APRIL 1, 2002
THE INDIANSí MANAGEMENT TEAM COULD HARDLY CONTAIN THEIR GLEE LAST NOVEMBER OVER THE BRILLIANT RE-SIGNING OF MEGA-SUPERSTAR CLOSER BOB WICKMAN TO A GLORIOUS 3-YEAR CONTRACT AS THEIR SUPREME STOPPER. BUT AS THE EXCITEMENT SUBSIDED, THE WHEELS OF TRIBE BRAIN-TRUST BEGAN TO TURN.
THREE YEARS CAN GO BY MIGHTY FAST, AND WICKíS NO SPRING CHICKEN (sorry, Bob). WHERE WILL THE TEAM TURN WHEN THAT SAD AND AWFUL DAY ARRIVES WHEN WICKMAN CAN NO LONGER CLOSE GAMES? THE HORROR.
WHERE DO YOU GO WHEN YOUíVE HAD THE BIGGEST, THE BADDEST, THE BEST? REPLACE BOB WICKMAN? NEVER. IMPOSSIBLE. CANíT BE DONE. OR CAN IT?Ö
Always on the cutting edge of baseball technology, always first to try a new direction, the Indians would turn to science for the answer.
Tribe intelligence had learned that with the proper amount of Bobís finger DNA, which is found in abundant supply in the hydraulic equipment at the Wickman farm, the master pitcher wouldnít have to be replaced. He could be duplicated into a closer for 2006, 2007 and beyond!
With a little revolutionary growth hormone and a steady diet of corn and dairy products, the Tribe gave new meaning to the term "player development", with the diabolical experiment resulting inÖ
WICK JUNIOR: PINT SIZE HURLER.
By the wildest stroke of luck, the Wickmanís Warriors Empire just happened to have a free-lance reporter residing in the northern Wisconsin farm country.
Philbert K. Ledbeddor was suspicious of the small baseball diamond and mini-park built deep in the woods outside of Abrams. After a few stakeouts of the hidden facilities, he managed to finagle an interview with the sawed-off flame-thrower and became the bumpkin who scooped the baseball world.
EXCERPTS FROM THE EXCLUSIVE LEDBEDDOR INTERVIEW:
Close-up of a sawed off Closer
Text by PHILBERT K. LEDBEDDOR
Photos by J. L.
Each closer handles the preparation and intense pressure of game day differently. For the Tribeís prized pitching prospect Wick Junior, game day is an interesting journey that has him making several stops before reaching the mound.
Wicky Jr. gets home from school at around 3PM. He has just enough time for a light yet nutritional snack before itís off to the mini-park for his nightly simulated game.
"My usual pre-game meal consists of a large cereal bowl of chocolate coated sugar bombs washed down with half a liter of classic coke. This gives me enough energy to collect my thoughts and focus in on the early innings of the game. I usually stop shaking around the bottom of the third."
Junior watches the fourth and fifth innings on TV while stretching his back and getting his arm rubbed down.
"I try to get a feel for the strike zone, to pick up the flaws of the hitters, and to see what the umpire has been calling before I get out there. If itís a really dull game, I switch channels and try to catch a rerun of the Ren and Stimpy Show."
TO THE PEN
At the onset of the sixth inning, Wicky J rides his bike through the back tunnels and behind the left-field wall to the bullpen. There he meets with himself every day before he might go in and pitch.
"When a guy steps to the mound to warm up, you know thereís no talking to him until he talks to you. Out there, no one speaks to me but me."
Junior begins his warm-ups by throwing his patented four and a half finger super-sonic sinking screwball. Unlike his mentor, the Big Guy, Wick Jr. waited until he was seven before going to the compressor for that extra sink on his pitches.
"Itís a personal preference really, not that 7 is a lucky number or anything. Iím not superstitious. Some guys are different. I wanted to build more strength in my hand before I jammed it into a major piece of farm machinery."
The proper chaw helps put Wicky J in the zone for the ninth.
"Getting the competitive juices flowing is crucial before going into battle. Sugar Babies and Milk Duds just donít last out there. Iíve found that drinking a pint of milk and tearing off a wad of Tootsie Roll in the eighth gives me the perfect spit consistency to close out - kinda like a blend of raw egg whites and head-cold snot."
After the game, the Jr. Wickster shakes hands and goes to ride his bike, exercise, and lift weights. As a rule, he does not ice, which puts him in the pitching minority.
"Most days I just ride my bike for about 20 minutes to keep the blood flowing to get a good flush going and keep my arm fresh. Sometimes I lift weights to keep my right arm strong. The folks up here were kind enough to give me a 5lb. spoon.
Some guys swear by icing after a game, but it just doesnít seem to work for me. I rarely ice after an outing, unless itís a really hot day and my sno-cone melts down my arm."
Win or lose, WJís almost always the last player to leave.
"During the summer I donít have to get up for school the next day, so I can hang out until about 9 or 9:30. After that it gets really dark and scary out here. If I donít go out for ice cream with the boys, I usually just go home and curl up with a good book.
MAKING A MOVE
Wick Jr. will be moving to Cleveland in the very near future.
"Now that the catís out of the bag about me, the Indians want me to train at Jacobs Field Ďcause the facilities are so much better. At age seven, Iíve already done everything there is to do in Wisconsin anyway."
AN INFORMAL ONE-ON-ONE
P. K. Ledbeddor and Wick Junior
PK: Thatís quite a set of whiskers you got there, son.
JR : Us Wicks are gifted with great maturity. Itís the source of our pitching prowess and our steely demeanor; the reason we never get rattled under pressure. ĎCourse the flip side is Iíll probably be bald by the time Iím twelve.
PK: Are you saying that Wicks donít age well?
JR : On the contrary. We age quite well. Look at Big Bob- heís aging like crazy.
PK: I hear youíre a huge football fan. Whoís your favorite team, the Packers?
JR : Theyíre OK, but I like the Browns the best. I like a team with some history and tradition.
PK: What do you really want to be when you grow up?
JR : Either a big league closer or a carpenter, which ever pays more.
PK: Does the Big Guy ever share any words of wisdom with you?
JR : Big Bob says not to throw breaking balls Ďtil I get older and my arm gets stronger. Heís got some great advice. Iím just gonna follow in his footsteps and practice as much as I can. If I can be half the ballplayer he is, I know Iíll be successful.
PK: Youíre already there son. Yes sir. Youíre already there.
Introduction of Wick Junior to the world last month via P.K. Ledbeddorís
groundbreaking article has left the Wickmanís Warriors command center deluged
with a flood of emails. All three of them asked the same question: ď Is the
Wicky-J 4Ĺ finger super sonic sinking screwball a legal pitch?Ē Letís go
directly to the pint-sized runt for an explanation:
4S pitch is technically legal only in New York and Wisconsin. A lot of batters
feel uncomfortable having a ball delivered to them at 92MPH that has nuts and
bolts attached to it (George
wrong with that?"),
so I basically use it just for warm-ups, much like using a weighted bat
for batting practice. Once a ball hits the ground in Yankee Stadium itís
immediately covered with seagull droppings, rat hair, and broken glass anyway, so itís no big deal.
The pitch has also been used at Milwaukeeís Miller Park (on Players Moms' Night - attendance: 9) but everyone there just watched the roof open and close for 3 hours.Ē
Warriors trading cards provided courtesy of
Jimmy Havran Enterprises of Norwalk, Ohio