Saturday, August 19, 2017

Bill Dodd, Playing Baseball - 11

Bill Dodd assessed his season at AA Chattanooga in June 1989, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The pitcher and former California high school star spoke to The Times after a rare good outing.

"So far, it hasn't been a good season," Dodd told The Times. "It's fun when you're doing well and the team's doing well. When everything is going right, there's nothing better than playing baseball."

Dodd played his first season at AA that year, his fourth as a pro. He returned to Chattanooga in two more seasons, but he never played well enough to make the bigs.

Dodd's career began in 1986, taken by the Reds in the second round of the January draft out of Saddleback College in California.

Dodd arrived at Saddleback after first going through Arizona State and playing his high school ball at Capistrano Valley High School.

Dodd won local player of the year honors in his junior year of high school. He then worked on developing multiple pitches, he told The Times in 1984.

"I do have a curveball and a changeup." Dodd told The Times that February, "but now I'm working on a 'cut fastball."

Dodd chose Arizona State out of high school, but arm problems and a disagreement with his pitching coach led him to Saddleback.

With the Reds, Dodd started at rookie Billings. He spent his first two seasons there. He went 5-1 both years, mostly in relief, and posted ERAs around 4.

He moved to single-A Cedar Rapids in 1988. He had a hand in a three-hitter in a May game. He then made the league All-Star team. He posted a 2.07 ERA overall, earning 10 saves.

Dodd arrived at Chattanooga for 1989. He got into 35 games, starting two and ended with a 5.25 ERA. He returned to Chattanooga for 1990, improving his ERA to 2.85. He then played a third season there in 1991, marking the end of his career.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,729
Made the Majors:1,041-38.2%
Never Made Majors:1,688-61.8%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 430
10+ Seasons in the Minors:263

Brian Finley, Ninth Inning - 12

The AA Vermont Reds needed a hit late in this August 1987 game and pinch-hitter Brian Finley delivered.

Sent to the plate in the ninth inning, a runner on third and the score tied, Finley promptly knocked a single to bring in the winning run, according to The Associated Press.

Finley knocked in that run in his fifth season as a pro. He went on to play in three more seasons. He briefly saw AAA twice, but he never saw the majors.

Finley's career began in 1982, taken by the Brewers in the sixth round of the January draft out of Contra Costa College in California. Finley was also credited by his full name, Brian Lee Finley.

Finley started with the Brewers at single-A Beloit. He hit .230 in 72 games there and stole 12 bases. He singled in an August game, before eventually getting tagged out on third.

He returned to Beloit over the next two seasons. He hit .254 and .288. His stolen base totals climbed from 28 in 1983 to 66 in 1984 to lead the Midwest League. He earned "fastest base runner" honors that 1984 season.

Finley moved to single-A Stockton for 1985, where he stole another 54 bases. He then arrived at AA El Paso to start 1986, before moving to the Reds and AA Vermont mid-season. He hit just .208 in 1986, stealing just 18.

Finley played most of 1987 at Vermont, but also got a 10-game look at AAA Nashville. He went 6 for 27 at AAA. He did largely the same in 1988. He played mostly at AAA Chattanooga and saw four games at Nashville.

He spent 1989 out injured and returned for one final season in 1990 at Chattanooga. He hit .192 in 116 games and stole nine bases, ending his career.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,728
Made the Majors:1,041-38.2%
Never Made Majors:1,687-61.8%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 430
10+ Seasons in the Minors:263

Tim Sherrill, Fishing and Baseball - 37

Originally published Sept. 28, 2010
Asked about his career in his new chosen sport, Tim Sherrill wasn't sure how to respond. He was a fisherman now, one with the title of former major leaguer.

He didn't like to think of the fisherman part as a career, even though he had just won a major fishing tournament. He was just your average weekend fisherman, Sherrill told ESPN 1400, of Springfield, Mo., in a radio interview Oct. 5, 2009 after his win.

"I fish every chance I get," Sherrill told his interviewers. "I like to compete. I guess that goes back to the days I played baseball in college and professionally. It's not as much competing against the fishermen, as it is against the fish.

"You know," Sherrill said, "that's what I'm gonna keep doing, I'm going to keep fishing and hopefully I can win another one of these these days."

Sherrill's time competing against the baseball fish - or sharks - lasted six seasons. It was a baseball career that got him to the majors for brief stints in two seasons and into a total of 18 contests.

Sherrill's professional baseball career began in 1987, taken by the Cardinals in the 18th round out of the University of Arkansas. At Arkansas, Sherrill worked with two other pitchers in March of that year for a combined no-hitter. Before the Razorbacks, Sherrill pitched for North Arkansas, earning himself a spot in the school's Hall of Fame.

With the Cardinals, Sherrill started at rookie league Johnson City, pitching in 42 innings and posting an ERA of 3.00. He hit single-A Savannah and St. Petersburg for 1988, with a combined ERA on the year of just 1.70. In on April game, Sherrill struck out the final six Sumter batters for a Savannah win.

Sherrill returned to St. Petersburg in 1989, showing an ERA of 2.12 with six saves and 48 strike outs. One of those saves came in July at Dunedin with a hitless ninth.

He made AAA Louisville in 1990, skipping over AA entirely. With Louisville, Sherrill had an ERA of 2.49 in 52 games. It was that August that the Cardinals' Bryn Smith was placed on the disabled list and Sherrill got his first call-up to St. Louis.

With the Cardinals that year, Sherrill got into eight games, his first Aug. 14, his last Oct. 3. In a total of 4.1 innings, he gave up three earned runs and struck out three. He gave up two of those runs in a Aug. 25 outing, giving up four hits and a suicide squeeze in an inning of work.

Sherrill returned to the Cardinals in mid-May 1991, getting into another 10 games, the final 10 big league games of his career.

This time, he gave up 13 earned runs in 14.1 innings of work. Four of those came May 27. After being described by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as neatly extricating himself from a jam in one inning, gave up four runs in the next. Three more runs came as he gave up a home run in June to Hall of Famer Eddie Murray.

Sent back down by late June, Sherrill returned to Louisville. Another year at Louisville in 1992 and Sherrill's playing days were done.

But, years later, as he described standing on the stage, waiting to see if he'd won the Central Pro-Am Association's 2009 fishing championship, Sherrill reached back to his baseball days.

"I hadn't been that nervous," Sherrill told ESPN 1400, "since I was standing on the mound at Busch Stadium in 1990 for my first big league game."

Sherrill ended up winning, bringing in more than 28 pounds of fish over two days that October, besting the second-place competitor's 25-pound haul.

Compare those numbers to the numbers Sherrill put up at Busch that day on Aug. 14, 1990: two-thirds of an inning, no hits, no runs.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Jeff Forney, Skills Learned - 13

Jeff Forney and his Florida Atlantic University teammates got an unusual honor in 1985. They got to play in the spring training home of a major league team, the Rangers, according to The South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The surrounds left Forney among those with some added motivation, The Sun-Sentinel wrote.

"The atmosphere's nice," Forney told The Sun-Sentinel. "Playing in a professional stadium gives you an extra incentive, a real motivation pump. It's a taste of the big leagues."

Forney soon got a taste of professional stadiums full time. But, in a professional career that lasted six seasons, he never got a taste of the bigs.

Forney's pro career began in 1985, taken by the Reds in the first round of the June secondary draft out of Florida Atlantic. He attended Science Hill High in Johnson City, Tenn.

With Science Hill, Forney helped his team to the 1982 conference title. Forney hit a home run in the title game. More than three decades later, Forney credited the team's success to its coach.

"He was just an outstanding coach," Forney told The Johnson City Press of Coach Charlie Bailey in 2014. "He really forced us to play fundamentally sound. We worked on the fundamentals. It was all about doing the little things."

Forney took those lessons on to college and the pros.

He started with the Reds at rookie Billings. He got into 56 games and hit .220. He then moved to single-A Tampa for 1986 and 1987. He hit .205 in a shortened 1986 and then .267 in a full 1987.

Forney arrived at single-A Cedar Rapids for 1988. He hit .282 on the year and made the Midwest League All-Star Team. He knocked in what turned out to be the winning run in a May game on a ground out.

Forney moved up to AA Chattanooga for 1989, but got into only a single game where he earned a walk. He then returned for 1990 and played a full season where he again became an All-Star. He hit .278 over 122 games overall, ending his career.

Forney has since settled in Arizona. He helped develop a baseball instructional TV show, Baseball Player University, there in 2006. That continues in 2017. He also continues to run Triple Threat Elite Performance Center in Gilbert, Ariz.

"If they get anything out of it, I hope they realize it is not just about playing the game," Forney told The Arizona Republic in 2006 of the TV show. "There are life skills to be learned. It can teach you to be so many things, including being humble and gracious. Enjoy the moment because the whole reason to play the game is to have fun."
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,727
Made the Majors:1,041-38.2%
Never Made Majors:1,686-61.8%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 430
10+ Seasons in the Minors:263

Bien Figueroa, Stayed Healthy - 15

Originally published Aug. 20, 2011
The Florida State Seminoles fell short in the 1986 College World Series, losing in the championship game to Arizona.

Helping them get there, though were two players especially, one of them shortstop Bien Figueroa, Florida State coach Mike Martin told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

"The key to us this year was that we had tough pitching and tough defense, especially from our middle infield," Martin told The Sun-Sentinel. "(Second baseman) Luis Alicea and Bien Figueroa stayed healthy all year long, and frankly, without them we couldn't have gone as far as we did. Had they been hurt, we had no one to back them up."

Figueroa had already helped himself to a fifth-round selection by the Cardinals in that June's draft. He went on to help himself to the major leagues, all of 12 games there, a stint helped at one point by chicken pox.

And he's gone on to an even-longer post-playing career as a minor league hitting coach and manager.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Figueroa was drafted out of Florida State at the age of 22. He played that first year at short-season Erie, hitting .237. He hit single-A Springfield in 1987, hitting .278 and hitting the same in 1988 at AA Arkansas.

He made AAA Louisville in 1989, a team for which he would play for, with some notable exceptions, for the next five seasons. St. Louis, of course, had no need for a shortstop, with Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith on the roster.

Figueroa hit .217 for Louisville in 1989, then .240 in 1990. In April 1990, A Figueroa double scored two. He knocked in 39 on the year.

By 1992, Figueroa was still in Louisville. He also got his first call-up in mid-May. He got his first major league hit May 17, a single, scoring on a grand slam.

Figueroa was called up again the next month, when Smith went on the disabled list after coming down with chicken pox. Figueroa got into five games then and five more after a September call-up, ending his major league career.

Figueroa played four more seasons with five clubs, all in the minors, with the Cardinals, Expos, Rangers, Orioles and Rockies, before finally ending his career in 1996.

He started his coaching career the next season, as hitting coach with the Orioles at AA Bowie. He has managed or coached almost every year since.

In 2006, he was in his second year managing single-A Frederick, talking about one of his players getting out of a slump and delivering the game-winner.

""He has been struggling, but he got a fastball in the middle of the plate and hit it good," Figueroa told The Frederick News Post of player Pete Shier. "To win, everyone has to help. You have to have guys come off the bench to do the job."

Figueroa's son Cole Figueroa is currently playing in the minors himself, at AA Montgomery in the Rays organization for 2011.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ernie Camacho, Arm Injury - 9

Ernie Camacho went down with injury early in his 1985 season, but he soon grew frustrated as an early surgery didn't work.

It took a second surgery that October, and a season of uncertainty, for the Cleveland Indians single-season saves leader to finally get back on track, according to The Detroit Free Press.

"I could pitch with pain, but not with injury," Camacho told The Free Press. "Nobody wanted to believe me. The brass didn't believe me. My teammates turned against me. I guess I can see why. Until then, who were they to believe? A doctor with 20 years' experience or me?"

Already a veteran of parts of five major league seasons, Camacho returned from that injury to play in five more. The reliever got into 193 games in all over his decade in the majors and saved 45 games.

Camacho's career began in 1976, taken by the Athletics in the first round of the June secondary draft out of Hartnell College in Salinas, Ca.

Camacho started at single-A Modesto. He hit AA Chattanooga in 1977 and then AAA Ogden in 1979. He he then made Oakland in 1980.

Camacho got into five games for the Athletics in 1980. He gave up nine earned in 11.2 innings. He then moved to the Pirates in a trade for 1981 and got into another seven major league games. This time, he gave up 12 earned 21.2 innings.

After going through the White Sox and Brewers systems, he landed with the Indians in mid-1983 and returned to the bigs. He then broke out in 1984 to appear in 69 games, post a 2.43 ERA and save a team-record 23.

He then returned for 1985, but went down injured after only two appearances. Back with the team for spring 1986, Camacho expressed his thankfulness for being back.

"It felt nice to be out there after a whole year without facing a batter," Camacho told reporters after an early spring outing. "I got ground balls, and my velocity is next to come. I'm not throwing 90 miles per hour yet, but that's because my shoulder is a little stiff. But nothing is really hurting."

Camacho returned to his 1984 form that year. He got into 51 games and saved 20. (He also escaped a mid-season boating incident and near-disaster with teammates.)

Camacho continued in the majors each year through 1990, though saw a maximum of 15 games in any one season. He went through the Indians, Astros, Giants and Cardinals in that time frame.

He ended with the Cardinals in 1990, getting into six games in St. Louis and also seeing time at AAA Louisville to end his career.

Camacho has since returned home to Salinas. In May 2017, he created the Ernie Camacho Educational Foundation with a friend and holds an annual free baseball clinic in Salinas.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,726
Made the Majors:1,041-38.2%-X
Never Made Majors:1,685-61.8%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 430-X
10+ Seasons in the Minors:263

Jesus Mendez, Venezuelan Nuggets - 27

Originally published March 4, 2010
The hopeful young ballplayers tried out, but weren't good enough. And Jesus Mendez, the chief Venezuela scout for the Philadelphia Phillies, had to break the news.

"Almost all of them, I'll have to let down easy," Mendez told The Los Angeles Times in a January 2008 article. "I never tell them afterward they can't play. I tell them what they have to work on to get better."

It was as a free agent in Caracas that a young Mendez signed with the Cardinals in time for the 1986 season. His father and brother had played in amature ball in Venezuela.

According to his Google-translated Spanish Wikipedia page, Mendez caught the eye of Jim Fregosi, then managing the winter Venezuelan Professional Baseball League' Tigres de Aragua.

His time with the national team and the Tigres would lead to his number 18 being retired, the same number he wore for Louisville in 1990. Mendez played a total of 13 seasons with the Tigres.

Mendez played with the Florida State League' St. Petersburg Cardinals for two seasons, providing some crucial plays, a bases loaded double late in a June 1986 game, a rally-stopping catch in a July 1987 game.

He made AA Arkansas in 1988 and AAA Louisville in 1989. Mendez played until 1992, but never got the call up. His Spanish Wikipedia page notes Mendez' path to the majors was blocked by the Cardinals' outfield that included Vince Coleman and Willie McGee.

Now, Mendez is working to find other Venezuelans with big league potential. In 2007, according to The LA Times, he signed six to a minor league contract for the Phillies. He observed 2,000.

"It's like gold mining," Mendez told The Times, "looking for a nugget."

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