Now I Know How Casey Felt
Memories of a Minor League Season
EPILOGUE: Life after the Northwest League
Jeff Kaiser didn't get to pitch that third game and his team didn't get championship rings. But they didn't need
to hang their heads.
The team had won the final five games of the season which brought their season record to 53 wins - 17 losses, including
only three losses at home. They led their division by 23 games. Their winning percentage of .757 was the highest
in all organized baseball in the United States that year. The league managers selected Phil
Strom as the Northwest League's Most Valuable Player for all his timely
hits. He ended up with 15 homers and 71 RBIs. Ed Myers received the Relief Man of the Year Award from the National Association of Baseball Leagues.
He led the league with 12 saves. Jim Eppard
took the batting crown with a .379 average, one homer, 91 total hits, a meager six strikeouts. Eric Barry had the most season victories in the
history of the league with thirteen including nine complete games; during the season he won a Minor League Player
of the Month Award. Tony Laurenzi tied
a league record with a hitting streak of 26 games.
As for the league as a whole, none of the rookies left the NWL the way he came. Each had grown and learned in that
short season. For many it was the first step toward the completion of a lifetime dream. Sadly, for some, it was
also the last.
But for all, as Bob Feller said, it was an experience they'll remember the rest of their lives.
The players who made teams for the 1983 season faced long roads on their way to the major leagues. They'd survived
the first hurdle, were more determined than ever to reach their goals of careers in major league baseball.
Since the end of that season, I attended Instruction League in Arizona with the "Medford graduates,"
then returned for Spring Training in March, 1983. After that I've traveled all over the country following their
progress. At the same time I learned about different leagues at different levels in minor league baseball.
The following players from the Northwest League in 1982 made it to the major leagues in one capacity or another.
Some are still enjoying their pro baseball careers. This information is current as of April 1, 2004.
Manager Joe Maddon managed a couple more seasons in Salem, then moved up the ranks with the Angels. He's
held the following positions in the organization: Scout, Roving Instructor, Coordinator of Instructions, Director
of Player Development, ML First Base Coach. He is and has been the Major League Bench Coach for the Anaheim Angels
for many years. He now sports a World Series Championship Ring. He's now the Manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Kirk McCaskill, who was also drafted
to play professional hockey, but passed it up for a pro baseball career, moved up the ladder quickly. He pitched
in the Majors from 1985-1996 for the Angels and the White Sox.
Bob Kipper, Salem's Number One
draft pick in 1982, pitched in the ML from 1985 -1995. After his rookie season with the Angels he went to the Pittsburgh
Pirates in the John Candeleria trade in 1986. He has served as ML Bullpen Coach with the Boston Red Sox, and is
currently working his way up the ranks as a minor league pitching coach in that organization. He began at the rookie
level and is currently with Portland in the AA Eastern League.
Raphael Lugo bounced up and down
between AAA and the Major Leagues from 1985-1990, under his full name of Urbano Rafael Lugo. He pitched for the
Angels, Expos, and Tigers. He spent some time as a rookie league pitching coach with the Padres and Reds.
Mark McLemore, switch-hitting
infielder, played in the Major Leagues from 1986 to 2003. He played for the Angels, Indians, Astros, Orioles, Rangers,
and Mariners. In 2004 Mark plays for the Oakland A's.
Mike Rizzo, tagged "The Tasmanian
Devil," was released while still in the minor leagues. He was Assistant Baseball Coach at the University of
Illinois for two years. He then returned to pro baseball as a scout. He scouted for the White Sox, Red Sox, and
the Arizona Diamondbacks. After serving as the Scouting Director for the Arizona Diamond Backs, he is currently
the Assistant GM/VP Baseball Operations for the Washington Nationals.
Tony Mack pitched one game in
the Major Leagues for the Angels against Toronto in 1986. He was picked up by the Houston Astros after his release.
With them, he made it to the AA level.
Kris Kline didn't make it to the
majors as a player. After his release he spent some time as Junior Varsity Baseball Coach at Arizona State University.
He has been a pro baseball scout for many years. Currently, he is a Regional Scouting Supervisor for the Arizona
Jeff Scott managed another year then
moved up the ranks in the Seattle Mariner Organization. He then served at Director of Player Development with the
Cleveland Indians. I was unable to find any record of him in pro baseball as of the 2004 season.
Dave Myers worked his way up the
ranks as minor league manager in the Seattle Organization. Since 2001 he has been the Third Base Coach for the
Terry Taylor pitched in five games
in the ML for the Mariners in 1988.
Manager Roly DeArmas has remained a successful rookie league manager for the Phillies. As of the 2004 season,
he manages their Clearwater team in the Gulf Coast League.
Chris James played in the Major
Leagues 1987-1995. Although 1987 is his "official" rookie season, he actually started in 1986 but broke
his ankle early in the year and missed the rest of it. He played for the Phillies, Padres, Indians, Giants, Astros,
Rangers, Red Sox.
Greg Jelks played in the majors
for the Phillies in 1987. He played ten games and was then released.
Jose Segura pitched a total of
twenty-two games in the Major Leagues from 1988-1991. He was with the White Sox and Giants.
Mike Maddux pitched in the Major
Leagues from 1986-2000. He endured elbow problems and surgeries, but worked his way back every time. In 2004 he
is the ML Pitching Coach with the Brewers. Yes, is the older brother of future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.
Keith Hughes was signed out of
a tryout camp at the Vet shortly after his high school graduation. He played in the Major Leagues from 1987-1993.
The power-hitting outfielder was the minor league player named in the Marty Bystrom-Shane Rawley trade with the
Yankees in 1984. He was traded back to the Phillies in 1987. He played for the Yankees, Phillies, Orioles, Mets,
Reds. He was a scout for the Kansas City Royals from 1998-2002.
When pitcher Steve Witt was released
by the Phillies, he was picked up by the San Jose Bees, A-Ball. But his career road never took him to the big leagues.
WALLA WALLA PADRES
Pitchers were the big stories from this team. But let's start at the top.
Manager Jim Skaalen remained in
the game in various capacities, including minor league manager with the Texas Rangers. He has been the Minor League
Hitting and Field Coordinator for the Milwaukee Brewers from 2000-2004.
Jimmy Jones made headlines in
his Major League debut for the Padres in 1986. He pitched a one-hitter against the Houston Astros in the Astrodome
in front of his hometown fans. In his ML career from 1986-1992 he pitched for the Padres, Yankees, Astros, and
Mitch Williams played in the Major
Leagues from 1986-1999. He made his mark as a relief pitcher for the Rangers, Cubs, Phillies, Astros, Angels, and
Royals. He pitched in the Toronto-Philadelphia 1993 World Series when Joe Carter hit a homer off of him to win
the series in Game Six. After his playing days he has managed minor league teams in independent leagues. He said
his nickname Wild Thing has nothing to do with his pitching and, "It's better than being called bum."
Kevin Towers, pitcher, ended his
playing days at the A-Ball level after an arm injury required surgery. He remained with the Padres, and has held
many titles: minor league manager, scout, Director of Scouting. Since 1996 he has been Senior Vice President/General
Manager of the San Diego Padres.
Manager Jimmy Stewart completed an 11-year major league career with the Cubs, White Sox, Reds, and Astros, prior
to managing at Eugene. Since then he has been a scout.
Terrance McGriff played in the
Major Leagues from 1987-1994 with the Reds, Astros, Marlins, Cardinals.
Orsino Hill played outfield for
a few more years and made it to the AAA level. He has coached at the rookie ball in the White Sox Organization
and is currently a scout for the Colorado Rockies.
Teams don't make it to the major leagues, individuals do. That phrase
never seemed more fitting than the way it applies to the Medford A's.
Dennis Rogers remained to manage
in Medford, then left the game temporarily. He later returned to manage rookie baseball in the Pittsburgh Organization.
He returned to the Oakland Organization, where he still manages their rookie ball team in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Oakland no longer has a team in Medford, Oregon.
By opening day of the 1983 season, only half of the players were still in the organization. Dave Glick, Elton Hooker,
Vince Bailey, Jim Good, Jim Feeley, Luis Rojas, John Vela, and Pat O'Hara had all been released. Tony Laurenzi
didn't report to Instruction League after the season because of shoulder problems and hung it up rather than have
surgery. Assistant Coach Tom Colburn returned to college.
Dennis Gonsalves pitched with
the Madison Muskies, A Ball, then left the game.
Glenn Godwin also pitched for
Madison in 1983 and was also released. He continued playing baseball in Europe for several years.
Mikki Jackson played briefly for
the Madison Muskies (A) in the Midwest League before he was released.
Jim Bailey, the young high school
pitcher who didn't get much of a shot in 1982, returned to Medford for the 1983 season, but was released at the
The rest advanced to the Modesto A's (A) in the California League for their second pro season. Eppard at first,
Graham at second, Thoma at short, and Bathe at third. Eric Barry, Mike Gorman, and Jeff Kaiser were the majority
of the pitching rotation with Awesome Ed Myers in the relief role. Add Dave Peterson in the outfield and Phil Strom
as designated hitter and the "Medford to Modesto transplant" was complete. After that season their careers
went in many different directions.
Bob Bathe had a successful year
in Tacoma (AAA) in 1985. He was sent to the Chicago in 1986. His chief role with the AAA Iowa Cubs was as a pinch
hitter. He was released two days before the end of Spring Training in 1987.
Ray Thoma played until 1986 and
ended his career at the AA level with the Huntsville Stars.
Phil Strom played in Modesto (A)
in 1983 and was released. In 1984 he played for the San Jose Bees (A) but left the game mid-season when his mother
Eric Barry and Ed Myers once again found their careers linked
after the 1984 season. They were tied together as the two minor league players to be named later in the Don Sutton
trade. Eric Barry had played two
years at Modesto prior to that trade, then went to El Paso (AA) for the Brewers in 1985. He was released in Spring
Training in 1986. Ed Myers' career
was a different story. He had been tagged the most likely to succeed by Oakland Scouting Director Dick Wiencek
during the Medford season. He was moved from team to team his entire career. After starting the 1983 season in
Modesto, he was quickly promoted to Tacoma (AAA), then finished the season with Oakland's lower A team in Madison
because they needed pitching. He began 1984 at AA, then returned to Tacoma and racked up very impressive stats
and attracted much media attention.
After the trade to Milwaukee, he began the 1985 season at AAA with their Vancouver team. They had him in the starting
rotation but he developed arm problems and finished the season in AA El Paso. The 1986 season saw him juggled back
and forth between starting and relief roles. He was disillusioned and hung it up at the end of the season to complete
his college education at the University of Arkansas.
Mike Gorman began the 1985 season
at Huntsville (AA), but was released in May. He was immediately picked up by the Detroit Tigers. The only spot
they had for him was in Lakeland, Florida (A), but he finished that year in AA with the Tigers in Glens Falls in
the Eastern League. After a good AA season he decided to leave the game.
Dave Peterson never did get the
chance to be an every day player at Modesto. At the end of the 1983 season he hung it up, married his college sweetheart
and completed college at the University of Western Michigan.
Steve Ontiveros, who left the
team two weeks into the 1982 season, pitched in the Major Leagues from 1985-1995 with the A's, Phillies, Mariners,
Charlie O'Brien played in the
Major Leagues from 1985-2000. He was with Oakland briefly before he was traded to Milwaukee in 1985 in the Moose
Haas deal. He then played for the Mets, Braves, Blue Jays, White Sox, Angels, and Expos.
Jeff Kaiser started the 1984 season
at AAA Tacoma, then went on to pitch in the Major Leagues from 1985-1993. He was a relief pitcher plagued with
shoulder problems his entire career. He played for the A's, Indians, Tigers, Reds and Mets.
Jim Eppard played in the Major
Leagues from 1987-1990 with the Angels and Blue Jays. He remained in the game as a roving hitting instructor for
a few years, then worked his way up the ladder as a minor league coach for the Colorado Rockies. He was their AAA
coach in 2000. He has been the AAA Pacific Coast League Coach with the Angels since 2001.
Brian Graham went from the Modesto
A's to two AA seasons with Oakland.1986 saw him bounce among three organizations, always at the AA level. He was
released by Cleveland at the end of that season, and then took a job coaching Cleveland's Kinston team in the Carolina
League (A) for 1987. By 1996 he had worked his way up to manager of the AAA Buffalo team. He was named the "USA
Baseball Weekly Minor League Manager of the Year for 1996." He then became the Defensive Coordinator for Cleveland.
He has been the Director of Player Development with the Pittsburgh Pirates since 2002. In 2007 he became Special
Assignment Coach - Baltimore Orioles.
Now you've had an inside look at the the minor league lifestyle at the beginning of the professional baseball career.
You've experienced the day to day events, the ins and outs, and the peaks and valleys which are by no means unique
to the Northwest League. Take it from one who's been there. If you dream the dream of playing pro baseball, this
is probably where and how you'll begin. Good luck!
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