Tag Archive | "Minor Leauges"

Doing Research and Loving It So Far

I haven’t had much time to write lately because I have started my master’s degree in history and have spent most of my time with that.

However, I have spent most of this semester doing research for my research proposal which deals with baseball’s influence on the troops during World War II. In doing the research I have come across a lot of interesting stories and tidbits which I am going to start writing about.

I have really enjoyed this research so far, and I am only in the very beginnings of it, because it has had so much to do with baseball. And it really got me thinking about where I grew up and the old professional team that was there.

I grew up in Temple, Texas where the Big State League played ball for seven seasons back in the 40’s and 50’s. Prior to that there were teams back after the turn of the century up through the 1920’s. None of the teams were established and stayed for very long as one would fold after a few years and then a new one would come along in a different minor league soon after. None of the teams were ever associated with a Major League franchise, but a few future and former Major Leaguers would make their way through Temple.

Since I am moving back to Texas very soon, I have decided to do research on the old teams that played in Temple and the leagues they played in. I’m actually very excited about it all because I had always heard stories that there were teams, yet nobody I knew growing up really knew anything about these teams.

So in the future here look for more and more posts about the history of the game.

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A Trip to AT&T Field in Chattanooga, Tennessee

This past weekend I had the chance to make a short little baseball trip down through Tennessee and into Georgia. My first stop along the way was Rock City on Lookout Mountain. I didn’t realize there is so much to see and do in Chattanooga, and if you are ever in the area I highly recommend checking out some of the sites.

Anyway, my only night there I headed out to AT&T Field, don’t get it confused with AT&T Park in San Fran. The stadium opened in 2000 and was formerly known as BellSouth Park until AT&T bought out BellSouth in 2007. It seats 6,362 fans, but wasn’t nearly that full the night I was there.

It is a nice park with some newer amenities, but it was lacking one thing – shade! There was virtually no relief from the sun anywhere at the park. Most of the seating is down the first base line with a large beer garden with a patio down the left field line.

Despite the heat I really enjoyed the park. It sits just a short walk away from the Tennessee River where there is a nice little river walk area for walking, picnics, biking, and even river boat rides.

Sitting at the edge of downtown, Chattanooga is a nice little town that has the feel of a bigger one. The stadium sits up atop a hill overlooking the downtown area.

As you enter the stadium, after going up an escalator to reach the top of the hill, there is a small memorial for the AT&T Field Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame consists of just two inductees, one of which is legendary Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. I found this a bit interesting and maybe a little over the top as the Lookouts have only been a Dodger farm team for five seasons.

The other Hall of Fame member is a little more fitting. Calvin Coolidge “Cal” Ermer was a former Lookouts manager during the 1950’s.

The outside of the stadium isn’t anything special especially during the day. At night there are baseballs that light up making it a bit more pleasing. But the best part of the outside of the stadium was the sign above the entrance. I’m not a Dodger fan, but I love tradition and as you enter the stadium you pass under signs that say “Welcome to Dodgertown, Tennessee”.

As for the game there were a few things that stood out. First of all, Sean Burroughs was back in the game playing third base for the Lookouts. If you aren’t familiar with his story, I’d recommend you Google it. In short he was a huge prospect (son of former AL MVP Jeff Burroughs and a Little League World Series hero) and he just didn’t turn out to be what everyone had hoped. He eventually found himself out of baseball and into the dark drug world. But he cleaned himself up and is making a comeback. I love to see someone get their life straight and use baseball as a means of helping to do that.

The other thing that stood out was the entertainment of the day, Myron Noodleman. If any of you has seen the movie Bull Durham, and if you haven’t go rent it right now, then you might remember the “Clown Prince of Baseball” Max Patkin. Well Noodleman has taken over that role as the fifth Clown Prince.

Noodleman was very funny. He would do skits on the field with the best being his “Dueling Signals” performed with a coach to the tune of Dueling Banjos. After he performed on the field he would venture into the stands during the game play and interact with fans performing even more comedy. He was very funny and I count myself lucky having seen him in action. You can see about Myron at his website, MyronNoodleman.com.

Another plus about the stadium is the good beer on tap there. Many places have the simple Bud Light or Miller Lite, but here in Chattanooga there were some better beers on tap such as Fat Tire and Lagunitas IPA. And if you are wanting a little something sweet, you can buy one of Chattanooga’s most famous snacks, a MoonPie.

Chattanooga is a great little town. I’m anxious to get back and see more including historic Engel Stadium which was home to the Lookouts from 1930-1999.

Here are a few photos I shot while at the game. To see more, check out my Flickr page.

At&T Field - Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

At&T Field – Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

Entrance to AT&T Field - Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

Entrance to AT&T Field – Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

AT&T Field Hall of Fame - Chattanooga Lookouts

AT&T Field Hall of Fame – Chattanooga Lookouts

View of Downtown Chattanooga

View of Downtown Chattanooga

AT&T Field - Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

AT&T Field – Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

AT&T Field - Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

AT&T Field – Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

Lasorda's Landing at AT&T Field - Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

Lasorda’s Landing at AT&T Field – Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

AT&T Field - Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

AT&T Field – Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts








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Greer Stadium in Nashville, TN – Home of the Nashville Sounds

Since I have been back in the States, I’ve tried to get out and see a few new stadiums. So one night not long ago, I headed out to see the Nashville Sounds play at Greer Stadium. I was actually excited to see the scoreboard but not much else. I’ve read a lot about Greer Stadium being one of the worst stadiums in the country, and it lived up to that.

Built in 1978, Herschel Greer Stadium leaves a lot to be desired. It is old and definitely shows its age. The seats are old with paint peeling, and not in the best shape. The concourse was small and unexciting. You can not see any of the action while purchasing a beverage or food either.

I went on Throwback Thursday which was fun in a way. The Sounds wear throwback v-neck jerseys that I really liked. They were a cool blue color and it definitely fit with the old stadium. They also had drink and food specials like $1 soda (very small cups) and $1 hot dogs (which weren’t worth a $1).

The stadium holds just over 10,000 people, but on the night I was there, and from what I hear many other nights, there weren’t nearly that many people there. Good seats were easy to find that night with such a small crowd.

Despite the lack of fans, it was a good time and there were a few very enthusiastic fans there as well. Part of the draw was the Sounds were playing the Memphis Cardinals and one of the most highly anticipated young prospects in baseball, Oscar Tavaras.

Tavaras showed in one at bat why he is such a highly touted young player. He hit a line drive back up the middle that from where I was sitting looked like it went through the pitcher and the second base umpire. It was simply smashed, and had it hit the pitcher he would have been seriously hurt.

I enjoyed my time, but more so for the baseball than for the stadium.

I was looking forward to seeing the iconic guitar scoreboard in left field. It was a cool looking scoreboard, but it too shows its age. There are no video boards in it, and it uses a simple low resolution color matrix board. The line score is shown in the neck of the guitar with some room in the headstock for the ball/strike/out count. In the body of the guitar is a small screen to show advertisements and other information about hitters/pitchers and such.

It’s a neat thing that I hope if they ever build a new stadium is moved along with it. It would need to be either upgraded or an additional scoreboard would need to be added to appease today’s fans. However, it fits right in with the Nashville scene and, maybe not as much as the bull in Durham, is one of the things the stadium is known for.

All in all, Greer Stadium is one of the worst stadiums I’ve seen in the US. I know there has been talk in the past of building a new stadium in downtown Nashville along the river. However, in this economy the money needed to partake in such a venture just hasn’t been there yet.

So with all of that said, here are a few photos I took before the game action started up. You can see more photos on my Flickr page.

Outside of Greer Stadium in Nashville, TN

Outside of Greer Stadium in Nashville, TN

Greer Stadium in Nashville, TN

Greer Stadium in Nashville, TN

Greer Stadium in Nashville, TN

Greer Stadium in Nashville, TN

Greer Stadium in Nashville, TN

Greer Stadium in Nashville, TN

Greer Stadium in Nashville, TN

Greer Stadium in Nashville, TN

Greer Stadium in Nashville, TN

Greer Stadium in Nashville, TN






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Visit to Pensacola Bayfront Stadium and the Blue Wahoos

One of the best places I’ve been to in ages is Pensacola Bayfront Stadium. I had the chance a few weeks ago to head down to the coast and check out the new stadium, and I am glad I did.

I lived just outside of Pensacola for a short time and I’ve had family in the area for over 50 years. I was able to see several Pensacola Pelicans games prior to the Blue Wahoos coming to town.

The Pelicans put on a good show. They played in the American Association during the time I lived there (they also played in the Central Baseball League and Southeastern League prior to the AA). It was always a fun time at Pelican Park, which was the University of West Florida’s field.

However, after a series of events that led to the Pelicans owner selling the team, buying another, then moving that team from North Carolina the Blue Wahoos were born. The Southern League, a Double-A affiliated league, came to town in 2012 two years after the Pelicans left town. And boy was it worth the wait.

Not only have the Blue Wahoos had some of the most exciting players in minor league baseball, heard of Billy Hamilton yet?, they built one of, if not the, nicest park in the minors.

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos play at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium built, well, on the bay. As you are watching the game, you are able to take in beautiful bay front views and enjoy a nice cool breeze if you are lucky.

The stadium is very beautiful and has a lot of amenities to offer any fan.

There is good food. I opted for the hot dog because that’s my favorite thing to eat at a game, and it was very good. But being on the water you can find some things that I’ve never seen before at a game like raw oysters or fresh caught shrimp. And they were no little popcorn shrimp. They were quite large and looked quite tasty.

There is a large scoreboard in right field which is state-of-the-art providing videos and other information for fans in attendance.

There is a large souvenir shop just behind home plate that has just about everything a fan could want, party decks in the outfield, and a great spot to bring the family behind the right field wall, Hill-Kelly Hill.

But perhaps the thing that stood out the most was the kindness of everyone at the stadium. There wasn’t one person I didn’t encounter that worked for the Blue Wahoos that wasn’t kind and polite. It was an amazing change from a lot of stadiums you go to where you can be largely ignored. Even the owner came on the scoreboard with a video message saying if there was anything we thought could be improved to let him or the staff know. He even gave a phone number to call him directly.

I actually got the feeling he was sincere and meant everything he said because of the employees that were there. And to be honest, there isn’t much that I could imagine improving.

A few other nice touches that I noticed included military personnel doing video messages asking everyone to stand for the national anthem. This was a nice touch in a city that is highly dependent on the military base there.

Also including some of the cities history and military heritage is a cannon in center field that goes off when a Blue Wahoo hits a home run and at the end of the national anthem. It’s a nice touch you don’t see in other stadiums that adds a little excitement and surprise if it’s your first time there.

I can’t speak highly enough about Pensacola Bayfront Stadium. If you are anywhere near the P-Cola area, it would be well worth  your time to head on over for a game.

Here are a few shots I took at the game. I hope you enjoy them.

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium


Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

A nice little amphitheater behind Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

A nice little amphitheater behind Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

View from CF at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

View from CF at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Looking down the right field line at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Looking down the right field line at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

View from our seats down the left field line at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

View from our seats down the left field line at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

If you would like to see more, visit my Flickr page.

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Upcoming Baseball Stadium Trips

I’m excited about some upcoming trips to see some minor league and college baseball action.

My first stop will be in Pensacola, Florida to see the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. I lived a short time outside of Pcola and got to see a few games of the Pensacola Pelicans, the old American Association team. Since I have left the city has built a new stadium right on the water.

The stadium was named the 2012 Ballpark of the Year by BaseballParks.com. I’ve seen countless pictures of the stadium and heard so many rave about it. I can’t wait to get out and see a game there. I’ve wanted to see it since it was built but this is my first time now that I am finally back in the country. Add to it that I get to see some family, and it’s going to be a great trip.

Next week I have a nice double header planned. The Nashville Sounds play an early day game on Tuesday against the Omaha Storm Chasers. The Sounds play in historic Greer Stadium which opened in 1978.

The second part of my double header will be at Middle Tennessee State University. That night the Blue Raiders will host the Tennessee Volunteers. Neither team has had a great season so far, but it should be a heated in state rivalry.

There are a few other stadiums near by that I hope to visit in the coming weeks if I can find the time including the new stadium in Birmingham and perhaps try to make it a double header day if I can catch a day game at Rickwood Field or at least pay it a visit.

The other two spots I have in mind are a trip up to Nashville to catch Vanderbilt in action and/or head down to Huntsville to visit the Stars.

Stay tuned for pictures from my trip to Pensacola tomorrow. Although it might be delayed due to a weekend of golfing with family.

Till next time…

Posted in MiLB, TravelComments (2)

Monday Mayhem – Minor League Brawl

This fight is brought to you by the letters H and R as in HR. This is between the Lansing Lugnuts and the West Michigan Whitecaps. TrueTv does a great job showing the fight with some closeups and who gets hurt.

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Interview: Birmingham Barons Clubhouse Manager Jeff Perro

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Jeff Perro who is the clubhouse manager for the Birmingham Barons. I have been following Jeff on Twitter (@MiLBClubbie) and through his blog, Inside the Clubhouse, for awhile now. He always has a lot of interesting stories to tell, so if you haven’t done so already, head on over and check them out. You can also find him on FaceBook.
He was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions. So without further ado…..

You are currently the Clubhouse Manager for the Birmingham Barons. Where else have you worked and for how long?

I was a bat boy for the Mobile BaySharks in 1995. I worked in merchandising and ticket sales for the Mobile BayBears from 1996 to 1999. I was the clubhouse and equipment manager for the Augusta GreenJackets in 2008. I worked in this position for the Barons in 2001, returned in 2009, and I’ve been here since.

How did you wind up working in Minor League Baseball?

My first job in baseball was as bat boy for the Mobile BaySharks of the independent Texas-Louisiana League in 1995. It’s funny, as minor on the minor league food chain as that team was, I still run into people from there. Former MLBer Turner Ward is the manager for the Mobile BayBears this year, his younger brother, Lance played on that team. Turner and I reminisced about the BaySharks when his team was in town last week, had some good laughs. Andy Skeels was a catcher for the BaySharks, he was my manager 13 years later with the Augusta GreenJackets in ’08. BayShark coaches Jamie Nelson and Neil Allen both work for the Tampa Bay Rays nowadays, I run into them from time to time.

That team disolved when it was announced that the BayBears were coming to town. A few of the front office people went to work for the BayBears, I talked to them, and I became one of the first handful of employees for the team. Before the ballpark, Hank Aaron Stadium, was built, the team had their offices and gift shop in the Bel Air Mall. I worked in the gift shop and sold tickets, eventually moving into the new stadium, while going to college. I dropped out of college, moved from Mobile to Anniston, AL in 1999, and briefly left baseball.

I had the itch to get back into the game in 2001. Without a degree, there wasn’t a lot I could do besides little part time jobs such as sell tickets, usher, and things like that. I had heard of clubhouse managers, but didn’t really know much about them until I did a little research. It seemed like a fun hands-on job that didn’t require a degree. I sent an email to approximately  60 minor league teams asking what a clubhouse manager does and how to get into it. When I got my first response, I read the message before I paid attention to who it was from. It basically said “We need a clubhouse manager now. When can you interview?” Probablilty said that it was probably an email from some far off team in Tacoma, or Virginia, or somewhere, but I was surprised to see it was from the Birmingham Barons. The team only an hour away!

I interviewed a few days later and was handed a set of keys. My prior experience in baseball opened that door for me. I left the Barons after one season because my offseason job in the restaurant business kept throwing opportunities and money at me. I was out of baseball for seven years and I still regret that decision to leave. The Baseball Winter Meetings were in Nashville, where I was living by that time, in 2007. I saw that as my shot to get back in the game. I interviewed for four clubhouse manager positions and was offered three of them. I decided to take the job with the San Francisco Giants  with their low-A affiliate, the Augusta GreenJackets.  The Barons found out that I was back in baseball and they tracked me down to see if I wanted my old job back after the 2008 season. I initially said no beacuse, the GreenJackets and Giants are class organizations and they treated me very well. I only changed my mind because I had lived and visited Birmingham often over the years and had friends and family there. I wanted to settle down and make a home somewhere. I chose Birmingham and I’ve been here since the 2009 season.My entire baseball career stems from my initial job as a lowly bat boy for a lowly indy ball team.

What are your responsibilities as the Clubhouse Manager?

I have so many responsibilies that I often forget a few when people ask me what they are. I’m resposible for packing team equipment for road trips and loading and unload the buses. I purchase and prepare the pregame spreads and snacks. I’m responsible for working with different restaurants to cater the postgame spreads. Timing and setting up the postgame spreads is a huge stress factor for me. I inventory and order bats, balls, rosin, pine tar, and the like. I’m the guy who does the laundry, folds towels, vacuums and cleans up the clubhouse. I stock the shower soap, shampoo, and other toiletries. I’m the guy who puts the water, Powerade, and cups on the bench. I keep the trainer stocked with ice and ice towels. I rub up the game balls for the umpires. I make sure we have the proper supply and rotation of batting practice balls, batting cage balls, pitcher’s bullpen balls, and fielding work balls. Um……

What do you do in the off-season?

The offseason is brutal. It’s hard to find a decent job that pays decent money that won’t mind you leaving after five months. I imagine the players have similar problems. The last two offseasons I’ve been stuck working two crummy jobs to get by. If I don’t find something steady this offseason, I may end up having to leave baseball. I don’t even want to think about it. It’s a balance of being able to do things that make you happy, but I also have financial responsibilities, as an adult, to take care of.

Most people think anyone who works for a team gets to watch games all day long although that isn’t the case. What is an average day like when the team is in town?

If things fall into place, I may get to watch about three innings of each game. For a 7pm game, my day starts around 10am. I run and run to take care of my above clubhouse managerly duties. I take a quick lunch break around 11:30, but I don’t really get to sit down too often until about 5pm. I get that little break from the time the team comes in from batting practice unti just before the game. I can usually spend some time in the dugout around the 2nd or 3rd innings and I always catch the end of the game. It takes me 5-6 hours after the game to get everything done for the night, so I’m done typically around 3am. Back at it at 10am the next day.

What about when the team is on the road?

When the team bus first pulls out to the next city, I usually sit down on the couch in my semi-messy clubhouse for an hour or two and just chill, maybe take a nap. After 5-10 days of baseball games and constantly having to have things done by certain times for 16+ hour work days, it’s hard to get off the couch when you don’t have those instant deadlines for a few days. I’ll take that first day to detail clean the clubhouse. There’s usually some home pants that have busted holey butts or knees or busted zippers that need to be taken to the seamstress. I take those and pick them up later in the week. Sometimes I get a few days away, but usually there’s something keeping me at the stadium. New players may be coming to town or old ones leaving. A plumber or electrician may be coming to work on something in the clubhouse. I had to be here during this past road trip because a new washer was being delivered. I do my shopping for the next homestand while the guys are away. Also, the South Eastern Conference baseball tournament is played at our ballpark every May, I’m here for that. Sometimes things do work out where I can get an actual break, though. Last summer, while the team was on a 10 day roadtrip, I took my family to Myrtle Beach. We were planning on staying three nights, but the opportunity arose and we stayed a fourth night.

What are your career goals within Minor League Baseball? Do you hope to land in the Majors like the players?

The Big Leagues aren’t my ultimate goal. I’m not going to lie, I’d take a job in the Show and I’d probably stick around forever and love it. The facilities, budget, staffs, and money is insane in MLB. I wouldn’t complain one bit if somebody wanted to hire me. Minor League baseball is my ultimate passion, though. It has been since I was young. My career goal is to be a clubhouse manager at a spring training facility or to be a minor league equipment coordinator for some team. At a spring training facility, the work is year round. There’s spring training, rookie leagues, instructional leagues, mini camps, and fantasy camps. I could work in baseball in a minor league atmosphere, year round, with no brutal offseason.

Nobody wants to name names of the jerks we deal with, but who are some of the nicer people you have run into in the game?

Of course, I’d love to name the jerks, but I never could. I’m always hesistant to name the nice guys, though, for fear of leaving somebody else. I’d hate for a player whom I love to read my “Nice Guy” list and not see their name, I’d feel like a jerk. I’d also hate to leave somebody off, have a fan read it, not see their favorite players name, then think maybe their idol is a jerk. I’ll tell you a couple recent stories about some nice guys, though.
Former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy was with the Barons on a rehab assignment recently. One of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, his family’s great too. I got to hang around the guy for three days. After he’d pitch his innings for the day, he’d come in the clubhouse, take care of whatever treament he had to, then just chit-chat. We talked about life in the Big Leagues, favorite and least favorite ballparks, clubbies, and everything else. Real nice guy and a great teammate.
Another good guys is Marlins’ minor league pitcher Jeff Allison. Allison was a first round pick in 2003 and has gone through some highly publicized off-field issues. I only take care of the home team with the Barons, but I wondered over the the visiting clubhouse last season to talk to our visiting clubhouse manager. He was having a conversation with Jeff Allison. The three of us just had a good talk about life and baseball. He struck me as a real good character. Fast forward to last week, the Jacksonville Suns stopped by Pratt City, AL on their way from Montgomery to Huntsville to volunteer at a Red Cross disaster relief center, following the April 27th tornadoes. I was already there doing some work when the team arrived. A few of the Suns remembered me from last season and gravitated toward me. Allison and I spent a few hours walking around the devestated area and working in the rain and mud together. He was genuinely concerned about the citizens in the area and wanted to do what he could to help. I’m a raving fan of Jeff Allison, I have no problem telling people, even though he’s with a different organization.

Do you keep up with anyone who has come through and moved onto the Majors?

A few players. Facebook is a great tool for the baseball community. You can check in with your former teammates, send them a message here and there, but it’s not as obtrusive as a phone call. Baseball people are busy people. It’s hard to have an actual conversation sometimes. I do enjoy keeping in touch with former players, though, big leaguers are not. Some of my best friends from baseball never made it out of AA and are out of baseball or in independent leagues now.

Jeff and the Barons recently did a lot in the north Alabama area to help with the devastation after the tornadoes that hit the area. He did a couple really nice write ups on his blog that you can read about how they helped out. Seeing things like this always brings a smile to my face. I live in South Korea, but I have a lot of family in the north Alabama area. Luckily everyone in my family was okay, but so many families lost their homes and/or worse. So I would like to say a big Thank You to Jeff and the Barons organization for helping out in a time of need. You can read his posts about helping out by clicking on the links below.

“How Can We Help?”

Day Two in Pratt City, Alabama

Thanks again to Jeff for taking time out of his busy schedule. Be sure to check him out on Twitter @MiLBClubbie, at his blog Inside the Clubhouse, and on FaceBook.

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Minor League Games vs MLB Games

I love baseball. It’s been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I grew up cheering for Dale Murphy and the Atlanta Braves courtesy of TBS, and was hurt the day he was traded to Philly for Jeff Parrett. I celebrated in 1991 when we downed Pitt in the NLCS to make it to the World Series. It was the first time I had ever been able to cheer for “my” team in October, and I still hold a grudge against Lonnie Smith. Yes I know this year will be 20 years and its not good to hold grudges, but come on he should have scored on that double by Pendleton.

Anyway, I am going to get way too far off track if I continue down that road. My point is I love baseball and I love MLB. But there is something I would rather attend if given the chance and that is minor league baseball.

I will watch ANY baseball on TV which might make me a little strange to some. I can remember watching the Silver Bullets play on TV (yep that girls team). I watch Korean baseball all the time with no sound. I hate to miss the Little League World Series and I will watch any and all baseball I find on television. But going to a game, I think I have come to like minor league baseball the best.

The stadiums in MLB are the best in the world, but it has gotten so expensive that it is becoming unafordable for most families. If you are able to score tickets at a good price, it will be in the upper deck where you feel a mile away from the game. However, for the price of that upper deck ticket, and in many cases less, you can attend a minor league game and be close to the action.

Sure you give up watching the best players in the world, but the only difference in the players in the minors from the majors is consistancy. There are some really talented young players in the minors, and talented or not they are busting their hump because they know if they don’t tomorrow they won’t have a job. They are hungry to get to the next level. They hustle. When was the last time you saw a star in the majors hustle when he didn’t have to?

The best thing, besides the typical low cost, is being close to the players. I have been to a few games where I was able to talk to players. One game we talked to the left fielder. In between innings we would ask him where he was from, how he liked the small town he played for, and so on. It was great. He was happy to talk to us, and he promised us a ball if he ever ended the inning with a fly ball. Later in the game when we left to get something to eat while he was at bat, he hit a home run right where we should have been standing and after we returned he wanted to know why we were gone for his big moment. It was great to get down to a personal level with a ballplayer. Just a side note, that player has since made it to the majors.

You will never be able to experience something like that at a MLB game. Sitting so close to the field that the players can hear you when you cheer is great. Getting excited and cheering when someone makes a great play only to have them look your way in acknowledgment that they heard you is an awesome thing. Plus its easy to cheer for someone who is not make a lot of money to play a kids game. They play hard, get paid little, and really do appreciate when you cheer for them. Do you think Aroid really cares if you cheer for him when he makes a play at third base. No, he is only concerned about his paycheck coming tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong. I love MLB games. It is the highest level of the game anywhere in the world. But when push comes to shove, minor league games give you so much more bang for your buck that they are not to be overlooked. After all imagine how many people will have memories of seeing players like Pujols, Jeter, or Chipper Jones when they were young and in the minors. The player that took the time to talk to us that night in left field might not be a superstar in the majors, but he’ll be a superstar to me for the time we shared and his kindness.

So what do you think, minors or majors?

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SABR Day 2011 – Nashville, TN

For years I have thought about joining the Society for American Baseball Research or SABR. But in the end I always talked myself out of it because I don’t consider myself a “stats guy”. I, like many people, had a misconception about what SABR was about.

Sure there are the Sabermetrics guys out there or “stats guys” if you will, but SABR is much more than that. I only wish it didn’t take me this long to find that out.

I am more interested in the history of the game, and that was just what I found when I went to my first SABR meeting on SABR Day last Saturday. Since I live near Nashville, I met up with the Grantland Rice-Fred Russell Chapter for breakfast, and I was glad I did.

What I found was a group of baseball fans that were interested in different aspects of the game which made for an interesting breakfast. Some members were interested in minor leagues while others were interested in how geography affected the game. That was something I never really thought about, but it was interesting to hear someone knowledgeable talk about.

Members of the chapter came from all over the area. There were folks from Birmingham, Chattanooga, Nashville, and even Bowling Green, KY. But we all had one thing in common and that is a love for the game.

I heard a lot of interesting stories. We even got the story on how the Nashville Sounds came to town from their first general manager Farrell Owens. I found that interesting, and it was nice to hear the story from someone who had a great deal in baseball returning to Nashville after a 14-year absence. It’s the behind the scenes history of teams like that which make this game so interesting off the field, and SABR is just the place to find that and much more.

I wasn’t sure how I would be accepted at the meeting having not known anyone prior, but everyone was more than welcoming. They were even interested in hearing about baseball in Korea, which I found a little relieving since I wasn’t sure what else I would talk about. It really couldn’t have been a better first meeting for me, and I owe all of that to the group that was there.

I met some amazing people, who I hope to be in contact with in the future even though I am moving half way around the world. I know I can learn a lot from them about the game I love, and in the end that is why I joined SABR.

All in all it was a great time. To top it off I got to briefly meet Dwight Gooden. The Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association had its yearly banquet the night before at the hotel where we met for breakfast. Their speaker that night was Gooden, and the next morning he was eating breakfast with some of the members of the Association. He was kind enough to take a picture with our small SABR group giving me a memory I will long remember.

So thanks to Skip, Joe, Clarence, Gerald, Peggy, Dan, and Dwight (I hope I am not forgetting anyone) for making my first SABR meeting one to remember. If you aren’t a member and have a love of the game whether it is for stats or the history, I would highly suggest joining and participating in events to meet fellow lovers of the game.

SABR Day 2011
SABR Day 2011 – Nashville, TN

Photo courtesy of Skip Nipper

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Movie Review: Time in the Minors

Time in the Minors

I have watched a lot of documentaries on baseball. My favorite ones deal with what minor leaguers do in order to reach the major leagues, and Time in the Minors delivers.

Time in the Minors is a film by Tony Okun that follows two minor league players in their quest to reach the major leagues through the 2006 season. The best part of this film is that it follows two players in different times of their career. The first was a 6th round pick out of one of the best college baseball programs in the country in Stanford named Tony Schrager. By this time, Schrager had been in the minor leagues for 8 years and had reached the AAA level, but had not reached the majors. The other player followed is a high school player drafted in the 1st round by the Cleveland Indians in John Drennen. With a million dollar bonus, Drennen heades to low A ball as he starts his professional career.

With each player you get to see different aspects of minor league life, the breaks you need to advance through the levels, and the hard work that has to go in everyday.

Minor League Life

Whether you are a 1st round pick that got a million dollar signing bonus or a 6th round pick who only got an $87,500 bonus, life in the minors is going to be similar. No matter where you get drafted, you aren’t going to make a living playing single A baseball. Pay is just not that much. In 1998, rookie league players got paid $850 a month. By 2005, rookie league players were only up to $1175 a month in pay. Then take in the fact that you only get paid during the baseball season, you aren’t talking about enough to make a living through the year. Plus they do not get paid during spring training. This is something that is often overlooked in different documentaries covering minor league baseball, so I was glad to see it addressed in Time in the Minors.

It’s a difficult time for the players, but also for their loved ones. At one point, Tony Schrager and his wife talk about some of the things they went through. I was glad this was included in the film because its the little things like this that are too often overlooked. At one point in the year, Tony was playing with Carolina but was promoted to AAA Albuquerque. He had to jump on a plane and get to the Salt Lake City where Albuquerque was on the road and leave everything behind. So his wife was given the task of driving from their home in Arizona to North Carolina, pack up everything, and drive it back to Arizona. This isn’t they type of thing that you hear about often if at all. But it gives you more insight of the difficult things a minor leaguer, and his family, can be put through.

Being a professional baseball player isn’t always glamorous. Most people see the Major Leaguers and see the glamor that goes along with it, but life in the minors isn’t so glamorous. Between the long bus rides, low pay, old ballparks, cramped dressing areas, and sometimes living with a lot of teammates or with a host family, life in the minors takes a tough willed player to keep going.

John Drennen

John Drennen with the Akron Aeros

Catching Some Breaks

Every year, 1500 players are drafted into the minor leagues. That means a lot of players are going to lose their jobs to newer younger players. You don’t make it to the big leagues without talent, and you might not make it without catching some breaks. But in the grand scheme of things, those breaks can go against you.

That is what happened to Tony Schrager in 2005. Schrager worked hard and made his way through the minor league system. Having made it to AAA with

the Dodgers organization, he was invited to spring training and told he was one of 35 guys they thought could help them in the big leagues that year. Tony got sent down to AAA to start the season but felt this was his year to be called up. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I don’t want to giveaway everything that happens, but as someone who dreamed of playing major league baseball as a kid, it’s a little hard to watch as Tony get past over after many solid years in the minors.

It just goes to show that the breaks don’t always go your way. Less than 10% of the players that play minor league baseball will make it to the major leagues. Sometimes it takes more than simply talent to make the big leagues.

Tony Schrager

Tony Schrager with the Carolina Mudcats

Work Hard Everyday

Perhaps the greatest part of this documentary is the inside look at just how hard you have to work everyday in the minor leagues.

When a player reaches the minor leagues, playing everyday might be the most difficult thing for him to overcome. John Drennen went from high school to the pros and you got to see his struggles which was an interesting inside look at a top prospect. Injuries, the daily grind, and simply learning how to prepare to play everyday are things that get shown in the movie. Drennen’s manager Lee May Jr. talks about the challenges that players go through. Learning how to pace themselves is key to becoming a better player. Drennen is a player who goes hard all the time, but learning how to pace himself to make it through that daily grind was one thing that he talked about.

Too many people think that being a professional player is just sleeping late, showing up to play a game, and partying all night. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The ones that work hard everyday are the ones that have a better chance to continue the climb through the minors. The documentary does a great job conveying that each time a player moves up they have to prove themselves again.

The documentary also shows the mental side of the game, which is one thing that is so attractive about the film. This might be the part of the game that separates the cream of the crop from the everyone else. Tony Schrager talks about have a bad day in the baseball business and the possibility of losing a job. That is not something that is apt to happen in the rest of the business world. If you have a bad day at the office chances are you will come back the next day without fear of losing your job. That’s not the case with a minor league player. On a whim a player can have a job one day and not the other.

Filmmaker Tony Okun talks with some big whigs from the baseball world which was a nice added touch. Getting to hear the insight of people like Indians Director of Player Development (now the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays) or advanced scout for the Chicago Cubs Brad Kelley was very interesting. These are the people making the decisions on who to sign, who to cut, or who to promote/demote in their systems. But one of the people in the film that I really enjoyed listening to was Kenneth Ravizza, PhD. He is a Professor of Sport Psychology from Cal State Fullerton University. He was able to talk about the challenges that players face playing everyday and some of the things that they must overcome in order to continue to advance through the minors. It was very interesting to hear from a professional point of view.

I think the quote from the beginning of the movie sums up a lot of things dealing with minor league life.

Every day is an opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” Bob Feller – Hall of Fame pitcher, Cleveland Indians (1936-1956)

This is by far one of my favorite documentaries on minor league baseball. The contrasts from a player working to make the majors in his 8th season to a young kid straight out of high school makes for a great film. I would highly recommend to anyone who is a baseball fan to check out this film. It’s a great look at what it takes to make it to the big leagues. Life isn’t always sun and fun in the minors, but those that are mentally tough, willing to learn, and work hard have the upper hand to make it to the show.

You can purchase the film Time in the Minors here and you won’t be sorry you did. I easily give this film a Baseball Journeyman rating of 5 gloves.

Check out the trailer on YouTube –

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There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971


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