B ♦ WBL Times ♦Wednesday, January 07, 2004



Breakfast of pasta and pickles not something to think about

Mujuri Shipal knows that his ritualized daily pasta-and-pickles breakfast is the butt of a thousand jokes among his friends, but he doesn’t care. It’s the way he’s started his days for 2 years. Shipal’s leisurely three-course breakfast starts with an orange as appetizer, followed by a main course of capellini with pickles on the side, and wraps up with a dessert course of chocolate, and fresh-ground coffee in a China cup. Shipal, 21, who was born and raised in Japan, remembers years of conventional childhood breakfasts that usually centered on rice and side dish. As a young adult, he moved to Adelaide, Australia, and shared a house with four others who turned out to be vegetarian.

"I’d never thought of that," he says. "For a while, I continued to buy my slabs of meat; then I decided to join the others. I became vegetarian myself."

He moved to Perth, and for a while took up a philosophy that involves eating nothing but fruit. By the time he made his way through Asia, again, and Europe and later ending up in St. Louis, U.S.A., he had broadened his range of foods considerably. In China, he picked up the habit of adding pickles to his breakfasts. For a time, he was sensitive to wheat and dairy and breakfasted on rice and sardines. Eventually, Shipal found he could reintroduce wheat to his diet. Four years ago, he chose pasta as his first meal of the day. He’s found it satisfying ever since and now prepares it almost every day at his west St. Louis home.

"Capellini cooks very fast," he says. "By the time I’ve set the plates out, it’s all ready. I pour oil over it, sprinkle it with chopped sweet red pepper and canned salmon chunks, and it’s a good meal."

"Everyone who knows me thinks my breakfast is a big joke, but I like it. I don’t even have to think about it."

"I can spend my thoughts on bigger thins, like: What are we supposed to be doing in this universe, anyways?"


Shirley enjoying last laugh on naysayers

They say that living well is the best revenge. Jeremy Shirley is living well – in the penthouse suite of the WBL. Life is good atop the playoffs, even with the Montreal Menace’s off-season starting Thursday night, an inhospitable venue for the Montreal squad. But as several players noted after the playoffs, they were still going to wake up off-season morning in first place. That’s not cockiness, its fact. 3 straight wins to start the World Series and ending it in 5 games has earned the Menace respect throughout the league and grudging slack from the doomsday chorus, who never weary of pointing out the obvious – that winning World Series isn’t a good start for a successful off-season, as if the rest of the writers are so dyslexic we can’t read a calendar or a baseball schedule. In truth, the skeptics and chronic dyspeptics stand a good chance of being more right than wrong by the time off-season is about to roll out. An abrupt reversal of fortune, especially in the manic free-for-all of the first day of the off-season, has felled many teams. But there is something to be said for breeding a culture of success, from which arises confidence and constancy, the psychological wherewithal that keeps a team mentally sturdy through the inevitable bad spells and lurking slumps.

This past 6 weeks, a giddy ride for Menace fans, have served to quell for the tide of pessimism that traditionally swamps the Montreal team – really, the acute incredulity the Menace engender is nearly commensurate with the dreamy optimism on the other side of the fandom scales, where reside the truly besotted and the deranged. Interestingly, the same people who were holding Shirley responsible through the late season stumbles and sputters, flaying him as a coaching troglodyte out of touch with the game, well past his best-before date in Montreal, tuned-out by the players, are now oddly without comment. They clamored for his head, now they duck theirs. Or, conversely – and this is precious – they claim credit for Shirley’s resurrection behind the bench, now that he is concentrated on coaching as they had ceaselessly demanded. Yet, in an inversion of logic, some of these same voices – while churlishly acknowledging that Shirley has actually done an admirable job of helming the Menace, particularly in the midst of a slew of trades.

The criticism directed at Shirley has been harsh and absurdly personal, far beyond the realm of fair comment of even pontificator mischief. What’s surprising is that the coach, not historically one to absorb cheap shots quietly, has been so unresponsive to the baiting.

"It’s the same guys who’ve been saying this stuff, and I just don’t think highly of them," Shirley said yesterday. "I’m not gonna let them run this league, or me."

The Menace and the league WBL are public property, if not on the ownership papers, then in the public’s imagination. That imagination has run a bit wild of late and, to some extent, Shirley has worried about the mental ramifications of the prolonged success playoffs and World Series. He knows all about winning World Series, having experienced twice already. Oh yeah, he also knows all about having successful off-season, too.


Wilhelm wants out of St. Louis

Prospect pitcher Tim Wilhelm, who began last WBL season as an integral part of the Stallions pitching staff and who has since found himself at the end of the minor, desperately wants out of St. Louis and is asking for a trade.

"There’s a difference in being on a good team and being a part of it. You know what I’m saying? I’m not part of anything around here," Wilhelm said last night. ""I’m ready to go. I didn’t do all the stuff I did to come here and sit on the f---ing bench behind all these guys for no particular reason. "So I’ve got to go somewhere else so I can play."

The 6–foot-1 starting pitcher came to St. Louis in the off-season of 2008. He has one year and about 500K left on his contract. Wilhelm, who was placed on the minor team once the team, realized that they were out of playoff contention, and said he feels fine. He also said he has spoken with Co-GM Iamgonna Strikeout about his status. Today, he intends to talk to Stallions GM Kip Wesley about moving him out of St. Louis as soon as possible.

"As soon as his office opens…I’m going to talk to him," Wilhelm said. "I’ve already relayed a message to my agent. And it’s time they made a move." "I’m out. I do not want to be here. At this point, I’m just ready to go. Hopefully, I can go where I can help some team out. I don’t want to sit here and waste another year."

Wilhelm spent all of last season on the free agent list with contract problems. He signed and returned to St. Louis at the beginning of the season ready to play. Strikeout initially indicated that Wilhelm was going to be a key part of the pitching – along with Tidigity Dawg and now-departed Seneca Wallace – but as games wore on, the prospect pitcher found himself down the minor and is now completely out of the staff. He played 2 innings in a July 6 win from the Montreal Menace. The last serious time Wilhelm had on the field was April 13 when he played 4 innings in a home loss to the San Juan Tigers.

In 9 games this season – one as a starter – he has averaged 16.62 ERA and allowed about 1 walks per innings pitched.

"I have been in the minor for almost a full season. There’s no such thing as not being able to play, not being able to do the things I’m capable of," Wilhelm said. "My arms are okay, I’m ready to play. There are no excuses for it."

And he indicated he wasn’t concerned that being placed on the minor league would impact his value on the WBL market.

"That doesn’t matter. I might as well have been sitting on the minor league the whole season. I’ve just been sitting on the sidelines," Wilhelm said after an evening practice." "I thought maybe I could work my way back in; I don’t know how, but somehow, some way. But that’s not going to happen."

Strikeout said that one of the more challenging jobs a Co-GM has is parceling out playing time and that players who aren’t being used now could be used in the future. The Manager, whose team was 49-63 after the last season’s end, said he had discussed Wilhelm’s situation with the player. "We have talked about it initially," he said. "He expressed his concerns, I expressed my opinions and we’ve gone on from there." "He’s been very professional in his approach. Very professional in that he’s taking care of his business, staying in shape, doing what you’d expect an eight- or nine- year pro to do, which he’s not even close to becoming one at this rate."


New Force pitches right in

It was in the later stages of talks to land his newest pitcher that Force general manager Andy Quigly heard some magic words. Quigly badly wanted to secure the services of former Iceland Icecats starter Zack Kobbs, but knew his available funds were dangerously low with the off-season just starting. That’s when Quigly sought out some holiday goodwill from a pitcher he now owes a favor to somewhere down the road.

"He and his agent were absolutely outstanding," Shirley said yesterday after inking his new No. 2 starter to a three-year that will cost the team only $ 12 million (all figures U.S.) next season. "We told him that if he could give us a little break this year, as far as money, it would give us a little more flexibility as far as trying to address as much of the needs that we have." "His response back to us was, ‘Do whatever you want to do with the money.’"

The result is that Kobbs will get a $ 4, 000, 000 raise over last season, when he went 5-12 with a 4.22 earned run average in shares of Santo Domingo, San Juan and Iceland. Kobbs, who turns 24 in June, will make $ 12 million in each of 2009 and 2010, but has helped the Force big time in the short term. Quigly figures yesterday’s deal leaves him with short money left to spend on a bullpen closer and a veteran outfielder. That amount already includes potential salary saved on players to whom the Force figure they won’t tender a contract by the end of the off-season deadline for doing so – with starting pitcher Reynolds now a certainty to be dropped by Frankfurt. The Force has a list of potential closers they are targeting and hope to sign by the end of tomorrow. Frankfurt will then be in a position to add one of several available outfielders.

Getting yesterday’s deal done required flexibility. Kobbs’ agent, Bob Kurly, had never dealt with Quigly before and was bit surprised by the Frankfurt GM’s candidness early in their talks.

"He was very up front with us," Kurly said. "He told us, ‘This is how much money we have to work with. Can we make it work?’ So, we looked at the numbers and tried to come up with a variety of scenarios to see if they could work."

Kurly said that for Kobbs – who was stuck behind aces Dustin Parmelee and Chad Slugga with the Red Coats – the chance to be a No. 2 starter was a huge selling point in Frankfurt’s favor.

Once Frankfurt and Kobbs agreed in principle to a three year deal, Quigly had Kobbs take a routine medical examination in Florida.

"We just wanted to make sure, with money that was involved, that we were getting someone who was healthy," Quigly said.

Kobbs was given the medical green light Thursday, just before Quigly left his New Jersey, New Jersey, home to attend a function. But the deal had not been completely finalized, despite some broadcast outlets declaring prematurely – and incorrectly – that a three year pact for 12 million had been signed.

"We still had some issues to work out with his agent," Quigly said.

That got done before Quigly boarded his flight yesterday morning to Frankfurt bearing a smile that hadn’t vanished by the time his latest deal was officially announced.


Riptides get shopping done

Two days until pitchers and batters report and the Cancun Riptide are virtually tapped out on their budget for 2009. Then again, they were also able to polish off their off season shopping list yesterday and the days before with the free agent signings of veteran free agent utility pitcher Francisco Rodriguez, formerly with Great Britain, and outfielder David Lewis, late of San Juan.

"We’re done," said general manager K-Rod. "About right on the button, too."

In trying to fit the two newcomers into an already packed 17-man roster, subsequent moves further simplified what figures to be fairly cut-and-dried spring training, as far as competition for position goes.

Veteran second baseman Jerome Spann, for instance, who’d made himself useful here for six seasons, could not be slipped through waivers and is now a free agent. Right handed batter Brook Simmons, prospect, was the other casualty but, while being designated for assignment, he could yet turn up with Triple-A Montego and as a non-roster spring invitee. The loss of Spann leaves the Riptide with a second baseman tandem of Jalen Montgomery and 23-year old Aaron Naiditch, who hit .232 over 401 at bats as a rookie mid season call-up last season. This, however, is very possibly how the Riptide wanted it to go.

"Spann helped us get to this point but I think this is the year we have to find out if Naiditch can play," K-Rod said. "We’ve got another guy coming along who could be pretty good, too, which I can not tell at this point."

The 24-year old Rodriguez, meantime, heads into his 3rd major-league season with 80 appearances in the books – not to mention some off season arthroscopic surgery on his right, throwing elbow.

"Very minor," Rodriguez said. "Just go some bone chips cleaned out. My 100game tune-up, basically I’m calling it."

Give the surgery – plus another tight off season market for free agents – Rodriguez came aboard for $ 12 million. It was a hefty but, to him, understandable raise on the $500,000 he scored in posting a 3.13 ERA over 169 innings for the Red Coats. He’s a ground-ball pitcher, not a strikeout guy, and sees himself lending some experience to the back start of the rotation that now features Jake Thomas as the only man of four to begin the 2008 season there. Their rotation and bullpen hasn’t exactly been decided yet.

"We’ll have competition," K-Rod said. "Brook Simmons, if we can get him to come back, maybe recruit some prospects, but, yes, most of our off season decisions already seem to be made."

Lewis, 22, signed for $ 1 million while playing ZERO games last season. He’s probably going to hit around .250. He should be able to handle other outfield positions as well.


A new Shipal in Menace’s town

The long line of people snakes past a wall of footwear, through aisles of fleece sweaters and out the store in the local mall. As its head sits a lanky teenager wearing a white and silver ball cap pulled backwards and a white T-shirt the size of a bed-sheet, with fat sleeves that would hang to the wrist of your average 12 year old. His size 14-feets are crossed under a folding table as he signs an endless series of autographs.

"Are you taking phone calls?" asks a dark haired girl named Tina, who thrusts a cell phone across the table without waiting for an answer. After a minute of good-natured chatter, the cell phone is passed back to Tina who says to her friend, "Are you happy now?"

As she moves past the table to the sweat suit racks and the exit queue she holds up the phone and shouts back: "She wants to know if you want her number!" Menace sophomore Mujuri Shipal grins noncommittally and says "That’s nice."

It’s a scene Shipal will almost certainly have to get used to. Not about two-dozen games in to his WBL career and – current minor knee injury aside – he’s the Menace’s starting pitcher and one of the WBL’s top young weapon. Steve Francis sat with Shipal as he signed baseballs, posters, and caps – even a mint-green envelope – during a recent promotion by his shoe company, Converse, and talked about his life away from the WBL.

Steve Francis: What was your favorite place growing up in Tokyo, Japan?

Mujuri Shipal: besides the house, and my grandmother’s house, I’d have to say it was a concrete play ground we used to play on. That’s where I really started learning baseball. I would just throw the ball directly to the wall and throw my entire body to catch it back.

SF: How old would you have been?

MS: Fourth grade, maybe 7 or 8. I wasn’t old enough to run with the big boys yet. So I was just out there working on my throws.

SF: Then you started growing

MS: Actually I really didn’t start growing until when I got to high school. That’s when I got my spurt. I was, like, tall but I wasn’t ridiculously tall. I was maybe just this much (a couple of inches, with hands) taller than everybody. But everybody stopped and I kept on growing.

SF: Growing up, what other sports did you play besides baseball?

MS: Basketball. A lot. I used to play basketball just as much as baseball. But when I got to middle school I kind of slowed down, but I still played high school basketball too.

SF: What position did you play in basketball?

MS: Shooting Guard and Point Guard.

SF: Were you a better shooter or a better passer?

MS: Better shooter. I didn’t pass that well. I was definitely a better shooter.

SF: So would you be willing to take on Michael Jordan in a one on one contest?

MS: You know, I don’t think so.

SF: So you’d rather go one on one with Jordan in baseball then?

MS: Uhhh, I’d rather face him in basketball.

SF: If you couldn’t be a baseball player what would you be?

MS: I’d be doing something with computers. At first, I wanted to be a graphic designer, get into web design and multimedia. But playing baseball that kind of faded off…HTML and hyper script, it still kinds of intrigues me. I look at Websites and wonder ‘How did they do that?’ ‘What kind of code did they put in?’ I still think about it sometimes.

SF: What were you studying at Japan?

MS: Management. I went from CS, computer science, to management. CS was a little bit more time consuming.

SF: Do you plan to finish your degree?

MS: I told my mother I would. That’s something I promised her right before I went to college. I keep my promises.

SF: Your brother is 6-foot-7 and you shared a bedroom for most of your lives. How did you fit in there together?

MS: It was before we got tall. It wasn’t that big of a room so we really didn’t spend that much time there. I couldn’t imagine doing it now but back then it was okay.

SF: What’s the story about you and your brother playing basketball in the house?

MS: My mother, she bought us a little Nerf basketball set. At first we were just shooting on the little goal. Then we started dunking on it. Then we started playing one on one. So you know it got kind of noisy so they ended up having to take it down…That was after we tore off the door.

SF: You’ve been on a 5, 000 calorie-a-day diet to put on weight. Is that as fun as it sounds?

MS: Well, I tried to eat that much but it’s hard. Very hard. It’s like eating so much you get tired of eating. You won’t get full quick but you just don’t want to force all that food down. It’s very hard. I don’t think I’m up to 5, 000 calories a day now. I don’t know where it is, but it’s enough.

SF: What do you eat?

MS: It’s not all milkshakes. You’ve got to eat good food, that’s the tough part about it. It’s hard and expensive, too.

SF: What’s you favorite meal?

MS: Smothered pork chops in country gravy and rice with black-eyed peas.

SF: Most people see you as a loud, rude and assuming kind of person. What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done?

MS: The most outrageous thing I’ve done was… uhhh, stayed up past my curfew. There’s nothing that really stands out in my mind. I’ve never really done anything crazy or got locked up or nothing like that.

SF: you and your mom are doing a book-of-the-month club. What are you reading right now?

MS: Yeah, it’s only a two person club right now. We’re looking to expand it.

SF: I could put your number in the Weekly…

MS: No, no, no. It’s more like a family and friend-oriented thing. Eventually maybe we might move out and expand it. I think we’d do it with a Website instead of a phone number. Right now, I’m finishing up this book by Michael Baisden. I can’t remember the tile, all I remember is the subtitle, How and Why Men Cheat, because I always call it by that.

SF: How did you choose that book?

MS: I had read some of his books before. It’s very interesting, reading what he has to say and how his stories go…It’s interesting that some people actually act like that. The characters are pretty realistic.

SF: What’s the most expensive thing you bought before you signed your contract with the Menace?

MS: Man, probably a PlayStation game or something. That’s a good question. I don’t really know. But with my own money, that’s probably it.

SF: What’s the most expensive thing you bought since you signed your contract with the Menace?

MS: A car. It’s a Chevy Avalanche. I had to get some wheels.


Suspension surprises Nelson

Jake Nelson apologized yet again yesterday for throwing his broken bat into the stands and blamed only himself for the incident. But the Rush closer also questioned the rationale behind the suspension he took after on-field officials made no comment on the play. He said other infractions have gone unpunished.

"I was surprised, yes," Nelson said yesterday. "It was very unfortunate the way it happened and really there’s no excuse for the bet going into the stands. But I didn’t intend to do it."

In talking publicly yesterday for the first time since the incident Thursday, Nelson said he had no idea whether a no called made on the play would have changed the league’s actions. League Director of Operations Marc Southworth said an ejection should have been handed out. And in deliberating the suspension, Southworth said, he considered a $1, 000 fines but opted for the suspension to emphasize to the rest of the league that such behavior will not be tolerated. Rush GM Gerald Schultz explored the possibility of appealing the suspension, which could have delayed the process and allowed Nelson to play in last night’s games.

But an appeal would have required an in-person meeting in Montreal for Nelson and Schultz, and the Rush were not fully confident the league would have granted the appeal even if they went.

"I never talked to anyone after a telephone meeting with Southworth yesterday, I just explained what happened and they said okay," Nelson said.

He added there wasn’t much precedent for this kind of action from him. "It’s just disappointing not to be able to play the rest of the season." Nelson said his conduct was an action of pure frustration.

"I was getting rid of the bat, as a player trying to hit the ball, you can’t hang onto it once it’s broken, it’s a habit," said Nelson, who was clearly frustrated when his one-piece stick broke after he tried to hit a ball off Cleveland Dawg. "I was frustrated. I wanted to get it out of my hands. I thought I was close enough to the boards and the bat would hit them. I didn’t want it to go into the stands."

Rush coach Paul Levesque said he was disappointed with the suspension.

"I haven’t seen any rationale for it, I haven’t seen WBL’s reasoning behind it, and I don’t agree," Levesque said. Levesque also pointed out that official didn’t even make a call on the play. "It’s the refs’ discretion according to the WBL rule book, and now we’re overruling it and we don’t do that for anything else."


Final Say

Well there you have it, another edition of WBL Times. I really do hope that you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks for taking the time in reading it. This could be may well be my last WBL Weekly. I’m very sad to say that, but unfortunately, it is true. Before I end this thing, I would like apologize to Quigly, K-Rod and rest of the guys who were mentioned in this edition of WBL Times, because I did not ask anyone of you for the rights to write about your certain players. I am your writer, Mujuri Shipal, from the WBL Times.