05/11/2007 12:03 PM ET
Big leaguers go to bat for the homeless
LaTroy Hawkins and Zach McClellan joined with high school students from the Denver Action Team youth volunteer corps to paint rooms at Volunteers of America's Family Motel for the homeless on Thursday before suiting up for Colorado's game against San Francisco.
Zach McClellan joined with high school student volunteers to paint rooms. (MLBPLAYERS.com)
The Rockies' relievers took paint brushes to the motel's walls with the students as a way to heighten awareness of issues faced by the homeless and encourage youth volunteerism.
Volunteers of America's Family Motel houses more than 100 homeless individuals, including children, and is one of many Volunteers of America programs that address the more than 4,000 men, women and children who are homeless in the metro Denver area on any given night.
"It is quite an honor to work alongside members of the Denver Action Team," Hawkins said. "The Denver Action Team Captains are doing a tremendous job of raising the awareness of important causes affecting the area's needy and inspiring their peers to get actively involved by helping our neighbors in need. Major Leaguers are very proud of the work Action Team Captains from across the country are doing to help inspire and train the next generation of volunteers."
It was one of the initial forays into Denver community involvement for McClellan, a rookie with under a month of Major League experience.
Administered by Volunteers of America and the Major League Baseball Players Trust, the Action Team program was created to encourage young people throughout the United States to volunteer in their communities.
Action Teams, consisting of Major League Baseball players and area high school student Team Captains, are working together in Denver, Boston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York City, Oakland, Philadelphia, Portland (Maine), San Francisco and Seattle. Volunteers of America and the Major League Baseball Players Trust plan to expand the Action Team program to Cincinnati, Houston, Indianapolis and Mobile during the 2007-08 school year.
To date, Action Teams across the country have inspired more than 9,000 high school students to help more than 38,000 people in need by volunteering in their communities.
Ken Griffey Jr. moves up ladder: In a 9-5 victory over the Houston Astros, Griffey hit the 569th home run of his 19-year career, moving him into ninth place all-time on Major League Baseball's home-run list ahead of Rafael Palmeiro.
"I'm just old. I started young," Griffey, 37, told MLB.com. "I haven't really thought about it. I've known Raffy for a long, long time. I played against him."
The next milestone for Griffey could come soon. Harmon Killebrew is next on the all-time list with 573 career round-trippers.
"A home run is special. You get to jog," Griffey joked. "The object is to take three left [turns], four lefts when you're at home."
Griffey, though, offers more than just veteran leadership and home runs (he has six this season) to his team.
"Griff has been very patient all year," said Reds manager Jerry Narron. "He's been our most disciplined hitter. He has our best on-base percentage (.436). I think a lot of guys could learn from that plate discipline and not just go up swinging at the first pitch they see sometimes."
Sidelined for part of Spring Training with a broken hand, Griffey says that breaking his hand actually caused him to be more patient at the plate, and in turn he's seeing more good pitches.
"Breaking the hand maybe made me just a little more cautious of the strike zone," Griffey said. "Look at how I took batting practice. I didn't swing at very many balls. I don't recommend people break their hand to be patient at the plate."
Hudson is Diamondback's rock: Arizona second baseman Orlando Hudson was held hitless Thursday, but that was because the Diamondbacks had the day off.
Hudson has terrorized National League pitchers this season. He hit his fifth home run of the season Wednesday and leads NL second baseman in batting average (.328) and on-base percentage (.390) while only Chase Utley of Philadelphia has more RBIs than Hudson (27) or doubles (nine).
Hudson has answered the call for each game this season, he is one of only 24 players in the National League to start every game this season, and has failed to play only 1 1/3 innings of the team's 324 1/3 innings of play this year.
"That's the way it's supposed to be. That's the way I like it. I'm too young to be out of the lineup," Hudson, who missed only five games last season, told the East Valley Tribune. "I'm not here on vacation. I'm not here to enjoy the Arizona sun. I'm not here to play three days and take two days off. I'm here to play baseball."
Young's arm is more than raw talent: Runners beware: don't try to take the extra base against Tampa Bay outfielder Delmon Young.
In the Majors for less than one year, Young already has eight outfield assists, including four this season.
"I just throw the ball," Young told the St. Petersburg Times. "It's just throwing."
Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon, however, says what Young does is a skill, not just him throwing the ball to his intended target.
"Everybody looks at the end result, which is where the ball is released, but so many things occur prior to that that make it possible to throw it straight and accurately," Maddon said. "When an outfielder makes it look easy, he does so many minute things well that if you broke it down you'd be staggered by all the little things. We're trying to get our guys to that level."
As a team, the Rays have 11 outfield assists, second in the American League only to Minnesota's 12. Young's ability to throw out runners is getting noticed around the league. During a game against the Twins, he threw out two runners.
"Delmon Young was born with a cannon," said Twins outfielder Torii Hunter, known for his strong arm. "It's a God-given ability. It's something special."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said what makes Young special is the fact he hits his targets instead of just trying to throw the ball as hard as he can.
"Guys come up and they're winging it all over the place, and that does you no good," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "To be able to harness it and work on the fundamentals and control it, that's pretty special."
Lowell is a Jay-killer: Boston Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell would have no problem facing the Toronto Blue Jays every day of the year. Lowell went 3-for-4 with a home run and a double Wednesday night to raise his batting average to .380 (49-for-129) against the Blue Jays.
That average is the highest against the Blue Jays by an opponent with a minimum of 100 at-bats. Overall, Lowell has 17 doubles, nine homers and 30 RBIs in 34 career games against the Jays.
"I had no idea," Lowell told the Boston Herald about his outstanding success against Toronto. "In some parks you just feel comfortable, and I like the way I see the ball here. Other than that, I don't have an explanation because (Blue Jays right-handers) Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett seem to throw well against us, and those aren't guys you have comfortable at-bats against. But hopefully it will stay this way and, hopefully, I'll stay at the top of that list."
Miller keeps his season perfect: The Milwaukee Brewers are off to a terrific start, going 24-10 in their first 34 games. Amazingly, the club is 10-0 when catcher Damian Miller starts.
"Yeah, I am solely responsible for our record," Miller joked with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
With Miller behind the plate, the Brewers are 9-0 and they are 1-0 when he earned his one start at first base. The Brewers were in a tense game against Washington on Wednesday before pulling the game out late.
"Don't think I didn't think about that out there today," said Miller. "It is fun, but now the pressure is on."
Miller knows, however, that his perfect record as a starter will eventually come to an end.
"That's highly doubtful, unless I retire right now," he said.
Ludwick welcomes his second chance: Ryan Ludwick burst onto the Major League scene in 2003, putting up 21 RBIs in a single month for the Cleveland Indians.
A knee injury that required two surgeries slowed him down significantly. Now, Ludwick has worked his way back to the big leagues as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I've got nothing to lose. I've been here before and I got hurt and I feel like this could be my last opportunity," Ludwick told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "You never know how many chances you're going to get. I'm just trying to take advantage of it."
Manager Tony La Russa sees the value Ludwick brings to the team.
"Every game he's doing something for a club that's searching," said La Russa. "That's something that you recognize."
Ludwick admits that the long road back was sometimes difficult. "It was a constant grind. I wasn't having much fun," he said. "I came into last season wondering, 'Can I still do this? Am I still capable?' Then that season, I felt like I was back."
Now, as a member of the Cardinals, Ludwick is trying to make his mark -- again.
"I really forced the issue with them that I was mentally focused for this year," Ludwick said. "(That 2003) was a lost opportunity. I feel good to be back in the situation that I'm in. I'm just trying to make the most of it."
Marquis' timing is perfect: After a 15-inning loss to the Pirates on Tuesday, Cubs pitcher Jason Marquis gave his team just what they needed on Wednesday, a complete game, three-hit shutout.
"What perfect timing for a complete-game shutout," manager Lou Piniella told the Chicago Tribune. "He really pitched well. He was throwing just as hard in the ninth as he was in the beginning."
His ERA is now 1.70 and his record 5-1, Marquis says that staying strong as the game goes on is a result of staying fit.
"That's something I've always done throughout my whole life, from Little League on," Marquis said. "I pride myself on my conditioning."
His effort was appreciated by the fans at Wrigley Field. "It's nice to know there are fans behind you," he said. "Obviously, to win 66 games last year and still draw 3 million, it shows you how much pride this city has, and they want to win just as much as we do.
"We're out there battling, and for the fans to get going that late in the game and give us a big push, it was nice. It was a good feeling to come off the field."
Rabelo celebrates career firsts: Detroit Tigers catcher Mike Rebelo had a huge day on Thursday in the Tigers' 7-3 victory over Seattle, connecting for his first career triple while driving in his first Major League run. In all, he finished the day with three hits and the attention of manger Jim Leyland.
"I'm really tickled for him (Rabelo). He's kind of a nervous kid. He's relaxed more now," Leyland told the Detroit News. "He's readily getting the respect of the pitchers. He's had a brain cramp now and then but we all do."
Rabelo also enjoyed another Major League tradition -- a shaving-cream pie to the face from an unidentified teammate during a postgame interview.
"It was a bandit," Rabelo said, whipping shaving cream from his eyes. "If it's a sign that I arrived, that's cool. We're going to get forensics to find out who did it.
"I'm getting more relaxed. I'm getting more confidence in the box.
"Ultimately you want to win the game. That's No. 1. I didn't want to mess up. And I got three hits. You're on the biggest stage. That's (three hits) icing on the cake. My main goal is to handle the pitchers."
And as for that eighth-inning triple, he wasn't about to stop at second base. "I was thinking triple all the way," Rabelo said. "I wasn't going to stop unless somebody stopped me."
Hunter outdoes himself: On Wednesday night in Minnesota, Twins center fielder Torii Hunter made what might have been the best catch in a career full of highlight-film grabs.
Running with his back to the infield, twisting around, falling on his backside, Hunter made an awkward if not spectacular grab against the Chicago White Sox Juan Uribe. All this, mind you, with two outs and the bases loaded.
"That was scary," Hunter told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I had to put my head down and run, take five or 10 steps. I looked back up. I couldn't find it for a minute. Then I found it, and it was just like right in my face."
And boy did it hurt.
"I thought I was paralyzed, my butt was hurting so bad," said Hunter. "... I've had some painful catches, but I never thought my butt would be hurting."
His manager was impressed. "That's a really, really tough catch," said manager Ron Gardenhire. "Over the shoulder, running full speed, put your head down in the Metrodome, take your eyes off the ball and then look back up and find it at the fence - the degree of difficulty was really high, about as high as you could get. That was spectacular."
Right fielder Michael Cuddyer agreed.
"I told him, 'I've seen you make a lot of good catches, but as far as difficulty is concerned, that was the best one I've seen,' " said right fielder Michael Cuddyer. "... I've seen him reach over (the fence), I've seen him slingshot down and hit his head on the turf, I've seen diving (catches), I've seen him scale the baggie. That was the best one, hands down."
Johnson goes too far for cycle: Oakland hitters enjoyed a monster game Thursday afternoon versus the Royals. They pounded out a season-high 18 hits, drew seven walks and put 17 runs on the board, their highest total since 2004.
Nobody had a better day than Dan Johnson, who had four hits, including two home runs, and extended his hitting streak to 10 games.
"It was nice, huh?" Johnson told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I don't know how many men we had on base, but every inning it felt like you were coming up again."
In the seventh inning, Johnson came to bat needing a triple to record a cycle. He missed it by one base as he homered instead.
"It literally takes me a calendar day to get to third base as it is," Johnson said. "All three outfielders would have had to collide and knock each other out for me to get a triple."
Johnson ended the day with two walks to go with his four hits. He drove in four runs and scored four times.
-- Red Line Editorial