Good afternoon prospect watchers. Here we are again. Down to business.
***Yesterday's Minor League Ball Gameday thread has highlights and community discussion of Monday's events in organized baseball.
***Strong start yesterday for Arizona Diamondbacks prospect David Holmberg: nine innings for Double-A Mobile, with one hit, one walk, one run, and eight strikeouts. On the season he is 4-3, 2.31 ERA with a 58/24 K/BB in 90 innings with 76 hits allowed. Holmberg made 15 starts last year for Mobile with similarly solid results (3.60 ERA, 67/23 K/BB in 95 innings). I don't think he has much left to learn in the Southern League, and a promotion to Triple-A Reno could occur at any time. The Pacific Coast League will test him and he'll have to show that his command-oriented approach will work in that environment.
***Philadelphia Phillies prospect Mitch Gueller made his 2013 debut yesterday, throwing five innings for the Williamsport Crosscutters in the New York-Penn League. He gave up three hits, one walk, two unearned runs, fanning three. Gueller is a 6-3, 210 pound right-hander drafted in the supplemental first round last June out of high school in Rochester, Washington. He has a low-90s fastball with a chance for more velocity as he matures. His changeup was considered advanced for a high schooler, but his breaking ball needs work, or at least it did when he was drafted. We'll track it this summer. If all proceeds as the Phillies hope, Gueller can be a number three starter.
***Toronto Blue Jays infield prospect Andy Burns was on my pre-season sleeper list (which we will review soon) and is certainly making the most of his opportunity this year, going 3-for-5 last night, hitting .410 in his last 10 games, and hitting .321/.380/.523 overall for High-A Dunedin with 21 steals. He was an 11th round pick in 2011 from the University of Arizona.
***There was some grumbling a few weeks ago that Oakland Athletics shortstop prospect Addison Russell wasn't living up to expectations in the California League. It is true that he struggled most of April and May, but at age 19 he is very young for High-A, and it looks like the light has come on recently: he's hitting .373/.407/.667 since June 1st. His overall .249/.332/.467 line in 229 at-bats is respectable given the circumstances. My guess is that he'll perform well the rest of the year and by September his slow start will be forgotten.
***Today's schedule of minor league games.
***Examining the performance of my sleeper list is the next large project on my agenda. After that, I'm going to revise my Top 150 Prospects list.
***Andrew Shen at Beyond the Boxscore offers this very detailed breakdown of Gerrit Cole's first two starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates
***Don't forget it's Zack Wheeler Day. I predict 5.2 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, victory in a 10-5 Mets win.
Back in April, I posted a look at my Sleeper Alert! list from the 2013 Baseball Prospect Book. We have enough minor league data now to get a read for how the players on the list are doing, so let's take a look. This is players A through F.
Here are links to the original lists.
Sleeper Prospects for 2013, Part One
Sleeper Prospects for 2013, Part Two
Sleeper Prospects for 2013, Part Three
Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals: WHAT I WROTE IN APRIL: Age 19, right-hander from Dominican Republic generating considerable buzz this spring with strong command of plus/plus stuff. Could rank among elite pitching prospects in the game six months from now. RESULTS: 3.82 ERA with a 58/22 K/BB in 61 innings for Low-A Lexington, with 57 hits allowed. Reasonable performance especially given his age. Almonte started getting a lot of attention beyond Royals fandom shortly after the book went to press, so he isn't a "sleeper" type as much as the others.
D.J. Baxendale, RHP, Twins: WHAT I WROTE IN APRIL: Age 22, drafted from University of Arkansas in 10th round in '12. Doesn't burn radar but has exceptional command and posted a 31/2 K/BB in his first 19 pro innings. Inning-eater control type but could be a good one. RESULTS: Outstanding at High-A Fort Myers (1.10 ERA with a 48/11 K/BB in 57 innings), Baxendale has had a rougher time after moving up to Double-A New Britain (6.75 ERA, 14/7 K/BB in 23 innings) but this is not uncommon for finesse pitchers and he's shown the ability to adapt in the past.
Zach Bird, RHP, Dodgers: APRIL: Age 18, drafted in ninth round last year from high school in Jackson, Mississippi. Live arm, projectable, already throws in low-90s and could get faster, long-term investment type with high upside. Like Almonte, could rank much higher entering 2014. RESULTS: Reports on his stuff are positive, but he's shown serious command issues for Low-A Great Lakes, resulting in a 6.00 ERA and a 30/34 K/BB ratio in 36 innings. Given his age, there is plenty of time for improvement.
Kevin Brady, RHP, Phillies: APRIL: Age 22, drafted in 10th round last June from Clemson, could have gone higher if not for badly-timed injuries. Looked great after signing, posted 1.90 ERA with 54/7 K/BB in first 43 pro innings, throwing strikes with 90+ fastball, slider, changeup. RESULTS: Made six starts for Low-A Lakewood resulting in a 5.47 ERA and a 28/16 K/BB in 26 innings. He went on the disabled list in early May, then was sent to extended spring training. At this point we need to see if he's healthy.
Andy Burns, INF, Blue Jays: APRIL: Age 22, 11th round pick in 2011 from University of Arizona. Isn't likely to hit for average (he hit just .248 in Low-A), but he has some power, some speed, and defensive versatility around the infield. RESULTS: Hitting .321/.380/.523 with 25 walks, 37 strikeouts in 237 at-bats for High-A Dunedin, also stealing 21 bases. He's been excellent and should be moving up to Double-A sometime soon.
Daniel Camarena, LHP, Yankees: APRIL: Age 20, drafted in 20th round in 2011 from high school in San Diego. He's barely seen any action yet but he has a 15/0 K/BB in his first 18 pro innings in rookie ball, getting positive reviews for his curveball and fastball command. RESULTS: Not impressive thus far, with a 6.34 ERA and a 36/13 K/BB in 50 innings for Low-A Charleston, with 61 hits allowed. He's thrown strikes but has been very hittable.
Jharel Cotton, RHP, Dodgers: APRIL: Age 21, 20th round pick last year out of East Carolina University, where he threw 88-91 MPH. He went off to summer college ball, boosted his velocity into the mid-90s, then posted a 20/3 K/BB in 15 innings in rookie ball. RESULTS: 3.55 ERA with a 58/17 K/BB in 58 innings for Low-A Great Lakes, with 42 hits allowed. Reports on stuff were very good, earning him a promotion to Double-A (skipping High-A). He's thrown just 3.2 innings for Chattanooga thus far in a pair of relief outings, but has fanned five. So far, so good.
Jake DeGrom, RHP, Mets: APRIL: Age 24, ninth round pick in '10 from Stetson, missed '11 with Tommy John but came back strong in '12, throwing strikes and hitting mid-90s with his sinker. 2.95 ERA with 118/26 K/BB in 137 pro innings thus far. Often overlooked in Mets system but not for much longer. RESULTS: Made two starts for High-A St. Lucie, then moved up to Double-A Binghamton where he has a 4.80 ERA with a 44/20 K/BB in 60 innings with 69 hits allowed. I felt he was capable of better; he's had several very good games but the bad ones have trashed his stat line so far.
Logan Ehlers, LHP, Tigers: APRIL: Age 21, small-town Nebraska kid drafted in 20th round out of Howard Junior College in Texas last year, erratic track record but shows four pitches at his best. Very speculative at this point but I track the Midwesterners closely. RESULTS: Used in relief for Low-A West Michigan with poor results thus far, 5.92 ERA with a 16/15 K/BB in 24 innings, 32 hits. Reports indicate that he's gained weight, has struggled with his command, and is not showing the life on his pitches that he showed in college.
Roenis Elias, LHP, Mariners: APRIL: Age 24, signed out of Cuba in 2011, posted a 3.76 ERA with a 128/41 K/BB in 148 innings in High Desert last year, which is like pitching on the moon. Doesn't have tremendous velocity and easy to overlook in Mariners system, but showed great pitchability last year. Should be tracked. RESULTS: Good success so far in Double-A, with a 2.92 ERA and a 59/25 K/BB in 74 innings for Jackson with 65 hits allowed. Continues to fly under the radar, but continues to get people out.
Edwin Escobar, LHP, Giants: APRIL: Age 20, signed out of Venezuela by Rangers in ‘08, traded to Giants in '09 and now on 40-man roster. Velocity pushed into the 90s last year and he always threw strikes, posted 2.96 ERA with 122/32 K/BB in Low-A. The Giants know pitching. RESULTS: As with Almonte, Escobar got considerable attention in spring training after the book was finished. He's lived up to it with a 3.23 ERA and a sharp 73/14 K/BB in 56 innings for High-A San Jose.
Stay tuned for parts two and three.
New York Mets pitching prospect Zack Wheeler will make his major league debut today against the Atlanta Braves. Mets fans and thousands of fantasy owners have been waiting for this day with anticipation; let's take a look at what they might expect and make Wheeler today's Prospect of the Day.
Wheeler was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the first round, sixth overall, in the 2009 draft. Selected out of high school in Dallas, Georgia, he earned a bonus of $3,300,000. He signed right before the August deadline and didn't make his pro debut until 2010. He was rather inconsistent that year for Low-A Augusta in the South Atlantic League, posting a 3.99 ERA with a 70/38 K/BB in just 59 innings. Note the excellent strikeout rate, but too many walks, a by-product of unrefined secondary pitches. A cracked fingernail also bothered him much of the season.
The Giants sent Wheeler to High-A San Jose to open 2011. He posted a 3.99 ERA with a 98/47 K/BB in 88 innings, showing sharper command and better secondary stuff. He was traded to the Mets that summer for veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran, making six starts for High-A St. Lucie after the trade with excellent results (31/5 K/BB in 27 innings).
2012 was a breakout: 3.26 ERA with a 117/43 K/BB in 116 innings for Double-A Binghamton, followed by a 3.27 ERA with a 31/16 K/BB in 33 innings for Triple-A Buffalo. New York's Triple-A affiliate is in Las Vegas this year but Wheeler has remained effective in the tougher pitching environment, posting a 3.93 ERA in 68.2 innings with a 73/27 K/BB and 61 hits allowed.
Wheeler is listed at 6-4, 185, born May 30, 1990. He's got plenty of arm strength, sitting at 93-95 MPH and hitting the upper-90s at his best. He has two breaking pitches, a curveball which is often excellent, and a very solid slider. He has a changeup too, and as Craig Goldstein points out, it is major league average, which isn't a bad thing. Charlie Drysdale made similar observations back in April. Few major league pitchers have four pitches that work, and Wheeler does.
The key for Wheeler has been steady development of his command. The Giants tried to alter his mechanics back in '10 and the first part of '11, but Wheeler went back to his high school delivery shortly before the Beltran trade with good results. It works for him and he's shown consistent improvement in his command ever since.
Wheeler doesn't have much left to prove in the minors and the promotion is certainly deserved. As with any young pitcher, he made need some time to find his sea legs in the majors: not everyone can be Matt Harvey and dominate immediately. Overall, even if he doesn't get there right away, Wheeler projects as a number two starter.
Good afternoon prospect watchers. I hope you all had a good Father's Day weekend. Let's get down to business.
***I finally got my Integrating Baseball Knowledge post up this morning. Not many comments yet and I'm sorry if it seems to dry, but I've been working with those ideas for many months and it was finally time to get something down.
***Did you read Lee Warren's piece on the Negro Leagues Exhibit at the College World Series? You should.
***So Mark Appel and the Houston Astros have apparently come to an agreement. Assuming no last-second hitches, what would be your plans for Appel if you were the Astros? Where should he make his pro debut? High-A for a quick tuneup? Double-A immediately? How many innings would you expect from him this summer?
***The Texas Rangers signed a new prospect today, left-handed pitcher Francisco Cespedes from the Dominican Republic. He earned a $750,000 bonus. A 6-4, 195 pound lefty, he's a bit older than most Dominican signees at age 18, but I don't think that's a big deal; he's still plenty young. Perspective: a $750,000 bonus would slot at the top of the third round in MLB 2013 draft slot values. Ben Badler at Baseball America notes that teams are increasingly willing to invest money in "older" players from the Dominican, especially pitchers.
***Yesterday's Minor League Ball Gameday thread.
***Zack Wheeler of the New York Mets will be Prospect of the Day tomorrow. Someone asked for a retrospective on Corey Kluber so I'll put that on the list for later this week.
***Tampa Bay Rays prospect Taylor Guerrieri threw five shutout innings for Low-A Bowling Green yesterday, giving him a 2.50 ERA in 11 starts with a 43/10 K/BB in 54 innings, with 43 hits allowed and a 3.07 GO/AO. I always associate Guerrieri with Cincinnati Reds prospect Robert Stephenson, since both were hard-throwing high school right-handers drafted in 2011. Stephenson was just placed on the disabled list with Low-A Dayton due to a hamstring injury. Before getting hurt, he had a 2.97 ERA with an 85/17 K/BB in 67 innings with 52 hits allowed. They are both pitching well this spring and early summer, with Stephenson picking up more strikeouts and Guerrieri generating more ground balls.
***Milwaukee Brewers outfield prospect Tyrone Taylor is hitting .500 in his last 10 games for Low-A Wisconsin, giving him an overall line of .297/.355/.435 with 14 steals in 239 at-bats. A second-round pick last June from high school in California, Taylor is outplaying '12 first-rounder Victor Roache by a wide margin. The Georgia Southern power prospect is hitting just .209/.303/.341 in 50 games for the Timber Rattlers, struggling with contact (58 strikeouts in 182 at-bats).
***Chicago Cubs prospect Duane Underwood takes the mound tonight for short-season Boise in Northwest League action against Salem-Keizer. Underwood was a second-round pick in 2012 from high school in Marietta, Georgia, though the Cubs had to spend first-round money ($1.05 million) to sign him away from the University of Georgia. In high school he sometimes hit 98 MPH and showed a terrific curveball; other times he was down at 87-88 and had nothing going with the secondaries. Which Underwood will show up tonight?
***Today's slate of minor league baseball contests.
***The SBNation.com staff looks at their favorite baseball books. What are your favorites?
***Can you crack the Luhnow Code?
The Tampa Bay Rays have promoted outfield prospect Wil Myers to the major league roster and will insert him into the right field spot. Fantasy owners, Rays fans, and even some masochistic Royals fans have been waiting for this; what can they expect? Let's take a look.
Myers was drafted in the third round by the Royals in 2009 out of high school in High Point, North Carolina. His bat was considered first-round material, but questions about his ability to remain a catcher, plus a South Carolina scholarship, knocked him down two rounds. The Royals took a shot at him in the third and it took an overslot $2,000,000 bonus to get him into pro ball. His career began well with a .426/.488/.735 mark in 18 games for Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League.
Sent to Low-A Burlington to begin 2010, he hit .289/.408/.500 in 68 games, followed by a stunning .346/.453/.512 mark in 58 games after being promoted to High-A Wilmington. Converting to outfield to get his bat to the majors more quickly, he suffered through a variety of nagging injuries and hit just .254//.353/.393 in 99 games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2011.
2012 was much better: fully healthy, he hit .343/.414/.731 with 13 homers in 35 games in Double-A, then .304/.378/.554 with 24 homers in 99 games after being promoted to Triple-A Omaha. His 37 homers were second in the minors. He was clearly an elite prospect heading into 2013, though the Royals felt they needed pitching more than hitting and sent him to Tampa Bay this past December as the key prospect in the James Shields trade.
His performance for Triple-A Durham was a bit sluggish at first, but he's been driving the ball for power for several weeks now and has hit .339/.377/.696 in June, giving him an overall line of .286/.356/.520. When league context is considered, his 2013 season (wRC+ 133) is almost the same as his 2012 season (wRC+137). Overall, he's hit .297/.370/.541 with 38 homers, 136 RBI, 74 walks, and 169 strikeouts in 728 Triple-A plate appearances over 163 games.
Myers is a 6-3, 205 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born December 10, 1990. He's a good athlete with surprising mobility for an ex-catcher, with average running speed and a strong throwing arm. He's athletic enough that the Royals gave him playing time at both third base and center field last year, though ultimately his tools fit best in right. He has the requisite bat for a corner outfield spot, featuring power to all fields. He won't be a huge basestealer but he's efficient when given the opportunity to run, stealing seven bases in eight attempts this year and 36 out of 48 in his career.
His pure hitting skills are inconsistent: I've seen him take big hacks when he thinks he's getting a hittable pitch, which works fine when he gets something hittable and not so fine when he doesn't. He will go through phases when he tries to pull too much. However, I've also seen him work with what the pitcher gives him, showing the ability to go the other way when that's what he's focused on. His plate discipline was superb early in his career and he still shows a good feel for the zone at times, but he's also made a conscious effort to be more aggressive over the last two seasons, in order to boost his power production.
That's a two-edged sword. At his best, he can handle both fastballs and off-speed offerings, but his approach isn't always the best and he is vulnerable to breaking stuff and pitches outside the zone when in an over-aggressive mindset. I think this is a matter of emphasis rather than talent: he has a good natural eye, he just needs to decide how to use it, finding the right balance and developing intelligent aggression. I think he can do that.
Myers has learned all he can from Triple-A pitching; major leaguers will quickly expose any flaws in his approach. I think he has the ability to adapt. In the short run my expectation is that he'll produce power but be rather streaky and perhaps frustrating. In the medium and long runs, he's a prototypical power-hitting right fielder who should produce an impressive batting average and OBP to go with the power.
The statheads vs. traditionalists conflict has been going on in one form another for 30 years, though it accelerated after Moneyball. As many people have pointed out, the dichotomy between the two stances is overblown, but the dispute keeps simmering. Earlier this spring we had Hawk Harrelson vs. Brian Kenny. Then we had Mariners manager Eric Wedge blaming sabermetrics for the struggles of demoted second baseman and possibly-failed prospect Dustin Ackley.
The argument is wearisome at this point. It seems to me that both sides are talking past each other. Today I'd like to present something of a roadmap to hopefully move things forward.
This is based on ideas laid out by philosopher Ken Wilber, a founder of Integral Theory. Wilber doesn't write about sports (except in the sense that sports are part of the universe and he writes about the universe), but I've found some of his ideas useful in helping me organize my thinking about many things, including baseball. Be warned that Wilber writes a lot about spirituality and that might not be to everyone's taste. However, the esoteric stuff has nothing to do with what I'm getting at, so bear with me on this.
Wilber's basic ideas are too involved to lay out in detail here, but some introduction is necessary. This June 2012 article by Mark Manson is a good primer for Wilber's concepts and presents both his strengths and weaknesses as a thinker. More details about Wilber's work can be found here. Cribbing and paraphrasing from Manson, here are some basic beginning principles:
A) Few ideas, or people, are 100% right or 100% wrong. They merely vary in their degree of incompleteness.
B) Leaps in evolution or and gains in knowledge usually occur by "transcending and including" previous data or ideas, not by completely wiping out what came before. In biological evolution, for example, the development of the single-celled organism did not eliminate molecules or atoms, but included them in a greater order of complexity. According to Wilber, this pattern occurs in all phenomena, including the development of human knowledge. Rational thought does not exclude emotion, for example, but should include it as part of a greater developmental level of consciousness.
C) Knowledge generally advances by including and integrating what came before into something greater.
D) Perception contains and includes both interior and exterior modalities. Let's say I show you a picture of an attractive woman. Then I cut your brain open and track the neurons firing while you think about the woman. Which is real, the neuron firing observed by exterior observers? Or your internal experience of thinking about the hot woman?
While a biological reductionist might say that the only thing that matters is the neuron firing, the person thinking the thought would likely disagree. In human experience, both are real in their own way.
Now, what does all of this have to do with baseball? Stay with me and you'll see in a moment.
Wilber presents a model of knowledge called All Quadrants All Levels. Quoting from Wilber,
"What if we attempted. . .to use all of the world's great traditions to create a composite map, a comprehensive map, an all-inclusive or integral map that included the best elements of all of them?"
This essay by Eric Thompson delves into this aspect of Wilber's philosophy. Wilber attempts to map human experience with four quadrants of thought.
***The upper-left quadrant deals with interior, individual, subjective experiences: feelings and thoughts and emotions as experienced by individuals. This is the Individual Subjective realm.
***The upper-right quadrant deals with exterior, individual, objective experiences, things that have to do with the material body and can be measured scientifcally. This is the Individual Objective realm.
***The lower-left quadrant deals with interior, group-oriented subjective experiences such as culture, shared values, shared emotional experiences, certain disciplines of history, qualitative politics, group psychology. This is the Collective Subjective realm.
***The lower-right quadrant deals with exterior, group-oriented, objective experiences. This would include things like economics and quantitative social science or historical study, and some forms of sociology. This is the Collective Objective realm.
You can draw a map.
Note that these areas can overlap and that all of us operate in all of these quadrants, as individuals and groups. All quadrants are interrelated, and (according to Wilber and his followers anyway) any good system of knowledge has to account for human experience at all these levels.
So where's the baseball?
Well let's take the different forms of baseball knowledge that are out there and place them in these quadrants.
***The upper-left quadrant, Individual Subjective: In baseball terms, this is where player psychological makeup comes in: the interior experience of the player, his work ethic, instincts, feel for the game, level of confidence, intelligence, maturity. When a baseball person talks about the importance of personality and makeup, he's looking at baseball from this point of view.
***The upper-right quadrant, Individual Objective: This is the physicality of baseball: pitcher mechanics, a hitter's swing, fielding footwork, how to run the bases, how to throw, the mechanics of the game. When a scout breaks down a hitter's swing or a pitching coach works with a pitcher on his mechanics, they are looking at the game from this point of view. Sabermetric studies of individual players also come in here.
***The lower-left quadrant, Collective Subjective: In baseball terms, this is where clubhouse chemistry and organizational culture comes in. When baseball people talk about a bad clubhouse (or a good one) or a team that lacks (or has) clubhouse leaders, they are looking at it from this point of view.
***The lower-right quadrant, Collective Objective: This is where team sabermetrics come in. Most knowledge advancement in baseball has occurred in this quadrant over the last 25 years.
Again, these things can overlap and influence one another. A player's subjective experiences can certainly impact his objective performance and vice versa.
Now, with this in mind, let's say your team sucks and you are trying to figure out why.
Grumpy Ancient TV Commentator says your team sucks because the clubhouse is toxic. He talks about the importance of team chemistry. In so doing, he is describing the emotional experience of the clubhouse and is looking at the problem from a collective subjective viewpoint. Perhaps he is drawing on his own experience as a former player.
Smarty Stathead says your team sucks because the on-base percentage is too low. In so doing, he is looking at and measuring the problem from a quantitative, collective objective lower-right viewpoint.
Smarty Stathead is correct. . .the OBP is too low. . .but that doesn't mean that the Grumpy Ancient TV Commentator coming from the lower-left quadrant is necessarily wrong. They can both be right and are describing something real.
On the upper side of the map, Grizzled Old Scout says that your right fielder sucks because he is lazy and immature, or lacks instincts, or his confidence isn't very good. He's looking at it from the upper left, individual subjective viewpoint and focusing on the interior experience of the individual player.
Coachy Coach, looking at the problem from the upper right and the individual objective view, believes that the problem can be fixed with a tweak to the right fielder's hitting mechanics. Meanwhile, Smarty Stathead, also looking at the issue from further to the upper right individual objective but using quantitative descriptive methods, points out that the sucky right fielder is hitting .097 when down in the count 0-2 and that his Pitch f/x data shows he can't handle anything on the outer half.
So who is right? Well, they all are, or at least they are all describing part of the truth. Grumpy TV Commentator, Smarty Stathead, Grizzled Scout, and Coachy Coach are all describing something real, just from a different area on the map. The fact that the individual objective quadrant exists does not mean that the individual subjective quadrant, or any of the other quadrants, does not also exist.
It is true that some arguments within each quadrant are better than others. Modern physics, for example, describes the physical workings of the universe in a more accurate way than the physics of the 15th century. In baseball terms, we know far more about the individual objective and collective objective realms than we did 20 years ago, thanks to the advances in sabermetics. Our understandings within each quadrant are richer and deeper than they once were, and our knowledge of how the various quadrants interact is also deeper than it once was.
So why all the arguing?
I think the problem comes when people get locked into one way of viewing an issue and assume that people looking at the problem from a different quadrant are wrong or stupid. We are all human; all of us are better at viewing problems from certain angles than others. Wisdom is being able to understand the best arguments from all quadrants and finding a way to incorporate them in a larger view, or at least appreciate them.
Most people know the "stathead vs. traditionalist" argument is simplistic and I think most people have an intuitive understanding of what these maps are trying to point out. There is also a large component that I haven't addressed yet, namely how hierarchies of knowledge incorporate and supersede (not necessarily destroy, although sometimes they do) earlier viewpoints.
But that's for a different day.
As College World Series (CWS) fans stroll the perimeter outside TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha and enter Baseball Village located just south of the stadium, they encounter many great entertainment opportunities, but none as important as the two traveling exhibits sponsored by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
One exhibit, "Times, Teams & Talent," showcases the history of the Negro Leagues through stories and photos as well as facts about the various teams. It includes a list of 116 "barrier breakers" – African-American and Latino players who "endured the grueling process of integrating Major League and Minor League baseball organizations throughout North America" as well as a photo of Branch Rickey signing Jackie Robinson.
Photo: Lee Warren
The other exhibit, "They Were All Stars," includes 24 large panels of Negro League players who went on to become Major League All-Stars. Each panel is packed full of facts and statistics about each player.
Photo: Lee Warren
The Great Plains Black History Museum (GPBHM) in Omaha is facilitating the exhibits at the CWS. I had a chance to talk to GPBHM chairman and president Jim Beatty today at TD Ameritrade Park about how fans are receiving the exhibits and about the content of those exhibits.
"We estimate about 75 or 80% of our visitors are from out of town," Beatty said. The exhibits opened to the public on Friday and about 400 people streamed through. "After they have visited, many have stopped and said, ‘Thanks for bringing it. I didn’t realize some of the history.’ Some mentioned they have been to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. And all have been very, very supportive."
After becoming engrossed in the history, some even had stories of their own to share.
A couple of men who had just stopped to view the Robinson display told Beatty about a news story they heard about a woman named Sue McEntee in Des Moines who recently nearly sold a baseball bat at a garage sale that is believed to have once been owned by Robinson. Her asking price was one dollar. She had no idea it probably once belonged to Robinson, but an honest potential customer, Bruce Scapecchi, pointed it out to her. Her kids have grown up playing with the bat in the family’s back yard.
Turns out that her uncle was a left-handed pitcher named Joe Hatten and he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers when Robinson was on the team. He must have acquired the bat at some point and it ended up in McEntee’s household. Needless to say, McEntee pulled the bat out of the garage sale and plans to keep it. It sounds like the bat will still need to be authenticated, but if it turns out to be the real deal, Beatty is planning to contact her to see if she will allow the museum to show the bat.
Speaking of stories, Beatty told me about a boy who stopped by the exhibit. He said the boy was maybe 10 years old, sporting a Mohawk and a temporary LSU tattoo on the side of his head. Beatty was struck by the way the boy appeared to be looking up into the eyes of Robinson's photo, as if he were talking to him. And in a way, the picture Beatty snapped of the boy doing so really might be worth a thousand words. At the very least, it shows how the exhibit can bridge the generations.
Robinson’s legacy has a way of doing that. The movie "42" has stirred up interest in Robinson and the Negro Leagues in general.
"Everyone coming in, especially the kids, the first thing they ask about is Jackie Robinson," Beatty said. "So we point them to the display. The movie has been a huge plus in terms of increasing awareness of not only Jackie Robinson, but also the courage of many – not the least of whom was Branch Rickey – in order to make that happen."
As time passes, some of the names of the players in the Negro Leagues are slipping from our collective consciousness and many young people may have never heard of some of these players, making exhibits like these even more important.
"We’ve got to continue to tell their stories," Beatty said. "Once people view these exhibits it piques their interest and they want to know more."
The exhibits will be on display through June 30 in Baseball Village from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., seven days a week. Photos are welcome and admission is free. Donations are accepted to help offset the expenses of the exhibit and to help further the educational opportunities the museum offers.
I have been banned from the computer for Father's Day. I don't know what's going on, so here is your Gameday thread. Behave yourselves.