Friday, September 22, 2017

Brian Snyder, Going to Work - 14

Originally published Oct. 17, 2010
Young Brandon Snyder was playing at short-season Aberdeen in 2006. It was a year after he was taken by the Orioles in the first round. He was also a year out of high school.

“It’s difficult for a 19-year-old to adjust to,” Snyder’s father, Brian Snyder, told the Laurel Hill Connection that July. “I don’t think playing was much of an adjustment, but the idea that it’s a job. That part of it is a little bit difficult.”

The father spoke to The Connection as not just a father. He was speaking as someone who spent 12 years getting paid to play baseball, and someone who had a major league job twice.

That baseball job started for Brian Snyder in 1979, taken by the Mariners in the seventh round of the draft out of Clemson University. The pitcher went to work that year at single-A Alexandria, posting a 2.03 ERA in six starts.

Remaining at single-A through 1981, Snyder posted a 1.48 ERA at Wausau that year, that was after a 5.67 mark the year before at San Jose. But his 1981 numbers were enough to help him jump past AA and go right to AAA Salt Lake City for 1982.

That jump to AAA was the first of three years at Salt Lake, without getting the call-up to Seattle. He wouldn't get that until 1985, called up from the Mariners' new AAA home in Calgary.

His first two years at Salt Lake, Snyder served as mainly a reliever, posting ERAs over 4 both years. The Deseret News described Snyder upon his arrival as a left-handed reliever who used mostly fastballs and curves. He got his second save of 1982 in late May, finishing out a 3-1 win. In one August 1982 game, Snyder got the final out on one pitch.

In 1984, Snyder returned to starting, his ERA increasing north of six. When he wasn't pitching that year, Snyder was handing out awards to newspaper carriers.

But by June of that year, Salt Lake manager Bobby Floyd was noticing he had two pitchers throwing well, but Snyder and two others weren't.

"I hope the other three get in the same grove," Floyd told The News. "We need to be more consistent with our pitching. We're going to be able to swing the bats all right, but we're not going to be able to give up so many runs."

In 1985, at Calgary, Snyder split between starting and reliving, with a 4.00 ERA between them. But he did well enough to get the call-up to Seattle by late May.

Snyder made his debut on May 25. The then 27-year-old struck out seven and gave up only one earned run, before being pulled after 4.2 innings. He was chased in his debut by, of all things, a blister.

His next outing, on June 2, wasn't as good. In 4.1 innings, he gave up four runs. On June 7, Snyder was lifted after just one inning of work, though after giving up just one run. It was a return of the blisters that chased Snyder again.

In all, Snyder pitched in 15 contests for the Mariners that year, his ERA ending a 6.37. He was released at year's end. He would return to the majors, but not until four years later, with Oakland. In the meantime, Snyder spent two years with the Padres at AAA Las Vegas, his second year posting a 2.60 ERA in 39 mostly relief appearances.

He signed on with Oakland for 1988, spending the year at AAA Tacoma. His ERA remained good at 2.63 in 54 appearances. He returned to Tacoma for 1989. By late June, he was 5-0 with a 2.16 ERA. And he was also in Oakland.

It was a brief call-up. He got into only two games. But he was back. In those two games, he gave up a home run to Fred McGriff. In his second, he walked two, gave up a hit and didn't record an out. It was his final major league appearance.

Snyder had one more year in professional baseball, with the Braves at AAA Richmond in 1990. In 45 appearances, Snyder posted a 2.48 ERA in 46 appearances and he was done.

Snyder has gone on to head up his own baseball academy, Snyder Baseball & Softball in Virginia. As for his son, Brandon Snyder got the job he wanted this past September, getting called-up to Baltimore and playing in 10 games.

Sam Ayoub, No Better - 15

Originally published Nov. 10, 2011
When Ralph Garr returned to Richmond in 2008, he was there to accept his induction into the International League Hall of Fame and see off the AAA Richmond franchise to Georgia.

He also expected to look up an old friend in longtime Richmond trainer Sam Ayoub, Garr told The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

"Sam Ayoub was one of the nicest human beings I've met," Garr told The Times-Dispatch. "They don't get no better. I plan on giving him a call."

Garr played at Richmond for two seasons, 1969 and 1970. Ayoub was trainer at Richmond for a quarter century, from 1968 through 1992.

A native of Smithville, Tenn., Ayoub started as a trainer in the Braves system in the early 1960s. His 30th season came in 1990. That year also marked his 21st in Richmond.

Over that time, Ayoub oversaw the physical ailments of countless Braves farmhands and future Braves major leaguers, including Dale Murphy.

By the time his career in Richmond was over, Ayoub had become an institution. Author Ron Pomfrey, in the acknowledgements for his book "Baseball in Richmond," included Ayoub on the list, thanking him "for his friendship and encouragement."

After Ayoub's retirement, Ayoub returned periodically. In May 2011, he returned to see Dave Machemer, manager of the new AA Richmond team. Machemer, a former player, played on a winter ball team in South America, one that Ayoub served on as trainer, The Times-Dispatch wrote.

That year in 2008, Ayoub, along with Garr and a long list of former Richmond Braves returned for the team's final game in the city. Each was introduced individually. After Ayoub was announced, along with his long record with the team, Ayoub walked onto the field to his share of cheers. The scene was captured in a YouTube video from the day, at the 1:50 mark.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mark Holzemer, Hit Him - 16

Mark Holzemer went six innings in his major league debut in August 1993, but the outing didn't go exactly as hoped, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Holzemer gave up five runs on nine hits in the no-decision. The young pitcher explained to The Times his thinking during his big debut.

"I wasn't nervous in the bullpen and I wasn't nervous warming up," Holzemer told The Times, "but after I got the first guy out, then it hit me."

Holzemer went on to see time in six major league campaigns for four different clubs. He got into 94 games, serving mostly as a reliever.

Holezmer's career began in 1987, taken by the Angels in the fourth round of the draft out of Seminole State College in Oklahoma.

Holzemer started with the Angels at short-season Bend. He made single-A Quad City in 1989 and AA Midland in 1990. He first hit AAA Edmonton in 1992, then Anaheim in 1993.

The Angels used Holzemer in five games in 1993. He debuted in August, but he had a good shot at making the club that spring. He just missed the cut, according to The San Bernardino County Sun.

"If you'd come up to me on the first day of spring training and said I'd be in Anaheim in April with a 50-50 chance of making the Opening Day roster, I'd have said you were crazy. No way," Holzemer told The Sun.

His four starts of 1993 marked the only starts of his major league career. He went 0-3, while giving up 23 earned in 23.1 innings.

After spending 1994 back at AAA, Holzemer returned to the bigs for 1995. He got into 12 games that year and a career-high 25 in 1996. He ended that year with an 8.76 ERA.

Following a particularly bad outing in May 1996 where he gave up four runs, Holzeman indicated to The Times he knew the precariousness of his situation.

"I'm not helping my cause," Holzemer told The Times. "The way I'm pitching now, it's tough for Lach to even throw me out there. Finley told me it's my mental approach, that I can't worry about going down [to the minor leagues], because if you pitch like it's going to be your last game, it will be."

He played 14 games for the Mariners in 1997 and 13 for the Athletics in 1998. He played his last major league time in 2000, 25 relief outings with the Phillies. After seeing time in Japan, he played his final pro time in the minors in 2002.

Holzeman has since returned to Colorado where he owns and instructs at Slammers Baseball, a club baseball academy. He also serves as an associate scout with the Royals.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,754
Made the Majors:1,054-38.3%-X
Never Made Majors:1,700-61.7%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 441-X
10+ Seasons in the Minors:263

Jimmy Kremers, Late Switch - 16

Originally published Feb. 22, 2011
Jimmy Kremers was an outfielder growing up. It was in college, at Arkansas, when he switched to catcher. Speaking to The Sumter Item in 1988, Kremers saw that late switch as something that was to his advantage.

"Starting as late as I did, I haven't had the chance to pick up any bad habits," Kremers told The Item. that August. "Someone who has been catching since they were a kid could have some bad habits and they are hard to break. But I had a good catching coach at Arkansas and he showed me the proper way to do things."

The switch worked, helping Kremers go through the Braves system, all the way to Atlanta. Kremers got into 29 games for the Braves in 1990, but he didn't return.

Kremers' professional career began that year in 1988, selected by the Braves in the second round of the draft out of Arkansas. The previous year, with Arkansas, Kremers helped the Razorbacks in the College World Series, getting five RBIs in one loss, then a key RBI in a win.

Kremers signed with the Braves, a team that liked what they saw in the catcher. He went .303 and had eight home runs for Arkansas that year.

"We like him a lot," Braves GM Bobby Cox told The Associated Press. "He's a left-handed hitter with power and a powerful arm. We think he can come along quick, two years, maybe."

Kremers played his first season at single-A Sumter, hitting .266 and five home runs. He hit AA Greenville in 1989, then AAA Richmond in 1990. His hitting fell off both years, to the .230s. He hit 16 home runs at Greenville, he also hit two in the playoffs.

It was in June 1990 that Kremers got his call up to Atlanta, meeting Cox' original timeline. In 29 games and 73 at bats, though, Kremers got eight hits, an average of just .110. He tripled and scored in a July game.

Going into spring 1991, Kremers was looking for a spot as a backup catcher for the Braves. He tripled and scored in a mid-March game. He also got traded, to the Expos for Otis Nixon. He played the year at AAA Indianapolis.

Kremers stayed with the Expos system into 1993, then signed with the Brewers. He played at AAA New Orleans in 1994.

For 1995, Kremers signed with the Marlins. He first wavered, then agreed to replacement ball.

"They did guarantee me a job and a certain salary," Kremers told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel of his indecision. "But I just have this fear of this (strike) ending quick. Watch - it will probably go three months and I'll kick myself in the rear for not doing it (being a replacement)."

The strike did end quick. When it did, Kremers was one of the replacement Marlins who received a $25,000 bonus, in addition to the $5,000 they were originally to get.

"This is incredible," Kremers told The Associated Press after getting the bonus. "Some of these people have never made more than $8,000 or $9,000 in a total year."

Kremers played out the season at AA Portland. He hit .223, his final year in pro ball.
10+ Seasons in the Minors: 103

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Rusty Richards, Hometown Pitcher - 10

Originally published Oct. 26, 2010
Rusty Richards was pitching that night, his second major league start, in Houston for the visiting Braves. But it might as well have been a home game for the right-hander.

Richards grew up in Houston. Everyone he knew, or so it seemed, was there.

"I had 32 passes and I'm sure there were a lot more (friends) here," Richards told The Associated Press.

All those friends, however, didn't see a good outing from their hometown pitcher. He went just four innings and gave up three runs. But, what no one knew at the time, was that that night, they saw Richards pass the halfway point in a major league career that spanned just three games.

Richards made the majors that September after four seasons in the minors. He began in 1986, taken that January in the seventh round of the draft.

He played that first year at the rookie Gulf Coast League Braves. In 1987, he hit single-A Sumter and single-A Durham, going 9-13 between them, with an ERA of 4.16.

At Sumter, in May 1987, Richards threw seven innings, giving up two runs, but got the loss. Richards was 3-3 with a 3.19 ERA before being sent to Durham.

Richards made AA Greenville in 1988 and then AAA Richmond in 1989. At Richmond, Richards was 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA. He got his first call-up to Atlanta that September, making his debut against the Astros in Atlanta.

In his debut, Richards went 5.1 innings, giving up five hits and two runs. His braves were up 6-2 when he left. That soon turned into a 7-6 loss, depriving Richards of his first win, something he would never get.

That Richards and other rookie Braves were even playing in games that had an impact on the pennant race, had some upset, including Padres manager Jack McKeon.

But Richards got his two starts and it was back to Richmond for 1990. But he got his call back on July 1. It was a brief call-back. Richards got into only one game and one inning on this final trip to the majors. On July 6, Richards pitched the ninth, the Braves down 7-3. When he was done, it was 10-3.

Richards finished out the year at Richmond. He returned briefly to Richmond for 1991, but then was off to the Twins system, playing at AA Orlando. It was Orlando again for 1992, going 4-7 with a 5.12 ERA, ending his professional career.

Back in that second major league game, at the Astrodome, Richards started off the game with a walk and a Craig Biggio two-run home run. Richards was hard on himself later, speaking to The AP.

"The pitch to Biggio was a fast ball with no juice on it," Richards told The AP. "I haven't pitched to my capabilities up here but I'm trying to throw strikes."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Eddie Rodriguez, Very Fortunate - 1

After more than a quarter century as a coach and manager Eddie Rodriguez returned to the place where he got his minor league managerial start in 2014, according to The Quad City Times.

Then a coordinator with the Padres, Rodriguez visited and reminisced about his long career, The Times wrote.

"Baseball has given me a living and given me a lifetime of memories, helping kids work toward their dreams,’" Rodriguez told The Times. "I feel very fortunate."

Rodriguez' long coaching career has taken him through both the minors and the majors. He's served as a coach for multiple major league squads and worked with players like the Royals' Mike Moustakas.

He also played himself. He saw five seasons as an infielder and made it to AA.

Rodriguez' career began 1978, taken by the Orioles in the first round of the January draft out of Miami-Dade College.

Rodriguez started at rookie Bluefield. He then made single-A Miami in 1979 and AA Holyoke in 1981. He played one final season at AA Waterbury in 1984, ending his playing career.

Rodriguez then moved on to coaching. He served as hitting coach at Quad City in 1985, then became manager there in 1987.

In July 1989, Rodriguez spoke to The Los Angeles Times about managing young men - and keeping them in line. He did so through forceful advice, or a $5 fine.

"You should see, they get awful cranky when you tell them they're out five bucks," Rodriguez told The LA Times.

Rodriguez moved to manage AA Midland in 1990. In 1995, he served as a scout for the Dodgers. In 1996, he got his first major league coaching job, credited as third base coach for the Angels.

He served with the Blue Jays as a base coach in 1998, then returned to the minors. He managed short-season St. Catharines in 1999 and Queens in 2000.

He returned to the bigs in 2001 with the Diamondbacks as first base coach - just in time for Arizona's 2001 title. He also coached on the 2000 U.S. Olympic gold medal team. To Newsday in May 2001, Rodriguez marveled at his good fortune.

"For all I have been through, it's just astonishing," Rodriguez told Newsday. "I just hope it lasts forever. I still pinch myself on the way to the ballpark."

Rodriguez moved to the Expos in 2004 as bench coach and followed the team to Washington. He coached for the Mariners in 2008 and arrived with the Royals as third base coach in 2010. He stayed there four seasons and served as an assistant coach with the Padres in 2016.

Rodriguez worked with Moustakas on his fielding footwork in 2012. Early successes brought praise from Rodriguez, according to ESPN. Then Rodriguez stopped needing to give praise.

"I finally told him, 'I'm tired of coming over and giving you knuckles or high-fives and telling you that you made a great play,'" Rodriguez told ESPN later, "'It's what I expect of you now.'"
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,753
Made the Majors:1,053-38.3%-X
Never Made Majors:1,700-61.7%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 440
10+ Seasons in the Minors:263

Drew Denson, Extra Homers - 30

Originally published Nov. 12, 2010; Updated March 18, 2014
There can be a lot of things players get extra when they make the major leagues, for Atlanta prospects, the jump from AAA to the majors in 1990 could mean extra home runs, Drew Denson told The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star that August.

"You hit a ball real good (here), and sometimes you don't get rewarded for it," Denson told The Free Lance-Star, referring to Richmond. "In Atlanta, even if you don't hit it real good, it still might go out."

Denson was speaking to The Free Lance-Star as the Braves' David Justice, a lifelong friend of Denson, had just hit 10 home runs in 12 games for Atlanta.

Denson, however, never got to take advantage of Atlanta's dimensions. He played just 12 games for Atlanta in his career, the previous September in 1989, including four games at home. But he got no major league home runs then or ever. His major league career consisted of just four more games, played for the White Sox in 1993, and Denson was done.

Denson's career began with higher hopes. He was taken by the Braves in the first round of the 1984 draft. He played rookie ball that year in the Gulf Coast League. He hit .322 with 10 home runs.

The next year, he was at single-A Sumter and hit .300. He got two doubles in one May game against Gastonia. But his hitting started to drop off in 1986 at single-A Durham. Denson hit just .234 with four home runs.

In 1987, he made AA Greenville, and wasn't much better than Durham. He hit .219 on the year with 14 home runs. At the start of that year, Braves player development director, the legendary Hank Aaron, included Denson in the list of Braves of the future.

"I see Denson hitting between 20 and 25 homers and hitting .270 to .280 in the majors," Aaron told The Associated Press that spring. "I think he's going to make it."

In 1988 Denson was better, hitting .268 staying in AA. In August 1988, Denson was still being talked about as a major-league prospect and a power hitter.

It was in 1989 that he made AAA Richmond and then Atlanta. At Richmond, he hit .255 with nine home runs. He made his major league debut as a September call-up. In 36 at bats, Denson got nine hits.

He was also playing with Justice, with whom he'd played little league with as a child, according to The Free Lance-Star. In one game, Sept. 22, Justice was sent to third on a Denson single. That game Denson also got his first two RBIs, according to The AP.

Denson returned to Richmond for 1990, but hit just .231 without getting a call back to Atlanta. He is not credited with playing in 1991, but returned for 1992 with the White Sox at AAA Vancouver. He got back to the majors in September 1993 for four more games and one more hit.

Denson continued to play at AAA into 1996, with the White Sox, Reds and Orioles systems, ending his career.

His playing days over, Denson returned to his native Cincinnati, becoming a police officer and youth baseball coach, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer in June 2011.

But both his playing days and his officer days are now behind him, according to The Enquirer, as he battles a rare blood disease called amyloidosis "that has ravaged his athletic frame and robbed him of physical comfort."

Denson passed away in February 2014 at the age of 48. After Denson's passing, Calvin Johnson, one of Denson's former police supervisors, who also played against Denson as a youth, told The Enquirer what kind of person Denson was.

"He was a great human being," Johnson told The Enquirer. "He looked big and intimidating but he was just a big, gentle bear with tremendous athletic ability. He was one of the best guys I ever knew."


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