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April 30, 2008 – Danny Graves Talks April 29, 2008

Posted by atlanticleaguenews in Uncategorized.

Graves Happy To Be Back In Affiliated Ball: The return to affiliated baseball has been somewhat of a rough road for former Long Island Ducks closer Danny Graves.

Graves, who is the Cincinnati Reds all-time saves leader with a whopping 182, made two National League All-Star teams thanks to his devastating curveball.

Last year, the curveball was still there, but the velocity wasn’t.

This year, he says he has both, and if he can put everything together, he still has a few good years left on a Major League mound.

I recently sat down with the 34-year-old before a recent New Britain Rock Cats game in Trenton, and we talked about a wide variety of topics…

Mike Ashmore: Having had the off-season to reflect on your year in the Atlantic League, what was your experience like there last year?

Danny Graves: I had a great experience, it was a lot of fun. It made me realize I still love the game. There were questions in my own mind whether I wanted to play anymore. Going to that league…obviously the competition is different than the big leagues, but I think there was still good competition throughout the league, and it made me realize that I could still be successful and have fun while I’m playing.

MA: Considering the impressive credentials that you have, were you surprised to have stay there the entire season?

DG: Yeah, I was actually, to be honest with you. I think a lot of guys on our team were surprised that we were stuck there the whole year. But it is what it is, it’s out of our control. You just do the best that you can, and hope that someone gives you an opportunity. If they don’t come out and see you, then they don’t know what they’re getting. They can look at your stats and your numbers as much as they want, but if they don’t come out and see you, then they don’t know. It is what it is. You can only control so many things, and somebody coming to pick us up is something out of control.

MA: Do you still keep up with the league at all, or keep in touch with any of your teammates?

DG: I still talk to the guys, I keep in touch with my friends. I’ll definitely keep in touch with them and see how things are going. I don’t know if I’ll follow the whole league, but I’ll follow the Ducks and my buddies on the team.

MA: It seems like you signed with the Twins at the last minute. How did that all happen?

DG: It turned out to be a little tryout camp. I got in touch with some of the guys in the front office, and they got me in touch with one of the scouts, and they got me in touch with the minor league pitching coordinator. I ended up coming out and throwing for them one day, and they pretty much liked what they saw. They figured a guy with experience, a veteran guy, if we can get him back on track, he could help us in the big leagues. So they decided to keep me around and work my way back up. So here I am, starting in Single-A, and now I’m in Double-A.

MA: So what was the plan for you if you didn’t sign with the Twins?

DG: Sit at home. That’s all I was doing during spring training. I didn’t want to, but I really had no other plans. I’ve had a couple offers to coach, but I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. I still have too much desire to play. They say don’t go into coaching unless you know for sure you don’t want to play, and I do still want to play.

MA: There are going to be some fans who pick up a roster and be blown away by the fact that Danny Graves is in Double-A. How have you personally been able to handle being moved through the farm system so slowly by the Twins?

DG: It doesn’t bother me at all. Pride has never been an issue for me. I know that I have a lot to prove. A lot of scouts and a lot of teams were down on me the last couple years, saying my velocity wasn’t there or whatever it may be. If I’ve got to prove and work my way through the system, then I’ll do it. I think in the long run, when I do eventually get back to the big leagues, this will be a nice chapter in my book if I do ever decide to write one. When I first signed, it took me a year to get to Triple-A. My first year of pro ball, I was in Triple-A. And now, I’m going through it again when I’m 34 years old. It’s kind of funny, but it doesn’t bother me at all. I think I’m here to try to get back to the big leagues, obviously, but I think I’m passing on some knowledge to some of the younger guys, too. A lot of them talk to me about the big leagues and talk to me about pitching, and I just try to do what I can and help them out the best that I can.

MA: Say I’m a scout sitting behind home plate, and I’m here to check out Danny Graves. What am I seeing?

DG: You’re going to see a guy that has competitiveness, and isn’t afraid to pitch to anybody in any situation. Full of heart. The problem is, scouts look for radar guns these days, and I don’t throw 95 anymore. A lot of them, that’s what they want to see. But I’m throwing 88 to 90 and getting people out. I have the heart of a lion, I have no fear. A lot of guys have way better stuff than me, but they’re afraid to pitch. I’ve never been scared to pitch.

MA: In terms of stuff, how do you feel now compared to where you were last season?

DG: I think right now, I’m way better than I was last year. My velocity is way better, my execution of pitches is way better. I think my mentality’s better now too. I think in the league last year, I was having a little too much fun instead of trying to play the game. Now, I think I have my mind right, and I have my head on straight. I think mentally, I’m a lot stronger now than I ever was.

Van Hekken Van Leaves Van Again: Ryan Dunleavy of The Courier News is reporting that Patriots P Andy Van Hekken is set to leave the team to pitch in Mexico. Perhaps in some sort of karma-related ordeal, he got knocked around in his start yesterday.

Van Hekken left the team to pitch in Taiwan last year, and comes back to make one start before leaving again? Why even bother? I’m all for guys making their money — since the league still inexplicably has a supposed $3,000 “guideline” for a max salary and will continue to lose guys to Mexico and Taiwan as a result — but for as well as the former Tiger’s departure was handled last year, it seems to be just the opposite this year.

It sort of works out for Somerset however, because Brian Adams can just slide into the starting rotation. But if the Brian Adams from 2007 is absent and the Brian Adams of 2008 who’s pitched non-stop since last year just doesn’t have it, the loss of Van Hekken will be big.

My guess would be that you’ll see either Frank Brooks or Scott Wiggins make a spot start before you see Adams just thrust into the rotation, but stranger things have happened…

Notes From The Bears Home Opener: When you have a good relationship with an organization, maintaining objectivity can be difficult at times.

With that said, I take little joy in saying that last night’s Bears home opener was — outside of the positive result on the field — a disappointment. While the announced crowd was somewhere in the vicinity of 5,500, a very good percentage of those people didn’t show, likely thanks to the cold and very windy conditions.

The ring ceremony was scrapped since there were no rings, and the banner raising was merely a small flag being erected by the right field parking garage. I don’t know where the blame falls on the ring thing, but that just sucks.

Alumni on hand included Matt Smith, Carlos Mirabal and former trainer Stacey Herrin, who was first introduced as Tracey.

During owner Marc Berson’s on-field comments, the mic cut out several times. Sadly, this wasn’t the case when a local politician was handed the mic, as he introduced Bluefish manager Tommy John as a Yankees legend. While this is true, essentially saying “Hey, how about a round of applause for the other team’s manager” seems awfully, awfully ill-advised.

Balancing out the bad with the good, the returning members of the 2007 title winning team and the attending alumni all gathered together around the Atlantic League trophy for a nice photo op.

Other on-field introductions and promotions ran smoothly, and the on-field high five line with the young kids high fiving the players as they ran past was a nice touch.

The team is expecting Jose Herrera to arrive late in the week, and several of the other visa players may arrive as early as late next week…

Bears Home Opener Photos:

Bluefish OF Bobby Darula (who, by the way, still hasn’t seen his commercial)

Bears hitting coach Ryan Jones

Bears INF Bobby Hill

Bears P Will Cunnane

Bluefish INF Henry Mateo

Bluefish C Brian Peterson, whose arm isn’t actually on fire…

Bluefish INF Calvin Pickering

Bluefish P Barry Hertzler

Patriots Are Thinking Pink: (Team PR) The Somerset Patriots and the Somerset Medical Center are hosting a special Breast Cancer Awareness Day at Commerce Bank Ballpark this Mother’s Day- Sunday, May 11th.

The event will begin with a Mother’s Day Brunch from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm on the Picnic Patio. Brunch tickets are $30 a person, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting The Steeplechase Cancer Center at Somerset Medical Center. There will also be a special kids (12 and under) brunch price of $15 for that day only.

The Patriots will have a special pre-game ceremony recognizing Breast Cancer survivors, volunteers, and representatives involved in the fight against Breast Cancer. The pre-game ceremony is scheduled for 1:00 pm and will include representatives from Somerset Medical Center, Breast Cancer survivors, and special guests.

The game against the York Revolution will begin at 1:35 pm. The first 2,000 women in attendance will receive a Pink Somerset Patriots Cap courtesy of Somerset Medical Center.

All Patriots players and coaches will be wearing pink Patriots jerseys that will be auctioned off during the game to benefit The Steeplechase Cancer Center at Somerset Medical Center. Fans can bid on the game-worn jerseys until the eighth inning with the highest bidder receiving the exclusive jerseys. Last year, the Patriots were able to raise over $7,000 from the jersey auction.

The Steeplechase Cancer Center at Somerset Medical Center and Susan G. Komen For The Cure will have a presence at the event to help create awareness about Breast Cancer.

“Following the success of our first Breast Cancer Awareness Day last season, we wanted build on the program and help keep the fundraising in our community. We felt that the Steeplechase Cancer Center was a great recipient of the fundraising and the perfect organization to help educate fans that day. We are very excited to help a great cause and welcome a lot of brave survivors to the ballpark this Mother’s Day,” said Patrick McVerry, President/ General Manager of the Somerset Patriots Baseball Club.

To participate in the Somerset Patriots and Somerset Medical Center’s Breast Cancer Awareness Day, please contact Marc Russinoff of the Somerset Patriots at (908) 252-0700 ext. 215.

Interview Schedule: Steve Foucault shares his thoughts on his pitching staff tomorrow, Tommy John and Jeff Scott talk Bluefish baseball on Friday, Calvin Pickering tells you whether he was close to accepting any of the previous offers Atlantic League teams had made to him on Saturday, and Randall Simon talks soccer, sausage and baseball on Sunday.- Mike Ashmore



1. Anonymous - April 30, 2008

Mike, I heard Camden played a vulgar video clip yesterday. Were you there?

2. Mike - April 30, 2008

Camden’s game(s) started at 5, so there’s no way I could have been there and in Newark…

So no, I wasn’t there.

3. Anonymous - April 30, 2008

Mike- What is your estimate of the number of fans physically at the Bears game????

4. Paul Blocklyn - April 30, 2008


Re the infamous Randall Simon sausage race incident (which I’m sure will be discussed in your upcoming interview), a friend of mine had this to say: “If he tries to take on Rippin’ Ruppert, he may have met his match! Ruppert ain’t no weenie!”

5. Anonymous - April 30, 2008

Odd scheduling for the Bears to start the season IMHO.
I could not make it for Opening Night so I figured I would go Wed. or Thurs.. Then I saw the start times for those games are 4pm & 11am. Then they are on the road for a week. Cannot do Wed & Thurs. due to work 😦


6. Anonymous - April 30, 2008

I would say there were about 2500 people in the stands.

7. Anonymous - April 30, 2008

so they didnt have rings, small flag, bad pregame ceremony, no one in the stands, owner’s mic cut out. sounds embarrasing. mike – do you still think its a good thing for the league as a whole for newark to win the championship like you said a few days ago?

8. Anonymous - April 30, 2008

2500 people isn’t no one. The pre-game ceremony was excellent from my opinion. I was in section 111 and it looked great. The flag also looks nice flying over their parking garage – maybe you should check it out some time instead of posting on websites on topics you have no idea about

9. Anonymous - April 30, 2008

They are flying the flag over the parking deck??? That’s OK…I remember when they used to have the flags of the other Atlantic League teams flying up there…Sounds like a good idea to me..

10. AtlanticLeagueBaseball.com - April 30, 2008

I’d estimate the crowd at around 2500, just like everybody else.

I still think the Bears winning the championship was a good thing for the league for all the reasons I said it was when I first wrote it.

Where they’re flying the flag wasn’t my point…I was just expecting the raising of it to be a bigger deal. Keep in mind, this is the fourth championship ceremony I’ve covered, so I have a good idea of what they look like…

11. Kevin - April 30, 2008

I came here to post that just a few hours ago I saw that commercial with Bobby Darula. I almost had an aneurysm when I saw an Atlantic League player on a national tv commercial. What’s the deal with that anyway?

12. Anonymous - April 30, 2008

Well, I think that 2500 on a night like last nite, when it rained all day, is pretty good….I couldn’t make it there, but as long as they raised a flag it’s a good thing…Hoping the Bears can draw some crowds this year…

13. www.BrickCityBruins.com - April 30, 2008

Just curious … why wasn’t pitcher Matt Sweeney recognized as a part of the 2007 championship team? His contributions to a winning season can’t be overlooked just because he got picked up in July.

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