Saturday, April 17, 2010

Former Major Leaguers in the Minors

Minor League Baseball games are a great place to catch some former Major Leaguers taking on new roles as managers or players. Due to the size of Minor League parks, you can really get a close-up view of these former stars.

Last year, I went to a Williamsport Crosscutters game when they were playing the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and sat about a foot away from former Detroit Tiger star, Travis Fryman. Fryman and his bench coach sat in two plastic chairs outside their dugout, while I was seated in the front row on the stands. I could basically hear their conversation. Pretty cool! I also saw former New York Met and Hall of Fame Catcher, Gary Carter manage the Orange County Flyers in California.

Here are some of the former Major Leaguers who are now in the Minors with either affiliated teams or independent teams......

In the independent leagues, you'll find quite a few former MLB greats. Head on down to Campbell's Field in Camden, NJ and you'll see former Philadelphia Phillie, Von Hayes managing the Riversharks. Hayes spent 9 years with the Phillies and was a member of the National League All-Star team in 1989.

Take a trip out to Lancaster, PA and you'll be able to see the Lancaster Barnstormers skipper, Tom Herr. Herr spent 9 years with the St. Louis Cardinals and was a 1985 All-Star. Former St. Louis Cardinal pitcher, Danny Cox is the pitching coach. Tom Herr's son, Aaron Herr is also on the team. Former Minnesota Twins Star, Gary Gaetti's son, Joe Gaetti is also on the team.
If you venture out to Somerset, NJ, you'll find three people of interest. Former New York Yankee, Sparky Lyle manages the Patriots. Also, Jeff Nettles is a player on the team (Former Yankee, Graig Nettles' son). Lyle was the 1977 Cy Young Award winner who spent 6 years with the Yankees. Lyle has managed the Patriots since 1998 and is the only manager they have had. Jeff Nettles played in the minors but never got the call to the big leagues. Tim Raines, Jr. also plays for the Patriots.

Tim Raines, the former Montreal Expos standout is the current manager of the Newark Bears in Newark, NJ. Raines was a 7 time All-Star. Former Chicago White Sox catcher, Ron Karkovice is the hitting coach for the Bears. Karkovice spent 11 years with the White Sox. Former MLB players, Edgardo Alfonzo, Scott Spiezio, Armando Benitez, and Willie Banks are on the Bears roster this year.

If you're willing to battle the traffic out to Long Island, you'll find three familiar faces. Dave LaPoint (played for the Yankees in '89 and '90) is manager of the Long Island Ducks. Bud Harrelson, former manager of the New York Mets, is the first base coach for the Ducks and Kevin Baez (former New York Met) is the infield Coach. You might even see Sidney Ponson (played for the Yankees in 2006 and 2008) on the mound for the ducks. Robinson Cancel who also played in the majors is a catcher on the Ducks.

If you survived the drive to Long Island then you might as well head up to Brooklyn and catch former New York Met second basemen, Wally Backman as the skipper of the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Some other notable former Major Leaguers in the Minors:

Cory Snyder- Manager of the Na Koa Ikaika Maui (The Strong Warriors of Maui), former Cleveland Indian.
Rich Gedman- Manager of the Worcester Tornadoes, former Boston Red Sox Catcher
Butch Hobson- Manager of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, played for the Boston Red for 5 years.
Travis Fryman- Manager of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, former Detroit Tiger and 5 time All-Star.
Ken Oberkfell- Manager of the Buffalo Bisons, former MLB 3rd basemen.
Chris Chambliss- Manager of the Charlotte Knights, former New York Yankees player and bench coach.
Butch Wynegar- Bench coach of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, former New York Yankees catcher in the 80's.
Larry Parrish – Manager of the Toledo Mud Hens, former Major Leaguer
Randall Simon- Rockford Riverhawks, played in the Majors for 9 seasons. Best known for hitting the Milwaukee Brewer's Sausage in the "Sausage Race" with a baseball bat. He was fined and charged with disorderly conduct.
Hal Lanier- Manager of the Normal CornBelters, former Houston Astros manager.
Tim Wallach- Manager of the Alburquerque Isotopes, former Montreal Expo for 12 years. Wallach was a 5 time All-Star selection.

Friday, July 31, 2009

3 Types of Minor League Ballparks

Minor League Baseball Parks fall into 3 categories. The first category is what I would call the “Amusement Park/Shopping Mall” park. The second category is the “There’s a ballpark here?” category. Lastly, the third category is the “downtown” park. The “Amusement Park/Shopping Mall” type of park is my least favorite. The “AP/SM” park is usually located in a suburb area where there is plenty of space to make the park look like an amusement park or shopping mall, hence the name of the category. Generally the fans that attend a game in this type of stadium are not die hard minor league baseball fans, they are coming to enjoy all the concessions, socialize, soak up the atmosphere and in most cases to watch the post-game fireworks. Generally, there tends to be a large number of kids running around on a grassy berm not paying any attention to the game. If you are a hard core baseball fan, attending a park that falls into the category of “AP/SM”, sometimes tends to be a painful experience filled with aggravation. You are trying to actually watch the game, but the fans in front of you are up and down a dozen times getting various concessions. Usually during this process, one of those fans stands for a few minutes talking with another fan, completely oblivious that they are blocking the view of people behind them. The “AP/SM” type fan is rarely paying attention to the game, but when the obnoxious “Everybody clap your hands” sound effect comes over the PA, they will drop everything and begin clapping away as if they have any idea what is going on in the game, or even which teams are playing. They have no problem shelling out $5.75 for their 5 kids to each have a small container of “Dippin’ Dots”. Once the kids finish the ice cream, they are begging to go to the kids play area to jump on some of the inflatables (and of course, not watch the game). At an “AP/SM” there tends to be an explosion of sound effects to which the casual “AP/SM fan” finds entertaining and laughs at most of them. For example, you know you are sitting next to a newbie when a foul ball goes out of the stadium and the sound effect of glass breaking followed by the “Johnny’s Auto Glass….1-800-123-GLASS” advertisement is made, and the fan laughs. Ok, now if you have been to even 2 minor league parks, you have heard this sound effect followed by an auto glass repair shop ad about 25 times. After about the 2nd time, it is no longer funny. Next, we have the “T-Shirt Toss”, where fans at an “AP/SM” park will risk life and limb over catching a t-shirt. Little do they know, that many of the times, the t-shirt does not have the logo of the team that is playing, it might just have a random ad on it, like “Randy’s Self Storage”. Now, is that worth tackling other people for? At this type of park you can usually see the team’s mascot dancing on top of the dugout and throwing souvenirs into the stands while the game is going on. Now once again, the newbie fan finds this entertaining, while someone like myself is having a hard time seeing what is actually going on, on the field. I have often wondered that if the players actually stopped playing and left the field, if the fans at a “AP/SM” would even notice. Most of the fans think they are in the stadium for a big party, not a baseball game. Some parks that fall into the “AP/SM” category are FirstEnergy Ballpark in Lakewood, NJ, Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, PA, and All-Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, OH. If you want to see the perfect example of an “AP/SM” ballpark, visit any of the stadiums run by the GoldKlang Group. They tend to focus on everything BUT the game, and they do so in tasteless ways. The perfect example of one of these parks is Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill, NY which has so many sound effects, promotions, and non-sense, that you have no idea there is a game going on.

Ok, now onto category 2…the “Downtown” park. The “Downtown” park generally has a more relaxed atmosphere compared to the “AP/SM” park and a little more charm. There tends to be more fans who are actually interested in the game. The “Downtown” ballpark has character to it by usually having some distinguishing feature that a fan can remember about the park. Usually this is either due to the surroundings or space limitations. A lot of times ballparks built in downtown areas have a limited amount of space to work with so they have to construct a unique concourse in order to fit on the property. For example, Jerry Uht Park in Erie, PA is the perfect example. Due to space constraints, the 1st base seating bowl has to be two levels, while on the 1st base side there is more room for seating and there is one level. These types of parks generally focus on the most important thing, the game.

The third category, which is my preference, is the “There’s a ballpark here?” category. These parks are located in areas where you would not expect a ballpark to be built. Fans have to make an effort to get to the park since it is not located in a major city. These parks are glorified high school fields. There’s a small-town feel to these parks because the fans are die hard fans, many of whom are season ticket holders or host families of the players. If you go to a game in a park in this category, you are definitely going for baseball and nothing else. There’s probably a pretty good chance that you will see fans actually keeping score at these parks and paying attention to every pitch. Imagine that! There usually isn’t a wide range of concessions, just the basics…..there isn’t a fancy video board, or concourse area……and sometimes you even see players just wandering around the park before the game. They might be talking on their cell phone, they might be grabbing a bite to eat, they might be signing autographs, but they aren’t being guarded by security. These are the places where you can see minor league baseball at its best! Some parks that fall into this category are Damaschke Field in Oneonta, NY, Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield, CA and Russell Diethrick, Jr. Park in Jamestown, NY.

Obviously, there are parks that fit into all of these categories that have good attendance, so there certainly are people who enjoy all of these atmospheres. I prefer to spend my time at a low-key, relaxed baseball game where everyone in attendance wants to be there to actually watch the game.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Season Comes to an End.......

Well, it's that time of year again....the end of baseball season. I ended this season with 97 total games that I have been to in my life. I wish I could have gotten to 3 more just to make 100. Oh well, there's always next year (That's what the Yankees are saying right now too). I went to 34 different parks this year, which is a new record for me. I think Richmond County Bank Ballpark in Staten Island was one of my favorites this year. The scenic background makes this park a very enjoyable place to watch a game. It was so relaxing compared to nearby KeySpan Park in Brooklyn, which was probably my least favorite park this year. Also ranking pretty high up on my list of favorites are Dodger Stadium, Clipper Magazine Stadium, Cooper Stadium, and Petco Park.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Weekend Trip to PA

Hello. I took a weekend trip to PA to see a few stadiums. Saturday, I saw a game in Lancaster, the Barnstormers vs. the Newark Bears. The park was nice, see my review on my website for more info. Sunday, I figured since I was only an hour or so away from Baltimore, that I would travel down to see a game there since I didn't have digital pictures of Camden Yards yet. Last time I went, it was before the time of digital cameras. I made sure I took lots of pics. Although, since it rained while I was down there, there isn't much sun in the pictures. I was glad to see that Camden Yards seemed to be in the same immaculate condition that it was in last time I was there. That place is spotless! People actually throw their garbage away rather than just leaving it under their seats. Imagine that! I spent more time walking through Eutaw St. than I did the first time I was there. I took notice of the "Orioles Hall of Fame" located on a wall on Eutaw St. and the plaques of baseballs on the sidewalk. Also, the big numbers that were located near the entrance were pretty cool. I was a little disappointed in the standing room only section because I wasn't tall enough to see over the wall. :( Luckily, I had a real seat, but like to wander around as well. I then headed back up to York, PA, where I had stayed for the night to see the York Revolution take on the Somerset Patriots. The funniest thing was that when I parked my car and got out, the parking lot attendant said to me, "Are you one of the player's wives?". First thing I thought was, 'Wow--he actually thinks I look old enough to be married, and secondly, he actually thinks someone would subject themselves to marry me." After, I laughed, I told him I wasn't. He thought because of my Yankees tire cover that I was there to see my husband since he had heard that many of the Somerset Patriots were ex-Yankees (which, I did not break the news to him, that that wasn't true...unless I was married to the manager, Sparky Lyle). Geez...can't a female go to a game by herself and not be a player's wife. I know when Brian goes to games alone and keeps score, he has been asked if he is a scout. haha...gee, people do go by themselves without having any affiliation to a player or to the league.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Enough is Enough of "Manny being Manny"

Ok, enough of the "Manny being Manny" excuse to justify Manny Ramirez's behavior. I can handle people saying "Oh, well, that's just Manny being Manny" in response to someone criticizing the way he stands and admires his homeruns as if he has never seen one hit out of the park. Ok, now I do understand that I was not there and I did not see exactly the way things happened, but I do feel what I am about to say is justifiable. When it comes to Manny's latest incident involving the team's traveling secretary who could not magically produce 16 tickets for Manny while the Red Sox were in Houston playing the Astros, is just absolutely inexcusable. Each player was entitled to 4 (some sources say 6) tickets for the game. Manny requested 16 at the last minute. When those 16 tickets could not be provided for him by the team's traveling secretary, Manny threw the 64 year old man to the ground. Manny apparently told the secretary, "Just do your job!". Well, as far as I understand it, Manny's job is to play baseball, not to shove elderly men to the ground. So, who's not doing their job here? Hmmmm....let's think.

Now, a few weeks ago Shawn Chacon, formerly of the Astros, was released after a physical altercation took place with the general manager. Finally, someone was dealt with accordingly. The Red Sox claim they will handle "disciplining" Manny internally....which I think translates into, "nothing will be done because winning and making money is the most important thing to the Red Sox organization". The only difference between Chacon's and Ramirez's situation is Chacon is not headed to the Hall of Fame (Not that I support Manny going to the HOF).

Now, I am sure there are plenty of conflicts that take place within teams that we don't hear about and possibly the only reason we are hearing about this is because it involves a superstar (or super idiot, in my opinion). But either way, enough is enough....someone acting like a jerk, just because they are a jerk, is NOT an excuse. He should be dealt with severely. The best headline to sum up this situation actually came from a Massachusetts newspaper: "Manny Crosses Line, surely Red Sox Will do Nothing".

..................And don't even get me started on how Manny had a yelling incident with Kevin Youkilis in which he was telling Youkilis not to throw as much equipment when he is upset. Is Manny Ramirez really one who should be correcting anyone else's behavior?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Where's Spring?

OK, let me first start out by saying that I am not going to be attending anymore cold baseball games this season. Enough is enough. Last night, at the North Pole,....... I mean at the Bridgeport game, the wind chill factor had to have been in the 30's. This is a little ridiculous for baseball season. If I have to be bundled up so tightly that I don't even have a free hand for a hot dog....there's a serious problem.