Archive for the ‘Texas League’ 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!

Chris Carter Knows How To Celebrate

Monday afternoon, Chris Carter won the Texas League’s Most Valuable Player Award.  It was a well-deserved win, but one could argue that he had already received the best possible reward for his stellar play: a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento, with a September appearance in Oakland not out of the question.

So Monday night, he went out there for Sacramento and celebrated in style, crushing three homeruns and driving in seven as the River Cats beat Reno, 17-6.

Carter hit a three-run homer in the first, a solo shot in the fifth, and another three-run bomb in the ninth.  They were the first three Triple-A homeruns for the 22-year-old prospect and bumped his RBI total from five to twelve in six games.  He nearly had a chance at a fourth homerun when Sacramento batted around in the ninth, but ended the game in the on-deck circle when Tommy Everidge flied out and Aaron Cunningham grounded out.

For the season, Carter now has 27 homeruns and 108 RBI in Double- and Triple-A.

Texas League All-Stars Announced

The Texas League announced its postseason All-Stars earlier today:

Catcher: Hank Conger, Arkansas Travelers
First Base: Chris Carter, Midland RockHounds
Second Base: Daniel Descalso, Springfield Cardinals
Third Base: Darin Holcomb, Tulsa Drillers
Shortstop: Wladimir Sutil, Corpus Christi Hooks
Outfield: Craig Gentry, Frisco RoughRiders
Outfield: Tyler Henley, Springfield Cardinals
Outfield: Drew Locke, Corpus Christi Hooks
Designated Hitter: Chad Tracy, Frisco RoughRiders
Utility: Adrian Cardenas, Midland RockHounds
Right-Handed Pitcher: Jhoulys Chacin, Tulsa Drillers
Right-Handed Pitcher: Samuel Deduno, Tulsa Drillers
Right-Handed Pitcher: Graham Godfrey, Midland RockHounds
Right-Handed Pitcher: Trey Hearne, Springfield Cardinals
Right-Handed Pitcher: Lance Lynn, Springfield Cardinals
Left-Handed Pitcher: Trevor Reckling, Arkansas Travelers
Relief Pitcher: Andrew Johnston, Tulsa Drillers

Manager of the Year: Darren Bush, Midland RockHounds
Pitcher of the Year: Samuel Deduno, Tulsa Drillers
Player of the Year: Chris Carter, Midland RockHounds
Mike Coolbaugh Texas League Coach of the Year: Ken Patterson, Arkansas Travelers

I’d like to pat myself on the back for getting one right, but Carter’s MVP was about as easy a call as anyone could ever hope to make. He dominated the Texas League right up to his promotion to Triple-A.

Minor League MVP Candidates, League-By-League

Just for the heck of it, I decided tonight to look at the stats for every league in the minors and see if I could come up with a candidate or two (no more than three) for the Most Valuable Player award.  (I’ll try to do the same for pitchers later this week.)

Some of these are no-brainers (*cough*Chris CarterTexasLeague*cough*), but most had at least a couple guys that should find themselves in the running for some awards.  In most cases, I tried to limit a player’s eligibility to the league they currently play in – Brian Dopirak and Michael Taylor, for example, are still in good shape in the Eastern League, but shouldn’t win any awards there after spending more than a month of the season in Triple A.

If I missed anyone obvious, or if you have a personal favorite, throw it out there. We’ll see how many of these (if any) we actually get right.

Triple A
International League
Andy Marte, Columbus: .963 OPS (1st), 18 HR (t-4th), 66 RBI (4th)
Shelley Duncan, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: 25 HR (1st), 76 RBI (1st), 54 BB (t-1st), .899 OPS (5th)

Mexican League
Ruben Rivera, Campeche: 32 HR (1st), 90 RBI (t-4th), 1.130 OPS (2nd), 96 R (2nd)
Saul Soto, Monterrey: 28 HR (2nd), 93 RBI (2nd), 1.095 OPS (3rd)
Dionys Cesar, Vaqueros: .380 BA (1st), 40 SB (1st), 92 R (3rd)

Pacific Coast League
Randy Ruiz, Las Vegas: 25 HR (2nd), 106 RBI (1st), .320 BA (10th), .976 OPS (3rd), 81 R (5th), 148 H (1st), 43 2B (1st)

Double A
Eastern League
Carlos Santana, Akron: 20 HR (4th), 82 RBI (2nd), 71 BB (2nd), .943 OPS (4th), 73 R (2nd)
Ryan Strieby, Erie: .982 OPS (1st), 17 HR (4th), .305 BA (6th)

Southern League
Juan Francisco, Carolina: 22 HR (1st), 74 RBI (1st), .822 OPS (10th), 63 R (8th)
Todd Frazier, Carolina: 124 H (1st), 37 2B (1st), 13 HR (t-6th), 63 RBI (t-5th), .852 OPS (8th)

Texas League
Chris Carter, Midland: .336 BA (1st), 21 HR (1st), 90 RBI (2nd), 101 R (1st), 148 H (1st), 38 2B (1st), 73 BB (t-1st), .433 OBP (1st), .574 SLG (1st), 1.006 OPS (1st)

*Carter has to be a frontrunner not only for Texas League MVP, but Minor League Baseball’s Player of the Year. What an outstanding season thus far.

Class A Advanced
California League
Alex Liddi, High Desert: .356 BA (1st), 1.044 OPS (1st), 21 HR (t-4th), 86 RBI (4th), 85 R (t-2nd)
Jon Gaston, Lancaster: 30 HR (1st), 81 RBI (6th), 1.015 OPS (4th), 15 3B (1st), 100 R (1st)
Koby Clemens, Lancaster: 96 RBI (1st), .343 BA (3rd), 1.023 OPS (2nd)

Carolina League
Cody Johnson, Myrtle Beach: 26 HR (1st), 76 RBI (2nd), .886 OPS (2nd)
Brandon Waring, Frederick: 20 HR (2nd), 74 RBI (3rd), .870 OPS (3rd)

Florida State League
Chris Parmelee, Fort Myers: 14 HR (1st), 64 RBI (1st), .814 OPS (4th)
Ben Revere, Fort Myers: .307 BA (3rd), 36 SB (4th), 60 R (3rd), .368 OBP (t-8th)

Class A
Midwest League
Kyle Russell, Great Lakes: 24 HR (1st), 79 RBI (t-1st), .915 OPS (2nd), 74 R (4th)

South Atlantic League
Derek Norris, Hagerstown: 23 HR (1st), 75 RBI (2nd), 69 R (3rd), .296 BA (10th), .955 OPS (3rd)

Class A Short-Season
New York-Penn League
Leandro Castro, Williamsport: .353 BA (1st), .973 OPS (1st), 37 R (t-1st),
Neil Medchill, Staten Island: 10 HR (1st), 30 RBI (t-5th), .925 OPS (5th), 33 R (4th)

Northwest League
Vincent Belnome, Eugene: 39 R (1st), 8 HR (t-2nd), 37 RBI (2nd), 37 BB (2nd), .952 OPS (4th)

Rookie
Appalachian League
Jose Altuve, Greeneville: 45 R (1st), 21 SB (1st), .324 BA (7th), .916 OPS (8th), 26 BB (1st)
Richard Racobaldo, Johnson City: 1.077 OPS (1st), 26 RBI (t-9th), .415 BA (1st)
Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg, Danville: .383 BA (2nd), 1.032 OPS (2nd), 7 HR (t-3rd), 39 RBI (2nd)

Arizona League
Cody Decker, Padres: 1.127 OPS (1st), .357 BA (3rd), 11 HR (1st), 46 RBI (1st)

Dominican Summer League
Reymond Nunez, Yankees 2: 10 HR (2nd), 57 RBI (1st), .947 OPS (4th)
Alexander Sanchez, Mets: .391 BA (1st), .982 OPS (2nd)

Gulf Coast League
Brett Newsome, Nationals: 1.020 OPS (1st), .304 BA (9th), 25 R (1st), 13 2B (t-3rd)
Layton Hiller, Braves: 6 HR (1st), 34 RBI (1st), .846 OPS (8th)
Marcell Ozuna, Marlins: .928 OPS (2nd), .344 BA (3rd), 24 R (t-2nd), 18 2B (1st), 4 HR (t-7th), 31 RBI (2nd)

Pioneer League
Jerry Sands, Ogden: 14 HR (1st), 39 RBI (4th), .350 BA (4th), 1.114 OPS (1st), 41 R (1st)

Venezuelan Summer League
Roan Salas, Rays: 15 HR (1st), 59 RBI (1st), 49 R (t-3rd), 75 H (t-5th), .338 BA (2nd), 1.063 OPS (1st)

Now Pitching For The Colorado Rockies…

The first “Now Pitching For” in forever, and I’m like four days late on it.  That’s how I roll.

Jhoulys Chacin burst onto our radar last season when he went a combined 18-3 with a 2.03 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 177.2 innings for Modesto and Asheville.  His performance earned him a coveted spot on the Z-Meter last May, and he hasn’t left since.  Well, until now, but this is like graduation day, really.

Chacin’s walks were up and his strikeouts were down at AA Tulsa this season, but that didn’t stop the Rockies from calling him up on Friday to take the place of reliever Ryan Speier, who was designated for assignment.  He made his major league debut on Saturday, pitching the ninth in an 8-2 Rockies win over San Francisco.  He walked one, threw a wild pitch, and struck out two.

Top Performers: Saturday, July 18, 2009

Class AAA
Jon Niese, Buffalo (International): 7 IP, 2 H
Daniel Descalso, Memphis (Pacific Coast): 3-5, HR, 5 RBI
Mitchell Boggs, Memphis (Pacific Coast): 7 IP, 2 H
John Lindsey, New Orleans (Pacific Coast): 2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI

Class AA
Joe Savery, Reading (Eastern): first loss after twelve straight wins
Samuel Deduno, Tulsa (Texas): 7 IP, 3 H

Class A-Advanced
Cory Riordan, Modesto (California): 8 IP, 1 R, 5 H, 9 SO
Ian Gac, Bakersfield (California): 2-4, walk-off HR
Danny Duffy, Wilmington (Carolina): 7 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 7 SO
Michael Bertram, Lakeland (Florida State): 4-5, 4 RS, 2B, 3B, HR (cycle)
Christopher Carpenter, Daytona (Florida State): 5 IP, 1 H, 9 SO

Class A
Mark Sorensen, West Michigan (Midwest): 8 IP, 2 H
Stiven Osuna, Fort Wayne (Midwest): 6 IP, 1 H, 10 SO
Eric Beaulac, Savannah (South Atlantic): 5.2 IP, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 H, 7 SO
Kiel Roling, Asheville (South Atlantic): 2-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI

Class A-Short Season
J.D. Martinez, Tri-City (New York-Penn): 3-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI
John Servidio, Brooklyn (New York-Penn): 2-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI

Class Rookie
Gerlis Rodriguez, Pirates (Gulf Coast): 4-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI
Brian Cavazos-Galvez, Ogden (Pioneer): 3-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI
Jose Colmenares, Rays (Venezuelan Summer): 2-2, 2 HR, 4 RBI