Friday, May 26, 2017

Mike Kraft, Showed Patience - 11

Mike Kraft showed patience in college, enough to make the school's record book.

Kraft worked a total of 63 walks for Delta State University in 1988, still the most walks awarded a Delta State hitter in a season. Over his four-season college career, Kraft earned 139 total walks, one off the career record.

Kraft used his college record to walk on to the pros. He played two seasons, one in rookie ball, the other in single-A.

Kraft's pro career began in 1989, signed by the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent out of Delta State University in Mississippi.

At Delta State, Kraft led off the bottom of the fourth with a single in an April 1987 game and later scored.

With the Cardinals, Kraft started at rookie Johnson City. He knocked seven home runs, tied for the team lead. He also led his team in RBI, with 37, and in slugging percentage, .455. He also hit .283 and walked 30 times.

He moved to single-A Springfield. In 109 games, he hit .241. He hit three home runs, recorded 36 RBI and walked 50 times. His second season as a pro also proved his last. He didn't play in a third.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,634
Made the Majors:1,024-38.9%
Never Made Majors:1,610-61.1%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 425
10+ Seasons in the Minors:261

Randy Phillips, Something Better - 27

Originally published July 27, 2015
Randy Phillips started as a player, but that never really worked out.

He played on the local Greenville Cardinals semi-pro team in South Carolina. But then came his chance to turn completely pro. It came as a coach in the Braves system. He turned that into a lengthy career.

"I took all that playing and turned it into experience for the coaching," Phillips explained to his hometown Greenville News in 2012. "If somebody was talking about infield play or catching, I would listen in. The bottom line is that if you work as hard as you can, you may not get what you want originally, but you may end up with something better."

Phillips' something better included time in the Blue Jays and Red Sox systems, as well as the Braves, all as a coach. He never saw time in the minors as a player.

Phillips' pro coaching career began in 1990, brought in by the Braves to serve as hitting coach at rookie Pulaski.

Before that, he served as a player manager for the semi-pro Cardinals. He also coached at two high schools, Parker High and West Hampton High, as well as Newberry College and local American Legion in Greenville, according to his card.

Phillips also came from a baseball family. His father Alva Phillips played briefly in the minors and went on to  coach American Legion ball in the Greenville area.

By 1996, Phillips was with the Blue Jays as hitting coach at short-season St. Catharines, then 1998 at rookie Medicine Hat. He made AA Knoxville in 1999.

Phillips coached with the Red Sox at short-season Lowell in 2003 and 2004. He then returned to Greenville as coach in 2006 and 2007.

In 2012, Phillips made the Greater Greenville Baseball Hall of Fame.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Juan Williams, Lead Stuck - 25

Originally published July 1, 2015
Juan Williams gave his Richmond Braves a lead in this August 1995 game and the lead stuck, according to The Associated Press.

Williams came up for the AAA Braves in the fourth inning and knocked his fourth home run of the season. That gave the team a 2-1 lead in a game the club went on to win 3-1, according to The AP.

Williams made AAA for the first time that year, his sixth season as a pro. He went on to return to Richmond for all of 1996. Williams never took that final step to the majors. He played a total of 10 seasons, never making the bigs.

Williams' career began in 1990, taken by the Braves in the 19th round of the draft as a 17-year-old out of Ramona High School in California.

Williams started with the Braves at rookie Pulaski. The outfielder got into 58 games and hit .273. He moved to single-A Macon for 1991 and he split between Pulaski and Macon for 1992.

For 1993 and 1994, Williams played at high-A Durham. He hit .231 his first year there and .218 his second. But he also upped his home run total to 19 in 1994. One of those home runs came in a July win, a two-run shot.

It was in 1995 that Williams first saw both AA Greenville and AAA Richmond. He hit .293 on the year, with 20 home runs. Both were career-highs. He hit two home runs in a May game for Greenville, one of them a 10th-inning game-winner. He was called up to Richmond in July.

Williams returned to Richmond for all of 1996, hitting .272, with 15 home runs.

Williams moved to the Red Sox system for 1997. He played that year between AA Trenton and AAA Pawtucket. He hit just .199 on the year.

His final year in affiliated ball came in 1998, with the Cubs. He played between high-A Daytona and AA West Tennessee. His final pro time then came in 1999, with 18 games at independent Allentown.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Jamie Crump, All-Region - 15

Originally published July 25, 2015
DeKalb Junior College became Georgia Perimeter College and the DeKalb honors later became Georgia Perimeter honors.

In 2015, the Georgia Perimeter team put seven players on the All-Region team, six of those on the first team.

Twenty-six years earlier, in 1989, the DeKalb club put four players on the All-Region team. One of those players on that 1989 Al-Region squad was Jamie Crump.

Crump went on from DeKalb to turn pro. His pro career, though, was brief. He got into 43 games over a single season of rookie ball, the extent of his time in pro ball.

Crump's pro career began in 1989, signed by the Braves as a free agent out of DeKalb, according to his card. He was a native of Alpharetta, Ga. He's also known by his formal name, James Crump.

He didn't get into a game until 1990. Crump got into the field with the Braves at rookie Pulaski. He got into 43 games for Pulaski that year. He played mostly at third base, but got some time at first base. He also got into a game as a pitcher.

As a position player, Crump hit three home runs, but overall hit just .175. He knocked in 15 and stole two bases. As a pitcher, Crump got into one inning, giving up three earned runs. It was his only season as a pro.

Crump appears to have returned home to Georgia. A Jamie Crump is listed as a coach for the 12U Roswell Green Hornets in Roswell, Ga., only a few miles from Crump's hometown of Alpharetta.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Mike Cerame, Long Enough - 29

Among the Kissimmee Astros' bat boys in 1994 was a bat girl. The girl, 16-year-old Cami Jones, was part of a baseball family that saw three of her brothers also be bat boys, according to The Orlando Sentinel.

To The Sentinel that July, team trainer Mike Cerame vouched for the girl's credentials.

"She's been around baseball long enough to know whats going on," Cerame told The Sentinel.

Cereme has been around baseball - and other sports - now for a long time himself. He started as a clubhouse manager, then turned athletic trainer in the Braves and Astros organization. He's since worked in sports medicine and as a trainer in college.

Cereme's career began in 1985 as a clubhouse manager for his hometown Rochester Red Wings. He stayed there for four seasons before joining the Braves as a trainer at rookie Pulaski.

Along the way, Cereme graduated from Monroe Community College in Rochester and Eastern Kentucky University. He later received a masters from Eastern Kentucky in physical education and sports administration.

Cerame served at Pulaski at least through 1991. He then joined the Astros and served as trainer at Kissimmee for 1994.

He went on to serve as head trainer at Fredonia State University, where he also helped out at Buffalo Bills training camp. He then worked at University Sports Medicine in the Rochester area and served as trainer at his old high school, Aquinas Institute.

Cerame returned to Monroe as head athletic trainer in 2009, a job he continues in 2017. He also works with community youth sports programs, according to his Monroe bio.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,633
Made the Majors:1,024-38.9%
Never Made Majors:1,609-61.1%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 425
10+ Seasons in the Minors:261

Brian Kowitz, Fantasy Land - 22

Originally published Aug. 15, 2015
Two-time All-Star David Justice was injured and rookie Brian Kowitz seemed to be filling in just fine, according to The Associated Press and Braves manager Bobby Cox.

That's because the Braves were winning, Cox told The AP after a June 1995 win against the Cubs.

"Sure I'll keep Brian at the top of the order. We're 3-0," Cox told The AP. "He's a scrapper. He knocks in runs, gets on base. We're getting production out of our rookies."

Kowitz' chances in the Braves lineup, however, ended up being limited. When Justice returned later the month, Kowitz' brief major league career was over.

Kowitz' career began in 1990, taken by the Braves in the ninth round of the draft out of Clemson University. He went to Clemson out of Boys' Latin School in Baltimore.

At Clemson, Kowitz played well enough in his 1990 to be named ACC player of the year.

With the Braves, Kowitz played his first season between rookie Pulaski and AA Greenville. He hit .324 in 43 games at Pulaski and .132 in 20 at Greenville.

He played 1991 between high-A Durham and Greenville, doing the same in 1992. In 1993, he played much of the year at Greenville, getting 12 games at AAA Richmond.

Kowitz gave his Greenville Braves a lead in an August 1993 game, helping them on to a win.

"On my third at-bat, I was looking to go to left field,'' Kowitz told The Orlando Sentinel of his home run. "He threw either a change-up or a slider that stayed up."

Kowitz played his 1994 season entirely at AAA Richmond. He hit .300, with eight home runs and 57 RBI.

Then came 1995 and Kowitz' June call up to the majors. In that stint, Kowitz got into 10 games, 24 official at bats. He picked up four hits for a .167 average.

He returned to Richmond mid-month with a desire to get back to Atlanta.

"The ultimate goal is to get back to the big leagues," Kowitz told his hometown Baltimore Sun. "That's fantasy land. That keeps the fire going. I've gotten a taste of it, so now the fire's blazing."

Kowitz never got back to Atlanta. He finished out the year at Richmond, then played 1996 in the minors between the Blue Jays and Tigers systems. His last recorded pro time came after three years away, in 2000 with independent Aberdeen.

He has since stayed involved in baseball, serving as an instructor in 2015 with The Baseball Warehouse in Owings Mills, Md.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Stewart Ford, Closed Out - 4

Originally published July 3, 2015
Stewart Ford came into this July 1992 game and finished what his starter began.

What Ford finished for rookie Idaho Falls was a no-hitter, according to MiLB.com.

Ford came on in relief of starter David Pike July 19, 1992, and closed out the no-no. The final score in the game was Idaho Falls 3, Medicine Hat 0. Ford got the save.

Ford saved that no-hitter in his third season as a pro. He couldn't extend the success he showed in saving that no-hitter. That season ended up being his last.

Ford's career began in 1990, taken by the Braves in the 22nd round of the draft out of Ranger Junior College in Texas. He played his high school ball at Austin's McCallum High.

At McCallum, Ford is counted among the school's Hall of Honor.

Ford started with the Braves in 1990 at rookie Pulaski. He got into 15 games for the club, all in relief. He ended with a 6.20 ERA. His ERA was bettered a bit with a scoreless inning to close out the season in September.

Ford returned to Pulaski for 1991. He got into 18 games that year, with a 4.42 ERA. He picked up one win and two losses.

His third season came at Idaho Falls. The reliever got into 27 total games, saving three and taking two losses. He ended with a 6.18 ERA. It was his final season as a pro.

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