It’s been an extremely busy week, so we apologize for the delay. Here is a breakdown of this week’s activities as they played out for Adam’s team, the Cut-Off Men. Advance warning, this post is a bit long, but we think it’s worth every moment!
In our last blog post, the jerseys and Adam had arrived at Grand Central Art Center, the Cut-Off Men’s clubhouse and lockers were ready for the team’s arrival, and we were looking for one more teammate to fill out a nine-man roster.
On Sunday, Adam was invited by Cut-Off Men teammates Tori and Abraham to join them for one of their league games taking place at Pacifica High School in Garden Grove. It was a beautiful Southern California day! Adam got a little time in the outfield and a couple of at bats, while Abraham was covering third and Tori at shortstop. It was a great warm-up for the tryouts to come.
Monday evening, the team arrived early to meet their fellow teammates for the first time, as well as see their new lockers and jerseys (jerseys created by Victory Custom Athletic – thanks again to Claudette Duggan and the Victory team for helping us get these on such a short notice) before the Dutch Treat Dinner/Ball Signing event. They brought with them their gear to store in their lockers, in preparation for Tuesday mornings early departure to the tryouts.
The team signed some baseballs for one another to get a little practice in before the public ball signing that evening. They walked together, as a team, down Broadway to Izalco Salvadorian Cuisine on 5th Street, in Downtown Santa Ana. Thank you to Fernando Valladares of Izalco for opening his restaurant to our team for this event! Upon arrival, they were met at the restaurant by fans, friends and family.
At the restaurant, the team signed baseballs, met with their new fans, talked baseball and ate pupusas. They bonded as a team, shared their thoughts about the next day’s tryouts and told stories of their history with the game. As the night concluded, we headed back to the clubhouse with some of the teams news fans to share the space and further conversation. Before departing for good night sleeps, they tried on their jerseys on for the first time and we had the opportunity to take a more official first team picture.
Tuesday began early, as the team was scheduled to arrive at 6:45 a.m. to suit-up and catch the team van to the tryouts in Compton. The team was very focused, prepping their gear, getting into their uniforms. Our team documentarian/filmmaker and Grand Central Art Center current resident, Mickey Fisher, took the opportunity to interview team members to get their thoughts pre-tryouts. When the team was ready, we met our van driver Rick and loaded the team van for departure. We would like to THANK Stacy Wilkerson at Gold Coast Tours for all her assistance in helping us schedule a van on such short notice (as we mentioned previously, we just met Adam for the very first time at the Open Engagement Conference in Portland, OR. On May 19, 2012, he first told us his idea for the project and we agreed to help him realize it). Stacy, and our driver Rick, were a true pleasure to work with through this project. And as it turns out, Rick’s brother is a major league scout for the San Francisco Giants, so we got to talk some baseball during the drive north to Compton.
We arrived at the MLB Urban Youth Academy, where Rick drove us right up to the main entrance with VIP service. As most other individuals were there solo, you could tell immediately, coming as a team was drawing some attention. The Cut-Off Men, with their team jerseys and van, created quite the buzz! We could hear other attendees speculating out loud – “who is this team with such a dominant presence?” The team listened up as instructions for the beginning of the day were delivered and waiver forms were handed out to over 500 individuals there to tryout. So, like all the others, the Cut-Off Men filled out their forms and waited for further instructions. Before things got too crazy, our documentarian/filmmaker Mickey took the opportunity to do a few more interviews with the wonderful backdrop of the ballpark.
Pitchers and catchers were instructed to go to one field, infielders and outfielders instructed to go to another. For the pitchers, they were divided up by those who had previously played in the majors, those currently playing college ball or had played in the last year; and those who were playing in amateur leagues or hadn’t played recently. On the opposing field, each position player formed into separate lines to receive their numbers. Once the numbers were assigned, each position was called over by grouping to run their 60 yard dashes against the clock and one opponent. The pitchers weren’t required to do the run, but more on their requirements later.
As the running continued, the position players on the team had a chance to warm-up their arms and stretch a bit, before all were told to head to the opposing field. While the fielders had been running the 60 against the clock, the pitchers were showing their stuff on the mound. The scouts didn’t tell the attendees directly, but it was clearly over heard from the viewing area – righties that couldn’t throw at least 95mph weren’t being looked at, and lefties that could hit 88mph and had some movement would be considered.
Meanwhile, the position players were once again divided into outfielders and infielders, with infielders being separated further – second base, shortstop and third basemen in one area; and first basemen in another. The outfielders were up first. Each was required to field fly balls, line drives and grounders, then give their best attempt to test their arms by throwing those fielded balls to a catcher behind home plate. If the scouts like what they saw on the first three attempts, the players would get a bonus ball. Our only teammate trying out for outfield was Adam, so all eyes were on him. As the Grand Central Art Center team looked on, Adam proceeded to make two great catches and charged to field one fast grounder. He then threw each ball, with a gun of an arm, on a fly, straight into the catchers glove. In an actual game, each of Adam’s throws would have been the perfect opportunity for the out at home. So perfect was Adam’s fielding and throws, that he received a bonus ball, which he fielded to the same perfection! With that complete, Adam was able to relax a bit and take in some of the action.
Next, the opportunity for the infielders to show their stuff. The Cut-Off Men had the left infield covered, with the majority of the teammates playing shortstop and third base, and one trying out for second base. Our guys looked great out there, fielding their grounders cleanly, charging those balls rolling fast on the infield grass and gunning their throws to first base. There was a lot of confidence and pride on the field, and the Cut-Off Men proved they knew their way around a diamond.
After all second, shortstop and third base players had their opportunity to show their stuff, it was time for the first basemen skills to be tested. As the Cut-Off Men were fielding no first basemen, this meant a little downtime, more bonding, sharing of experiences and lunch for the team.
The break didn’t last that long before all players were summoned to the infield for the announcement of who made the cut. Of the 500 plus players in attendance, it was made clear at the beginning of the day, “dreams would be crushed.” They were going to announce 40 numbers, which would be of the players who would move forward to play a simulated game on the field. They also made it clear that, of these 40 players, maybe one or two might be approached by a MLB scout at the event with a possible contract offer. By the end of the announcement, it was clear that it was not the day for the Cut-Off Men; no one for the team would be making it to the big show.
These are the Cut-Off Men! They are a team and they stand together with pride! They were there supporting one another, bonding and talking about finding another nine guys who might be interested in a pick-up game. They were making plans to play a game together this coming weekend. They gave it their all and left everything they had on that field. They were proud and able to hold their heads up high, knowing they had just experienced something together that no one could ever take away.
The team spent a few more hours taking in the remainder of the tryouts, watching young recruits give it their all in the hopes of making the next cut. They shared stories from their experiences – “the scout told me I was throwing in the mid-80s, which I could hardly believe I still had in me. Then he told me I had two things going against me, my age and my velocity.” Team members talked about the guys that they met throughout the day, those on the field with similar hopes and dreams. It also provided the opportunity for documentarian/filmmaker Mickey to take some iconic shots to add to his footage.
As the tryouts were wrapping-up, we had an amazing chance encounter. Yes, it was Major League Baseball scouting legend Phil Pote. You know, the guy with a cameo in Moneyball that asks “Who’s Fabio?” He is much more famous than that, as he’s been involved with Major League Baseball for over 50 years! We struck up a conversation by asking whom he thought from today might make it to the big show, and through his answer he pointed at Adam and Erik and said, “you and you.” OK, first he said that he doesn’t have a crystal ball and has no idea who might make it, since there are so many factors. Then he said he could just look at guys and say “you and you”, but there is no guarantee. He asked about our team name and Adam shared the project, talking about Social Practice and the community team he had built. Phil was enthusiastic about the project and talked a bit of art with us, then told us how he had been playing in Major League Baseball all these years waiting for his acting career to take off. He shared his amazing screenplay ideas and asked Adam to send him documentation and writing on the project when it was complete. He handed us all his business card which has a giant “S” logo and reads: Seattle Mariners, Phil Pote, Advisor – Scout. He introduced us to Ike Hampton, the Manager of the MLB Urban Youth Academy, who also played in the majors as a catcher for the New York Mets (1974), and later California Angels (1975-79). If you get the opportunity, we highly recommend a trip out to Compton for a visit to the MLB Urban Youth Academy. It is an outstanding facility and incredible service to the community! Adam presented both Phil and Ike with a Cut-Off Men signed ball, before Ike had to get back to business. Phil spent more time with us, as we proceeded to talk baseball with him for another 30-minutes. His love and knowledge of the game was contagious, and his desire to keep the respect in the game was truly admirable. Pete should be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown! As we wrapped things up, Phil said good bye by giving each of us a high-low-head-on fist bump, then jumped in his car and drove off. Rick had arrived with the team van, so it was time to load everything up and head back to Grand Central Art Center.
Upon arrival back at the team clubhouse, a little surprise was in store. The team planned it perfectly, with Adam asking GCAC Director/Chief Curator John Spiak if he could see the photo we took with Phil Pote’s again. As soon as Adam had the phone safe in hand, Abraham proceeded to provide Spiak with the traditional post game/victory drenching. As there was no Gatorade or water cooler, water in a small trashcan would have to do.
It was time for the post tryout team dinner with family and friends. We headed over to Memphis at the Santora for a celebration and hearty meal with a southern twist. The dinner also provided an opportunity to celebrate Cut-Off Men Steven’s 25th birthday. We sang out loud and shared in the glorious day.
Following dinner, we headed back to the clubhouse for the scheduled 7 p.m. press conference. There, we met with the team from CTV3, who interviewed Adam. They then handed the microphone to him so he could conduct interviews with his team. Adam asked about the days experiences – What had been gained? What had been learned? How they were feeling? The CTV3 team will share the coverage link of the story when it’s online, and we will share it with you!
As the team began to change out of uniforms and wind down their day, visitors entered the clubhouse and inquired about the project, including local Santa Ana CSI police officer and photographer, Leonard Correa. It was at that moment we were able to shift the sports conversation, one which we had so carefully protected over the past three weeks, to a conversation about art. We had been sharing the art conversation among the artist, his teammates and the GCAC staff over that same period, but publicly we only talked baseball. Adam explained the workings of Social Practice, the relationships between the teammates and artist, the relationships between the world of baseball and the world of art. They understood perfectly and shared their insights. We had a fantastic exchange that included everyone, then we presented each visitor with an autographed team ball. It was a perfect way to end such an outstanding experience!
So we know you are now asking, just how does this project relate to the workings of Social Practice? What are the relationships between the teammates and artist? Are there really relationships between the world of baseball and the world of art? Ponder that for a few days! We’ve gone on too long with this post already, so we’ll share it in another entry to be posted soon.
The Cut-Off Men film can now be viewed online at: http://grandcentralartcenter.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/the-cut-off-men-filmdocumentary-now-online-for-viewing/