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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Tommy Thompson played, coached for years in White Sox system; Later got career 2nd chance through sobriety

Tommy Thompson managed in his 700th affiliated game in April 2012 with the Winston-Salem Dash and Thompson expressed thanks to his organization, the White Sox, for the long-term chance to work in the game, according to MLBlogs.com.

"It's been a great life. I've had an opportunity to do what I love to do — play the game of baseball, travel, coach young kids. It's a privilege," Thompson told the site. "It's a privilege to do what you love to do and actually get paid for it."

Thompson would also later express thankfulness at something else, his sobriety.

Thompson's long career in baseball began as a player in 1979, taken by the Braves in the 28th round of the draft out of the University of Oklahoma.

Thompson started with the Braves at rookie Kingsport. He hit .307 in 51 games. He then made single-A Durham for 1980 and then AA Savannah and even briefly AAA Richmond in 1981.

He continued in the Braves system through 1985, only getting back to Richmond for three games in 1985. He then moved to the White Sox system for 1986 and played at AAA Buffalo.

As he held on at AAA and prepared for 1987, he spoke to The Chicago Tribune about why he still played. He referenced a couple high school friends nudging him to get a real job.

"I told them that there were 680 people in my graduating class in high school, and only 30 are doing what they really want to do," Thompson told The Tribune. "I'm one of those 30. That makes me feel good."

Thompson finished out his playing career with 58 games at AAA Hawaii that year and nine at AAA Vancouver in 1988.

By 1989, he served as a coach with the White Sox at AA Birmingham. In 1990, he took his first managerial assignment, at short-season Utica.

In his second game in, he recalled later to Florida Today, he got ejected arguing a call. He also reacted to the umpire's suggestion that he didn't know how to manage by doing "a little striptease act," taking off his hat and shirt, something that he believed sent an early message to his players.

"If (the players) didn't think that their manager stood behind them, I think you  tend to lose some kids that way," Thompson told Florida Today. "They don't compete as hard as they can if they don't feel you are all for them."

Thompson managed at single-A South Bend for 1991. He stayed with the White Sox system through 2005, spending much of that time as the organization's minor league catching coordinator. He briefly moved to the Orioles system, before returning to the White Sox for 2011 as manager at single-A Kannapolis.

Going into 2014, as he prepared to manage high-A Winston-Salem, Thompson spoke with MLB.com about then being six years sober. His drinking was what led to his initial departure from the White Sox after 2005. But he got himself together, then the White Sox eventually hired him back.

"I've known a lot of people that have had addiction issues in life. I think we all have," White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams told MLB.com of Thompson. "I don't know anyone that has gone to Tommy's depth and has come back in such a -- I don't even have the words -- such a grand way and fashion."

For 2021, Thompson is to continue managing, but with former White Sox affiliate Great Falls, as part of the revamped MLB partner league.

"We are so excited to have Tommy back as our manager for the 2021 season," Great Falls' president Scott Reasoner said in a statement after Thompson's hire. "His love for the game and his care to help our players develop is second to none. We are very lucky to have him in our dugout moving forward!"

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Rick Ray served as a minors trainer, then in college and as a mentor


Derek Raynes remembers Rick Ray. He counts him as a mentor.

Raynes served as an assistant athletic trainer for West Virginia State University from 2002 to 2007, under Ray, who served as the school's head athletic trainer.

Raynes made sure to reference Ray as Raynes went out on his own for his own training venture.

For Ray, he continues in 2021 right where he's been for the previous quarter century, at West Virginia State, much of that time as head trainer.

Before that, Ray served as a trainer in the minors, with the White Sox at short-season Utica.

Ray's career started at the California University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his bachelor of science degree in athletic training and social science in 1988.

He started work as a trainer at Utica that same year in 1988 and he continued there through 1991. He worked at Utica that 1991 summer as he worked toward his Masters in exercise physiology at Marshall University.

Ray soon signed on at West Virginia State. His bio there credits him with at least 24 years at the school, handling athletic injuries and treatments. His bio also counts him as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

Ray continues as head athletic trainer at the school in 2021.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,630
Made the Majors:1,248-34.4%
Never Made Majors:2,382-65.6%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:520
10+ Seasons in the Minors:307

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Ron McKay has served as a coach in high school, college and pros, also as instructor


Ron McKay has long been a baseball coach, but he's also been a teacher, according to Hofstra University.

Alongside his coaching duties in college, McKay has continued to be a physical education teacher for the Westbury School District on Long Island.

Along the way, McKay also spent a short time as a coach in the pros, three years spent in the White Sox system at short-season Utica.

McKay started off at Queens College, helping them to the conference title in 1981 and NCAA regionals.

He then went into coaching, serving as Queens' assistant coach and then head coach for two years.

Then came the White Sox, where he coached Utica in 1990 alongside Bill Ballou and Charlie Lau Jr., as well as manager Tommy Thompson.

McKay moved to high school coaching after that, at Westbury and Bethpage. 

He also coached in college, as an assistant at SUNY-Old Westbury, then as an assistant at the New York Institute of Technology, LIU-Post and then as a volunteer assistant at Hofstra, through at least 2016-2017.

McKay has also served as a baseball instructor with the New York Baseball Academy.

A parent quote on the academy page references multiple coaches, including McKay - Ronnie McKay.

"The staff at the NYBA couldn't have made all of my boys’ first week of camp this year more enjoyable," the parent was quoted as saying.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,629
Made the Majors:1,248-34.4%
Never Made Majors:2,381-65.6%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:520
10+ Seasons in the Minors:307

Monday, April 19, 2021

Charley Lau Jr. followed his father into coaching hitters, became 'hitting guru' in own right

Charley Lau Jr.'s dad influenced Hall of Famers as a hitting coach as Charley Lau Sr. promoted theories of hitting that included shifting weight during the swing, The Tampa Bay Times wrote.

The son talked to The Times of his father's influence in August 1987, influence both on him, and others.

"When I was younger I really didn't follow it that much," the younger Lau told The Times. "Then when I was 15 or 16, I could see how it made sense. I began to read his books, I watched his instructional film. I tried to adapt what he was saying."

Lau Jr. spoke then as a player on the independent Miami Marlins of the Florida State League. His playing career proved brief, just 12 games, but he went on to a career as a hitting instructor in his own right, including a stint in 1990 as a hitting coach for short-season Utica.

Lau Jr.'s playing career began and ended in 1987, signed by Miami, but his connection to baseball began much earlier through his father. He was also credited as Charles Lau and as Charlie Lau.

The elder Lau played 11 seasons in the majors, his last in 1967 with the Orioles and the Braves. He hit .255 over his career. He then became a coach, imparting his approach to hitting for eight seasons with the Royals, three with the Yankees and two with the White Sox before his passing in 1984.

The younger Lau even served as a batboy for the Royals in 1973 at the age of 8, as his dad served as first base coach.

On the field, Lau later helped his Coral Gables High School team to a district semifinal win in 1983 with an RBI single.

Then, in April 1987, he tried out for the independent Marlins. He eventually signed and saw 12 games. He went 4 for 32, marking the extent of his professional career.

By 1990, Lau had turned coach himself, with the last organization his father worked for, the White Sox, at Utica. He also worked to implement the Walt Hriniak hitting style, the philosophy shared by the elder Lau, The Chicago Tribune wrote

"I have a lot of knowledge," Lau Jr. told The Tribune that March. "I feel like I know the system as well as anybody."

That season appears to have been Lau's only season as a minor league coach. Lau, however, has gone on to a long career as an instructor. 

He ran a baseball clinic in Miami in December 1992. He also worked with a young Alex Rodriguez.

By 2001, he had earned the title "Miami-based hitting guru" as he worked with Homer Bush. Then, in 2006, he'd earned the title "one of the most respected hitting coaches in the country."

Lau continues as an instructor in 2021, with Charley Lau's Hitting School of Kansas City.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,628
Made the Majors:1,248-34.4%
Never Made Majors:2,380-65.6%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:520
10+ Seasons in the Minors:307

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Bill Ballou had patience, calming effect as minors coach; In offseason, he taught physical education in school

Bill Ballou liked serving as a minor league pitching coach better than his offseason job, as a physical education teacher in New York, he told The Battle Creek Enquirer in April 1999.

The Astros were glad to have him, for his ability to relate to young pitchers, Houston minor league pitching coordinator Dewey Robinson told The Enquirer.

"What I like most about Bill is his patience and calming effect he has on young pitchers," Robinson told The Enquirer. "For a lot of kids, it's their first full season of pro baseball and they go through a series of adjustments. Bill gets kids to relax and trust him."

Ballou worked in his summer minor league pitching coach job for years, all after his own stint playing in the minors. 

Ballou's long career in baseball began in 1957, signed by the Yankees as a native of Oceanside, N.Y.

He saw two games that year at low-D Kearney, then seven at Class D Auburn in 1958. He returned in 1961 to Class C St. Cloud with the Cubs. 

He threw a complete-game six-hitter there in July 1961, in a game where teammate Lou Brock scored twice. Overall, Ballou went 10-4, with a 3.37 ERA at St. Cloud.

Ballou continued playing until 1964. He twice made it to AA, at Amarillo in 1963 and Fort Worth in 1964.

He then went in to teaching, something he continued to do in 1999, The Tribune wrote. He got back into pro ball in 1979 as a scout for the Cubs, then as a short-season coach in 1983.

Ballou arrived with the White Sox in 1987, as a coach in the rookie Gulf Coast League. He arrived at short-season Utica in 1988 and stayed through at least 1991.

By 1995, he was at single-A Hickory and 1997, with the Astros at short-season Auburn. In 1998, he served as pitching coach at single-A Quad Cities and watched over Astros first-rounder Brad Lidge.

"This league will be a good test for him," Ballou told The Quad-City Times that July. "He should be able to compete here, and he won't be in over his head."

Ballou continued with the Astros through at least 2007. He spent 2000 to 2004, five seasons, as pitching coach with the organization's New York-Penn League entry, then 2005 to 2007 as pitching coach at rookie Greeneville.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,627
Made the Majors:1,248-34.4%
Never Made Majors:2,379-65.6%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:520
10+ Seasons in the Minors:307

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Tommy Thompson played, coached for years in White Sox system; Later got career 2nd chance through sobriety

Tommy Thompson managed in his 700th affiliated game in April 2012 with the Winston-Salem Dash and Thompson expressed thanks to his organization, the White Sox, for the long-term chance to work in the game, according to MLBlogs.com.

"It's been a great life. I've had an opportunity to do what I love to do — play the game of baseball, travel, coach young kids. It's a privilege," Thompson told the site. "It's a privilege to do what you love to do and actually get paid for it."

Thompson would also later express thankfulness at something else, his sobriety.

Thompson's long career in baseball began as a player in 1979, taken by the Braves in the 28th round of the draft out of the University of Oklahoma.

Thompson started with the Braves at rookie Kingsport. He hit .307 in 51 games. He then made single-A Durham for 1980 and then AA Savannah and even briefly AAA Richmond in 1981.

He continued in the Braves system through 1985, only getting back to Richmond for three games in 1985. He then moved to the White Sox system for 1986 and played at AAA Buffalo.

As he held on at AAA and prepared for 1987, he spoke to The Chicago Tribune about why he still played. He referenced a couple high school friends nudging him to get a real job.

"I told them that there were 680 people in my graduating class in high school, and only 30 are doing what they really want to do," Thompson told The Tribune. "I'm one of those 30. That makes me feel good."

Thompson finished out his playing career with 58 games at AAA Hawaii that year and nine at AAA Vancouver in 1988.

By 1989, he served as a coach with the White Sox at AA Birmingham. In 1990, he took his first managerial assignment, at short-season Utica.

In his second game in, he recalled later to Florida Today, he got ejected arguing a call. He also reacted to the umpire's suggestion that he didn't know how to manage by doing "a little striptease act," taking off his hat and shirt, something that he believed sent an early message to his players.

"If (the players) didn't think that their manager stood behind them, I think you  tend to lose some kids that way," Thompson told Florida Today. "They don't compete as hard as they can if they don't feel you are all for them."

Thompson managed at single-A South Bend for 1991. He stayed with the White Sox system through 2005, spending much of that time as the organization's minor league catching coordinator. He briefly moved to the Orioles system, before returning to the White Sox for 2011 as manager at single-A Kannapolis.

Going into 2014, as he prepared to manage high-A Winston-Salem, Thompson spoke with MLB.com about then being six years sober. His drinking was what led to his initial departure from the White Sox after 2005. But he got himself together, then the White Sox eventually hired him back.

"I've known a lot of people that have had addiction issues in life. I think we all have," White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams told MLB.com of Thompson. "I don't know anyone that has gone to Tommy's depth and has come back in such a -- I don't even have the words -- such a grand way and fashion."

For 2021, Thompson is to continue managing, but with former White Sox affiliate Great Falls, as part of the revamped MLB partner league.

"We are so excited to have Tommy back as our manager for the 2021 season," Great Falls' president Scott Reasoner said in a statement after Thompson's hire. "His love for the game and his care to help our players develop is second to none. We are very lucky to have him in our dugout moving forward!"

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,626
Made the Majors:1,248-34.4%
Never Made Majors:2,378-65.6%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:520
10+ Seasons in the Minors:307

Craig Teter had 14-game hitting streak in rookie ball; Saw three pro seasons, made single-A


Originally published April 22, 2017
Craig Teter went on a bit of a tear for the Gulf Coast League White Sox in July 1989, according to his Best card.

Teter rattled off a 14-game hitting streak and a .397 average that month, on his way to a .284 season average over 43 games.

Teter moved up to single-A South Bend the next year, but he couldn't keep it up. His 1990 campaign also turned out to be his last as a pro.

Teter's career began in 1988, taken by the White Sox in the 33rd round of the draft out of Seminole Community College in Oklahoma.

Teter hit .337 at Seminole before joining the White Sox GCL club later in the year. He got into four games with the GCL White Sox, going 4 for 14. Teter then returned to the GCL for 1989, the outfielder hitting three home runs and knocking in 21.

He then moved to South Bend for 1990, also seeing short-season Utica. At South Bend, he got into 27 games and hit .262. At Utica, he got into another 35 games, but hit just .138.

Teter's Utica card listed his favorite major leaguer as Dale Murphy and his past times as hunting and golf. Teter couldn't follow Murphy to the majors, though, his career ending short of AA.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,625
Made the Majors:1,248-34.4%
Never Made Majors:2,377-65.6%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:520
10+ Seasons in the Minors:307