Daily Archives: January 1, 2013

Ex-Tide shortstop has major league experience, but not major league ego

Josh Rutledge speaks at a Cullman baseball camp.

Josh Rutledge speaks at a Cullman baseball camp.

Josh Rutledge posing for a photo with a young fan.

Josh Rutledge posing for a photo with a young fan.

CULLMAN – Josh Rutledge is 23 and a baseball hero in his hometown of Cullman, having played baseball for the Alabama Crimson Tide and making it to the major leagues. He is coming off an eye-catching rookie season with the Colorado Rockies.

And he is dating the reigning Miss Florida, Laura McKeeman, who will compete this month in the Miss America pagent.

But these days, Rutledge hardly seems eager to bask in the glow of all that. If he has much of an ego, he doesn’t appear to have time to listen to it.

As he prepares back home for spring training, his goals seem relatively modest: He just wants to make the team.

“I don’t have a job sealed up,” he said during a break Thursday at a holiday baseball camp at Cullman’s All Sports Performance Training. “I just want to win a job. If I don’t, that’s fine. I trust that if I put in the work, success will come.”

During a camp session in which he addressed about 75 children from age 6 to 14, he had two main messages, and they’re points he said he still follows:

Accept your failure because baseball players fail all the time, and have fun when you play.

Rutledge had a lot of fun this past baseball season. He started his third year in professional baseball as a shortstop with the Tulsa Drillers, a Class Double-A minor league franchise. After slugging 13 homers and batting .306 in 87 games, he got the call to go to Colorado.

It wasn’t a call he expected. His parents already were traveling to Little Rock, Ark., where Tulsa was set to play next. But in the third inning of his last game with the Drillers, he got pulled from the game.

“It was pretty crazy,” Rutledge said. “I was on first base and was going to second when I was forced out. When I went to the dugout, they told me, ‘You’re out.’ At first, I didn’t understand, but then I was told I was going to Denver.”

The Rockies’ All-Star shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, already was injured, but Tulowitzki’s fill-in was hurt, too.

He arrived in Denver at about 2:30 a.m., but his baseball equipment didn’t make it along with him. It wasn’t there the next day when he was set to go to the stadium, either. And he was in the lineup.

Tulowitzki loaned him batting gloves and cleats. Fellow infielder Jordan Pacheco let him borrow a glove. Second baseman D.J. LeMahieu had some bats Rutledge could use.

In his debut, Colorado faced Philadelphia and left-handed pitching ace Cliff Lee, a former Cy Young Award winner. Rutledge went 2-for-2 with a double, a walk and a sacrifice fly.

The double came on his first at-bat, and just as he made it to second base, Phillies All-Star shortstop Jimmy Rollins offered a quick congratulations.

In 73 games with Colorado, Rutledge hit .274 with eight homers and 37 RBIs.

“The year before, I had a slow start but I finished strong, and that gave me some confidence as I went into last season,” Rutledge said. “I continued to work hard. I started in Double-A, but I ended up getting up to the big leagues.”

As the season went along, he had to remind himself that he was a major leaguer. Each time the Rockies visited a new park, Rutledge would take time to look up and around at the place.

“It was awesome and kind of surreal,” he said.

He said it helped that he played at Alabama and faced SEC competition for three years, before Colorado took him in the 2010 draft.

“There’s good competition in the SEC,” Rutledge said.

Alabama has another Cullman grad on its roster in sophomore Ben Moore, an outfielder and catcher. Collegiate Baseball chose Moore as a freshman All-American last season. Moore lists Rutledge as one of his idols.

When Rutledge was a senior at Cullman, Moore was an eighth-grader.

“I would watch him practice,” Moore said. “It was obvious he was a special talent. I always liked the way he carried himself in the locker room and around.

“He took care to be good to the young players. He wasn’t too good to help us. He always hustled and worked hard, and I try to be that way, too.”

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CBS report on Saban, NFL pursuit of him

CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman has published a report about NFL teams’ pursuit of Alabama’s Nick Saban, and Crimson Tide fans should enjoy reading what Freeman has written.

Here’s a taste:

Though Saban has done one thing and said another before — see Dolphins, Miami — the fact that he’s saying no so forcibly is perhaps the greatest indicator that he’s serious about staying at Alabama. This is the indication after speaking to NFL teams and other football officials in recent days.

This isn’t much different from what most everyone has written for the past six weeks. The problem for Saban is what he said Dec. 21, 2006, when asked about going to Alabama — that he wasn’t going to coach the Crimson Tide.

Trust me, he knows this. He knows folks always will doubt his word because of how he handled the situation six years ago. And he wishes he had handled it different.

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We’re in South Florida and ready for the Crimson Tide to join us

Our view as we go to baggage claim at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Heading to baggage claim at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — We landed in South Florida this evening, ready to cover Alabama’s arrival Wednesday and the Crimson Tide’s week leading up to the BCS National Championship Game.

The Alabama team will arrive at the Miami International Airport on Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. Central time, and minutes after the Crimson Tide gets off the plane, Nick Saban and several players will meet with reporters. Notre Dame gets in Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Central time at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The news conference begin Thursday morning, as offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, quarterback AJ McCarron, center Barrett Jones, guard Chance Warmack, receiver Kevin Norwood, and running back Eddie Lacy will speak with reporters.

Warmack, in particular, has a warm personality, and it should be fun to see the non-Alabama reporters get a chance to hear from him. I would think they’ll like him a lot. The other four are great, too, which is why the Crimson Tide staff selected them to come, but Warmack just has an easy, relaxed way about him that seems to make him pleasant to interview.

Nussmeier hasn’t spoken to reporters since August. Saban doesn’t allow his assistant coaches to address the media except in rare circumstances. The BCS National Championship Game organizers require the teams to make their the offensive and defensive coordinators available to reporters.

Here is his opening statement from when he spoke to reporters Aug. 5:

“Just want to say how fortunate I feel to be here, be a part of the Alabama history and tradition. This is a special place. When I had the opportunity to come here, we sat down and talked about it as a family, it really was a great, great opportunity. An opportunity to get back in the South, where my wife’s from. We spent quite a bit of time in New Orleans, so to get back and see family and friends it’s been great. To get the opportunity to work with this coaching staff, especially Coach Saban, this offensive staff, it’s been a great opportunity. I’m really looking forward to the season.”

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Countdown: Six days before the BCS National Championship Game

Each day until the BCS National Championship Game, Daily Bama Blog contributor Brett Hudson will count down to kickoff, giving us bits and pieces of that day’s significance to Alabama and Notre Dame. Today is six days until the game, which means Brett is examining the number “six.”

–Alabama has converted on six of its 10 fourth-down tries this season.

–Notre Dame is averaging 6.03 yards a offensive play (839 plays for 5,056 yards). Alabama averages around seven yards a play.

–Alabama is averaging 6.23 tackles for a loss per game, tied for
23rd in the nation with Georgia and Orange Bowl-bound Florida State.

–Six is the number of teams separating Notre Dame from being the
worst team in the nation at scoring touchdowns in the redzone. Kansas, Vanderbilt, Toledo, Tulane, Boston College and Massachusetts have worse red zone touchdown percentages. Notre Dame has scored a touchdown on 19 of its 58 redzone trips. 32.76 percent of the time.

Adrian Hubbard leads the Crimson Tide with six sacks, tied for 69th in the nation (with way too many players to list).

–Alabama has two sophomores wearing the No. 6. On offense, backup
quarterback Blake Sims came to the Capstone from Gainesville, Ga. Sims is 5-for-10 for 77 yards through the air this season, also contributing 187 yards and two touchdowns on the ground as Alabama’s main option for a dual-threat quarterback.

–Defensively, HaSean “HaHa” Clinton-Dix has made an impact for the Tide as being the primary spy man when the Tide contained Denard Robinson in the season opener, plus intercepting an Aaron Murray pass in the SEC Championship Game (the one that paved the way for Quinton Dial to thoroughly clean Murray’s clock). Clinton-Dix, an Orlando native, has accumulated 30 tackles this season, 19 solo, to go along with four interceptions, returned for 91 yards, one forced fumble and 10 passes defended.

–Notre Dame has one freshman and one senior sporting the No. 6.
Freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell is heading for a redshirt season in his first season with Notre Dame after leaving Mariner High in Everett, Wash.

–The other No. 6 is the more notable of the two, running back Theo Reddick. He leads the Irish in rushing with 880 yards on 180 carries and five touchdowns. Reddick is in his final season with the Fighting Irish after joining the program from Manville, N.J.

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Guess who returned to Alabama’s practice today?

While Mark Edwards made his way to South Florida today, Daily Bama Blog contributor Brett Hudson covered Alabama’s practice today. Here is his report:

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — The Crimson Tide stepped into the indoor facility today to avoid rain for the second straight practice (and prepare in the 70-degree temperature expected in Miami), for its first practice of 2013.

The new year is making for a new Barrett Jones, as Alabama’s starting center went through limited drills with the first team. He wore his typical white practice jersey with the black No. 75 on it, rather than the black non-contact jersey he has had since hurting his foot in the SEC Championship Game.

Jones skipped some footwork drills, but he did line up next to a guard and snap the football before carrying out blocking assignments in pads. We have practice video at the bottom of this post, which includes footage of Jones.

Wide receiver Kenny Bell (broken leg) remained in a black non-contact jersey while jogging outside of wide receiver drills. Bell is still sporting a noticeable hobble in his step, but does seem to be making progress. Bell has not come close to full speed as far as we have seen, however.

Also in the black jerseys were linebacker Denzel Devall (knee) and defensive back Jarrick Williams (preseason knee surgery).

Wide receiver Kevin Norwood seemed to favor his right ankle very
slightly in drills today, especially after making cuts. Norwood
practiced fully, and Tide head coach Nick Saban has not disclosed any injuries to him in his reports to the media. Norwood’s ankle did appear to have extra tape on it.

From a schematic side, the wide receivers were practicing shorter
double-move routes, with offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier acting as the cornerback. The receivers would fake a slant route, which Nussmeier would bite on as his receivers would run behind him in a diagonal route towards the sideline.

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