So far it has been an extremely eventful off-season and we still have two months before reporting to Sarasota, for the last time, for spring training.  I have been keeping very busy working the same jobs as last fall, a customer service position at a fulfillment center in West Chester during the day, and giving private instruction at Champion’s Baseball Academy during the evenings. 

Everyday as I stroll into the fulfillment center and sit down at my call station, I feel a little piece of my soul weathering and dying.  I hope that isn’t too melodramatic, but after spending the past six months playing in front of sold out crowds in Dayton and signing autographs for adoring children and fans, coming back to a nine-to-five is definitely humbling; which I know isn’t always a negative thing, but does take some getting used to.  To balance out the negatives of the day job, I do have the privilege of spending my evenings with not only some hard-working kids but also a great group of current and former minor league players who share a strong passion for the game.  Besides Logan, some other instructors at Champion’s include Jay Johnson (Red Sox), Tony Maccani (Mets), Mark Haske (formerly of the Tigers), and Bob Reinchow (formerly of the Indians).

Private lessons represent the majority of the time I spend at Champion’s, however I am also assisting in camps and the head coach of a 10-year old team representing Champion’s at a holiday tournament being held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports from December 27 – January 1.  One of the high school camps I am helping with is being led by Scott Williamson.  I can’t imagine, thinking back to when I was 15 or 16, how big an impact working directly with a former World Series Champion/Rookie of the Year, would have made on me, let along a guy who can still hit 95-96 on the radar gun.  I hang around after our sessions and pick his brain about his approach and philosophy to pitching and try to absorb as much as I can.  Tom “Mr. Perfect” Browning is also conducting a martial arts-based conditioning program at Champion’s as well as private instruction.  Needless to say, there is a wealth of knowledge always around.

Champion’s was able to staff a booth at Redsfest last Saturday, as well as have access to the main event field for an hour of free instruction.  Logan and I went out to dinner the night before with Zach Cozart and Devin Mesoraco, but in between his autograph signing session and taking pictures with fans, I was able to steal some free time to catch up with Todd Frazier.  The event was great and I would definitely recommend it to all Reds’ fans, the lines were a little long on Saturday, so try and get there during the Friday night activities.  I was really looking forward to seeing Brandon Waring, who was slated to appear, but was no longer with the organization after being dealt in the Hernandez trade.  I wish Brandon the best of luck and hate to see him leave the Reds, because he is a good friend, but also because now I will have to face him in spring training.

I hope everyone was excited by Walt Jocketty’s announcement last Monday of the April 4th Futures’ Game at Fifth Third Field.  One of my definite goals for spring training is to be named as a representative for the minor league team.  The front office will probably want to go with a lot of the top prospects, but maybe my ties to the area and a solid spring will persuade them otherwise.

I want to wish everyone a very merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, joyful Kwanzaa, and a happy New Year!  Here is to a wonderful 2009.