Hawkins thrilled to attend inauguration
Relief pitcher sees Obama as fulfillment of Robinson's promise
When Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States on Tuesday, LaTroy Hawkins and his wife, Anita, were in attendance for the history-making event.
Anita was able to secure tickets thanks to a well-connected friend.
"I said, 'No way she's going to be able to get tickets,'" Hawkins told Astros.com, "but she worked it out and got us tickets. She said, 'Somehow, someway, we're going to go.'"
Hawkins, an African-American and the father of 16-year-old son, Dakari, and 7-year-old daughter, Troi, compared Obama's election to Jackie Robinson's breaking baseball's color barrier.
"Jackie Robinson showed my grandfather and my uncles and my father that anything is possible," Hawkins said. "You can do it. Obama is showing my kids -- my kids who have seen that their dad has been successful -- that you can do anything. In my household, it's important, because it shows you can be successful in something other than sports.
"For an African-American man to hold the highest honor in the country, it gives my kids hope that if you put your mind to it, work hard, keep your faith first, anything can happen. You have to stand for something."
Chicago is Wood's kind of town: Kerry Wood, who spent his entire career with the Cubs until signing with Cleveland for the 2009 campaign, took out ads over the weekend in the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, thanking the fans for their support throughout his career in the Windy City.
The full-page, signed ads, cited on MLB.com, coincided with the annual Cubs Convention at the Chicago Hilton.
"It has been an honor to have been a Chicago Cub for the last 13 years and to have played in the greatest ballpark, Wrigley Field," he wrote. "My deepest thanks go to my teammates and the Cubs organization for taking a chance on a kid from Texas and welcoming me into the Cubs family.
"Thank you, Cubs fans, the greatest fans in all of baseball, for believing in me and supporting me over the years," he said. "I will always be proud to have been a Chicago Cub. Although I'm a member of a new 'Tribe,' I will forever be a Chicagoan."
McClellan ready to compete for starting job: After an outstanding rookie season for the Cardinals, Kyle McClellan is heading to Spring Training ready to step into any role he may be asked to fill -- be that as a starter, reliever, setup man -- you name it.
"Based on what [pitching coach Dave Duncan] told me at the end of the year, he said come in ready to start and we'll go from there," McClellan told MLB.com over the weekend at the annual Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up.
Felix Hernandez back for one year, possibly more: The Mariners avoided arbitration with Felix Hernandez by signing him to a one-year contract. But the two sides reportedly have already discussed a multi-year deal and may continue negotiating a long-term contract.
"I think, as we move forward, we'll talk about different options," general manager Jack Zduriencik told the Seattle Times. "The priority was to get him signed right now. Obviously, we did so. As time goes on, we'll keep the door open to an opportunity that may present itself."
Hernandez was also named to the provisional roster for the World Baseball Classic. Eight Mariners in all are slated to play in the WBC, and Hernandez is one of four for the Venezuelan team, which also has Carlos Silva, Jose Lopez and Endy Chavez.
With pinky healed, Carlos Lee to play for Panama: Carlos Lee has decided to play for Panama in the World Baseball Classic.
Lee, the Houston Astros' left fielder and the all-time Major League home run leader among Panamanian-born players, was hesitant to play for his country due to an injury he suffered last August. Lee's season came to an end on Aug. 9 when he fractured his left pinky finger on a hit-by-pitch.
Lee has been swinging a bat at home and says the injury is healed.
"We're fine with the finger," Lee told the Houston Chronicle. "I haven't made contact with the ball, but swinging it's fine."
Sanchez already in Florida in hopes of big season: Duaner Sanchez avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal with the New York Mets. Sanchez appeared in 66 games last season and was 5-1 with a 4.32 ERA.
"I hope to be even stronger this year than I was last year," Sanchez told Newsday. "I'm in Florida already getting ready for the season and I can't wait for Spring Training to start."
Sanchez was 5-1 with a 2.60 ERA in 2006 before missing all of 2007.
Street agrees to deal with Rockies: Huston Street won't have to worry about his contract during his first Spring Training with the Rockies after agreeing to a one-year deal.
"It's extremely comforting for me," Street, acquired from Oakland in the November deal for left fielder Matt Holliday, told the Rocky Mountain News. "It's a business, but you are kind of going to battle a little bit any time, especially with a new club. So to avoid that whole process and to be able to sit down and just talk about what both sides feel is fair and come to an agreement, I think it's a great way to start a relationship, at least from my end."
Ankiel again prepared to take over in center: Rick Ankiel knows his team has as many as five "starting" outfielders headed to Spring Training, but he isn't going to let that change the way he prepares for the season.
"From what I read and what I'm seeing you guys are saying, it's the same every year -- you come in and you've got to lay it all out there," Ankiel told the Belleville News Democrat. "I want to be the center fielder, and I'm going to go out there and throw everything I've got out there."
Gregg sees closer's role as goal: Kevin Gregg, who had 29 saves for Florida in 2008 and 61 saves in the past two years, says he's ready to compete with Carlos Marmol for the closer's job for the Chicago Cubs in 2009.
"I know Carlos Marmol is a great pitcher himself, and I just look for [manager] Lou [Piniella] to pick who he's comfortable with and go from there," Gregg told MLB.com. "I'm more looking forward to winning and getting back in the playoffs and going deep in the playoffs -- that's the most important thing. As far as what my expectations are, it's to come in, show what I'm capable of and see what Lou wants to do."
Choo ready to don South Korea jersey in Classic: Shin-Soo Choo is set to represent his native South Korea in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, something he's both excited about and honored to be doing.
"The last time I played with my country's flag on my chest, I was in high school," Choo told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I've missed it a lot. I have a lot of friends on the Korean team in the WBC."
Playing for his country is important to Choo, but he was sure to check with his employer before committing to the tournament. "I talked to the Indians," said Choo. "I say, 'I'm from Korea, but my job is with the Cleveland Indians.' The team is always going to come first. If the team didn't want me to go to WBC, I wouldn't go. They told me, 'If you want to play, we support you.'"
Francoeur wants to make his mark with franchise: Jeff Francoeur is determined to become one of the top players in the game.
"I think I'm going to be a totally different player than people have seen, even in my couple good years when I drove in 100," Francoeur told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "[I'm] not trying to go out there and prove that I belong because I know I belong. For me it's a matter of trying to take it to the next level and be a franchise player."
Bedard signs one-year deal with Mariners: Erik Bedard agreed to a one-year contract that includes incentive clauses based on innings pitched.
"Erik's a very important pitcher for our club in 2009," general manager Jack Zduriencik told the Seattle Times. "All our reports this winter are that his rehabilitation is going very well. We are excited to see a healthy pitcher take the hill this season."
Ludwick declines Classic offer: Ryan Ludwick has decided that he will not be taking part in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, instead choosing to do all he can to prepare for the 2009 season.
"I told them unless I was playing, I didn't want to sit on the bench and be a fourth or fifth outfielder, and I don't think they intended for me to play every day," Ludwick told MLB.com. "So I feel like for me it was more important to be in Spring Training getting more repetitions than sitting the bench. This is a big year for me.
"Obviously, it would be an honor. I've played for Team USA, and it's an honor. But right now, it's more important for me to get repetitions."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.