Saturday, July 20, 2019

Kenny Morgan, Real Pop - 6

Originally published July 5, 2010
The Orlando Twins won the Southern League's first half title in 1990 and Kenny Morgan was one of the reasons why, according to The Orlando Sentinel. Morgan hit nine home runs for the O-Twins and had 45 RBIs.

"We got some power from Kenny when we needed it most," O-Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told The Sentinel. "He's had some real pop in his bat."

Morgan went on to hit a total of 13 home runs for AA Orlando that year, his second-half slowing from his first. His second half would be an indicator of things to come for Morgan.

It was Morgan's fifth season in minor league ball, he would only get one more, including a short stint at AAA and his career would be done.

Morgan began his career with the Twins in 1986, taken in the 17th round out of UNC-Charlotte. Sent first to single-A Kenosha, Morgan hit just .214 and three home runs in 61 games.

Spending the next two seasons at single-A Visalia, hitting .235 in 1987 and improving that to .283 in 1988 and earning a promotion to Orlando for 1989.

Morgan's average came back down at Orlando, to .248, but he hit 10 home runs. One of those home runs came to help clinch the first half for the O-Twins that year, their first of consecutive first-half titles. Down 3-1, Morgan hit a grand slam June 12, according to The Sentinel.

In August, Morgan came off a lifeless road trip at the plate with two hits and three RBIs in a 5-4 win.

"I tried to make contact and keep it in play, which is something I haven't been doing for almost three weeks," Morgan told The Sentinel. "I hope now I'm starting to see the ball well and only swing at strikes."

For 1990, Morgan returned to Orlando. His two-run double July 14 proved the difference in a 7-5 win. Two weeks later, Morgan drove in four runs in an 11-2 win. Three of those came on a three-run home run., according to The Sentinel.

Then, he had a bases-loaded triple Aug. 31 as part of a 15-0 win. But Morgan's efforts weren't enough to salvage his stats. He finished the year with a .247 average.

Morgan made it to AAA in 1991, but only for 13 games and 29 plate appearances. He hit just .148. He played 58 other games back at Orlando, hitting just .239 and Morgan's playing career was done.

Friday, July 19, 2019

John Kilner, More Consistent - 38

Originally published April 15, 2015
John Kilner wasn't pitching up to his own expectations, he told The Sumter Daily Item in 1987 and he knew one thing he needed to work on.

"Consistency," Kilner told The Daily Item of his problem the previous year. "Some days I would go out and pitch well and the next time not so well. I just have to be more consistent."

Kilner became consistent over the next few years, just not the consistency that he hoped for. He played that year at AA Greenville. He also played the next three there. He got a brief look at AAA, but he never made the majors.

Kilner's career began in 1983, signed by the Braves as a free agent out of Cleveland State University.

He played his first year in 1984 at rookie Pulaski. He went 4-3, with a 3.38 ERA. He moved to single-A Sumter for 1985, going 8-5, with a 3.80 ERA there.

That May in 1985, Kilner worked into the seventh inning of a game and struck out 15 batters, according to The Daily Item.

"Kilner had good velocity today and good control," Sumter manager Buddy Bailey told The Daily Item. "They might have helped him out some by swinging at some high pitches, but he kept the ball around the plate. His pitches seemed to have good movement on them."

Kilner moved to single-A Durham for 1986. He went 6-8, with a 4.53 ERA. It was in 1987 that he first made AA Greenville. His ERA hit 4.58.

He returned to Greenville for 1988, then again for 1989. He picked up 11 wins in 1988. He then turned reliever in 1989.

He got 30 outings at Greenville that year. He also saved a playoff game that sent the team to the Southern League championship series. He did so getting two eighth-inning strikeouts with the bases loaded, according to The Associated Press.

He also got 12 at AAA Richmond that year. He gave up 17 earned runs in 19.2 innings there.

The 1990 season turned out to be Kilner's fourth at Greenville. He got into 28 games, saving 15 of them. He also had a 2.75 ERA. It turned out to be his final season as a pro.

Kilner has since returned to the Cleveland area, where he is listed in 2015 as an instructor at All Prospect Sports Training in Valley View.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Gino Minutelli, Found It - 39

Originally published March 12, 2016
Gino Minutelli's professional career started at the urging of a coach for an independent Northwest League team, the Tri-City Triplets, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Minutelli, then a delivery truck driver, took the coach up on the offer - and he made the team, The Times wrote.

"I knew I had something (to contribute to baseball)," Minutelli told The Times as his career got underway in 1985. "Someone finally found it."

Minutelli went from delivering construction materials to delivering baseballs as a pro. He also eventually made baseball deliveries in the major leagues over three seasons.

Minutelli's career began that year in 1985, signed by Tri-City out of Southwestern College in California.

Minutelli started with Tri-City and posted an 8.09 ERA. But he also struck out 79 batters in 57 innings. His strikeouts led to multiple scouts showing interest in him, according to The Chula Vista Star-News.

The Reds got him. Sent to single-A Cedar Rapids, Minutelli went 15-5, with a 3.66 ERA. He then moved to single-A Tampa and AA Vermont for 1987. He went 11-7 between the two, with a 3.62 mark.

"One thing about Gino," Tampa manager Marc Bombard told The Star-News, "he's a battler. When he gets his curveball over (the plate) then you know right away he's going to have a good night. He's extremely tough when his curve is working."

Minutelli played 1988 at AA Chattanooga, then had a brief 1989 campaign. He played 1990 between Chattanooga and AAA Nashville. That September, the former delivery driver debuted in the majors.

Minutelli got into two games in relief for the eventual champions. In one total inning, he gave up one earned.

Coming out of spring training, Minutelli took the mound for the Reds in an exhibition, picking up the win in relief. He also still hoped to make the big club out of camp.

"I feel like I've done well and proven myself," Minutelli said afterward, according to The Bowling Green Daily News. "I guess we'll find out in the next few days what's going to happen."

Minutelli returned to the Reds that June. He got into 16 games, going 0-2, with a 6.04 ERA.

Minutelli played 1992 back in the minors, going 4-12 at AAA Nashville. He moved to the Giants for 1993, getting back to the majors for nine more outings in San Francisco. He gave up six earned in 14.1 innings of work.

Minutelli then got into two more seasons in the minors, at AA Canton-Akron with the Indians and AAA Tucson with the Astros in 1994, then AAA Richmond in 1995, ending his career.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Steve Davis, Never Came - 28

Steve Davis started the 1991 season for AA Williamsport in a slump - an 0 for 29 slump, according to The Hartford Courant.

He broke out of it with a double in an early May contest against New Britain. Afterward, he spoke with The Hartford Courant about getting through it.

"I'm not the kind of guy who gets mentally frustrated. I knew it would come sooner or later," Davis told The Courant.

Davis got out of that slump, but he didn't make it out of that season. That campaign marked his seventh in the pros, his third with time in AA. But one thing that never came for Davis was the majors.

Davis' career began in 1985, taken by the Reds in the second round of the draft out of Plano East High School in Texas.

At Plano East, Davis twice won all-district honors. He also won district Player of the Year and made the all-state team.

He started with the Reds at rookie Billings. He saw 14 games in 1985 and hit .196. He reached base on a dropped third strike in a July game.

Davis returned to Billings for 1986. He hit .176 over 40 games. He then moved to single-A Tampa for 1987, where he hit .257 over 113 games. That April, he hit a grand slam, one of 11 home runs he hit on the year.

He played 1988 at single-A Cedar Rapids. The outfielder made the "play of the game," according to The Cedar Rapids Gazette, as he made a leaping grab in an August contest with the sun in his eyes and then doubling off the runner.

Overall, he hit .255 over 121 games at Cedar Rapids. He then started 1989 at AA Chattanooga before moving mid-year to the Mets and single-A St. Lucie. He hit .169 in 22 games at Chattanooga and .263 in 66 games at St. Lucie.

He arrived at AA Jackson for 1990. He hit .215 in 81 games there and then followed the Mets' AA team to Williamsport for 1991. He hit .138 over 42 games there to end his career.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,155
Made the Majors:1,144-36.3%
Never Made Majors:2,011-63.7%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 475
10+ Seasons in the Minors:283

Eddie Zosky, Confidence Builder - 13

Originally published Sept. 25, 2012
Eddie Zosky told himself to drive the ball up the middle, Zosky told reporters later in a wire account. Or maybe he should hit it to the right side.

What he ended up doing in this September 1991 game, was hit it to center for a single and his first two major league RBIs.

"It was the first time I didn't look back to see if they were going to put in a pinch hitter," Zosky, his big league career barely two weeks old, told reporters in the wire account. "I felt like I was going to be hitting and they let me. It was a real confidence builder."

Zosky took that confidence and ended up playing in five different big league seasons. His big league time in those seasons, though, would be limited. The 18 games he saw with the Blue Jays in 1991 would be the most he would see in any one campaign.

Zosky's career began in 1989, taken by the Blue Jays in the first round of the draft, 19th pick overall, out of California State University Fresno.

Zosky started at AA Knoxville, hitting .221 in 56 games. He returned to Knoxville for 1990, then hit AAA Syracuse in 1991.

Going into 1991, Zosky was thought to be a candidate for the Toronto starting shortstop spot, according to The Boston Globe. Instead, though, Zosky was sent to AAA Syracuse.

"I just had a lot of negative thoughts," Zosky told The Globe of his 1991 spring. "They were saying in the papers that I had a chance to win the job, and I kept thinking to myself, 'Don't blow it. Don't make an error, don't throw this ball away.' And you can't play that way."

Zosky did make Toronto that year, but it wasn't until that September. In 18 games for the Blue Jays, Zosky hit just .148, getting just those two RBIs.

Zosky returned to the Blue Jays for 1992, but again not until September. This time, he got two hits in seven at bats.

Zosky didn't make it back to the majors until 1995, after a trade to the Marlins. Along the way, he had an abbreviated 1993, having bone chips removed from his shoulder early in the year. He played 1994 completely at Syracuse.

With the Marlins in 1995, Zosky got into six games, picking up one hit. He then saw eight games with the Brewers in 1999 and four games with Houston in 2000, rounding out his big league career.

In spring 1998, a year that Zosky spent entirely at AAA with the Brewers, Zosky kept his sense of humor. He kept even after becoming the first Brewer to get hit by a pitch in an inter-squad game, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"He apologized right away," Zosky told The Journal Sentinel of the offending pitcher Jeff Juden. "I was going to charge the mound, but then he apologized, so everything was OK."

Monday, July 15, 2019

Birmingham Barons Batboys, Years Later - 30

Rhett White served as a bat boy for the Birmingham Barons in 1989. Years later, he made a brief appearance as a pro player himself.

In between, according to The Associated Press, he and teammates got into a horrible car wreck that he almost didn't survive.

Three weeks after the crash, as White recovered, his Vestavia High School team went on to the state championship game - held on the same field on which he served as a bat boy, The AP wrote.

"The chance to play on this field would have blown his mind," Vestavia coach Casey Dunn told The AP in May 1995. "We're sort of living his dream because he can't."

Three years after the crash White took the mound at independent Tupelo in the Heartland League. He pitched in six games in relief and gave up one earned over 3.2 total innings.

White was one of many Birmingham Barons bat boys to take the field for the club over the years. He was one of six for the team in 1989 alone.

All six in 1989 got their own card, gracing the front of the team's checklist.

Along with White, the other bat boys were identified as Nathan Sparks, Brad Reznik, Brian Picard, Jeremy Berry and Adam Power.

At least one of those bat boys stayed with the club for 1990, and got onto the 1990 version of the team's checklist card, according to fellow bat boy Jeremy Berry. (Unlike the 1989 version, the 1990 card does not identify the bat boys.)

Reznik is the bat boy on the bottom left of the 1990 card, Berry wrote.

Berry has referenced his time as a Birmingham Barons bat boy multiple times on Twitter, including in a March 2018 tweet. Berry is now an attorney in Atlanta.

"I saw a lot of great players come through during those four years," Berry wrote. "Was an amazing experience for sure."

More recently, author Shawn Powell wrote of banter between himself and four Birmingham Baron bat boys in a 2018 book, titled "The Keys to the Batter's Box."
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,154
Made the Majors:1,144-36.3%
Never Made Majors:2,010-63.7%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 475
10+ Seasons in the Minors:283

Frank Thomas, Dimension of Power - 11

Originally published Aug. 29, 2011; Updated Jan. 8, 2014
Asked about the promotion of the White Sox' young first baseman in early August 1990, White Sox GM Larry Himes said they did so because the club needed a bat, The Chicago Tribune wrote.

That young first baseman was Frank Thomas and he rewarded that confidence in just his second game, hitting a two-run triple against Milwaukee.

"Frank adds that dimension of power to our lineup," Himes told The Tribune of Thomas' promotion from AA Birmingham. "I've watched our ballclub the last four or five days and decided we needed pop."

And Thomas gave them pop. He gave them pop over much of the next 16 seasons, winning consecutive MVP awards in 1993 and 1994 and five All-Star appearances.

When his career was finally over in 2008, after 19 total seasons, Thomas had amassed 521 home runs. He also tallied more than 1,700 RBIs and a career batting average of .301, numbers that in 2014 won him induction into the Hall of Fame.

Thomas' career began in 1989, taken by the White Sox in the first round, seventh overall, out of Auburn.

He played that first year between rookie ball and single-A Sarasota. He played his second between AA Birmingham and major league Chicago.

After his early-August call-up, Thomas played 60 games for the White Sox, hitting .330 with his first seven home runs. He also earned his permanent home as the White Sox lineup, infield and history.

In 1991, Thomas hit 32 home runs in 158 games. He also hit .318. On June 24, he hit his first career grand slam. It was also Thomas' first grand slam since high school.

Going into 1992, the talk was about Thomas' pitch selection. In 1991, he drew 138 walks, the most in the league. In four of his first five years, Thomas led the league in walks.

"I just learned to be patient," Thomas told The New York Times in March 1992. "If a pitch isn't in the strike zone, I'm so picky I won't swing the bat."

Thomas' first MVP award came in 1993. He hit 41 home runs, with a batting average .317 as the White Sox made the playoffs. His 37th home run of the year tied the team record and marked Thomas' 100th.

As the seasons went by, Thomas continued to solidify himself in Chicago sports lore. He won his second MVP in the strike-shortened 1994 season with 38 home runs and a .353 average.

In 1996, 1996, 2000 and 2003, Thomas hit 40 or more home runs. Through 2000, Thomas only hit under .300 once, in 1998. In 1997, he won the American League batting title, hitting .347.

As 2001 came, injuries caught up with Thomas. He got into only 20 games that year, 74 in 2004 and, the year the White Sox won the World Series in 2005, Thomas got into only 34 games. In 2001, it was a torn arm muscle. In 2005, it was a broken foot.

Throughout his accomplishments, Thomas was never tainted as others were. After hitting his 500th home run, Thomas said that made the accomplishment that much more meaningful.

"It means a lot to me because I did it the right way," Thomas told The New York Times. "I could care less what others have done."

Thomas hit that home run as a Blue Jay, playing his final three seasons with Toronto and Oakland.

In August 2010, after Thomas finally called it quits, the White Sox honored his contribution to the team by retiring his number, No. 35. At the ceremony, Thomas became emotional.

"Eighteen years in this game and 16 full ones here," Thomas told ESPNChicago.com later, "it brought back a lot of memories, thinking about all the teammates and all the great times, good and bad times. It just got to me. I was emotionally caught up. I'm a very proud man and this probably was the proudest day of my life."

Thomas had another proud day Jan. 8, 2014, with his induction into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, garnering 83.7 percent of the vote.

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