Results tagged ‘ Pete Van Wieren ’

Odds and ends: Heyward, Teheran, etc.

Before I get married this weekend and enjoy both a Hawaiian honeymoon and Steelers Super Bowl victory next week, I’m providing this entry full of some things I’ve heard or discussed over the past week. 

Heyward update: There didn’t seem to be much reason for concern when Jason Heyward said Wednesday that he still doesn’t have full range of motion in the left thumb that he injured in May.

“I don’t have any pain in it, but I still don’t have the full range of motion in it,” Heyward said. “I still can’t bend it anywhere close to where it was before.  I don’t know if I ever will be able to do that.  But I know it’s not holding me back from hitting.”

If he were a professional thumb wrestler, there might be some concern about Heyward’s limited range of motion.  But given that he’s still happy with the career choice he’s made at the ripe age of 21, it should simply be comforting to hear him say he’s able to swing the bat in a pain-free manner. 

Teheran, a sleeper for fifth spot?:  Two weeks ago, the Braves informed Julio Teheran that he was invited to attend his first big league camp this year.  This wasn’t a surprise.  Nor was it surprising to see the 20-year-old right-hander listed among MLB.com’s 10 best prospects. 

Teheran is one of the finest pitching prospects to ever pass through the Braves organization and they certainly don’t have any plans to rush his development. 

But based on what they’ve seen from him, there are some members of the Braves organization who believe Teheran will make it difficult for them to determine when or maybe even if they should send him to back to Minor League camp. 

Given that Teheran has had one injury-free professional season, which consisted of just 142 innings, there is very little reason to believe the Braves would begin the season with him in the Majors.  But the fact that they are at least anticipating that he will make them debate the possibility gives you a better idea about how special this kid could be.

Wishing the best for Pete: It was nice to catch up with Pete Van Wieren this week and even better to hear him say that doctors are optimistic as he nears what is scheduled to be his final round of chemotherapy treatment.  His final treatment is scheduled for Feb. 7.  

Van Wieren has been undergoing these treatments once every three weeks since learning in October that he would have to once again battle against cutaneous B-Cell lymphoma.  He battled this same condition around this time last year. 

It was discouraging to hear Van Wieren say that he won’t make it down for any portion of Spring Training this year.  But it was encouraging to learn, the proud grandfather is planning to take the grandchildren to Disney during the early days of April.

The treatments have weakened him to some degree.  But it was still great to hear the excitement in his voice when he spoke about being able to play poker and watch baseball again some time soon. 

Wide-eyed Minor Leaguers: The Braves seemed quite pleased with how their first Rookie Development Program went last week.  It was cool to see how the Minor Leaguers reacted while listening to the motivational speeches delivered by John Schuerholz and then Bobby Cox. 

I just wish I would have been in the room when the young kids looked up and saw Hank Aaron just walking through the middle of the clubhouse.  It was an unplanned part of the program.  Aaron was simply making his exit after completing an early-morning workout.

It was nice to get to talk to some of these prospects and put a face to a name.  Matt Lipka had a stronger frame than I envisioned when the Braves took him with their first selection in June.  This probably had something to do with the tales about the success he enjoyed as an All-State wide receiver in Texas. 

Lipka has spent the past couple of months working out a gym owned by former Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson.  He has added some upper body mass and focused on maintaining the speed that proved so appealing to baseball scouts last year. 

Out of all the players the Braves worked out at Turner Field before last year’s Draft, there was just one that proved to be faster than Lipka. 

His name is Kyle Wren, the son of Braves general manager Frank Wren.  Kyle is projected to serve as Georgia Tech’s starting centerfielder as a true freshman this year. 

Catch you in a couple weeks.    
  

MLB.com set to reveal latest list of Top 50 prospects

Before getting into a discussion about top prospects, let’s just verify that the Braves aren’t interested in Jim Edmonds.  In related news, they also aren’t pursuing Garret Anderson or  B.J. Surhoff to fill a roster spot.

OK, now that he’s spent the past couple weeks and months talking to scouts, scouting directors and other talent evaluators, Jonathan Mayo is ready to reveal MLB.com’s 2010 Top 50 prospect list.

When this year’s list is revealed tonight (Wednesday) at 8 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, you’ll see Mayo’s shiny dome and gain a better sense about how stressful this selection process can be.

Seriously though, these lists stand as just another entertaining highlight to promote the future of the game.  Of course right now in Atlanta the future seems to be quite bright. 

When Mayo made his midseason selections on July 31 last year, he had Jason Heyward at the top of his list.  There’s no doubt the big outfielder will once again be at the top of these rankings.

But we’ll have to wait until tonight to see if MLB.com still considers Heyward to be the game’s top prospect.  Last year, the 20-year-old outfielder ranked third on this list and some kid named Tommy Hanson ranked 24th.

Because he has expired his rookie-eligible status, Hanson wasn’t eligible to be listed among this year’s top prospects. 

It will also be interesting to see if this Top 50 list includes Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino, who will likely stand as the key return in the December trade that sent Javy Vazquez to the Yankees. 

Some scouts say that Teheran is the better prospect and others think Vizcaino has the greater upside. Regardless of where you might rank them, you can’t argue that the Braves are in pretty good position to have a pair of 19-year-old hurlers with this kind of talent.

ESPN’s Keith Law ranks the Braves farm system as the game’s fifth-best in his just-released organizational rankings.  He mentions that the ranking would have been higher if not for the results of this past summer’s Draft.

It’s interesting to go back to some of these prospects list to see how the guys fared.  Here is a selection of previous MLB.com lists:  2009 ,   20082007 and 2006.

You’ll be able to find plenty of selections that make you, “what ever happened to that guy.”  Just to give you one example that will make you laugh, look at the 2006 list and see that the terribly over-hyped Andy Marte ranked four spots ahead of Prince Fielder and 14 spots ahead of Hanley Ramirez.

This is just the nature of these kinds of selections.   I had to laugh earlier this week when I looked back at Baseball America’s list of prospects at the end of the 2007 season.  They had Tommy Hanson ranked as the ninth-best prospect in the Braves system.

Here are the guys who ranked ahead of him:

1. Jordan Schafer — potentially bright future
2. Heyward —  bright future
3. Jurrjens —  on his way toward stardom
4. Brandon Jones — claimed by Pirates off waivers
5. Gorkys Hernandez  — traded to Pirates
6. Brent Lillibridge — traded to White Sox
7.Cole Rohrbough  — no longer considered a top prospect
8. Jeff Locke  — traded to Pirates

BA’s list of the organization’s top prospects heading into the 2007 season provides an even greater feeling of nostalgia.  It could also be confused as a list of young Rangers players.

1. Jarrod Saltalamacchia  — traded to Rangers
2. Elvis Andrus —  traded to Rangers
3. Matt Harrison — traded to Rangers
4. Brandon Jones — Pirates
5. Van Pope —  no longer considered a prospect
6. Eric Campbell — makes you wonder if Pete Babcock made this draft selection
7. Scott Thorman —  Brewers Minor Leaguer
8. Jo-Jo Reyes —  hanging on in the Braves system
9. Joey Devine —  the reason you still recognize Chris Burke’s name.
10. Yunel Escobar —   Hey one out of 10 isn’t bad.

Before sending this into cyberspace, I will tell you that I had lunch with Pete Van Wieren last week.  The Professor’s book, which should be a very interesting read, will go on sale on April 1.     

Saying goodbye to Kalas

As we sat in the visiting manager’s office at Citizens Bank Park last Wednesday, Harry Kalas entered and said, “Hey Coxxy” with that same distinctive and distinguished voice that sports fans have recognized for so many years. 

Walking and talking a little slower than he had in the past, Kalas beemed with excitement as he talked to Braves manager Bobby Cox about the dawn of a new season.  A few hours later, he’d throw out the ceremonial first pitch and receive his 2008 World Series ring with the rest of the Phillies family that justifiably viewed him as a father figure. 

During their short exchange, Cox asked Kalas how much he’d enjoyed this most recent Phillies world championship.  With a youthful excitement that didn’t necessarily coordinate with his 73-year-old soul, the long-time broadcaster spoke about how this World Series title was actually much more enjoyable than the first one he’d experienced in Philadelphia in 1980.

Kalas talked about how the 1980 team had simply accomplished what they’d originally envisioned would have occurred in 1978 or ’79.  Then he spoke about the delight he experienced while watching Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels make their surprising dominant run through this most recent October. 

Many of us who weren’t raised in Philadelphia knew him as the owner of that voice that only improved the quality of the video supplied by NFL Films.  The players, broadcasters, coaches, front office employees and fans who had the opportunity to recognize him as more than simply a broadcaster, knew him as man who definitely improved the game of baseball.

When I spoke to Pete Van Wieren and Chip Caray this afternoon, it was obvious that that they’d lost much more than a colleague. 

“He was not only a great broadcaster, but also a dear friend,” Van Wieren said. “We had the opportunity to spend many years broadcasting together and enjoying other activities away from the broadcast booth.  This is very sad news.   There are certain broadcasters that are much more than just voices for their team.  Some of them are iconic figures for the game and Harry was one of those broadcasters.

“I don’t know anybody who didn’t like him.  He was much more than just a broadcaster for the team.  We often sat together for dinner in the press room, whether we were in Philadelphia or Atlanta.  He was just a great guy.  He always had great questions to ask about our team and insight to provide about his own. He’ll definitely be missed.”

Caray recognized Kalas as an inspiration and one of the many dear friends who showed genuine support when his father, Skip Caray, passed away last year. 

“The thing that makes broadcasters unique is the richness of their voice and their passion for the game,” Chip Caray said. “Harry had both of those qualities.   When you think of the greatest ambassadors of the game, Harry was certainly one of those guys.  The  passion he had while calling games for Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski and so many other great Phillies players was a real inspiration for young broadcasters, like myself.

“When I think of Harry, I think of friendliness and class.   When my dad died, he gave me a hug and a handshake that I’ll never forget.  He was truly a treasure.   He was a mentor and a friend.  People will say that the game won’t be the same without him and it won’t.”

Personally, I’ll always remember Kalas as a man who always provided a friendly “hello” while displaying a seemingly eternal smile. 

The last time I saw Kalas was after the Phillies had claimed their comeback win over the Braves last Wednesday.  As I exited the elevator, he was standing there in the hallway displaying that same old smile.

We’ve talked a lot about the ridiculous events that led to the Braves blowing a seven-run lead that afternoon.  But it was that ugly eight-run seventh inning endured by the Atlanta bullpen that allowed a true Philadelphia icon to enjoy his final day in his home ballpark.  

The Braves won the final game that Skip called at Turner Field last year and the Phillies allowed Kalas to enjoy the epic comeback during his final hours in Philadelphia.

In some ways, you have to wonder if baseball gods truly do take care of those who have served the game so admirably.   

 

  

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