Top 100 Baseball Blog

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Les Norman: A Baseball Life

Outfielder Les Norman came to professional baseball as a draft pick from the middle rounds. Despite his rather humble entry, he made quick work of the major leagues and became one of the few to ascend to the major leagues.  

After a difficult childhood, the right-handed Norman attended the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois. He was originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 26th round in 1990. However, he declined to sign and ended up being taken a round earlier the following year by the Kansas City Royals.

Solid but unspectacular numbers in the minors earned Norman his ticket to the majors in 1995. His first big league hit was a single against Darren Oliver and the Texas Rangers on May 30th of that year.

Between 1995 and 1996 Norman bounced between the minors and the Royals. During that time he appeared in a total of 78 games and was used primarily off the bench, accumulating just 89 at bats. He hit a combined .169 with 4 RBIs.

The inability to find consistent playing time, along with nagging shoulder injuries curtailed his career. He played in the minors and independent ball before retiring following the 2005 season. He has remained in the game in multiple ways and has a lot to be proud of for what he has accomplished throughout his career.

Les Norman Interview

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: A: Pete Rose- hustle and hitting  B: Ryne Sandberg-Played my fave position (second base) & team (Chicago Cubs)

What went into your decision to not sign with the Boston Red Sox after being drafted by them in 1990? In hindsight, did you make the right decision?: Without advice, I had a number set in my mind of signing bonus to pay for college and for a car (didn't have one).  My head wasn't in the right place; heart wasn't very humble, so I didn't sign.  I DID make the right decision. If I would have signed, I wasn't emotionally ready to handle pro ball, and most likely wouldn't have made it to the MLB.  Also, I met my bride through playing MLB in Kansas City, so I believe God used it to A: teach me a HUGE lesson; B: find my family; and C: forge my path into media.

What do you remember most about your major league debut?: Besides the excitement of a dream fulfilled, that when I walked up to home plate the pitcher looked like he was about 10 feet away, and that his 80 mph fastball looked like 100. Shaking and nervous, to say the least.

In your opinion, who was the most talented player you ever played with or against? What made them stand out so much?: Ken Griffey Jr.  Amazing athleticism; the game was slow for him.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: Hitting a game-winning triple against Toronto in the second game of a double header to help the Royals take the Wild Card lead.
What pitcher that you faced had the nastiest stuff, and what made them so tough?: 1) Lefty Norm Charlton.  Nasty screwball and tough to read.  2) Righty Jeff Nelson. Big, submarine pitcher with a FILTHY slider. Almost untouchable.

How easy is it to get acclimated to a major league clubhouse after getting called up for the first time?: Wasn't tough for me, knew to stay quiet and learn.  Mark Gubicza and Jeff Montgomery helped me learn that early.

What is one thing you would have liked to accomplish at the major league level that you weren't able to do?: Hit a home run.  Have 104 in the minors, but none in two years in the majors.  

 What are you up to since retiring as a player?: 1.  Married to my bride Kristin for 20 years, sons Mack (16) and Tayt (12), both ball players.
 2.  Host my own syndicated radio show, "Breakin' the Norm" based in Kansas City, Missouri (lesnorman.com).
 3.  On the Royals Alumni Board of Directors, active in working with Royals Charities and community work.
 4.  National Motivational/Keynote Speaker for businesses, churches, and schools.
 5.  Published author of "Teaching the Tools of Hitting" (Nov. '15).
 6.  TV analyst for Royals "Blue Zone" Show on Spectrum Sports Cable Channel.
 7.  TV analyst for Cox Cable/Spectrum Sports telecasts of Royals Double-A NWA Naturals & Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers minor league broadcasts.
 8.  Radio Royals Analyst on KC's Sports Radio 810WHB's "Between the Lines" and "Baseball Tonight" shows.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Gulf Coast League Announces 2017 All-Star Team

For Immediate Release                                                       September 1, 2017 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Gulf Coast League today announced its 2017 All-Star Team, Most Valuable Player and Manager of the Year. 

Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman/outfielder Mason Martin was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. He leads the league with 11 home runs, a .632 slugging percentage (in first place by over 100 points) and a 1.082 OPS. His .450 on-base percentage is second in the league and he has walked 30 times in his 38 games entering today. The Pirates selected Martin in the 17th round of the 2017 First Year Player Draft out of Southridge High School in Kennewick, Washington. 

Nationals manager Josh Johnson was named Manager of the Year after guiding the Nationals to a 34-20 mark entering today’s action. Johnson played 12 seasons in the minor leagues (six with the Royals and six with the Nationals) before beginning his managerial career in 2016. Johnson has a career record of 64-43 (.598) as a minor league manager entering today’s game. 

 The Philadelphia Phillies had four players named to the 12-man All-Star squad, which features players from five different countries. 

The Gulf Coast League playoffs begin Sunday. 

2017 GULF COAST LEAGUE ALL-STAR TEAM 

Position    Player   Age   Organization   Home
1B Mason Martin 18 Pittsburgh Kennewick, WA 
2B Max Hogan 23 Baltimore Tulsa, OK 
3B Elehuris Montero 19 St. Louis Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 
SS Rodolfo Castro 18 Pittsburgh Los Llanos, Dominican Republic 
C Gresuan Silverio 18 Detroit Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic 
DH Quincy Nieporte 23 Philadelphia Bayville, NY 
OF Ben Pelletier 19 Philadelphia Varennes, Quebec, Canada 
OF Jean Carlos Arias 19 Minnesota Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic 
OF Canaan Smith 18 New York (AL) Dallas, TX 
RHP Jaison Vilera 20 New York (NL) Caracas, Venezuela 
LHP Manuel Silva 18 Philadelphia Sabana Grande de Palenque, Dominican Republic
RP Anton Kuznetsov 19 Philadelphia Moscow, Russia 

### About the Gulf Coast League Founded in 1964, the Gulf Coast League has operated rookie-level teams in Minor League Baseball throughout the central area of Florida for more than 50 years. The Minor League Baseball office, located in St. Petersburg, Florida, assumed league operations in 2010. The league consists of 17 teams from 15 Major League Baseball affiliates. For more information, visit milb.comhttp://www.milb.com/index.jsp

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ray Caldwell Shook Off Being Struck By Lightning to Finish Complete Game Win

Baseball purists still lament how the game has changed for pitchers, with it being increasingly unlikely that hurlers throw complete games. In an age where good pitching is paid for at a premium, it is just no longer a wise financial decision to place pitchers in a position to hurt themselves by having them stretch the limits of their physical capabilities. However, it wasn’t always this way, as evidenced by Ray Caldwell, who was once struck by lightning on the mound during a game, and not only survived but actually stayed in and finished off a complete game victory.

The right-handed Caldwell was a league average (career 100 ERA+) pitcher who had a 12-year major league career with three teams (New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians) from 1910-1921. He compiled a career record of 134-120 with a 3.22 ERA and won over 18 games in a season three times. Despite his modest success, he is perhaps best known for a game on August 24, 1919 against the Philadelphia Athletics where he nearly lost his life, yet somehow turned it into perhaps his best outing of the season.

Earlier in the month, the 31-year-old Caldwell had been released by the Red Sox and was signed weeks later by the Indians, who were battling the Chicago White Sox for the American League pennant. August 24th was actually his first appearance with his new team and he certainly made it memorable.

Pitching in Cleveland, Caldwell clung to a narrow 2-1 edge against the Athletics, entering the ninth inning in his debut on the banks of Lake Erie. Rain had fallen since the middle innings, but play continued to ensure the contest was completed, given how late it was in the season.

With just one out left to go to secure the victory, shortstop Joe Dugan dug in at the plate. As Caldwell went to wind up, a lightning bolt zig-zagged from the sky and struck the pitcher. Harry P. Edwards from the Sporting News described the scene.  “The bolts flashed here and there, causing much excitement,” “There was a blinding flash that seemed to set the diamond on fire and Caldwell was knocked flat from the shock of it.”

It was reported that the strike knocked the mask and hat off Cleveland’s catcher Steve O’Neill and the hat off Philadelphia third-base coach Harry Davis.

It was also reported that Davis, “got a second shock, for Cy Perkins came up to feel Harry’s head and see if he was hurt. The lightning had charged Davis’ hair with electricity and his whole frame tingled when Cy touched him.”

“We all could feel the tingle of the electric shock running through our systems, particularly in our legs,” umpire Billy Evans recounted after the game.

Caldwell laid stretched out on the ground for a few minutes before slowly rising to his feet. Inexplicably, he indicated he was able to finish the game, and with one out remaining it was decided to try and play through before lightning had a chance to strike twice.

Caldwell induced Dugan to hit a game-ending grounder and went to the locker room to face a barrage of questions from a wide-eyed press corps. He explained to the Cleveland Press that “felt just like somebody came up with a board and hit me on top of the head and knocked me down.” He was also found to have burns on his chest. Some suggested that the lightning had struck the metal button on the top of his cap and gone down through his body to his metal spikes.

Caldwell pitched again five days later, but was not able to throw another complete game. He went just 8.2 innings that contest in a loss, but reeled off three complete-game wins in a row after that. He went on to have his only 20-win season the following year, and though he was out of the majors following the 1921 season, he continued pitching in the minors until 1933, when he was 45 (finishing with 293 wins in his professional career).

He passed away in 1967 at the age of 1979. Despite his solid and lengthy career, he will forever be remembered for his big strike in Cleveland, which never even crossed home plate.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Catching Up With Former Boston Red Sox First-Round Pick Rick Asadoorian

Drafted in the first round by the Boston Red Sox in 1999, Worcester, Massachusetts high school outfielder Rick Asadoorian was ecstatic to go to his home team. A multi-tooled right-handed player, his future was bright as he entered his professional career. He was so young and his future lay before him like an unpainted canvas.

Although Asadoorian never made it the major leagues, he did play 12 seasons professionally. He was not only an accomplished outfielder, who in particular excelled in the field, he also became a successful relief pitcher over the latter half of his playing time after it was discovered his powerful outfield arm could dial up a fastball.

He has now moved on to his post-playing career but still remains close to the game he has enjoyed his entire life. Keep reading for Rick’s memories of his career and updates about what he is doing today.

Rick Asadoorian Interview

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: I did not really have a favorite single player. I liked so many players all around the league but nothing compared to any player on the Red Sox. Every player in Boston was so special to me. I remember going to a game and seeing Andre Dawson throwing in between innings in the outfield and was amazed by how the ball came out of his hand. Just a few players I remember were Oil Can Boyd, Dwight Evans, Tim Naehring, Scott Cooper, Jack Clark.  I was always Jack Clark when playing wiffle ball home run derby in my back yard with friends. I loved his simple swing and how he destroyed balls.

Can you describe your draft experience with the Boston Red Sox in 1999- How did you find out you had been selected?: I was on a class trip for our senior week at High Meadows in Connecticut. My cousin loaned me his pager so I would know exactly when I was selected. Cell phones were just starting to really come out so I had to rely on a pager. When the draft started, I think 1 pm, myself and all of my classmates were sitting together around the pool area with all the other schools in attendance. Somewhere around 1:30 the buzzer on the pager went off and it read “Red Sox #17 call home.” I looked over to a friend of mine and told him I was just drafted by the Sox and once they announced it over the loud speaker the whole place cheered. It was pretty damn cool.

What do you remember most about your professional debut?: My pro debut was nothing spectacular, Since I signed late I had to wait until Instructional League to play in games. I think I played right field and didn't do anything at the plate. I think I made a diving catch though. My second game I went 4-for-5 with 3 doubles. Let’s call that one my debut. Hahhaha

In your opinion, who was the most talented player you ever played with or against? What made them stand out so much?: Without a doubt the most talented player was Josh Hamilton. I remember going to national showcases and he and I were always two of the best outfielders. My best tools were probably my arm and defense. I had so much confidence in my throwing ability I felt as though there was none better. I felt that until I threw next to Josh Hamilton. He was a step above where I was and no matter what I did I could not throw better. He was a special talent.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: My favorite moment was probably winning the State Championship in high school with all of my friends. We lost two years in a row and finally won our senior year. We had special group and we are all still very close friends.

How did you decide to add pitching to your repertoire so far into your pro career?: It happened randomly. There was an extra inning game where our team (Chattanooga Lookouts) was playing in West Tennessee. The Futures Game was going on the next day so our bullpen had to pick up our starting pitcher Homer Bailey, who was pitching in the Futures Game. The extra innings caused us to use almost everyone and our manager was asking if any position guys could throw. I said I would and went out there for two innings. Topped out at 95 and struck out five out of six. We ended up winning and I opened some eyes and some ideas from the club. I welcomed it and would do it all over again.

If there is anything you could go back and do differently about your baseball career, what would that be?: I would pay closer attention to how successful players go about their business. The mental aspect of the game was my biggest struggle. Talent was never an issue for me but learning how to play every day mentally and approaching the game in a different way could have helped me. Also, I would have surrounded myself with the correct people. I made a huge mistake with my agent choice when my agents split and learned about that business the hard way. I now work with the guy I should have been with because of his dedication and genuine caring about his clients. The person I stayed with was nowhere to be found when I needed him most. Now I vowed I would help educate and provide solid representation for those players going through the process as I have.

How difficult/easy is life as a minor leaguers?: Life as a Minor leaguer is difficult. The hardest part is always being away from home; away from family, friends and loved ones. You miss so much and sacrifice many things because of the life. I was very fortunate to have received a big signing bonus, which definitely helps during the season and mostly in the off season. Preparing for this life was something I did when I was young. I always wanted to play baseball and it was always in front of anything else in my life. That is the way it has to be for anyone to have a chance. Baseball has to trump all.