*Mariners pitcher Miguel Batista is an unusual dude. Lots of players write columns or diaries for newspapers, but Batista has a sideline as an honest-to-God professional writer: he's penned two Spanish-language books, a collection of poems (Sentimientos en Blanco y Negro) and a crime novel (Ante Los Ojos De La Ley). We selected Batista in the 1992 Rule 5 draft, and returned him shortly thereafter when our attempt to hide him at the back of the pen Meek-style proved unsuccessful. Apparently, however, we were interested in him a long time before that:
Dominican native Batista says it's nothing new for players from his country to lie about their age, something the sport has cracked down on in recent years as U.S. immigration laws became tougher. He says today's younger players from his country face pressures to lie because scouts have unrealistic expectations of them.
"They expect a kid who's 16 or 17 years of age to have a 95 mph fastball," he said. "How many Americans can do that? They're forcing kids to lie."
Batista says it wasn't the same way when he was coming up in the early 1980s. Back then, at age 15, he had only a 79 mph fastball but couldn't sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates because he was too young. He waited another year and landed a professional contract. -Geoff Baker, Seattle Times
If his dates on B-R are correct, we were looking at him in late '86 or early '87. He signed with the Expos ten days after his 17th birthday. He bounced around a fair bet after we sent him back, but he did eventually turn into a pretty good pitcher.
*Congratulations to longtime Pirate minor leaguer (and Altoona fan favorite) Josh Bonifay, who's in line to graduate with honors next month from UNC-Wilmington. A 33rd-round pick in 1999 (and the son of then-Bucs GM Cam), Bonifay had a pretty good bat, but medical issues gave him trouble on defense, and eventually led to his retirement in the spring of 2007. After Bonifay graduates, he's going to join the coaching staff at Hickory.
Back when Bonifay was still playing, he used to keep a player diary on the web, which I enjoyed reading. This 2003 interview in the much-missed Pirate Report is pretty good, too.
*In an interview about pitcher Brian Bannister, former Pirate coach Rusty Kuntz had an interesting observation about Matt Capps's approach:
Royals coach Rusty Kuntz told McClure that when he was with Pittsburgh, Pirates closer Matt Capps had the ability to decipher an opposing hitter's swing pattern and be able to pitch above or below it. That's one of the traits that so far has set Bannister apart, too. -Scott Miller, CBS Sportsline
Not sure whether it's true or not, but Capps certainly does get plenty of swings-and-misses.
*Jonesin' for a Clemente fix? You're in luck. PBS is going to show a new one-hour documentary on Senor Roberto this Monday night at 9, as part of their "American Experience" series. If you miss the broadcast, there's a webcast available here. On the downside, the director interviews George Will, but on the upside, it's narrated by Jimmy Smits, so that probably cancels out. If your tastes run more toward children's theater, and you're willing to take a road trip, there's a new play in DC called "Looking for Roberto Clemente" that's getting pretty good reviews.
*This isn't strictly Pirate-related, but I wanted to link to it anyway, so I am. A lot of good info there about the pay scale for minor-league players. Seriously, take a minute and look it over.
*Congrats to Charlie at Bucs Dugout, whose site just got linked (in an article about someone else) by the Washington Post.
*Another month, another new Pirates blog. Our army grows! Certainly can't argue with the title of this one...