t send him to a lower level. Mark is a warrior. He worked hard and man could he hit. I believe he played every position except catcher and pitcher. In fact Mark was left off of the Mid season Cal league all-star team due to the fact he got votes at 5 different positions. He was leading the league in home runs, RBIs, and a few other categories.
The 2006 JetHawks were loaded with talent. Carlos Gonzalez was one of the brightest. Carlos was a 5-tool prospect out of Venezuela. The year before in South Bend he was the league MVP and helped the Silverhawks win the Midwest League title. Carlos is very talented. He has it all speed, power, can hit for average, and has a great arm and glove.
On the 4th of July in ’06 we were playing in Adelanto home of the High Desert Mavericks. There was a haze over the playing field due to fireworks going off all around the ballpark. A a fly ball hit to right field. Carlos went back on a routine fly ball. Next thing we know Carlos is at the base of the wall sitting on the warning track looking up. I was in the dugout with our trainer. Brett Butler (Lancasters’ manager) is pacing back and forth telling us in 17 years of playing in the Majors he had never seen this happen. The ball bounced off of Carlos’s head and went over the fence for a home run. Carlos received a ton of ribbing from us after that. He was a good sport about it and earned my respect because of the way he handled it.
Greg Smith was a pitcher out of LSU and was a stud. He made 13 appearances for us in ’06 before being called up to double A Mobile. Greg was 9-0 with a 1.63 era in the hitter friendly Cal League. We were in Lake Elsinore and Smith is spinning a no-hitter for us. I was in the club house and thought I would get down to the dugout so I can witness the feat. Bottom of the 8th comes and goes. On to the 9th. We get down to 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th and he lets up a single. I was kicked out of the dugout for 2 weeks by the team.
Corey and Casey Myers were brothers who rate up there as favorites of mine. Casey played in the A’s farm system and made it as high as AA. He was probably one of the smartest ball players I have met. It’s been said at one point Casey knew every three letter word that could be used in Scrabble. My friend Mig and I would talk hitting with Casey. Our conversations would take us right up to the time his bus would pull out. Corey played in the Diamondbacks farm system. He was pretty smart as well. Corey, I feel, has one of the nicest signatures in the game.
Marine Corporal Cooper Brannan is a true American hero. He played in Eugene in 2007 and 2008. Cooper was injured in 2005 by a flash bang grenade in Fallujah, Iraq. He sustained multiple injuries to left hand resulting in amputation of left little finger and medial hand. The Padres signed him to a contract after watching him pitch with the Military All stars. Cooper spent two seasons in Eugene before being released.
Recently we had Mike Zunino come through with the Everett Aquasox. Zunino is as close to Major League ready as I’ve seen in the NWL. The guy is flat out a stud. He’s also a great guy. I watched him warm up one night and took time to chat with a young fan. Most ball players continue their warm up. Zunino signed any and everything and did it with a smile.
I’ll finish with Jon Zeringue. Another LSU product. Have you ever seen Swamp People? Well Jon, could be on that show. He was about “backwoods” as anyone I have met. Great guy and baseball player who made it as high as AA. He would talk about life back in the swamp. Jon, when at home, ate squirrel on a regular basis. Jon was a good ole Southern Boy.
Alright so I couldn’t finish with Jon Zeringue. But I will finish with Nick Adenhart. Nick played with Rancho Cucamonga in 2006. He started nine games for the Quakes that season. He went 5-2 with a 3.78 ERA as a 19-year-old in the hitter friendly Cal League. The thing I remember about Nick is that he threw hard. Not just hard but 100 mph hard. He caught the eye of our coaches. Nick was taken from us too soon. Just after making his first start of 2009 Nick was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver.
Next week I’ll talk about the art of pranking.