Much of the same is great for Lemurs' Chavez

12/28/2016 1:21 PM - Devo

As with any Independent league player, you must put up some impressive numbers to get noticed and that's what he's done year after year.

It was over three years ago that Zane Chavez have realized his dream of signing a professional contract with a MLB affiliate. This time, the Pittsburgh Pirates have given him a second chance.

In his first Indy go around, Chavez signed with the Baltimore Orioles organization after batting .339 for the Grand Prairie AirHogs and El Paso Diablos of the American Association. In two years split between rookie ball, High-A, and Double-A, the former Royals draft pick hit a combined .282 with 13 home runs and 67 RBI including a .362 OBP. 2013 saw him as the starting catcher in the 2013 Carolina League All-Star Game, but after an unfortunate 14 games in Bowie the following season (.167) he received his release, setting this whole thing in motion.

When Chavez returned to the AA, it was if he didn't miss a beat. His third stint with the AirHogs was pretty darn good if you ask me. He didn't hit for the same average (.288) but his ability to drive in runs was as consistent as it's always been.

2016 was much of the same except for the fact he hit more home runs this year than he ever did in any of his six Indy years (6). Considering he only suited up for 70 games with 30 less plate appearances than the previous campaign, his 17 doubles were good enough to lead the team. He also placed fifth in RBI (38), and sixth in home runs.

It's rare when Indy players make it all the way to an MLB field, but it's almost unheard of when someone goes for two stints in unaffiliated ball and gets picked up for a second time. I've said it once and I'll say it again; Independent baseball delivers quality players. They just need an opportunity. Players at that level are playing for the love of the game and has nothing to do with the dollar. Chavez is a prime example of someone who will continue to buck the odds until he can't play anymore. 

If that doesn't motivate you, I don't know what will.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

 

Lydia Dziubanek: Proof that one moment can change your life

12/18/2016 8:36 PM - Devo

Lydia Dziubanek is a mom, a sister, a daughter, a teacher, and my friend.

We both attended York College beginning in the summer of 1997 and I can almost positively say that we met in a lineup to purchase our meal plan cards. We stayed friends, but as with anything, you go different ways and hang out in different groups. However, Lydia is one of those genuinely nice people who always had a smile on her face. You could start a conversation at any given time with her about anything. Whether it was a chat during a game of ping-pong in the student lounge or after one of my baseball games, you always knew what you were going to get.

After school everyone goes their separate ways and you lose touch. It’s a fact of life. But, today you can reconnect on almost any social platform. That’s what happened to us. We re-connected on facebook, liked each other’s pictures etc…until one day I watched a video she posted. It was an extremely revealing and humbling video where she discussed her battle with abuse, depression and suicide. I was floored when I saw it, but so very happy to know that an unscheduled stop at Anytime Fitness changed her life.

Here is the video

The GM’s Perspective: Lydia, it’s been almost 15 years since the last time we met/spoke. I was floored when I saw the video and had no idea what you were going through. What led you to Anytime Fitness and what do they mean to you?

Lydia Dziubanek: Anytime Fitness means the world to me. It’s a safe place to go and workout and it fights the anxiety and stress that we face everyday. That stress, at one point, led me to a dark place. I don’t remember when I made the decision that night to go in to Anytime Fitness as opposed to committing suicide. Since walking through that door, they’ve been nothing but supportive and continue to help me reach my goals. They’ve helped me realize that I’m tougher than I ever realized I could be. For me, when life gets hard and I’m dealing with those struggles, the best thing for me is to take advantage of the fitness tool.

GMs: How are you feeling now?

LD: It’s been three years and to be completely honest, I still have days when I’m sad and I’m not as healthy as I’m supposed to be, but now I have the tools to counteract those feelings. I’m never going to be in a place where I feel overwhelmed and trapped and I don’t know how to get out of it. I know that I’m stronger and I know what to do. I’m much happier, healthier, and in control and that’s all due to exercising and getting my priorities in order. You set small goals and you smash them and you feel stronger. That also translates into other part of your life.

GMs: In your video you talk about how you implement this into your day-to-day role as a teacher. You set goals for your students to go home and have their parents take part in an exercise program. How did that start?

LD: That’s one of the most exciting things that’s come from all this. Before I started exercising and when I was going through all my turmoil, I didn’t have any background or training in fitness and I wasn’t sure how to get my students to stay physically fit in new and exciting ways.

In California, we have 100 minutes of required fitness a week in school. I would just take them outside and let them run around or have an extra recess. It was boring for all of us. When I started to going to the gym I wanted to make fitness exciting for them. In this age of handheld technology, they just go home and watch a screen; they never really take part in   outdoor activities like we used to do. So I started to administer the boot camp strategies I was learning at Anytime on a daily basis. Needless to say, the kids loved it. To see them love it was really exciting. And those who didn’t enjoy P.E. were getting into it.

At the end of the day I would give them challenging homework ie. Go home and teach one of your parents, or both, the skills you learned in boot camp this week and film it. They would bring the video to class to get credit for their homework, but also get extra credit!

GMs: Is this something you started on your own?

LD: The first two years was on my own. I had to apply for multiple grants in and outside of the district to get the equipment. It was such an arduous process that I was paying for everything myself until we got the approvals. I even bought the kids t-shirts that said: SEAL Fitness Boot Camp. SEAL stands for Students Excited About Lifetime Fitness. On the back, dog tags identified them as trainers!

In the third year, other fourth grade teachers (I teach fourth grade) wanted in. We started day one with all the kids separated into four quadrants during P.E. time. We even had some parents donated in addition to fourth grade level funds so that all the kids got a boot camp shirt.

GMs: How much of a role did your three amazing children play a part in your daily grind to stay physically fit?

LD: My three boys are my life. They’re my whole world. As a single mom with three boys I have to stay fit to keep up with them. More than that, going to the gym and being focused helps me stay mentally strong for my kids. I have patience and more confidence as a result of it. I want my kids to know that when life gets hard, as it will, they can do some sort of physical activity to get out their stresses. They see that mom is fit and that should be important to them also.

GMs: Other things you touched on were abuse in your relationship, depression, and suicide. What advise do you have for people who are struggling with this and don’t have the outlet like you had/have?

LD: The hardest part about any kind of abuse or depression is the stigma of not talking about it, don’t show that your struggling, and don’t show that you’re weak.

In the relationship I was in, I was so embarrassed about how I was allowing myself to be treated. When I was around family, friends, or strangers I put on a smile and pretended everything was OK. You don’t want to admit that you made a bad choice or admit that you’re extremely sad and contemplating taking your life. We’re not comfortable letting those feeling out in the open. Unfortunately, you hold all these feelings in and the more trapped you feel.

My advice is to figure out some way to exercise and get those feelings out. When I walked into the gym and told Mike (my now current trainer) that I need you to help me not kill myself, he never told anyone. He never shared my secret. Not until last spring, the owner of the gym wanted to submit my name for Anytime Fitness Member of the Year, did I share my whole story. Just find that one person to help you breathe. But remember, it’s not JUST about exercise, it's finding a person or people who will motivate you and keep you accountable to keep you going.

GMs: What’s been the response to your video?

LD: It’s been amazing. I won the Anytime Fitness award and they flew me out to New York. They showed my video in front of thousands in attendance. Once I accepted the award I had to speak!! I was terrified, but almost immediately people came up to me and started to open about what was going on in their lives. It was so overwhelming to me, but in such a positive way.

I’m also very passionate about suicide prevention and even created a Fitness and Suicide Prevention Awareness page on facebook. It only has around 90 likes, but it’s the connection that matters. I’ve arranged a “Walk and Talk” for the second Saturday of every month. Anyone in the community can come and support suicide prevention. We walk around the track for 30 minutes and just talk to each other.

GMs: This shows that the positivity you are putting out there is making a difference and that’s a wonderful thing Lydia. I know we haven’t spoken in quite some time, but it feels like we never stopped. I couldn’t be more proud of you and you are not only an inspiration to me, but for countless others. I’m sure of that.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

Canseco joins Ankiel and Wild Thing in Legends Game

12/13/2016 12:28 AM - Devo

It's as glorious as you think it is!

The Normal CornBelters, in association with McLean County Orthopedic, announced that Jose Canseco is the latest participant in their 2nd annual Legends Game on July 29, 2017. Canseco and this crew will definitely drum up some interest. Also on the roster is former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher/outfielder Rick Ankiel, former WWE United States Champion, Ron “R-Truth” Killings, ex-Chicago Cubs infielder, Mike Fontenot, and ex-Phillies closer, Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams.

Ankiel was one of the hardest throwing left-handers in the game when his ability to throw a strike disappeared. A second-round pick by the Cardinals in the 1997 amateur draft, Ankiel was second in ROY voting behind Rafael Furcal in 2000. With 194 strikeouts in 175 innings, his ceiling was sky high, but a year later his career was turned upside down. The next few years saw him battle injuries and completely reinvent himself as a dangerous left-handed bat. In his late 20's he started dropping bombs and gunning out runners in spectacular fashion. His is a fascinating story of desire and determination.

Killings has been in pro wrestling for a long time. He's always been a fan favourite, won multiple championships, and has seen extraordinary success in various organizations (TNA/WWE). Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI) even named "R-Truth as tag-team of the year with Kofi Kingston in 2012. In addition to his skills in the ring, Killings has even achieved some good fortune in the music industry releasing two studio albums (2003/2016).

Fontenot played over seven years in the bigs and is one of those players that never gets the headlines, but a guy everyone wants on their team. A former first-round pick of the Orioles, the versatile infielder put together some really good numbers considering he never really played a full season Only once did Fontenot play in more than 130 games, but when he took the field he was grinding out quality AB's; (.265 career average) and made all the plays in the field. His .974 fielding percentage would rank him in the top 50 all-time if he played 58 more games to qualify. He was also a member of the 2010 World Series winning San Francisco Giants.

Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams! The name says it all. He'll always be remember as the guy who gave up the home run to Joe Carter in 1993, but that one moment shouldn't define the career of a guy who averaged 21 saves a year over his 11 year MLB career. He was an All-Star (1989), top 10 in Cy Young voting twice (1989/1991) and top ten in MVP voting in 1989. Wild Thing was exciting, threw gas, and will always have a place in baseball history. Good or bad how many people can say that?

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

 
 

Warren Morris delivers the greatest walk off in college history

12/02/2016 7:22 AM - Devo

There's never really anything better than watching that one play that turns a game around, turns the momentum, and is absolutely epic in the moment.

College athletics has a different feel to it. I admit, watching the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians was what we all wanted. They turned in a Game 7 for the ages, but something gets lost in all the excitement. When all is said and done, the end of the playoffs means contract negotiating and labour strife. The players saying that it's all about the game and hometown discounts are making decisions based purely on the dollar bill.

Look at the Michigan/Ohio State game last Saturday. Playoff hopes were on the line, bragging rights were at stake, and amateurs were making countless blunders on the biggest stage in the world and it couldn't have been any better. There's an innocence behind the machine that is collegiate sports. Watching Tom Brady flawlessly pick apart defences is a thing of beauty, but watching college players make multiple mistakes and get back back up after feeling the wrath of their peers is somehow more important.

Most of us never get that shining moment but we all have that dream of being the champ even if it's for a short time. I always go back to my college days and remember just how much that had an impact on my life. Of course I wanted to play pro, but the thought of money or stardom was never the motivating factor when I was on the field. I wanted to compete against my peers. I wanted to win. I wanted to be the best person to step on that mound at that exact time. We all love our sports, and there's so many flashes of brilliance that it's almost impossible to choose the greatest, but i'm gonna pick my favourite, the one I believe epitomises everything about what makes those days so appealing.

In the summer 1996 I was entering my last year of high school and beginning the process of applying to US schools and trying to land a scholarship. I was sitting on my parents living room floor watching the Miami Hurricanes battle the LSU Tigers in the College World Series. Obviously it was a great game, but little did I know I'd be witnessing history.

Robbie Morrison, probably the greatest closer in Hurricane history, picked the wrong time for his first blown save of the year. Warren Morris, the number nine hitter who missed 39 games due to a wrist injury, hits a game winning two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to give the Tigers their 3rd championship of the 90's. It was also his first home run of the year. I challenge you not to get goosebumps when you watch it...it's impossible. The home run is so epic, it's immortalized outside of TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Morris' blast was also featured in ESPN's SEC Storied series affectionately known as The Walk Off

When you sit back and think about it, something as simple as a long fly ball can change your life. In a split second, the player least likely to pull a rabbit out of his hat, delivers one of the most magical home runs in the history of college baseball. Automatically you visualize Bill Mazeroski's 1960 walk off, Kirk Gibson's Game 1 blast of Dennis Eckersley, and Joe Carter's World Series winner.

There's these flashes of brilliance that we only see so often but when we do they are ingrained in us for a lifetime. I can still see it to this day, sitting there thinking Morrison had this in the bag. With no ill will toward the Hurricanes closer, I'm glad I was wrong.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

 
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