April 2010

More Photos of Statesville Stadium

Statesville, North Carolina baseball archivist Steve Hill sent me the below images from his collection that show the Statesville Stadium circa 1962. This would have been the year after the Angels had their inaugural Class D baseball team in Statesville.

 

 

 

These are not photos of the Angels players. Steve believes that some or all may be of the Statesville High School team. The Owls used the high school’s field. It’s still the high school field today except the grandstands are gone.

The photos give us a much better look at what the stadium structure itself looked like in the Angels’ era.

When I visited Statesville last month, I brought home a copy of home movie footage filmed in 1961 by the family of Janet Fox, who is the wife of Owls’ player Jerry Fox. Click here to watch the video. Because the original film was 8mm, there’s no sound, but it’s our first (and so far only) look at the 1961 Owls in color.

Children of the Corn


In his first three starts with Cedar Rapids, Garrett Richards has 20 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings.

 

The current issue of Baseball America has an extensive article on the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ prospect-laden roster. This is the only place I can find it online; BA places some articles in their print version, some online, a strategy intended for you to subscribe to both. (Subscribe to the BA print version and you get the online content for free.)

Five of their Top 10 Angels prospects are on the Kernels roster — #3 Mike Trout, #5 Garrett Richards, #6 Fabio Martinez, #7 Randal Grichuk, and #8 Tyler Skaggs.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported on April 16 that 11 of Trout’s first 13 hits were infield hits. I wrote in the 2009 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report last November, “Although he has power, he probably won’t be a true power hitter; if he can learn to bunt for hits, it may evolve him into a leadoff hitter role.”

Beyond the Fab Five, there are other players of interest on the Kernels’ roster.

The first six of the Angels’ 2009 draft picks are on the roster. Five were taken in the first round, regular or supplemental phase — Grichuk, Trout, Skaggs, Richards and Tyler Kehrer. Pat Corbin was selected in the second round.

Jon Bachanov, selected by the Angels in the supplemental round of the June 2007 draft, is in the Kernels’ bullpen after “Tommy John” surgery. If you’re looking for a sleeper, there’s 6’9″ John Hellweg, a Tom Kotchman find selected in the 16th round of the June 2008 draft. And there’s C.J. Bressoud, a former Braves minor league catcher converted to the mound in 2009 by the Angels.

Catcher Carlos Ramirez, selected in the 8th round last year, has drawn rave reviews. He reminds me of Bengie Molina, who wasn’t exactly a gazelle like Jeff Mathis, but excelled behind the plate and hit well enough to become a big-league regular.

On the infield, second baseman Jean Segura has drawn comparisons to Erick Aybar, although the arm isn’t quite as strong. First baseman Casey Haerther hit .350 last year for Rookie-A Orem.

One player who’s flown under the radar is third baseman Luis Jimenez. “Lucho” missed all of 2009 with a right shoulder injury. That led BA to drop him from their Top 30 list, which I think is a big mistake. If my top prospects list had gone beyond ten, “Lucho” certainly would have been in the Top 20 and maybe the Top 15. He’s playing nearly every day at third base, so the shoulder seems fine, and once he shakes the rust he should start cranking out dingers again.

I’ll be in Cedar Rapids April 30 – May 3 for the Kane County series. Whether this becomes a team for the ages remains to be seen, but this group reminds me of two other “bubbles” that started back with Tom Kotchman in Utah. The 2001 Provo Angels team had future major leaguers Jeff Mathis, Casey Kotchman, Dallas McPherson, Nick Gorneault, Ervin Santana, Steve Andrade, Pedro Liriano, Steven Shell and Jake Woods. The 2005 Orem Owlz had Brad Coon, Hainley Statia, Mark Trumbo, Nick Adenhart, Jose Arredondo, Stephen Marek, Robert Mosebach and Kevin Lynch. Obviously the latter group isn’t as distinguished as the first, but it had significant talent and some of those (Marek, Statia, Trumbo) may yet emerge as big leaguers.

Reading Angels fan sites, it’s clear a lot of them are following the Kernels, and that can only be good for Angels minor league baseball.

Dr. Brian Specht


Brian Specht at shortstop for the Arkansas Travelers in 2003.

 

Brian Specht was once a top-prospect shortstop in the Angels’ minor league system. Baseball America ranked him in 2000 as the Angels’ #3 prospect.

According to BA, the Angels gave Brian a $600,000 signing bonus to keep him from going to Baylor University where he intended to pursue a medical career.

Injuries, unfortunately, derailed his baseball career. Brian was named the outstanding rookie in the Angels’ 2004 spring training camp, but injuries the next three years took their toll and he retired in the middle of the 2006 season.

Brian returned home to Colorado Springs for a life in the normal world. His family has kept me apprised of his doings.

Last night I was told that Brian will graduate on May 21 summa c*m laude with a B.A. in Chemistry and a B.A. in Biology. He will begin medical school in August at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver.

I’ll always remember Brian as the 19-year old who reported to Advanced Class-A Lake Elsinore in May 2000 from extended spring training as an emergency filler for the Storm shortstop who’d gone on the disabled list. Brian went on a tear, hitting .429 in May while performing thrilling feats of defensive derring-do. I was sitting one night in the stands behind home plate with Angels’ farm director Darrell Miller in the row behind me. After Brian got yet another hit, I turned to Darrell and said, “Can we keep him for at least a little while before you move him up?!”

Life isn’t fair, and Brian’s baseball life wasn’t fair to him, but in the medical world he’ll make a much bigger contribution to humanity than playing baseball. But if he’d stayed healthy, today he might be a star Angels shortstop. What might have been …

FutureAngels.com to Visit Cedar Rapids


FutureAngels.com will cover cover four games between the Kernels and the Kane County Cougars.

 

Thanks to the miracle of frequent flyer mileage, I’ll be able to visit Cedar Rapids for a four-games series April 30 – May 3 against the Kane County Cougars (A’s affiliate).

As I’ve mentioned before, because I’m unemployed I don’t have the money to travel to the Angels affiliates as I usually do. I’ve already cancelled plans for Rancho Cucamonga.

But I checked the frequent flyer mileage I have with Delta and found that I barely had enough for a free round-trip flight to Cedar Rapids.

I’ll still have hotel, car rental and meal bills, but air fare is usually about half the expense of a road trip so this will help.

The Kernels have many of the Angels’ top prospects this year, so I really wanted to spend some time with the team to do photos and video for you.

As always, you can help defray costs by signing up for a voluntary $5/month subcription or making a one-time donation.

My last trip to Cedar Rapids was in 2007, one year before the flood that destroyed downtown Cedar Rapids. Nearly two years have passed, so I’m looking forward to seeing how far they’ve recovered. I produced in 2003 a video about the Kernels’ history, so I’ll be looking for some before/after footage to show you.

You can still help with flood recovery by making a donation to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.

Where the Future Began, Part 5


Los Angeles Angels minor leaguers with the 1961 Statesville Owls, left to right. Top row: Dick Wantz, Jack Hiatt, Dick Simpson, Manager George Wilson. Bottom row: George Conrad, Glade Cookus, Paul Mosley, George Bryson. Photo courtesy Steve Hill.

 

Statesville baseball historian Steve Hill had in his collection the above photo of 1961 Statesville Owls, which I’d never seen before. The only common theme we could deduce was that each of the seven players was under contract to the Angels. Manager George Wilson was hired independently by the Owls.

Of those shown in the photo, four are still with us — Jack Hiatt, Dick Simpson, Paul Mosley and George Bryson. I’ve asked them if they recall when and why this group photo was taken.

From past research, we have some clues as to when it was shot.

Hiatt, Simpson, Conrad and Cookus were the first four Angels properties assigned to Statesville, arriving in mid-April. But Mosley and Bryson didn’t arrive until near the end of June.

Missing from the photo are three Florida players signed in mid-June — infielders Dave Best and Bobby Lucas, and pitcher Alan Flitcraft. Also missing is Walt Darton, the ace pitcher from L.A. whose career was ended by an elbow injury suffered during a brawl with Lexington on May 31. All three were with the team through the end of the season.

So we know it was taken no earlier than late June, but if it’s supposed to be only Angels players then why were the three Florida players excluded?

One explanation might be that all seven are from California — which could imply that a Florida-only photo might be around somewhere.

Where the Future Began, Part 4

While in Statesville earlier this week, I went to Statesville Stadium to film an interview with former Owls Ed Thomas and Jerry Fox, and local historian Bill Moose. The video is now online.

Click here to watch the interview. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection are required.

The field is currently used by the Statesville High School baseball team. They were practicing just off-camera to the right of the image. A couple of the players came over to introduce themselves, and meet Ed and Jerry who were wearing Angels gear given them last September at the reunion we held at Tempe Diablo. I think the kids probably thought they were scouts or somesuch, but they were very respectful and had lots of questions.

Where the Future Began, Part 3

I’m home from Statesville, with lots of Angels minor league history in tow.

Ed Thomas and Jerry Fox were two independent players signed locally by the Owls in 1961. Thomas was signed after the season by the Angels and spent two seasons in Triple-A. Fox retired from baseball and went back to real life.

Jerry’s wife Janet loaned me a home movie her family made that year of the Owls. It runs only about 1 ½ minutes, but it’s the only known footage of the original Angels’ minor league team.

Click here to watch the video. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection are required.

More to come …

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