Archive for the ‘AA’ Category

Bus Leagues Q&A: Northwest Arkansas Naturals GM Eric Edelstein

You may not know this, but Bus Leagues has a twitter account: @busleagues. We’ve started a list called Team Tweets where we are gathering all of the official accounts from the hundreds of affiliated and independent teams we cover. One of the cool things about that is that we can get in touch with the people who bring us our local baseball from time to time.

Last week, we found the twitter account of Eric Edelstein, GM of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The Naturals have only existed for a couple of years as the AA affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, but Eric has been with the franchise since it was called the Wranglers, and was located in Wichita, Kansas. He kindly told us a little about what it’s like to oversee a double-A team.

Your twitter bio says you’re living the dream. How did you arrive at this point?

I can give you the short story, which is that I’m very lucky.

If someone out there has the same dream, is there a standard way to become a GM?

I would say I certainly wasn’t standard, but I don’t think anyone would say there’s a standard way. I did get lucky and caught a few breaks.

I grew up in  Cleveland and did a high school internship with the Cleveland Indians. While I was still in high school, I worked in the PR department and got my foot in the door there. I ended up working for Four Seasons in various ballpark operations. I went to school at Bowling Green for Sport Management and worked for the SID’s office while I was there. I worked for the fieldhouse facilities where the varsity teams practiced, so I did that all through college.

Then I got an internship in Buffalo, NY after college and did that for three months. Then I got hired on by the Bisons, and I’ve been with that company ever since. I had three seasons in Buffalo, then they moved me to their affiliate in Jamestown, NY where there was an opportunity to be a GM when I had just turned 24, to run a three-man office on a short-season team. I jumped at that opportunity, then a year later there was a change at the top in Wichita. They came to me and asked, and admitted that maybe I was a little young and not quite ready for it, but they said “If you’d want to move to Wichita and be the GM, we’ll let you do that.”

So, I went and did that. I was there for three years and I got the call that asked if I’d ever heard of Springdale, Arkansas. They said “we’ve got one more move for you here, so if you’d like to go and start a team and be part of building a stadium and a new team, it’s you.”

So I jumped at it, and here I am. Luck and timing played a big role in it. Knock on wood, I haven’t screwed anything up yet.

I grew up in Wichita. Are you talking about the Wranglers?

Yes.

So the Naturals took that AA spot in the Royals organization, right?

Exactly. It really is the same team with the same owners and many of the same administrators, including myself. We moved the team from Wichita to here.

If you weren’t able to work in baseball, what would you be doing instead?

(Long pause) I honestly don’t even know. (pause) It would have to be in some sport or event.  I think even without baseball, I’d become an event person; planning, hosting and marketing events. Just in general, the most exciting thing, what gets me going is when you walk out into the ballpark on Friday night and the place is just packed. Everyone’s having a good time. The rush of the event is what I get the most joy and excitement out of.

Each minor league team is different. What are some of the things you do in Springdale that make the Naturals feel unique?

The biggest thing we try to do is we try to be a part of the community. What we do inside the ballpark – I don’t want to say it’s standard, because every team is different – but it feels more unique for people who live here because this is their team. We do the fireworks, dollar hotdogs, dollar beers and other things that are fairly standard across minor-league baseball. But what’s different than even Wichita or anywhere else I’ve been is that we try to be a bigger part of the community. We have a summertime street team that goes out, we have an inflatable speed pitch and a second mascot suit that is always out mingling throughout the community. We do free appearances and speaking engagements at rotaries and other civic clubs. We’ve really worked hard – though we have room to grow – but day-to-day we try to be a big part of the community.

You mentioned your mascot. Your team has a nickname that doesn’t easily lend itself to a mascot image. What did you end up using?

Strike the Sasquatch. We came up with the story that Strike has been living in the Ozark mountains for many years – everyone has heard of spying a Sasquatch in the mountains – and he never had a good enough reason to come out of those mountains. When he heard we were building a stadium down here, he came to check it out and decided he wanted to make it home.

I imagine you hire some of the organization’s top employees. How do you know when you have the right person?

We do a lot of hiring from within. Obviously, that’s how I was brought through, being an intern and working my way up. We continue to do that. We have a pretty extensive intern program that we run during the season that brings new talent in. We try to hire that new talent.

If we somehow don’t have the right talent here, we do try to look outside for the right person. There are often people with other teams that have the right experience but haven’t had the chance to catch on.

But we do try very hard to promote from within. My assistant GM here was an intern for me when I worked in Buffalo who came to Wichita as an account rep. When an opportunity arose, he became sales manager, and when we moved here, we made him assistant GM. My business manager started out running our team store here in Northwest Arkansas, and when an opening came up, we hired her. We have a lot of people on staff that I’ve known or worked with in some capacity at some point, and we’ve brought them through the ranks to the current jobs they’re holding.

So, sticking it out with the organization is rewarded.

Absolutely. I promote from within whenever possible.

I grew up a Royals fan, so I know the team has fewer resources to lure MLB free agents with. Double-A is where the top prospects usually end up. Does that make you feel like your job is really important to the future of the franchise?

Yeah, I think it does. The Royals are a tremendous group to work with. Dayton Moore and his entire baseball operations crew are really good people, and they reinforce that when they see you. I think a lot of times in baseball, we get trapped in what we see on Sportscenter; that’s what we know about a given team. The Royals do a good job of not just paying lip service to it, but appreciating their minor-league teams. When they come in, they’re very respectful and grateful for the job we do. It definitely makes it very rewarding.

I do feel a small piece of pride when a guy who comes through here goes up to the big leagues and has real success.

If the Naturals are doing their job right, the best players get better and leave. How do you get fans to buy in when the roster is constantly changing?

It does bring its challenges, there are definitely some people who struggle with that. The key for us – which hasn’t quite happened yet – is for one of those players to make the big leagues and become a regular. I think that’ll make it more palatable and understandable.

Being a college town here, they’re used to players going on to the professional ranks, be it football, basketball or baseball. But they’re used to it happening after the season is over. So there’s a little bit of a challenge in getting people to understand that, but we also have tried to really stress that if the organization is doing its job, the person coming up behind the guy who leaves should be able to perform just as well, or may even be an improvement.

What do you do during the offseason?

It’s all about getting ready for the next season coming up. A large portion of what we accomplish during the season is set up before we throw a pitch. All the sponsors come on board for all those signs in the outfield, and the advertisers that show up in the program and your radio broadcasts… 95% of those are booked by opening day.

Season tickets are a major determinant of how successful we are before anything on the field is decided; getting all those people back on board, setting the schedule and being ready to go. Then my job during the season becomes more about the subtle tweaks that need to be made. If we do a good job making decisions in the offseason, then it’s more about maintenance and running each event as well as we can.

In the minors, employees often have to wear many hats to get the job done. Is that true of the GM as well?

Yeah, pretty much! There’s certainly no ivory tower management here. If there’s a box that needs moved, the tarp needs pulled or phone needs answered, whoever’s available does it. You definitely have to be all in. I don’t think there’s a GM out there who would do it any differently. I definitely have a hand in just about everything going on here. There’s nothing that I’m “too good” to help out with. If a trash can needs emptied, it gets emptied.

Interview With Texas Rangers Minor Leaguer Michael Schlact

Michael Schlact is a pitcher in the Texas Rangers system.  Last season, his third in the Texas League, he underwent surgery for tears in his rotator cuff and labrum.  We met up on Twitter a few weeks ago, and he was willing to answer a few questions about the mental and physical aspects of the rehab process.

I found a description of your injury in a previous interview. How did you know you were injured? Is this the sort of injury where you feel some discomfort and it ends up being serious, or was it obviously bad from the start?

There were times over the past few years where I felt some arm fatigue, but nothing pain-wise.  My first start of last year, I felt something painful while throwing a slider, and that’s when I knew something was really wrong.

Did you try to pitch or work through it before deciding on surgery?

We tried to rehab my shoulder first.  It was something that the Rangers medical staff and I determined would be more beneficial than going right ahead for surgery.

How supportive have the Rangers been throughout your rehab?

They have been there for me every step of the way.  The medical team the Rangers have on board is great.  Being able to rehab with such knowledgeable people makes the process that much easier.

How has your rehab schedule progressed? For instance, how does a typical day of work in September 2009 compare to a typical day in March 2010?

A typical day in September of 2009 was range of motion exercises, rotator cuff strengthening, light leg workouts, and lots and lots of running.  March 2010 workouts are almost typical of what I have done my entire career.  There are a few exercises or lifts that I can’t do because they are overhead exercises, but other than that, I’m good to go!

What has been the toughest part of coming back?

The toughest part of coming back is the isolation you feel.  Being in Arizona rehabbing while your teammates are out winning ballgames and actually playing is tough.  When baseball is yanked from under you, it kind of hits home.  I went through a very tough period last summer when I realized that my season was over.  Working out and doing shoulder exercises just to get stronger and not to pitch can be very tough!

You were a sinker-slider-fastball pitcher before the injury, right? Will you continue to use all the pitches you did before, or are you changing your repertoire to reduce strain on your shoulder?

I was a sinker, slider, change guy before the injury.  I have pitched with that repertoire for a long time.  There is no reason to change it just because of my injury.  Mechanics more likely caused strain on my shoulder.

You tweeted last week about your return to the mound. What did that session entail?

It was 20 pitches off a short mound.  A short mound is the same distance to home, but the incline of the mound is half of a regulation MLB mound.  I threw all fastballs, and really just worked on the mental side of it.  Trusting my stuff, understanding that I have done enough so that my shoulder won’t hurt anymore, and to start shaking the rust off.

When the time comes to really cut loose, how do you push aside that little voice in the back of your head that says, “Are you sure you really want to do that?”

I think self-talk.  I am a self-talker out there on the mound anyways.  When I hear that little voice (not crazy I promise) I will tell myself out loud what I really want to do.  For instance, if that little voice says, “Are you sure you really want to let it go?” I’ll say (into my glove), “Alright Michael, let’s go.  Trust your stuff, trust your mechanics.  You’re ok.”

How do you think it will feel, the first time you step back onto the mound in a real live game?

It’s going to be the best feeling.  It’s like a new beginning for me.  So many things that I have taken for granted the past years will be soaked in.  Each minute I am out there will be cherished.  I’m going to do my absolute best, give it my all, have fun, and see what happens!

Interview With Former Minor Leaguer Garrett Broshuis

On the heels of last week’s retirement announcement, I asked Garrett Broshuis a few questions about what went into the decision, what it meant to go out on a high note, and what comes next.

First of all, congratulations on your spectacular failure to become a major leaguer. This isn’t a Brett Favre style retirement, is it? You’re not gonna show up in a month with an “aw shucks” smile and a shrug and be like, “Changed my mind!” Are you?

Well, funny you ask that. After further consideration, I’ve decided to (drumroll please)…stay retired. Actually I did just visit our minor league spring training complex a few days ago. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy, but I was just there to visit teammates. I gave a few hugs, shook some hands, offered face-to-face “thank you”s and left. What’s odd is that it didn’t even really feel odd to be there.

Seriously, though, the decision to retire couldn’t have been an easy one. What was the mental process behind the decision, from the end of last season up to Tuesday?

Really I started having thoughts during the season, which is never good. My wife had surgery and I was stuck in A ball at 27-year-old. Then I went up to AAA for one start before being shuffled back to AA. That was probably the turning point, where the thoughts really set in.

There were a lot of sleepless nights during the second half of the season. I played this one song by the Shins over and over again to the point where I thought I was going crazy. (In reality I probably was slightly crazy.) I didn’t actually make the decision though until around a month or so ago.

Who did you tell first? Did they or anyone else try to talk you out of it?

Well, I guess I told my mom and my wife first, but then I had to make the actual phone call to the Giants’ organization. I called up Bobby Evans while I was watching my wife do an indoor triathlon (talk about boring). He seemed a little surprised. They were willing to give me my release if I wanted to try to play with another organization, but I told him it was time to move on.

I talked to a few other coaches as well. Almost all of them told me that I made the right decision. They consistently said that too many players hold on for too long. The game wraps itself around you. It’s difficult to escape its web.

After talking with them, I was confident I’d made the right decision. After all, who wants a soft-throwing, aging righty anyways?

After a rough 2007 season in which you appear to have pitched well but couldn’t buy a win, you bounced back with solid seasons in 2008 and 2009. How important was it to you that your career end on a strong note?

Wow, that was an agonizing year. There were about 17 different moments that I wanted to take a bat to the Gatorade cooler and the Port-a-Potty.

It would’ve been very easy to just give up after my 2007 season, but I kept my head held high and used it as motivation. I re-dedicated myself to working as hard as I’d ever worked. I made a few adjustments. I heightened my focus a bit and had a very solid 2008 season. That’s probably the thing I’m most proud of in my baseball career (other than pinch-running once and sliding without breaking my neck). I persisted through rough times and didn’t give up.

What comes next? I’ve seen mention of law school, and you’ve shown obvious concern for the way players are treated in the minors – could a second career as a sports agent be in the cards?

So yeah, I’m going to be entering another competitive, challenging field. I visited a law school the other day and looked around me. It’s a totally different world. Instead of talking about the break on a slider or a game of “Call of Duty”, everybody was talking about their LSAT scores and the amount of time they spent in the library. But hey, I have a little nerdiness in me that’s been suppressed for too long. Time to cultivate it a bit.

As for the agent thing, I’m going to be helping my own agent out while in school. I want to explore some other things as well, but baseball has been too large a part of my life to completely turn my back on it.

Do you plan on continuing your writing with Baseball America and your blog? I for one think we could use a good, thoughtful perspective on what a ballplayer goes through after retirement.

I’m definitely going to keep writing. There are some issues that I think still need to be brought to light, and so I’m going to do my best to illuminate them.

It might be hard to always find time to write, but it’s like going to the gym for me. I just have to set aside an hour or two and do it. I enjoy it too much to not do it. And Baseball America has been great. They’ve told me to keep pitching ideas to them, and they’d love to have ’em.

Thanks for the time, Garrett, and good luck!

Garrett Broshuis Is Hangin’ Em up

“I’ve spent a few weeks thinking of a clever way of announcing my retirement,” Garrett Broshuis wrote on his blog on Tuesday, and with that, he did.

Broshuis was a talented pitcher, good enough to win 54 games in a six-year career that twice brushed Triple-A and confident enough to rebound from a 3-17 record in 2007 to finish 13-9 in 2008.  He is also a talented writer, as luck would have it, capable of humorously recapping the exploits of Madison Bumgarner or thoughtfully discussing the idea of HGH testing in minor league baseball.  In the latter capacity, he was able to provide fans with an uncommon insight into the life of a minor league baseball player.

In announcing his retirement from the game, Broshuis chose to thank those who had helped him along the way:

It seems odd to write a thank you while admitting failure, but that is what I am doing. I failed to reach my goal, and so in essence I am thanking the very people who not only allowed but assisted my failings. Yet I’m of the belief that there is still beauty in coming up just short, even if the beauty is of a different hue than the ultimate gratification of success. The process is the same even if the end result greatly differs. I’ve loved every minute of this process, even the lowest of lows.

Broshuis really has a phenomenal opportunity here.  While I was always interested to read his thoughts during his time as an active player, I might be even more interested to read about the life of a newly retired player.  Even someone as young (he’s just 28) and with as much going for him as Broshuis (I believe he is applying to law school) is sure to have some feelings of loss as he goes through that first summer without baseball.

Bus Leagues will still continue to follow Broshuis on Twitter, and maybe even email him from time to time, but I want to take the opportunity now to wish him the best of luck in whatever he chooses to do.

Interview With Birmingham Barons Clubhouse Manager Jeff Perro

Last week, Birmingham Barons clubhouse manager Jeff Perro contacted me on Twitter (@MiLBClubbie) to ask if I would be interested in doing an interview with him for Bus Leagues. Of course I was, especially since his job is an important one that we don’t often think about (and he was willing to answer my questions via email).

Where have you worked? How long have you worked at each place?

My first job in baseball was being a bat boy for the independent Mobile BaySharks of the Texas-Louisiana League during the summer before my senior year in high school, 1995. The BaySharks dissolved the following year and the Mobile BayBears were born the following year. A few members of the BaySharks front office moved over to the BayBears and I was able to go to work for them while I was going to college at the University of South Alabama. Before Hank Aaron Stadium was built, the team had a gift shop in the mall with their front offices set up in the back of the store. I worked there. Once the stadium was built and the team began play, I did a little of everything. I worked in the gift shop, sold tickets, walked up and down aisles selling sodas, washed dishes in the Stadium Club, etc. I did that for the two seasons, 1997 and 1998.

When, why, and how did you become a clubbie?

I was going to school for a Sports and Event Marketing degree. I wanted to graduate and work in the front office of a minor league baseball team. Things happened in my personal life that made be have to quit school. I also had to leave Mobile and move to the much smaller town of Anniston, Alabama, about an hour east of Birmingham. There was no professional baseball in Anniston, so I pretty much left it behind and began a career in the restaurant business. During the spring of 2001 I had the itch to get back into baseball. I didn’t have a degree, so working in a MiLB front office was out of the question. I’d heard of Clubhouse Managers and had met the BayBears Clubhouse Manager a few times, but I didn’t really know what they did. I sent out a mass email to pretty much any MiLB team that I could find an email address for, probably 60-80 teams, asking them what a Clubhouse Manager was and how to get into it. The VERY NEXT day, I received an email that basically said, “We need a Home Clubhouse Manager now. Can you interview ASAP?” I read the email before I even read who it was from. I figured it was from some far away team like Billings, Colorado Springs, or Richmond, but it was from the BIRMINGHAM BARONS!!! The team right down the road. I interviewed a few days later and was handed a set of keys!!

I only worked that one season with the Barons, the restaurant business kept throwing more money, benefits, and such to keep me with them. I built myself a nice little career in the biz over the next few years and was quite successful. I got the baseball itch again the fall of 2007. At that time, I was living in Clarksville, TN. The Winter Meetings were being held that winter in Nashville. I saw it as my chance, even a SIGN, perhaps. I interviewed with seven teams and was offered three jobs. The best offer was from the San Francisco Giants to work with their Low-A team, the Augusta GreenJackets. The deciding factor was that I got to travel with the team!! I got to see 140 games that year in almost all of the ballparks in the South Atlantic League. The Birmingham Barons knew that I was back in the game. They offered me my old job back. I originally declined, but things happened in life that made it apparent that I needed to be closer to home, which by then was Lafayette, LA. I accepted, had a fantastic season in a fantastic city, and now I’ve permanently (or at least for a while) made Birmingham my home.

Where are you from originally?

I’ve moved around quite a bit but I was raised in Arlington, TX. My family had season tickets to the Texas Rangers from 1987-1992, that’s where I fell in love with baseball. My dad lived in Huntsville and my grandfather lived in Birmingham, that’s where I fell in love with MINOR LEAGUE baseball.

What are your responsibilities as a clubbie?

My responsibilities include catering or preparing the pre- and post-game spreads, ordering bats and balls when needed, lots and lots of filthy laundry, vacuuming the clubhouse, taking out the trash, filling and refilling the water and Powerade coolers for the bench and bullpen, loading and unloading the bus, packing for the road trips, bringing umpires the game balls before the game, unpacking from the road trips (one of my least favorite parts), cleaning players shoes, occasional Red Bull runs, bringing the pass list to the ticket guy, sending and receiving player mail, cleaning the bathrooms and showers, getting autographs for our front office for sponsors and such, issuing uniforms and hats to new players….um…..I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

What is an average day like? What do you do during games?

I work a 16-hour day for a typical 7:05 game, usually around 10am until about 2am. When the team is at home I sleep at the stadium on the clubhouse couch. It just seems like a waste of time and sleep to spend a few more minutes in my car to drive back and forth. The Regions Park clubhouse is GREAT for sleep though!!

I wake up around 10:00 in the morning. I move any towels that I may have left washing overnight to the dryer. I then go to our food area and get my shopping list together for the day. I’m responsible for everything from fruit and lunch meat to shampoo and plastic forks. If I can get to the grocery store or Sam’s by 11:00 I’m in good shape. By good shape, I mean I can sit down for a few minutes and enjoy a little lunch break. Otherwise it’s just fast food. I usually get back to the stadium and unload my carful of groceries by 1:00. By then our manager, trainer and strength coach have arrived. I check the mail, then I have to load my three coolers in a shopping cart to get ice upstairs, fill the water and Powerade coolers, and lug them out to the dugout and bullpen. By the time I’m done, I’m soaking wet and the team is beginning to arrive. Guys who have early work and pitchers who have conditioning usually start popping in around 2:00.

While they’re getting dressed, watching TV, or playing cards or ping pong, I’m folding towels. On paper, I kind of have down time between towels and when the team goes out to BP, but things pop up. Sometimes I misplace uniform parts, guys “need” something shipped home immediately, washer machines breakdown, friends have autograph requests, players get promoted and demoted, guys want new hats. When the team goes out to batting practice I start getting the pregame spread ready and maybe make some time to hangout in the dugout. I pretty much put out the same stuff everyday: lunch meat, tuna or chicken salad, fruit, chips and crackers, a few sweets. Every now and then I’ll cook ravioli, soup or chili too. The team comes in to eat and game time, I have a few things to do. I start the laundry from batting practice, bring seeds and gum to the bench, check on the umpires, bring up the pass list, restock the coolers, make sure the bat boys have arrived, and clean up the pregame spread, among other things. The team will leave the clubhouse by 6:30 for the 7:05 game. In that little between time I pick up around the clubhouse, change any trash bags that are full, hang some of the BP laundry and either start cooking the postgame spread or call and verify that whichever restaurant is catering it hasn’t forgotten about us. Once I get that stuff done, I can usually go down to the dugout and watch the 2nd and 3rd innings. Then it’s time to finish up the BP laundry. If I’m cooking the postgame spread, I spend most of the rest of the game in the kitchen. If it’s being delivered or I have to pick it up, I spend the next couple innings pacing back and forth and stressing out about the meal being on time!! Dinner is hopefully ready to go by the top of the 8th inning. I have to separate some out for the umpires and for our coaches. The coaches have their own plates and get served separately from the team because they have a lot to do after the game, I’d hate for everything to be eaten by the time they get to it!!

I’m usually in the dugout when the game is over (10:00ish). I bring in the coolers and make sure nothing was left on the bench. I try to hurry so I can get inside and collect laundry, soaking the filthy stuff, and getting it the washers rolling. Every second that I spend waiting to start the washers is another second that I’m going to be working that night!! When the guys start to slowly leave the clubhouse I start cleaning shoes. Cleaning shoes takes about an hour to an hour and a half and I’ll be constantly checking on laundry, moving stuff to the dryer, starting new loads, and organizing stuff to be hung. After I’m done with shoes I clean up the post game spread, take out the trash, and start vacuuming…still keeping the laundry moving. It takes about an hour to vacuum the spacious Regions Park clubhouse, by the time I’m done it’s around 12-12:30. Hanging the laundry takes another 30-45 minutes. It’s just picking up a little and tying up loose ends from there. I bring the umps tomorrow’s game balls and restock their cooler, get tomorrow’s pass list ready, and throw my back up sodas and bottled waters into the fridge for tomorrow. I want to have all the towels in the dryer before I hit the lights and get comfy on the clubhouse couch!!

What are the best and worst parts of your job?

The best part of my job is the people!! Sure there are some jerks, but 95% of the people I’ve met are great or at least interesting people. I think fans and the media sometimes forget that ballplayers are people too. They see them as numbers for their fantasy teams, baseball cards or autographs to be sold, or as guys to be dissected through sabermetrics. These guys all have different personalities and life stories and it’s so much fun to find out new stuff!! I’ve travelled a lot in my life and so have they, I enjoy talking about places we’ve been and people we know.

The worst part of my job is definitely the OFFSEASON!! This offseason has been extra brutal. I’ve been making sandwiches, taking deliveries and doing marketing for a sandwich shop Monday – Friday during the day and flipping burgers at another restaurant at night and on weekends. I’m still getting used to the 60% pay cut I took to come back to baseball. I underestimated how much money I’d need to get by and had to get a second job at the end of November.

What are your career goals?

My goal would be to get a year round clubbie job at some team’s spring training site, or at least find something to do in baseball that’s year round. Something that keeps me from flipping burgers 4-5 months a year!!!

Do you keep in touch with any players or coaches you’ve worked with in the past?

I keep in touch with a few. Ask the players and they’ll pretty much tell you that when you spend 6-8 months with each other and have few days off, the last thing you wanna do is talk to a guy in December. It’s sad but true. It’s also weird to me that it seems like I haven’t so much kept in touch with guys that I thought I would, but I DO keep in touch with guys that I wouldn’t expect. Facebook or MySpace are great ways that we can kinda keep in touch, but not be “in your face” with it also.

Who was the nicest player you’ve dealt with? Who was the biggest jerk?

Jeez…. I feel like if I name my favorites, I’ll leave somebody out!!! As far as the biggest jerk, I think he knows who he is!!! I will say this, big bonus guys, top prospects and stars seem to get the reputation usually as being arrogant, stuck up, or high maintenance. I’m gonna go on the record as saying that is untrue. Arrogance and moodiness, as well as humility and friendliness, are spread evenly across the roster. Some of my favorites have been the big names and the non-prospects. Some of my least favorites were also big names and non-prospects.

I kinda wanna name names, but I don’t.

Don’t want to get you fired, so without naming names, tell me about some of the craziest things you’ve seen behind the scene.

There’s so many stories. I’m sitting here thinking, but if I told most of the “juicy” ones, it’d be pretty obvious who I was talking about. I’ve seen a couple fistfights and minor scuffles in clubhouses. I’ve seen guys get released and cry, I’ve seen guys get “the call to The Show” and cry.

Still thinking…

Some off the most interesting memories that I have are ones that I wouldn’t call “crazy,” but “interesting.” We had a guy get off to a slow start one season. One game in late April-mid May he hit 3 home runs and he started to heat up. About a month later he decided professional baseball wasn’t for him and he retired. It’s hard to describe, but it’s just one of those things that few people remember and even fewer care about, but I was there for it.

Kangaroo court is always fun too.

Ok, here’s a great story for you! One of the players is somebody that people who follow baseball would know. The other two people involved are players that people who follow minor league baseball prospects would know. Relatively big names. “Player A” broke his bat…and it was CORKED!!! Cork flew onto the field, “Player A” was ejected, and the umpires confiscated to bat remains and locked it in their clubhouse. Two of the pitchers from that team decided that the best thing to do would be to steal the bat back so that maybe “Player A” would not be suspended. They bugged me and bugged me to unlock the ump’s clubhouse, let them steal it, then lock it back. I knew that if I got implicated in this scheme at all, I could possibly be fired and blackballed from the game. I gave them a firm, “Hell no, not a chance,” and went back to the kitchen to finish the postgame spread. 15 minutes or so later I went back into the clubhouse and found “Pitcher A” standing on the manager’s desk looking into a space where one of the ceiling tiles was removed. “Pitcher B” had climbed into the ceiling and was going to crawl across to the ump’s clubhouse, lower himself down through the ceiling, and steal the bat!!! I can’t quite remember why their plan didn’t work; maybe there was a wall or a duct that was in the way.

His Roommate Was Collie Flower Smith

Brock Bond led the Eastern League in hitting last season as a 23-year-old prospect in the Giants system.  While he showed little power (.408 SLG%) and questionable judgment on the basepaths (13 steals, 15 caught stealing), the 150 hits he compiled in 450 at-bats were enough to help land him at #29 on Baseball America’s Top 30 list for San Francisco.

I recently learned two things about Bond that made my jaw drop. The first comes from Jeff Perro, the second from Baseball America’s 2010 Prospect Handbook:

1) His full name is Brock Lee Bond.  Say the first and middle names quickly, out loud.  Somebody’s parents had a sense of humor.

2) He was drafted by the Giants in the 24th round of the 2007 draft.  I know, I know – there’s nothing shocking about that.  The Handbook, however, notes that he was drafted accidentally – the Giants were actually targeting Casey Bond, an outfielder out of Lipscomb.  I wonder how many people got fired for that little mixup.

I have to admit that it’s all worked out quite well for the lad.  While Casey Bond left the game after two seasons and exactly one game above short season Class A, Brock has climbed the organizational ladder steadily, progressing from Rookie to Double-A in three seasons.  Also, fortunately, the name “Brock Bond” sounds appropriately bad ass, like the star of a spaghetti Western or something.

Where Will Strasburg Start The 2010 Season?

Stephen Strasburg is gonna rock some lucky fan base’s world in 2010.  The question is, where?

Tuesday morning, Nats manager Jim Riggleman “strongly hinted” that Strasburg would spend some time riding the buses in ye olde minor leagues to begin the season, the reason being that live game action against Double- or Triple-A hitters will provide a better overall measure of the phenom’s performance than a few spring training outings against major leaguers.

Tuesday evening, of course, Riggleman “definitely didn’t rule out” the idea of Strasburg in a Natinals uniform on Opening Day.  So really, nobody knows what the hell is going to happen.

That leaves me with only one option: to assume that if Strasburg starts off in the minors, it will be in either Syracuse or Harrisburg, and to figure out when those teams might be coming to a ballpark near me.  Because obviously, the main objective is to see this kid throw in person.

I looked at the road trips for each of those two teams, but first the lightning in a bottle scenario: my second annual baseball road trip takes me through Washington in early June, either the fourth or the fifth, when the Nationals play the Reds.  This guarantees at least a shot at seeing Jay Bruce, of course, and is also right around the time that Strasburg would likely be getting a callup if he does in fact go to the minors.  So there’s that.

(And don’t get me started on the possibility of a Strasburg-Aroldis Chapman matchup…)

Now, if he does start off in Triple-A, here are the Chiefs’ road trips through the end of June:

April 14-16 @ Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
April 17-20 @ Lehigh Valley
April 27-30 @ Toledo
May 1-4 @ Columbus
May 14-17 @ Pawtucket
May 18-21 @ Rochester
May 27-28 @ Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
May 31-June 3 @ Buffalo
June 12-15 @ Charlotte
June 17-20 @ Gwinnett
June 29-30 @ Buffalo

It must be noted that my friend Chris, who writes for this blog, lives in upstate New York, so even if Strasburg gets called up at the end of May, he’s still a) playing his home games in nearby Syracuse, and b) making trips to Buffalo and Rochester. If Strasburg ends up in Triple-A and Chris DOESN’T see him at least once, he’s doing something wrong.

I can’t help but notice, however, that journeys to my corner of the world are few and far between. There’s just one, actually, a four-game trip to Pawtucket in mid-May. It’s a longshot, admittedly, but it’s possible.

Now, there is just as good a chance that the higher-ups will send Strasburg to the Harrisburg Senators. If that’s the case, he could be just up the road in Manchester, right? Or maybe Portland? As my son likes to say, “Uh, uh…no.”

April 8-11 @ Altoona
April 12-14 @ Bowie
April 22-25 @ New Britain
April 26-28 @ Reading
May 10-12 @ Altoona
May 21-23 @ Akron
May 28-31 @ Erie
June 1-3 @ Richmond
June 8-10 @ Altoona
June 15-17 @ New Britain
June 18-20 @ Bowie
June 28-30 @ Portland

I don’t know how the Eastern League puts together its schedule, but if you’re scoring at home, that’s three visits to Altoona, two to Bowie, and two to New Britain before the Senators wind their way up to northern New England in the last week of June. And that stop in New Hampshire, right up the road? Last week in July, my friends, by which point The Strasburg will most certainly have left the building.

So the point of all this, I guess, is that unless the cards fall right, I’m unlikely to see Stephen Strasburg pitch this season. The bright side, though, is that Chris should have ample opportunity to see him if he lands in Triple-A, and fans in minor league towns up and down the eastern seaboard should have that same chance regardless of where he plays.