Wednesday, March 30, 2005
DISCUSSION QUESTION OF THE WEEK - 2005 TWINS PREDICTIONS
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
Good morning again! I hope you all had a Happy Weekend and a great weekend. Not to rub it in again, but as you're reading this, I am in Florida. Sorry! :)
Anyway, today we continue with our Guest Columnists. Be sure to stop by again tomorrow when another guest will write for me!
But today, our guest columnist is Corinne Balfour. Corinne is the sister of Twins relief pitcher Grant Balfour. I was able to see Grant at the Twins Caravan in Thief River Falls a couple of months ago and wrote about the day. Corinne happened to read that article and wrote to me. We have exchanged a few e-mails and I thought it would be fun and interesting if she would have an opportunity to write about not only her brother but also their native country, Australia. So I certainly hope that you enjoy this as much as I have!
GUEST COLUMNIST: CORINNE BALFOUR
My Brother Grant
Seth has conned me into writing a short article whilst he is on holidays down in Florida, by suggesting I should be a ‘guest writer’! You Americans sure know how to talk it up!
Anyway, seeing as I’ve been given the opportunity to have my name in lights instead of Grant’s for a change, I thought I would jump at the chance!
Baseball ‘down under’ is way, way different to baseball in the States. Australia’s whole population is only 20 million! We’re the largest island and smallest continent in the world and our largest city, Sydney, has only 4 million people. Not a huge gene pool for major league baseballers!!
Sydney is where my family is from. It is a sprawling city best known for its magnificent harbour, which is further embellished by the Opera House, with its famous sail-shaped roof and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which joins the southern side of the city to the northern shores.
Sydney is a multicultural city with its inhabitants sharing beautiful beaches, parks, museums, theatres and restaurants. It has a cosmopolitan feel with a warm, welcoming atmosphere. It is in this laid-back environment that Grant grew up.
It would be remiss of me not to add the fact that Australia’s capital city, Canberra, is built around a man-made lake, which was designed by an American named Walter Burley Griffin!
As Grant’s maternal grandparents are English, it was obvious that he would be introduced to the sport of soccer at a very young age. At just 4 1/2 years old, Grant ran around a mini soccer field. His team looked like a swarm of bees around a honey pot. Don’t worry about playing in position here, boys, let’s all just chase that ball!
The seasons changed and my parents decided that this over-active youngster needed some discipline in the form of a summer sport. A game called T-Ball was suggested although neither Mum nor Dad had any idea what it involved. Mum went down to register Grant’s name for this ‘new’ game and whilst she was there, she put Dad’s name down, too. If Grant was going to play, then Dad may as well coach! Our whole family became engrossed in the game, with all of us playing and coaching at some stage over the next twenty years. Whilst his grandparents still love their soccer, baseball now has preference in their household, too. Even though Grant no longer plays in Sydney, they still go along to support their local team, every week.
Grant went on to represent at various levels of Australian baseball. We had many a fun holiday, travelling to watch Grant play against other states. In those days, Grant was a catcher so it was fairly late in his playing days that he became a pitcher. We were all extremely proud of Grant when he played in our National League but unfortunately, this competition was not viable in a country where cricket is the national sport. The league folded but Minnesota scouts had already been keeping an eye on Grant so he was signed to play, many miles from home.
In the Year 2000, Grant represented Australia at the Olympic Games, in front of his home crowd, here in Sydney. What a huge thrill for our athletes! I will never forget heading out to Olympic Park everyday, on the train, to watch my brother represent his country. We have one of his Olympic shirts framed and hanging on the wall, at home. His grandparents have another. I was also lucky enough to see Grant represent the World team in the 2001 Futures game at Safeco Field, Seattle.
We follow Grant’s games as best as we are able. There is very little baseball on TV here. We pay to watch it through the MLB site but of course, the games are mostly played whilst we are at work. We are also able to listen through the Game Day option on the Twins site. We watch Sportscenter every night but of course, we don’t want to see the home runs in case Grant was the pitcher! Occasionally we get a Twins game through payTV so these we record and cherish. We just hope that Grant pitches in one of these televised games!!
Whilst it isn’t exactly ideal for a baseball family who has a son or brother playing overseas, we wouldn’t change it for the world! Grant loves what he does and we love him for it.
I want to again thank Corinne for taking the time to discuss her brother Grant Balfour as well as much about Australia. The Twins have done an incredible job scouting in Australia. Grant Balfour has been the most successful Twins player from there so far, but don't forget that Michael Nakamura and Brad Thomas both pitched for the Twins and are both from Australia. Current Twins minor leaguers from Australia include Glenn Williams, Trent Oeltjen, Brett Tamburrino and Luke Hughes. I don't know about you, but I really found it all very interesting and fun to read! If you have any questions or comments, please be sure to e-mail me.
Have a great day and be sure to stop by tomorrow for another guest writer!
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
I'm not here. So, I decided to enlist the help of our good friend David Bergner. You may know him as The Baseball Savant. He is another American Idol buff, so I'm sure you'll enjoy what he has to say about last night's performances! Thanks David!
What an honor it is to be writing for Seth in his absense! I was given the enviable task of writing my thoughts on American Idol and I won't make any apologies for it. To be honest, Seth actually has an idea of what is going on with singing and the American Idol contestants, whereas I usually talk a lot of smack with pretty much no clue on what real singing is all about. My only criteria is whether or not I like it. So without further ado, let's get to it.
#1 - Bo Bice
In my opinion, not one of Bo's best performances although the judges did seem to like it. I'm in the minority here but I thought last week's performance by Bo was off too giving him 2 weak performances in a row. He's definitely one of the judges favorites and even Randy said that he hopes a rocker wins it this season. I can't say that I agree.
Could Bo really succeed as the American Idol? I don't think so!
#2 - Jessica Sierra
Jessica sang something by LeAnn Rimes that Simon didn't like too much.
Jessica is by far my favorite contestant because she's by far the most curvy if you smell what the Savant is cookin'! I thought she sounded great tonight but it definitely wasn't as sexy as last week's rendition of "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Simon said that Jessica didn't have the "likeability" factor that some of the other contestants have, but the Savant likes what he's seeing! Me likey a lot. Did I mention I vote for her 30 times after each show?
#3 - Anwar Robinson
This guy is terrible. Every week he wants to sing some inspirational ballad and I almost spewed my coffee when he started singing R Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly." OK we get that you are a teacher and you have this illconceived perception that you are a role model. Of course, Paula loved it which isn't surprising but Randy and Simon called him out by saying he's just average except for a couple of good notes on every song. Outside of the rockers, Anwar is probably favored to win it among the guys, but how can he possibly be better than Scott Savol or even Nikko Smith? His eyes just scare me.
#4 - Nadia Turner
I liked Nadia early on in the compeition but at this point, I'm not feeling her anymore. As far as vocals are concerned, she's a lot weaker than the other 3 girls and while she's a decent entertainer I suppose, I don't think she's as good as the judges are giving her credit for. Yeah she has some original hair and she sings a little gruffer than the other girls, but big deal. She sang a song by Melissa Etheridge this week and although I thought that a song like that was more in her wheelhouse than "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" it didn't sound that good. Etheridge has that voice that sounds like she's smoked a couple of packs a day for about a decade and it sounds like Nadia isn't a smoker. I don't smoke, but maybe Nadia should pick up the habit.
#5 - Constantine Maroulis
Oh the horror! The other part of the rocker duo along with Bo Bice, he's easily not as good as Bo, but apparently he has a smoldering look, or so Simon Cowell says. I'm sick of Constantine's schtick and I wish the people would vote him out. What I hate the most about Constantine is that after he gets done singing he makes a little phone out of his pinky and thumb on his hand and mouths, "Call Me" when Ryan Seacrest is giving people the information they need to vote for Constantine if they so choose. Let's hope people quit choosing!
#6 - Nikko Smith
When I heard Nikko bust out a little Tevin Campbell I got excited because back in the day I was a big fan of Tevin. Simon said that Nikko did a very good job of copying the original and there seemed to be some confusion on whether or not that was a compliment but how could it not be? Each one of these performers are copying somebody elses work so sounding like the original can't necessarily be a bad thing. Of all the performers on the show, Nikko is the closest thing to an American Idol they have. His song was amazing tonight and I loved it. He could stand to learn to dance a little better, but that would be picking nits.
#7 - Anthony Federov
I wonder what kind of glitch in the matrix happened so Federov is in the final 10 of this contest? He's got a nice story, but that's it and I hope he departs soon. Federov was in the bottom 3 last week and I can't see how he can avoid it this week. The best way I can describe Federov's performance is that when he came on, I just hit the mute button and did something else. Just horrible. One of the things that is kind of sad about American Idol is when the performer is visibly stunned by what the judges say. Last week you could tell that Nadia Turner was really shook up after what Simon said and the same was true of Federov tonight. After Simon was finished with his critique, you could almost see Federov trying his hardest not to break down.
#8 - Carrie Underwood
Carrie is a little different because, like Jessica, she has a powerful voice that sounds fantastic, yet she's probably going to be a country star rather than a pop idol. Given the right songs, I could see her carving out a little Kelly Clarkson type of career, but she definitely doesn't have that sex appeal about her the way Kelly has developed or the way Jessica already has. She's obviously one of the judges' favorites so that is always a good thing. Carrie is great but I don't see how she fits in over the long haul.
#9 - Scott "The Body" Savol
If I could implement one rule to the American Idol contestants it would be for the girls to never sing Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, or Mariah Carey and for the guys never to sing Brian McKnight. How can you possibly sound good when the audience is comparing you to those singers? Scott attempted to sing "One Last Cry" by McKnight and I was scared from the beginning. That beginning wasn't too good and it wasn't fantastic afterwards. Scott definitely has some fans but once Federov is gone, there isn't much standing in the way for Scotty the Body to find the exit.
#10 - Vonzell Solomon
Vonzell is so hot it's ridiculous! Vonzell broke my above rule by trying to sing a song by Whitney Houston, but she broke the rule and got away with it. I like everything about Vonzell, with singing being pretty far down on the list if you smell what the Savant is cookin'! She can sing, she knows karate, and she gets hotter every week. What more can you ask for?
My rankings for this week would be:
Honestly, it's hard to rank them at this point. Of the 10, I think Vonzell and Nikko are most American Idol like with Carrie and Jessica being the best singers but probably more attuned to the country scene.
Bo and Constantine are rockers and I don't think Anthony, Anwar, Nadia, and Scott don't have the right look. I have Anwar, Nadia, and Anthony being in the bottom 3 this week with Sergei leaving. I could see Jessica being in the bottom three and possibly leaving however.
That would be extremely disappointing on my end seeing that I'm on her bandwagon.
Thanks a lot to Seth for giving me the opportunity to write for him!
DISCUSSION QUESTION OF THE WEEK - 2005 Twins Predictions
OK, I am going to get home next weekend and will be really busy getting caught up. So, on Monday, I will be posting my thoughts on the 2005 Minnesota Twins season. I need your help though. I want your thoughts on what the Twins will do in 2005. So, here are some questions to consider, and again, simply e-mail me your answers to the questions or anything else you would like to write about the Twins upcoming season. Use the questions as a starting point. Here were my thoughts going into last year.
How many Wins will the Twins record this year? Where will they place in the division?
Will Johan Santana duplicated his 2004 season?
Which other pitchers will step-it-up in 2005?
Who will disappoint?
Can Joe Mauer stay healthy and, if so, what will he do this year?
What are your predictions for Justin Morneau?
Which hitter will step up?
Who will disappoint?
Who will be the Twins leader in:
Which minor leaguer will have the most impact on the Twins in 2005?
What would you say that X-Factor is for the team?
What storylines are you hoping to read?
Again, I would appreciate your help with this question and Monday's article. Here's how it works. I will post these questions the rest of the week. Please think them over and then send me an e-mail with your answers/response. Then on Monday, your thoughts will be posted on this site. Thanks for your help!
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