Guards Fest Heats Up Cleveland





Photo by Mark “Munch” Bishop

Saturday was another frigid, blistery day especially Downtown in our great city but there was one place where the warmth was obvious…in the Cleveland Convention Center for GUARDS FEST 2024! One note and I would have done this if someone gave me a shovel (even though I am under orders to NOT shovel snow so I would have pushed it aside…so sad the Convention Center or City could not spare one person to remove the snow from the curbs by the crosswalks! There were two crosswalks from the North side of Lakeside to the South side and I saw families, seniors and everyone trying to hurtle a foot of snow plowed aside from the street. Not cool. Now for the good stuff as it was ALL BETTER THAN GOOD inside the Convention Center.

I arrived as the first session was wrapping up and left when the second was starting and I must say the throngs of fans filing in and out reminded me of people heading into the ballpark on a beautiful summer day. All were excited and happy. Baseball will do that to you. Why? As Sarah Langs writer for MLB.com has noted “BASEBALL IS THE BEST!”

It was also great seeing all the Pros who write and talk about Cleveland Guardians all gathered to hear from Skipper Steve Vogt and Guards players. One other thing I must note before starting to deep dive with the players…they were all geeked from a workout they had Friday mainly due to the fact that many of them got to be back together. This team is truly a BAND OF BROTHERS.

Up first was the new Manager of the Cleveland Guardians Steven Vogt. His highlights on the team and his new job follow.

* It is time for a fresh start for all but indeed he does check on production from the past.

* Shane Bieber is OUR guy (I would agree with that UNLESS a team suffers a major injury to a starter in Spring Training and comes calling with an offer that blows the Guards away).

* Shane and Tristan are looking and doing great.

* The team NEEDS power. They must find it.

* They are expecting a lot from Kyle Manzardo.

* GUARDIANS BALL WILL CONTINUE! What does that mean?

– Put pressure on the opponent.

– Make THEM adjust.

– Use speed.

– Make contact.

* Concerning Bo Naylor, Vogt (a former catcher) noted he MUST be there for the pitchers and of course hitting is important and Bo is CAPABLE of doing this.

* Austin Hedges name came up and make no doubt about it (plus the Top Woman at this website, Natalie Marie, noted last year “we are going to miss him” and she was spot on) he is IMPORTANT TO THE TEAM in the Clubhouse and dugout. I see him in a “Giambi role” helping players, holding them accountable and keeping things loose.

Photo via Mark Bishop

* What about STEVEN VOGT as a manager? He said:

– It’s not about me!

– I must push the players.

– I must push the coaches.

– Our mission is to grow as fast as possible.

* Estevan Florial also came up and the Skip said that being out of NY will be good for him plus he is fast, can run and field ABD he has a great swing. Now they have to get him to make contact.

Photo via Mark Bishop

Dr. Sticks was up next, and I received a nice gesture of welcome before he went before the media crowds. One of the best and most delightful interviews I ever had was with Tristan when he was with the Rubberducks. He was very intelligent but also gracious and humble. Gotta get him healthy. As someday Hall of Fame catcher to be Salvador Perez told him during a game in KC “Hey young fella, you one bad ______ ___________!” You may fill in the blanks.

* Tristan was excited for the year and especially for new Manger “VOTEY” as he called him!

* Yes, he was frustrated last year. It’s tough not being able to contribute.

* Since he could not pitch, he tried to bring energy to the team last year. He also said “HEDGIE will be important to the team as a leader.”

* It’s very important to him and the other pitchers that Carl Willis is still with the team. The pitchers can TRUST him!

* He did start throwing around the first of the year. (He did have a nice workout at Saint Ignatius High School on Friday.)

Photo via Mark Bishop

Steven Kwan. or “KWANIE” followed, and he was beaming due to the workout with the team Friday.

* Hedges was mentioned again!

* An identity for this team will be important. GUARDIANS BALL is great baseball.

* He has not heard a thing about moving positions. There has been absolutely NO TALK about that. My comment – GREAT! Playing LF in Progressive Field is not an easy task.

* He also was asked about the extra at bats he gets batting leading off and candidly he said it’s not always a good thing if you are struggling going 0-4 but now, he’s looking forward to it to get on base after a tough game.

Photo via Mark Bishop

* He also emphasized that JOSH is a very important vocal leader!

Now it was young Bo Naylor’s time! He was adamant in noting that this team has so many people in the building to help a young player like himself. Other bullet points from the man behind the dish were:

* The players are to win!

* Vogt will be very important to his development by sharing knowledge about catching.

* Preparing for the game with the pitcher toeing the rubber that night gets easier and more productive with experience.

* He needs to learn from the Vets (Vogt, Hedges).

* He also must make it simple, and the results will be more fun and more focused then success.

Photo via Mark Bishop

Tanner Bibee joined us and immediately said “he’s on the same page with Bo!” Here are some other highlights: is

* He trusts the guys in the field. IT MAKES HIM BETTER. (My note; This is SO important. I know some pitchers in the past would not throw a pitch if they thought it would be hit to a certain player.).

Josh Naylor stepped up next and Mr. Excitement was all business. Perhaps my biggest take away was when he said, “he along with the team are still hurting from the bad year last year.” BOOM. Love hearing that. He also waxed poetic on…

* He is getting in the best shape ever to go full throttle!

* He treasures helping others especially his “little Bro.”

* The team is going out of their way to get back together in the off season.

* They must bounce back to a ’22 type year and work to find out HOW TO WIN!

* He also needs to GROW in the game, be a leader and BE VOCAL (This was a recurring theme).

I will close by repeating “BASEBALL IS THE BEST” and looking ahead it will be a treat to see you soon on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario!

As always read more of my thoughts on www.neosportsinsiders.com and #MunchOnSports is powered by Ganley Chevy Of Aurora and the Ken Ganley Automotive Group. Please take care of each other and it’s your world, pay attention. Enjoy every sandwich and for now ADIOS AMIGO, LONG MAY YOU RUN!

 









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