February 2008

This ‘N That

Irvine Police have issued an arrest warrant for former Angel Scott Spiezio.

I’ve been extremely busy with a non-baseball project.  I’ll talk about it when I can.

You probably know that Frankie Rodriguez lost his arbitration hearing.  He’ll have to scrape by this year on just $10 million.  I still think he’ll depart as a free agent this winter.

Otherwise, so far it seems to be a blissfully quiet spring.  No injuries of note.

Here in my home town, the Irvine Police have issued a warrant for the arrest of former Angel Scott Spiezio.  He’s charged with drunk driving, hit-and-run and assault.  The St. Louis Cardinals released Spiezio this afternoon after the story broke.

That’s all I can talk about right now.  I’ll be at the minor league camp games March 16-18.  The minor league spring training schedule is on the FutureAngels.com home page.

Frankie’s Future

Francisco Rodriguez told the press Sunday that 2008 is "probably" his last season with the Angels.

The story du jour in the Sunday papers was Ervin Santana. Today it’s Francisco Rodriguez.

Which further demonstrates what I wrote yesterday about the local press being steered by the Angels’ Media Relations, but I digress.

Today’s editions of the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register and Riverside Press-Enterprise all report that Frankie answered "Probably" when asked if he thought 2008 will be his last year with the Angels.

Rodriguez will be a free agent after this season. He’s scheduled to go to arbitation in a few days. The Angels have offered $10 million. Rodriguez wants $12.5 million. If he wins, that would be the equivalent of being paid $185,643.66 for each inning he pitched in 2007. If he loses, he’d be paid the impoverished wage of $148,514.93.

For ten minutes of work, he’d make more than I get paid in a year and a half.

I wrote last October, shortly after Frankie decided to test his manhood by challenging Manny Ramirez with a fastball that seconds later cost the Angels Game #2 of the ALDS, that the Angels should consider trading Rodriguez. Subsequent events didn’t turn out as I suggested, but the reality remains that Rodriguez is likely to leave Anaheim next winter.

Knowing Frankie a little from his minor league days, I suspect his ego wants Mariano Rivera money, and that’s confirmed by the newspaper articles suggesting a deal near Rivera’s recent three-year, $45 million contract with the Yankees is what the Angels would have to offer to keep him here.

Rodriguez had been a starter during his minor league career, but the Angels moved him to the bullpen for 2002. His mechanics were violent, which led to repetitive injuries, and he stubbornly refused to work on his secondary pitches. The Angels decided to put him in the Arkansas bullpen. Travs manager Doug Sisson told me in May 2002 he was directed to use Frankie two to three times a week, 30 to 45 pitches an appearance. How and when was up to him.

Although he hated it, Frankie blossomed in the role. He found he no longer needed to work on a changeup because he was going to face the opposition lineup only once. He could throw his fastball and slider to his heart’s content. After closer Charlie Thames injured his elbow and eventually retired, Rodriguez became the full-time Travs closer and was promoted to Triple-A in July.

Shortly after Rodriguez was promoted from Double-A Arkansas to Triple-A Salt Lake in July 2002, I was in Salt Lake City for a few days’ photography with the Stingers (now called the Bees). I interviewed him for an article that was later published in the Halo Insider magazine sold at Angel Stadium.

After the interview, we just talked since we’d known each other from Lake Elsinore and Rancho Cucamonga days. I told Frankie I’d looked up Rivera’s history, and found that Mariano had also been a starter early in his career; in fact, during his first season in 1995, Rivera started ten games for the Yankees before moving to the bullpen full-time in 1996. Frankie seemed to light up when I compared him to Rivera, a reaction I’ve always remembered.

My guess is that Rodriguez wants to be seen as the next Rivera, which is why he wants Rivera money.

If Rivera hadn’t just signed his contract with the Yankees, I’d fully expect Frankie to be wearing Yankees pinstripes next year. He might anyway, if he’s willing to pitch setup for Rivera to be his teammate. Failing that, Rodriguez could wind up anywhere, most likely with the team willing to offer him the most money. Although he’s told the press he enjoys working for the Angels, he views the game as a business and will go where it’s most lucrative. Don’t expect a "hometown discount" from Frankie because he doesn’t see it that way.

The Angels could bolster their relief corps in a trade, but Rodriguez won’t bring too much if his contract costs $10 million or $12.5 million, and he can walk at season’s end. Absent a trade, the Angels have some depth in their system or could move a starter to the bullpen.

Kelvim Escobar or Ervin Santana would be the likely candidates. Escobar has bullpen experience, but normally you want guys with a large pitching repertoire in the starting rotation. That’s because a starter goes through the opposing lineup three or four times, and wants to show batters different pitches each time. With a reliever, his repertoire can be limited, needing only one "plus" pitch to get batters out. Santana lacks the bullpen experience, but his confidence issue might be a concern should he move to the closer role.

Another scenario might be to move Justin Speier or Scot Shields into the closer role. Both have been setup guys but seem mature enough to handle the closer role. Of course, that would leave their current jobs open.

The Angels have a few internal candidates.

Jason Bulger, 29, was acquired from Arizona for Alberto Callaspo in February 2006. Injuries and mechanical problems set back his development. In 2007, his overall ERA was 3.76 with an opponents’ AVG of .249 and a 1.42 WHIP. But as I’ve often written, with Salt Lake you have to look at home/road splits due to the high elevation. On the road, Bulger had a 1.93 ERA, .179 AVG and 1.11 WHIP. The big number, though, is his SO/IP ratio. Jason struck out 81 in 52 2/3 innings (he walked 24).

Aussie Rich Thompson, 23, could probably use another year at Triple-A although he did make his Angels debut in September after the rosters expanded. He’s known as "Chop" for his plus curve ball.

Down the line, Jose Arredondo and Darren O’Day are probably 1-2 years away. Arredondo, 24 in March, was converted from the infield in 2004 and features high-90s velocity. He had a meltdown at Arkansas in 2007. Jose was insubordinate to his manager on the field, then took a swing at teammate Curtis Pride. Arredondo was suspended, then demoted to Rancho Cucamonga where he posted a 6.43 ERA. O’Day, 25, is a submariner who was signed as an amateur free agent by Tom Kotchman. Darren split 2007 between Rancho and Arkansas, then went to the Arizona Fall League.

Whether he wins or loses his arbitration hearing, I really don’t think it’s going to have any impact on Frankie’s pending free agency. In my opinion, his ego wants to have a Mariano Rivera type of contract, and he’ll go where he can get it. Trading your closer in spring training obviously creates upheaval, but it might be the best move in the long run.

This ‘N That

Ervin Santana is all smiles again after a strong winter league campaign in the Dominican Republic.

In no particular order of importance …

I’m busy working on a non-baseball project that will eat up a lot of my free time the next few days. If something of actual importance happens, I’ll weigh in, of course.

I’m also dealing with a back problem. Nothing that appears to require surgery — so far — but for now I have to limit my time sitting in front of a computer.

The 2008 minor league spring training schedule is on FutureAngels.com, which is the only place on the Internet where you’ll find it. FutureAngels.com functions as an unofficial web site for the minor league complex, posting schedules for spring training, summer league and fall ball. The schedule includes links to maps showing where each game will be played, so if you’re lost around Phoenix you can print these maps to get you around.

Right now, I’m scheduled to work the March 16-18 games. As always, I’ll have video on-line, each night if possible. FutureAngels.com is the only place on the Internet where you’ll find video from the Angels minor league spring training.

Across the parking lot, players are reporting now to major league camp, which means beat writers are also reporting to camp. The Angels’ Media Relations try to steer reporters to certain stories, which is why you’ll see the Times, Register and Press-Enterprise run largely similar articles. Media Relations schedules a block of time for Mike Scioscia to meet the press, so they all get the same notes and quotes.

Today’s story du jour is Ervin Santana. Last summer, Ervin got ripped by certain elements of the press, and the fan sites as usual engaged in a knee-jerk dismissal of his future. Well, as I’ve written many times, the problem was mechanics, and mechanics can be corrected, but some people just want to write off a player as a "bust" without engaging their brain to figure out why a player is struggling. Today’s articles disclose that Ervin had a mechanical problem with his hip and shoulder flying open, causing his pitches to flatten out.

Mechanics are a habit, and a habit comes from repetition. If you add up pitches thrown in a game, warmups, bullpens between starts, spring training and whatnot, a pitcher probably winds up and throws somewhere around 5,000 to 10,000 times a year. If a flaw creeps in, and you keep repeating that flaw, soon it becomes habit and you just don’t think about it. Bad habits can’t be fixed overnight, as you have to consciously force yourself not to do what you’ve been doing wrong, and during a game a pitcher wants to concentrate on the contest and not remembering to fix a flaw.

The big baseball story this week was the Roger Clemens / Brian MacNamee melodrama on Capitol Hill. I just can’t get excited about it. In my opinion, the only reason Congress is involved at all is that Major League Baseball is incapable of policing itself. Without Congressional pressure, illegal drug use would probably be rampant in MLB. Let’s face it, owners are in this to make a buck, and people will gladly pay a lot a money to watch Barry Bonds hit homers or Roger Clemens strike out batters. If you had told their fans that Bonds and Clemens were juicing, few of them would have cared. They just want the gratification of entertainment.

Athletes are competitive, and the most successful athletes are those who are the most competitive. That means pushing their bodies to the limit, and to go beyond that limit may require the use of illegal drugs. But let’s not overlook that steroids and HGH weren’t banned by MLB until a few years ago, and much of the reported abuse occurred before then. Barry Bonds is alleged to have used substances so chemically altered that they may not be covered by law.

So rather than argue over legal technicalities or records with asterisks, I’d rather they just concentrate on purging the game of these substances and move on. You’ll never be 100% successful, because if the difference between a dream major league career or a life selling insurance is injecting yourself with chemical enhancements, it’s hard to convince many people to give up millions of dollars for a few thousand.

In closing … I want to encourage you to sign up for the FutureAngels.com bulletin board. With a blog format, you can only respond to my articles. On the bulletin board, you can start your own topics. The MLBlog format requires you to use your e-mail address as a screen name, which is an invasion of privacy in my opinion, but on the bulletin board you can create your own screen name and protect your privacy.

The Minor League Game of the Week

Michael Collins hit three singles in the Travs’ July 26 game against Tulsa.

July 26, 2007 — The Arkansas Travelers go twelve innings against the Tulsa Drillers.

This game was historic for reasons far more important than who won and who lost.

Four days earlier, on July 22, Tulsa first base coach Mike Coolbaugh was killed by a line drive in the 9th inning of a game at Arkansas. The schedule ironically brought Tulsa back to Dickey-Stephens Park four days later, having to return all too soon to where the tragedy occurred.

The baseball world rallied around Coolbaugh’s family and the Drillers. Before the July 26 game, Travs players stood at the ballpark entrance and collected donations. When Tulsa took the field defensively in the bottom of the 1st, the Travs fans gave them a standing ovation.

You can still donate to support the Coolbaugh family. Click Here to visit the MiLB.com Mike Coolbaugh Memorial Fund page.

The Travs came into this game with an eight-game winning streak, moving into the second-half divisional race. Starting for Arkansas was Brok Butcher, his third start after a promotion from Rancho Cucamonga. Butcher had allowed no earned runs in his first two starts, continuing a remarkable season with a 2.69 ERA for the Quakes in the California League.

Click Here to listen to the game. You need Windows Media Player.

The Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers of Fullerton

Continuing my research into the early days of the Angels minor leagues …

As previously discussed, in their inaugural 1961 season the Angels had only two minor league affiliates — the Triple-A Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers, and the Class D Statesville (NC) Owls.

The Angels received their American League franchise in December 1960, and had only three months to assemble a squad of players before spring training opened in Palm Springs. That history has been well-documented, but the birth of the minor league system has gone unnoted until I began writing about it a couple years ago.

Some players came from the expansion draft on December 14, 1960. The Angels and Washington Senators each selected 28 players that day. Some of the players went directly to the parent club, while others such as Jim Fregosi, Bob Rodgers and Dean Chance reported to a minor league team in 1961.

As I wrote on February 5, while the likely big leaguers reported to Palm Springs, the minor leaguers reported to a camp in Riverside at Evans Park. That camp was not an Angels minor league camp, however. It was the camp of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers, independently owned and operated. DFW could sign, acquire and sell its own players, and could affiliate with more than one major league organization. That 1961 Riverside camp had several players who belonged to the Rangers, such as Hugh Pepper, Ray Jablonski and **** Littlefield, but the Angels also sent there Fregosi, Rodgers, Chance and others such as Jack Hiatt.

The Rangers also affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies, who already had a Triple-A team in Buffalo. It appears that Buffalo was considered the more advanced Triple-A team in their system, so the "leftovers" went to DFW.

I’ve been told by many original "future Angels" that 1961 was very chaotic, with players coming and going, no apparent rhyme or reason to the madness. The Angels were churning through players in the hope of quickly fielding a competitive team in Los Angeles. Patience did not seem to be a virtue in the Angels front office (unlike today).

Adding to the confusion was that the assignment of player contracts worked differently than today. As I work to build the FutureAngels.com Database, I’m trying to figure out whether DFW players belonged to the Angels, Phillies or Rangers. It seems some contracts constantly went back and forth, with a gentleman’s understanding that although the Angels might sell a player to the Rangers, the Angels had first say on the player should the Rangers want to move him in a deal. It wasn’t unusual to see multi-team arrangements as the Angels and Rangers scrambled to stock their rosters, with Angels players assigned to other organization’s farm clubs. Leo Burke wound up with Cleveland’s Triple-A team, the Salt Lake City Bees. Aubrey Gatewood pitched for Des Moines, a Phillies’ affiliate in the now-defunct Class B Three-I League. Fred Newman pitched for Pittsburgh affiliate Burlington in the same league. Outfielder Ron Ross was assigned to the Double-A Macon Peaches, an independent team in the Southern Association. And Dan Ardell spent a month with the Artesia Dodgers in the Class D Sophomore League.

DFW ownership had its own issues. The franchise was once two teams, the Dallas Rangers and the Ft. Worth Cats. They were in the Double-A Texas League in 1958, then moved over to the Triple-A American Association in 1959 hoping to position themselves for possible entry into a proposed third major league called the Contintental League. The two businesses merged for 1960 into the Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers, playing games in both Dallas and Ft. Worth.

When the Continental League never materialized and the A.L. didn’t award an expansion franchise to Dallas-Ft. Worth, DFW ownership sold the team in Janaury 1961 to Ray Johnston. The Rangers only owned a couple players and had no affiliation, terminating their 1960 relationship with the Kansas City Athletics.

With both organizations in chaos and only a couple months until spring training, somehow the Angels and Rangers found each other.

A year later, Johnston was eager to field a more competitive team. The Rangers finished 72-77 in 1961, fifth in the six-team league, missing a post-season playoff berth by ½ game. Several Angel farmhands made the league’s All-Star team — Jim Fregosi, Bob Rodgers, Jack Spring — and Gene Autry himself visited DFW in August with GM Fred Haney. The Angels pledged to play an exhibition game next spring in DFW against the NL’s new Houston Colt 45s, but Johnston could see the chaos in the Angels front office and started looking out for his own interests.

The Rangers opened their 1962 camp in Fullerton, having spent only one spring in Riverside. The Dallas Morning News politely described Evans Park as too small for the Rangers’ needs, but their new base at Amerige Park in Fullerton wasn’t much different. The Angels had established their own minor league base at nearby La Palma Park in north Anaheim. As they did in 1961, the Rangers played PCL teams camped in Ontario and San Bernardino, but also frequently played the Angels minor leaguers in Anaheim.

The Rangers’ needs sometimes were second priority to the Angels. It wasn’t unusual for the Angels to supply pitchers for both teams when Fullerton and Anaheim played. The Rangers would have to wait for reinforcements until the Angels made their spring training cuts.

The Angels’ system expanded in 1962 from two to five affiliations, adding a Triple-A team in Honolulu, the Hawaii Islanders. The DFW roster had more Phillies properties and more players owned by the Rangers. Angels talent seemed mostly to go elsewhere. The Rangers that year finished last at 59-90, so Johnston gave both the Angels and Phillies the boot.

The historic American Association, founded in 1902, disbanded after the 1962 season. DFW found itself in the PCL for 1963, and a full affiliation with the Minnesota Twins. According to the Dallas Morning News, “The agreement with the Angels, which was in force in 1961-62, was not renewed, Johnston indicated, because the Los Angeles club ‘has about run out, temporarily at least, of sufficient players of triple-A caliber.’”

1962, of course, was the miracle year for Los Angeles. The Angels were in first place on July 4th and still contended in early September before finishing third. Believing they were closer than they really were, the Angels promoted to L.A. what young talent they had or began trading it off for fading veterans. Johnston could see the handwriting on the proverbial wall, so he sought another affiliation. The Rangers finished 79-79 in 1963, while the Angels’ Hawaii affiliate finished 81-77. Neither went to the playoffs.

Most Angels fans know that the team’s early spring training base was in Palm Springs, but few know that Angels cleats also trod ground those early years in the Inland Empire and Orange County. There were Angels in Anaheim long before the 1966 move from Los Angeles. They were in Riverside and Fullerton too.

APBPA Banquet

The original Future Angels (left to right): Dan Ardell, Roland Hemond, and **** Simpson.

The Association of Professional Ball Players of America held its 83rd annual dinner last night in Long Beach.

You’ve probably never heard of the APBPA. It began in 1924, founded to provide financial assistance for players, coaches, umpires, scouts, clubbies and anyone else associated with professional baseball, major or minor leagues.

The Association has grown to 11,000 current members. Those on the Board of Directors are Sparky Anderson, Tony Gwynn, Orel Hershiser, Whitey Herzog, Tony LaRussa, Tommy Lasorda, Brooks Robinson, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scioscia, and Tom Seaver.

Roland Hemond is President. Best known as the former General Manager of the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles, Roland was also the Angels’ first farm and scouting director back in 1961. He’s been described as "the John Wooden of baseball." If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that Roland has been very helpful with my research into the origins of the Angels minor leagues. Click Here to listen to a 2007 FutureAngels.com interview with Roland Hemond.

I found out about APBPA through Dan Ardell, an original Future Angel signed by Hemond out of USC in the spring of 1961; after a brief stint on loan to the Artesia Dodgers, Ardell joined the Angels in September 1961. Click Here to listen to a 2005 FutureAngels.com interview with Dan Ardell.

Dan has also been very helpful with my research and invited me to join him, figuring it would be an opportunity to meet other players from those early days. One was Bob "Buck" Rodgers, the Angels’ catcher for most of the 1960s who was later an Angels manager in the 1990s. Buck played for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate, the Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers, in 1961, which I’ve been writing about this past week. We spoke briefly about my work and hopefully we’ll arrange an interview.

Dan also invited **** Simpson to the banquet. Signed by the Angels in March 1961 out of Venice High School, **** was one of the first four Angels players to report to Statesville, North Carolina to join the Class D Statesville Owls. (The other three were Jack Hiatt, Glade Cookus and George Conrad.) Simpson has been away from the game for many years, so this was a chance to reconnect not just with baseball but former teammate Dan Ardell and his boss Roland Hemond.

Angels GM Tony Reagins was joined at the dais by Roland Hemond and former Kansas City Royals manager Tony Muser.

APBPA Secretary-Treasurer **** Beverage was the emcee. Beverage has his own rich history. You may recall hearing him interviewed in the 1970s and 1980s on Angels radiocast pre-game shows. He’s an expert on the history of the old Pacific Coast League, having written a book on the history of the PCL Los Angeles Angels. He also runs the PCL Historical Society, which is where I met him years ago.

Angels general manager Tony Reagins, recently promoted from farm director, was one of the featured speakers. He was seated next to Roland, so I made sure to get a photo of the most recent Angels farm director with the man who started it all.

Former Angels and Dodgers outfielder Ken Landreaux spoke about the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton. Former Angels pitcher Dave Frost and Dodgers/Angels outfielder Tommy Davis also spoke about their involvement with the Academy.

Awards were given to Tampa Bay top prospect Evan Longoria, and Dodgers farmhand Andrew Lambo (ranked their #14 prospect by Baseball America).

Tommy Lasorda and Sparky Anderson were scheduled to attend but couldn’t make it. Sparky was sick with the flu. Tommy’s reason wasn’t clear, but it was pretty evident that exchanging barbs with Lasorda is an annual tradition for many. Several speakers told stories about Tommy, including his legendary reputation for wangling a free meal.

The APBPA banquet is open to anyone who wants to attend (the ticket was $60), and it’s a worthy cause. Even if you can’t attend, consider a donation. Their web site is www.apbpa.org.

UPDATE February 11, 1008The Morning Briefing in today’s Los Angeles Times details Saturday’s APBPA banquet, including an explanation for why Tommy Lasorda was a no-show. Apparently he went out with his family instead.

The Minor League Game of the Week

Mike Eylward hit a grand-slam, double and two singles on July 18, 2007 when the Bees faced the Tacoma Rainiers.

July 18, 2007 — The Salt Lake Bees go extra innings with the Tacoma Rainiers in a Pacific Coast League contest.

Welcome to the Mike Eylward show. "Ellie" was 4 for 6, hitting a grand-slam, double, and two singles.

It helped, but it wasn’t enough, because this was a typical Salt Lake City baseball game. The high altitude (4,500 feet) and ample power alleys inevitably result in high scoring contests. So this was a real roller coaster of a ball game. Just when you think one team has it put away … the other comes back to take the lead.

Outfielder Adam Jones and pitcher Kameron Mickolio, just traded to the Baltimore Orioles in the Erik Bedard deal, appear in the game for Tacoma, the Seattle Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate.

Click Here to listen to the game. You need Windows Media Player.

“The Experimental Wild Card Player”

As mentioned earlier in the week, I’m researching the 1961 spring training in Riverside of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers, the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate that year.

The Dallas Morning News has all its archives on-line. For $29.95, you can read and download up to 200 articles over a 30-day period. So that’s this weekend’s project.

I came across an article in the March 25, 1961 edition about a game between the Rangers and the Hawaii Islanders, who were based in Ontario. Buried in the article is this paragraph:

The Islanders insist upon using the experimental wild card player, but [Rangers Manager Walker] Cooper refuses to go along as far as the Rangers are concerned. No ruling has yet been made, but the Coast League favors the plan where in a batter, who never appears otherwise in the game, is designated as a permanent pinchhitter for the pitcher. The pitcher never bats, but may continue to pitch until replaced.

Wow. The DH was around in 1961.

The box score lists the DH’s name with alphabetic footnotes detailing each at-bat, e.g. “a Singled for Schmidt in 3rd.”

I loathe the DH. “Wild Card player” is easier to say, at least.

The Riverside Angels

With a couple hours to kill before yesterday’s Rancho Cucamonga press conference, I went by my alma mater, the University of California Riverside, to look in the main library at old microfilms of the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

As you know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’ve spent much of the winter researching the history of the Angels minor leagues, the seminal 1961 season in particular. From an interview with Jack Hiatt, we learned that while the big leaguers trained in Palm Springs the minor leaguers were somewhere in Riverside.

The microfilms revealed a wealth of Angels history.

The Angels’ Triple-A affiliate was the Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers of the American Association. They shared the affiliation with the Philadelphia Phillies. So technically, it was D-FW who was training in Riverside, not exactly the Angels’ minor league club, although many of the players came from Palm Springs.

Their base was historic Evans Athletic Park. One P-E article stated that manager Walker Cooper had played at Evans Park 24 years before (1937, if you do the math) when he played for the old PCL’s Sacramento Solons. Evans Park is next to Riverside Community Hospital, just southwest of downtown. In future years, it would be the home of the California League’s Riverside Red Wave from 1988 to 1990.  According to one article, "Jackie Robinson spent his summers in Riverside and practiced at Evans Park on Brockton Avenue."  Today it’s known as the Samuel C. Evans Sports Complex, and is operated by nearby Riverside Community College.

The team hotel was the historic Mission Inn. By 1961, the Mission Inn was long past its glory years, and 20 years later would be shuttered until a new buyer came along in the mid-1990s and restored it to a five-star hotel. (My wife and I spent our wedding night there in 2004.)

I found several articles with photos. The players wore Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers jerseys and caps. Mind you, affiliations back then were not like today. Many minor league teams could still sign their own players. I’m currently corresponding with Dave Baldwin, who pitched for D-FW in 1962 as a Phillies property. He said that some of the players didn’t belong to D-FW, and in fact they might not even have known which parent club did hold their rights.

The Rangers’ first game was on the road at night in Ontario against the Hawaii Islanders. The game was played at what is known today as Jay Littleton Ballpark, an historic facility in its own right. It’s been used in many movies, including A League of Their Own. The headline in the next day’s sports section: "Rangers Belt Islanders, 6-2."

The Angels sent over a "B" team (what would today be called a "split-squad") to play the Rangers on March 25 at Evans Park. The paper reported that 900 fans attended, buying tickets for $1 apiece. Page D-1 of The Press (if memory serves, The Press was the morning paper and The Enterprise was the evening paper) had a big photo of Angels shortstop Jim Fregosi sliding into home as Rangers catcher Jack Hiatt blocked the plate.

Needless to say, I’m going to try to get a copy of that one!

That’s about as far as I got before I had to leave for Rancho Cucamonga.

The articles reported that D-FW would play a 20-game spring schedule before heading for Texas to start the season. Among their games would be a couple contests in Indio against the PCL’s San Diego Padres, who were affiliated that year with the Chicago White Sox. I knew the Angels had played a couple games in Indio that spring, but not where.

Angels GM (and former farm director) Tony Reagins is from Indio.  I asked him if he had any idea where; he suggested a couple locations but didn’t really know. Well, one article said they played at "South Jackson Ball Field" in Indio. I asked Tony after yesterday’s press conference if he’d heard of it. He knew exactly where it was, but was surprised because the field is small today. I looked it up on Mapquest and the site is only a couple blocks south of the I-10, so when I drive out this spring to Tempe for minor league camp I’ll stop by and take a few photos.

The Angels, Padres, Islanders and Rangers weren’t the only Inland Empire inhabitants. The PCL Vancouver Mounties, a Milwaukee Braves affiliate, trained in San Bernardino at "Perris Hill Park." It’s better known today as historic Fiscalini Field, which among other teams was home to the California League’s San Bernardino Spirit from 1987 through 1992 — when they moved to Rancho Cucamonga and became the Quakes.

Bringing this article full circle …

Angels, Quakes Extend Affiliation

Angels farm director Abe Flores signs an extension to their affiliation with Rancho Cucamonga as Quakes owner Hank Stickney looks on.

The Angels and Quakes announced today an extension of their Player Development Contract (PDC) through the 2010 season. Click Here to watch the press conference. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

Per the Basic Agreement between Major League Baseball (MLB) and Minor League Baseball (MiLB), a PDC can be for two or four years. Inland Valley Daily Bulletin sportswriter Pete Marshall asked why it was for only two years, not for four. The question got some nervous laughter from the dais.

It was mentioned that the City of Rancho Cucamonga, which owns The Epicenter, is going to upgrade the outfield fence to add padding prior to Opening Night. That kinda implied to me that maybe the Angels want more upgrades at the facility. The Epicenter was built in 1993. At age fifteen, it’s still better than most minor league parks but it’s no longer state-of-the art, as are Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock and the new Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids.

No mention of an exhibition game or any other frills which might have explained the higher profile for this event than past PDC renewals.