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June 18, 2007 June 18, 2007

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Somer-Stitions: Here’s a rough cut of my article on pre-game routines and superstitions that you’ll find in Thursday’s edition of the Hunterdon County Democrat. The piece that will appear in the paper will be a little different than the one you see here.

Sorry, Jeff Nettles, but your secret had to come out some time.

A four-time Atlantic League All-Star well on his way to his fifth straight selection, the former Yankees prospect has dominated in every season as the Somerset Patriots third baseman, and owns or has a share of numerous franchise records.

But now, the secret to his success will finally be revealed.

Protein shakes?

Countless hours in the gym?

Gasp…steroids?

Try a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with crushed chips in the middle.

“When you’re in minor league ball like we are, and spreads are minimal like this, you do what you’ve got to do to get something in your system,” Nettles said.

“A lot of times, peanut butter and jelly gets kind of old, so I decided to crunch up some chips and throw it in there. Whatever you’ve got works; Pringles, Cheetos, it doesn’t matter.”

If York Revolution hitting coach Ryan Minor once referred to the standard PB&J as “the steak sandwich of minor league baseball,” then Nettles might just have created the new filet mignon.

“I don’t have one everyday, but if I’ve got a PB&J, I’m definitely going to throw some chips in there and spice it up a little,” he said.

Nettles pre-game routine was a bit more involved in previous years, but now it entails getting on the field about 20 minutes before the game, doing some sprints and playing a little catch.

“I try to be the guy not to have (superstitions),” he said. “I don’t want to be a mental midget and go out there, and if I do something wrong, I’ll already be one step behind.”

Like Nettles, Somerset second baseman Danny Garcia was more superstitious earlier in his career, specifically before he turned pro.

“Back in high school, you’d have a big day and sleep with your bat,” said the ex-Met.

“In high school and college, superstitions were so strong. Actually, in college, if I’d gone two or three straight weeks with a hit, I’d watch the same movie and start it at the same part. I’d jump into bed, put the same movie on at the same part and just go to sleep to it.”

But as his career went on, things that were once routine started to slowly fade away.

“Once you get older, the weird and quirky things kind of get ironed out or you’re just more quiet about them,” Garcia said.

Some staples of a player’s day are born out of necessity rather than routine. Take Sparky Lyle’s pre-game meal from his time in Yankee pinstripes.

“George (Steinbrenner) found out that we were sending across the street for burgers and stuff like that, ” Lyle said.

“But then we lost a game and he said, ‘You can’t send out for anything anymore before the game.’ So I bought a Joe Namath hamburger cooker and had a little refrigerator in my locker at Yankee Stadium and I made my own, and he never said anything.”

Although it was a daily occurrence, it was far from superstition according to the Cy Young winner.

“I was (freaking) hungry, it had nothing to do with anything else,” he quipped.

While most players do some pretty basic things to prepare for games, others have detailed, step-by-step routines that they swear by. Starting pitchers are notorious for their unique ways of preparing themselves on a game day, and no routine may be more unique than Patriots southpaw Keith Ramsey’s.

His pre-game preparation starts at 11AM, when he’ll watch some “goofy TV shows,” such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Home Improvement.

“Even some Full House, if need be,” joked Ramsey, who actually met the cast of the show when he was younger.

Following a few re-runs of the best that television had to offer in the early 90’s, the Californian makes himself lunch between the hours of one and two o’clock, which takes about 45 minutes. During this process, Ramsey will listen to music.

Following that, he’ll kick back for a movie. But not just any movie.

“It has to be something randomly inspirational, like Joe Dirt,” Ramsey said, going on to recite the “You can’t have no in your heart, brother” line from the movie.

After a post-movie shower and brushing of his teeth, Ramsey puts 11 swipes of deodorant under each arm.

Why 11?

“11’s a good number,” was his quick reply.

After all that, he makes the short drive to the field, listening to some of the staples from his vast and diverse music collection, including Alice in Chains and Tool.

Once he gets to the ballpark, the music gets a little more mellow, and Ramsey will listen to an artist like Pete Yorn.

With headphones on and his personal MP3 player nearby, Ramsey does visualization techniques, taking a baseball and flipping it up with his left hand, all while sitting in his chair next to the large clubhouse television, oblivious to whatever’s on.

“I’ll pick out spots on the wall and just focus on them,” he said.

“From what I’ve read, it’s supposed to get you focused on what you do when you’re pitching. Just blocking everything out, you get up there, and you just see a glove.”

After reading two Bible verses, he’s off to the field, almost eight hours into his detailed game plan. But it doesn’t end when the game starts.

“I’ll drink two cups of water between each inning, and after a start, I’ll have all these cups next to me from every inning I pitched,” he said.

But not every starter has a routine like Ramsey’s. In fact, it seems safe to say that nobody has one quite like the free-spirited fireballer. In any event, fellow pitcher Andy Van Hekken has a more conservative approach when he gets the ball every fifth day.

“I really don’t have any crazy, weird things I do,” Van Hekken said.

Well, at least things that he knows about, anyway.

“I don’t even think consciously about that stuff. Maybe I do some things I’m not even aware of.” he said with a laugh.

The former big leaguer arrives at the ballpark roughly two hours before game time, insisting on “something light” to eat when he gets there.

Van Hekken will put on his pants and socks, walk around for a little bit, and then put on his belt and jersey right before he has to leave.

Once he gets on the field, it remains all business.

“Around a half an hour before the game, I’ll go out and stretch. My stretching routine is pretty much the same every time,” he said.

The method to Van Hekken’s madness is normal by most standards, and he thinks most players are similar in their preparations.

“Baseball players just like to do the same thing, I really don’t think it’s that out of the ordinary for us. They just like to do the same thing at the same time,” he said.

To be superstitious or not to be, that is the question.

And while it looks like there is no right or wrong way to prepare for a game, leave it to Danny Garcia to give the best advice in trying to answer the million dollar question.

“This game is so mental, it’s ridiculous. If you think something’s working, just do it,” he said.

Superstitious or not, with Jeff Nettles leading the Atlantic League in home runs and RBI, it won’t be long before he gets some competition for the league lead in crushed chip sandwiches as well.

“CHEF” JEFF’S CRUSHED CHIP SANDWICH RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

2 pieces, bread
Equal amounts of peanut butter and jelly
“Whatever chips are laying around”

DIRECTIONS

1) Spread equal amounts of peanut butter and jelly on bread
2) Crush chips (“As many as you feel like you need on there”) and place evenly on each piece of bread
3) Close sandwich
4) Enjoy

Four Games Decided By Six Runs: The competition in the Atlantic League was pretty tight yesterday, with two of the games being decided by one run and two of them being won by two.

Here are some quick game recaps…

Ducks 8 @ Riversharks 6: The Ducks completed their three-game sweep of the Riversharks in Camden, despite yet another home run from Camden stud L.J. Biernbaum.

John Halama went six strong for the Ducks, striking out eight to even his record at 3-3. The former Red Sox hurler was benefitted by another strong game by outfielder Kevin Haverbusch, who drove in three runs in the five slot.

Biernbaum’s hitting streak has now reached 17 games, eclipsing Vito Chiaravolloti for the longest this season. He’s also reached base in 27 straight contests.

Bluefish 3 @ Barnstormers 2: Bridgeport used five pitchers and two Lancaster errors to beat the Barnstormers, 3-2.

Mike Porzio quietly improved his record to 6-1, going five innings and striking out seven.

Despite only allowing one earned run over six innings of work, Brett Evert got the loss and fell to 2-4.

Jutt Hileman went 3-for-4 in the losing effort.

Road Warriors 4 @ Somerset 5: Mike Lockwood’s two home runs single-handedly beat the Road Warriors, 5-4.

Lockwood’s five RBI propelled him into the league lead, with his tenth and eleventh bombs of the year coming off of Manny Ulloa, who dropped to 2-4 on the year.

Brian Adams also quietly improved to 6-1, and it won’t be long before you see him pitching in affiliated ball somewhere. He pitched seven spotless innings, allowing three hits and walking just one.

The Patriots bullpen continues to be nothing short of scary, as Brandon Knight gave up a three-run home run to Vito Chiaravolloti and a solo shot to Stephen Doetsch in the eighth inning to make it a one run game.

But R.D. Spiehs came in and pitched a scoreless ninth for his seventh save of the year.

For options on who they can get to help their bullpen, Somerset need only look as far as the other dugout, as Casey Cahill and Jeff Tam are doing pretty well for pitchers unnecessarily jettisoned from the team. Tam gave up one hit and walked one in relief of Ulloa, and Cahill was flawless the other night.

Bears 5 @ Revolution 3: Newark got a nice outing from Gary Knotts and a home run and two RBI from Josh Arteaga to lead them to a 5-3 win in the third home game in Revolution history.

3,001 people attended the game. 3,001. Wow.

Kind of rough when you can’t sell out a stadium that just opened on a Father’s Day Sunday. Perhaps there might be some frustration from the fans about a stadium that’s still over two months away from being completed.

Camden, which has notoriously rough attendance numbers, hosted 4,689 fans on the same day.

As for the game, Arteaga was the only Bear with more than one hit.

Atlantic League Longball List: If these guys had a theme song, it might be Janet Jackson’s “We Go Deep” because they all went yard in yesterday afternoon’s action.

CAM – L.J. Biernbaum (12)
SOM – Mike Lockwood (10,11)
RW – Stephen Doetsch (7)
RW – Vito Chiaravolloti (5)
LI – Jared Price (1)
NWK – Josh Arteaga (1)

Redman Shining For Orioles: According to this Baltimore Sun article, former Revolution OF Tike Redman is making a case to get a call-up to the big league team. With the Orioles in an eight-game tailspin, it seems very possible.

Two Road Warriors In Can-Am: According to the Press of AC, the Atlantic City Surf have signed P Matt Scheuing and P Greg Runser. Runser was an All-Star closer for the Road Warriors in 2003, while Scheuing pitched there in 2006 after a stay with Lancaster the previous season. – Mike Ashmore

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Comments»

1. Paul - June 18, 2007

I’m not sure how the Somerset official scorer keeps doing it, but this is the second time he’s confused Alberto Castillo with Jeff Tam.

Castillo did pitch well… too bad Tam’s getting the credit.

2. Voltaire - June 18, 2007

Is that big name ever going to come, or did that fall through?

3. dmeluzio22 - June 18, 2007

I actually thought 3,000 fans on a sunday following two back to back sell outs (friday saturday) was pretty good.

4. BoosterBabe - June 18, 2007

Peanut butter, jelly and chips. I thought I was the only one…..

Frankly, just about anything good is better with the addition of peanut butter.

In college I was a big fan of pb, j and sour cream and onion chips. Seriously–don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! There’s just something about the salty plus savory onion, mixed with the sweet/salty of peanut butter, offset by the balance of the sweet jelly…it’s really something quite exceptional!

Ok, I’ve got newfound kinship to Jeff Nettles!

5. ycpgreazy - June 18, 2007

I’ve got a few of my photos from opening weekend in York up on my blog: http://www.thatsgoodworkoutofyou.blogspot.com. It really is going to be a great stadium.

6. KenD - June 18, 2007

Camden seems to be getting some nice crowds of late. Good to see. Would like to know where Newark is compared to last season. With no beer in the stadium their revenues have to be down.

7. BoosterBabe - June 19, 2007

Just heard that Jordan Pals was warming up in the bullpen in Camden for the Bluefish. Was he reactivated off the DL today?
Any news?

Thanks

8. AtlanticLeagueBaseball.com - June 19, 2007

Re: Big Name

He was supposed to arrive roughly two weeks ago, so at the moment you could probably consider it to be that it’s fallen through.

It may still happen, but I’m not holding my breath.

9. AtlanticLeagueBaseball.com - June 19, 2007

Re: Tam

Castillo is credited correctly in Somerset’s record, so it isn’t an issue with the official scorer. It is an issue with Sportsticker, and is similar to the issues they had with confusing Lucca and Lunar last year.


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