All-Christmas Squad 2009
Last Christmas season I started a new MLBlogs.com tradition by posting about my selection for the 2008 All Christmas squad composed of characters we all know and love from our favorite Christmas movies and shows. The usual suspects were invited on the team like George Bailey and little Ralphie, and of course, Rudolf. But I pondered long and hard on which direction to take this endeavor for 2009.
Since the “Evil Empire” took the trophy in 2009, I could always hit the “Stars Wars” human and machine memory banks and find more than enough characters and antics to post a pretty good line-up. But no, I decided to knock it up a notch or two and construct my own team of Super Hero’s who could take on last year’s team, the Polar Express , and might even win. But I had to find the right meshing of personalities, and had to also toss out a few great performances by other actors in certain character’s roles to find the right combination to host games against the Empire and my 2008 team, the Polar Express. So with no further ado, let me introduce to you the 11 players and Coaches of the newly formed N’oreastern Blizzard the, second franchise of the North American League.
And like last season’s choices, this was a personal choice of super heroes with no Wikipedia references or visit to the local comic book store. This team will be based on the super heroes that were born, bred and ready for battle anytime against evil when I was a kid. So let’s get on with the formal introductions of my All Christmas squad for 2009.
This was kind of tough knowing that so many great super heroes could throw a baseball threw even the mightiest surfaces. So I decided to take it a different direction and use a hero that combines one of the five basic elements of life on earth. He might be the youngest of the Fantastic Four, but the Human Torch was an easy choice to be my starting pitcher. Now this decision did come with some possible side effects of the baseball actually disappearing before it got near the plate. But I had a plan.Added to this the definite possibility that the other team could chart his flame path to try and steal his pitch locations which led me to ask Jonathan Lowell Spencer Storm to throw a little extra puff of trailing smoke along with the ball to cover its path to the plate. I also dipped all 13 dozen game balls (the same number as the MLB uses per game) in a flame retardant liquid that would not leave a residue, but would leave the ball intact for its numerous flights to the plate during the game.
This was also a spot where another large group of super heroes could man the position and be an excellent choice. But again,I decided to go with my gut instinct here and put Mr. Fantastic aka Reed Richards, the leader of the Fantastic Four at first base bag as much for his intelligence in the arts of alien biology and physics as for his unyielding confidence in his craft.
And because he can actually stretch out far and wide made him another clear choice to get errant throws and also have superb dives and lunges for balls hit either to his left or right during the game. People might remember that when Mr. Fantastic is confronted with a scientific challenge he goes into such a state of pure focus that not succeeding is not an option for him. Just the sort of cocky, power-hitting first bagger this team needs to win.
Here is the spot I think I am going to get the biggest feedback in the form of the player I picked for this spot. I have respected the job Akinora Iwamura has done with the Tampa Bay Rays since he came here from Japan, and I am going to make this position my homage to a Japanese Super Hero we all might not know. I have decided to give this spot to Super Sentai, who was actually a basis for the Power Rangers characters.Unknown to most of us in the United States, this Super Hero series has been translated and brought to other cultures around the world from Brazil,Italy, Spain and Portugal to even the US where they were transformed into the Power Rangers. Super Sentai is my only super hero that has come from overseas to play America’s game, and has found his rightful place among my team.
Here is another position that might be up for debate, but the guy I finally decided on in this spot might be a bit of another baseball homage to the shortstops that have played in the MLB for years who seem to get a glove on balls that no one else could, or would get under normal circumstances. That is why Spiderman was my perfect choice for this spot on the field.
Spiderman aka Peter Parker was one of the only super heroes to not be a protege’ at one point to another super hero. But if you combine the web-shooting ability along with his uncanny spidey sense, he seems to be a natural for the spot. And with the mantra, “With great power comes great responsibility” spoken to him by his late Uncle Bob, Spiderman could actually maybe be a nice clone of a certain “Evil Empire” shortstop with his remarkable range and throwing accuracy.
This is another spot where I though uncanny ability to transform and stand tall and firm while guarding the line might be the perfect trait for the position. And knowing that games can be won and lost down the Rightfield line, I decided the Hot Corner would be patrolled by Spawn. The unique situation of Spawn having to fight supernatural and criminal elements to again see his wife after he was sent to hell gives him an extra dose of drive an
d determination here.
Adding on the fact that most third baseman are viewed a bit as mercenaries, this former CIA agent fits perfectly into the mold of a MLB 3-bagger. And considering his character has been known to morph and change during his evolution, this is a perfect baseball analogy to how the job description at third base is an ever changing bag of tricks from sprinting in for bunted ball and making odd angle throws, to full-body dives over the bag to snag balls screaming down the line at the speed of light.
This is one of the spot that was actually very easy for me to consider. The character taking this spot has to dive, block and basically be a human wall to the Human Torch’s hot tamale pitches that will be blazing a trail into the plate. That is why Thing from the Fantastic Four was the perfect pick. As the founding member of the Fantastic Four, Thing also can be the field general that every team needs behind the plate.
Back that up with the fact the Thing was born on New York’s Lower East side, and you get a guy who is as tough mentally as he is physically. Born Benjamin Jacob Grimm, he was an avid football player, which will make him a perfect wall when he stands in front of the plate and blocks a runner from trying to score on him. And with his orange-colored skin, he will be an easy target for any member of the Blizzard’s pitching staff. Add on his comical tag line of: “It’s clobbering Time”, and you get one of the team’s pure power hitters.
I wanted to use at least one member of the Batman franchise here, and decided to use the one that I thought conveyed the element of fear and strength in the character. For that reason, the Batman (Christian Bale version) is the clever pick to play down the Leftfield line based on the uncanny ability he has to leer, and that might keep guys from trying to stretch out singles into doubles. Just a glare from his eyes might freeze a runner between bases and hesitate just enough for him to get a quick throw in and nail him for an outfield assist.
Add onto that the fact he has enough piece of equipment and apparatuses on his utility belt to scale any wall, even the Green Monster and bring the ball back into play with no hesitation. Batman might not be as fleet-footed as the rest of this team, but he will make up for that with cunning anecdotes and sneers at the opposing pitchers. Pop on the adage of having a pretty cool set of rides and you got a MLB player in the making here.
Here is another spot that I thought demanded that I have one of the fastest super heroes in the corner outfield to not only run down balls maybe hit by Mr. Fantastic, but also hit near the Centerfield-Rightfield gap. For that reason, Flash seemed to be the perfect fit to this position. Because of his superhuman reflexes and how he violates the basic laws of physics, you might wonder why I did not put him at Shortstop or Third base.
Well, I decided that the Scarlett Speedster would be a nice deterrent to teams trying to not only run on his arm, but test his abilities to get to almost any ball hit his way. One of the greats attributes a Rightfielder can have is teams fearing what he will do once he has the ball in his glove or hand. Flash gives me that extra jolt of confidence that if a runner is trying to score from third base, the throw will be at the plate on time.
This one was actually another one of the easiest positions to for me to fill on this roster. Who else but Superman (Christopher Reeves version) could be seen patrolling the gaps and long distances to the Centefield wall. Partner that with a great ability to keep the ball in the park hit at any height, and you get a solid defensive outfielder who also can bring some super power to the plate.
Seriously, he could also be the guy who could take a few balls away from Batman in Leftfield, but it would be on a purely speed basis to secure the out and not be an ego thing. Mark that with his solid personal makeup and you got a guy that the fans would also enjoy having him autograph a ball with his eyes, or even pose for pictures strutting his muscles.
Here is a spot I did not include in the 2008 squad, and I felt simply terrible about it as an afterthought. Every team needs a guy to button down a close game and give them that needed push to hold a team scoreless and then win in walk-off fashion. For that reason, I think the Punisher is the perfect man for the job.
Not only does the Punisher have those human flaw trademarks we all know and love in our closers, he has an ability to that antihero that some closer possess and use to their advantage. As Frank Castle, the Punisher will use whatever method is needed to get the end result that is desired. That, is the ultimate goal of every closer to have the game come down to his abilities and he conquer them single-handedly.
I think there is only one choice for this position considering it has to be a postion of power and also great energy. Without a doubt, the prefect DH would have to be the Incredible Hulk. Just on his pure ability to hit the cover off the ball this spot is perfect for the green one. But also with his ability to change, he could be his green imposing self at the plate, and maybe turn into a speed merchant in his human form. But I think for the sake of arguing, he will try and maintain his angered state throughout the baseball game.
First Base Coach:
I decided to put in the First Base box the only female character.
I decided that the Susan Storm also known as the Invisible Woman from the Fantastic Four, and also Reed’s wife would be the perfect fixture on first base. Think about it for a moment, you could have her invisibly interact with the opposing First Baseman and also get an extended conversations with her base runners and the other team will not have an idea about it.
Flanker that with the possibilities of the Invisible Woman also taking a short jaunt and conversing with a runner on second base and you got no need for signals from the first base box at all. Add in the addition of using unseen forces to keep balls going fair down the Rightfield line either in the air or on the ground and you got a solid asset in the First Base Coaching box. And let’s not get started on bunts down the lines……
Third Base Coach:
This one is maybe more of my own personal plea to get this guy on the team, but I decided that the perfect signaler to men at the plate or on base has to be the Green Lantern. Considering his power ring bring with it a great abundance of control over the mortal world, it can be used to alter the course of balls hit down the Third Baseline during games.
Because of his relationship with the Team Manager, Green Lantern was added to the Coaching staff to also boost the confidence and will of the other super heroes on the team. During his career he had to morph himself a few times to fit the environment and the situations of a modern world. He can use his life experiences to add another dimension to this team’s Coaching staff.
This was actually the easiest position to fill because if we are going to be playing in the North American League, then there is only one super hero who has the name recognition and also credibility to pull this team to victory. Captain America is the only choice for this spot…..period.
Combine the ability to shield himself from the opinions of the journalists and bloggers to stay focus and keeping a firm eye on the prize.
Boost that with the added dimension of being the team leader of the Avengers and you get a super hero with a firm grip of the things needed by a leader, and how to convey them to your troops without confusion and chaos. And considering the long and storied history of Captain America, he is a shining example of what you want your super heroes to be in real life.
So there you go. That are my super hero picks for the 2009 roster of the newly formed second team in the North America League. Unlike the AFL or even the USFL, this baseball league will continue to expand with at least one team forming every Christmas season until we have enough teams to play every day of the holiday season.
This is my own little personal Winter League experiment, and with two teams already in the books, it will be fun to watch both the N’oreastern Blizzards and the Polar Express playing starting tomorrow on a cool and sunny Florida baseball diamond near you. Admission is free and remember, a hot dog always tastes better at the ballpark!