Saturday, August 16, 2008

The one and only Justin Cardinal

We stumbled upon an eerie and amazing coincidence regarding Israel Baseball League veteran Justin Cardinal last week, after the former outfielder for the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox stood up publicly to the IBL’s elusive executives after a series of bounced paychecks.

A cursory Google search revealed there were two Justin Cardinals, both ballplayers from Canada, both born in 1982-- "was," because one of them, a pitcher, had his career and life cut short in a tragic highway accident in 2002.

Much had been written about the late Justin Cardinal. Of the one who turned 26 on Thursday, not so much, leading some of our more imaginative followers to suggest that one may have taken the name and credentials of the other (just like you see in the movies).

We got in touch with the IBL’s Justin Cardinal and he filled us in:

What an eerie coincidence! I understand you're from Ottawa; the other Justin was from Alberta. Have other people brought up the coincidence before?

No one I know ever talked to me about it except those that I brought it up with once I found out about it randomly some day a couple of years ago.

What's your story?

I was born here in Ottawa, Ontario Canada.

I went to Sir Wilfrid Laurier S.S., but they didn't have a baseball team.

Before the IBL, I played men's league here in town for a few years after coming out of AAA midget ball when I was 18-19.

This AAA team was really the highest quality of ball I had ever played in, and it took me on many different trips to cities as far as 13 hour drives (West Virginia). This coach was really the only one to ever take a chance on me. That year, in 111 plate appearances, I hit .370 with an on-base average of .550 and four home runs. It was by far the season I'm most proud of, mainly because I was basically on a team of all-stars, and was still top five in those offensive categories.

The reason I know I did so well that season was because of how many games I ended up playing in. Every single year, I start off poorly, but once mid-July comes, or a lot of at-bats early, I really start to go on fire.

Last year though, I’m glad to say I was on the championship team. I'm also pretty upset because of my lack of playing time. I don't blame them for thinking I couldn't hit; they just didn't realize what I could do with enough opportunities.

If you ask some of the guys like Gregg Raymundo, Sean Slaughter, Alan Gardner or Johnny Lopez I bet they'll praise what I did in batting practice towards the end of the season. (Manager Ron) Blomberg won't, though He gave up on me right before I started crushing the balls.

For me, it really sucks, because here in Canada, we can go eight months between baseball games, so ya, I just end up forgetting what I have to do to hit line drives. Right now is a great example: last week in my league after about 32 at-bats I was hitting .180, but in my last two games I've hit five-for-eight with two doubles and four RBIs.

Does that sound like a typical .180 hitter???

The two seasons before I went to Israel, my batting averages were .455 in 2006, and .470 in 2005. Bottom line is I get so much better as the season moves on.

Fortunately for me this year, I'll have an opportunity to play for my University in my first year, so this will be the real test of how I can do after having a substantial amount of games during the summer time.

How'd you get to the IBL?

Martin Berger found my baseball profile online, I think, and sent me an e-mail to come for tryouts in Miami.

I took a thousand dollars out of my own pocket to do it, and on January 1, 2007 I got a contract by way of e-mail.

At the time, it was the greatest day of my life. It was what I worked my whole life for.

Are you playing now or are you hoping to hook up with another league?

I wish I could play in a league where I got to play every day, all-year-round, but right now I'm with my men's league again, which just clinched first place with four games to go-- and then hopefully university ball.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I understand that Justin is upset about not getting paid because his contract should get honored. The entire blog about Justin not given a fair chance upsets me for two main reasons. 1) Justin not understanding the way professional baseball works. 2) Justin' lack of baseball knowledge.
The very thought that Justin would ever play professional baseball was a long shot in anyone's mind. We all know baseball is America's pastime and those who do not grow up at least playing little league baseball can almost rightfully be labeled as "Un-American." It's a little different in Canada due to the climate but there are still some places that feel the same about baseball. The point being, in both Canada and the US professional baseball is the highest of level of baseball. Most players are given the opportunity to play professional baseball after hours and hours of practices. Anyone that has played DI or most other levels of college know that to the serious player baseball is a year round sport. Practices are everyday and often 5 hrs at length. What most people do not realize is that most baseball practices are to condition your brain to simply know and then react to the infinite number of possible plays and situations that could occur. Rundown plays, bunt coverage, first and third situations, etc are things not only practiced but imprinted in the back of every professional players brain. Justin, for some reason (which will later lead to my #2) just did not understand all of these endless things that a professional baseball player understands. To summarize my first point in less than a minute... Professional baseball is not little league. Players are not paying to play and the best players play. Now that being said Justin would obviously agree and say
"I don't blame them for thinking I couldn't hit; they just didn't realize what I could do with enough opportunities." Knowledge of the game of baseball can be gained both from playing and from not playing. Knowledge gained from playing is more muscle memory things such as timing, individual pitcher patterns, and even how certain outfields or infields play. To be a true student of the game most of the knowledge comes from not playing. Analyzing every aspect of the game while on the bench is one of the greatest ways to obtain baseball knowledge. Justin does not understand that there was so much more to his not playing than just his initial poor hitting. One example would be his knowledge of base-running. Justin had no awareness when he got on base. It is one thing to get picked off because of a pitcher's good move, but it is another to not even learn about someone's move or understand what to look for in a pickoff move. These are things one can learn while on the bench by asking questions and pointing things out (i.e. this pitchers pausing for a one sec count every time or this pitcher only gives one look at a runner on second). There are many other aspects of Justin's game that are poor not due to his physical ability but his lack of baseball knowledge. I do not doubt that Justin could have eventually of hit at the very least .250 with one or two homeruns, but he would have hurt the team due to his lack of baseball knowledge. Instead of thinking that he simply should be given a chance because he knew he could hit... he should have been learning about baserunning, asking other outfielders about how they read swings, even learning better mechanics for tracking fly balls. All of these things are things players learn and practice during the countless hours of practice before and after they become pros. In Justin's defense the IBL did not have much practice time, but the amount of learning that goes on when one is not playing is infinite and he never realized it. Hopefully Justin will get a chance to play in college and will then realize that there is so much for him to learn that he never knew before. Only after he learns this can he finally open his eyes and realize why he was not playing.