Season Opener Eve…

Media Day is over, the long bus ride from Boise to the Willamette Valley is over, and in less than 24 hours, the 2012 Northwest League season will be underway.

Talking with manager Mark Johnson about Media Day, he said it resembled something you would see in the Big Leagues.  A large media pool talked with Johnson for a good 15 minutes, then waited to talk with hitting coach Bill Buckner for another 15 minutes – spending at least a half hour getting as much information from the players that they could.

One thing that the team noticed (that is, the four players who have been to Boise before), were the new alternate jerseys the team will wear on Friday night.

Today, it was a 10 a.m. departure from Boise – with an early stop in La Grande, Ore., for a pit-stop, which got Johnson talking about the days when his father was Chief of Police in the Grande Ronde Valley.  Unlike a typical trip – there was no timetable to arrive, so the team took their time – as stop at Bonneville Dam to check out their Sturgeon Center, with Buckner wishing he had his fly rod, as the trout were huge (dwarfed by the sturgeon).  Then it was a hike at Multnomah Falls (picture/video below), with the players enamored by the beauty of the towering waterfall just outside of Portland.  The view in the Columbia River Gorge of Mount Hood (pictured) was amazing.

After battling traffic in Portland and arriving in Salem, the final pregame dinner this year was the choice of pitching coach David Rosario – at Chang’s Mongolian Grill, one of my favorite restaurants in Oregon.  It was a fruitful dinner – as I was able to learn a lot about the team.

Tomorrow’s starter, Jose Arias (pictured right), has the potential to be something special.  The big righty sits 92-96 with his fastball, but Rosario feels that he will be able to hit 97 or 98 by the end of the summer.  He is comparitive to Jose Rosario, who had an outstanding second half of the season last year in Boise.  He mentioned that all five starters have the potential to be very good and is excited for the youthful line-up – Marco Hernandez will someday be a Big Leaguer, and Shawon Dunston Jr. played really, really, hard – just like his father did.

What I was even more impressed with was his talk about former Hawk, Javier Baez, who was promoted to Peoria a few weeks back and has had a great start to his Midwest League career.  “Rosy” said that Baez hit 10 homers in Extended and had amazing power and arm strength – he is the real deal and won’t just be a Big Leaguer, he will be a Superstar.  It will be exciting to have he and Starlin Castro – who’d play short, or who will move to either third or second.

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