Now I Know How Casey Felt
Memories of a Minor League Season
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.
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
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
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.
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
Manager, Jeff Scott
Manager, Roly DeArmas
Manager, Jimmy Stewart
Manager, Joe Maddon
Francisco de la Cruz
Urbano Rafael Lugo
|Walla Walla Padres
Manager, Jim Skaalen
Willie Lee Anderson
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
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