(Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
Lars Anderson leads the International League in walks and has a .397 OBP.
John Bowker from Indianapolis is batting .329 with a .388 OBP.
And George Anderson – Lars’ father – deserves some of the credit for each player’s success.
For the past four off-seasons, Anderson and Bowker have spent countless hours working on their swings in the batting cage that George built in the Anderson’s backyard when Lars was in high school.
(Photos courtesy of George Anderson)
“My dad is quite handy with tools and building stuff,” Lars told me. “Me and my dad both love to hit and we were going down to this raggedy batting cage down the street. Finally my dad said, ‘You know what? I’m going to build a batting cage.’ We had a little spot in the backyard between some berry bushes and some apple trees and he built it there. I didn’t have to mow that part of the yard anymore so it was sweet.”
“It’s a really nice cage,” Bowker said. “In the Sacramento area you get a lot of rain in the off-season and George keeps it in really good shape.”
Anderson and Bowker met through a mutual friend.
“I played with his cousin Mike Metzger in high school – he was a senior when I was a freshman – and he’s one of my all-time favorite teammates,” Lars said. “In my first off-season, Mike was home for Thanksgiving break and said, ‘Hey man, can I come over and take BP?’ I said, ‘Sure man, come on over.’ And he said, ‘Is it cool if I bring my cousin?’ I said, ‘Sure, bring him over.’ I knew that his cousin (Bowker) played for the Giants organization, so he came over and hit and we had a good time. Mike went back to college and John basically just kept coming over. He’s a workhorse and hits as much as you want to hit. He’s a lot of fun to watch.”
It should be pointed at that there’s no pitching machine in the Anderson’s batting cage – unless you want to refer to George Anderson as a “machine.”
“His dad has one of those arms where he can throw for hours at a time and doesn’t complain,” Bowker said. “So usually we’ll all hit and then we’ll throw to his dad afterwards because he still plays in adult leagues and likes to get a little batting practice in. It’s a lot of fun working out over there.”
“My dad used to throw batting practice to our entire high school team – that had to be a few hundred pitches – then he would pitch 7 innings in his men’s league,” Lars said. “Then the next day he would be throwing again. He always says that he’s hoping to be signed – I really think that the Red Sox should let him throw some BP. His left-handed BP is the best that I’ve ever seen.”
George’s rubber arm and the batting cage that he built have clearly been beneficial to both players in the off-season. But Bowker says that’s not the only reason he enjoys working out at the Andersons’ house.
“The most fun part is listening to Lars and his dad go back and forth because they’re pretty funny to listen to,” Bowker said.
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(Photo courtesy of Josh Whetzel)
A couple of days ago, I mentioned to PawSox General Manager Lou Schwechheimer that the Rochester Red Wings recently unveiled the “Whetzel Pretzel” in honor of broadcaster Josh Whetzel.
I jokingly asked Lou if there would soon be concessions items at McCoy Stadium named for the broadcast team of Hoard and Hyder.
Leave it to Lou to immediately race right to McCoy Stadium’s executive chef Ken Bowdish.
“He told me to make the most awesome sandwich for our best broadcaster and that’s what I tried to do,” Bowdish said with a laugh.
His creation is a humongous sandwich called “The SmorgasHoard.”
“It has three different layers,” Chef Bowdish said. “The top layer is a vegetarian layer with grilled zucchini, grilled squash, and onions. The next layer is barbeque chicken with provolone cheese. And the third layer contains deli meats like ham, roast beef, and turkey – plus cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onions.”
The SmorgasHoard is not recommended if you’re on a diet.
“It probably weighed about five pounds,” Bowdish said. “Plus, it was garnished with lots of fried stuff. Onion rings, fries…you know, all of the healthy stuff. I couldn’t even guess how many calories.”
But Ken was willing to guess a price if The SmorgasHoard is ever put on the concessions menu at McCoy.
“It would be about a $48 dollar sandwich,” Bowdish said.
My broadcast partner Steve Hyder was not forgotten.
The following night, Ken presented a tower of tasty delights known as “Hyder Slyders.”
The contents included the following:
A turkey burger with bacon, lettuce, and tomato.
A cheeseburger with cheddar and onion.
A buffalo chicken sandwich.
A salami and provolone sandwich.
And a sausage and peppers sandwich.
For good measure, the “Hyder Slyders” were topped with a chocolate cupcake and held upright by a bucket filled with deep-fried macaroni-and-cheese balls.
I hope they alerted the paramedics before dinner was served.
By the way, if the rest of the International League wants to borrow the concept, here are a few more I.L. broadcaster-inspired menu items:
Benetti Spaghetti (Jason Benetti, Syracuse Chiefs)
Vander Woude-grilled Pizza (Mike Vander Woude, Scranton/WB Yankees)
Socci Sushi (Bob Socci, Norfolk Tides)
Schaeffer’s Wafers (Jon Schaeffer, Lehigh Valley IronPigs)
Neil Parmesan (Neil Solondz, Durham Bulls)
The Weber Grill (Jim Weber, Toledo Mud Hens)
* * * * *
The PawSox have dropped 3 straight games to Indianapolis, and the last two losses were among the most difficult to digest (with or without Ken Bowdish’s culinary creations) of the 2011 season.
On Friday, the PawSox took a 3-1 lead to the 9th inning only to see Michael Bowden surrender a grand slam to Andy Marte in a 6-3 loss.
On Saturday, the PawSox built a 7-0 lead in the first two innings, before Indy stormed back for a stunning 9-7 win.
Pawtucket will look to salvage the final game of the 4-game series on Sunday night at 6:05, followed by a gigantic Fireworks Show.
I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 5:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
I’d love to hear from you. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I have finally joined Facebook. Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.