Go Pro Baseball Wise: Minor League Memories

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Players get scouted, get drafted, sign a pro contract then begin the pro baseball career in the minor leagues.


"Lots can happen in minor league baseball and if a guy really wants a pro baseball career he has to work really hard and adjust to the minor league lifestyle."
— Matt Williams,
former ML player, 17 seasons
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Now I Know How Casey Felt
Memories of a Minor League Season

 

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Dear Reader:

Although this looks like the perfect "What did you do on your summer vacation?" story, it's so much more. What I initially called research for "Go Pro Baseball Wise" turned out to be the best baseball experience of my life.

These are my memories of the fantastic season of the 1982 Medford A's. The events are real. The players are real. The Oakland Organization and these players were kind enough to include me in their season's adventures so you could get an inside look at the minor league experience from their viewpoint and know what to expect. They said they wished they had a book like this themselves when they signed.

Some of you may think that because this season was several years ago, things are different now. Well, I've been all over the country checking out minor league baseball for many seasons since then. Believe me,
nothing's changed except the faces. The player development programs in the minor leagues are still there. Players' self-motivation, drive, desire, and heart are all still there. The dreams of making it to the major leagues are still there. And, yes, people like me who want to get a taste of this quest so we can write about it are still there, too.

If you're looking for another "Bull Durham," you won't find it here. In fact, because I refused to put that kind of slant to their experiences, publishers didn't include this section in "Go Pro Baseball Wise."

Yes, you already know some of them who made it to the Major Leagues. Now it's my pleasure to introduce you to all of them. And it's my privilege to give you their season as part of the "Go Pro Baseball Wise" website.

Everything included here was either observed by me or told to me by the people involved. After all this time, I'm still in awe and I still salute them.

-PJ Dragseth

INTRODUCTION: Memories of a season in minor league baseball

This is the real story of the 1982 Medford A's and the Northwest League.

This league, "Rookie League," plays a short season schedule to accommodate newly signed players coming directly out of school. This year it celebrates its 50th consecutive season. In 1982 it included the following six teams:

Bellingham, WA, Mariners (Seattle, AL), manager, Jeff Scott
Walla Walla, WA, Padres (San Diego, NL), manager Jim Skaalen
Salem, OR, Angels (Anaheim Angels, AL), manager, Joe Maddon
Eugene, OR, Ems (Cincinnati, NL), manager, Jimmy Stewart
Bend, OR, Phillies (Philadelphia, NL), manager, Roly DeArmas
Medford, OR, A's (Oakland, AL), manager, Dennis Rogers
 

Meet the players of the 1982 Northwest League
Medford A's
Manager, Dennis Rogers
Assistant Manager, Tom Colburn
Jim Bailey, pitcher
Vince Bailey, outfielder
Eric Barry, pitcher
Bob Bathe, third base
Dave Glick, infielder
Mikki Jackson, pitcher
Glenn Godwin, pitcher
Dennis Gonsalves, pitcher
Jim Good, catcher
Mike Gorman, pitcher
Brian Graham, infielder
Elton Hooker, outfielder
Jeff Kaiser, pitcher
Tony Laurenzi, outfielder
Greg Mine, pitcher,
Ed Myers, pitcher
Charlie O'Brien, catcher
Pat O'Hara, catcher
Steve Ontiveros, pitcher
Dave Peterson, outfielder
Luis Rojas, outfielder
Phil Strom, infielder
Ray Thoma, infielder
John Vela, pitcher
 
Bellingham Mariners
Manager, Jeff Scott
Scott Barnhouse
Steve Bickers
Juan Cruz
John Duncan
Martin Enriquez
Angel Fonseca
Cesar Herrrera
Roger Hill
Wayne Kinley
Bart Mackie
Rafael Matos
Manuel Morris
David Myers
Randy Newman
Eric Parent
Todd Richard
David Rodriguez
Scott Roebuck
Kevin Roy
Jeff Schassler
David Smith
Terry Taylor
Curt Towey
Robby Vollmer
Eddie Yeampierre
 
Bend Phillies
Manager, Roly DeArmas
Mark Adamiak
Troy Berry
Stan Brewer
Anthony Brown
Kirk Burgess
Joel Chavous
Milo Choate
Leland Creel
Paul Crump
Randy Day
Tom George
Keith Hughes
Chris James
Greg Jelks
Kenny Jones
John Kanter
Mike Maddux
Rob Miller
Francisco Morel
Jim Olson
Paul Perez
John Proctor
Jimmy Rasnick
Mike Robertson
Dennis Scarpetta
Jose Segura
David Vernon
James Vest
Steve Witt
 
Eugene Emeralds
Manager, Jimmy Stewart
Lanell Culver
Tim Dodd
Donald Fenton
Guy Findeisen
David Haberle
Duane Harms
Mike Hennessy
Orsino Hill
Tim Hume
Richard Johns
Terry Lee
Terrance McGriff
John Minyard
Don Mitchell
Jay Munson
Curt O'Connor
Scott Radloff
Jeff Rhodes
Tom Riley
Miguel Salgueiro
Steve Stout
Tim Stout
James Strichek
Rich Walker
Steve Watson
Delwyn Young
 
Salem Angels
Manager, Joe Maddon
Bert Adams
David Brady
Vinicio Cedeno
Kevin Davis
Francisco de la Cruz
Glanz, Scott
Davie Govea
Don Groh
John Hudson
Jose Jiminez
Greg Key
Robby Kilmer
Bob Kipper
Kris Kline
Kirk Knowles
Jay Lewis
Ramon Longa
Urbano Rafael Lugo
Tony Mack
Mike Madril
Kirk McCaskill
Mark McLemore
Rob Ritchie
Mike Rizzo
Americo Segura
Scott Suehr
Don Timberlake
Jose Valdez
Bill Wiesler
 
Walla Walla Padres
Manager, Jim Skaalen
Rob Allinger
Willie Lee Anderson
Ken Bender
Greg Crabb
Jeff Dean
Donald Freeman
John Frierson
Jose Gomez
Jimmy Jones
Richard Lloyd
Jack Mutz
Craig Odom
Joe Plesac
Larry Pott
Kevin Rhoads
Rigo Rodriguez
Al Simmons
Greg Steffanich
Kevin Towers
Gene Walter
John Westmoreland
Kevin Wiggins
Mitch Williams
 
These memories give you an inside look at the minor league experiences of one group of players from all over the country who functioned as a team for a season in rookie ball. The one thing they had in common was their dream of making it to the major leagues. You'll get to know them as I got to know them, on a day to day basis as they adjusted to the rigors of it. If there's any flag waving, it's not for baseball per se, but for these athletes who dedicated themselves to it.

One of the former major league players who read this said, "Although I've never personally met any of these guys, I knew them all before…in other uniforms…at other levels…in other leagues…but all with the same goals."

You'll get to know such players as likeable Mike Gorman, who wanted to learn all he could to improve his pitching and make some money in the game; happy-go-lucky Mikki Jackson, who knew he had no real future in baseball and thought rookie ball put him in high cotton; hard working Bob Bathe, adored by the ladies, who could change the score with one swing of his bat; good-hearted and snappy Ray Thoma, the man with a quick answer for all occasions; naïve, easy going Dave Peterson whom everybody liked and hoped would make it; Vince Bailey, who'd played at a higher level, knew he had better tools than some there, yet warmed the bench night after night; nimble infielder Dave Glick who always felt he didn't get a fair shot; Jim Feeley, who dreamed of pitching like his idol Bob Feller; fun loving Phil Strom, called "Harmon" for his big bat, who found humor in the most adverse situations; cocky and determined Eric Barry, who let early success go to his head, then get in his way; intense Brian Graham, who tripped over his own desire to make it; Awesome Ed Myers, Arkansas Razorback picked as "most likely to succeed" by Oakland's Scouting Director; Jeff Kaiser, the classy athlete from the Midwest who fought the odds all the way and won.

As you get to know the members of this team and others in the Northwest League, you'll learn about the pressures and rewards of living in organizational glass houses.

It's tough working with scouts, organizations, coaches, teammates from all over the country, the constant threat of a career-ending injury, poor equipment, poor field conditions, the trainer who wasn't qualified, and so on. It's tough missing the girl back home and Mom's home cooking.

It's tough not letting all that interfere with your concentration or distort your focus. It's hard living and working in a career of peaks and valleys that demands constant adjustments. And there are the good times, the winning streaks, personal triumphs, the pranks, the lifelong friendships, and creative bus riding skills!

Looking back at this journey with a team of new pro ballplayers who were reaching for the MLB brass ring, I don't even remember what I expected. But I soon learned that what was waiting for me there was pure gold.

Miles field was the home of the Medford A's where the newest crop of drafted and non-drafted players got their first taste of professional baseball.

At first glance it was just a small American Legion park in a rural southern Oregon town. When I arrived that first morning two days before the season started, my first thoughts were surprise at how small and primitive it seemed.

The outfield glistened with remnants of the previous night's rain. The tiny ground level dugouts were cluttered with folding chairs. The tiny building they called a clubhouse, behind third base, was for the home team only. There was nothing for the visitors. The seating capacity, approximately 3,000, was limited to wooden benches along the baselines and a large "reserved section" behind home plate. The best seats in the section were located at the top rear in the broadcast booth, right next to the organ. There was no room for outfield bleachers. Outside the walls, fans parked in a gravel parking area that offered a rarified view of the local sawmill across the street.

If it doesn't sound like much to you, it's because you weren't there that season. But for those of us who were, Miles Field became more. As you follow the adventures of their season you'll see what I mean.

Steve Boros, GM, Detroit Tigers: "As far as things that were tough, things that were hard, well, the minor league facilities are often a huge surprise for them. Things aren't as good as they are in most colleges, so that's a tremendous adjustment for a ballplayer. The clubhouse, the shower facilities, the bathroom facilities, the lights in the ballparks, the playing fields, and even the parks themselves are below college standards in many cases."
 
 

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