Monday, June 16, 2008

Notes on a day off...

On the Pirate front: Ryan Doumit was named the NL's co-Player of the Week, along with Florida Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco. Doumit batted .400 (10-25) with 4 home runs.

He had a .960 slugging percentage and 24 total bases, tied for the league lead with 8 runs scored, and drove in 7 runs. Nolasco went 2-0 with 15 strikeouts in 2 starts lasting 14-2/3 innings.

> Xavier Nady has a sprained left shoulder, but the team has no plans yet to place him on the DL. The MRI scan showed a Grade 1 acromioclavicular joint sprain in the shoulder, which sounds worse than it is. There is no damage to the cuff or labrum.

The Pirates said they will take the next coupla days to see how Nady's wing heals. He'll rejoin the team tomorrow in Chicago.

On the minor league front: Chris Duffy returned to Altoona, and the 2004 Curve MVP started in CF and led off. He went 0-for-3. We think he may be there for awhile, but he's been so far under the radar this year that we'll just have to wait and see what he has and what the Pirate plans for him are.

> The 2008 South Atlantic League All-Star Game will be held Tuesday night. Hickory's 3B Bobby Spain and SS Jose De Los Santos will start for the Northern Division team, while 1B Miles Durham also made the team as a reserve.

On the draft front: The Pirates signed five more picks from the 2008 draft.

3B Jeremy Farrell, the 8th choice from the U of Virginia, is the son of Boston Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. He led the Cavaliers with 11 homers and 51 RBIs and was hitting .320 with 47 strikeouts in 200 at-bats during the regular season.

His swing mechanics improved this season, and he hit with more pull power, but there is still some question about his bat speed. 1B is probably his best position because he's a tad slow with an average arm, though he might be athletic enough to play a corner OF position.

> Calvin Anderson, from Southern A&M, the 12th choice, is a 1B, and the son of former Pittsburgh Steeler Fred Anderson. He's a big galoot at 6-7, 240 lbs., and hits from the right side. Like most guys from the SWAC, Anderson is still raw.

He has a long, powerful swing with full extension but has shown good bat control as well. Anderson has been a steady hitter as a three-year starter at Southern, hitting .328-8-34 this spring.

> They also signed SS Jarek Cunningham, their 18th pick from Mt. Spokane HS. Cunningham had a commitment to Arizona State but opted to go pro. The Bucs signed a slew of SS's, so Cunningham may see time at 2B.

There are no recent stats available - Cunningham missed most of his senior season to rehab a knee injury.

> And finally, twin picks from West Point: catcher Christopher Simmons (41st round) and outfielder Cole White (42nd round). Simmons hit .318 with 8 HR's, and is thought to be an organization-type C.

White was an effective two-way player for Army. For much of his career he was the team's best hitter while also pitching. The Pirates plan to try him as an outfielder. He hit .373 with 8 HR's this year.

They'll get a break in their military assignments, much like David Robinson. Athletes can fulfill their commitments by engaging in recruiting and other related activities.

By our count, that's 21 guys they've signed. We hope they're aiming for 30 or so, seeing that so many of the toolsy players they picked have yet to ink a deal. We're a little surprised at how many late picks they've signed. It could portend a major housecleaning in the Pirate minor league organization.

On the high school front: Pittsburgh lost a great coach today, Peabody's Norm Frey. Although he enjoyed plenty of basketball success, it surprises some to discover that baseball was his first love.

He and Ken McDonough had a unique coaching relationship. Frey was Peabody's head baseball coach from 1955-68 and won 6 City League championships. When he resigned, McDonough took over, and Frey became his assistant. With the McDonough-Frey combo, Peabody won 14 City League baseball titles during the days when Peabody was usually as good as any of the WPIAL's best teams.

"He was my mentor," McDonough said. "I knew a little about baseball, but I had no idea how shallow I was until I sat down and talked with him after I got hired."

Both retired from teaching and coaching in 1992. After retiring from Peabody, Frey still was an assistant baseball coach in the Pittsburgh Federation League. When Mike Wilson became Duquesne's coach in the fall of 1993, the first person he called was Frey to offer him an assistant coach's job. He coached seven years at Duquesne.

"When I first got the job, I called Norm before I even called my wife," Wilson told the Post Gazette. "There wasn't anybody better than him who knew and could teach fundamentals." Frey even had two batting cages in the back yard of his North Side home, so he could give hitting lessons to kids.

God speed, Norm Frey.


WilliamJPellas said...

Is the Pittsburgh Federation League affiliated with the NABF? (National Amateur Baseball Federation.) The NABF, according to its website, is the oldest national amateur baseball organization in the country. You probably know, Ron, about the old "industrial leagues" that flourished for many decades in the old days. In many if not most cases, those leagues were officially sanctioned by the NABF.

The NABF still has a national tournament and holds its own World Series every year here in Louisville, KY, where I live. It's the national championship of all organized baseball that is 1) non professional, 2) played by adults and 3) not affiliated with any particular college or postsecondary school---though the local NABF league kinda skirts those distinctions by having summer league teams stocked with local small college players.

Ron said...

St. Johns advanced to the National Amateur Baseball Federation's World Series last year, so I guess they do belong, Will. They say the better teams compare to a Class A club.

Some of the Fed League players were: Pirates first baseman Sean Casey of Upper St. Clair and former Pirates infielder John Wehner of Carrick. Curtis Leskanic of Steel Valley High School, Danny Kite of Shaler and Dana Williams, who each spent time with the Boston Red Sox organization, were in the Fed League.

More recently, Josh Wilson of Mt. Lebanon, Zach Jackson of Seneca Valley, Dan Schwartzbauer of Shaler and Ryan Campbell of Montour passed through the league before getting an opportunity in the pros. Art Howe of Shaler went on to manage the Houston Astros, New York Mets and Oakland A's, and current A's manager Ken Macha of Gateway High School shined in the league. Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr. and former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, both of whom are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, played.

WilliamJPellas said...

Wow, very cool info, Ron! The local NABF league here in Louisville is a great, great asset to the community, and very much under-reported and under-appreciated. There used to be a small local AM sports-only radio station here that promoted the league, but the station was teeny-tiny and ultimately sold out to a Spanish language outfit.

Anyway, I approached them a couple of times about doing a straight-to-video production of the NABF World Series, where I would do the play by play and a local guy who was formerly in the Dodgers system would do the color. They gave me the go-ahead but I could never get the money together (didn't have time to sell ads to offset the cost, etc).

WilliamJPellas said...

PS Regarding Dan Marino's baseball career, I seem to recall that one of the sort-of knocks on him when he was at Pitt was that his throwing motion was too baseball-ish. I never did read a lot about his baseball career and didn't know he had played in an NABF league. Very interesting! Loved the Art Rooney Sr mention, as well. Do you know if there is any statistical information about how well they played? And, did Marino also play college baseball, briefly, at Pitt, or was he football only?

Ron said...

Will, I can't find his dang stats, but at Central Catholic in Oakland, he was quite a P/SS, and was drafted in the 4th round of the 1979 baseball draft by KC. He would have lost his college eligibility if he signed, so he took the football scholarship. Marino didn't play baseball at Pitt - he hurt his knee the summer of his freshman year playing in the Fed League, and that was the end of his baseball career. They did name his local ball field, Frazier Field which overlooked the old J&L Steel coke ovens in Hazelwood, after him a few years back. Now it's Marino Field.

Ron said...

Still can't find his stats, but Marino pitched with a kid named Larry LaMonde, who reached AAA, I think in the Pirate system. He also played with a guy the Bucs interviewed for President, Tony LaCava from Oakmont, while in HS. Marino was undefeated after his soph year as a pitcher, but because Central belonged to the old Catholic League back then, they didn't make WPIAL or state playoffs.
Two interesting drafts notes regarding Marino - he turned down a $35K bonus offered by KC, and the same year KC picked him, they drafted another QB - John Elway - 18th. The Chiefs should draft so well!
The Fed League here doesn't really draw flies anymore, but the scouts still take a peek or two. The average age now is about 25, and there's a bunch of college kids playing in the league and minor league washouts. The Washington Wild Things in the independent Frontier League compete against them somewhat in the area for fans and players.

WilliamJPellas said...

Yes, that squares with my take on the current state of the NABF. It seems that the rise of independent, non-affiliated professional baseball has pretty much taken the place of NABF leagues in most cities. I guess most guys who still have the itch to play figure, maybe I only make $1000 a month (if that) playing independent A-ball, but that's $1000 more than I make in an amateur league.

That said, there are still some good ballplayers in NABF leagues, as you mentioned. Once in a blue moon one or two of them will get signed by a scout somewhere. I heard that 3 guys actually signed pro deals after the NABF World Series here a few years ago. Don't ask me who they were, I don't remember, but as you say, it DOES happen occasionally.

It's a shame to see the old high end amateur / sandlot / industrial leagues go away, or largely go away. The NABF has a rich, rich history and wonderful tradition. I had the privilege of speaking with their executive director a few years ago, and he told me all about the history of their spat with the AAABA, which was sponsored by Glenn Martin of the Martin Aircraft Co---they're the ones who built the B-26 and the Mars flying boat in WWII.

Ron said...

True, Will. We remember the old industrial leagues very well here - the Pittsburgh Typos were always a powerhouse. Kids that fall through the cracks are pretty much dead meat in this day and age. There's nowhere left to hone their game.

WilliamJPellas said...

FWIW, last time I looked, there was a thriving NABF league in State College. One of my buddies from work, a former Penn State player before he blew out his shoulder, used to play in it.