First of all, I want to give huge thanks to Dave Nemetz for allowing me to have this wonderful experience this weekend.
After witnessing the Cardinals’ meltdown on Friday night, I was back in the press box for tonight’s game. The second game of the three-game set pitted St. Louis Cardinals’ starter Todd Wellemeyer against the Florida Marlins’ crafty lefty Scott Olsen.
Although Wellemeyer had the much better win-loss record, both players had comparable ERAs coming into the contest.
Cardinals’ slugger Albert Pujols went deep in the first inning for his 31st homer of the year, and Wellemeyer pitched eight strong innings for his 12th win.
Before the game, though, as is customary, the players took batting practice, and I waited patiently to get my opportunity to ask questions.
I first approached shortstop Brendan Ryan, because I had interviewed him the night before, and felt comfortable with a follow-up interrogation. If any of you have met Ryan, he’s just about the goofiest guy in the majors. I told him last night that I would have a question to fit his personality, so I went searching on the Internet after Friday night’s game.
Sure enough, I found some dirt on the young guy. For example, a Wikipedia entry divulged that his nickname is “The Boog,” and he said that his parents got the nickname from “Boog Pal”.
In fact, he said, “My dad lobbied with my mom to have Boog as my first name, but when I was a 10-pound baby, my mom angrily said, 'His name is Brendan,’ and there wasn’t much disagreement there.”
Ryan’s father, James, who was a standout at Loyola Marymount, had an enormous influence on Brendan. “He coached me all throughout high school, and in the summer we would take groundballs,” the younger Ryan said. “He likes to say he taught me how to hit a curveball.” Brendan hasn’t just been a hitter his whole life though, he also doubled as a closer for his high-school squad.
“You know, my arm never got decently strong until college,” Ryan said. “But I was accurate, and could throw a fastball, cutter, and curveball. We had a good team though, including Reds’ player [recent call-up] Chris Dickerson.”
Jokingly, I asked Ryan if he had a cutter that compared to Yankees legend Mariano Rivera, and his answer was simple: “Oh, it’s better, they just need to give me a chance,” Ryan said. “Once I get comfortable up here, I’m absolutely asking [manager] Tony [La Russa] if I can get a couple innings like [Aaron] Miles did.”
Ryan promised he would throw more than just sliders, like Miles has done in his two appearances since last year. He stated that cutters and his fastball would be on “prominent display.”
In my second interview, I spoke with minor-league call-up Brian Barden, who also participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “The experience was incredible,” Barden said. “It was always my dream to represent my country, and it was truly a great honor to play with some of the most elite players in the world.”
As far as baseball is concerned in the Olympics, though, there will be no more. Barden had a definite negative reaction to that decision. “To see them add BMX, and drop a sport [baseball] that has been a part of a lot of people’s lives for over 100 years, that’s a shame,” Barden said. “It will now definitely make the World Baseball Classic a lot more competitive, because all the major league players will want to represent their countries in style.”
The last question I had to ask Barden was whom he met while being in Beijing. “You know, all the American athletes eat in the same mess hall,” Barden stated. “Swimmer Dara Torres came and sat with us one day, and at the Opening Ceremonies, I met LeBron, D-Wade, Jason Kidd. I couldn’t meet Kobe though, because he was being mauled by everyone else. In general though, the experience was something I will never forget.”
Just like last night, I chronicled my events for the night. 3:20 PM—I arrived at the stadium to pick up my credentials and get situated. I walk down to the field as the Cardinals are already taking batting practice.
My Journal Entries
4:06 p.m.- My interview with Brendan Ryan.
4:12 p.m.- My interview with Brian Barden begins, and concludes later after Barden is done taking BP.
4:30 p.m.- 73 degrees, beautiful weather outside
6:14 p.m.- First pitch, 72 degrees, amazing weather outside
8:38 p.m.- Game ended (2 hours, 24 minutes)