Category Archives: Rockies Jerseys 2020

Eric Young Jersey

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We are now a couple weeks removed from the WWE SuperStar Shake-Up. We have seen several different WWE Superstars successfully transition to their new show post-Shake-Up. Some transitioned better than others, but we have at least seen these SuperStars on the big stage making their presence known. Some WWE Superstars can’t even say that right now. One of those Superstars is Eric Young.

There were a number of tag teams and stables split up during the Shake-Up, but no split was done quite as chaotic as SAnitY. It’s almost ironic considering that SAnitY’s characters were always agents of chaos. Unfortunately, this time, chaos wasn’t in SAnitY’s favor. Chaos split the former NXT Tag Team Champions across three different brands: Dain to NXT, Wolfe to NXT UK and EY to Raw.

Considering how SAnitY’s SmackDown run this past year was disappointing, some critics are looking at this breakup as a blessing in disguise. Well, for everyone except EY that is.

Killian Dain can live up to his potential as a one of a kind big man by pursuing a singles career in NXT. Meanwhile, without spoiling future NXT UK tapings, Alexander Wolfe has a bright future ahead of him already.

No one expects much from Eric Young on Raw. Which is somewhat understandable given WWE don’t tend to push guys nearing the age of 40. However, let’s not forget that men on the red brand – like AJ Styles and Robert Roode – are experiencing some strong pushes at the moment despite being well past the age of 40. That is one reason why singles glory remains in EY’s future, but it actually goes much deeper than that.

Probably the strongest attribute on Eric’s side here is his character presence. Between his time in IMPACT to his time in WWE, he always had a strong character presence. He always knew exactly how to get the crowd to gravitate in his favor and no matter what wacky character fell into his lap, he was able to make it work. Not enough people talk about this, but EY’s almost had as many drastic character changes as Chris Jericho has had.

We’ve seen Young as the conniving Canadian, the cowardly chicken too afraid of his own pyro, a super hero, the snobby heel, the dirt dumb redneck and a crazed lunatic. That hardly cuts the butter on Young’s history with characters, but the point is he always made them work. Hell, even when he first entered an NXT ring for the very first time, he came in as just plain ole Eric Young and the crowd still gave him a raucous reaction. Why? Because he works on the mic. Because he knows how to get a crowd to eat out of the palm of his hand whether he wants them to hate him or love him.

That’s a special skill that’s missing from much of the roster. EY can be used as – at the very least – upper midcard talent who’s there to teach the young guys he works with a thing or two about character work by means of telling compelling storylines with them. Or, WWE could finally realize how badly they’ve slept on EY’s talents these last couple years and try him out in the main event.

While SmackDown seems newly primed with fresh young talent, Raw appears to be where seasoned vets like Styles, Roode and Seth Rollins are allowed to thrive. In a setting like this, Eric Young will fit right at home.

Now, all he has to do is debut on Raw and he might just be money.

Mark Thompson Jersey

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Mark Thompson became president and chief executive officer of The New York Times Company in November 2012. He has directed the Company’s strategy and presided over an expansion of its digital and global operations. Under his leadership, digital subscriptions have grown from 500,000 to nearly four million and the Company set a goal to reach 10 million total subscriptions by 2025. The Times has successfully expanded into other digital products like Cooking and Crosswords, has launched one of the world’s most successful podcasts and recently premiered “The Weekly”, a new TV news program for FX and Hulu.

Before joining the Times Company, Mr. Thompson served as director-general of the BBC from 2004, where he reshaped the organization to meet the challenge of the digital age, ensuring that it remained a leading innovator with the launch of services such as the BBC iPlayer. He also oversaw a transformation of the BBC itself, driving productivity and efficiency through the introduction of new technologies and bold organizational redesign.

Mr. Thompson joined the BBC in 1979 as a production trainee. He helped launch “Watchdog” and “Breakfast Time,” was an output editor on “Newsnight,” and was appointed editor of the “Nine O’Clock News” in 1988 and “Panorama” in 1990. He became controller (programming and scheduling chief) for the TV network BBC2 and director of television for the BBC before leaving the BBC in 2002 to become C.E.O. of Channel 4 Television Corporation in the United Kingdom.

His book, “Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong with the Language of Politics?” which is based on lectures he gave as a visiting professor at Oxford University, was published in the UK and US in September 2016.

Mark Thompson was educated at Stonyhurst College and Merton College, Oxford.

Wade Davis Jersey

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Wade Davis is Professor of Anthropology and the BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia. Between 1999 and 2013 he served as Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society and is currently a member of the NGS Explorers Council and Honorary Vice-President of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. A writer, photographer and filmmaker, Davis holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University. He spent over three years in the Amazon and Andes as a plant explorer, while making some 6000 botanical collections. His work later took him to Haiti to investigate folk preparations implicated in the creation of zombies, an assignment that led to his writing The Serpent and the Rainbow, an international best seller later released by Universal as a motion picture. In recent years his work has taken him to East Africa, Borneo, Nepal, Peru, Polynesia, Tibet, Mali, Benin, Togo, New Guinea, Australia, Colombia, Vanuatu, Mongolia, Nunuvut and Greenland.

Davis is author of 280 scientific and popular articles and 20 books including One River, The Wayfinders, and Into the Silence. His photographs have appeared in 30 books and over 100 magazines. He was the co-curator of The Lost Amazon, first exhibited at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. In 2012 he served as guest curator of No Strangers at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. His many film credits include Light at the Edge of the World, an eight-hour documentary series written and produced for the National Geographic. Davis has lectured at over 200 universities and 250 corporations and professional associations. In 2009 he delivered the CBC Massey Lectures. He has spoken from the main stage at TED five times, and his posted talks have been viewed by over 4 million. His books have appeared in 20 languages.

Davis is the recipient of 11 honorary degrees, as well as the 2009 Gold Medal from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the 2011 Explorers Medal, the 2012 David Fairchild Medal for botanical exploration, the 2013 Ness Award from the Royal Geographical Society, and the 2015 Centennial Medal from Harvard University. His recent book, Into the Silence, received the 2012 Samuel Johnson prize, the top award for literary nonfiction in the English language. In 2016 he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.

Larry Walker Jersey

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It is Larry Walker’s final year on the Hall of Fame ballot. After achieving 54.6% of the vote on 2019’s ballot, another 20% of voters will need to be convinced to send him to Cooperstown.

While plenty of Colorado Rockies fans may try to tell you different, I am here today to let you know that Walker has not met the criteria to join baseball greats like Harold Baines in Cooperstown.

1997 was Walker’s best season and the one in which he won his only Most Valuable Player award. Walker mashed to the tune of a .366/.452/.720 batting line for the Rockies that year, which was good for a 177 wRC+. His 9.8 bWAR represented the greatest single season in Rockies history, and his 99 extra-base hits were third in team history (Todd Helton eclipsed the 100 mark twice in both 2000 and 2001). After tallying 33 stolen bases, Walker’s season became the only .700 slugging percentage/30 stolen base season in MLB history.

It was one remarkable season, but this isn’t the Hall of One MVP. Can you imagine if we let one-time MVPers like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Rickey Henderson and Lefty Grove in? As a firm #KeepTheHallSmall advocate, I believe we should only vote for legends, even if they’ve never won an MVP. Like Derek Jeter. And if you’ve only won a single MVP award, what kind of legend is that?
Reason #2: Might like hockey more than baseball

It’s no secret that Walker is a big hockey fan. I was considering giving him a pass for this, as he is Canadian after all. But does he like hockey more than baseball?

By using the advanced search feature on Twitter.com, I was able to compare Walker’s tweets about baseball on his account, @Cdnmooselips33, to his tweets about hockey. Take this tweet, for example:

Of particular interest to me was the phrase, “Hockey rules!” To see if the same sentiment was shared for the sport of baseball, I once again used Twitter’s advanced search feature to see if Walker ever used the phrase, “Baseball rules!” And here’s what I found:

The character clause in the Hall of Fame is admittedly a bit subjective, but I think it can be applied here. Walker played Major League Baseball, but if, in his opinion, “Hockey rules,” while baseball is not said to do the same, is he really the kind of example we want enshrined in the Hall?

In the above clip, Harold Reynolds of MLB Network refers to Walker as a “high-end All-Star pitcher.” Later in the clip, Reynolds continues to sing Walker’s praises and says he thinks he is worthy of being a Hall of Famer. Given that Reynolds and Walker played around the same time (Walker’s career was rising as Reynolds’ career was ending), you might think Reynolds is a good judge of Walker’s performance.

However, Walker has a total of zero innings pitched at the major league level. No other pitcher with as few innings pitched has ever been elected into the Hall of Fame. In fact, Satchel Paige had the fewest innings pitched of any pitcher inductee, and he tossed 476 frames in the major leagues (and pitched approximately one million in the Negro Leagues). This is a drastic difference. Forget being a Hall of Fame pitcher— even Reynolds’ claim that Walker is a “high-end All-Star pitcher” seems to be a stretch.

Walker has a career OPS+ of 141, which means he was 41 percent better than the average hitter over his career (1989-2005) when adjusting for external factors like a player’s home ballpark/celestial body. That mark is only the third best on this year’s ballot behind only Barry Bonds and Manny Ramírez. Over one hundred batters have been elected to the Hall with an OPS+ of lower than Walker’s.

Now, obviously, Walker was a product of Coors Field. We all know this and that’s why I didn’t even bother to include a section regarding this fact.

But when we look at his park-adjusted OPS, we find that Walker would appear to be a Hall of Fame-caliber hitter, even when removing Coors Field from the equation.

In his career, Walker slashed .313/.400/.565. If he were never to play at Coors Field, that line drops to .282/.372/.479. That’s an .851 OPS, which we can all agree is a step down from his .965 mark with Coors. Baseball-Reference tallies the numbers for all Hall of Fame batters and we find that the average OPS in the Hall of Fame is .841.

And back to that 1997 MVP season—Walker played in three fewer games on the road, but also hit nine more home runs away from Coors Field. He had a 24-point increase in slugging percentage on the road as well.

So, when we adjust for park factors, Walker is still closer to the top than the bottom among Hall of Famers. And when we remove Coors Field altogether, he’s still in the top half. It’s starting to look like he may belong in the Hall, right?

That’s where you’re wrong.

When you look at Walker’s collective career, it is physically impossible not to start hooting and hollering over the absurd level to which Coors Field inflated his numbers. What is also impossible is the coexistence of these two beliefs: that Walker is a product of Coors Field and also has Hall of Fame caliber park-adjusted and road numbers.

A Rockies’ player has never hit well on the road in the team’s 26-year history, so if you expect me to start believing a guy has Hall of Fame numbers just because it’s his last year on the ballot, you’re out of luck.

So, yes, it would certainly appear Walker was very good on the road. But as we’ve established, this is not possible for a product of Coors Field.

Jon Gray Jersey

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On Wednesday, the Colorado Rockies announced right-handed starter Jon Gray would miss the rest of the season due to a stress fracture in his foot. Gray, who had most recently thrown eight shutout innings against the Miami Marlins last Friday, had been dealing with foot pain since earlier in the month. He may elect to undergo a surgical procedure to correct the issue:

Gray’s absence is notable in part because he was in the midst of a stellar season — he’ll finish his year with a 139 ERA+ in 150 innings — and in part because it further weakens the Rockies, who entered Wednesday with the ninth-worst record in baseball and who had already lost reliever Scott Oberg for the rest of the season due to blood clots in his throwing arm.

It’s fair to say some things have gone wrong for the Rockies this season, as is the case anytime a team who made the prior postseason is slated for a top-10 pick in the ensuing draft. Yet, for the most part, the Rockies have been fortunate as it pertains to injuries. In fact, the Rockies entered Wednesday with the fifth-fewest days lost to injury this season, per Spotrac:

Gray’s absence is notable in part because he was in the midst of a stellar season — he’ll finish his year with a 139 ERA+ in 150 innings — and in part because it further weakens the Rockies, who entered Wednesday with the ninth-worst record in baseball and who had already lost reliever Scott Oberg for the rest of the season due to blood clots in his throwing arm.

It’s fair to say some things have gone wrong for the Rockies this season, as is the case anytime a team who made the prior postseason is slated for a top-10 pick in the ensuing draft. Yet, for the most part, the Rockies have been fortunate as it pertains to injuries. In fact, the Rockies entered Wednesday with the fifth-fewest days lost to injury this season, per Spotrac:

Who you lose is important, too. But therein is part of the Rockies’ problem: they haven’t, until now, lost many players of note to the injured list. Only four Rockies had missed so much as 50 days on the year: starter Tyler Anderson, relievers Harrison Musgrave and Chris Rusin, and rookie infielder Brendan Rodgers.

Would the Rockies have been a better team with those players hearty and hale? Absolutely. Are their absences enough to explain why Colorado has disappointed to this degree? No chance.

As such, even though the Gray and Oberg revelations make it seem like the Rockies have been hit hard by bad luck, the reality is Colorado has bigger issues to tackle heading into the winter — like why a team that was among the majors’ healthiest was on pace to lose nearly 90 games before its ace went down with an injury.

Kevin Ritz Jersey

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Following a promising rookie year in 1989, pitcher Kevin Ritz found his career on shaky ground after struggling with extreme control problems for the Detroit Tigers over his next couple of seasons. This was exacerbated by a serious elbow injury suffered at the end of his tenure in Detroit that sidelined him for a full season. Undeterred despite the setbacks, however, Ritz resurrected his flagging career and set a prominent club record that held for 14 seasons with the Colorado Rockies — despite pitching in the notoriously hitter-friendly Mile High City.

Kevin D. Ritz was born on June 8, 1965, in Eatontown, New Jersey, where his father had been serving in the US Army. Like his father, Ritz was only given a singular letter for his middle name. Within six months of his birth, his family relocated to the rural Midwestern town of Bloomfield, Iowa, where he grew up.1 There, his father, Carl, was a bus driver, and his mother, Darlene, worked at a plastics factory. Living in a “modest” home on a gravel road, Ritz was the second youngest of five children, with siblings Dana, Renetta, Rose, and Stacey rounding out the family.2 Although his parents did not instill in him a love for the game — they were not particularly ardent baseball fans — the dream of playing in the major leagues became a passion early on for Ritz due to the innate skills he displayed on the diamond.3 “My interest started like most boys. I went through Little League, Babe Ruth, and then on to the high-school team,” he reflected. And the game came naturally to Ritz: “I really didn’t have to work at it and I didn’t have to practice very hard.”4

As a teenager, when not working as a dishwasher at a local restaurant, Ritz excelled on the mound at Davis County High School. Coach Pat Perry knew the big right-hander threw hard, so he used the local police department’s radar gun to measure his exact pitch speed. Ritz was throwing in the mid-80s.5 He utilized this talent to toss a no-hitter for Davis County in 1983, and earned an all-state selection.6 Further illustrating his athleticism, Ritz was also recognized as an all-state basketball player during his time with the Mustangs.

After high school, Ritz enrolled at William Penn University in nearby Oskaloosa, Iowa. His freshman season with the Statesmen, 1984, did not go as he had hoped. “I wasn’t too thrilled with William Penn,” Ritz said. “The coaching staff wasn’t what I expected and I found myself playing on the junior varsity. It was just a long year.”7 Still, Ritz’s potential was noticed by the San Francisco Giants, who drafted him in the fourth round of the January 1985 amateur draft. Not having been offered a signing bonus, however, he decided to stay in school.8

For his sophomore year, Ritz decided to play baseball at Indian Hills Community College, a junior college in Centerville, Iowa, even closer to home, on whose home field he had played many times during high school. “We had a great rivalry with Centerville when I was at Davis County,” he said. “It was just nice to be close to home so the family could come and watch, but we also played on that field against Centerville a lot. That area has always been a big part of my life.”9 Ritz immediately felt much more comfortable playing for the Falcons. “There were a lot of older guys on the team, guys like Mitch Knox who I think was ancient. He was like 40,” Ritz quipped. “There was good leadership there, different guys from different cities. It was a great atmosphere right from the get-go.”10 This change of scenery translated into success for the young hurler. Ritz finished the season at Indian Hills with a 7-3 record, and struck out 78 batters in 57 innings while allowing only 42 hits. His efforts — which included winning two postseason games — helped lead the Falcons to a Junior College World Series appearance in 1985.11 Although the 1985 campaign ultimately was his only season with the Falcons, Ritz’s contributions were recognized by the school with his induction into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013.12

Ritz’s strong performance at IHCC again attracted the attention of a major-league club, this time the Detroit Tigers. Scouted by George Bradley, he was selected by Detroit in the fourth round of the June 1985 amateur draft. Ritz struggled with the decision whether to sign or remain in college — albeit at a different school. “The coaching [at IHCC] wasn’t very good, so I felt a change was needed,” he explained.13 Several larger universities including Georgia, Missouri, Nevada-Las Vegas, Oklahoma, and Southern Mississippi had given him offers to transfer to their baseball programs.14 While taking time to decide, Ritz continued to work at his craft by playing in the summer for the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks in the amateur collegiate Alaska Baseball League. Pitching primarily in relief, he led the team with four saves.15 Finally, after initially announcing that he had decided to attend Nevada-Las Vegas because he felt he needed more seasoning, Ritz reconsidered when Detroit sweetened its contract offer with a bonus of $12,000.16 On September 3, 1985, he signed with the Tigers.

For the 1986 season, Detroit assigned the 6-foot-4, 195-pound hurler to the Class-A level. Splitting time with the Gastonia Tigers of the South Atlantic League and the Lakeland Tigers of the Florida State League, Ritz struggled in his first stint in the minor leagues. Between the two clubs, he finished the year with a 4-11 record in 25 games (22 starts), and posted a 5.16 ERA and 1.71 WHIP. Despite the disappointing results, Tigers farm director Frank Franchi was still “delighted” with Ritz, considering his lack of experience, and touted him as one of the team’s top prospects to watch.17

Showing confidence in the 21-year-old, Detroit promoted Ritz to the Glens Falls Tigers of the Double-A Eastern League for the 1987 season, where he was used strictly in a starting role. Although facing more formidable competition, Ritz showed improvement in nearly all statistical categories, and led the club in wins and innings pitched. In 25 starts, he finished the season with an 8-8 record, 4.89 ERA, and 1.59 WHIP. Although he expected to advance to Triple A, at the beginning of the 1988 season, Ritz found himself back with Glens Falls. “[In 1988] I was expecting to make the Triple-A roster and on the next-to-last day they sent me to Double A. Sometimes it’s kind of disappointing when you see younger guys getting a chance,” Ritz said.18 Although his confidence was shaken, Ritz again showed marked improvement, posting an 8-10 record, 3.82 ERA, and 1.35 WHIP in his 26 starts. He limited opposing batters to a .229 batting average (fifth lowest in the league), and picked up a victory in a playoff start which according to Ritz was “probably the highlight of the season.”19

Added to Detroit’s 40-man roster for the 1989 season, the promising Ritz attended the Tigers’ spring training in Lakeland, Florida. He did not make the Tigers’ regular season roster, but performed well with the Toledo Mud Hens of the Triple-A International League, posting a 3.16 ERA after 16 starts into midseason, with wins in his last four decisions. Meanwhile the parent Tigers were languishing as one of the worst teams in baseball. And with both injuries and lackluster performance plaguing their aging starting rotation, the Tigers called up the promising 24-year-old to replace struggling fill-in starter David Palmer in the rotation.20

With the team’s season all but lost, the move was an indication that the Tigers were planning for the future. Asked whether Ritz would have been called up had Detroit been in contention, manager Sparky Anderson responded, “No way.”21 On July 15, Ritz made his first major-league appearance, getting the start against the Seattle Mariners at Tiger Stadium. With a contingent of 15 family members and friends who made the 12-hour trek from Iowa to Detroit to support him, Ritz pitched reasonably well through four innings, allowing five hits and two runs.22 His night ended, however, after he allowed four consecutive baserunners and two runs to begin the fifth inning, and he left the game down 4-3. The Tigers were unable to mount a comeback, and Ritz was tagged with the loss.

Ritz bounced back in his next start with a strong performance against the California Angels in a no-decision, and followed that with his first major-league victory in a start against the Minnesota Twins on July 28. Twins manager Tom Kelly said of the rookie, “Ritz has a very good arm. He has a nice, easy windup, can throw hard, has a good curve, and a little bit of a changeup.”23 While celebrating his first big-league win by enjoying a ham sandwich after the game, the low-key Ritz kept things in perspective, confessing, “I’m glad to have this out of the way. It’s just a win in another league. I didn’t expect to get hyper, because it’s just another game.”24 After he won his next two starts, the Tigers maintained him in their starting rotation for the balance of the season. Ritz got positive reviews within the organization based on his solid overall performance. “A couple years from now, hitters won’t want to get out of bed on the day he pitches,” manager Anderson quipped.25 Ritz finished the season with a 4-6 record and 4.38 ERA in 12 starts, and was named Tigers Rookie of the Year.

Ritz’s success was a much-needed “Cinderella story” inspiration to residents in his Iowa hometown, many of whom made the 3½-hour drive to attend his start in Kansas City in August. “It’s been a tough decade for Bloomfield. We’ve had our hard knocks,” said Bloomfield merchant Susan Howard. “So because this is a small town there’s a special feeling about what’s happened to Kevin. A community is full of independent people, but we become one under both good and bad circumstances. That’s why I’m so happy at seeing this decade finishing on this nice high note.”26 In another indication of the pride Ritz instilled in his community, after the season he was guest of honor at a civic luncheon at the Bloomfield United Methodist Church.

Deciding against re-signing 39-year-old Doyle Alexander for the 1990 campaign, Detroit instead targeted the more youthful Ritz to fill the starting-rotation void. Instead of building on the promise of his rookie year, however, Ritz got off to a disastrous start. Struggling to find the strike zone and hit hard when he did, after his first three starts he had allowed 13 hits and 10 walks in 7⅓ innings. Things hit rock bottom for Ritz in his fourth start, when he was removed from the game against Minnesota without recording an out after allowing four walks and one hit to the first five batters he faced. Although Ritz complained about battling a “dead arm” during his struggles, teammate Frank Tanana diagnosed Ritz’s problems as stemming from a lack of confidence. “After the confidence goes the fastball, then the location. That’s the usual course of events,” said Tanana. “In Kevin’s case, it looks like he’s trying to overthrow to compensate for his control problems. It’s something every young pitcher goes through. Once he starts having a little success, he’ll be fine. All he needs is that first victory.”27 Ritz did not get a chance to get that first victory, however, as Detroit had little choice but to send him to the minor leagues after he compiled a 0-4 record with an 11.05 ERA and 3.82 WHIP in his four starts. Spending the rest of the season back at Toledo, Ritz continued to battle wildness. He finished the disappointing year there with a 3-6 record, 5.22 ERA, and 1.70 WHIP in 20 games (18 starts). Ritz walked 59 batters in 89⅔ innings.

Because of his sophomore slump, Ritz was not in the Tigers’ plans at the beginning of the 1991 campaign, and again found himself in Toledo to start the year. Featuring a newly developed slider, Ritz rebounded. His 4-0 record with a 1.77 ERA for the month of May, coupled with an unreliable Detroit starting rotation, afforded Ritz another chance with the parent club. Mud Hens pitching coach Ralph Treuel noted of Ritz’s prevailing successes, “A lot of hard work and more self-confidence have been the keys. With his mound presence and poise, he looks like a pitcher. He just decided to take the bull by the horn. This is not the same Kevin Ritz from the past.”28 On his return to the Tigers, however, it did indeed look very much like the Kevin Ritz from the past. After five starts with Detroit between late May and late June, he posted a 0-3 record with an abysmal 18.00 ERA. And the wildness had returned, with Ritz walking 18 batters in nine innings. Unsurprisingly, he was sent back to Toledo. Although Ritz was again recalled to the Tigers late in the season, he accomplished nothing particularly noteworthy there in his six appearances out of the bullpen.

“Some type of mental block” was pointed to by members of the Detroit and Toledo coaching staffs as the cause of Ritz’s inability to throw strikes. “Who knows what’s going through the guy’s mind? I like Kevin an awful lot. He’s got a great arm. There’s no explanation,” said Detroit pitching coach Billy Muffett. Manager Anderson also shared his thoughts: “I told him, ‘You gotta overcome that block.’ That’s all it is. It’s easy to say, but hard to cure. I don’t think there’s anything harder to cure than that.” At the time, Ritz revealed that he might consider consulting a psychiatrist if the problem persisted. “In my mind there’s a subconscious block,” he confessed.29

Despite his incredible struggles at the major-league level over the prior two years, Ritz still figured in the Tigers’ plans for the 1992 season; he had “too good an arm to give up on.”30 Beginning the campaign pitching in relief for Detroit — although still featuring a high walk rate — Ritz seemed to have finally overcome his mental block. He pitched reasonably well out of the bullpen, carrying a 4.03 ERA into late May after 10 appearances. And with Detroit starter Eric King struggling on the mound and dealing with a sore shoulder, Ritz rejoined the starting rotation.31 Although lacking consistency, he pitched well enough to become a mainstay in the rotation for the next two months. In his July 29 start against the Chicago White Sox, however, Ritz suffered another setback, in the form of an elbow injury that caused him to exit the game early. “I felt it a couple of pitches before I came out. Hopefully, it’s nothing too serious,” Ritz said after the game.32 But it was serious — enough to keep him sidelined for the rest of the year. Ritz had posted a 2-5 record with a 5.60 ERA in 23 games (11 starts) when his season — and tenure as a Detroit Tiger — came to an unceremonious end.

Injury situation notwithstanding, on November 17, 1992, Ritz was drafted by the Colorado Rockies as the 46th pick in the major-league expansion draft. He was not bitter about having been left unprotected by Detroit, saying, “I most definitely was given every opportunity. I just didn’t take advantage.”33 While he sought a fresh start with the expansion Rockies for the 1993 campaign, the elbow problems resurfaced, however, requiring him to battle through pain during spring training and negatively affecting his performance. Although the Rockies attempted to send him to the minor leagues to open the season, Ritz refused the assignment, instead opting to test the free-agent market, knowing the Cleveland Indians had strong interest. Upon undergoing a physical examination by Cleveland, Ritz was diagnosed with a torn elbow tendon requiring surgery. This voided the deal with the Indians, and left Ritz sidelined for the 1993 season while dealing with a potentially career-threatening injury. “I was close to giving up and looking for another job,” Ritz said.34 Encouraged by his wife to not give up, he underwent surgery in April and spent months rehabbing, unable to throw a ball until August.35 Released by the Rockies in October, he found himself without a team. Less than two months later, however, the Rockies re-signed Ritz, offering him a glimmer of hope of getting back in the game as the 1994 season approached.

With his surgically repaired elbow feeling “fine” and having been given a clean bill of health from his doctors, Ritz went to spring training in 1994 with the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox. “It feels good to just be out playing baseball again. Things are looking pretty good for me,” he said of his comeback.36 His first preseason appearance also looked pretty good, with Ritz tossing three hitless innings against the California Angels’ top farm club on March 22. He carried that strong performance into the Sky Sox’ regular season, posting a 5-0 record with an outstanding 1.29 ERA into late May, and only six walks in 35 innings — particularly impressive considering his history of high walk rates. With Colorado starter Armando Reynoso lost for the season with an elbow injury, Ritz’s efforts were rewarded with a summons to the Rockies. He made his first start on May 25 against the Cincinnati Reds. After throwing 34 pitches and allowing two runs in a rough first inning, he settled down, not allowing another run in his next four innings. Although he got a no-decision, Rockies pitching coach Larry Bearnarth said of Ritz’s performance, “That was a Herculean effort. Going against Jose] Rijo, coming off surgery, not pitching in the big leagues in nearly two years, and overthrowing like crazy in the first inning. … He settled down, and that was the pitcher we scouted.”37 Ritz remained a fixture in Colorado’s starting rotation until the players strike cut the season short, and finished with a 5-6 record and a 5.62 ERA. Rockies manager Don Baylor put things into perspective when he said, “What he has done as far as coming back from an injury that has ended the career of some players is simply remarkable.”38

In spring training in 1995, Ritz was named the Rockies’ fifth starter to begin the team’s first season in what became a noted hitters’ park, Coors Field. With the other members of Colorado’s starting rotation struggling in the early going, however, he soon became the ace of the staff, tying a team record with nine strikeouts on June 8 against the Chicago Cubs. Heading into the All-Star break, Ritz had a 7-3 record with a solid 3.50 ERA, and was touted as the team’s “savior” by manager Baylor.39 Despite his success, the low-key Ritz was not comfortable with the associated media attention. “I just want to do my job. Maybe it’s because I just come from Iowa, I never had that kind of attention, and don’t want it,” he said.40 Although he suffered through a dreadful August (0-5, 6.12), Ritz still finished the season with an 11-11 record and 4.21 ERA (tops among Rockies starters), and led the club in wins, innings pitched (173⅓), and strikeouts (120). Helping the Rockies advance to the playoffs in only their third season, Ritz saw action in two National League Division Series games against the Atlanta Braves. He started the series opener against Greg Maddux and pitched relatively well, receiving a no-decision in a 5-4 loss. Ritz also appeared in relief in the series finale, a 10-4 loss. Unsurprisingly, he was named the Rockies Pitcher of the Year.

Coming off his breakthrough year — and with veteran aces Bill Swift and Bret Saberhagen on the disabled list — Ritz was named the starter for the Rockies’ 1996 season opener. “I’m looking at it as just another start. It’s just day one of a long season,” was his restrained comment.41 Ritz responded to the honor by firmly establishing himself as the number-one starter on the staff, giving up just one hit (but seven walks) in 5⅓ innings as the Rockies defeated the Phillies, 5-3. On May 5, in defeating the Florida Marlins 5-4, he became the first Rockies pitcher to toss a complete game at Coors Field. And by the end of June, Ritz was tied for second in the NL with nine wins, leading to media speculation that he might be named to the All-Star team. Although it did not happen, he said years later, “I couldn’t be too disappointed about the All-Star Game, especially where I had come from in my career. At least I was mentioned.”42 By season’s end, Ritz had smashed several franchise records en route to his second consecutive selection as the Rockies Pitcher of the Year. Compiling a 17-11 record, he became the team’s leader in career victories with 33, and also set single-season records for most innings pitched (213), games started (35), and victories.

Ritz’s record 17 victories held for 14 years before being supplanted, and remains as of 2018 tied for second. Among NL season leaders for 1996, he finished tied for second in games started, tied for third in wins, and 10th in won-lost percentage. Despite these successes, Ritz’s statistics featured some counterintuitive peculiarities. His 125 earned runs were the most in the league, his 236 hits and 105 walks were both second, and his 10 wild pitches were eighth highest. This all translated into a rather lofty 5.28 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. Nonetheless, that winter Colorado signed Ritz to his first major contract — a two-year deal with a third year at Ritz’s option for a reported $3 million per year. “With the dearth of pitching in the major leagues the fact, as we have found out, that bringing a new pitcher in here is no guarantee he will be successful, and with Kevin having pitched here for three years, we had a higher level of comfort that he can continue to be a major factor for us,” Rockies general manager Bob Gebhard explained regarding the signing.43

Asked in 1997 spring training whether he would perform differently now that he was the recipient of a lucrative contract, Ritz responded, “It’s hard to say because I’ve never made that kind of money. But the few days that I’ve been here, I’ve been relaxed and had a good time. I’m throwing well.” He was again named the Rockies’ Opening Day starter, and expectations were high. “I think Kevin Ritz is at a point in his career where he can be categorized in that elite group they call 20-game winners,” proclaimed Rockies pitching coach Frank Funk. “He should be able to get real close to that 20-win mark on a consistent basis.”44 But Ritz was battered around in taking the Opening Day loss to the Reds, and continued to struggle into midseason as he dealt with an ailing shoulder throughout June.45 A medical examination in July revealed a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that required surgery; thus, Ritz’s season came to a premature end.46 His final statistics for the disappointing season featured a 6-8 record and a 5.87 ERA.

With his repaired shoulder not quite ready for Opening Day in 1998, Ritz started the year on the disabled list, and did not fare well in some early-season rehabilitation outings with the minor-league Sky Sox. Still, the 32-year-old was activated in May by the big-league club, declaring himself “ready.”47 After two starts with the Rockies, however, Ritz had allowed 17 hits and 11 earned runs in nine innings, and was placed back on the disabled list. According to manager Baylor, his lack of success appeared to be due to reduced velocity on his fastball, which at 88 mph was down 4 mph from his pre-injury form.48 Ritz pitched reasonably well in three rehabilitation starts for the New Haven Ravens of the Double-A Eastern League, but struggled when given a start with the Triple-A Sky Sox in June. Shortly thereafter, he underwent season-ending surgery to repair tears in both his labrum and rotator cuff.49 Although hoping for yet another comeback in the 1999 season, Ritz was realistic about his chances considering his age and injury history. “They did five surgeries on my arm and hopefully it will heal properly. It feels good right now, but who knows what the future will hold,” he said. For Ritz, the future did not hold any further professional baseball.

The effects of Ritz’s arm injuries from his playing days lingered into his post-baseball life, causing him to undergo additional surgeries after settling down with his family in Cambridge, Ohio, his wife’s hometown.50 He and his wife, Sally, whom he met in the late 1980s through a former minor-league teammate, have four children: Molly, Kyle, Eli, and Lilly.51 Although Ritz involved himself in business pursuits including batting cages, golf and hunting simulators, and a sporting-goods store, he primarily spent his time as a “professional father,” following the activities of his children — some of whom have played collegiate athletics. “I’m really just a family man,” Ritz said in 2008. “My family is more important to me than any baseball accomplishments I’ve had.” He and Sally spent a significant amount of time doing volunteer work, and started the Kevin Ritz Family Foundation, which has helped support youth baseball and football leagues in addition to other activities benefiting children. As spare-time hobbies, Ritz took up hunting, fishing, camping, and golf.
Ritz continued to support the Rockies, cheering them on at Fenway Park with his two sons when they reached the World Series in 2007.54 He did not mince words when reflecting on how he approached pitching in Denver. “I’ve never been scared of Coors Field,” Ritz said. “There’s a lot of guys who come in there and mentally can’t pitch there because of the bad things that they’ve heard. If you give up a cheap, three-run homer, you just say the hell with it.”55 Despite the challenges he faced pitching before a humidor was installed to help normalize ball flight in the high-altitude environment, he still enjoyed his time with the Rockies. “I had a great time in Denver,” Ritz said. “That season [1995] kind of put me on the map.”

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Sam Hilliard pulled his first home run Wednesday into the right-field stands. He drove the second one into the left-field seats. Good signs, a young hitter hitting with authority to all fields.

Both home runs at Coors Field came off Mets starter Noah Syndergaard, the first landing in the second deck above the Rockies bullpen on a 97.8 mph sinker and the second on a 97.5 mph four-seam fastball. In each case, Hilliard had two strikes, another good sign for a young hitter.

Hilliard, 25, is an intriguing outfield prospect for the Rockies. He has tremendous power. He has size, listed at 6-5 and 238 pounds. He is a good defender, capable of playing all three outfield positions very well. He has speed and knows how to use it, having stole 22 bases in 27 attempts this year at Triple-A Albuquerque.

“He’s got the tools to be impactful,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Now, it’s going to be up to Sam whether they translate into a big league game over time.”

While there is much to like about Hilliard, there is also one major concern. He strikes out often. And a contributing factor can be the leg kick Hilliard reverted to late in the 2018 season at Double-A Hartford.

Hilliard came into professional baseball with a leg kick when the Rockies drafted him in the 15th round out of Wichita State in 2015 and signed him for $100,000. Hilliard used the leg kick that summer at Rookie level Grand Junction, but in 2016, in his first full professional season at Low Class A Asheville, Marv Foley, the development supervisor with that team, had Hilliard scrap his leg kick.

“I understand why he did it,” Hilliard said. “I was striking out a bunch. My timing was kind of raw. He just wanted to simplify things and make it less complicated and easier. He had my best interest at heart.”

At Hartford last year, Hilliard hit .262 in 121 games with nine homers, 40 RBI and a .716 OPS. He went back to the leg for a very basic reason.

“It’s just something that feels real natural to me,” Hilliard said. “I feel dangerous when I’m using it. Obviously, it can be a little bit tougher to time pitches. But it’s something that you got to time up when you’re on deck. It’s just something that I feel I can unlock my hips and just be an athlete as opposed to (just) putting my foot down. I feel a little bit restricted doing that.”

At Triple-A Albuquerque this year, Hilliard hit .262 in 126 games with 35 home runs, 101 RBI and a .893 OPS. His strikeouts rose from 151 at Hartford to 164 at Albuquerque, although his strikeout rate dipped sightly from 31.2 percent of his plate appearances to 29.6 percent this year.

Hilliard lives in Mansfield, Tex., where one of his friends was on the staff of Cooperstown Cages, a baseball facility in nearby Fort Worth where former Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe has some involvement. That connection led Hilliard to Cooperstown Cages where he worked with Shawn Morgan, one of the company founders. Hawpe, a left-handed hitter who had a modest leg kick and who hit 99 homers with the Rockies from 2006-2009, the four best seasons of Hawpe’s career, has given Hilliard some valuable pointers about implementing the leg kick.

“One of the things he emphasized in the off-season was staying on my back leg,” Hilliard said. “In turn, that’s going to keep my body still and my head still, because you can’t hit a 96- mile-an-hour fastball if your head’s moving around. That was the thing that kind of clicked for me, and I hit the ground running with that. I felt natural.”

Hilliard hit a home run in his major league debut Aug. 27 and hit his second homer two days later to become the fourth player in franchise history to homer in each of his first two starts. Hilliard was in a 1-for-25 slide when he singled on each of his two at-bats Monday against Mets starter Marcus Stroman – he limited the Rockies to four hits in seven scoreless innings – and followed that up with his first career multi-homer game Wednesday.

Hilliard is hitting .222 (10-for-45) with four homers, seven RBI and an .869 OPS in 18 games (11 starts). He also has 16 strikeouts in 51 plate appearances, a rate of 31.4 percent.

“His overall at-bats are pretty good,” Black said Wednesday after a 7-4 loss to the Mets. “He’s not chasing a lot out of the zone. It looks like he’s seeing the ball (well). …He’s not swinging wildly.

“He’s got power. It showed up again today. Now moving forward, when he faces more big league pitching and gets more comfortable, I know there’s some things that he’s working on that I think will help him against big league pitching. But he’s holding his own.”

Rockies hitting coach Dave Magadan said Hilliard reminds him of Texas slugger Joey Gallo, who made his major league debut in 2015 when Magadan was the Rangers’ hitting coach. Gallo utilized a big leg kick at the outset of his career, Magadan said, but found a comfortable solution between no leg kick and a massive one.

“I think that’s what we need to find for Sam is that happy medium where, yeah, it’s a leg kick,” Magadan said, “but I’m ready to hit any pitch whether it’s 99 (mph) or 79 (mph), and all I really have to do is a barrel the baseball up and it’s going to be a homer.”

Hilliard uses a slightly open stance and occasionally strides into the plate rather than creating some distance between his feet and striding toward the pitcher.

“When it’s a leg kick where you’re crossing over,” Magadan said, “that to me is a big concern because you’re closing off really a part of the strike zone that makes it tough to get inside the ball. You got to try to beat the pitch to the spot, and that makes you susceptible to the back-foot slider, back-foot curveball. You can’t really stay inside the ball to get it in the air, and you end up hitting a lot of topspin line drives or you hit a lot of ground balls to the pull side. And we’ve talked to him about it, to stay more square.”

The left-handed hitting Hilliard will compete for an outfield job when the Rockies gather for spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., next February. All-Stars Charlie Blackmon in right field and David Dahl (whose season was ended by a high right ankle sprain Aug. 2) in center field will hold down those spots. Both hit left-handed as does Raimel Tapia, who will likely split time in left field with right-handed hitting Ian Desmond. Utility man Garrett Hampson, who bats right-handed, has played center field as has right-handed hitting Yonathan Daza. But Hilliard’s package of plus power, speed and defensive ability make for a very unusual and very alluring package.

“He’s got some adjustments to make, and he’ll make them,” Magadan said, “because he’s very athletic and he’s open and he’s coachable. And he wants to be better. To make that transition to finished product and to being a major league player, he’s got to clean up some stuff he knows he needs to clean up. And the sky’s the limit.”

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ST. PETERSBURG – Quinton McCracken, MVP of the 1998 inaugural Devil Rays team, has rejoined the organization as a coach at Triple-A Durham.

McCracken’s hiring is among a series of changes in the Rays minor-league staff announced today.

Among the more interesting moves:

* Brady Williams was promoted from Double-A Montgomery to Durham as part of a shuffle that has different managers for five of the seven affiliates;

* Former big-leaguer Morgan Ensberg was hired to replace Williams with the Biscuits;

* Sandy Sternberg, the 28-year-old son of principal owner Stuart, was hired as director, development strategy;

* Former Twins 1B coach Jeff Smith was hired to managed the Port Charlotte-based Stone Crabs;

* Jean Ramirez, a 25-year-old who played the last three years at the low end of the Rays minor-league system, was hired as bullpen catcher, replacing Mayo Acosta, who left due to personal reasons.

Williams was promoted, as expected, to manage the Bulls team following Jared Sandberg’s departure for a job on the Mariners major-league coaching staff. Pitching coach Rick Knapp and bench coach Dan DeMent are returning to the Bulls staff.

McCracken, 48, played with the Devil Rays from 1998-2000 during a 12-year big-league career. He spent last season as a minor-league coordinator for the Marlins after five in the front office of the Astros and two before that with the Diamondbacks. He also played baseball and football at Duke, which is in Durham.

“My family and I are extremely excited about this homecoming of sorts.” McCracken said via text message. “The opportunity to rejoin the Rays organization and assist our player development staff in developing championship players and people, on and off the field, is a dream come true for me.”

Williams, 39, joined the Rays in 2006 and has managed for 10 seasons, the last five with the Biscuits after working his way from Hudson Valley to Bowling Green to Charlotte, and coached for three seasons before that. He also played five seasons in the minors after being drafted out of Pasco-Hernando community college. He is the son of former big-league manager Jimy Williams.

“This is a new challenge for me and my family, and we’re excited about facing this challenge,” Williams said in the news release. “I learned a lot in my five years in Montgomery, but I’m looking forward to working with the next level of player in Durham.”

Ensberg, whose eight-plus year playing career ended when he was released by the Rays at the end of spring training 2009, spent the last six years working in the Astros minor-league system, managing Class A Buies Creek in 2018 and short-season Class A Tri-City in 2017. He also served as a “mindset” coach, minor league special assignment coach and infield coach.

Among other changes in on-field staff, Craig Albernaz was named field coordinator, Tomas Francisco catching coordinator, Reinaldo Ruiz manager at Class-A Bowling Green, Rafael Valenzuela manager of the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Rays; and Brady North a coach with the GCL Rays. Also, coach German Melendez moves from Charlotte to rookie-level Princeton, coach Ivan Ochoa from the DSL Rays to Charlotte, conditioning coach Sergio West from Princeton to Charlotte, conditioning coach Paul Jones from Charlotte to the GCL Rays.

The Rays also announced a series of baseball operations changes in addition to the hiring of Sandy Sternberg.

Among them: Former big-league infielder Cole Figueroa was promoted to assistant director, hitting development; former big-league pitcher Jeremy Sowers, who had been handling replays, to coordinator, major league operations; Ryan Bristow to assistant director, pro scouting; Hamilton Marx to assistant director, amateur scouting; Ryan Harmon to lead sports dietitian, baseball performance science; Samantha Bireley to coordinator, baseball administration; Ryan Pennell to coordinator, baseball performance science; Simon Rosenbaum to coordinator, baseball development.

Also: Josh Rodrigues was hired as replay administrator and Kate Martinez as assistant sports dietician.

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The Rockies announced that they’ve claimed right-handed reliever Wes Parsons off waivers from the Braves, who had designated him for assignment over the weekend. In order to make room on the 40-man roster, the Rox moved Scott Oberg from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL, definitively ending his season. Oberg went on the IL over the weekend due to a blood clot.

With an immediate need for fresh arms and a longer-term interest in finding cost-efficient relief pitching, it’s no surprise that the Rox made a strike here. Parsons hasn’t quite reached his 27th birthday, has options remaining, and is still a long way from arbitration. It’s possible he’ll be given a chance to pitch his way into the team’s plans for 2020.

If he’s to take advantage of the opportunity, Parsons will need to improve upon his initial showing in Atlanta. He carried a 3.52 ERA through 15 1/3 MLB innings this year, but didn’t get there in style. With 13 walks to go with a dozen strikeouts, along with a lowly 6.9% swinging-strike rate, it was clear that Parsons wasn’t fooling MLB hitters.

That said, there’s still reason to hope for better. Parsons has a history of quality results in the upper minors; this year, at Triple-A, he worked to a 2.86 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 along with a 56.8% groundball rate. No doubt the Rox are particularly intrigued by the fact that Parsons has typically induced quite a few worm burners and limited the long ball as a minor-leaguer.

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Keynote speaker Jason Jennings is a researcher and one of the most successful and prolific business and leadership authors in the world. He’s an authority on leadership, growth and innovation and he loves to tell a good story. USA TODAY calls Jennings one of the three most in-demand business speakers on the planet. Jason made the Global Guru list for 2018 and ranked number 15 in the whole world, and he was one out of five to receive 5 stars for being inspirational.

Authority on Leadership, Growth and Innovation

Jason Jennings is a researcher and one of the most successful and prolific business and leadership authors in the world and his greatest thrill is helping lead individuals and companies to their full economic potential.

He began his career as a radio and television reporter and was the youngest radio station group owner in the nation. Later, he founded Jennings-McGlothlin & Company, a consulting firm that became the world’s largest media consultancy and his legendary programming and sales strategies are credited with revolutionizing many parts of the broadcasting industry.

He traveled the globe in search of the world’s fastest companies for his landmark book, It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small – It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow. Within weeks of its release it hit the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and New York Times Bestsellers Lists. Now published in 32 languages, USA TODAY named it one of the top 25 books of the year!

Next, he and his research teams identified the world’s ten most productive companies for his bestseller Less Is More. That was followed by his next book, Think BIG – Act Small, which profiled the only ten companies in the world to have organically grown both revenues and profits by double digits every year for ten consecutive years. Like all his previous books it debuted on all the bestseller charts, his book, Hit the Ground Running – A Manual for Leaders reveals the tactics and strategies of the ten CEO’s who created the greatest amount of economic value between 2000 and 2009. Jason the followed it the New York Times bestseller, The Reinventors – How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change, revealing the secret of those leaders and organisations that have successfully reinvented and transformed. His latest book for his publish Penguin Random House is The High Speed Company – Creating Urgency and Growth in a Nanosecond Culture.

Along the way he found time to join forces with well known cardiologist Dr. John Kennedy and coauthor the 2010 Health, Mind and Body bestseller, The 15 Minute Heart Cure –The Natural Way to Release Stress and Heal Your Heart in Fifteen minutes a Day.

Critics call his books, “extraordinarily well researched, insightful, crisply written, accessible, intriguing and a vital resource for everyone in business,” and USA TODAY calls Jennings one of the three most in-demand business speakers on the planet along with the authors of Good to Great and In Search of Excellence.