A Twins prospect discusses rules and regs, off-season jobs, and more.
Six years after signing with the Twins, Kyle Waldrop has become well acquainted with minor-league baseball’s ups and downs, as well as its day-to-days and dos and don‘ts. A 24-year-old right-hander who was taken 25th overall in the 2004 draft, Waldrop is pitching out of the bullpen for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, where he has a 2.48 ERA in 51 appearances.
The Pirates short-season skipper talks about his umpiring experience.
Gary Robinson has had a unique journey through the minor leagues. Currently in his second season as the manager of the State College Spikes, the 57-year-old Robinson began his professional career as an umpire in the Midwest and Southern Leagues before becoming a college coach, a scout, and later a Triple-A umpire evaluator. The Spikes are a short-season affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Justin Ruggiano, aka “Scrooge,” is number 11 in your Durham Bulls program. A 28-year-old outfielder who has seen action in 52 big league games, Ruggiano is hitting .289/,356/.469 with 13 home runs and 21 stolen bases for Tampa Bay’s Triple-A affiliate. He is also doing his best to keep track of his teammates’ names, nicknames and numbers.
A well-read hurler talks books, card games and electronics.
In a clubhouse filled with Xboxes and iPads, R.J. Swindle is the Durham Bulls’ bookworm. The 27-year-old left-hander is with his sixth organization -- he has big-league time with the Phillies and Brewers -- and at every stop along the way he’s had a book [and now a Kindle] in hand. Swindle, who has a 1.70 ERA in 29 appearances for Tampa Bay‘s Triple-A affiliate this season, is a graduate of Charleston Southern University.
Detroit's Triple-A catcher talks about his unique, and difficult, journey.
When Latin-American and Asian players sign professional contracts, they are typically immersed in English-language classes and, in some cases, assigned translators. Max St. Pierre wasn’t so fortunate. Taken by Detroit in the 26th round of the 1997 draft out of French-speaking Quebec City, the now 30-year-old catcher came into pro ball with neither a support system nor teammates who spoke the same language. What followed was a tumultuous ride through the minor leagues, one which featured not only loneliness but also a battle with alcohol abuse. St. Pierre, who is back with the Tigers organization after a brief hiatus, has his life back in order and is hitting a perfectly-fluent .324/.358/.419 with Triple-A Toledo.
Detroit's 49th-round pick isn't in Kansas any more.
Tyson Kendrick is excited to be in pro ball, but he isn’t exactly living the high life. Drafted by the Tigers in the 49th round, out of Tabor College, the Arkansas City, Kansas native is instead immersed in a lifestyle of peanut-butter sandwiches, long bus rides and even longer odds. A 22-year-old catcher, Kendrick is beginning his career with the short-season Connecticut Tigers.
The radio voice of the Rochester Red Wings talks about his 15 years in the booth.
Josh Whetzel is in his eighth season as the radio voice of the Rochester Red Wings, the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, and his 15th in professional baseball. A graduate of the University of Kansas, Whetzel is widely regarded as one of the best minor league broadcasters in the country.
A first-year coach talks priorities and affiliate agendas.
John Birtwell is seeing the minor leagues from a different perspective this summer. The 30-year-old Harvard grad spent six seasons as a pitcher in the Detroit and Oakland organizations, plus two more in independent ball, and now he is a first-year coach in the Marlins system. As he has come to learn, the economics, politics and priorities of life on the farm look different from the bench than they do from the mound.
A Tigers rookie talks camaraderie and nicknames during a rehab stint.
Robbie Weinhardt has had an up-and-down summer. Buoyed by a strong showing in spring training, the 24-year-old righthander began the year with Triple-A Toledo in just his second full professional season. He is now working out of the Tigers bullpen -- Weinhardt made his big-league debut on July 7 -- but only after going on the shelf and rehabbing in short-season Connecticut. “Snobby Robbie” talked teammates and nicknames during his late-June rehab stint.
Like the rest of us, baseball players are sports fans, and for some that passion extends to soccer. Lars Anderson and Ryan Kalish, two of the top prospects in the Red Sox organization, can be counted among that group. With the World Cup final -- Holland versus Spain -- coming up on Sunday, Anderson and Kalish shared their thoughts on the world’s most popular sporting event.
A Reds prospect talks about teammates and the road to Cincinnati.
Chris Valaika is looking forward to the glitz and glamour of Cincinnati. One of the top middle-infield prospects in the Reds organization, the 24-year-old Valaika has played in Billings, Dayton, Sarasota, Chattanooga, and now Louisville, since being taken in the third round of the 2006 draft out of UC Santa Barbara. During that time, he has ridden the buses, and shared living quarters, with some interesting characters.
Brad Ziegler shares his kangaroo court experiences.
Kangaroo courts are a time-honored tradition in baseball, not only at the big-league level, but also down on the farm. In this latest installment of Minor Issues, Oakland reliever Brad Ziegler returns to talk about his own kangaroo-court experiences.