Top 100 Baseball Blog

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Steve Kemp, The Former First Overall Draft Pick

Outfielder Steve Kemp was a can’t-miss prospect coming out of the University of Southern California in 1976. The first player taken in that year’s draft, he went to the Detroit Tigers and embarked on an 11-year major league career that didn’t take him to the Hall of Fame but was very solid nonetheless.

After being drafted, Kemp made quick work of the minor leagues. Hitting .328 with 19 home runs in his lone season for seasoning, he became a starter for the Tigers in 1977. The left-handed 22-year-old acquitted himself nicely, contributing a .257 batting average, 18 home runs and 88 RBIs in 151 games.

In 1979, he made his lone All Star appearance, hitting .318 with 26 home runs and 105 RBIs. It was good enough for 17th place in the MVP voting. Although he was well above average the following year, he never approached the same level of play and was traded to the Chicago White Sox prior to the 1982 season.

Kemp had his last above average season as a regular for the Sox. His .291 batting average and 19 home runs and 98 RBIs in 160 games earned him a fat five-year, 5.45 million dollar contract with the New York Yankees.

Unfortunately, Kemp never clicked in New York. His .306 slugging percentage against left-handed pitching in 1983 mean that he was relegated to more of a platoon role. The next year was much of the same, as he was productive against righties but anemic against southpaws. As his play declined, he also suffered a series of injuries. After bouncing to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers, his big league career was over following the 1988 season.

For his career, Kemp appeared in a total of 1,168 games and hit .278 with 130 home runs and 634 RBIs. He was particularly lethal against future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, has he had 16 hits (including 3 home runs and 6 doubles) in 39 career at-bats against him; good for a .410 batting average.

You can read more about Kemp and his career here and here. Also, keep reading for his answers to some specific questions he answered about his time in the game.

Steve Kemp Questionnaire:

If you could do anything about your career differently, what would that be?: Play in one place.

What was the strangest play you ever saw as a player?: George Brett’s pine tar game.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Ralph Houk.

What team had the best clubhouse food?: Detroit home clubhouse.

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Catching Up With Former Boston Red Sox Outfielder Dwayne Hosey


In the 1990s the Boston Red Sox were feast or famine. They had some years where they made the playoffs (though they never went far) or they ranged from embarrassing to bland. With the team seemingly going in circles, the appearance of any promising young player was anxiously awaited by the eager fan base. A highly-regarded prospect from this era was outfielder Dwayne Hosey, who was called up with much fanfare in 1995 but was out of the majors by the end of the following season.

The switch-hitting Hosey was a 13th-round draft choice of the Chicago White Sox in 1987. A five-tool player, he developed slowly but had finally become a promising prospect by the time he reached the Boston system in 1995, five organizations and eight years after he started his professional career.

Part of what gave the Red Sox some excitement about acquiring Hosey off waivers (on August 31, 1995) was that in 1994 he had hit .333 with 27 home runs and 27 stolen bases in 112 games for the Kansas City Royals Triple-A affiliate. He followed that up by hitting .295 with 12 homers and 15 steals in 75 games with the same team in 1995, earning an immediate call-up to Boston as soon as he had been claimed.

Although rosters were watered down due to the waning moments of the season, the 28-year-old Hosey showed tantalizing ability, playing like a veteran from the outset. He appeared in 24 games and smashed three of his 12 extra base hits for home runs, while stealing six bags.

His debut was enough to earn him a regular roll the following year. Unfortunately, it was not mean to be. He hit just .212 with one home run in 28 games and spent most of the season with Triple-A Pawtucket.

Hosey never played in the majors again. He went to Japan in 1997, enjoying a spectacular inaugural season there and bounced around there, the minors and independent ball through the 2002 season. These days he is still involved in baseball. Keep reading for more from this former Sox player.

Dwayne Hosey Interview

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Ricky Henderson. He was the ultimate complete player without switch hitting.

Can you please talk a little bit about your experience in the 1987 draft?: I had not a clue about what was going on. My scout and friends had to explain to me what was about to happen. I didn't know about a minor league system.

What do you remember most about your first major league hit against Mark Langston?: All I was focusing on was staying inside Langston's cut fastball and breaking ball. He was a smooth operator and it was an honor to get my first hit against a stud like that.

In your opinion, who was the most talented player you ever played with or against? What made them stand out so much?: You know, I have to say there is great, amazingly great, and just unbelievable. The guy that I was star struck with was Bo Jackson. But I've seen incredible arms, speed, power and high average hitters. Defenders and mentally tough animals are another facet to enjoy. That's why it's called the SHOW.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: Making that major league debut and post season with Boston, and winning the Japanese title, MVP and home run title in the same year.

What was your favorite ballpark/city to play in, and why?: Well I really appreciate all equally, but playing in Fenway with that Green Monster was historical for me.

If there is anything you could go back and do differently about your baseball career, what would that be?: I wouldn't have changed a thing. I had great mentors and coaches and teammates and fans that gave me great insight. So if I could go back. I'd listen to great sound advice all over again.

How nervous were you to play in Japan, and what was the experience actually like?: I wasn't nervous at all. I fully embraced the experience and couldn't get enough of it. 
What are you up to since retiring as a player?: I now own a baseball facility and youth baseball teams. 

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Important Takeaways From the 2017 Boston Red Sox's Regular Season

By all traditional metrics the 2017 Boston Red Sox have had a successful regular season. They head into the 162nd and final game of the season against the Houston Astros having already sewn up the American League East title and have a chance to notch their 94th victory of the year. Regardless of what happens in the final contest they will proceed to play those same Astros in the American League Divisional Series this coming week. In addition to the team’s unknown playoff destiny, what are some takeaways from this season? Let’s take a look.

They may have found the catcher of the future:

It appears that the team has moved on from former highly regarded (especially for his bat) catching prospect Blake Swihart in favor of more lightly regarded catching prospect Christian Vazquez (better known for his glove work). The plot twist has been that Vazquez has maintained his talented glove (42 percent caught stealing) while showing he may be better than advertised with the bat. His 91 OPS+ will not get him confused with the likes of Giancarlo Stanton but his .291 batting average in 98 games has meant the team has not needed to give pause about throwing him out there.

Vazquez has hit nearly equally well against lefties and righties (.748/.735 OPS split). One downside is that he has not fared so well with his home/road split (.915/.577). It is encouraging to see what he has done before and after All Star Break, where his OPS+ has gone from 78 to 118 in 49 games before and 49 games since. Now completing his 10th season with the organization, he is still just 27 and looks to be entrenched as the receiver who will be receiving the lion’s share of the time behind the plate moving forward.
The lineup misses David Ortiz. Badly:

This should come as no surprise, but the degree to which his absence has impacted the offense has been huge. With one game left, the 2017 team has scored 782 runs. The 2016 squad, which was Ortiz’s swan song, put up 878 runs. Only five current lineup regulars boast an OPS+ of at least 100 (considered league average), with Eduardo Nunez’s 129 mark well above runner up Rafael Dever’s 112. By comparison, the 40-year-old Ortiz posted a 164 OPS+ last year.

Dynamic young players like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts have had solid but unremarkable seasons. They need to pick it up going forward if the team is to recapture previous excellence with their bats. The Red Sox currently lack a traditional slugger; the kind of hitter that is a consistent threat for 35+ home runs. It doesn’t appear that such a player is on their current roster or even in their minor league system, so getting creative in the offseason may be on the docket.

The Sox might have the best starting rotation in baseball in 2018:

Only those who have lived under a rock during these summer months can claim ignorance as to the greatness Chris Sale displayed in his first season with Boston. He is on the short list for the upcoming Cy Young vote and has dominated hitters in Boston unlike anyone since Pedro Martinez.

David Price missed more than half the season with injuries and is finishing out the year in the bullpen. However, he has pitched well (3.38 ERA and better than a strikeout an inning) when he has been able to toe a rubber. It’s a decent bet that the former Cy Young winner still has some tricks left up his sleeve.

A year after winning 22 games and the Cy Young, Rick Porcello has been atrocious. He has a 4.65 ERA and leads the league with 17 losses, 236 hits and 38 home runs allowed. While he may not approach his Cy Young level again, it’s also hard to imagine he will repeat this level of ineptitude. He appears healthy and will still be just 29 next year, suggesting that some simple adjustments may be all that’s needed to get him back to being the pitcher that has average 13 wins per year over his first nine seasons.

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth occurred around New England last year when the Sox shipped their top pitching prospect to the San Diego Padres for Drew Pomeranz; a talented but flawed lefty, who claimed a 22-31 record in parts of six seasons. He did little to ease fears in his time with the team last year, going just 4-5 with a 4.59 ERA in 14 games. It’s been a completely different story in 2017, as he has been an admirable number two to Sale, going 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 174 strikeouts. Still just 28, he is arbitration eligible and will be with the team at least one more year.

His numbers won’t blow you away but 24-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez made strides this year towards his potential as a top-flight young pitcher. He was 6-7 with a 4.19 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) but struck out 150 batters in 137.1 innings and his 3.97 FIP was nearly identical to that of his teammate Pomeranz (3.83). Rodriguez once again missed time with injuries and will need to stay on the field to continue moving forward. That being said, he can continue to develop while being stashed in the number five starter role.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Les Norman: A Baseball Life

Outfielder Les Norman came to professional baseball as a draft pick from the middle rounds. Despite his rather humble entry, he made quick work of the major leagues and became one of the few to ascend to the major leagues.  

After a difficult childhood, the right-handed Norman attended the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois. He was originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 26th round in 1990. However, he declined to sign and ended up being taken a round earlier the following year by the Kansas City Royals.

Solid but unspectacular numbers in the minors earned Norman his ticket to the majors in 1995. His first big league hit was a single against Darren Oliver and the Texas Rangers on May 30th of that year.

Between 1995 and 1996 Norman bounced between the minors and the Royals. During that time he appeared in a total of 78 games and was used primarily off the bench, accumulating just 89 at bats. He hit a combined .169 with 4 RBIs.

The inability to find consistent playing time, along with nagging shoulder injuries curtailed his career. He played in the minors and independent ball before retiring following the 2005 season. He has remained in the game in multiple ways and has a lot to be proud of for what he has accomplished throughout his career.

Les Norman Interview

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: A: Pete Rose- hustle and hitting  B: Ryne Sandberg-Played my fave position (second base) & team (Chicago Cubs)

What went into your decision to not sign with the Boston Red Sox after being drafted by them in 1990? In hindsight, did you make the right decision?: Without advice, I had a number set in my mind of signing bonus to pay for college and for a car (didn't have one).  My head wasn't in the right place; heart wasn't very humble, so I didn't sign.  I DID make the right decision. If I would have signed, I wasn't emotionally ready to handle pro ball, and most likely wouldn't have made it to the MLB.  Also, I met my bride through playing MLB in Kansas City, so I believe God used it to A: teach me a HUGE lesson; B: find my family; and C: forge my path into media.

What do you remember most about your major league debut?: Besides the excitement of a dream fulfilled, that when I walked up to home plate the pitcher looked like he was about 10 feet away, and that his 80 mph fastball looked like 100. Shaking and nervous, to say the least.

In your opinion, who was the most talented player you ever played with or against? What made them stand out so much?: Ken Griffey Jr.  Amazing athleticism; the game was slow for him.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: Hitting a game-winning triple against Toronto in the second game of a double header to help the Royals take the Wild Card lead.
What pitcher that you faced had the nastiest stuff, and what made them so tough?: 1) Lefty Norm Charlton.  Nasty screwball and tough to read.  2) Righty Jeff Nelson. Big, submarine pitcher with a FILTHY slider. Almost untouchable.

How easy is it to get acclimated to a major league clubhouse after getting called up for the first time?: Wasn't tough for me, knew to stay quiet and learn.  Mark Gubicza and Jeff Montgomery helped me learn that early.

What is one thing you would have liked to accomplish at the major league level that you weren't able to do?: Hit a home run.  Have 104 in the minors, but none in two years in the majors.  

 What are you up to since retiring as a player?: 1.  Married to my bride Kristin for 20 years, sons Mack (16) and Tayt (12), both ball players.
 2.  Host my own syndicated radio show, "Breakin' the Norm" based in Kansas City, Missouri (lesnorman.com).
 3.  On the Royals Alumni Board of Directors, active in working with Royals Charities and community work.
 4.  National Motivational/Keynote Speaker for businesses, churches, and schools.
 5.  Published author of "Teaching the Tools of Hitting" (Nov. '15).
 6.  TV analyst for Royals "Blue Zone" Show on Spectrum Sports Cable Channel.
 7.  TV analyst for Cox Cable/Spectrum Sports telecasts of Royals Double-A NWA Naturals & Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers minor league broadcasts.
 8.  Radio Royals Analyst on KC's Sports Radio 810WHB's "Between the Lines" and "Baseball Tonight" shows.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Gulf Coast League Announces 2017 All-Star Team

For Immediate Release                                                       September 1, 2017 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Gulf Coast League today announced its 2017 All-Star Team, Most Valuable Player and Manager of the Year. 

Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman/outfielder Mason Martin was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. He leads the league with 11 home runs, a .632 slugging percentage (in first place by over 100 points) and a 1.082 OPS. His .450 on-base percentage is second in the league and he has walked 30 times in his 38 games entering today. The Pirates selected Martin in the 17th round of the 2017 First Year Player Draft out of Southridge High School in Kennewick, Washington. 

Nationals manager Josh Johnson was named Manager of the Year after guiding the Nationals to a 34-20 mark entering today’s action. Johnson played 12 seasons in the minor leagues (six with the Royals and six with the Nationals) before beginning his managerial career in 2016. Johnson has a career record of 64-43 (.598) as a minor league manager entering today’s game. 

 The Philadelphia Phillies had four players named to the 12-man All-Star squad, which features players from five different countries. 

The Gulf Coast League playoffs begin Sunday. 

2017 GULF COAST LEAGUE ALL-STAR TEAM 

Position    Player   Age   Organization   Home
1B Mason Martin 18 Pittsburgh Kennewick, WA 
2B Max Hogan 23 Baltimore Tulsa, OK 
3B Elehuris Montero 19 St. Louis Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 
SS Rodolfo Castro 18 Pittsburgh Los Llanos, Dominican Republic 
C Gresuan Silverio 18 Detroit Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic 
DH Quincy Nieporte 23 Philadelphia Bayville, NY 
OF Ben Pelletier 19 Philadelphia Varennes, Quebec, Canada 
OF Jean Carlos Arias 19 Minnesota Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic 
OF Canaan Smith 18 New York (AL) Dallas, TX 
RHP Jaison Vilera 20 New York (NL) Caracas, Venezuela 
LHP Manuel Silva 18 Philadelphia Sabana Grande de Palenque, Dominican Republic
RP Anton Kuznetsov 19 Philadelphia Moscow, Russia 

### About the Gulf Coast League Founded in 1964, the Gulf Coast League has operated rookie-level teams in Minor League Baseball throughout the central area of Florida for more than 50 years. The Minor League Baseball office, located in St. Petersburg, Florida, assumed league operations in 2010. The league consists of 17 teams from 15 Major League Baseball affiliates. For more information, visit milb.comhttp://www.milb.com/index.jsp

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ray Caldwell Shook Off Being Struck By Lightning to Finish Complete Game Win

Baseball purists still lament how the game has changed for pitchers, with it being increasingly unlikely that hurlers throw complete games. In an age where good pitching is paid for at a premium, it is just no longer a wise financial decision to place pitchers in a position to hurt themselves by having them stretch the limits of their physical capabilities. However, it wasn’t always this way, as evidenced by Ray Caldwell, who was once struck by lightning on the mound during a game, and not only survived but actually stayed in and finished off a complete game victory.

The right-handed Caldwell was a league average (career 100 ERA+) pitcher who had a 12-year major league career with three teams (New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians) from 1910-1921. He compiled a career record of 134-120 with a 3.22 ERA and won over 18 games in a season three times. Despite his modest success, he is perhaps best known for a game on August 24, 1919 against the Philadelphia Athletics where he nearly lost his life, yet somehow turned it into perhaps his best outing of the season.

Earlier in the month, the 31-year-old Caldwell had been released by the Red Sox and was signed weeks later by the Indians, who were battling the Chicago White Sox for the American League pennant. August 24th was actually his first appearance with his new team and he certainly made it memorable.

Pitching in Cleveland, Caldwell clung to a narrow 2-1 edge against the Athletics, entering the ninth inning in his debut on the banks of Lake Erie. Rain had fallen since the middle innings, but play continued to ensure the contest was completed, given how late it was in the season.

With just one out left to go to secure the victory, shortstop Joe Dugan dug in at the plate. As Caldwell went to wind up, a lightning bolt zig-zagged from the sky and struck the pitcher. Harry P. Edwards from the Sporting News described the scene.  “The bolts flashed here and there, causing much excitement,” “There was a blinding flash that seemed to set the diamond on fire and Caldwell was knocked flat from the shock of it.”

It was reported that the strike knocked the mask and hat off Cleveland’s catcher Steve O’Neill and the hat off Philadelphia third-base coach Harry Davis.

It was also reported that Davis, “got a second shock, for Cy Perkins came up to feel Harry’s head and see if he was hurt. The lightning had charged Davis’ hair with electricity and his whole frame tingled when Cy touched him.”

“We all could feel the tingle of the electric shock running through our systems, particularly in our legs,” umpire Billy Evans recounted after the game.

Caldwell laid stretched out on the ground for a few minutes before slowly rising to his feet. Inexplicably, he indicated he was able to finish the game, and with one out remaining it was decided to try and play through before lightning had a chance to strike twice.

Caldwell induced Dugan to hit a game-ending grounder and went to the locker room to face a barrage of questions from a wide-eyed press corps. He explained to the Cleveland Press that “felt just like somebody came up with a board and hit me on top of the head and knocked me down.” He was also found to have burns on his chest. Some suggested that the lightning had struck the metal button on the top of his cap and gone down through his body to his metal spikes.

Caldwell pitched again five days later, but was not able to throw another complete game. He went just 8.2 innings that contest in a loss, but reeled off three complete-game wins in a row after that. He went on to have his only 20-win season the following year, and though he was out of the majors following the 1921 season, he continued pitching in the minors until 1933, when he was 45 (finishing with 293 wins in his professional career).

He passed away in 1967 at the age of 1979. Despite his solid and lengthy career, he will forever be remembered for his big strike in Cleveland, which never even crossed home plate.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Catching Up With Former Boston Red Sox First-Round Pick Rick Asadoorian

Drafted in the first round by the Boston Red Sox in 1999, Worcester, Massachusetts high school outfielder Rick Asadoorian was ecstatic to go to his home team. A multi-tooled right-handed player, his future was bright as he entered his professional career. He was so young and his future lay before him like an unpainted canvas.

Although Asadoorian never made it the major leagues, he did play 12 seasons professionally. He was not only an accomplished outfielder, who in particular excelled in the field, he also became a successful relief pitcher over the latter half of his playing time after it was discovered his powerful outfield arm could dial up a fastball.

He has now moved on to his post-playing career but still remains close to the game he has enjoyed his entire life. Keep reading for Rick’s memories of his career and updates about what he is doing today.

Rick Asadoorian Interview

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: I did not really have a favorite single player. I liked so many players all around the league but nothing compared to any player on the Red Sox. Every player in Boston was so special to me. I remember going to a game and seeing Andre Dawson throwing in between innings in the outfield and was amazed by how the ball came out of his hand. Just a few players I remember were Oil Can Boyd, Dwight Evans, Tim Naehring, Scott Cooper, Jack Clark.  I was always Jack Clark when playing wiffle ball home run derby in my back yard with friends. I loved his simple swing and how he destroyed balls.

Can you describe your draft experience with the Boston Red Sox in 1999- How did you find out you had been selected?: I was on a class trip for our senior week at High Meadows in Connecticut. My cousin loaned me his pager so I would know exactly when I was selected. Cell phones were just starting to really come out so I had to rely on a pager. When the draft started, I think 1 pm, myself and all of my classmates were sitting together around the pool area with all the other schools in attendance. Somewhere around 1:30 the buzzer on the pager went off and it read “Red Sox #17 call home.” I looked over to a friend of mine and told him I was just drafted by the Sox and once they announced it over the loud speaker the whole place cheered. It was pretty damn cool.

What do you remember most about your professional debut?: My pro debut was nothing spectacular, Since I signed late I had to wait until Instructional League to play in games. I think I played right field and didn't do anything at the plate. I think I made a diving catch though. My second game I went 4-for-5 with 3 doubles. Let’s call that one my debut. Hahhaha

In your opinion, who was the most talented player you ever played with or against? What made them stand out so much?: Without a doubt the most talented player was Josh Hamilton. I remember going to national showcases and he and I were always two of the best outfielders. My best tools were probably my arm and defense. I had so much confidence in my throwing ability I felt as though there was none better. I felt that until I threw next to Josh Hamilton. He was a step above where I was and no matter what I did I could not throw better. He was a special talent.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: My favorite moment was probably winning the State Championship in high school with all of my friends. We lost two years in a row and finally won our senior year. We had special group and we are all still very close friends.

How did you decide to add pitching to your repertoire so far into your pro career?: It happened randomly. There was an extra inning game where our team (Chattanooga Lookouts) was playing in West Tennessee. The Futures Game was going on the next day so our bullpen had to pick up our starting pitcher Homer Bailey, who was pitching in the Futures Game. The extra innings caused us to use almost everyone and our manager was asking if any position guys could throw. I said I would and went out there for two innings. Topped out at 95 and struck out five out of six. We ended up winning and I opened some eyes and some ideas from the club. I welcomed it and would do it all over again.

If there is anything you could go back and do differently about your baseball career, what would that be?: I would pay closer attention to how successful players go about their business. The mental aspect of the game was my biggest struggle. Talent was never an issue for me but learning how to play every day mentally and approaching the game in a different way could have helped me. Also, I would have surrounded myself with the correct people. I made a huge mistake with my agent choice when my agents split and learned about that business the hard way. I now work with the guy I should have been with because of his dedication and genuine caring about his clients. The person I stayed with was nowhere to be found when I needed him most. Now I vowed I would help educate and provide solid representation for those players going through the process as I have.

How difficult/easy is life as a minor leaguers?: Life as a Minor leaguer is difficult. The hardest part is always being away from home; away from family, friends and loved ones. You miss so much and sacrifice many things because of the life. I was very fortunate to have received a big signing bonus, which definitely helps during the season and mostly in the off season. Preparing for this life was something I did when I was young. I always wanted to play baseball and it was always in front of anything else in my life. That is the way it has to be for anyone to have a chance. Baseball has to trump all. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Minor League Baseball Teams Offering Unique Solar Eclipse Experiences

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida. — While lifelong memories are made at Minor League Baseball stadiums on a daily basis, 10 Minor League Baseball teams will play games scheduled in conjunction with Monday’s solar eclipse, creating a unique experience for fans, including what will be the first eclipse delay in professional baseball history.
The 10 teams playing home games that may be impacted in some manner by the eclipse are the Bowling Green Hot Rods, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Columbia Fireflies, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Greenville Drive, Lansing Lugnuts, Memphis Redbirds, Peoria Chiefs, Salem-Keizer Volcanoes and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The Idaho Falls Chukars are on the “path of totality”, but do not play at home on Monday.

The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes will begin their game at 9:35 a.m. EST on Monday, stopping the game after the first inning to allow fans to experience the first solar eclipse delay in baseball history. The Salem area is the first city in the United States that will go completely dark on the path of totality.

“The total solar eclipse on Monday is a very unique event and while we want our fans, players and coaches to enjoy this rare experience, we also want to remind everyone to take the proper precautions to protect their eyesight,” said Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner. “Several of our clubs have gone to great lengths to make this a memorable occasion and a lasting memory for those in attendance, but we cannot stress safety enough.”

For information on solar eclipse viewing safety, visit https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.

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About Minor League Baseball
Minor League Baseball, headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, is the governing body for all professional baseball teams in the United States, Canada, and the Dominican Republic that are affiliated with Major League Baseball® clubs through their farm systems. Fans are coming out in unprecedented numbers to this one-of-a-kind experience that can only be found at Minor League Baseball ballparks. In 2016, Minor League Baseball attracted 41.3 million fans to its ballparks to see the future stars of the sport hone their skills. From the electricity in the stands to the excitement on the field, Minor League Baseball has provided affordable family-friendly entertainment to people of all ages since its founding in 1901. For more information, visit www.MiLB.com.  
Follow Minor League Baseball on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Minor League Baseball’s Big Hitters Battle for Joe Bauman Home Run Award

For Immediate Release                                                                       August 15, 2017 

Minor League Baseball’s Big Hitters Battle for Joe Bauman Home Run Award Pair of Pacific Coast League sluggers leading the pack for annual home run crown 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With three weeks of play remaining in the 2017 Minor League Baseball season, two Pacific Coast League sluggers are leading a group battling for the annual Joe Bauman Home Run Award, presented by Musco Sports Lighting. The top regular season home run hitter in the domestic-based leagues wins the Joe Bauman Award, which is presented at the Baseball Winter Meetings, as well as a check representing $200 for each home run he hits. 

The award, first presented in 2002, is named for Joe Bauman, who set a then-professional record with 72 home runs in 1954 while playing for the Roswell Rockets of the Class-C Longhorn League. 

Nashville designated hitter Renato Nunez leads Minor League Baseball with 31 home runs, while Reno Aces first baseman Christian Walker is one behind with 30. Portland Sea Dogs third baseman Michael Chavis and Lehigh Valley first baseman Rhys Hoskins each have 29 home runs. Hoskins, who was promoted to Philadelphia on Aug. 10, was runner-up for the award in 2016. 

Nunez set a career-high with his 30th homer on Aug. 6, and has launched 54 long balls for the Sounds over the last two seasons. He homered in three consecutive games three times (May 1-3, May 18-20 and Aug. 4-6) in 2017 and homered twice on July 6 at Colorado Springs. Nunez, 23, was signed by Oakland as a free agent on Nov. 20, 2010, and is attempting to be the fifth consecutive player under the age of 24 to win the award, following Dylan Cozens (22) in 2016, A.J. Reed (22) in 2015, KrisBryant (22) in 2014, and Joey Gallo (19) in 2013. 

Walker, 26, has also set a career-high with his 30 homers, eclipsing his 26 homers between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk in 2014. Walker has homered in consecutive games three times in 2017, and has three multi-homer games (April 12, May 18 and Aug. 6). Walker, 26, was originally selected by Baltimore in the fourth round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of South Carolina. 

Chavis began the year with Class-A Salem in the Carolina League where he hit 17 homers in 59 games prior to a June 23 promotion to Double-A Portland, where he has gone deep 12 times in 47 games for the Sea Dogs. Chavis, 22, was selected by Boston in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia. 

Classification leaders, provided they are not the overall winner, receive a $500 cash award. Erie SeaWolves (Tigers) outfielder Christin Stewart leads the Double-A level with 25 home runs. Lake County Captains (Indians) first baseman Emmanuel Tapia leads the Class-A level with 25 home runs, while Great Falls Voyagers (White Sox) first baseman Austin Villa leads the Short Season-A and Rookie-level with 13 homers. 

Minor League Baseball will announce the 2017 Joe Bauman Home Run Award winner Sept. 5. The recipient will receive his trophy and monetary award Monday, Dec. 11, at the Baseball Winter Meetings Awards Luncheon in Orlando, Florida. 

#MiLB# 

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Steve Stemle's Road to Major League Baseball

For as interesting as it is to see how a baseball player develops during their baseball career, discovering what vocation they steer towards after leaving the diamond can be downright fascinating. Although many former players continue on as scouts and coaches, there are others who spread their wings even wider, like former Kansas City Royals pitcher Steve Stemle.

A native of Indiana, the right-hander was a fifth-round draft selection of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 out of Western Kentucky University. He made an immediate splash in his professional debut, going 3-3 with a 1.83 ERA nine starts for New Jersey in the New York-Penn League.

Although he made steady progress through the minors, it took a little while for him to start posting numbers worthy of a highly-drafted prospect, culminating in his 12-6 mark and 3.88 ERA in 2002 while playing with the Cardinals’ Double and Triple-A affiliates.

In 2004, Stemle was converted to the bullpen where he found success pitching as a set-up man. He was granted free agency that off season and signed with the Royals. His 0.45 ERA in 14 Triple-A games convinced them to give the 28-year-old his first shot at the majors. He pitched three perfect innings in his major league debut against the Texas Rangers, and went on to a 5.06 ERA in six relief appearances, spanning 10.2 innings. Unfortunately, injuries kept him out of action for the second half of the season.

In 2006, Stemle was once again beset by injuries. He made five appearances for the Royals but gave up 15 hits and 10 earned runs in just six innings. Nerve pain proved too difficult to overcome and just like that his playing career was over at 29. Fortunately, he was able to experience the major leagues as a reward for all the hard work and positive results from his career.

Since retiring from the pitching mound, Stemle has remained close to the game but not in the same way as many of his peers. He is a youth coach and has developed the Lokator System, a high-tech electronic (phone app) system and pitching academy that allows young pitchers to have access to top-notch data about their results. As a result, his baseball career is still in full swing, just in a different way than he might have imagined when he was first drafted.


Steve Stemle Interview

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: I would have to say Ozzie Smith because of his defense and creativity all over the diamond.  I am a big fan of innovation and I feel like he recreated the art of playing shortstop.  

Can you describe your draft experience with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998- How did you find out you had been selected?
: I got the call on the house phone on a normal day when my parents were at work.  This was before the internet (man, I feel old) so there was no following along the draft or going anywhere to watch it.  We felt lucky to have ESPN!

What do you remember most about your major league debut?
: My debut outing ended up being my best so it was memorable on the field, but what was more memorable was the phone ringing in the bullpen and my number getting called.  I had pinpoint command in Triple-A before the call up and when I got on the bullpen mound to get loose before that first MLB outing I had the most adrenaline ever flowing.  I couldn't get the ball down at all in the bullpen; everything was shoulder-high on hitters.  My first 10 throws weren't even close but I told them I was ready.  Running into the game knowing I hadn't thrown any strikes in the bullpen had me focused on one thing; hit the catcher's glove and let the rest take care of itself.  I ended up throwing three perfect innings (the way I remember it) and having my best outing.  I still believe it was because I hit the catcher's target that day.

In your opinion, who was the most talented player you ever played with or against? What made them stand out so much?
: (Derek) Jeter comes to mind right away.  He was such a complete player in every aspect of the game.  So much more goes into greatness than raw numbers even through he had all of those too.  I guess that's what made him so great. He had all the stats, Championships, MVP's, Gold Gloves, etc, but he was equally good in the intangibles category.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?
: I get a big kick out of watching the kids I coach succeed, even more than something I did as a player.  It's probably a combination of moments when a pitcher I have guided walks off the mound after a successful outing.

You faced
Hank Blalock three times during your MLB career and fanned him all three times. Why do you think you had his number?: I honestly have no idea.  Hank and I played each other in the minors as well, so some of that could have carried over into MLB.  It was just the luck of the draw I guess.

If there is anything you could go back and do differently about your baseball career, what would that be?
: I'm not big on regretting anything; what's the past is over.  I feel like to be a good baseball player you have to let go of yesterday and concentrate on the here and now.  Baseball helped teach me that lesson in everyday life and those are some of the really important things I try to pass along to the kids.

What goes into the decision of retiring from playing?
: My body broke!  There is no decision making process when it's a struggle to live everyday life because of playing injuries.  Nerve pain in the spine is not a joke, and I think I've found a good routine of different activities to keep me up and moving.  Pain everyday from a playing career is a reality for MANY of the players who play minor or major league ball. 

What are you up to since retiring as a player?: I invented a pitching system called the Lokator System.  It started as a pitching target that had numbers for zones in a unique design.  Then I added an iOS app called Lokator Bullpen to teach pitch command, selection, sequencing, and give reports and rankings of individual pitcher's command statistics.  And recently I have finished work with the University of Louisville Computer Science to implement vision algorithms into Lokator's app.  Now pitchers will be able to use mobile phone cameras to record bullpen sessions with the Lokator Target, then get their velocity, trajectory, and location of all pitches stored in an online database.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Monday, August 7, 2017

Minor League Baseball Announces July Players of the Month

For Immediate Release by milb.com                                                                       August 7, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Minor League Baseball today announced its July Player of the Month Award winners for all leagues. Each winner will receive an award from Minor League Baseball in recognition of the honor. 

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Yankees) outfielder Jake Cave led the International League in average (.390), hits (41), runs scored (25) and total bases (70). He also finished in the top five in homers, RBI, extra-base hits, slugging and on-base percentage. Cave hit safely in 24 of 26 July games and ended the month on a 15-game hitting streak. Cave, 24, was selected by the Yankees in the 11th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, Virginia. 

Las Vegas 51s (Mets) first baseman Dominic Smith led the Pacific Coast League in runs (28) and was second in extra-base hits (21), total bases (79), slugging (.725) and OPS (1.162). He was in the top five in RBI (26) and home runs (eight). Smith reached base safely in 24 of his 26 games in July and posted 16 multi-hit games. Smith, 22, was selected by New York in the first round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Juniper Serra High School in Gardena, California. 

Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox) outfielder Jeremy Barfield led the Eastern League in home runs (12), RBI (33), runs (26), extra-base hits (17), total bases (78), slugging (.709) and OPS (1.131), while finishing in the top five in hits (37), average (.336) and on-base percentage (.422). Barfield ended the month with a 10-game hitting streak and homered in four straight games (July 23-26). Barfield, 29, was originally selected by Oakland in the eighth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of San Jacinto College. 

Chattanooga Lookouts (Twins) first baseman Jonathan Rodriguez led the Southern League in average (.383), hits (44), extra-base hits (19), runs (28), total bases (75) and on-base percentage (.455), while tying for the league lead in doubles (13). He finished in the top five in homers (six), RBI (22), walks (17), slugging (.652) and OPS (1.107) and recorded 14 multi-hit games. Rodriguez, 27, was originally selected by St. Louis in the 17th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. 

Arkansas Travelers (Mariners) outfielder Kyle Waldrop batted .374 over 30 Texas League games and led the loop in hits (43), doubles (12) and total bases (61) while finishing in the top five in extra-base hits (14), on-base percentage (.409), slugging (.503) and OPS (.940). Waldrop posted 15 multi-hit games in July and recorded hits in 25 of his 30 games. Waldrop, 25, was originally selected by Cincinnati in the 12th round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Riverdale High School in Fort Myers, Florida. 

Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres) catcher Austin Allen led the California League in hits (46), homers (10), RBI (32), total bases (85) and slugging (.691), while finishing second in runs (27), extra-base hits (18) and OPS (1.089). Allen recorded 13 multi-hit games, a trio of four-hit games and his 32 RBI were the second-most in professional baseball in July. Allen, 23, was selected by the Padres in the fourth round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of the Florida Institute of Technology. 

Down East Wood Ducks (Rangers) center fielder Matt Lipka led the Carolina League in hits (38), RBI (23), extra-base hits (17) and total bases (67) and finished second in doubles (10), slugging (.593) and OPS (.982). His average (.336) and home runs (five) were good for third in the league. His 67 total bases were 14 more than any other player in the league. Lipka, 25, was originally selected by Atlanta in Compensation Round A of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of McKinney (Texas) High School. 

St. Lucie Mets first baseman Peter Alonso led the Florida State League in hits (39), runs (20), extra-base hits (15), total bases (70), home runs (eight) and RBI (26) while batting .336 over 29 games. Alonso had 13 multi-hit games in July and posted separate hitting streaks of seven and eight games. Alonso, 22, was selected by New York in the second round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Florida. 

Dayton Dragons (Reds) outfielder Jose Siri led the Midwest League in hits (43), home runs (10), slugging (.680), extra-base hits (19) and total bases (85). Siri hit safely in all 28 games in July as part of his Midwest League record 39-game hitting streak and posted 11 multi-hit games. His 85 total bases led the league by 22. Siri, 22, was signed by Cincinnati as a non-drafted free agent out of Sabana Grande de Boya, Dominican Republic, in 2013. 

Delmarva Shorebirds (Orioles) left-hander Alex Wells went 3-0 and did not allow a run in five starts in July and led the South Atlantic League in WHIP (0.42) and average against (.124) as he allowed just 13 hits in 31.0 innings without walking a batter. Wells worked 6.0 innings or more in each start and did not allow more than four hits in any of his five outings. He has issued just two walks over his last 12 starts through July. Wells, 20, was signed by Baltimore as a non-drafted free agent out of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. 

Aberdeen IronBirds (Orioles) catcher Ben Breazeale led the New York-Penn League in hitting (.390), hits (39), total bases (55), doubles (10), RBI (23) and on-base percentage (.462). He finished second in extra-base hits (12), slugging (.550) and OPS (1.012). Breazeale, 22, was selected in the seventh round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of Wake Forest University. 

Everett AquaSox (Mariners) infielder Eugene Helder led the Northwest League in average (.374), hits (40) and runs (23) while finishing in the top five in total bases (56), triples (four), RBI (22), on-base percentage (.434), slugging (.523) and OPS (958). Helder drew 12 walks while striking out just 11 times. Helder, 21, was signed by Seattle as a non-drafted free agent out of Oranjestad, Aruba, in 2014. 

Bluefield Blue Jays first baseman Ryan Noda led the Appalachian League in hitting (.444), runs (32), walks (29), on-base percentage (.580), slugging (.689), and OPS (1.269). He finished second in the league in hits (40) and third in extra-base hits (14) and total bases (62). Noda, 21, was selected by Toronto in the 15th round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Cincinnati. 

 Ogden Raptors (Dodgers) outfielder Starling Heredia led the Pioneer Baseball League in average (.427), doubles (11), slugging (.732) and OPS (1.221) while finishing second in extra-base hits (16) and total bases (60). His 35 hits and .489 on-base percentage were good for third in the league. Heredia, 18, was signed as a non-drafted free agent by Los Angeles in 2016 out of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. 

Gulf Coast Blue Jays center fielder Dominic Abbadessa led the Gulf Coast League in average (.417) and hits (35), was second in runs (21), on-base percentage (.457) and OPS (.968). Abbadessa recorded 12 multi-hit games in July and led the Blue Jays to an 18-8 record in the month. Abbadessa, 19, was selected by Toronto in the 23rd round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Huntington Beach (California) High School. 

Arizona League Padres infielder Esteury Ruiz led the Arizona League in hits (32), extra-base hits (17), total bases (58) and triples (five). He was in the top five in slugging (.624), runs (four) and doubles (10). Ruiz, 18, was originally signed by Kansas City as a non-drafted free agent in 2016 out of Azua, Dominican Republic. He was traded to the Padres on July 24, 2017 as part of a six-player trade. 

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Boston Red Sox's Nearly Disastrous Bank-Breaking Offer for 1950s Pitching Star

Despite there never being any sure thing, baseball teams are increasingly willing to go to the ends of the earth and to the bottom of their bank accounts to address deficiencies on their rosters. In particular, pitching is a commodity that has been as hotly contested as any other since nations competed for black pepper and saffron along the Silk Road. The Boston Red Sox once made a major play for the best young pitcher in the game with a shockingly large offer that was even more surprisingly refused. However, just weeks later, it turned out that the rejection was fortunate for the team as the hurler suffered a freak accident that derailed a career that appeared destined to end in enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

In the winter of 1957, the Red Sox knew that time was running out on the career of their legendary outfielder, Ted Williams, who was 38 and could see retirement around the corner. For years the team vacillated between mediocre and good but were never able to take the final leap. This was in part because of the dominance of their rival, the New York Yankees, and the team’s inability to find an ace to lead what was typically a pretty uninspiring pitching staff.

At the same time, left-handed pitcher Herb Score was on top of the world. Just 23, he was coming off his first two seasons in the major leagues with the Cleveland Indians. During that span, he was a combined 36-19 and a 2.68 ERA. He also led the American League in strikeouts both years, including a rookie-record 245 in 1955.

Although it was highly likely that Score was considered untouchable, the Red Sox were owned by Tom Yawkey, who was willing to spend gobs of his vast fortune on players to improve the team. With a nothing ventured, nothing gained mentality, he went for it during spring training of 1957, offering Cleveland general manager Hank Greenberg a cool one million dollars for the southpaw, which shocked the baseball world.

“The offer was made to me today by Tom Yawkey and Joe Cronin, said Greenberg. “It was a valid cash offer but I was forced to turn it down.” He went on to say that while he gave real consideration to accepting the proposal, he ultimate didn’t feel that he could do it because Score “may become the greatest pitcher in the game’s history.” It was believed to be by far the most ever offered for one player at the time, showing just how great Score’s potential was believed to be.

If things had gone as planned, Yawkey’s offer for Score may have been a fair one. Unfortunately, just two months after the blockbuster sale proposal went public, the pitcher suffered one of the worst injuries a player has ever seen on a major league diamond.

Score cruised through his first four starts of 1957, posting a 2.07 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning. On May 7th, he faced off against the mighty Yankees, and saw disaster strike in the first inning. After retiring the first batter, shortstop Gil McDougald smashed a liner back through the box that connected squarely with Score’s eye. In addition to injuring the eye, it broke a number of bones in his face. Just like that, Score’s season was over. McDougald reportedly vowed to retire if the pitcher lost his sight. Fortunately, he later regained full vision after a lengthy recovery.

He returned in 1958 but was not the same. He lasted through the 1962 season with Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox but never came close to discovering his former dominance. A series of arms issues, along with reportedly changing his pitching motion to avoid possible comebackers in the future were all believed to have contributed to his downfall. After the injury, he was a combined 19-27 with a 4.20 ERA. Done playing before he was 30, he did persevere to become an acclaimed broadcaster for over 30 years—culminating in his induction in the Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame.

The way Score’s playing career was a tragedy that reverberated through the game and is still remembered widely in baseball circles.  Although they could have never guessed it at the time, the Red Sox dodged a major financial catastrophe when their massive offer for a pitching phenom was rejected  because of how valued he was as a player. 

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