The Spahn Awards, Caravan’s a Comin’…And Too Many Alex’s
Happy Friday, everyone. Lots to get to in this post, so let’s dive right in.
Last night I was fortunate enough to attend the annual Warren Spahn Awards, organized by the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame and the Bricktown Rotary. The main award honors the top left-handed pitcher in baseball, and this year’s winner was Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals. The ceremony was held at the beautiful Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame and Jim Thorpe Museum, just a bit north of the state capitol building.
In addition to the main awards, there were a few others handed out. Ten high school baseball and softball players from across the state received a Ferguson Jenkins Award for outstanding performance on the field and in the classroom.
The Bill Teegins Excellence in Sportscasting Award was presented to University of Oklahoma football radio analyst Merv Johnson. “Coach Merv” has been a staple of the OU program since he came to Norman in 1979 as an assistant coach, and he has been part of an astonishing 400-plus consecutive Sooners games. He’s been in the booth for several years, endearing himself to Sooner fans every Saturday in the fall. I had a chance to listen to him a bit this past season, and trust me when I say there’s no question as to where Coach Merv’s allegiances lie.
Of course the main reason for the event is for the award named after one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all time. (For those of you who don’t know, Warren Spahn was from Oklahoma. And, oh yeah, there’s a statue of him outside of Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.) Gio Gonzalez had an outstanding year and was a big reason why the Nationals had the best record in baseball.
We got to learn a lot about Gonzalez as well as his parents, who are apparently the life of the party wherever they go. His acceptance speech was succinct, but very thoughtful. He talked about the days when there was only one Cy Young Award (before one each for the AL and NL), and how he considered receiving the Spahn Award to be on a similar level. Gonzalez also became understandably emotional when asked about his parents and the influence they have had on him. He explained how his parents worked multiple jobs and made tons of sacrifices in order to support his dream. That’s why he makes sure they are at each and every one of his starts, no matter if it’s at home or on the road. At the beginning of the program, a member of the Bricktown Rotary said we would really enjoy having Gio with us, and he sure was right.
The highlight for me, though, came after the ceremony when I got to meet the emcee of the evening, Bob Carpenter. Bob has been a Major League broadcaster for over 20 years, including a long stint with the Cardinals when I was growing up. Even though he’s been with the Nationals since 2006, lots of people in St. Louis are still sad he is no longer with the Birds.
Although I enjoy what I do, I don’t consider myself a broadcasting “fanboy.” I like learning about a my colleagues, but I don’t know every little thing about every broadcaster out there. I frequently get asked who I enjoy listening to, or who are my influences. I start by answering that I tend to not let others influence my style, because you run a risk of not being yourself. But the people I enjoy most are the guys who clearly do their homework, do their thing, and know what they’re doing. And the two examples I always give are Dan Shulman of ESPN and Bob Carpenter.
(For the record, I wanted to use Bob’s call of Fernando Tatis hitting two grand slams in one inning against the Dodgers in 1999, but the only video I could find had Cardinals radio broadcaster Mike Shannon accompanying it. Tatis–an 89er for two games in 1996–still is the only person in Major League history to accomplish that feat.)
Simply put, Bob Carpenter is a pro’s pro. I mean, he even designed the scorebook that has become the industry standard among broadcasters. We had a chance to chat for a bit, and it was great. It made me become an even bigger fan of his.
There is a story behind this picture I would like to share: It was taken by one of our great sponsor services coordinators, Caitiln Kinser. She stood aside patiently and politely while Bob and I talked shop, which I’m sure she had absolutely no interest in. After I was done with Bob, Caitlin wanted to get a picture with Gio Gonzalez. So we find where he’s at, and just as Caitlin is about to step up, some lady behind us swoops in and asks to get her picture taken. At that point, Gio’s handlers said it would be the absolute final picture he was going to take. The worst part? The lady asked Caitlin to take the picture, to which Caitlin’s credit, she happily obliged. Never change, CK. We’ll get ’em next time.
Astros Caravan Coming Up
For the third straight year, the Astros CAREavan will stop in Oklahoma City on January 25. Joining us this year will be pitchers Jordan Lyles and Bud Norris, outfielder Justin Maxwell, Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton, and Astros icon Larry Dierker. It’s a great group and sure to be a wonderful day. The crew will make a couple of stops within the community before a public autograph session at Academy Sports + Outdoors. You can read about the whole agenda here. Hope to see you next Friday!
Non-Roster Invitees Announced
Yesterday the Astros announced this year’s non-roster invitees to spring training. These are players who are not on the 40-man roster that will be with the big league club during spring training. A lot of these guys at some point will get reassigned to minor league camp, but it’s still a great experience for young players or veterans trying to latch on with a new team. Although this is a minor blip on the radar for most baseball fans, it’s pretty significant for Triple-A teams because a lot of those guys will be playing at Triple-A to start the season.
You People Need to Get a New Name…or Maybe I Do
My mother always likes to say that when I was born, nobody was named Alex. Well congrats, mom. Looks like you were ahead of the curve, because it’s a very common name these days.
I bring this up in jest for a couple of reasons. We recently added a sponsor services coordinator named Alex Couch to our team. Alex (female, by the way) has been a great addition, but since our desks are all of 12 feet away from each other, it tends to cause some confusion. When anyone says “Alex”, I assume they mean her, because frankly, who wants to talk to me? Usually when I make this assumption, I tend to be wrong, so when it turns out someone is trying to get my attention, it’s met with silence from my end.
In fact, while I was literally typing the first paragraph of this section, I got a call from downstairs that someone named Christy was here to see me about taking pictures. I had no clue what this was about, before I figured out it was for the other Alex. (This seriously happened. You can ask her. The timing was unreal.)
However, the worst is yet to come. The strength coach this year will be Alex Pounds. I can already envision during BP or on the bus when someone says “Alex” and both of us turn around. Good times.
Now I suppose I’m in no position to complain since there are three Kyle’s in our office. Yet everyone finds a way to distinguish them through their initials or last names. The funny thing is, people throughout my life have naturally called me by my last name. So of course, nobody here calls me by last name.
Prayers For Izzy
I’m going to end this post unfortunately on a somber note. A few months ago, 2012 RedHawks catcher Landon Powell and his wife Allie welcomed twin girls into the world. Sadly, one of the girls, Izzy, is stricken with an extremely rare disease called Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) that affects the immune system and liver. It is only found in 1 in 100,000 newborns.
Landon and his wife have set up a Facebook page called “Prayers For Izzy” in order to keep people posted on Izzy’s health and to ask for people to keep Izzy in their thoughts and prayers. Please check it out when you have a chance.
Thanks for reading.