November 2006

Game of the Week for November 19

Mike Napoli with Rancho Cucamonga in 2004
Mike Napoli was a month away from his major league debut when he went 4-for-5 on opening night at Tucson.

It’s a little early for the November 19 Game of the Week, but I’m going to be out of town so I’m posting it now.

This is the opening night game of the 2006 season for the Salt Lake Bees at Tucson. Joe Saunders is on the mound for the Bees. It’s a big game for Mike Napoli, who goes 4-for-5 with a double.

Plenty other future Angels are in the lineup — Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Dallas McPherson, Kendry Morales, Tommy Murphy, and Reggie Willits.

It also happens to be the first game for this franchise playing under the name “Bees.” They’d been the Stingers since 2001, and the Buzz before that. The name Bees came from Salt Lake baseball history, as many professional baseball teams in Salt Lake over the decades were called Bees. New owner Larry H. Miller decided to restore the name he remembered from his childhood growing up in Salt Lake City.

Click here to listen to the recording. You need Windows Media Player to play the download.

Game of the Week for November 12

Jered Weaver with Rancho Cucamonga in 2005
Jered Weaver began his pro career in June 2005 with Rancho Cucamonga, but finished the year pitching in the Texas League playoffs for Arkansas.

Jered Weaver was selected by the Angels in the first round of the June 2004 draft, passed up by eleven other teams who thought him unsignable because his advisor was notorious super-agent Scott Boras.

For nearly a year, it looked like those eleven teams were right as Weaver sat on the sidelines holding out until the signing deadline one week before the June 2005 draft.

Literally at the last hour, Weaver signed a minor league contract for a $4 million bonus, and reported to High-A Rancho Cucamonga where he began to pitch back into shape. Jered appeared in his first game on June 20, and after seven starts was promoted to Double-A Arkansas in late July.

The Travelers, meanwhile, were a tale of two halves. They finished 34-36 in the Texas League East Division’s first half, last in the four-team division. But in the second half, the Travs finished first with a 37-33 record. In addition to Weaver, other future Angels leading the team were first baseman Kendry Morales, catcher Mike Napoli, outfielders Tommy Murphy and Reggie Willits, shortstop Erick Aybar, and second baseman Howie Kendrick.

So in the first round of the East Division playoffs, the Travs faced the Tulsa Drillers, who’d won the first half.

Arkansas swept the series 3-0, the final win with Jered Weaver on the mound turning in one of his best starts of 2005.

One year later, Weaver was in the major leagues, finishing his first major league season at 11-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 19 starts.

This week’s Minor League Game of the Week features Weaver’s playoff start against Tulsa, called by Travs broadcaster Phil Elson.

Click here to listen to the recording. You need Windows Media Player to play the download.

Next week, we’ll begin with replays of selected games from the 2006 season.

Angels Pitching Coach Candidates

The official announcement comes today, but Angels management has already acknowledged that pitching coach Bud Black is leaving to manage the San Diego Padres.

Orange County Register discusses possible replacements
, including former
Dodgers / Mets / Red Sox pitching coach Dave Wallace. Writer Bill Plunkett mentions minor
league roving pitching instructor Keith Comstock and Salt Lake pitching Charles Nagy.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times suggests former minor league rover Mike Butcher
who left last year for Tampa Bay with Joe Maddon, might still be a possibility.

I’ll toss in two more names, longtime minor league pitching coaches Kernan Ronan and Zeke Zimmerman. If
you want a real dark-horse name, let’s add to the list Salt Lake manager Brian Harper. He was a catcher
during his playing years, and many catchers have gone on to roles as pitching coach — Zeke Zimmerman
being one of them.

My gut tells me Dave Wallace may be the guy, although the Angels under GM Bill Stoneman tend to
promote from within.

Elsewhere …

Matt Hurst of the Riverside Press-Enterprise speculates that the Angels may pursue Barry Zito
as a free agent
, and if signed could lead to a blockbuster trade dangling one of their young arms.

Game of the Week for November 5, 2006

Jordan Renz with Provo in 2004
Jordan Renz hit “The Shot Heard ‘Round Provo” to win the Pioneer League pennant for the Provo Angels on September 13, 2004.

The Angels Minor League Game of the Week for November 5 is another classic. It’s September 13, 2004. The Provo Angels host the Billings Mustangs in Game 2 of the Pioneer League Championship Series.

The Pioneer League is a short-season league, so their title series is best-of-three. Provo won the first game in Billings, then both teams bussed back to Provo for Game 2.

The game was important for other reasons. It was to be the last game ever for the Provo Angels. The next summer, they moved six miles west on University Parkway to a shared facility with Utah Valley State College in Orem. The team changed its name to the Orem Owlz.

The Provo Angels’ franchise had moved from Helena for the 2001 season. They rented Larry H. Miller Field, the BYU college team’s ballpark, that first year with the understanding that the City of Provo was going to build them a permanent stadium. But it never happened, for reasons as varied as the opinions you get.

BYU made it clear that they wouldn’t extend the lease past 2004, so win or lose the Provo Angels would cease to exist after the playoff series. If not for the UVSC deal, the franchise probably would have left Utah County, perhaps even the state of Utah.

Anyway, back to the championship game …

The score was tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the 8th. Outfielder Jordan Renz hit a two-run homer that gave Provo a 4-2 lead. Closer Mitch Arnold struck out the side in the 9th to give the Angels the title.

My own personal story with this game is that my wife and I drove up to Provo for the game. I sidekicked with broadcaster/Assistant GM Zachary Fraser during the middle innings, then ran back downstairs to videotape highlights.

Since Provo had no radio contract, Zach was using a laptop to webcast the playoff games over the Internet, for an audience that probably consisted mostly of players’ parents. That’s why you don’t hear any commercials on the recording. It’s just Zach talking to a microphone plugged into a laptop. Today Zach is the Owlz’ GM, one of the youngest GMs in the minors.

Click here to listen to the recording. You need Windows Media Player to play the download.

As a bonus, here’s the footage I shot on the field as Provo won the game and celebrated on the field.

You need Windows Media Player to watch the video.

Kernels Reveal New Logo

New Cedar Rapids Kernels Logo
The new Cedar Rapids Kernels logo replaces the “classic” 1993 version.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels unveiled today their new logos and jerseys for 2007.

It’s a radical departure from the “classic” cornstalk and baseball on a diamond that
symbolized Kernels baseball since 1993.

For many years, the Kernels uniforms emulated those of the parent club Angels. But now they’ll
have their own unique identity, following a trend common in minor league baseball these days. Minor
league teams want to establish an identity independent of their parent club affiliate, especially
should that affiliation change. The casual fan won’t know (or care) who supplied the players, but
the uniforms remain the same so it’s the same “brand” of entertainment as far as
they’re concerned.

The face on the bat has me wondering whether this means the demise of Mr. Shucks, the longtime
mascot of the Kernels. Mr. Shucks looked pretty much like the classic logo. The bat’s face on
the new logo looks suspiciously like someone has an idea for a new mascot.

I’m an unabashed traditionalist, so personally I preferred the old logo. But I don’t live in
Cedar Rapids so my opinion doesn’t count. If it makes the Kernels more money and helps pay off the
bond debt on the new stadium, then it’s a fair tradeoff.

Click Here to read the Kernels’ press release
and view more of the new logo, as well as the new jerseys and caps.