Final Entry

Hey fans.  This will be my last entry for the blog as I enter the off season.  First, I would just like to say how much I have enjoyed posting on this blog and informing fans about the AFL.  The Desert Dogs are returning to the championship game this Saturday for the 5th straight year.  We will be playing the Mesa Solar Sox at Scottsdale Stadium.  Hopefully the Dogs can win the title for the 5th straight time. 

This fall has been a great experience for everybody.  It is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.  I’ve made many new friends and have so many great memories of the past two months.  This team was full of characters, which made the time at the field everyday so much more enjoyable.  Having the ability to interact with players from different organizations is special and I feel that I’ve learned so much.  The coaching staff was amazing and really helped to elevate my game.

As much fun as I’ve had out here, I am ready for the off season to begin.  It has been an extremely long season and I can’t wait to allow my body to rest.  After the Fall League I will have thrown over 190 innings so it will be much needed.  I’m really looking forward to spending time with my friends and family back in Texas.  Unfortunately, I have to fly back to Ft. Myers, Florida to pick up my truck and then endure a grueling 20+ hour drive back to San Antonio by myself.  Luckily, I’ll get to stop in Pensacola to see my brother who is training to be a pilot in the Navy and one of my best friends from Notre Dame who now lives in Baton Rouge.  I just hope I make it home in time for Thanksgiving.

I would just like to thank everybody who has read my blog and posted comments.  Again, it was great getting to share my experiences in the AFL.  In addition, I would like to thank John Mayo of mlb.com for selecting me to represent the Twins for the blog.  Hopefully on Saturday the Desert Dogs will be champions again.      

Season Coming to an End

The end of the AFL season is rapidly approaching and the Dogs are making a very strong push to earn a spot in the championship game.  Currently, we possess a 17-12 record and still sit in first place within the National Division.  Tonight is a strange night because we actually have to make up the rest of last Friday’s game because the lights went out (I speculate sabotage because it was already a 4+ hour game and past 11 pm) along with a regularly scheduled game at 7 pm.  I have never seen anything like it in all the years that I have played baseball.  Right at the most important point in the game, the most unexpected event occured leaving everybody confused.  The make-up game will begin in the bottom of the 11th inning with Scottsdale runners on first and second and no outs.  Anthony Slama is getting the ball to close the game out so hopefully things go in our favor.  Kinda strange that the best we are playing for is a tie due to the fact that league rules don’t allow games to continue past the 11th inning to protect the pitching staffs.

As the season winds down, it is very evident that we are all breaking down both mentally and physically.  Although the much needed off season is on everybody’s mind, we all intend to finish as strong as possible.  Finishing as the AFL champions would be a great honor for everybody on our team.  I have never been involved with such a long season and have never thrown as many innings.  Currently I’ve thrown about 180 combined innings between the regular season, instructional league, and the AFL.  I have managed to stay healthy, which is a great confidence booster going into next season.

In all, the Twins representatives have played well.  We have all provided strong contributions to the Desert Dogs success thus far.  Each pitcher has thrown well.  Last night, Rob Delaney came in for the eigth inning against the Peoria Saguaros and earned a victory. The hitters continue to perform well at opportune times.  Danny Valencia boasts a solid 1.000 fielding percentage at third base and sits atop all fielders in the AFL.

That is about all that I have for this week.  I should have one more blog to complete before the season is over, and hopefully by that time we will know who will be playing for the AFL title.  Thanks for reading and take care.    

  

Week 4

Hey fans.  The Dogs have continued to play extremely well and now sit five games ahead in the National Division with a 15-10 record.  Can’t believe I’m still playing baseball in November.  I think the last time that happened was when I played select ball back in high school.  Nevertheless, my body has remained intact and I still feel like I can compete.  The AFL is over the halfway mark and our team looks better than ever.  The end is rapidly approaching, and now is the time that we really need to focus.  I feel that we have a legitimate shot at winning the title.

Today I had the chance to talk to Rick Knapp, our former pitching coordinator who recently took the job as the Detroit Tiger’s big league pitching coach.  It was great to have the opportunity to see him, especially after all that he has done for the four pitchers present in the AFL.  He is a great man for the job and deserves the positon.  Best of luck to Knappy in Detroit.

Next week I will try and write a little lengthier post with some updates of players.  Until then, thanks again for reading and take care. 
     

  

Week 3 in the AFL

First off, I hope that everybody had a chance to read Rob Delaney’s guest blog.  In addition, congrats to Delaney and Anthony Slama for being chosen as top relief pitchers during the 2008 season by Milb.com.  In the past week, the Dogs have played great and emerged as the top team in the National Division with an 11-8 record after today’s 10-2 win over the Peoria Javelinas.  I think that we’ve scored 10+ runs in our last 5 games which is very impressive considering the tough competition that we face every single day.  The team has pitched just as well.  Both the starters and relievers have provided the team with every chance to win.  Although, it always makes things much easier when the offense can put up so many runs.

Everybody in the Twins system continues to play well, especially Steve Tolleson who has remained one of the top hitters in the league.  My last start went much better.  I feel that I am accomplishing many of the goals that I had set for myself, especially slowing down my curveball and change-up.  In addition, I have improved my slider into a very reliable pitch, both ahead and behind in the count.  It will be a pitch that I plan to utilize a good amount next season as I have seen how effective it can be against top hitters. 

Outside of baseball, everything has been great.  There is so much to do around Phoenix and everybody is having an awesome time.  Thanks again to all of the readers and take care.        

Guest Blogger: Rob Delaney

Hey everybody. Hope everyone is doing well. My name is Rob Delaney, I’m a 24 year old relief

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pitcher from River Vale, New Jersey. I played college baseball at St. John’s University in Queens, New York and graduated in 2006 with a degree in Sports Management. Since signing as an Undrafted Free Agent, I have played in the Gulf Coast League (Ft. Myers), Midwest League (Beloit), Florida State League (Ft. Myers), and most recently the Eastern League (New Britain).  I have been asked to write about my time so far in the AFL, I hope Manship doesn’t mind I’m writing on his blog, oh well here it goes…

I’m playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs while out here in the Arizona Fall League. Our team is comprised of players from the Twins, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, A’s, and the Rockies. The Dogs are currently in 2nd place in the National Division with an 8-8 record. We are starting to build some good team chemistry and seem to be getting on a roll. Since being out here I’ve had a great time. This past weekend I had the opportunity to play in the Rising Stars game. It was a great experience to play with such a talented group of guys. I do believe it is an honor and a privilege to be out here playing with the best of the best.  Hopefully the Dogs can continue playing well and climb the ladder to first place in our division.

Thanks for reading –

Rob

Week 2 in the AFL

As quick as the first week passed, week two went even quicker.  The temperature is finally starting to cool down here in Phoenix, which has provided for some very pleasant night games.  Currently the Desert Dogs sit in second place in the National Division with a record of 6-8.  I have seen plenty of impressive performances by many players on the team along with the Twins players.  Delaney, Slama, and Lahey continue to throw well out of the pen.  Slama threw an easy, scoreless inning with 2 strikeouts in today’s game against the Peoria Javelinas.  Valencia has really impressed with his defense at third along with Dustin Martin in the outfield.  Today he made a great running catch that saved a run.  Tolleson continues to hit well and play solid defense throughout the infield. 

My dad was able to make a visit to see me out in Arizona, but, unfortunately, he was unable to see me pitch.  I really wished that he could have seen me throw in my second start against the Peoria Saguaros, but was glad that he missed my most recent start against the Scottsdale Scorpions.  Nevertheless, we had a great time during his visit.  It was been amazing having most of my relatives living in the Phoenix area.  On Saturday and Sunday morning my uncle, dad, and I went quail hunting and fishing near Lake Bartlett, which is situated northeast of the Phoenix area.  As much fun as I had, I realized that I need to polish my shooting skills and learn to avoid walking into cactus.  I got a nice workout walking through the rocky terrain and managed to stay injury free.  To my surprise, I did not encounter a single snake.

Everything has been great so far in the AFL.  Nothing beats playing against top talent day in and day out.  In addition, it has been great to play at so many nice spring training facilities.  Thanks again to all the readers.  Hopefully I can get some guest bloggers from the Twins on here pretty soon.    

First Week in the AFL

This first week in Arizona has passed by very quickly.  I’ll try and keep this post a little shorter after hearing from numerous people that I wrote a novel in my first post (Thanks Vais).  Currently the Desert Dogs possess a 4-3 record after an exciting 9th inning, 3-run rally to defeat the Peoria Javelinas 5-4 earlier today.  As of now, we sit atop the National League Division.  We’ve had plenty of solid pitching performances as well as timely hitting.

The team is really starting to come together in both the clubhouse and on the field.  Everybody seems to be having a great time so far and hopefully that will continue.  We have a great mix of talented pitchers and hitters.  Its always beneficial to be around players from other organizations and have the opportunity to learn from them, especially the older players along with those who have played in the bigs already.  I feel like I have gained a great deal of knowledge in a very short span of time and look forward to learning more in the many weeks ahead. 

After the first week I have been reassured that this league is going to be a big challenge.  The Twins players have been playing well so far.  Lahey recieved his first win tonight and Slama his first save after both tossed solid innings.  Tolleson, Martin, and Valencia have already demonstrated what they are capable of doing with the bat.  Martin hit a towering home run on Saturday against the Scottsdale Scorpions in our 9-4 win.  Delaney has continued to do what he always does and just deals.  He is sitting right next to me as I write this and telling me not to put that so I had to.  Sorry Rob.  As for me, I started on Thursday and unfortunately recieved a loss.  I felt good out on the mound, but still gave up a few hits resulting in a few runs.  As always, I have things to continue to improve on and this is the perfect place for that. 

In all, I have seen some very impressive performances in the AFL.  Max Scherzer has shown why he is in the big leagues.  Numerous players have shown their power potential to all sides of the field.  Each game is literally like an all-star game.  I have never seen such a collection of hard throwing pitchers.  I thought that I threw fairly hard but was quickly put in my place after seeing so many guys throwing in the mid 90s and higher. 

So far everything about this place has been great.  Delaney and I are currently living with my aunt and uncle in Scottsdale and couldn’t ask for a nicer setup.  I’m looking forward to the upcoming weeks and my next start tomorrow against the Peoria Saguaros.  Thanks to everyone who has read my blog and provided posts.              

Greetings Fall League Fans

Hello fans, this is Jeff Manship coming to you from Phoenix, Ariz., home of the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League. I should mention that this is the first time that I have ever participated in a blog and I’m really looking forward to sharing my experiences throughout the AFL.

First, I would like to introduce myself. I was born in San Antonio, Texas, and currently reside in Boerne, Texas, in the offseason. I attended the University of Notre Dame, where I was selected in the 14th round of the 2006 Draft. I was also drafted out of high school in 2003 by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the second to last pick of the draft (somewhere around pick 1,400 I believe). I was really hoping to receive the Mr. Irrelevant honor by being the last pick but fell just short. I am so happy that I decided to attend Notre Dame instead of signing pro out of high school. My experiences in college were some that I will never forget and wouldn’t trade anything in the world for. I was extremely honored to sign a contract with the Twins in 2006. My brother, Matt, was also drafted in 2006 out of Stanford University by the Oakland Athletics. He played short-season A ball in Vancouver, BC. Currently he is training to become a pilot for the Navy. Matt is someone who I greatly admire and have looked up to my entire life. There is no doubt in my mind that he helped me become the pitcher that I am today.

Unfortunately, after my senior year in high school I blew out my right elbow while playing for Team USA in Curacao, Netherland Antilles. I ended up receiving Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery during my freshman year at Notre Dame and didn’t fully recover until the summer after my sophomore year. While nobody ever wants to receive surgery on their arm, I do feel that having the surgery helped me in so many ways.  Most importantly, it taught me that through hard work comes good results. My work ethic drastically improved due to the strenuous rehabilitation. I was determined to return to my original form and pitch competitively again and was willing to do anything to get there. Coming into college I was a very frail, but after having surgery, I managed to gain a great deal of strength and much-needed weight.

After signing in 2006, I was sent to Florida and played in the Gulf Coast League for a short time and was then promoted to the Fort Myers Miracle in the Florida State League.  I quickly realized that professional baseball is completely different from college baseball, but I liked the change. I am very fortunate to have been selected by the Twins because they are an organization that goes about things the right way, and that became very evident immediately after signing. I ended up leaving early from Florida to return to Notre Dame to complete a semester of school. Life without baseball in college is drastically different. I had more time than I knew what to do with since I wasn’t at the field for six-plus hours a day.

I began the 2007 season in Beloit, Wisc., in the Midwest League. Luckily, I was conditioned to handle the cold weather that burdened the beginning of our season since I had been in South Bend, Ind., the past three years.  Even so, the first game was easily the coldest environment I have ever thrown in. It was a pleasant 25 degrees with a 10-degree wind chill and light snow — perfect weather to play baseball in. I can remember trying to get off the field and back into the dugout as quick as possible each inning so I could huddle up next to the single jet heater. The Midwest League provided some great memories, especially winning the first half in our division. Halfway through the season, I was promoted to the Florida State League and played for the Miracle again. The difference from low A to high A was noticable, but nowhere near the jump that I would face during the 2008 season.  I finished the year strong and was very happy with my performance in both Beloit and Fort Myers. I felt that in my first full season of pro ball I had grown significantly. I was realizing what it took to be a professional and how to represent myself as a Twin in the best possible way.  In addition, I proved to myself that I could remain healthy through a full season.  I returned to Notre Dame again in the fall for my last semester and graduated with a degree in economics.

The 2008 season was a big adjustment for me and was full of ups and downs.  I began the season in Fort Myers and had a solid first half. We won the division with practically the same team that we had in Beloit from the 2007 season.  After the All-Star break, I was promoted to the New Britain Rockcats of the Eastern League where I would really be tested.  Everything I had heard about the jump from Class A to Double-A was entirely true.  The differences were significant. While in New Britain, I experienced both success and hardships. I found it tough to remain consistent throughout the second half and had trouble stringing together multiple solid outings in a row. I was consistently higher in the strike zone compared to the first half in Fort Myers and the results of the elevation in my pitches showed. Hitters rarely miss mistakes at the Double-A level and I was made well aware of that. I was able to make adjustments, though, and finished the season strong.

I am truly honored to have been selected to play in the Arizona Fall League and represent the Minnesota Twins. Tonight was our first game against the Mesa Solar Sox, and despite losing, I still had a fantastic time. The team is full of great players that I have enjoyed getting to know in the past week. I was informed that the Desert Dogs have won the AFL the past three seasons, so hopefully we can continue that trend.       

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