Monday, August 21, 2017

Quad Cities Final Thoughts

Every time I take a minor league trip, I collect odds and ends that don't make it into any of my interviews, plus I take a TON of pictures. So consider this a wrap-up of my July trip to Quad Cities.

ODDS AND ENDS

I was already impressed with what I saw from RHP Robert Corniel, and then his teammate Patrick Sandoval heaped praise on Corniel's fastball, so I asked Quad Cities Manager Russ Steinhorn to weigh in on the 22-year old righty who is in his third season following Tommy John surgery. Steinhorn told me, "He was with me down in the Dominican last year all season and he definitely grew up last year a lot. We saw a lot of flashes of him having success with some good stuff. And then they gave him a chance to come to the States this year for extended and I guess he just took in all the information and worked hard with those guys down there. It just shows that if you perform and you get better, then you're going to get your opportunities and he's taken advantage of them along the way and he's just trying to take advantage of them here."

And of skinny lefty bullpen arm Salvador Montano, Steinhorn said, "He's really turned the corner. Last year wasn't a great year for him. I know he had some difficult conversations in Spring Trainig and Extended. A light bulb turned off and that's been it. It's been great to see that. He had an outing where (in the first half), he came in out of the bullpen with bases loaded and no outs. We're up by one ... on the road ... in the ninth ... and he struck out the side. And that's all you need for your confidence and he's been rolling. He's putting in the work everyday. He's got a great personality."

On RHP Yohan Ramirez: "He got a little stint in Corpus just to fill in and threw like 6 shutout innings. [Close. He allowed one run in 4.2 IP.]  He's got electric stuff. That's a guy to keep an eye on. He was up to 98 or 99. He's always in the dugout even when he's not playing, trying to root his teammates on," said Steinhorn. He went on to say that Ramirez reminds him of Jandel Gustave since he throws hard and has a good slider. "They kind of have the same build and quick arm. We'll see where it takes him. He's another guy to be excited about."

If you missed any of my interviews from the trip, you can find them here:
Marcos Almonte and Abdiel Saldana
Russ Steinhorn

I'm not sure why, but Ronnie Dawson's interview didn't get a lot of clicks and it should have. Not only is he having a fine season (.272/.362/.440 with 23 doubles, four triples, 14 home runs, 80 runs scored, 60 RBI and 15 stolen bases overall and .313/.407/.508 since June 1st), he is also a team leader, universally respected by his teammates and coaches. He is a good student of the game with a great personality.

Another interview that you may have missed was the one that I did with Russ Steinhorn. We spoke about his time managing in the Dominican last season and how that experience is really helping as the contingent of Latin players assembled by Oz Ocampo and his team are starting to work their way up through the system. That was one thing that impressed me about the team. There is a heavy Latin presence with over half of the team hailing from places other than the U.S., but there is still great comaraderie among the players. I've seen that more and more through the past few years, and I will credit the Astros for working to bridge both the language and cultural gaps.

There was an amazing amount of talent on that team. As many interviews as I did, I could have done more. I didn't interview Carmen Benedetti, but only because I interviewed him last year in Tri-City. Not only was Benedetti having a great season at the plate with Quad Cities (.332/.446/.465 in 69 games) prior to his early August promotion, he also impressed with his play in the field. With nine outfield assists to his name for the season (six of those from right field), it is no wonder that I overheard one of the Great Lakes pitchers comment, "That kid's got the best arm I've ever seen."

Similarly, I talked to Chuckie Robinson at Tri-City last year; otherwise, he would have been on my short list to talk with. As impressed as I was with Robinson when I saw him last year, I am doubly impressed with him now, not only for his bat (.291/.347/.488 in 96 games with Quad Cities), but also with his talents behind the dish. He is a pitching coach's dream with his ability to handle a pitching staff and a manager's dream with his 45% caught stealing rate. Plus, I personally liked that he walked up to Tracy Chapman's "Give Me One Reason." One final tidbit about Robinson -- both he and teammate Troy Sieber went to bat without batting gloves. There's something appealing to me about that.

But, honestly, every single player on the team stood out in one way or another. It was an impressive group and I think they've got a really good opportunity in the postseason. I will be pulling for each and every one of them.

And one final note about the trip: Jake Levy (media relations and broadcaster extraordinaire) and Rich Guill (photographer extraordinaire) were both so warm and welcoming. It is a pleasure to "do business" with them.

PHOTOS

When I was finishing up my interview with Russ Steinhorn, I commented on how hard I was trying to make sure that the Latin players who didn't understand English as well as others would know where they could find the pictures I took of them during the trip. I do use the photos for the blog, but honestly, I also take them so that the players can share them with family and friends. That has become equally important to me over the years.

And I know that the players appreciate it. When I see a player from a prior trip, I almost always get a smile and a warm greeting as I did from Cristian Javier in Quad Cities. When he saw me, he didn't say a word, he just smiled, walked over and shook my hand. When I told Russ that, he replied, "Sometimes it's hard on them. It's a long season. They love the support when they're so far away from their families. Sometimes they may not feel it as much as they need it, and to get it definitely puts a smile on their face." And that put a smile on my face.

For all of the photos I took on the trip, you can go to my flickr account here. Here are a few of my favorites.

Osvaldo Duarte, Gabriel Bracamonte and Josh Rojas
checking the forecast

Chuckie Robinson framed by a double rainbow

Marcos Almonte and Ronnie Dawson talking shop

Lucas Williams "Field of Dreams" photo

Chas McCormick and the bridge

Salvador Montano ...

... and his skinny legs!

Ronel Blanco autographing Montano's jersey

Carlos Sanabria warming up

Ronel Blanco

Troy Sieber and Kristian Trompiz

Chas McCormick headed to first

Cristian Javier

And a few more great faces ...
Marcos Almonte

Cesar Rosado

Cristian Javier

Ronnie Dawson

Patrick Sandoval

Yohan Ramirez

THE END

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