Tag Archives: Teamwork

Every game is game seven.

Blaze-Pilots Semi-Finals Scorecard

Game seven is the final game of a best of seven series. This game can occur in the postseasons for Major League Baseball (League Championship Series and World Series), the National Basketball Association (all rounds of the NBA playoffs), and the National Hockey League (all rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs). Read more

Last year, the Blaze finished the regular season in last place (0-14). There is something to be said for coming back from a large deficit. But what about turning around your entire life? Take Rollie Hemsley for example. Nevertheless, we finished the 2016 season with 9 wins, 2 loses and 2 ties which was good enough for the #3 seed going into the Playoffs.

Game of the Century

Blaze-Pilots Semi-Finals Scorecard

What is particularly interesting is the fact that our team really came on strong after May 16 disappointing loss to the Bears. We fault hard against the Royals a few days later and tied. But, best of all, going into the playoffs we had a 4 game winning streak.

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”-Vince Lombardi

IMG_8273_1024

Final Four: Game Summary

  • Blaze took an early lead 3-1 after the 1st inning.
  • However, we gave up 7 runs in the 2nd inning and 4 runs in the 3rd inning.
  • At the end of three, we were losing 12-4 (down 8 runs).
  • Next thing you know, the Blaze came alive in the bottom of the 4th inning with 9 runs batted in during a 2 out rally.
  • In particular, Amelia smashed a 3 RBI homerun out of the park, followed by another 2 RBI homerun by Blake. This was enough to regain the lead.
  • Blake had 3 Ks in the top of the 5th inning and Henry struck out the final batter to get the save in the top of the 6th inning.
  • Blaze win 13-12. On to the World Series Championships!
  • Arguably, the most thrilling game of the century. At least the ONLY one that I was ever involved with that had such an amazing come from behind victory.

As a matter of fact, my very first Blog was about Victory and Defeat which I published back on April 17, 2016. Having attended Boys Latin High School, our slogan was Esse Quam Videri. Later in life, my favorite Latin expression became Carpe Diem after watching the movie “Dead Poet Society”.

Robin Williams, was another hero of mind. In this scene above, he concludes by saying,

“Thank you boys”

Keep in mind, we were one of the few teams with a girl. And to make it more interesting, she won the MVP twice during the regular season.

So, when I sat down to write this blog, I struggled for the best title. I love the expression, “Every game is game seven” because it remind me of the famous “One Day at a Time” proverb. But then I thought about the Roland Park Baseball League Mission “Little League, BIG FUN! The purpose of Roland Park Baseball is to instill sportsmanship and to provide a nurturing environment, which will allow the children to mature physically, mentally, and emotionally. Further, the league strives to work with parents to develop realistic expectations of their children.”

I love U2

I continued to wrestle for a title and thought about naming it “Never forget!” If this game doesn’t build a child’s memory, I don’t know what does. In fact, I believe that everyone that was at that game witnessed a miracle. Speaking of miracles, listen to the following song…

Have you ever looked up the lyrics of a song? I love U2. They are by far, my favorite band for a lot of reasons. Mostly because of the spiritual words in their songs.

“As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”
John 9:5 (fast forward 4 minutes and 15 seconds)

When my wife and I dated for about 10 years, she always used to say, “I love you”. I was not ready to commit and often jokingly said, “I love U2”!

Getting back to the game, rather than clutter this blog with a bunch of images, I’ll let readers browse “Final Four” photos on their own by Clicking Here. These are some amazing candid shots by one of our parents.

Another title for this blog indicative of the drama we went through is “And now the end is near. And so I face the final curtain.” When we started the top of the 4th inning, I started to prepare our Coaches game summary “Defeat speech”. I told the team afterwards that I honestly thought there was no way we could come back and they all booed and hissed me, and even started throwing grass at me.

See if you can get some hidden messages in this classic…

Another possible title is “Repetition is the mother of skill.” I am a firm believer that if you practice fielding ground balls and swinging a bat, eventually you’ll become a master. Obviously, I love quotations and started compiling a list of my favorites about 20 years ago (Click Here).

“You can spend all your love making time”

I was listening to this song immediately following our “emotional roller-coaster”. Do you notice the resemblance? Here are the lyrics:

“All alone at the end of the evening
And the bright lights have faded to blue.
I was thinking ’bout a woman who might have loved me
I never knew.
You know I’ve always been a dreamer
Spent my life runnin’ ’round

And it’s so hard to change
Can’t seem to settle down
But the dreams I’ve seen lately keep on turning out
And burning out and turning out the same.
So put me on a highway and show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time.
You can spend all your time making money,
You can spend all your love making time…

Take it to the limit, take it to the limit
Take it to the limit one more time.”

Check out the Wiki facts

Finally, you may be wondering what’s the point? It’s simple. Success is much more than just a trophy. If you play every game like it’s the last game of the World Series, field every ball like the game is on the line, get in the batter’s box with all the confidence in the world that you are going to hit a hard line drive, then you are well on your way to enjoying the purpose of life.

Skipper

Al Gallagher

The BEST thing I heard after our disappointing 10-0 loss in the Championship game was from a complete stranger.

A young boy was walking by immediately following my Gatorade shower and said,”That’s the happiest losing team I ever saw”!

IMG_7181

Every baseball player and coach wants to win, generally. That’s why you keep score. The biggest showcase of the year is the World Series and that’s where all the hard work throughout the season comes to a close. If you had a successful season and won enough games to make it to the playoffs you have a shot at taking home a National Championship.

However, there have been many, many great baseball players that were not very popular like Al Gallagher. So, when you think of the BEST ballplayers, you automatically associate their stats. What was his batting average? What was his ERA? And yes, coaches also are measured on stats. Yet, considering how difficult it is to make it to the World Series, it is fascinating to me that Joe Torre won the Championship four (4) times. Read more.

manager_success

joe_torre_record_index

joe_torre_record

Buck Showalter

If you want to be the best ___ [fill-in the blank]. Find someone who has already achieved that success. Then just copy everything they do! Eventually, you’ll develop your own “signature”. I’ll stick with the home town hero, Buck Showalter.

Earl Weaver

Notice that Buck was the Yankees coach before Torre. But I grew up watching Earl Weaver. Buck Showalter loves scouting reports — except when it comes to assessing the personalities of people he’s never met. In that regard, the Orioles’ manager insists upon formulating his own opinion. “People will start to tell me about a player that’s coming,” Showalter said, “and I stop them and say, ‘I got this. We’re starting fresh. I’m going to make up my own mind about him.'”

Buck Showalter

Showalter’s reputation preceded his arrival in Baltimore. Taskmaster, drill sergeant, disciplinarian — those words were often associatedwith him during his tenure as manager of the New York Yankees (1992-95), Arizona Diamondbacks (1998-2000) and Texas Rangers (2003-06). So when the feisty skipper was hired by then-president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail to turn around a franchise in search of its first winning season since 1997, the players knew what was coming…

“Some people’s reputation before you meet them is not the same after you get to know them.

Mike Matheny

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 14: Manager Mike Matheny #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on while taking on the San Francisco Giants in Game Three of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park on October 14, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – OCTOBER 14: Manager Mike Matheny #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on while taking on the San Francisco Giants in Game Three of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park on October 14, 2014 in San Francisco, California

Read his letter to Little League => Click Here

Great philosophy!!!

Humility & Teachable.

Michael Scott Matheny (born September 22, 1970) is an American former professional baseball catcher and the current manager of the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball (MLB), a position he has held since 2012. A product of the University of Michigan, Matheny was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the eighth round of the 1991 MLB Draft. He made his MLB debut for the Brewers in 1994 and retired in 2006 with the San Francisco Giants. He also played for the Toronto Blue Jays and Cardinals during his thirteen-year catching career.

mike_matheny_catcher

Though not a prodigious hitter, Matheny was one of the most accomplished defensive catchers of his era, winning four Rawlings Gold Glove Awards. Further, he established major league records among catchers for consecutive games played without committing an error (252), and consecutive chances fielded without an error (1,565). Matheny is one of only three Major League catchers with an errorless season of at least 100 games, and he set a Giants single-season team record in 2005 for catcher’s fielding percentage at .999. He retired from playing due to persisting concussion symptoms, and has since become an advocate for its prevention and for improved catcher safety.

mike_matheny_umpireAfter his playing career, Matheny coached Little League Baseball. The Cardinals hired him to manage following the 2011 season in spite of having no previous professional experience. In 2015, he became the first manager in MLB history to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons, and, in 2014, just the fifth to a League Championship Series appearance in each of his first three. His furthest title claim occurred in 2013, when the Cardinals won the National League pennant, only to fall to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. Read more

Championships

Blaze Runner-up

Picture above is from our 2016 season. Congratulations Blaze! Notice the guy to my right is Tippy Martinez.  He along with catcher Rick Dempsey, and the starting pitcher Scott McGregor—were to have leading roles in the Orioles’ World Championship of ’83.  Read more.tippy_martinez2

May-June is an exciting time of year for all the school championships.  At all levels- high school and college, the game begins.  Pressure.  Intensity.  Cheer for your local team or perhaps you have a relative or neighbor playing this month?

Currently, our team is in the “FINAL FOUR”. 2-4-6-8 who do we appreciate?  Remember that cheer?  Win or Lose, this is where TRUE sportsmanship comes in.  Our team has made REMARKABLE progress this season.  Great players, coaches and parents!

I spent some time the other day looking up the MLB League Leaders (see below).  Notice Manny Machado is #1 in three categories (read more). You might also want to read about Dexter Fowler.  However, what is more extraordinary, is the Chicago Cubs record of 25-6. That’s a winning percentage of .806.

Compare that to the 1st place team in the AL East Orioles 19-12, you’ll have an appreciation how amazing that it is.  fowlerAlso, remember last year’s “Back to the Future” crystal ball reference that in the movie with Michael J. Fox, the Cubs were predicted to win the 2015 World Series.  They came on strong during the playoffs winning the wild card race, but fell short to the Mets in the National League who eventually went on to play the Royals.

Well, if you like competition, the NCAA College World Series DI Championship will be held on June 18-28, 2016 in TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Nebraska.  This was very exciting last year when University of Maryland had an incredible year and lost to UCLA.  University of Virginia went on to win the National Championships.  The teams to watch in 2016 are Florida and Texas A&M (read more).

It’s pretty cool watching amateurs play at the highest level.  Even if you don’t like baseball, you can tune in to see the very best compete in Tennis, Golf, Lacrosse, Track & Field, and many more sports.

Now, if you are a real enthusiast, you could even visit Ripken Stadium to watch MD Interscholastic Athletic Association A & B Conference championships on May 22, 2016  (read more).  Another local team I found having an amazing season is Dulaney High School with a 17-3 record (read more).  Here are some other interesting links: www.d1baseball.comwww.maxpreps.com, www.varsitysportsnetwork.com and www.prepbaseballreport.com.

See ya at the ball park 🙂

League_Leaders

Gatorade Shower

In the 2016 spring baseball season I experienced one of the most gratifying experiences from our successful team known as the Gatorade shower.

We had about a half dozen players return from the 0-14 losing season in 2015.  So, to make it to the championship last year was quite an accomplishment. Read more

I kept reminding the players – practice fundamental baseball. Simultaneously, always keeping them motivitated, “who wants to bring home the hardware?”

It paid off!

Also known as the Gatorade dunk or the Gatorade bath, is an American sports tradition that involves players surreptitiously dumping a cooler full of liquid (most commonly Gatorade mixed with ice) over the head of their coach (or occasionally a high-profile assistant coach, star player, or team owner in professional leagues) following a meaningful win, such as the Super Bowl or World Series. Read more

Interestingly enough, I had the pleasure of leading our soccer team to a championship season as well. Read more

Strikeouts

Why do players strikeout?

Answer: By regulation, baseball bats may be no more than 2.75 inches in diameter at the thickest part and no more than 42 inches long.  A MLB baseball is only 3 inches in diameter. Thus, it is very, very difficult.  As a matter of fact, you can fail 7/10 times and be qualified for the Hall of Fame (.300 batting average). Read more

strikeout_leaders

Batters

The top 15 Major League Baseball career strikeout leaders: (as of 2015 season)

  1. Reggie Jackson – 2,597
  2. Jim Thome – 2,548
  3. Adam Dunn – 2,379
  4. Sammy Sosa – 2,306
  5. Reggie_JacksonAlex Rodriguez – 2,220
  6. Andrés Galarraga – 2,003
  7. José Canseco – 1,942
  8. Willie Stargell – 1,936
  9. Mike Cameron – 1,901
  10. Mike Schmidt – 1,883
  11. Fred McGriff – 1,882
  12. Tony Pérez – 1,867
  13. Bobby Abreu – 1,840
  14. Derek Jeter – 1,840
  15. Dave Kingman – 1,816

Active batters with over 1,400 K’s:
(as of 2015 season)

  1. Alex Rodriguez – 2,220alex_rodriguez
  2. Ryan Howard – 1,729
  3. David Ortiz – 1664
  4. Carlos Beltrán – 1,592
  5. Mark Reynolds – 1,519
  6. Adrián Beltré – 1,518
  7. Curtis Granderson 1,459
  8. Adam LaRoche 1,407
  9. Melvin Upton – 1,406
  10. Miguel Cabrera – 1,400

Single season strikeout records (batters):

Rank Player Team Strikeouts Year
   1 Mark Reynolds Arizona Diamondbacks 223 2009
   2 Adam Dunn Chicago White Sox 222 2012
   3 Chris Carter Houston Astros 212 2013
   4 Mark Reynolds Arizona Diamondbacks 211 2010
   5 Drew Stubbs Cincinnati Reds 205 2011
   6 Mark Reynolds Arizona Diamondbacks 204 2008
   7 Ryan Howard Philadelphia Phillies 199 2007
   8 Ryan Howard Philadelphia Phillies 199 2008
   9 Adam Dunn Washington Nationals 199 2010
  10 Chris Davis Baltimore Orioles 199 2013

 

Strikeout records

Then there is the best pitchers who threw strikeouts.

Pitchers

The Top 20 Major League Baseball career strikeout leaders (active players in bold) (since 1901):[16]

  1. Nolan Ryan – 5,714
  2. Randy Johnson – 4,875
  3. Roger Clemens – 4,672Nolan_Ryan
  4. Steve Carlton – 4,136
  5. Bert Blyleven – 3,701
  6. Tom Seaver – 3,640
  7. Don Sutton – 3,574
  8. Gaylord Perry – 3,534
  9. Walter Johnson – 3,509
  10. Greg Maddux – 3,371
  11. Phil Niekro – 3,342
  12. Ferguson Jenkins – 3,192
  13. Pedro Martínez – 3,154
  14. Bob Gibson – 3,117randy_johnson
  15. Curt Schilling – 3,116
  16. John Smoltz – 3,084
  17. Jim Bunning – 2,855
  18. Mickey Lolich – 2,832
  19. Mike Mussina – 2,813
  20. Cy Young – 2,803

Active pitchers with over 2,000 strikeouts (as of 2015 season):

  1. CC Sabathia – 2,574
  2. Bartolo Colón – 2,237roger_clemens
  3. Félix Hernández – 2,142
  4. Jake Peavy – 2,105

The Top 10 Major League Baseball career strikeout-per-nine innings leaders (since 1900, minimum 1,000 IP):[17]

  1. Randy Johnson – 10.61
  2. Kerry Wood – 10.32
  3. Pedro Martínez – 10.04
  4. Tim Lincecum – 9.61
  5. Nolan Ryan – 9.55
  6. Max Scherzer – 9.51
  7. Trevor Hoffman – 9.36
  8. Sandy Koufax – 9.28
  9. Clayton Kershaw – 9.26
  10. Óliver Pérez – 9.22

The Top 5 Major League Baseball single season strikeout-per-nine innings leaders (since 1900, minimum 1.0 IP per team game):

  1. Randy Johnson, 2001 – 13.41
  2. Pedro Martínez, 1999 – 13.20
  3. Kerry Wood, 1998 – 12.58
  4. Randy Johnson, 2000 – 12.56
  5. Randy Johnson, 1995 – 12.35

The Top 10 Major League Baseball single season strikeout totals (since 1900):[18]

Pitcher Strikeouts Season Team League Overall Rank
Nolan Ryan 383 1973 California Angels AL 8
Sandy Koufax 382 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers NL 9
Randy Johnson 372 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks NL 11
Nolan Ryan 367 1974 California Angels AL 14
Randy Johnson 364 1999 Arizona Diamondbacks NL 15
Rube Waddell 349 1904 Philadelphia Athletics AL 18
Bob Feller 348 1946 Cleveland Indians AL 19
Randy Johnson 347 2000 Arizona Diamondbacks NL 20
Nolan Ryan 341 1977 California Angels AL 25
Randy Johnson 334 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks NL 30

The Top 10 Major League Baseball single season strikeout totals (all time):[19]

Pitcher Strikeouts Season Team League Overall Rank
Matt Kilroy 513 1886 Baltimore Orioles AA 1
Toad Ramsey 499 1886 Louisville Colonels AA 2
Hugh Daily 483 1884 Chicago Browns/Pittsburgh Stogies/Washington Nationals UA 3
Dupee Shaw 451 1884 Detroit Wolverines/Boston Reds NL/UA 4
Old Hoss Radbourn 441 1884 Providence Grays NL 5
Charlie Buffington 417 1884 Boston Beaneaters NL 6
Guy Hecker 385 1884 Louisville Eclipse AA 7
Nolan Ryan 383 1973 California Angels AL 8
Sandy Koufax 382 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers NL 9
Bill Sweeney 374 1884 Baltimore Monumentals UA 10

.

The Ripken Way

Cal Ripken Jr. acknowledges the crowd after officially breaking Lou Gehrig’s record.

IRONMAN

Cal Ripken plays in his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking Lou Gehrig’s record; truly one of baseball’s magical, once-in-a-lifetime moments.

Perfect PRACTICE Makes Perfect

Practice does not make perfect. How is that possible? Because bad habits may be practiced, and practicing a flawed technique will get a player nowhere. The only way to do something is to do it right. Practicing good habits is what makes a better player. Habits are formed in practice and then become automatic in the game. You play like you practice; If you practice correctly, you will play correctly.

TEACHING BaseballPrintable Lessons as well as Video Lessons (click hyperlinks below) on the Basic Fundamentals of Hitting, Infield & Outfield Play, Pitching and even a Glossary. Instructors include Cal Ripken Jr., Billy Ripken, John Habyan and Joe Orsulak.

HITTING

Hitting is probably the most difficult part of the game. However, it is also the most enjoyable and satisfying part, as we all love to hit a baseball. It’s difficult because the pitcher has the ability to throw the ball hard, or not so hard, or to make it curve or sink. As the hitter, we not only have to determine what pitch has been thrown, but also whether it is a strike or a ball. If it is a strike, we have to attempt to hit it. All of this must be done in a fraction of a second. Like all parts of the game there are basic fundamentals that can help make us become better hitters. Click on Hitting Lessons with Cal: Fundamentals, Choose Right Bat, Right Grip, Stance, Weight Shift, Release Point, Stride, Swing, Tee Drill, Soft Toss Drill, One Hand Drill, Make It Fun

INFIELD

Infield defense can be broken down into two parts: catching and throwing. It’s as simple as that. If we don’t catch the ground ball, we certainly can’t throw it. If you take that concept to its extreme form, a double play is five simple parts: a catch, a throw, a catch, a throw and a catch. Click on Infield Lessons with Bill & Cal: Defense-Catch & Throw, Playing Catch, Get Wide, Roll Ball Drill, Backhand, Throwing Side Foot-Backhand Drill, Glove Side Foot-Backhand Drill, Routine Backhand Play, Infield Throwing, Underhand Flip, Underhand Toss Drill, Box Drill Short-Second, Box Drill Second-Short, Double Play, Firstbase Fundamentals

OUTFIELD

Outfield play, especially at the youth levels, often gets overlooked. Even though the outfielder is not directly involved in the majority of plays, coaches need to stress the importance of the position. An outfielder has to be able to maintain concentration throughout the game, because there may only be one or two hit balls that come directly to that player during the course of the contest. Those plays could be the most important ones. There also are many little things an outfielder can do — backing up throws and other outfielders, cutting off balls and keeping runners from taking extra bases, and throwing to the proper cutoffs and bases – that don’t show up in a scorebook, but can really help a team play at a high level. Click on Outfield Lessons with Joe Orsulak: Straight Away, Good Stance, Pick Up Ball Off Bat, Cross Over Step, Drop Step, DS Drill, Get To Spot, Catch Ball, Fast-Slow-Fast, Throwing-Grip, Throw Using Body-Crow Hop, Make Accurate Throw

PITCHING

As a pitching coach or an instructor, you do most of your work from behind the mound watching pitchers throw. There is a certain progression to use when you are observing pitchers. The first thing to do, especially when watching pitchers for the first time, is to just observe. Resist the urge to discuss any theories or any expectations. Just give them the ball and let them throw for 10 minutes. When watching pitchers throw for the first time, it’s important to look for three things, and one of them isn’t mechanics. Don’t really concentrate on mechanics as one of the first things. Click on Pitching Lessons with John Habyan: Mechanics-Strikes, Five Links, Four Seam Fastball Grip, Two Seam FB Grip, Five Links of Chain, One Knee Drill, Tee Drill, Power Position Drill, Breaking Balls-Grip, Breaking Ball-Mechanics, Change Up

LIGHT BULBS

Lessons: First Baseman, Box Drill-Cross Over Step, Following Pitch

Sportsmanship

Every year thousands of players participate in the great game under the Babe Ruth League banner. Many of them dream about someday becoming professional athletes.

It used to be that only young male athletes could dream of reaching such lofty heights through athletic participation. But now because of women’s professional basketball, softball and soccer leagues, young female athletes have been able to share those dreams.

While it’s great to dream and strive for success in all of your endeavors, the reality is that a very, very small percentage of athletes ever get the opportunity to play a sport professionally. In fact, only a handful of the athletes who participate in youth baseball or softball will play at the collegiate level. More, but probably not the majority, will play in high school.

At some point all of us – even the most successful professional athletes – have to venture out into the business world or what some people like to call the “real world.” While it is our primary goal to help the young baseball and softball players improve in those sports, we are very aware that there is more to life than athletics. There are many valuable life lessons that can be communicated through sports participation, and it is our hope that the young athletes will take away something that will help them later on in life. One of those key lessons that we hope to impart is the value of sportsmanship. Read more 


MVP

????????????????????????????????????

Every game we handed out a trophy for the Most Valuable Player.  This idea came to me from watching my son’s Head Baseball Coach, Doug Bassett (Facebook).  My son left RPBL in 2014 and he and I got involved with the WM Warriors.  I was the Assistant Coach on the 8U-B travel team.  In 2015, Blake had the most success season to-date winning the MVP in the “35th Annual HCYP Invitational Baseball Tournament in Ellicott City, MD”.  This medal was awarded by the opposing Manager.  His 8U-A team also went undefeated in the 2015 Essex Express Baseball Father’s Day Summer Classic

Positive Reinforcement

IMG_4696

August, 2001 my girlfriend Rene and I drove to the Eastern shore with our first born child AKA dog Brendan.  The breeder named him Snow because he was so white.  So, when we set out to train him and enrolled him in multiple obedience classes.  This is where I learned one of the most valuable lessons in life. She said,

“Have you ever wondered how trainers are able to get dolphins to jump out of the water on command and do a flip at SeaWorld? It’s through “positive reinforcement” using fish.”

So, instead of fish we used Cheese Balls and it was AMAZINGLY effective.  I managed to train Brendan to Sit, Stay and Come on command beautifully.  He was literally like a son to us.  We loved him so much he became our “ring bearer” at our wedding @ the Inn at Perry Cabin.

This style of teaching proved to be very important in my teaching career, as well as coaching.  I began awarding a Most Valuable Player (MVP) trophy at every game. There is NO “I” in TEAM. For example, Kansas City Royals’ Salvador Perez was named 2015 World Series MVP. Read more He wears jersey #13. Guess who else wears that unlucky number on the Orioles? Gold Glove 3rd baseman – Manny Machado

Major_League_Baseball_Logo

At Closing Ceremonies this year, we will be presenting the first ever RPBL Coaches Award to one player on each National League Team (9-10 age group) who best represents the values of RPBL.   These values include:

  • Sportsmanship
  • Teamwork
  • Effort
  • Positive Attitude
  • Proper Manners
  • Enthusiasm
  • Fair play

The winner on the Blaze goes to Henry Fischel.  He always had a smile on his face, hustled, followed direction well, cheered for his teammates and most of all was a great asset to the overall success of our team this year.  In fact, he managed to have some key offensive hits when we needed it most and his defensive pitching performance was outstanding.

However, it was not a land slide.  We had many players who were very easy to teach and seemed to be enjoying the game.  But there were two special players who deserve to be recognized.  Amelia Overton & Wyatt Winstead – Honorable Mentions.  I believe their best example of “Sportsmanship” was shown when they consistently went out of their way to acknowledge me not only after every game, but after every practice as well.  “Thank you Coach” are the 3 magic words any Skipper loves to hear!

One last player who made remarkable improvement was Sawyer Ross.  He wins the “Most Improved” award.  Here’s a guy who had never played baseball before.  Yet, I knew he was a great athlete because he played soccer with my son.  He became my “pet project”.  I worked with him and tried to teach him how to bat.  Sure enough, when the game was on the line, he came through. Read Victory & Defeat

Don’t be a Sore Loser

Sportsmanship is an aspiration or ethos that a sport or activity will be enjoyed for its own sake, with proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect, and a sense of fellowship with one’s competitors. A “sore loser” refers to one who does not take defeat well, whereas a “good sport” means being a “good winner” as well as being a “good loser”. (Someone who shows courtesy towards another in a sports game).

positions

RPBL requires that we play every player in the outfield. So, we will continue to make adjustments this season experimenting with players at pitcher, 1B and SS. I will continue to keep the batting lineup in descending order alphabetically. This gives everyone equal plate appearances.

In general, sportsmanship refers to virtues such as fairness, self-control, courage, and persistence, and has been associated with interpersonal concepts of treating others and being treated fairly, maintaining self-control if dealing with others, and respect for both authority and opponents.  The four elements of sportsmanship are often shown being good form, the will to win, equity and fairness.

The important thing to remember is that we win and lose as a TEAM. “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” –Babe Ruth

Orioles_Infield

Since every sport is rule driven, the most common offence of bad sportsmanship is the act of cheating or breaking the rules to gain an unfair advantage. A competitor who exhibits poor sportsmanship after losing a game or contest is often called a “sore loser” (those who show poor sportsmanship after winning are typically called “bad champs”). Sore loser behavior includes blaming others for the loss, not accepting responsibility for personal actions that contributed to the defeat, reacting to the loss in an immature or improper fashion, making excuses for the defeat, and citing unfavorable conditions or other petty issues as reasons for the defeat. A bad winner acts in a shallow fashion after his or her victory, such as by gloating about his or her win, rubbing the win in the face(s) of the opponent(s), and lowering the opponent(s)’s self-esteem by constantly reminding the opponent(s) of “poor” performance in comparison (even if the opponent(s) competed well). Read more

Orioles Team Rebuilds

Orioles Announce 2021 Spring Training Schedule

The Orioles today announced they will begin their 2021 Grapefruit League season at home on Saturday, February 27, at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla. against the Atlanta Braves. The club’s home Grapefruit League schedule, which features 16 dates, will conclude with a home game on Saturday, March 27, against the Minnesota Twins.

Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Tuesday, February 16, and position players on Sunday, February 21, with the first full-squad workout set for Monday, February 22. The 2021 season will mark the Orioles’ 12th consecutive Spring Training season in Sarasota and the club’s 11th at renovated Ed Smith Stadium.

The Orioles will face nine different Major League opponents during the club’s 16-game home schedule. The Orioles will host the following teams twice at Ed Smith Stadium: the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Philadelphia Phillies. The Orioles will also play the Toronto Blue Jays and Detroit Tigers each once at home. The Orioles will play half of their home schedule on weekends, as eight of the club’s 16 home games fall on either a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

The Orioles will play 16 road games during the Spring Training season, including two trips each to visit the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Tigers, Twins, Braves, and Pirates; and one trip each to take on the Blue Jays and Phillies.

In the 11 years since the Orioles moved Major League Spring Training to Sarasota, more than one million fans have enjoyed Orioles games at Ed Smith Stadium. The Orioles’ engagement with the Greater Sarasota community goes far beyond baseball.

Read more


MLB rumors: Orioles could leave Camden Yards in 2 years

The Baltimore Orioles’ lease with Camden Yards is set to expire in 2023.

Never say never.

The Baltimore Orioles could leave Camden Yards in two years, if the two sides can’t work out a new lease.

The Baltimore Sun reports “The current lease expires at the end of 2021, although the Orioles have long had the option to extend it for five years. The stadium authority said Monday that the parties agreed to extend the current agreement for two years through Dec. 31, 2023, with the club retaining the right to exercise a one-time, five-year extension by Feb. 1, 2023.”

The negotiations have been complex. The club has spoken publicly about its hopes of capitalizing on the stadium’s popularity by using it increasingly for non-baseball activities such as music. That could involve new venues such as bars, restaurants — possibly even a sports betting room — in the stadium area. But officials from the club and the state say no such plans have been finalized, and that it was too soon to publicly discuss modifications to the stadium itself that are expected to be part of lease negotiations.

Camden Yards opened in 1992, with its original 30-year lease set to expire in 2021. The ballpark launched a wave of stadium construction aimed at tapping into the retro feel of Camden Yards. Three decades after opening its gates, Camden Yards remains one of MLB’s quintessential ballparks, worthy of discussion with Fenway Park and Wrigley Field as one of the true gems in the majors.

Read more =>

https://www.nj.com/yankees/2021/02/mlb-rumors-orioles-could-leave-camden-yards-in-two-years.html

+

Baltimore amassed a huge ERA (5.18) while serving up 234 home runs. The ace of the franchise was Dylan Bundy who now plays for Los Angeles Angels. Read more

Baltimore Orioles third baseman Renato Nunuez (39), shortstop Jonathan Villar (2) and first baseman Trey Mancini (16) at Yankee Stadium.

In 2019, the Orioles (54-108) were just as bad. In 2020, these Orioles took some steps forward and should improve. Read more


Back in April 2016, I had an exciting weekend.  The Orioles beat the World Series Champions – Kansas City Royals 8-3.  The Birds record is 11-5 as of Saturday. Our Over 40 team, Brewers beat the Nationals 15-2 and our record is now 2-0. The Roland Park Rangers travel team beat the TowsonTowne Tbirds 6-5 and continue to remain undefeated this season (record 5-0). Our RPBL In-house team (9-10 Nationals Little League) the Blaze beat the Ironbirds 5-3 and we have a 2 game winning streak (record 3-1-1).

Here are some quotes to pump you up:

  1. Every game is game seven.
  2. Teamwork makes the Dream work.
  3. Attitude is Everything.
  4. Be prepared! “If only” are the famous last words of those who weren’t.

+

60 Game Season


What you need to know about 60-game season

Baseball is back. Three glorious words.

After months of unsuccessful negotiating with the players’ association, MLB has imposed a 2020 season and the two sides have agreed on health and safety protocols.

The new season will not, however, include a few of the rule changes you may have recently read about.

Here are all the details you need to know about baseball’s shortened upcoming season.

When does the MLB regular season start?
Opening Day will be July 23, with two games taking place — Yankees vs. Nationals and Giants vs. Dodgers. The Phillies will begin play on July 24. MLB will attempt to cram 60 games into about 66 days. Players reported to camp on July 1 for Spring Training II.

How many games?
It will be a 60-game regular season. The league had proposed as few as 50 games and the players’ association had proposed as many as 114. In the end, 60 was the number the league chose when it unilaterally implemented the 2020 season.

Given MLB’s new coronavirus cases, the league’s desire to play the postseason in October, and the length these negotiations took, a regular season much longer than 60 games was no longer feasible. But the players still rejected the league’s 60-game proposal for a few important reasons. Read more

It began and suddenly halted four months ago in spring training and then restarted as summer camp. Now, filled with trepidation the time has come.

It’s the 2020 Major League Baseball season.

It finally has arrived, 119 days later than originally scheduled, and will be the first major team sport to return to the world beginning at 7:08 p.m. ET Thursday with the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals playing the New York Yankees in the nation’s capital.

There will be no fans in attendance. Only cardboard cut-outs. Pumped-in fake crowd noise required by every team. No smell of hot dogs. Virtual advertising everywhere you look. Players sitting in the stands and makeshift dugouts, socially distancing, six feet apart. And there will be displays of social messaging too, with players permitted to wear “Black Lives Matter” or “United for Change’’ patches on their uniforms, with “Black Lives Matter” stenciled on the pitcher’s mounds during the opening weekend of games. Read more


M.L.B. Proposes an 82-Game Season Starting in July

The Korean Baseball Organization is back from the coronavirus shutdown. Is this what MLB games will look like? In South Korea and Taiwan, where its league also recently resumed the season, stadiums are empty except for players, staff, umpires and some media members. Base coaches and umpires must wear masks and latex gloves on the field, and the teams’ training staffs wear masks in the dugouts. Read more

Major League Baseball has formalized its plan to return to the field, with teams agreeing Monday on a proposal to send to the players’ union for an 82-game season that would start without fans in early July. The plan would include an expanded playoff field and the designated hitter for all games, even those in the National League, where it is not typically used.

The plan must clear major obstacles to become reality. Even if the union accepts the structure of a truncated season, the sides would also have to agree on a salary structure for players. The league would also need to have enough tests for players and employees without depleting the public supply, and agree with the union on working conditions, including protocols in case of positive tests.

Details of the proposal were confirmed by multiple baseball officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan cannot be official until authorized by the union. The league’s proposal would authorize the shortest season since the early years of the National League in the late 1870s. To minimize travel, teams would play only against divisional rivals as well as teams in the corresponding geographic division of the opposite league. The proposal, which would require approval from the players’ union, would have teams start the season in early July and mainly play teams in their geographic region. Read more

“Needs to get approval by the Players’ Association, the Mets and every other team in the National League East should anticipate…” Read more

MLB Reportedly Considering Playing in Empty Stadiums During Coronavirus Pandemic. Major League Baseball is reportedly considering starting the 2020 season with games at spring training sites in either Florida or Arizona without fans in attendance because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Friday the chances of playing games at home parks this summer with a crowd are becoming “increasingly remote,” leading the league to consider alternatives. However, trying to station all 30 clubs in one area would be “extremely complex and potentially controversial” amid COVID-19. There are numerous hurdles MLB would need to jump before making the plan reality. Read more

“The owners of the 30 MLB teams held a virtual meeting Monday and agreed to a proposal for the restart of the 2020 season. Commissioner Rob Manfred is presenting that proposal to the players Tuesday. That’s the good news. The bad news is this: It’s a long journey from proposal to playing, largely because so many things that have to happen are out of MLB’s hands…” Read more

Help me, Help you

Some of my favorite players include Hank Aaron, Aaron Judge, Rickey Henderson and Babe Ruth.

Batting Lineup

THE LEADOFF: Your leadoff should be one of your team’s best hitters and fastest players. The goal of any good leadoff hitter is to get on base, however they can. Your on-base percentage leader should fit well in the leadoff spot, if you’re keeping track of that stat. Remember, whether they hit the ball for contact or they walk, they’ve got to get on base.
Speed is a plus for this position. Don’t look for power in the leadoff—save power hitters for later when there are more baserunners positioned. If your kids are competing for this spot, remind them that the leadoff hitter usually only leads once.

2 SPOT: The 2-spot player is on-deck at the start of the game and should be a fundamentally sound hitter. You must rely on them to make contact with the ball. The goal of the second hitter is to advance your leadoff player, as well as make it on-base themselves. Players who frequently strike out will kill momentum in this position.

3 HOLE: Just as before, the 3 hole should be one of your team’s best hitters. This can be someone who has a great batting average and doesn’t lack power.
This position should be filled by a good all-around hitter who really gets the concept of batting against another player. You want the 3 hole to move players around, or drive in the first runs of the game. If you look at your stats and see a player with a comparatively high batting average, a couple doubles and several RBIs on the season, try batting them third.

CLEANUP: One of the most admired spots in the batting lineup, the cleanup position is typically your most powerful hitter. In youth baseball, that doesn’t just mean the player that has a lot of homeruns. The cleanup player hits the ball hard. Hard hits typically get through the infield and sometimes can get to an outfield gap or even past an unskilled outfielder. When this player steps to the plate, the infielders take a step back.

5 POSITION: Sometimes the cleanup hitter doesn’t quite clear the bases—and that’s what the 5-spot is for. Like the cleanup position, the player batting fifth should have higher than average batting power. This player should not strike out as much as feast-or-famine cleanup hitter, but should still be able to crank out a few doubles or hard-hit singles. When you examine your stat sheet, look for players who are hitting more than singles and are in the bottom half of all strikeouts (or who have a lower-than-average strikeout to at-bat ratio). Throughout the year, you’ll want to switch up your fourth and fifth positions. This will challenge your players and give you a better idea of who fits best in which role.

SPOTS 6 & 7: Unless you’re one lucky youth baseball coach, this is where you’ll probably reach a challenge in your lineup. The 6 and 7 spots are important in your lineup, even if they don’t perform as well at the plate. A batting average of .200 or .225 can wreak havoc on the other team. Hope for singles from these players, or try putting a good bunter in this role. If you’ve got players who are about equal in hitting ability, speed should be the deciding factor.

BATTING 8: At the youth level, the 8 spot is ideal for developing hitters. In many cases, the 8 position is for a player who is the worst fundamental hitter on your team and strikes out the most. Remember, every team has a player who has not yet caught onto hitting.

9 PLAYER: This less-than-desirable spot is often reserved for the weakest hitter on the team—but we think the nine guy is worth extra consideration.
At the youth level, you should make it a habit to shuffle your 7 to 9-spot hitters, so you do not consistently send a negative message to any one player. The 9 spot should not go to your player who strikes out the most, but someone who you’ve seen scatter singles throughout the season. This player could jumpstart a middle inning for the top of the order.

BATTING THROUGH YOUR LINEUP
In many youth baseball organizations, your team must bat through the lineup. That is to say, if you have 12 kids on a team, all 12 must bat before you start at the top of the order. In these cases, we suggest you follow the above guidelines for positions 1 to 7 then rotate players 8 to 12, keeping them even on at-bats when the season closes.
Remember, your job as coach is to ensure your roster is having fun, developing skills and gaining confidence. Playing a less competitive team? Consider changing up your lineup to challenge your team and give everyone an opportunity. They may surprise you—and themselves.

Well Coached Players: “The best situation for all of us is for you to plan on handing these kids over to me and the assistant coaches when you drop them off, and plan on them being mine for the 2 or so hours that we have scheduled for a game, or the time that we have scheduled for the practice.  I would like for these boys to have some responsibility for having their own water, not needing you to keep running to the concession stand, or having parents behind the dugout asking their son if they are thirsty, or hungry…

Players on the bench will not be messing around. I will constantly be talking with them about situations and what they would be doing if they were in a specific position, or if they were the batter.”  ~Mike Matheny.  Often I find myself saying to my 10 year old son, “Help me, Help you” similar to scene from Jerry Maguire played by Tom Cruise. However, be careful showing this to young women because clip ends with Cuba Gooding parading around locker room in the nude (Caution: R rated).

Nevertheless, whether you are a sports agent or a parent coach, the responsibility and sacrifice can be daunting at times, to say the least.


Hustle

Baserunning is a fundamental of the game that incorporates many facets that players can work on no matter what their running speed. Coaches of young players often do not work with their teams on this part of the game. Running the bases is an art. If coaches teach baserunning correctly, they will increase the ability of their players to steal bases and take extra bases. Fast base runners force fielders to throw to another base because the runner got there quicker than the fielder expected. In the field, faster players are able to get to and catch more balls. Before working on baserunning, coaches need to teach young players how to run properly and have them run every day to get faster. Speed and agility training is an important part of helping young players develop their athleticism. After a young player has developed his athleticism, all the facets of baserunning become a lot easier. Most of the time players cannot develop athleticism by playing baseball. This should be a priority when it comes to helping young players run the bases better.

To work on running and running the bases, your warm-ups in practice and before games need to be organized around running. Running needs to become a habit for young players. You can begin and end practices with fun running drills and games. Keep in mind that you always want to end practices with a competitive and fun activity because the last thing they do is what they remember. You want them remembering that practice was fun so that they learn faster.

Coaches should talk to track coaches to learn the proper running techniques so that they can help their players run better. Track coaches can teach the techniques and drills that allow players to perfect their running.

A few things need to be taught to help with all facets of baserunning. First is the ability to move quickly from one spot to another. This art is used in baseball and in many other sports. It begins with the hip turn, pushing off one foot and going. This turn will help runners and fielders. In this technique, players turn their hips as quickly as possible, keep the feet low to the ground, and turn on the angle that they need to run. The hip turn helps them move their feet faster. As they turn their hips and their feet touch the ground, they push off with the back foot. This turn can be practiced in warm-up drills, as we explain in the following drills. Read more


To be a well-rounded baseball player, you must develop and practice your base running skills. As my Guide To Base Running Strategy states, because rounding the bags happens almost every play, it is critical to allot time each practice to base running.

To be a talented base runner, you must first recognize when the defense makes a mistake, then be able to capitalize on the opportunity. Develop your team’s base running skills with the following four drills. Each base running drill can be practiced individually, in small groups, or as a team—to incorporate a unified base running mentality.

Base Running Drills

Ground Ball Reads: Anytime a player can eliminate the need for a sacrifice bunt to preserve an out, it’s a huge advantage for the offense. Consider the benefit for your team if you habitually advanced from first base to third through a series of steals.
The Drill: The drill begins with a runner at first, taking a conservative lead. The coach feeds himself the ball and hits it toward centerfield. When the coach feeds himself the ball—the toss serves as the pitch—the runner takes a secondary lead. Once the ball is hit, the runner reacts to the ball by sprinting to second base, while keeping his eye on the ball and the fielder. Before arriving at second base, the runner should have already made a decision on whether to advance to third. As a rule of thumb, continue to third base if you reach second before the outfielder has the ball. Keep in mind: it’s far easier to slam on the brakes than turn on the jets. If the fielder has the ball, simply round the bag and watch the throw, ready to take advantage of a throwing error.

Dirtball Reads: When a pitcher throws a ball in the dirt, take advantage of the opportunity by stealing an extra base. If a ball skips away from the catcher, runners must take advantage of the situation by advancing. The trouble lies with in-between balls, those that stray out of the batter’s box but not out of the dirt circle. This is where a little anticipation comes in handy. Know the count, the situation, where the other runners are and what they may be thinking. If it’s a breaking ball count (0-2, 1-2, even 1-1), expect a ball in the dirt and take an extra step toward the next base. This drill should be performed with a loaded infield and any number of runner combinations. The runners should start at any base in the infield. The coach short hops the ball to home plate, so the catcher, forced to block the ball, allows the runners time to read the situation and quickly decide whether to advance to the next base. The coach should keep the runners honest by mixing in strikes.

Tennis Ball Drop: Obviously, there is no better way to improve your stealing skills than to face a pitcher practicing his pickoff moves. However, this opportunity isn’t always available. When a pitcher isn’t available, use the Tennis Ball Drop drill to improve your reaction time. With a player on the pitcher’s mound holding a tennis ball, the runner takes a lead off first base. The player releases the tennis ball, triggering the runner’s break for second base. Whether the runner runs the full distance to second base, the first ten feet, or halfway, it doesn’t matter, since the first few steps are most important. The player on the mound should vary his release time to eliminate any chance for the runner to time up the pitch.

Resistance Steal Breaks: When it comes to stealing, your first step is your most important. This drill can be done with a tennis ball, a live pitcher or verbal signals. The runner starts by taking a normal lead off first base. Instead of balancing his weight on both feet equally, the runner should exaggerate his lean toward second base by placing more weight on his right foot. A partner standing to the right of the runner place his hands on the runner’s forward leaning (right ) shoulder. The runner should feel somewhat unbalanced. Once in this position, the partner lets go, then pushes the runner forward, propelling him into a sprint. This forces the runner to run fast enough to keep his balance.  This drill makes the runner explode out of the gate toward second base. Again, the distance you run can vary between the first ten feet to the entire distance. Just make sure to concentrate on a good start. Read more


Excellence: Baseball is an island of activity amidst a sea of statistics.  Baseball is also the only place in life where a sacrifice is really appreciated. “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.”

Midsummer Classic

89th annual Midsummer Classic will be held Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 8 p.m. at Nationals Park in Washington, DC.

Home Run Derby is on Monday, July 16 @ 8 p.m.

Read more => http://www.mlb.com/all-star/schedule

Robinson Cano’s 10th inning home run lifts American League to All-Star Game victory (read more).

Aaron Judge currently has the top 5 hardest hit baseballs (e.g. approximately 121 mph.) in MLB history. He was the 2017 champion of the “Home Run Derby” the day before All-Star game.

It was also fun to watch Jose Altuve leadoff for the American League, who is one of the top hitters this year batting 0.353 (as of 7/20/17).


American League wins 4-2. Since 1988 the

betts

American League has dominated, winning 22 of 29 with 1 tie (2002). Since inception, National League (43 Wins) American League (42 Wins).

bogaerts

I found it interesting there have been two ties (first one was in 1961 – Read more). This year the starting line-up for the American League included 4 Boston Red Sox Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley and Ortiz and the National League had their entire infield made up of 4 Chicago Cubs Rizzo, Russell, Bryant and Zobrist.

Major League Baseball All-Star Game, also known as the “Midsummer Classic”, is an annual professional baseball game

bradley

sanctioned by Major League Baseball (MLB) contested between players from the American League (AL) and the National

ortiz

League (NL), currently selected by fans for starting fielders, by managers for pitchers, and by managers and players for reserves.

The game usually occurs on either the second or third Tuesday in July, and is meant to mark a symbolic halfway-point in the MLB season (though not the mathematical halfway-point which, for most seasons, is usually found within the previous calendar week). Both of the major leagues share a common All-Star break, with no regular-season games scheduled on the day before or the day after the All-Star Game itself (Read more). Johnny Cueto and Chris Sale will be the starting pitchers in the 87th All-Star Game to be played tonight at Petco Park in

rizzo

San Diego (Read more).

Giancarlo Stanton turned the Home Run Derby at

russell

Petco Park into a contest of “Can you top this?” For most of the night, the Miami Marlins right fielder found himself trying to outdistance himself, and in the process he stole the show. In the finals, he went first and put the third-seeded Frazier on the defensive. Of his 20 homers, 11 went 440 feet or more (Read more).

Since I’m a loyal Orioles fan, I was cheering for Machado and the other 4 players selected. What is really cool is the fact that no one ever hit a ball off the scoreboard at Petco Park until Mark Trumbo hit a 479-foot homer (Read more). Another really interesting statistic is all the young players who played tonight.

Unfortunately, some people think that the game doesn’t mean anything. However, winning or losing does affect the “home field advantage” for the 2016 World Series. Moreover, I personally believe it is a showcase of the “crim de la crim”. If you love the game as much as I do, it’s exciting to watch the raw

bryant

talent and the camaraderie of the best athletes.

zobrist

Nevertheless, if you look back over the past 4 years that the A.L. had the home field advantage, Kansas City Royals won in 2015 4–1 over the New York Mets but in the previous year, it did not seem to make a difference losing to San Francisco Giants in Game #7 (2014). In 2012, San Francisco Giants also beat Detroit Tigers 4–0. Yet, in 2013, Boston Red Sox with home field advantage won 4–2 over St. Louis Cardinals (Read more).

It was officially decided in August 2009 at the IOC Board meeting in Berlin that baseball would not be included in the 2016 Summer Olympics. What a shame. It starts on August 5 (only three weeks away – Read more). However, the organizing committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has proposed the inclusion of five new sports in their event, with baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing being put forward (Read more).

This past spring at Roland Park Baseball, my son Blake started @ 3rd base in the annual RPBL All Star game (little league ages 9-10). Also, I had the honor to be selected as the manager and head coach and it was a blast!