Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Some Random Observations on Corpus Christi

I will be rolling out interviews and other posts from my Corpus Christi sojourn over the next couple of weeks as I cull through almost two hours of interview material, but I wanted to record some random thoughts while they are still fairly fresh in my mind.

After having been to see the Lexington LoA team back at the end of April, I was struck immediately by one huge difference. The players at AA look like ballplayers. It's hard to define. It's not just that most of them have filled out and are heavier, more muscular. It's also an attitude, a way of carrying themselves. Maybe it's because by the time they have made it to AA, they know that they belong and carry themselves with more confidence.

Ah, there's that word ... confidence. There were two words that I heard more frequently than any others in talking to players and coaches ... confidence and consistency. Those two things are the key to their impending success or failure and they know it. But more about that later.

I was able to watch several rounds of on-field workouts and batting practice. I found it interesting because I'm interested in the routine, in the day-to-day of the players as a backdrop to their overall experience, but once you've seen a couple of them, it's fairly dull viewing. But I will admit that I am just baseball nerd enough that I was actually excited to get to see pitchers fielding practice one day.

Two players stood out to me as I watched them go through their daily routines. One was Adam Bailey and that was for one reason only. He has a cannon for an arm and throws with great accuracy. During throwing drills as the players moved further and further apart, his long throws were always on the money and looked simply effortless, as could be expected from a former pitcher I suppose.

The other player to stand out during work-outs was Brett Oberholtzer. I really hate that he was the only pitcher that I wasn't able to see in person. He was the most intense, most passionate player on the field. Period. Everything he did was done with maximum effort. He was always out running sprints when no one else was. I seriously worried about him getting heatstroke because of how intensely he was working. If he can channel that passion into his pitching, he is certain to be a success.

The ballpark itself is wonderful. As long as you are seated in the shade, the breeze off the gulf is enough to keep you comfortable even during the day. The staff was excellent, everyone was friendly and Michael Coffin in the front office went out of his way to accommodate me with incredible patience and grace.

Something else has been fomenting in my addled brain since my trip to Lexington and it more or less coalesced during this trip to Corpus. I had the opportunity in Lexington to meet the Boosters Club and some of the host families that open their doors to the players. In Corpus, I also met one of the host "moms" and talked with her at length about some of the issues that minor league players face. Just finding an affordable place to live when you may be called upon to move at a moment's notice can be an ordeal, particularly if you are required to sign a lease. Extended stay facilities are often out of the price range of a minor league player (not everyone gets a big signing bonus), and it is a myth that there are plenty of host families to go around. I was told that there are no host families in Oklahoma City at all. What is a player supposed to do in the case of a temporary call up? And that's just the housing issue.

I would like to emphasize that no player complained to me about any of these things. They are happy to just have the opportunity to play and are willing to jump through whatever hoops they are required to jump through. But something occurred to me. The Astros should hire a minor league ombudsman, someone who can help the players with everything from housing to equipment to budgeting to finding a secure place to park their cars so they don't get vandalized during road trips (which just happened to five of the Lexington players). I am certain there are countless other everyday problems and issues that an ombudsman could help with, problems that otherwise take a player's focus off of the field and ultimately hinder his development.

And why should the Astros do this? As I said earlier, the players are just happy for the opportunity. There are plenty of other players that would trade places with them in a heartbeat. The Astros should do this because it's the right thing to do. If that's not enough, just think of it as an investment in the future. When those players from the system that make it to the big leagues get to free agency, maybe they'd be willing to take a little hometown discount because they would be loyal to an organization that had been loyal to them. Just another random thought.


  1. I had the chance to see Brett Oberholtzer pitch here (in Arkansas) last August, soon after the trade, then I got to meet him and spent the game sitting behind him when Corpus came back to town last month. I didn't get to see him during workouts, but it doesn't surprise me that he's such a hard worker. He's a quality guy and I expect we'll see great things from him in Houston in the future.

    Loved to hear your thoughts & observations from your Corpus visit. Thank you for sharing!

  2. your thoughts of having the Astros hire someone to do the things that you mentioned is an awesome idea. I hope they consider the idea..... we have been thinking the same thing


  3. Your description sound less like an ombudsman and more like a "Team Mom" for every affiliate.

  4. How many years did you play in the minor leagues ?

    Have you ever been moved in a days notice and never knew where you would live for the next 6 weeks or so ? sure - this happens with a normal job - but these players really dont have the time to set up things once they get there --- there are workouts, bus trips, etc
    then when you get there - they have told you that there will be transportation to and from the field and there isnt......

    some of these players need direction and if they have a ombudsman ( person who investigates and attempts to resolve problems between employee and employer) or "team mom"( see previous definition ) then so be it. It seems like no one really cares after you do tell someone about a problem

    and im sure that at your place of employment you know that no one will mess with your vehicle while your on the job ..... you never know in the minors because there are no security measures at the minor league fields.

    have you ever been at work and when you get ready to leave all of your valuables have been stolen from your locker ..........

    you can bet that this does NOT happen at the big club.....

    kudos to Jayne for bringing up this subject !!!!!!!!

  5. Wow...would you have called a male writer "team dad?" I doubt it. Grow up.