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Over 1,600 players reached 50 innings pitched during the 2019 Minor League Baseball season, from Triple-A all the way down to the various Rookie ball circuits. Out of all of those pitchers, a Marlins prospect ranked sixth overall in terms of strikeout percentage—sixth—and you may not even know his name. That prospect is reliever Alex Vesia, a 2018 17th-round draft pick from NCAA Divison II Cal State East Bay.

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You will not find Vesia on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Marlins prospects list, but you will find him in the bullpen during the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game on Saturday.

The distinction is the latest chapter in a dominant 2019 for the left-hander. Vesia started the year at Single-A Clinton after getting his feet wet with the GCL Marlins and Batavia Muckdogs the previous summer. In 19 appearances, the 23-year-old went 1-2 with a 2.56 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 51:17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those stats earned him a promotion to High-A Jupiter on June 20, but that would actually turn out to be his worst “slump” all season.

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With the Hammerheads Vesia pitched 18 2⁄3 innings, allowing only one walk compared to 24 punch-outs. He picked up one save in two attempts, and finished with a 4-0 record and a 1.93 ERA. Going from strength to strength, Vesia was promoted again on August 1, and did not allow a single run for the rest of the season. Over 16 1⁄3 frames at Double-A Jacksonville he struck out 25 batters and produced a WHIP of 0.55. Overall, Vesia posted a 1.76 ERA over 66 2⁄3 innings across three levels during the regular season, along with a 38.2 K% and 13.50 K/9. Just in case that did not impress, he has struck out 11 batters over 7 1⁄3 scoreless innings in the AFL thus far.

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The Miami Marlins need to solidify who’s going to be their backup catcher in 2020.
Jorge Alfaro is the undisputed starter for the 2020 Miami Marlins at backstop, but being a catcher in the majors is physically demanding. A backup catcher is important in that they can step in when the starter goes down, or give the starter an off day now and then.

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For two seasons now, Bryan Holaday has been a very solid backup to Alfaro and J.T. Realmuto before him. Holaday was weak at the plate in 2018, with a .205/.261/.258 slashline, but more than made up for it by leading the National League with a 45 percent kill-rate on runners trying to steal.

This past season, Holaday only nabbed 20 percent, but his hitting was much improved over 43 games, to the tune of a .278/.344/.435 line. In 668 1/3 innings combined between the two seasons, he was guilty of one error and two passed balls. That’s incredible, if you didn’t know already.

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Also logging time at catcher for the 2019 Miami Marlins were Chad Wallach, Tyler Heineman, and Wilkin Castillo. Will one of these four fill the coveted number two catcher roster spot for the Marlins? Will they dig deeper into the existing system? Will they look outside for help through free agency? How about a trade? We’ll have to wait and see how things develop in Spring Training, but in the meantime, we can make a few guesses.

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I went on about this at some length in an article a few days ago, here. The Crib notes version is this – J.D. Osborne is likely the best hitting catcher in the system, outside of Alfaro and the 2019 version of Holaday. Nick Fortes, Dustin Skelton, and Will Banfield all wait in the wings, with Banfield as the heir apparent to Alfaro in a few years. Down at the rookie level, Casey Combs and Cameron Barstad lurk, if one of the others don’t work out.

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As I’ve previously stated, I believe that Banfield is the answer to the long-term question behind the dish, and I think Skelton will shape into a fine backup in time. They won’t be ready for the 2020 season, so what about looking outside?

Livin life with no complaints pic.twitter.com/CfRPWbRycH

— Alex Vesia (@Alex_Vesia) September 28, 2019
Vesia may just be growing into a dominant closer on a currently closer-less team. While he was not often used in such a role in 2019, he displays all of the tools of a lock-down, late-inning specialist. He possesses a mid-90s fastball, has great control of the strike zone, and definitely owns a strikeout pitch. Only one of those things can be said about José Ureña, who posted a 9.00 ERA after being moved to the bullpen this year.

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All in all, the Marlins ‘pen is arguably the worst in MLB, the only one in the league that performed below replacement level in 2019, according to FanGraphs. The current talent level may be even lower than that suggests, moving forward without the services of Sergio Romo and Nick Anderson.

Continuing on this trajectory, Vesia is a potential major league call-up as early as next season. Easier said than done, though—fellow prospect Tommy Eveld looked to have similar promise after being acquired by trade from the Diamondbacks, but seemed to hit a wall (7.71 ERA) when he reached Triple-A and still hasn’t debuted at the highest level.

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In short, Alex Vesia is very, very good and could end up being one of the steals of the 2018 draft. The lefty should start to appear across the industry’s top prospect lists during the offseason. Look for Vesia to be seriously considered for a non-roster invite to 2020 Spring Training.

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It’s not every day that you get to meet a World Series champion.

But having the chance to be trained by one? That’s a rarity, although it could become reality for young baseball players in Surrey this summer.

Former Toronto Blue Jays catcher Gregg Zaun is hosting a baseball camp from July 2-3 at Whalley Athletic Park. He will be joined by former baseball pros, including Whalley Little League icon and former Major League Baseball player Justin Atkinson.

After being fired as an analyst from Rogers Sportsnet in November, 2017, following allegations of “inappropriate behaviour and comments” toward female employees, Zaun pursued other avenues to stay involved in baseball. He recently spoke to the Now-Leader about his new-found inspiration: training young baseball players and growing the Gregg Zaun Pro Camp.

“I was lucky,” Zaun said. “I have uncles who played professional baseball, so it was passed from one generation to another. Not every kid gets gifted that opportunity, and I feel blessed to be able to pass the game on to the next generation.”

“Lots of kids these days learn from watching videos, but when someone who’s played the game at a higher level is able to share their experiences about their techniques that made them successful, I think that’s an invaluable asset for young athletes.”

It didn’t take Zaun long to realize his passion for teaching baseball to youngsters.

“I did a 10-week catching clinic in Toronto,” he said. “Often these guys go from being terrified of the baseball to embracing it. I have a nine-year-old who catches the equivalent of a 95 mile-per-hour sinker now.”

“With hitters, I’m starting to watch kids at 10 or 11 years old hit 65 mile-per-hour curveballs. Watching these kids lose their fear or watching those lightbulb moments with guys and girls playing baseball is something else, it’s really special.”

After teaching baseball to youth in the Greater Toronto Area, Zaun decided he wanted to take the camps across Canada.

Now, the Gregg Zaun Pro Camp just recently returned from Peterborough and will make stops in Kelowna and Edmonton, following the camp in Surrey.

“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just Canadians in the Toronto area who got the chance to see how other professional baseball players went about their business.”

The California-born Zaun, who won a World Series with Florida Marlins in 1997 before playing for the Blue Jays from 2004 to 2008, now calls Canada home.

That’s part of the reason why he’s dedicated to improving the game in Canada, although he believes baseball in this country is already in a good place.

“I think Canada is making progress in the baseball world,” he said. “There’s an untapped resource of talent, for sure.”

“My goal is to help Canadian kids compete on the world stage, and I really believe the only thing holding these kids back is the opportunity to train year-round.”

“Certainly, weather plays a role. It makes a difference when you’re able to train 11 months of the year. If you want to compete with kids from down in the Southern U.S., in Latin America and in Asia, you need to get out and just do it, train full-tilt.”

Zaun does have a long-term vision of building training facilities in Canada. He envisions facilities with retractable roofs and enough space so that budding baseball stars could train around the clock.

“You look at these kids in Canada, they’re as good as anywhere else in the world, they just need the opportunity to be coached and trained year-round. That’s what I’m trying to do, create an environment where that can happen.

“I’m passionate about the game. Anybody who loves the game like I do, you want to see these kids get an opportunity to get to the next level.”

There is a storied history of baseball in Surrey, with the Whalley Little League existing for more than 60 years. They’ve also represented Canada at the Little League World Series on five occasions, with one of those appearances coming in 2018.

Zaun is no stranger to B.C., since his wife is from Kelowna, but this will be the first true visit to Surrey.

“I know a few guys from Surrey, and they tell me about how passionate the kids are for baseball. It’s going to be a really good experience for these kids. We want kids to know about it and come on out. Opportunities like this don’t happen too often. It’s a good experience to take advantage of these professionals and their time.”

For more information on the Gregg Zaun Pro Camp, visit greggzaunprocamp.com/surrey. Registration closes on June 20, with a fee of $200 per player.

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Spending sixteen years in the Major Leagues playing for some of the smartest coaches and managers, being teammates with dozens of All-Stars and Hall of Fame players and playing a position in catcher-which tends to translate into having a strong baseball acumen-Chad Kreuter has a ton of knowledge to share.

Since being drafted in the fifth round of the 1985 Major League Draft by the Texas Rangers, Kreuter, 55, made sure he absorbed as much knowledge and information as he could. A student of the game, Kreuter’s belief was that he could never have enough tutelage as it would be something that could either enhance his game, or, something to steer clear of.

After playing for seven different organizations primarily as a backup catcher from 1988 to 2003, Kreuter has taken what he’s learned over his career to aid the next wave of talent who are trying to turn their dreams into a reality.

Since 2017, the former switch-hitting catcher has been the manager of the Mets’ Class A Advanced team, the St. Lucie Mets. Bringing prior managerial experience from stops with the Modesto Nuts (the former Class A Advanced team of the Colorado Rockies) and four years as head coach at USC, Kreuter has been entrusted with helping to shape the young prospects in the Mets organization.

From Tyler Bashlor to Jeff McNeil to Pete Alonso, Kreuter has seen several of his former players move up the minor league rungs to reach their ultimate goal of playing in the majors.

In his first season at the helm of St. Lucie in 2017, Kreuter had two current Mets stars on his roster in Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso. Listening to Kreuter speak about his two former players is akin to listening to a proud father rave about his sons. Kreuter offers honest assessments of what the pair needed to work on to better accentuate their strengths on the field during his time with them.

Player development is crucial, and so too is having a manager that understands how to relate to players and teach them the proper fundamentals and baseball IQ. Having the patience and realization that not all players progress at the same time, and understanding that what works for some players doesn’t for all is something a minor league manager must balance when handling prospects with various skill-sets. Kreuter takes pride in his ability to impart his baseball wisdom on the next generation of players, and takes his responsibility of playing a role in their development seriously.

Kreuter’s professional career, which spanned nearly two decades when you include the minor leagues, gave him plenty of time to develop a wealth of knowledge and instruction to assist young players.

For his career, Kreuter appeared in 944 big league games, posting a slash line of .237/.335/.357 with a career caught stealing rate of 36 percent, ranking in the top-five of caught stealing five different times (1992-94, ’97, ’00).

His career was nearly derailed after a brutal home plate collision with Johnny Damon in July 1996, in which he broke his left shoulder. Just a few days after the collision, Kreuter suffered internal bleeding caused by stomach lacerations, putting his shoulder surgery on hold. The doctors told Kreuter that the odds were extremely low that he’d ever be able to play baseball again, though he knew this was not going to be the way his career was going to end.

Working tirelessly in rehab, including incorporating his own routine like water workouts, Kreuter made it back to the majors the following year, signing with the Chicago White Sox in the offseason. He went on to appear in 493 games from 1997-03, which seemed nearly impossible given the doctor’s initial prognosis after his injury.

Kreuter brings that strong will and ingenuity to his work as manager for St. Lucie. The 2020 season will be his fourth year as manager, and he hopes that the experience will help him rise through the ranks with the ultimate goal of one day managing in the majors.

I had the privilege of speaking with Kreuter in early November where we discussed his lengthy career, working back from a near career-ending injury and his thoughts on some of the players he’s managed with St. Lucie.

MMO: Who were some of your favorite players growing up?

Kreuter: I studied the catchers. I grew up in the Bay Area and I would go to the Giants and A’s games. I’d go to wherever I could get to on the weekends whenever they were playing.

I used to go early and walk in with the players and watch batting practice and all of that. Early on I remember watching Gene Tenace. And I’d watch all the catchers that came through like Johnny Bench when he’d come and play the Giants, along with Carlton Fisk and Bob Boone.

As I started understanding more parts of the game I really liked watching George Brett and Robin Yount, and then I got to play with and against those guys when I broke into the big leagues.

Mainly I learned the game by watching the catchers because that’s what I was and I wanted to know how they moved and how they caught the ball. I copied that and made it my own.

I really never had a catching coach, just myself watching and mimicking the different guys and styles I saw.

Photo by Ed Delany, MMO

MMO: At what point during your youth and development did you start primarily catching?

Kreuter: I started catching when I was around eight-years-old. I remember one of my first Little League games they rolled out the catcher’s gear and the coach asked, “Who wants to catch? It’s one of the quickest ways to the big leagues.” I said, ‘I’ll do it!’ So that’s how it started.

I really never played anything else. I did play shortstop, pitched and played some third base here and there. But I was good behind the plate. I could always throw guys out, was always quick and could always block the balls so it was just a natural fit for me.

MMO: Did you have any notion that the Texas Rangers were looking to draft you prior to the 1985 MLB Draft?

Kreuter: Not at all. Back then there was no social media. You knew scouts were watching and I really thought the Cubs were going to draft me because those were the guys who talked with me the most. But I had no clue that the Rangers were even around or who the Rangers’ scouts were at the time.

It ended up being a scout who just passed away recently, John Young, and he’s the one who drafted me and got me with the Rangers.

MMO: You had a breakout year in 1993 with the Detroit Tigers, setting career highs in games (119), HR (15), RBI (51) & OPS+ (130). Was there anything physically or mechanically that you changed or altered to have such great success that season?

Kreuter: I think it was a matter of getting an opportunity to play and watching guys hit at the big league level. When I signed as a pro player in 1985 I was a right-handed hitter, I was not a switch-hitter. I was a right-handed hitter with a bad downward plane swing and when I got to the big leagues I had my lunch handed to me by all the righties.

As I got into pro ball I could make a lot of good contact but it was hard ground balls; it wasn’t the line drives or the fly balls that you’re seeing today. I certainly was strong enough to hit some home runs but I had a bad swing path. It took a while to change.

Then about a year and a half into my pro ball experience, I was messing around in the cage hitting left-handed and the front office said they wanted me to start doing that. I actually started switch-hitting in High-A in Salem, Virginia, in 1986 and I did it until I got to the big leagues. I did so in the ’87 season, ’88 season in Double-A and then I got called to the big leagues. I made the big league team in ’89 and got sent back down. They turned me back around to just right-handed and so I went that rest of the year and the following one all right-handed.

I went down to winter ball and the manager there was Tom Gamboa, who used to be with the Mets and other clubs. And he said, “You have a great left-handed swing. I think that you should continue (switch-hitting) because if you’re a switch-hitting catcher it’s going to open more doors for you.” So I went back to hitting left-handed.

After my ’91 season, I became a free agent and that’s when the Rangers called up Pudge (Rodriguez) right in the middle of the season. I got sent down, I actually went to Triple-A and was playing every day and doing well. I was then told I was going to be on the bench as a backup, I was kind of getting pushed out. I asked if I could go to Double-A to play everyday and I knew they didn’t have a catcher there that was an everyday guy. So I went down and played every day in Double-A and then right after the season was over the Tigers signed me and made the big league club in ’92.

MMO: I didn’t realize you started switch-hitting so late into your career. That certainly seems like a rarity in the game.

Kreuter: It was a rarity and I think I was a good enough athlete that I was able to do it. The unfortunate thing for me was after I got hurt in ’96-when I got run over by Johnny Damon at home plate-I broke my left shoulder and I was never supposed to play again because of the injury. I didn’t have the strength or the explosive quickness from either side of the plate to have any offensive numbers at that point anymore.

I changed swings again and really concentrated on putting the bat head on the ball, being a tough out and not being a guy to try and drive it because I didn’t have much power in that time.

MMO: You mentioned your injury from 1996, and July 19 must be a date that’s always ingrained in your mind because of it. Can you talk a bit about the injury and your ensuing complications from it?

Kreuter: There were a lot of complications. I broke the glenoid and the scapula: the glenoid is the joint in the shoulder and the scapula is in the back of the shoulder. Those were broken like a pane of glass. I think the glenoid was in three pieces and the scapula was in over fifty pieces that were visible. I have two six-inch plates, seven one-inch screws and nine staples that are still in my shoulder and muscle that put everything back together. The doctors called me Humpty Dumpty (Laughs)!

The scary part of it was I got hurt on a Friday night in Chicago, and the team immediately tried to best asses where I could be served by surgery and see what they could do. They sent me to L.A. and when I went out there I was feeling terrible.

On Saturday night and Sunday I wasn’t in the hospital but I went in the hospital for all kinds of tests and they had me stay at a hotel at night. Monday morning I woke up and I just felt terrible. My wife called the doctor and told them I was pale and not feeling good. I tried to get in the shower thinking that I would feel better getting in there and the next thing I knew I woke up in an operating room.

What happened was I had lost a third of my blood supply into my stomach and I was bleeding internally. Nobody had caught that on Saturday and Sunday so I lost a third of my blood supply and my body was in its last gasp of trying to survive. It put me into convulsions and I was in the shower at the time. I fell out of the shower and got wedged between the shower and was flopping around like a trout on the floor. I pulled the shower curtain down and my wife was actually on the phone with the doctors at the time it happened, and was able to call 9-1-1.

The ambulance was driving by the hotel at the time so they were up to me within two or three minutes she said. They were able to get tubes down my throat; apparently they weren’t even able to get a pulse. I was almost done at that point in time. I was rushed in and they attended the wounds that I had and had to cauterize down in my esophagus because I was bleeding into my stomach.

MMO: It’s pretty incredible that after such a terrible injury and a terrifying medical scare that you were able to make it back to the big leagues.

Kreuter: Yeah, yeah. After I came to I had lost so much blood they couldn’t do the surgery. They were supposed to do the surgery on Tuesday and this was Monday, so they canceled the surgery and told me they had to get me blood and I had to build some of my own blood.

My wife donated blood, my brother-in-law and father-in-law donated, they all had the same blood type. I got enough blood and then I got some plasma, and by the next Tuesday or Wednesday, I had surgery. It gave the doctors a better window and game plan because they were able to consult around the country on how they were going to do it and what they were going to try to do. Then they went in and tackled the surgery.

Initially, they didn’t want to do any surgery, it was just basically hang with ’em. And that wasn’t an option for me. I’m not that type of guy that’s just sit around and do nothing. I’m not that guy, I don’t want to be that guy. At least let’s go down trying. If we’re going to crash and burn let’s try. They asked me if I was sure and I told them I wanted them to go in and try and do it and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. If it works, it’s going to be God’s hand in there.

When I came out of surgery they told me it went well but we’ll have to see. They said my rehab was now going to be the key to this whole thing. I did my rehab outside the box the whole time; I’m an outside the box thinker. I don’t conform real well to a whole lot of things. They basically tied my arm to my chest and said, “Don’t move for the next six weeks.” To me that didn’t make any sense because I looked down at my arm and I looked down at my wrist and I’m already atrophied; it looked like I had a young girl’s arm after I came out of surgery.

I knew that I had to do something so when I got discharged from the hospital-it took about a week to get discharged-I had my wife stop at Home Depot on the way home and I bought all types of supplies. She was like, “What are you doing?” I told her I had a plan.

When I got home I had to be propped up to sleep because there was no laying down. I had a tube in the back of my shoulder that was draining. What I ended up doing was putting a pulley up to my ceiling and figured out a way where I could strap something to my wrist and pull my arm up and down just to get some movement while I sat and watched TV.

From there it went to doing water workouts where my wife would put duct tape and cellophane on my back to cover up the eight-inch incision and the tube that was coming out of my back so no water could get in there. I’d try to put my arm up as high as I could because out of the water I was paralyzed, there was no movement.

But in the water, I could manipulate some movement with using the floats and the buoyancy of the water. I did that every single day and I was in the water for eight to ten hours, plus I was doing some rehab with a physical therapist that was basically stretching to try and break up scar tissue. There was nothing I could do physically initially other than just start stretching and trying to break up scar tissue around the breaks. I progressed to just doing pull stuff underwater.

I got hurt on July 19 and by December 24 I had the White Sox come and see my workout and they signed me that night for the next season. That was my Christmas present to myself. I was able to get myself in good enough physical condition to trick everybody, let’s put it that way (laughs).

MMO: So without the surgery, there was no way of you getting back into the game? And even then the doctors didn’t like your chances?

Kreuter: Yes. That was the only option and it was a long shot at best. They said it was like a 99 to one long shot to be able to have any movement. But see, they didn’t count on me doing anything underwater. The first couple of times I went back to the doctor for checkups-every seven days I would have to go back-they’d ask me where my brace was and where’s all the stuff we gave you? I told them I threw it away and they’d chew me out. They’d give me a new one and as I walked out the door of the hospital I’d throw it away again. I let my arm hang and it hurt, it hurt like hell.

What I learned was how far I could push my body and how your body responds to stuff like that. I figured if I could bounce back from that I could do anything. And that’s kind of how I am. I was going to push through it and I was going to grind through it, and if it didn’t work, it didn’t work, but at least I tried.

I wasn’t going to give anything less than 100 percent and then hang my hat on it when it was all said and done.

MMO: Wow! You essentially saved your career with all the extra rehab work you put in. That’s an incredible story of perseverance!

Kreuter: Yeah, it really was. I willed my way back and I was a smart enough player. But I’m going to tell you: I shouldn’t have played in the big leagues at that point in time. I was not skilled enough to play in the big leagues. I was not strong enough, I wasn’t physically capable of being a guy who could be an everyday guy or potentially an everyday guy.

I would catch balls and it was painful, I’d have to wince and nobody knew I was wincing. If someone came and slapped me on the back of the shoulder, I mean, I would basically buckle to my knees. That’s how much pain there was for the first year or so.

When they opened up the back of my shoulder, picture curtains in a hotel room, you pull back the curtains. That’s what they did to all of my muscles; they pulled those muscles back and separated them so they could get into the scapula and put the pieces back together. And all of those muscles sat there pinned back for six-plus hours.

Lost all their blood, lost all their size and then they put them back and they were just a wreck. It takes forever for those things to build back. You could actually walk behind me and you could touch the screws, you could see where the screws were initially, because there was no muscle. It was just bone and skin.

After about a two year period I started getting some development back and it started growing back. It was just grinding away. I used to be a scratch golfer, I haven’t played much golf since because it wasn’t time to play golf. It was time to lift and create some strength in my shoulder on an everyday basis. It was spending six to eight hours a day developing my shoulders.

The good thing was I did it on my right side too, and I had a great arm before I got hurt. My arm was even better after I got hurt! The scapula is directly related to the strength of throwing, so when I did all the scapula exercises to get the movement back, I did it on the right side and it helped me get stronger and throw better.

MMO: That’s right, you had a terrific throwing arm. You finished in the top-5 in caught stealing percentage five times in your career (1992, 93, 94, 97, 2000). Were there certain drills you worked on for arm strength and exchange?

Kreuter: Everything has changed, film has changed everything. Even though we had film, it wasn’t accessible. You couldn’t view it the same way you can now and break it down in slow motion and see little key things. Or go into a 3-D motion lab and see actual movement where the kinetic link is broken.

It was a lot of feel and I played a lot of long toss, a lot of catch. I learned to do that initially as a caddie to Nolan Ryan in 1989 when I was a rookie. I was his catcher and my assignment basically was, Nolan wants to go play catch? Go play catch. When he’s ready to throw a bullpen, go throw a bullpen. When he wants to lift, go lift with him.

He would go out to ungodly distances and throw and my arm would fall off the first couple of weeks. As I was getting in better shape I understood how to play catch, and what he was doing. That’s how he played, he was so far ahead of the game that way it was amazing.

Photo by Ed Delany, MMO

MMO: You brought up Nolan Ryan as someone who was an early influence. Throughout your 16-year Major League career, were there one or two pitchers who you felt like you had the best rapport with?

Kreuter: I had a great rapport with Nolan. He was very complimentary, I felt like he didn’t shake me off much. We went over game plans.

One of my mentors early on was Charlie Hough. He was a knuckleball pitcher obviously, but he could prepare you. One of the things we’d do on the road was I’d meet him for breakfast every day, and I was the backup catcher, but he prepared me. We’d pull out the lineup as we’re going into New York to face the Yankees and you’re going to face Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield and all the different guys on the team. How are you going to pitch them with Nolan? And then he asked how are you going to pitch them with Kevin Brown? Jeff Russell? Paul Kilgus? All the different guys that we had and so he taught me that you don’t pitch everybody the same. It’s not cookie-cutter, it’s all about angles. Guys hit angles, guy hit different pitchers and that’s why you see certain guys rake against some guys and they can’t hit other guys. He taught me that and said you have to learn these things.

When I caught Nolan it was one of those things where we tried to get Nolan’s best stuff and if he didn’t match up then we would pitch around certain guys. Nolan would do that and so it was fun and I had a great learning experience there with Charlie and Nolan. It was really fun.

MMO: At what point did you realize that you wanted to get into coaching/managing?

Kreuter: When I was with the Dodgers in 2000-02, Davey Johnson and Jim Tracy were my managers and Jim Riggleman was the bench coach there. I think at that point in time it was you’re getting up there in age, and I was hoping to play until I was 42. I was done at 38. The uniform was taken away from me at 38.

In hindsight, I probably should’ve tried to play a couple more years but I was at the point where I needed to be with my kids and my family and that was outweighing the grind of getting on the flights and all of that.

I think at that point I was starting to see that there was a career after playing, and this is what it can be (managing). I didn’t necessarily pursue it to pro ball right away. When I was done after the 2003 season, I took 2004 off and then I went to USC and helped out my father-in-law, Mike Gillespie, who was the head coach there. I went over to help him as a volunteer assistant. After one year there the Rockies courted me to go manage and I turned them down umpteen times before they finally convinced me to come over there.

When I was managing in Modesto, USC fired my father-in-law and offered me the job. I didn’t want to take it. With the Rockies, we had talked about working myself up the managing chain, and they had talked about trying to promote me and trying to do stuff within that organization.

But my father-in-law convinced me, he called me and told me I needed to take this job. He told me it would be a great job, that it was twenty-years for him and it could be twenty-years for me and that my kids could go there. And he’s a Trojan, he went to school there. I was thinking about my kids and family and I did it.

In hindsight, it wasn’t a good move. I was there for four years and I hadn’t gotten my full recruiting classes in. I had probably too good of an eye on some of the guys because I committed guys like Mike Moustakas, Giancarlo Stanton–who was Mike at the time-and Tim Beckham. A ton of guys that were going through and I lost in the Draft and in that point in time the Draft was kind of a free for all. Those guys could get drafted in the fifth or sixth rounds and still be offered big money.

I was losing guys late. I almost got Moustakas, he signed in the umpteenth hour. Stanton was a late sign. I had a lot of fun but by the time I got fired, it was because the athletic director, Mike Garrett, got fired, and they brought in a new athletic director who wanted his own new guys. I understood that. I felt like I needed to get my class in, and in that incoming class, I had Joc Pederson moving into his dorm the day I got fired, along with Shawon Dunston’s son, and a couple of other guys in that caliber. They were moving into their dorms and ended up signing the next day with their teams because I got fired. And obviously you’ve seen Joc and what he’s done.

There was a whole group of guys and we figured it out and we just didn’t get those guys into the classes. Then it took a little bit to get back into pro ball after that because once I jumped from the pro side to the college side I think everyone thought, what’s to stop him from doing it again? But I learned my lesson. I don’t want any part of that college ball anymore.

The way I looked at it was, I’m more pro-development rather than win now at the cost of the kids, which is kind of what college baseball is. It’s win at all costs and not so much develop the guys and let them develop. Their mindset is let them develop in pro ball. But I’m the opposite, I was like, I’m going to develop them here and if I have to take my lumps for a year with a guy because we’re revamping his swing or fixing his mound mechanics, that’s alright. I’m not going to get him up there and blow out an arm trying to just let him throw hard.

MMO: It’s interesting, I interviewed Dennis Cook for Mets Merized, and he was coaching in the Cape Cod League a few years back. He mentioned how many of the players didn’t have routines before starts. He was in shock that so many players from big schools weren’t being properly prepared on the development side of it.

Kreuter: I get it, as a coach your job hinges on 17-18-19-20-year-old players. You’ve got to get them in lockstep and in line, and they’ve got to do what you want them to do and can’t deviate off it. There’s a lot of cookie cutting with guys. And I find that hard to do, everyone is an individual and going to develop at different times.

It’s the same thing here in St. Lucie. I’ve got Hansel Moreno; he’s going to develop at a different time than Andres Gimenez. Even though they’re both extremely talented, their timeline and when they’re going to develop is totally different. We can’t force Hansel to develop right now. Sure, we’d love him to develop right now, but you can’t force him to do that. So it takes a little bit of time, and when his time arrives and he figures it out it’s going to be oh yeah, oh wow! But can you wait until he’s 26? I don’t know. It’s what’s the system going to see? Is it win now or is somebody else going to come and replace him?

Talent is amazing but you have to be able to put the talent together and you have to be able to have some patience with the talent. And other times you push the talent a little bit more. You push a Pete Alonso because he’s showing that he can do this and he can push through it with not all the right movements and all the fluidity of being a great fielder, but doing things he’ll be capable of.

You drive him through the system and look what he does. The best thing the Mets did this year was put him in the big leagues and not start him in Triple-A. That sparked him to have a great year. If they would’ve started him in Triple-A he probably wouldn’t have had that type of year. His confidence would’ve been a little bit lower, dejected a little bit. But that decision was a great one to do it.

MMO: You brought up Pete Alonso, who you managed in 2017. What did you see from Alonso early on, and what kind of work did you put in him with that year?

Kreuter: He was a train-wreck in some areas and he was an amazing talent in others. My job as a manager, along with all the other coaches, are to eliminate those weaknesses and then to start accentuating those strengths. He was not mentally ready for pro ball at that point in time and that was part of his demise early on as a player. And I say that because he wasn’t ready for the grind and he wasn’t realistic in how he was trying to approach the game.

He was trying to do too much and when you try to do too much in this game it becomes overwhelming for the player. And so what we tried to do was break it down, take one at-bat at a time and don’t give away at-bats. We revamped his swing a little bit and gave him a plan; he didn’t have much of a plan on an every pitch-to-pitch basis.

It started from the time he got to the clubhouse, walked into the cage and took his swings in the cage. He didn’t have a plan doing that, he didn’t have a plan when he went out for batting practice and he didn’t have a plan when he got into the game. All of his plans was more of an unrealistic one of how he was going to go about his business.

It was pulling in the reigns, slowing it down and saying hey, here’s how we’re going to do it. You’re going to be fine but let us not be in such a hurry to get things done. Understand how we’re going to put your swing path and make more contact. Understand that we’re going to create a plan so you don’t give away pitches. Understand that we’re going to have this plan where you don’t give away pitches, plus you don’t give away at-bats.

It just kept building and building and building and you saw his first 100-150 at-bats were not very good, and then his next 200 or so were amazing! He went from us to Double-A and kept it going and obviously started out the next year even better. He was able to take the plan that we gave him and take those little tweaks and make them his, implement them on an everyday basis and believe in them.

He bought in and that’s the biggest thing for guys is to buy in.

MMO: I spoke with Alonso at the end of the 2017 season for the site, and he spoke highly of both you and Luis Natera on helping him develop a plan and get out of the early slide he was in after coming back from an injury. He spoke about a contact drill and some tee work you guys did with him.

Kreuter: Yes, and that’s exactly what we did. A Hall of Famer and a should-be Hall of Famer taught it to me when I was in Seattle in Edgar Martinez and Alex Rodriguez. Edgar showed me some drills and Alex was already doing them and talked about it.

Edgar is one of the top right-handed hitters ever, I mean, he was amazing as a right-handed hitter. I’ve always been a student of the game, I wanted to learn. I learned from shortstops, I learned from outfielders, I learned from first basemen, I learned from catchers, I learned from pitchers and the coaches around me. I was always soaking up anything I could and when Edgar spoke it was like, this is something important and I need to remember. It’s either something that could help me or I can help somebody down the line with.

When I saw Peter’s swing and what he was doing, we talked about the approach and the way I teach is I’m a hodgepodge of everything that’s been thrown at me, good and bad. You take the good stuff and you keep it, and the bad stuff you try not to repeat it. I’ve tried to take a lot of stuff from guys like Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell, Sparky Anderson, Lou Piniella and all the different guys that I was with throughout the years and roll it up into something that could help somebody.

Some days you have to speak a certain way to one player, but you say the same thing a little bit different to another player so he can understand it. It’s communication and you have to learn to communicate with guys like Pete and make it real so that they buy in and believe in what they’re doing.

The belief system in baseball when you fail seven out of ten times and you’re still really good, people don’t understand that failure just grates on your psyche. And if you’re failing seven out of ten times in a regular job or asking a girl out, you’re beside yourself, you’re without a job. In baseball that’s what’s so weird is you have the best hitters in the game doubting themselves at times because they’re in that rut of running through eight times without a hit or twelve times without a hit and all of a sudden here comes four in a row! That changes everything. Those times that you don’t get the hits really weigh on you.

Photo by Ed Delany, MMO

MMO: You also got to manage Jeff McNeil in your first season in St Lucie. I read an article that said one game he collected two hits but was still upset and in a bad mood after the game, so you gave him an Angry Orchard so it would “sweeten him up a bit.” Could you tell early on what kind of competitor McNeil was?

Kreuter: He is the ultimate competitor and trash talker. He’s taking BP and he’s saying that’s a double, that’s a single, that’s a triple. He’s telling you every time what it’s going to be and he’s going to trash talk before he gets in his first at-bat and saying I’m going to hit a home run here. And you’ve got to love it as a coach and as a manager. I love that spirit and fight that hey, I’m not going to give up.

But for him, he was a little too salty at times and a little too bitter where I thought it was going to affect him long term. I’ve gone through the slumps; I set a hit-less record when I was with Kansas City in ’99. I was going from hitting great and all of a sudden I hit the skids and then I wasn’t so great. So I understand failure and I understand how it can make you bitter and salty.

I had him in my office lots of times or talking to him at his locker and it was just a matter of trying to say let’s see the big picture here. You didn’t get any hits but you hit the ball hard. That’s a win-win situation there. The pitcher knows you beat him and his mother knows you beat him because you smoked the ball. It just happened to go right to the right fielder or was caught at the wall. That’s the way you have to go at guys like him and then you take away the bite or the sting of not getting the hit.

I was so proud and happy for him last year and what he did when he got called up and how he hit. And then you see what he did this year and it’s just amazing, it’s like one of your children. After they play for you I’m just rooting for these guys because they’re part of your family. In our clubhouse we create a family, we try to create and I try to create a bond that’s with those guys that is going to transcend beyond the game for years to come.

MMO: It must be so rewarding to see the guys that you had come through go on and have such success like they have.

Kreuter: It is and I understand that most of the guys that come through our clubhouse are not going to play a day in the big leagues. But they have to go about their business the same way as guys like Alonso, McNeil, (Tyler) Bashlor and the guys that have gotten their opportunities have and they have to believe in themselves the same exact way.

What we try to create is if they don’t make it-it goes back to my injury and that type of mentality-they have nothing to be ashamed of when it’s all said and done. There’s no pointing fingers, nothing to say except I did my best. I was given my opportunity, I either didn’t do it, I wasn’t good enough or that guy was better than me and he’s going to be given that opportunity. There are no excuses and that’s the way we handle our business.

MMO: And how did you come to secure the job as the St. Lucie Mets manager prior to the 2017 season?

Kreuter: In 2016 I interviewed for pitching coach at Brooklyn. Which was a dual role as the field coordinator for extended spring and the pitching coach. And within my background, I feel comfortable being a pitching coach obviously being a catcher I was in-tune with all of our pitchers and sat there and could like a parrot mimic what our pitching coaches say. I knew if they were talking to Joe Magrane what to say to Joe Magrane as opposed to Chuck Finley. I knew what to say to those guys based on the pitching coaches spoke to them and what they said, and so I feel very comfortable.

I interviewed for that and the group that was there thought I’d serve better as a manager. They said, “We think you’d be a manager. We’re looking for a guy that would be long-term in this position.” So I was passed over on it and I thought too bad and moved on. The next year I get a call from Ian Levin and they offered me the job. In that prior interview Ian was in on that and it brought me to that manager position that I’m in now.

MMO: As a minor league manager, how do you handle player development and winning games while knowing there will be constant movement of players throughout the course of a season?

Kreuter: It’s changed. My first two years here you’re just developing, you’re not trying to win any games. If you win that’s great, that’s because you’ve got pretty good players. But there wasn’t much strategy involved; you’re not hit and running, bunting or doing things that are conducive to winning.

This last year with our new front office, things changed. We were allowed to bunt, hit and run, run and hit, match up a little bit more with the pitching in the in-game management. Just as long as that wasn’t abused on the pitching part, which we basically had guys available on a daily basis. If you pitched tonight, you can’t pitch tomorrow. So we have to manage those guys but we were able to say I want this guy or Blake Taylor’s coming in to face the lefties here in the eighth. So he’d come in to face the lefties where before I had to throw certain guys in certain roles throughout the game and you weren’t necessarily allowed to match up like that.

For us this year, at one point we were 16 or 17 games over .500 and we were a team that I think our top average was .270; we didn’t have a whole bunch of guys hitting over .300 or a whole bunch of home runs. We were scrappy, if we had a man on first and second and no outs we bunted. We put them second and third and we emphasized driving the ball in with second and third with the infield back/infield in, hitting the fly ball whatever it is. And we capitalized on that.

We pitched really well and so we were able to move a lot of guys, I think we ended up moving about 17 guys to Double-A throughout the year. But I know at the end of the year Binghamton’s whole starting lineup was St. Lucie’s starting lineup. But it was fun to see.

We had a losing streak at the end of the year and we were running on fumes at the point in time but we were able to hold our heads above water and put together a great second half. And we kept sending guys like (Quinn) Brodey, (Luis) Carpio, (Jeremy) Vasquez and all the guys we sent to Double-A, and all the pitchers we sent up there. It was fun, it was really fun.

MMO: Are there certain players Met fans should be looking out for in the system?

Kreuter: I think Moreno is one. You start looking at our roster at the different guys that we had and I’m thinking Jeremy Vasquez is probably not a guy that’s on the radar to be their prospect, but I’m pretty sure he’s a guy that’s going to start knocking on the door. He’s like the little engine that could; he puts the bat head on the ball and he keeps on driving balls and moving forward.

David Thompson was a big one that came through here. Ali Sanchez as a catcher. Quinn Brodey, we’re hoping that Quinn does a lot of good things. Luis Carpio showed some promise here. Patrick Mazeika came through here and had a great year, struggled a little bit in Double-A but he’s very serviceable as a catcher now and a left-handed hitter. There’s a lot of different guys that you think about.

Kevin Smith, the left-hander, I like Kevin a lot. I like Blake Taylor a lot, too. Tony Dibrell had struggles when he left us but there’s something in there. I love Gimenez, I think that he’s a talent and he’s pretty special. If he doesn’t arrive this year then it will be there in 2021. But he’s pretty special.

MMO: Are you returning to manage St. Lucie in 2020?

Kreuter: I am.

MMO: You played Rick Peterson in Moneyball, and I also read that you trained Chris Pratt in helping him play Scott Hatteberg for the film. Can you talk a little about the work you did with Pratt and getting to work on the film overall?

Kreuter: I started out on that film doing the tryouts at USC. They wanted to do the tryouts when I was the head coach at USC, and we started out doing that. Then they asked me to kind of be the baseball technician, or baseball adviser. We went to Long Beach and filmed down there for a spring training scene. That day it started out as come in and check out the locker room to see if it looks like Oakland’s locker room. See if this is what their spring training locker room would look like. I went in and I’m in full uniform because I’ve been hitting fungoes and throwing batting practice while they’re filming.

I go in the locker room and Brad Pitt’s in there, the guy playing Ron Washington was there (Brent Jennings) and Philip Seymour Hoffman. And Bennett Miller–the director–says to me, “Have you ever watched a scene?” I told him no and he told me to sit over there and come meet Brad and Philip, and sit in the room and watch.

They filmed the scene and after it was all said and done I was walking out and Bennett asked where I was going. He told me I was going to be in the scene! I’m like, uh, no (laughs). He told me I was going to be in the scene and to go grab one of my coaches and he was going to put us in the scene so it was going to become more organic. I went back into the scene and they ended up filming it where they’re talking about different players and strategy and stuff with Brad Pitt. They did it for about six hours!

After that we filmed the baseball stuff on the field and I thought it was all said and done and I got a call a few days later and they said Brad wanted to know if I could come to Oakland and film there. I went to Oakland and filmed from 6 AM to 6 PM during a week when Oakland was out of town. I basically set up all of the scenes and made sure everything looked right with all of the baseball players. A lot of the guys we hired ended up being former minor league players that were done. The guy that looked like David Justice was actually right-handed, so we had to get him to look right when he went for the ball left-handed in the corner, and then they’d cut away when he actually threw the ball.

With Chris Pratt, I started out teaching him at USC and then my son Cade, who was at USC at the time, started doing more of the lessons with Chris; teaching him how to hit, hitting him ground balls everyday and hitting left-handed because Chris didn’t hit lefty. Cade worked with him exclusively in trying to teach him how to hit left-handed and all of the swings that he took were actual swings.

It ended up being a long-term project because Brad asked for me. It went from being on the field to into the studio and all the different scenes that were written for Brad he’d come to me and ask, “Does this sound right? Is that a run and hit or a hit and run? How do you say all the different lines?” I helped out with all that different stuff and really made sure it was baseball quality, which was fun. Plus, I got to play a couple of parts where I was actually in the movie.

It was rewarding, but I was nervous at first because obviously with Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman they are huge movie stars and now I’m with them. And especially in that first scene I was like, what am I even going to say here? But I knew that baseball timeline of what they were talking about and I knew the players.

Philip was great because he would just throw stuff out there and say, “Hey Rick, what do you have on this guy? What do you got on (Jason) Giambi?” I would fill in what I knew about Giambi. And Brad would ad-lib from there and they’d cut and he’d use the same thing I would say in his next scene. It was basically so those guys could have a conversation that looked real.

The fun thing is I knew Billy Beane and I was able to consult Billy on a lot of things and call him up on set and tell him they’re doing this on set, are you okay with this? And he’d say ask them not to do that or let’s do this, and we were able to get feedback right away on different things.

MMO: Thank you so much for your time, Chad. It was great picking your brain and for you to share so many great anecdotes from your career.

Kreuter: My pleasure, take care.

Follow Chad Kreuter on Twitter, @ChadKreuter.

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The Minnesota Twins announced today that they have claimed right-handed pitcher Matt Wisler from the Seattle Mariners. The Twins are Wisler’s fourth organization in 2019.
Image courtesy of Raj Mehta, USA Today
Matt Wisler is a 27-year-old who began the year with the Cincinnati Reds. Before the season started, he was traded to the Padres. He pitched in 21 games out of the bullpen and posted a 5.28 ERA in 29 innings. On July 4th, he was purchased by the Mariners from the Padres. He finished the season with 23 appearances for the Mariners. In 22 1/3 innings, he posted a 6.04 ERA. In 51 1/3 total innings, he walked just 16 batters while striking out 63 batters.

Wisler was the 7th round draft pick of the San Diego Padres out of high school back in 2011. He became a Top 100 prospect nationally before the 2014 and 2015 seasons. He was traded to Atlanta at the start of the 2015 season in a package that sent Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton to the Padres.

Wisler made 19 starts in 2015 and 26 starts in 2016. Since then, he’s mostly pitched out of the bullpen and struggled.

But there are reasons to like this claim. As Parker notes, he has become a slider pitcher.

Wisler is out of options, so should he remain on the Twins roster through spring training, he will need to remain on their 26-man roster or be put through waivers.

Earlier this week, the Twins announced that they had DFAd outfielders Ryan LaMarre and Ian Miller, and infielder Ronald Torreye.

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Mark Hutton Net Worth 2018: What is this baseball player worth?

Mark Hutton is a pro baseball player who plays Pitcher. Hutton was born on February 6, 1970, in Adelaide, South Australia. This page will take a closer look at Mark Hutton’s net worth.
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Mark Hutton Career, Earnings

Hutton bats Right and throws Right. Hutton debuted in the MLB on 23 July, 1993 for the New York Yankees. In all, Hutton played for the New York Yankees, Florida Marlins, Colorado Rockies, and Cincinnati Reds. Hutton’s career ended with the Cincinnati Reds in 1998.

Some of Hutton’s most prominent statistics in the MLB included a Win-loss record (pitching) stat of 9-7, a Earned run average stat of 4.75, and a Strikeouts stat of 111.
Mark Hutton Net Worth 2018

Mark Hutton was last under contract in 1998, according to USA Today, with a 1 (1998) year package worth $300,000. Over the years, Hutton earned $100,000 in 1996, $200,000 in 1997, and $300,000 in 1998.

Baseball pay can range widely. In Major League Baseball, the median pay is around $3 million annually. Top baseball players can earn $25 million or more per year, and less successful players earn $1 million or less.

Mark Hutton net worth
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Outside the MLB, most contracts are worth less than $10,000 a year.

So what is baseball player Mark Hutton’s net worth in 2018? Our estimate for Mark Hutton’s net worth as of 2018 is: $600,000

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Eight years after a World Series title slipped away from him, Cruz remains one of the majors’ best power hitters, in a surprisingly powerful Minnesota Twins lineup.
Nelson Cruz, 39, hit 41 homers this year, to bring his career total to 401.
Nelson Cruz, 39, hit 41 homers this year, to bring his career total to 401.Credit…David Berding/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

By Tyler Kepner

Oct. 4, 2019

A ring sailed right over his head, and eight years later, Nelson Cruz is still trying to grab it.

Cruz, the slugging designated hitter for the Minnesota Twins, was the right fielder for the Texas Rangers in 2011, one out away from a championship in Game 6 of the World Series in St. Louis. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Cardinals’ David Freese tripled off the right-field wall to tie the game. Cruz raced back more than 10 strides and leapt for it, but his efforts were in vain and the Rangers went on to lose the game and the series.

Cruz is 39 now, and hit 41 home runs this season to bring his career total to 401. His efforts helped lift the Twins to the American League Central title and a meeting with the Yankees in a division series. Cruz hit another homer — his 17th career postseason home run — off James Paxton in the third inning of the Twins’ Game 1 loss on Friday.

Cruz has not returned to the World Series since 2011, and he could not forget his near miss if he tried.

“I mean, it’s there,” he said last month, before a game in Boston. “You cannot erase that from your mind. It’s something that, as a player, you know that you’re that close to winning something that important and you weren’t able to do it — and not only one time, it was two times.”
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Cruz went on to describe the excruciating details: a two-run homer by his teammate Josh Hamilton in the 10th, then another St. Louis rally, then a homer by Freese to win the game in the 11th.

“It was like, ‘Are you kidding me, what is this?’” Cruz said. “It’s a shame, you know? But you cannot be with that weight on top of your shoulders for long. You have to let it go.”

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In truth, Endy Chavez, a superior defender, probably should have been in for defense in the ninth. Cruz is a full-time D.H. now, yet that role — and his most famous chance in the field — obscures the athleticism that gave him a career in the first place.

As a boy in the Dominican Republic, Cruz starred in basketball because he could play that sport at night. During the afternoons, he worked as a mechanic at his uncle’s shop. He could play baseball only on Sundays, he said, but eventually he caught the attention of a Mets scout, Eddy Toledo.
ImageCruz could not come down with David Freese’s triple off the wall in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.
Cruz could not come down with David Freese’s triple off the wall in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.Credit…Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Dominican players can sign at 16 years old, but Cruz was already 18 when Toledo signed him in 1998 for $15,000. That was at least three times the going rate for Dominican amateurs, said Omar Minaya, then the Mets’ assistant general manager in charge of international scouting. But as a project, Minaya believed, Cruz was worth it.

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“I couldn’t tell you I thought he was going to be the player he is today, but he was a raw athlete,” Minaya said. “I’m a big believer in looking for guys that have the physical profile, have strength and athleticism, and that’s what this guy had.”

But in 2000, the Mets were pushing for the playoffs and seeking an extra infielder, so on Aug. 30 they dealt Cruz to the A’s for Jorge Velandia, a smooth fielder at several infield positions. Cruz was crushed.

“I remember I didn’t tell anyone in my house for like a week,” he said. “I was like: ‘Why did they trade me? They don’t like me!’ That was my first impression. As a kid, you have no idea.”

Velandia played 15 games after the trade without a hit, and he was left off the Mets’ postseason roster. (A different backup shortstop, Kurt Abbott, dived futilely for Luis Sojo’s go-ahead single up the middle in the ninth inning of the World Series finale against the Yankees.) Cruz hit well as an Oakland prospect, but he did not stick there, either, moving on to Milwaukee in a 2004 deal for infielder Keith Ginter, and then to Texas in a six-player deal for closer Francisco Cordero two years later. Yet even the Rangers — just like the Mets, the A’s and the Brewers — did not know what they had.

“On one hand, we traded for him, we saw potential and we ultimately gave him an opportunity,” said Jon Daniels, the Rangers’ general manager. “On the other hand, in the middle of that, we passed him through outright waivers and he went unclaimed.”

That happened at the end of spring training in 2008, with every team passing on the chance to claim Cruz for $20,000 and a major league roster spot. He went back to the minors, where the Rangers’ hitting coordinator, Mike Boulanger, suggested an open stance that gave Cruz a better view of the pitcher.
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It worked: Cruz was most valuable player of the Pacific Coast League, hit .330 for Texas down the stretch and has been a mainstay in the majors ever since — except for a 50-game suspension in 2013 in connection with the Biogenesis doping scandal.

Two years later, Cruz told The Seattle Times that he was “freaked out” after losing 45 pounds because of a viral infection and “made the wrong choice” out of desperation to get better. Looking back now, he said, the suspension reinforced his passion for the game.
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Celebrating after the Twins clinched the American League Central title in September.
Celebrating after the Twins clinched the American League Central title in September.Credit…Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

“Once you get separated from something that you love so much — like I love baseball a lot — you know how important it is, so you don’t want to leave that part again,” he said. “It’s something I’ve got to hold as long as I can, because I love the game so much. That’s the thing that I know how to do, all my life.”

In the six seasons since his suspension, Cruz has hit the most home runs in the majors: 243, 20 more than the next closest hitter, Mike Trout. The Twins signed him last winter for one year and $14.3 million with a team option for 2020, and watched as he led a parade of sluggers to become the first team in major league history to reach 300 homers in a season.

“He’s not just as advertised, he’s better,” Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Yeah, the at-bats are pretty impressive, but he definitely changes all the dynamics in the clubhouse, in the dugout, everywhere, just by who he is. He has a tremendous presence and charisma.”

Outfielder Max Kepler said he studies Cruz’s preparation and marvels at the way his swing never changes.

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“And his mind is always great,” Kepler said. “It seems like he’s always smiling, always in a good, positive mind-set.”

In Cruz’s mind, he said, one vision sustains him each winter.

“I train every year just thinking of that first game of the playoffs,” he said. “When everything starts right after the season, I start thinking about that moment. When that moment comes, I just have to be ready.”

The moment has arrived again for Cruz, another chance for the ring he just missed

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New Mission baseball coach Moe Gomez needed all of one practice to realize he had a gem in shortstop Alex Fernandez.

The ball sounded differently off his bat. The defensive instincts at shortstop are things he hadn’t seen in his 20 years of coaching in the Boston City League.

“He just had it all,” Gomez said. “Everything he does on the field comes naturally to him. He’s got talents and instincts you can not teach. We put him in there as a freshman and he’s started for us all four years.”

Fernandez arrived in Boston from the baseball hotbed of Santo Domingo four years ago. A fan of Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano growing up, Fernandez understood the reasons for leaving his native land.

“There was more opportunities for me here,” the soft-spoken Fernandez said. “It was tough coming here and not being able to speak any English, but the opportunity was too good to pass up.”

At 6-foot-1 and a compact 230 pounds, Fernandez figures to be a third baseman at the next level (UMass-Lowell), but Gomez has no qualms about playing him at shortstop.

“For us, he has to play shortstop,” said Gomez, whose team is 10-1 on the season. “He can make all the plays there because of his natural ability.”

One area where Fernandez has improved is his power. The batting average has always been there (Fernandez is hitting .475), but now he’s hitting with power. Fernandez has belted three home runs, one of them coming last week when his blast defeated Charlestown.

“I was just trying to put the ball in play,” Fernandez said. “But as soon as I hit it, I knew it was going. It just felt good coming off the bat.”

Coaching with a heavy heart

Courtney Sigsbury has coached softball at Woburn for the past 17 seasons and enjoyed every minute of it.

That being said, Sigsbury was about to put it all aside when her father, legendary Woburn football Rocky Nelson, was first diagnosed with cancer last season. The disease took his life in December.

“I was all set to take a leave of absence to be there for him.” Sigsbury said. “But when we knew it was getting worse, he sat me down and told me that I had to coach because coaching was what I did.”

Sigsbury did follow her father’s advice, though she admitted it was very difficult heading to the softball field and not seeing her father there. Adding to the pain was the fact that she was dealing with an extremely young team, many of them she hadn’t coached before.

“It was really tough,” Sigsbury said. “But I fell head over heels in love with this group of kids, they’ve been great. All the kids have cleats with my dad’s name on them and before the first game, they came up to me and gave me flowers. Julia Taylor told me that they knew how difficult it was going to be without dad and that they would be there for me. I was blown away.”

Woburn has had its highs and lows, not surprising given the tough schedule. While the Tanners managed to get out of the first half with a 6-4 mark, Sigsbury has never judged her teams by wins and losses, something she learned from her father.

“Dad would always tell me that the wins and losses would take care of themselves,” Sigsbury said. “What I have always tried to do was treat the players like dad did. He treated every kid the same and developed so many great relationships with them and that’s something I’ve tried to emulate.”

Depth pays dividends

Dedham softball coach Mike Nosky would love to pencil in the same nine starters on a daily basis, but he has the luxury of dipping into reserves when needed. That approach has played a large part in his team’s 8-2 start to the season.

“This is the deepest team I’ve ever coached,” said Nosky, who has coached for the past nine seasons at Mount Alvernia and Dedham. “You’re going to have injuries and other things, so I have no issues about using anyone and there really isn’t much of a dropoff.”

That approach has worked well on the mound as senior Molly Egan and sophomore Kassidy Hickey have shared the pitching duties. The duo have played a key part in the team’s current six-game winning streak.

“We’ve basically rotated them by feel,” Nosky said. “We’ll look at how they pitched against a certain team last year, how they’ve pitched in practice and things like that. I think the competition has made both of them better.”

When Hickey doesn’t pitch, she plays first base and has been one of the team’s top hitters, batting .571 in the third spot in the lineup. Leadoff batter Gianna Sciarappa is hitting .517 with a pair of home runs, while Julia Salemy has rotated between the five and six spot in the lineup and crushed the ball at a .542 clip.

While Nosky is happy with his team’s progress, he knows that there is a lot of softball remaining. He points to the ever-competitive Tri-Valley League as a reason why his team can’t afford to be complacent.

“This is a really good league,” said Nosky, who came over to Dedham three years ago. “You look at this league and 10 of teams are solid, so it’s a very deep and solid league. Every game is a dogfight.”

Odds and ends

The annual High School Softball Rivalry Saturday will be contested next Saturday at UMass-Dartmouth. The doubleheader features four teams currently ranked in the Boston Herald Top 25.

The opener at 11 a.m. pits South Coast Conference rivals Fairhaven and Greater New Bedford. The second game features nonleague rivals Bridgewater-Raynham and Silver Lake, and first pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

Norwood baseball coach Kevin Igoe earned his 100th career win last Monday as the Mustangs defeated Medway, 4-3. Igoe, a former standout at Xaverian, has coached at Norwood since 2012 and led them to a Division 1 state title in 2015.

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Former major-league pitcher Ed Vosberg can see himself among those boys 11 and 12 years old playing for Sunnyside deep into the West Regional Little League tournament at San Bernardino, Calif.

He can envision himself as part of it all because he was in the thick of the Little League World Series title chase in 1973 as the ace pitcher of Cactus Little League. Cactus is one of two Tucson teams to make it to the Little League World Series. International Little League advanced to Williamsport in 1986.
Tucson Citizen clip of the 1973 Cactus Little League team that made it to the Little League World Series. Ed Vosberg is shown at the far left.

Some 46 years later, the memories of that magical run remain crystal clear for Vosberg, who is one of only three players to play in the Little League World Series, College World Series (with Arizona in 1980) and the World Series (with the Marlins in 1997). The others are Jason Varitek and Michael Conforto. He is the only pitcher with that honor.

Vosberg, who now works as a coach/consultant at D-BAT Tucson, wants to pass along the following statement to Sunnyside, which plays in the elimination bracket final on Friday at 6 p.m. against Northern California. Sunnyside reached the West Regionals in the consecutive years similar to Cactus with Vosberg in 1973 and 1974.

“I would like to congratulate the Sunnyside Little League team for all the success they have achieved in the last 2 years. That’s awesome! Back in 1973, Cactus Little League represented Tucson, Arizona in the Little League Finals In Williamsport Pennsylvania. I was fortunate enough to pitch and play first base for the team.

“It was an incredibly fun summer to be a part of the amazing run of 12 straight wins. I went 5-0 during the streak, and threw a no-hitter in the State tournament and won the final game of the Regionals 1-0, driving in the only run with a single in the first inning of the game. We won our first 2 games in the World Series, beating a team from New York, 4-0, then beating a team from Michigan 12-0 to get to the final game.
Ed Vosberg and Steve Kerr when they were inducted into the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame (Vosberg photo)

“The game we lost against Taiwan 12-0, but the game was 0-0 going into the 4th inning of the game. Crazy enough as it seems we made it to the semifinals of the Western regionals the following year and were two games away from making it back to the Little League World Series!”

In that regional final in against Concord, Calif., in 1973, Vosberg pitched a no-hitter as well as produced the lone RBI. Teammate Mike Fimbers also pitched a perfect game in the regionals. Cactus also did not have the benefit of a double-elimination format at that time. It had to win 12 consecutive games to make it to Williamsport.
Clipping of a Williamsport (Pa.) newspaper article kept by Ed Vosberg.

When Cactus — which also featured Mike Carreon, the brother of former big-leaguer Mark Carreon — returned home from Williamsport in 1973, it was welcomed by approximately 3,000 fans and the UA band and cheerleaders at the Tucson International Airport. From there, Cactus was part of a motorcade celebration downtown.

Tucson Citizen columnist P.J. Erickson wrote:

“The brand of baseball they play is called ‘Little League.’ But the brand of kid is strictly ‘Big League,’ Tucson style. Welcome home, gang.”

The team also took a trip to Washington, D.C., after the experience in the Little League World Series.
Tucson Citizen clipping of when Cactus returned home from the Little League World Series in 1973.

“It went beyond baseball,” Vosberg said in a 2013 interview with The Arizona Daily Star. “I remember standing in the White House next to president Nixon’s daughter. I remember our team going to Baltimore, watching Jim Palmer pitch. I still have my hat and jacket from that team. We wore green pinstripe uniforms. It was all so cool.”

Here are rosters of that 1973 Cactus Little League team and the 1986 International Little League team that advanced to the Little League World Series.
1973 Cactus Little League team
1973 Cactus Little League

Mike Banton
Richard Bianco
Tony Bravo
Robert Blum
Bill Brauer
Mike Carreon
Mike Fimbers
Ralph Lanik
Larry Manciet
Mike Martinez
David Mees
Ken Merritt
Gerald Pahissa
Mark Osbourne
Harry Unger
Ed Vosberg
1986 International Little League

Ricardo Barcelo
Edward DeBaca
Scott Foster
James Fraccaro
Daniel Fregoso
Brian Howdahl
Philip Johnston
Troy Kelly
Robert Ortiz
Mike Owens
Sam Tullous
Eric Unger
Martin Walker
Todd Warren
Chad Wilson
Justin Wood

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ATHENS, GA – Georgia’s Ike Cousins head baseball coach Scott Stricklin announced Monday that 15 student-athletes will be joining the Bulldog baseball program for the 2021 season.

“This is one of the best recruiting classes that we’ve put together since we’ve been at Georgia,” said Stricklin. “It’s big on numbers and big on talent. We feel like it has depth at every position. I want to thank Scott Daeley and Sean Kenny for their hard work in helping to put this dynamic class together.”

This year’s recruiting class (listed below in alphabetical order) will arrive from the high school ranks including 14 from Georgia and one from Pennsylvania:

Dwight ALLEN (OF, Milton, Ga., 6-1, 190, R-R, Woodward Academy)

Attends Woodward Academy where he plays for Jose Fernandez…Batted .321 with a home run, 21 RBI and 18 stole bases as a junior for the War Eagles…Made 30 starts in centerfield as team went 25-10, won region 4-AAAA and reached quarterfinals of the state playoffs…Also a three-year letterman in football as a running back/wide receiver with scholarship offers to play in college…Hit .400 for the War Eagles as a sophomore in 2018 when the team won the region title for the second straight year…Played summer baseball with the Mets Scout Team and Georgia Bombers and part of Perfect Game WWBA 17U National Qualifier and PBR Classic Champions…Son of Shelley and Dwight Allen.

“After considering many programs for football and baseball, I decided to choose UGA for its outstanding baseball and academic programs,” said Allen. “Also, I chose to stay close to home.”

Coach Stricklin on Allen: “DA is a very athletic outfielder that has potential to hit for power. He plays the game hard and has a high baseball IQ.”

Hank BEARDEN (RHP, Rocky Face, Ga., 6-0, 175, L-R, Northwest Whitfield HS)

Attends Northwest Whitfield where he plays for Todd Middleton…Posted an 8-2 record, 1.66 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 54.2 innings as a junior for the Bruins…Also batted .336 with five home runs and 26 RBI…Named 2019 All-Area and All Region Player of the Year…Named the 2018 All-Area Player of the Year as a sophomore after going 5-5 with a 2.01 ERA and four saves with 92 strikeouts in 62.2 innings…Played summer baseball with DRB Elite…Son of Anne and Russell Bearden.

“I choose UGA because it felt like a second home,” said Bearden.

Coach Stricklin on Bearden: “Hank is a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher that has a swing-and-miss slider. He’s very aggressive on the mound and is one of the top right-handed pitchers in the country.”

Collin CALDWELL (LHP, Powder Springs, Ga., 5-11, 190, R-L, Harrison HS)

Attends Harrison where he plays for Mark Elkins…Tallied a team-best 5-1 record, 1.66 ERA and team-leading 72 strikeouts in 56 innings as a junior for the Hoyas…Helped squad go 29-8 an win the Region 6-6A title and advance to the state semifinals…Named 1st Team All-County, All-Region and selected to Team Georgia…Played summer baseball with 643 Cougars and won the Perfect Game Memorial Day Championship…Son of Melissa and Chris Caldwell.

“After taking my visits, I knew I wanted to be a part of the culture and the team first mentality at UGA,” said Caldwell. “I know that Coach Stricklin and Coach Kenny will help me develop into the player and person I want to be.”

Coach Stricklin on Caldwell: “Collin has a chance to contribute right away as a match-up lefthander out of the bullpen, and he will develop into a starting pitcher. His fastball will reach 90 miles per hour, and he has a very good breaking pitch.”

Corey COLLINS (C, Suwanee, Ga., 6-3, 220, L-R, North Gwinnett HS)

Attends North Gwinnett where he plays for Ryan Moity…Batted .483 with 16 home runs and 50 RBI, all team-bests as a junior for the Bulldogs…Helped team to a 31-8 record, claimed the Region 6-7A title and advanced to the state semifinals…Named 2019 Gwinnett County Player of the Year and All-State honors plus been named All-Region and All-County in 2018 and 2019…Selected to participate in 2019 USA Baseball’s Prospect Development Pipeline…Tabbed Atlanta Braves 400 Club Metro Atlanta High School All-Star in 2019…Played summer baseball for the Georgia Jackets…Son of Lois and CJ Collins.

“From when I was growing up to when I met the Georgia coaching staff and every time I go to Athens, it just feels like home,” said Collins.

Coach Stricklin on Collins: “Corey is one of the best hitters in the country and has a ton of power and bat speed from the left side of the plate. He will be a run producer in the middle of our lineup. Defensively, he’s rated as one of the top catchers in the country with a great throwing arm.”

Max DeJONG (RHP, Powder Springs, Ga., 6-1, 200, R-R, Hillgrove HS)

Attends Hillgrove where he plays for David Richardson…Posted a 3-0 record and team-best 1.34 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 31 innings for the Hawks…Led team to a 32-10 record and state runner-up finish in the Class 7A playoffs…Earned All-State and All-Region honors in 2019…An Honor Roll student with a 3.5 GPA…Played summer baseball with the Nelson Baseball School…Son of Laura and Todd DeJong.

“I chose UGA because the coaching, the environment, and the team is the perfect fit for me,” said DeJong.

Coach Stricklin on DeJong: “Max can really pitch. He features a three-pitch mix with a fastball that gets into the low 90s. He’s a very hard worker and projects to only get better down the road.”

Fernando GONZALEZ (C, Marietta, Ga., 5-10, 180, R-R, North Cobb Christian School)

Attends North Cobb Christian where he plays for James Keane…Batted .373 with one home run and 29 RBI in 40 games for the Eagles…Primarily a catcher but saw action at third base, shortstop and went 1-0 with 15 strikeouts in six innings on the mound…Earned the Coach’s Award in 2019 as the squad went 38-8-3…Received the Outstanding Student in New Testament studies…Originally from Panama City, Panama…Played summer baseball with Team Elite/Braves Scout Team and won an elite title…Son of Yaravy and Alexander Gonzalez.

“I always wanted to be part of a brotherhood, and this is what UGA is about,” said Gonzalez. “I’m going to work hard every day to grow not only as a player but as a leader on and off the field.”

Coach Stricklin on Gonzalez: “Fernando moved to the United States two years ago and has established himself as one of the best catchers in the country. He is a natural leader and loves to play the game. He can hit for average and is developing some power.”

Parks HARBER (3B, Atlanta, Ga., 6-3, 215, R-R, The Westminster School)

Attends The Westminster School where he plays for Chad Laney…Batted .431 with 10 home runs and 46 RBI as a junior for the Wildcats…Helped team to a 25-13 mark and state runner up finish in the 2018 GHSA 3A region…Named First Team All-State and 2018 Class 3A Player of the Year plus honored by the Atlanta 400 Club as an All-Star…Also a three-year letterman on the football team where he served as the quarterback and led the team to the AAA state playoffs in 2018…A member of the National Honor Society and Honor Roll…Played summer baseball with 643 DP and Team Elite…Son of Harriet Huger and Gene Harber.

“I chose UGA because it has always been a dream of mine to put on the red and black,” said Harber. “The University of Georgia will provide me with an opportunity to play high-level baseball and receive a first-class education.”

Coach Stricklin on Harber: “Parks is one of the best right-handed hitting third baseman in the country. He has put up a lot of numbers in high school and the summer circuit these last few years. We feel like he will be an impact hitter and run producer in the middle of our lineup.”

Patrick HOLLOMAN (LHP, McDonough, Ga., 6-1, 195, L-L, Ola HS)

Attends Ola where he plays for Beau Edwards…Posted a 6-1 record, team-best 1.00 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 48.2 innings as a junior for the Mustangs as they won the state title with a 29-12 mark…Also batted a team-best.338 with seven home runs and 30 RBI in 2019…Named All-State and selected to Team Georgia…Played summer baseball with the Georgia Jackets…Son of Jennifer and Robbie Holloman.

“I chose UGA because it felt right and because it felt like home,” said Holloman.

Coach Stricklin on Holloman: “Patrick is one of the top left-handed pitchers in the country. He’s got a great breaking ball and a fastball that continues to get better. He can really pitch and could be a front-line starter for us.”

Caleb KETCHUP (SS, Marietta, Ga., 5-10, 160, R-R, Holy Innocents Episcopal HS)

Attends Holly Innocents Episcopal where he plays for D.C. Aiken…Batted a team-best .39 with four home runs, 62 RBI and 28 stolen bases as a junior for the Golden Bears…Named team’s Most Valuable Player, a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger recipient as the squad finished 16-12…Also earned letters in football…Played summer baseball with the Georgia Bombers and Mets Scout Team…Son of Sharolyn and Michael Ketchup.

“I chose the University of Georgia because it’s close to home and the facilities and atmosphere are the best that I have seen.” said Ketchup.

Coach Stricklin on Ketchup: “Caleb is a dynamic defender in the middle of the infield. He’s got a great first step and a plus throwing arm and the instincts to play up the middle. He can hit the ball to all fields and put pressure on defenses with his athleticism.”

Trippe MOORE III (OF, Forsyth, Ga., 6-0, 185, R-R, Mary Persons HS)

Attends Mary Persons where he plays for Clae Mathis…Batted .407 and led the team and region with seven home runs plus had 33 RBI and a school record 18 stolen bases as a junior for the Bulldogs…Excelled as a pitcher with a school record 1.01 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 76 innings…Posted a perfect fielding percentage with 10 assists, both school records…Helped team to 25-9 mark and the Region 2-AAAA region title…Named All-State and Region 2-AAAA Player of the Year…Also a three-year letterman as a wide receiver and punter/kicker…Scholar Athlete and Honor Student with the highest GPA among the baseball and football teams…Played summer baseball with the BigStix Gamers Prime, the Mets Scout Team…Son of Marie and Eddie Moore.

“I chose Georgia because that’s where I’ve always wanted to be,” said Moore III. “Georgia’s academic and athletic opportunities are like no other.”

Coach Stricklin on Moore III: “Trippe is a great athlete that can play all three outfield positions. He can handle the bat and will hit for average. We feel like he’ll turn into a run-producing power hitter.”

Will PEARSON (RHP, Watkinsville, Ga., 6-2, 170, R-R, North Oconee HS)

Attends North Oconee where he plays for Jay Lasley…Posted a 4-3 mark, nine saves, 1.71 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 45 innings pitched as a junior for the Titans as they went 27-6 and advanced to the state semifinals…Also saw action at shortstop and batted .281 with two home runs and 20 RBI in 2019…Named Co-Region Pitcher of the Year in Region 8-4A and to the Georgia Dugout 4A All-State 1st Team……An Honor Roll student an played basketball for two years…Played summer baseball with Team Elite…Father played college basketball at Alabama and was an assistant basketball coach at Georgia for nine seasons (2009-18)…Son of Ashley and Phillip Pearson.

“The University of Georgia provides a great opportunity to earn a valuable degree as well as compete in the best baseball conference in America,” said Pearson. “Coach Stricklin and his staff have a great reputation for player development as I look forward to continuing to improve my skills.”

Coach Stricklin on Pearson: “Will is an athletic right-handed pitcher that has a lot of life to every pitch he throws. He is a classic sinker, slider-type pitcher that has a fastball that is reaching into the upper 80s. He fields his position well and is very competitive.”

Garrett SPIKES (INF, Lawrenceville, Ga., 6-4, 195, L-R, Mountain View HS)

Attends Mountain View where he plays for Jason Johnson…Batted .330 with team-best five home runs and 33 RBI as a junior for the Bears…Also saw action on the mound, going 2-2 with a 0.80 ERA in 26 innings with 20 strikeouts to help the squad to a 20-12 record…Named 2019 Outstanding Player and 2018 Defensive Player of the Year…Currently career-leader in doubles, triples, RBI and second in home runs…Earned Gwinnett Daily Post All-County honors…Earned letters in football and wrestling including a three-time state placer in region 7A plus won the 2019 state tile in the 170-pound weight class…An Honor Student and earned Academic Letterman throughout prep career including Scholar-Athlete for baseball, football and wrestling with the highest GPA at 4.0…Played summer baseball with Team Elite and won the 2019 WWBA 17U Elite title…Son of Emily and Kenny Spikes.

“I believe that the coaching and competitive atmosphere at the University of Georgia is the best place to help me develop to my full potential,” said Spikes.

Coach Stricklin on Spikes: “Garrett could be the best athlete in this class. He’s a state champion wrestler, a great football player and an even better baseball player. He can play just about any position on the field, and he’s going to hit for a lot of power from the left side.”

Liam SULLIVAN (LHP, Sandy Springs, Ga., 6-6, 230, L-L, The Marist School)

Attends The Marist School where he plays for Mike Strickland…Registered a 10-1 record, 1.41 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 51 innings pitched as a junior for the War Eagles…Also saw action at first base and batted .336 with four home runs and 35 RBI as team went 26-8…Part of AAAA state semifinals squad in 2018 and earned All-Region honors in 2018 and 2019…Earned two letters in football and part of 2017 region champions…Participated in Buddy Baseball, Habitat for Humanity, Shelter Arms, Sunrise Assisted Living community service projects…Selected to Team Georgia…Played summer baseball with the 643 Cougars, Atlanta Braves Scout Team and Team Elite…Named to Georgia Dugout Club Top 100, two-time Pitcher of the Year for the 643 Cougars…Has two older brothers who played college baseball in Ryan (Rhodes College) and Patrick (University of Georgia 2016-present)…Son of Renee and Shawn Sullivan.

“I chose Georgia because of the success of the program and the excellent coaching staff,” said Sullivan. “Athens feels like home, and I am excited to compete in the SEC!”

Coach Stricklin on Sullivan: “Liam has a ton of upside. His fastball is reaching into the upper 80s now, and it will continue to increase. His breaking ball has a chance to be a plus pitch, and he has a good feel for a change-up. He’s big and strong and has a very high ceiling. We’re thrilled to have another Sullivan in our program.”

Luke WAGNER (LHP/OF, New Cumberland, Penn., 6-0, 175, R-L, Red Land HS)

Attends Red Land where he plays for Nate Ebbert…Two-way standout, posting an 11-2 record, 1.44 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 68 innings, all team-bests as a junior for the Patriots…Also saw action in centerfielder and batted a team-leading .385 with two home runs, 18 RBI and 18 stolen bases in leading the squad to a the 5A state title and 25-3 record…Participated in the POP League and POP High School All-Star Game…Lettered twice in basketball…Father Kyle and uncle Brett, who are twins, played baseball at Wake Forest in the early 1990s and went on to play professionally for a few seasons…Son of Heather and Kyle Wagner.

“I chose UGA because playing in the SEC and living in Athens was too much to resist,” said Wagner.

Coach Stricklin on Wagner: “Luke is probably the best all-around pitcher in this class. He’s a great athlete that has a really good feel for three pitches. He fields his position, he holds runners, and he’s got a really high baseball IQ and is an ultimate competitor. He will be a two-way guy for us as a pitcher/outfielder. He can handle the bat and can track down balls in the outfield too.”

Jaden WOODS (LHP, Warner Robins, Ga., 6-2, 190, L-L, Houston County HS)

Attends Houston County where he plays for Matt Hopkins…Posted a 9-2 record and 1.18 ERA in 58 innings as a junior for the Bears plus batted .314 with a .395 on base percentage and 18 RBI…Helped the Bears to the 6A Elite Eight of the playoffs and won the Region 1-6A title…Played summer baseball with the Braves Scout Team and Team Elite…Son of Shonto and Brian Woods.

“I chose UGA because it has always been my dream school but also the coaches made me feel as if I could reach my full potential here,” said Woods. “Also, the campus felt like home.”

Coach Stricklin on Woods: “Jaden is a left-handed pitcher that we’ve watched develop over the past two years. He had a standout summer. We’re thrilled to bring him on board. His fastball will get into the low 90s, and his breaking ball is a true out pitch. The sky is the limit for Jaden.”

GEORGIA BASEBALL RECRUITING CLASS FOR 2021 SEASON

Dwight ALLEN (OF, Milton, Ga., 6-1, 190, R-R, Woodward Academy)

Hank BEARDEN (RHP, Rocky Face, Ga., 6-0, 175, L-R, Northwest Whitfield HS)

Collin CALDWELL (LHP, Powder Springs, Ga., 5-11, 190, R-L, Harrison HS)

Corey COLLINS (C, Suwanee, Ga., 6-3, 220, L-R, North Gwinnett HS)

Max DeJONG (RHP, Powder Springs, Ga., 6-1, 200, R-R, Hillgrove HS)

Fernando GONZALEZ (C, Marietta, Ga., 5-10, 180, R-R, North Cobb Christian School)

Parks HARBER (3B, Atlanta, Ga., 6-3, 215, R-R, The Westminster School)

Patrick HOLLOMAN (LHP, McDonough, Ga., 6-1, 195, L-L, Ola HS)

Caleb KETCHUP (SS, Marietta, Ga., 5-10, 160, R-R, Holy Innocents Episcopal HS)

Trippe MOORE III (OF, Forsyth, Ga., 6-0, 185, R-R, Mary Persons HS)

Will PEARSON (RHP, Watkinsville, Ga., 6-2, 170, R-R, North Oconee HS)

Garrett SPIKES (INF, Lawrenceville, Ga., 6-4, 195, L-R, Mountain View HS)

Liam SULLIVAN (LHP, Sandy Springs, Ga., 6-6, 230, L-L, The Marist School)

Luke WAGNER (LHP/OF, New Cumberland, Penn., 6-0, 175, R-L, Red Land HS)

Jaden WOODS (LHP, Warner Robins, Ga., 6-2, 190, L-L, Houston County HS)

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From left to right: Michael Hill, president of baseball operations for the Miami Marlins, Don Mattingly, team manager, and Derek Jeter, chief executive officer, speak during a press conference at Marlins Park on Sept. 20. The Marlins would like to add at least one veteran bat this winter. MATIAS J. OCNER [email protected]

A quick six-pack of Marlins notes:

▪ The Marlins intend to sign at least one veteran bat but are disinclined to give him a longterm deal because they don’t want to block any of their top position prospects, according to a source.

Miami is exploring free agent outfielders and corner infielders, with a bunch of names under consideration.
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Among the realistic free agent outfield options: Avasail Garcia (.282, 20 homers, 72 RBI for Tampa Bay), Corey Dickerson (.304, 12, 59 for Pittsburgh and Philadelphia), Brett Gardner (.251, 28, 74 for the Yankees) and Adam Jones (.260, 16, 67 for Arizona). The Marlins and Jones spoke last offseason.
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And The Athletic reported that Miami has inquired about Nationals free agent infielder/outfielder Howie Kendrick, who hit .344 for the Nationals, with 17 homers and 62 RBI.

Like nearly every team, the Marlins are slow-playing free agency at the moment. They might wait to sign a bat until during or after next month’s winter meetings in San Diego, though they haven’t ruled out doing something sooner.

“We need to get better [and] adding offense will be the focal point,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said Wednesday night.

▪ The Marlins are not aggressively pursuing Cubs free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos but like the player and could enter the bidding if he’s still available in a few weeks and willing to accept a shorter deal, according to a source.

Agent Scott Boras is believed to be looking for a sizable multiyear deal.

Castellanos, a native of Davie, hit..289 with 27 homers and 73 RBI for the Cubs and Detroit last season.

The Marlins aren’t pursuing free agents that would require draft pick compensation, such as Cardinals free agent and former Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna.

▪ At this point, the Marlins are leaning toward tendering arbitration-eligible Jose Urena but haven’t made a final decision.

Urena was 4-7 with a 4.70 ERA in 13 appearances as a starter before a back injury last season. He returned late in the season as a reliever but struggled, going 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA in 11 appearances.

Urena being tendered doesn’t guarantee he will be on the team; the Marlins tendered Dan Straily last winter but utimately released him before the season, with Miami required to pay only a small percentage of the salary.

Even with Urena’s erratic performance last season, he still has value as an established veteran starter.

The Marlins also must make a decision on whether to tender Adam Conley by the Dec. 2 non-tender deadline.

The Marlins moved on from Wei Yin Chen on Wednesday night, designating him for assignment even though Miami owes him $22 million next season.

▪ I asked Hill on Wednesday if there are position players – besides Brian Anderson, Jorge Alfaro and Miguel Rojas – who can be projected as very likely starters next season regardless of how they play in spring training.

Hill stopped short of calling anyone else a sure-fire starter but made clear that Garrett Cooper, Isan Diaz, Harold Ramirez, Jon Berti and Lewis Brinson “will have every opportunity to compete for at bats.”

The Marlins naturally would love for Diaz to be their longterm second baseman, but he needs to at least perform decently next spring.

▪ Pitching stuff: The Marlins want to sign at least two relievers to supplement the group of Drew Steckenrider (returning from elbow surgery), Ryne Stanek, Austin Brice, Jarlin García and José Quijada…. The Marlins’ decision to omit lefty Will Stewart from their 40-man roster seems like a reasonably safe gamble because he was erratic at Class A Jupiter, going 6-12 with a 5.43 ERA. It seems unlikely – though not out of the question – that a team would take him in the Rule 5 draft. The Marlins had several top prospects who needed to be moved to the 40-man roster, so someone invariably was going to get left out. Stewart “is still a very good major league prospect,” Hill said of the third piece acquired in the J.T. Realmuto trade (with Alfaro and top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez).

▪ Quick stuff: The Marlins shifted Triple A affiliates, from the New Orleans BabyCakes to the Wichita Wind Surge…The Marlins were encouraged by Nick Neidert’s work in the Arizona Fall League; he had a 1.25 ERA in five starts. “To make up for the time he lost due to injury [last season, when he was limited to 13 starts] was incredibly important,” Hill said…Victor Victor Mesa hit .271 in the Fall League and Jerar Encarnacion .269.

Read more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/barry-jackson/article237180073.html#storylink=cpy

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SportsPulse: The 2019 Washington Nationals should always be remembered for slaying Goliath and winning their first ever title. But as Trysta Krick puts it, maybe they were Goliath all along. USA TODAY
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In theory, it was a good idea.

Hop on a plane headed hundreds of miles per hour away from the Worst Season Ever to a continent where baseball isn’t a national pastime, much less played on television in the wee hours of the morning.

Delete Twitter.

Don’t check email.

Disappear.

But, as it went, Anibal Sanchez had a no-hitter through six innings that night. Sanchez, who used to play for the Tigers, is remembered here for his humility: Two years ago, with his career on life support, the veteran right-hander accepted a minor-league assignment to Triple-A Toledo in the name of saving himself as a starting pitcher.

Now, flying far away from baseball, its pull began anew.

[ Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez win 2019 World Series with Nationals ]

Sanchez, who made a resurgence as a starter in Atlanta last season, his first away from Detroit, was pitching Game 1 of the National League Championship Series for the Nationals. He lost the no-hitter in the eighth, with me somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean. It would be the last baseball I’d partake in all season, I swore.

It was a promise impossible to keep.
Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer waves to the crowd.

Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer waves to the crowd. (Photo: Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports)

That’s the thing about this job: Its eyes stay on you like a celebrity on the cover of a tabloid in a supermarket checkout line — fixated no matter how much you try to move out of its view. And, as I learned over the past three weeks, trying to escape it — much like the game of baseball itself — is a game of failure.

There was my beat-writer friend, stuck in the postseason. An animated image of a pitcher scratching at the brim of his baseball cap. A National League East executive wondering about Nicholas Castellanos’ makeup, to which I responded, “He’s a good teammate, hard worker. Plays hard. Make-up wise, he’s the guy in CHC this year, not DET. I’d take him all day.”

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There was the next weekend, well past whatever counts as closing time in Italy, when it was brought to my attention that there was quite the baseball game happening. Against my better judgment, MLB.tv worked, Jose Altuve soon hit a walk-off home run to send the Astros to the World Series and that — that would be the last baseball I’d watch all season, I swore.

I didn’t delete Twitter in Tigers rehab. Kept checking my email, and one day, noticed a message from the Cubs in the clutter box, detailing a number of front office changes made to their 84-win team. Meanwhile in Detroit, general manager Al Avila continues to take arrows for his associates, leaning on loyalty as the losing Tigers try to navigate the ever-choppy waters of their rebuilding process.

There were sporadic texts from the best kind of baseball people — those who have become friends first, sources second — and a stray phone call late one night from someone who told me that Ilitch Holdings brought in a public relations research firm to meet with their companies’ communication departments and share ideas on how to get Detroiters and the media off their backs. We exchanged many ideas.
HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 30: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals celebrates in the locker room after defeating the Houston Astros in Game Seven to win the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 30, 2019 in Houston, Texas. The Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros with a score of 6 to 2. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 30: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals celebrates in the locker room after defeating the Houston Astros in Game Seven to win the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 30, 2019 in Houston, Texas. The Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros with a score of 6 to 2. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) (Photo: Getty Images)

I went to church twice a week, one time at 6 a.m. At the suggestion of a friend, I went to confession and did, indeed, feel better afterwards. I read four books but no box scores. I watched people but not a single inning of baseball — so far.

But my favorite sport’s slow pull finally sucked me in on the morning of Oct. 22, in the worst of ways, as I awakened to 37 text messages about the Astros being awful again.

While it apparently did not occur to the vast majority, who rallied behind a Sports Illustrated reporter for exposing Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for being a bad human, it certainly occurred to me that there was another female reporter out there — one who Taubman’s comments were directed at, who saw the arrogance in his eyes and heard the vengeance in his voice — hidden away.

A reporter whose hands were likely tied from telling her side of the story.
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez is held aloft by second baseman Brian Dozier at World Series Championship Parade.

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez is held aloft by second baseman Brian Dozier at World Series Championship Parade. (Photo: Brad Mills, USA TODAY Sports)

I escaped Tigers rehab on Oct. 30, arriving in a small sports bar in Europe near midnight, before Game 7 of the World Series, and offered the owner 20 Euros to let me stay and watch. There was no need, he said: An hour later, a group of mostly English regulars came in; there was also Nick from Houston, wearing an Altuve jersey.

Afterwards, I was very happy for Sanchez and Max Scherzer, who, as I wrote in mid-July, is the best of all the Tigers that have left town. I was happy for Daniel Hudson and Gerardo Parra, two players who very generous with their time for a rookie baseball reporter in Arizona in 2011.

I told Nick I felt bad for him, quickly couching it, saying I really didn’t. They heard some stories, we drank some beers, and I finally put the Worst Season Ever behind me by embracing the very thing I fled there to avoid in the first place.

Contact Anthony Fenech at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.