Posts Tagged ‘Kansas City Royals’

Danny Duffy Calls It Quits

Danny Duffy’s bio in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook speaks glowingly of the 21-year-old pitcher’s excellence on the mound: his ability to throw off a hitter’s timing, his fearlessness on the inside part of the plate, his willingness to work at improving various aspects of his game.  It ended by noting that despite his youth, “Duffy isn’t that far away from the majors.”

Amidst all the praise, however, were a few cautionary words.  “He sometimes struggles to put bad starts behind him…one of the last remaining tests for the potential No. 3 starter is finding out how he handles adversity – because he hasn’t encountered any.”

Prophetic, perhaps?

Duffy, the eighth-rated prospect in the Royals organization, suffered a minor elbow injury this spring and wasn’t expected to pitch until mid-May.  On Tuesday, he told Royals officials he was done, finished, quits with the game of baseball.

The Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton didn’t seem to think the injury was connected with Duffy’s decision to step away from the game, but it should probably at least be considered.  If a kid is known to have a hard time dealing with bad outings and people question how he will deal with adversity, it makes sense to draw a connection to elbow problems, especially if that was his first career injury.  If I’m a 21-year-old kid and my elbow starts to hurt, I don’t care if the doctors say it’s just a strain – I’m probably freaking out.

There is good news, though: stuff like this isn’t all that uncommon.  A couple years ago, Jose Tabata (a 19-year-old in Double-A) left the Trenton Thunder during a game and was suspended for three games.  In the 1950s, Hall of Famer Billy Williams left his team and went home, requiring the intervention of Buck O’Neil.  And in 2006, Zack Greinke took a couple months off to deal with some personal issues.

My guess is that Duffy goes home, gets some support and encouragement, and gives his elbow time to heal…then, in a couple months, gets the itch, realizes he misses the game, and picks up where he left off.

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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.

Disco Hayes Is Our Kind Of Guy

Truth be told, I’m a little angry about this whole Disco Hayes phenomenon that’s been sweeping the nation.  Not because of anything personal toward ol’ Disco – I think the problem is that I’m jealous that we didn’t discover him first.

I wish we’d discovered him first because Disco Hayes is our type of player.  He throws a fastball that spends most of its time in the high-70s and is probably better suited to the front office than the pitcher’s mound.  He’s a sidearmer.  And he possesses a preternatural ability to believe himself, no matter the odds:

They call Chris Hayes “Disco” because he throws in the 70s. Isn’t that beautiful? Everything about Disco Hayes is like that — funny and self-deprecating but also oddly confident. Disco Hayes believes he will get out big-league hitters. He doesn’t believe that he can get them out. He believes he will. And no one yet has shaken that belief.

Oh, Disco is a smart guy — a Northwestern grad with a computer science degree. He understands why people may think that an undrafted pitcher who throws sidearm fastballs at 78 mph isn’t a big-league prospect. He sympathizes with those people. Hey, if Disco didn’t know better, he might think the same thing. But he does know better.

“I can’t really explain it,” he says, and while he’s talking, he and his wife, Tracy, hold hands. “I’ve just always believed in my ability to pitch.”

“We know we’re going to have a long career in the big leagues,” Tracy says.

So yeah – if you ever find yourself wondering what a “Bus Leagues” type of player is, look no further than Disco Hayes.

Average Distance From Majors To Affiliates: American League Central

Cleveland Indians (average: 501 miles)
Cleveland to…
…Columbus Clippers (AAA): 143 miles
…Akron Aeros (AA): 39 miles
…Kinston Indians (A): 650 miles
…Lake County Captains (A): 19 miles
…Mahoning Valley Scrappers (A): 72 miles
…GCL Indians (Rookie): 2,081 miles

Detroit Tigers (average: 572 miles)
Detroit to…
…Toledo Mudhens (AAA): 58 miles
…Erie Seawolves (AA): 270 miles
…Lakeland Tigers (A): 1,177 miles
…West Michigan Whitecaps (A): 165 miles
…Oneonta Tigers (A): 586 miles
…GCL Tigers (Rookie): 1,177 miles

Kansas City Royals (average: 756 miles)
Kansas City to…
…Omaha Royals (AAA): 184 miles
…Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA): 227 miles
…Wilmington Blue Rocks (A): 1,119 miles
…Burlington Bees (A): 300 miles
…Surprise Royals (A): 1,258 miles
…Burlington Royals (A): 1,018 miles
…Idaho Falls Chukars (Rookie): 1,183 miles

Chicago White Sox (average: 833 miles)
Chicago to…
…Charlotte Knights (AAA): 778 miles
…Birmingham Barons (AA): 662 miles
…Winston-Salem Dash (A): 758 miles
…Kannapolis Intimidators (A): 799 miles
…Bristol White Sox (Rookie): 623 miles
…Great Falls Voyagers (Rookie): 1,377 miles

Minnesota Twins (average: 1,172 miles)
Minneapolis to…
…Rochester Redwings (AAA): 1,010 miles
…New Britain Rock Cats (AA): 1,291 miles
…Fort Meyers Miracle (A): 1,690 miles
…Beloit Snappers (A): 316 miles
…Elizabethton Twins (Rookie): 1,034 miles
…GCL Twins (Rookie): 1,690 miles

The Great Baseball Road Trip of 2009: Day Three – June 27 – Baltimore to Pittsburgh to Harrisburg

The Pittsburgh Pirates are a joke as a baseball team and an organization (and that hurts to say, seeing as Amherst, New Hampshire’s own Neal Huntington is the general manager), but this must be said: I could see a game in every ballpark, major and minor, in the world and I’m not sure I would ever find another one as beautiful as Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. From the exterior view (where you’re driving down the street, come to a traffic light at the foot of the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and BOOM, ballpark at ten o’clock) to the interior view (with multiple gold-colored bridges rising up in the background), it’s just a fantastic place to enjoy visually.

pittsburgh bridges

My biggest regret about our road trip is that we didn’t get into Pittsburgh early enough to see any of the sights around the city. I would have liked to see where Three Rivers Stadium used to be, or visit Carnegie Mellon University (where the home plate from Forbes Field still resides). It was a hit-and-run visit, however; we left Baltimore around eleven, got to Pittsburgh just in time to check out the ballpark and see the game, and burned rubber for our hotel outside Harrisburg right after the game.

roberto clemente statueWe parked near the ballpark and walked over, crossing the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which was closed to automobile traffic. There’s something strange about walking down the middle of the street in broad daylight. I kept waiting for a car horn to sound behind me and obscenities to be sent in my direction. When we made it to the other side, we were greeted by an awesome sight: a huge statue of Roberto Clemente as he was completing his swing and preparing to run to first. Milestones from his life and career were engraved into the base; a miniature baseball diamond was set up around his feet, with each “base” housing a sample of earth from someplace close to Clemente: his birthplace of Carolina, Puerto Rico and his two major league homes with the Pirates, Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium.

Before entering the ballpark, we separated for the first time on the colon warming uptrip. Billy, an avid outdoorsman, wanted to kayak down the mighty Alleghany River, so he broke off for an hour or so and went off on his own little adventure (he went as far as Heinz Field) while we went inside to watch batting practice. The first thing I noticed was that when you walk inside, the bullpens are RIGHT THERE. I hope Roman Colon likes an audience while he’s getting his work in, because he certainly had a sizeable one. We then ventured into the left-center field bleachers, which was being peppered with batting practice homeruns. Chris looked like he could’ve stayed there all day, but unfortunately we were in direct sunlight and I could feel myself baking, so I suggested we walk around and check out the rest of the place.

Some team employees were running a game under the bleachers where you spun a wheel and won some sort of prize. Chris and I signed up. He went first and won a hat that we had to walk clear across to the other side of the ballpark to retrieve. I followed and won a coupon for two free tickets to a Sunday-Thursday game of my choosing. My first thought was to give it away as a prize to one of our loyal Bus Leagues readers, but it will probably turn into a nice Labor Day road trip for my wife and I. Don’t worry, I gots other stuff for you people. We’ll get to that some other time.

After we walked to the other side of the ballpark for Chris’s hat, Billy caught up with us and we just soaked in the beauty of the place for a few minutes. Someone suggested moving closer to the field to take some pictures – batting practice was still going on – so we walked the main concourse until we were parallel to the dugouts and made our move.

Billy went down the steps first. For some reason, Chris and Tim were lagging behind. As I approached the steps, an usher popped out of nowhere and gruffly asked, “Something I can help you with?”

My first thought was, “Oh, no, not again.” What I actually said was, “No, we’re just looking to head down closer to the field and take some pictures before the game.”

PNC viewWithout another word, the usher gave an “Alright then son, go get ‘em” smack on the arm and walked away. I started laughing and continued down the steps. Billy had seen the usher and I talking and waited for me – he joined my laughter and we came to a sort of wordless agreement that the staff here blew the other two places out of the water. When we got to the bottom, I asked another usher about the seating capacity. He told me it was 38,000+ and they were close to a sellout tonight, with the fireworks and all (fireworks! Nobody said anything about fireworks!). If there was one area of this trip where we got just plain unlucky (besides, you know, the whole tire blowout on Day One), it was that we somehow chose games that featured two of the biggest crowds Camden Yards and PNC Park will see this season.

Our seats, then, ended up being in the general admission area in the left field bleachers. Decent seats with reasonable potential for homerun balls, but since they were general admission we lost the opportunity to get up and move around, for fear of losing the seats we had. Still, a small price to pay for a decent view of a surprisingly decent game. It was also a throwback night, with the Pirates dressed in Homestead Grays uniforms and the visiting Royals in Kansas City Monarchs gear. It was fitting, as my comment to Chris before the game was, “You know, this would be an outstanding matchup…if the year was 1979.”

homestead grays unis

(You may have noticed that with the exception of the first game, we somehow chose to see four of the worst teams in major league baseball. I have no idea how this happened.)

The saving grace of this game was supposed to be Zack Greinke. I had read that the Royals were sending Kyle Davies down and going with a four-man rotation, which meant Greinke’s turn would come on our Saturday. On Friday, though, Billy checked and saw that the Royals starter was still TBA. Coupled with rumors I had read that Bruce Chen would be getting a call-up, that seemed like bad news. “I’ll bet they’re waiting until after the game to make a roster move,” I said at the time. I’m not right often. I was right that time. We got Bruce Chen.

In the first inning, Nyjer Morgan reached base. Chen threw over once with a pickoff move that didn’t seem all that impressive. Next thing we knew, he was throwing over again…and Morgan was racing toward second. He was out by a mile. Later in the game, the same thing happened – Morgan reached base, Chen threw over, Morgan was already off to the races and out by a mile. For whatever reason, as Chris said, he just wasn’t picking up the move.

In the fourth, Chris made a bold prediction: we still hadn’t seen a homerun in almost two and a half games – Delwyn “Don’t Call Me Delmon” Young (also known as Delwyn “I’ve Never Thrown A Bat At An Umpire” Young) was going deep. At this point, Delwyn Young had four career homeruns…so of course you know that no sooner were the words out of Chris’s mouth than Young jacked the fifth homer of his career to dead center. It was just that kind of weekend.

group pic with clemente

Yadda yadda yadda, the game ended, the fireworks show was awesome, we got a group shot in front of the Clemente statue, Chris took the wheel and got us out of Pittsburgh. Our plan was to drive to Harrisburg, crash for a few hours, and head up to Cooperstown in the morning. This time, I kept Chris awake with inane conversation and approximately 352 renditions of “Once, twice, three times – ahh, ahh, ahh, oh, the humanity!” And it was a good thing, too, because there is nothing to see on the highways that cut through western and central Pennsylvania. Nothing. There were a lot of tunnels, however, which served no better purpose than to completely mess up Chris’s mind.

(For the sake of comparison, here are the videos my brother took of the fireworks in Baltimore and the fireworks in Pittsburgh. I think the latter show was better, but that’s just my opinion.)

Things started to go wrong as we approached Harrisburg, or whatever suburb of Harrisburg our hotel was in. The exit that we were supposed to take wasn’t there, so Chris got off the highway and found a convenience store where I could ask for directions. The young lady who helped us out was quite drunk and wearing a dress that left little to the imagination, but she was very pleasant and her directions for the street we were looking for were perfect. Unfortunately, we didn’t exactly follow them and had to call the hotel for help. When we got to the hotel, we were informed that there was an error in the system: since we were arriving after midnight, the system had marked us as a no-show and released our room. We still HAD a room, but the night desk clerk was new and couldn’t figure out how to get us checked in without double charging.

Chris was ready to sleep in the car by the time everything got squared away. We headed up to the room that the clerk had put us in for the few hours we would be there, opened the door, and immediately noticed that it had not been cleaned. There was trash lying around, the bed was unmade, the lights were on. It looked like somebody was still staying there. I went back to the office, got another key (for the room next door), opened it up, inspected it, and reported back with what I deemed to be the most pertinent information: “Well, there’s no dead hookers in the bathtub.” Billy and Tim grabbed the beds, Chris and I found space on the floor, and we proceeded to sleep for approximately 150 minutes before hitting the road for beautiful Cooperstown, New York.

So ended Day Three.

Now Pitching, For the Kansas City Royals…

Luke Hochevar!

We just put Hochevar on the Z-meter last week, and he’s already in the show. The powerful righty out of the University of Tennessee was brought up when the Royals designated 39-year-old Hideo Nomo for assignment with no intention of retaining the Japanese veteran in any way, shape, or form. Hochevar had previously gone 1-1 in three starts with a 2.60 ERA with the AAA Omaha Royals in 2008 before being called up.

The 6’5″ Colorado native was the first overall pick in the 2006 draft. He made a rapid ascent to Omaha in 2007, and pitched in four games with the parent club, putting in 12 innings with one loss to show for his efforts. He was optioned to Omaha to begin the season in 2008, but we’re guessing he never put up any pictures in his locker this time around.

In his first start on Saturday, Hochevar allowed six runs to the Oakland As. No shrinking violet, the former Volunteer had this to say:

My ball got up a little bit, and they put it in play and found some holes. That’s the cost of doing business. I give up a hit with two outs, I’m not going to back down. I’m not going to start nibbling. I’m going to keep attacking.

If they’re going to beat me, they’re going to beat me.

[Kansas City Star]

Hochevar’s next scheduled start comes at home, when the Toronto Blue Jays come to town.

Welcome to the bigs, Luke!