Monday, March 27, 2017

Gil Rondon, Special Pressure - 26

Gil Rondon took the mound for the Houston Astros in front of his hometown fans in Queens in May 1976, but his outing didn't turn out like he'd hoped.

Rondon lasted into the sixth inning, giving up four earned and taking the loss.

"I had a few friends out here watching me," the New York City-native Rondon told reporters afterward. "But I don't think that put any special pressure on me. I think I just beat myself with some bad pitches."

That start marked Rondon's first in the majors. He went on to get 19 total outings for the Astros that year and another four three years later with the White Sox. Those outings marked the extent of his major league career.

He went on to a brief career as a coach in the minors and as a coach for Puerto Rico.

Rondon's career in baseball began in 1973, taken by the Orioles in the third round of the January draft. Rondon is also credited as Gilberto Rondon and his name is misspelled on his Best card as Gil Randon.

He started at rookie Bluefield. He moved to single-A Miami for 1974. He then moved through the Angels system and AA El Paso for 1975, to the Astros and Houston for 1976.

Rondon got into 19 games for Houston, starting seven of them. He went 2-2, with an ERA of 5.70 before back problems limited him.

He played 1977 back in the minors, largely at AA Columbus, but also at AAA Charleston. That April, he pitched seven innings in a win for Charleston, including striking out the side in the seventh.

"I was lucky that my off-speed pitches were working," Rondon told reporters. "I worked on my change-up a lot in winter league ball. Today it really paid off."

Rondon returned to the majors in 1979 for four final outings, these with the White Sox. He gave up four earned runs in 9.2 innings of work. He continued at AAA with the Dodgers for two more seasons, ending his career.

Rondon went on to play in the Senior Professional Baseball League in 1990 and serve as a coach that year for the Mets at rookie Kingsport. He's also credited as coaching at rookie Helena in 2000. He also served as a bullpen coach for Puerto Rico at the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,581
Made the Majors:1,021-39.6%
Never Made Majors:1,560-60.4%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 424
10+ Seasons in the Minors:261

Tommy Taylor, Down The Road - 9

Originally published Jan. 20, 2011
During Tommy Taylor's first week in the summer amateur league, he was ready to come back home, his coach recalled later, during Taylor's senior year in high school.

Then his attitude changed, Louisa High coach Bill Pelot told The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star in March 1989. He threw a no-hitter and he met some new friends.

"I think it is going to help him down the road," Pelot told The Free-Lance Star.

Pelot spoke while his pitcher was in the midst of a 7-1 season at his high school, posting an ERA of 1.15.

It was enough to get scouts interested, and for the Orioles to bite, selecting him in the second round, 33rd overall in that June's draft. But, while it was enough to make him Baltimore's second selection, behind Ben McDonald, it wasn't enough to get him to the majors.

Taylor started his professional career slowly with the Orioles' rookie league team in Bluefield. In 10 starts, he went 1-3 and posted an ERA of 6.48.

His professional woes continued down the road of his career, never posting an ERA close to the promise he showed in high school.

In 1990, Taylor went 3-11 at single-A Wausau. In 1991, staying in the Midwest League, Taylor moved with the team to Kane County. But the results were the same, a 4-11 record. In both seasons his ERA topped 5.

In 1992, Taylor made high-A Frederick, then got a taste of AA at Hagerstown. He wnet 4-8 with a 4.18 ERA at Frederick.

Taylor returned to AA at Bowie for 1993. Going into that season, The Free Lance-Star was still saying Taylor appeared to have a solid future. His hometown paper noted the Orioles had signed Taylor to a AAA contract and that the Orioles were looking at him as a closer.

Taylor ended up with four saves that year for Bowie, never seeing AAA. That May, Taylor went seven relief appearances without giving up a run, marking 10.1 innings.

But he also made four starts, one coming in a late June win against Canton, keeping Canton in third and Bowie in second place.

"It was kind of a big one," Taylor told The Baltimore Sun afterward. "They were right behind us and we wanted to stay in second. We didn't need to be passed."

Taylor, however, ended the season with an ERA of 5.62. It was back to high-A Frederick for 1994. In 32 relief appearances there, Taylor had an ERA of 4.36. He was released in August.

Taylor finished out the season in the Indians system, playing at high-A Kinston. Taylor played five games at AA Canton in 1995, then 14 more with the Brewers at AA El Paso in 1996, ending his affiliated career.

Taylor's career, however, continued in independent ball, playing in Amarilo, Regina, Nashua, Massachusetts, Quebec, Atlantic City. His playing career finally ended in 2004, playing with Newark.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tom Engle, Really Neat - 22

ESPN's College GameDay prepared to head to Stanford for the first time in November 2011 and GameDay producer Tom Engle spoke about the show to The Stanford Daily.

"People always ask what’s the best place we've ever been," Engle told The Daily, "and I always tell them someplace we've never been. We've never been to Palo Alto, and expectations are obviously very high for the show. Our talent really feeds off the energy of the crowd."

Engle had been a lot of places in both his ESPN GameDay career and his earlier career in a completely different sport, baseball. Engle played seven seasons. He briefly made AAA, but he never made the majors.

Engle's baseball career began in 1989, taken by the Mets in the second round of the draft out of Fairfield Union High School in Ohio.

The Mets took him after he tied a national high school record by throwing six-consecutive no-hitters, according to his hometown Columbus Dispatch.

Engle played his first two seasons with the Mets at rookie Kingsport. He started 12 games each season, going 3-4 and 6-3. He moved to single-A Columbia for 1991, getting into just seven games, starting five.

Elbow problems that required reconstructive surgery ended his 1991 season and kept him off the field for all of 1992.

He returned to the field for 1993, splitting time between single-A Capital City and short-season Pittsfield and using his knuckle-curve.

Engle played again at Capitol City for 1994. He then made AA Binghamton and, briefly, AAA Norfolk in 1995. He played a single game at Norfolk, giving up four earned in three innings of work.

Engle played one more season in independent ball at Tri-City and Evansville, ending his playing career.

Engle then went to Ohio State, receiving a degree in broadcasting. He also started work at ESPN. In 2009, he spoke to The Dispatch about his second career, and his three sons.

"My boys know I played baseball and they've seen my baseball cards, but they still don't have any idea of what I did back in high school," Engle told The Dispatch. "In the last couple weeks, they've seen me on TV and heard my name a few times, and to them that's really neat."
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,580
Made the Majors:1,021-39.6%
Never Made Majors:1,559-60.4%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 424
10+ Seasons in the Minors:261

Dave Riddle, One Thing - 12

Originally published Nov. 29, 2011
The San Clemente All Stars didn't make the Little League Junior World Series in 2011, but their manager Dave Riddle told the team that there was nothing to be ashamed of, The San Clemente Times wrote.

"I told them the one thing to take out of the game is that it just doesn’t come down to the score," Riddle told The Times after the August loss. "It comes down to all they did to get to this point -- all the days they skipped going to the beach, all the days of practice."

Riddle managed that team of 13- and 14-year-olds, a team that included his son Dylan Riddle, having played himself, years earlier.

Riddle played three seasons in the Orioles system, but was unable to make it out of high-A, his career ending two decades before his team of All Stars' season ended.

Riddle's career began in 1989, taken by the Orioles in the 20th round of the draft, out of San Diego State University.

Riddle graduated from San Diego State, having lettered twice in baseball at San Diego's Madison High School. For Madison, Riddle picked up a win in one late March 1985 game.

At San Diego State, Riddle went four innings of one-hit ball in a March 1988 outing, picking up his first one on the year. In 1987, though, illness limited Riddle to just two appearances, The Los Angeles Times wrote.

Riddle played that first year between short-season Erie and single-A Frederick. He got into 20 games, starting two, going 2-5 with a 4.26 ERA on the year.

Riddle split 1990 between single-A Wausau and Frederick again. He went 5-4 between them in mostly relief work. He also picked up five saves on an ERA of 2.76.

Then, in 1991, what would turn out to be Riddle's final year as a pro, Riddle played the season at Frederick. He got 52 outings, one start, picking up five saves and posting a 4.21 ERA. He picked up one of those saves in August, going three innings, giving up three hits and one run.

It was in May, though, that Riddle got his closest to the majors, if an exhibition between the Orioles and AAA Rochester counts as that.

In the exhibition, Orioles regulars only played briefly, and the pitching was done by minor leaguers. One of the pitchers named for the contest, The Baltimore Sun wrote, was Riddle.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Lincoln Gumbs, Two Returns - 17

Originally published Jan. 21, 2016
The semi-pro Hammond Blue Jays won the game, but they also lost four players to the pros, one of them Lincoln Gumbs, according to The Hammond Star.

Gumbs left he team for the independent Greenville Bluesmen, The Star wrote.

"We're certainly going to miss those guys, but we wish them the best of luck," Hammond general manager Mark Dangerfield told The Star.

Gumbs looked to return to independent ball after playing 32 games the previous year between Abilene and Tyler. He isn't recorded as playing for Greenville in 1998, but he is recorded as returning briefly for independent Ozark in 2002.

Gumbs' career in the pros began in 1990, taken by the Astros in the 27th round of the draft out of Eastern Illinois University and Clarke Junior College. Gumbs is a native of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

His career with the Astros ended up being brief. He played in 15 games for short-season Auburn. He picked up six hits in 33 at bats, marking the extent of his affiliated career.

He then isn't recorded as playing again until 1997, at Abilene and Tyler. Gumbs played five games at Abilene and 27 at Tyler. He hit .250 overall. He flew out in a May game for Abilene.

Gumbs' last pro time came in 2002 at Ozark. In 20 games, he hit .226, ending his pro career.

Gumbs has went on to be a baseball instructor in the Houston area. He's listed in 2016 as a coach for Touch 'Em All Urban Nation.

Keith Schmidt, First-Ever - 27

Originally published Jan. 25, 2016
Keith Schmidt helped get the Kane County Cougars started, at least in the home run department, according to David Malamut's book on the team.

Schmidt hit the club's first-ever home run after the team's move from Wausau, Wisc., to Geneva, Ill., in 1991, Malamut wrote, launching the two-run shot in the sixth inning of the April 12 game against South Bend. Later, he smacked two home runs in a single game.

Schmidt hit those home runs in his third season as a pro. He went on to play in three more. He never made AA.

Schmidt's career began in 1989, taken by the Orioles in the second round of the draft out of Burton High School in Texas.

Schmidt started at rookie Bluefield. He hit .227 over 55 games. He then played 1990 between Bluefield and single-A Wausau. He hit .278 at Bluefield, but .153 at Wausau.

He again split 1991 between Bluefield and the Midwest League. In 64 games at Kane County, he hit those three home runs but still hit .193.

Going into 1992, Schmidt tried to work on his performance at the plate, attending a hitting school conducted by Wade Boggs. Schmidt's average that year back at Kane County improved to .256.

Schmidt's tenure with the Orioles ended in 1993 after a short 18-game stint at single-A Albany. He signed on with the Brewers for another short stint, 15 games, at single-A Beloit.

Schmidt's pro career then ended in 1994, playing nine games at single-A Macon for the Braves.

Schmidt has since returned home to Texas. He's listed in 2016 as an instructor at Prime 9 Baseball Academy outside of Houston.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Gary Mota, Some Things - 1

Originally published Jan. 11, 2016
Gary Mota had a rare combination of power and speed, Phillies scouting director Mike Arbuckle told The Philadelphia Inquirer in November 1994.

Mota, though, also had a history of injuries and the once-top-prospect and member of the baseball-playing Mota family moved teams again to Arbuckle's Phillies.

"I remember seeing him in college, and he did everything well - except that he swung through a lot of pitches," Arbuckle told The Inquirer. "But he's one of those guys you take a flier on, because, if his wrist is all right and you can get him healed up, he can do some things."

As it turned out, Mota played just three more seasons. He never made the majors.

Mota's career began in 1990, taken by the Astros in the second round of the draft out of Fullerton College.

Mota, whose given name is Manny Mota Jr., is the son of longtime major leaguer Manny Mota. He's also the brother of Andy Mota and Jose Mota, who also made the majors. Gary Mota, however, never made the majors.

In August 1990, The Los Angeles Times called Mota the "tallest and strongest" of the brothers.

"I kind of knew, how should I say this, that I had the best overall tools in the family," Mota told The Times then. "A couple of years ago, I started really growing and I thought, 'Oh, my God, what's going on?' But there is nothing fat. It's all muscles."

Mota played his first year at short-season Auburn. He hit .258 over 69 games. He then moved to high-A Osceola for 1991, but got into only 22 games due to a wrist problem.

He played the full season of 1993 at Asheville, hitting a resurgent .291 with 23 home runs. His season was enough to be named the organization's "future star" for 1993, but he saw 27 games at AA Jackson that year in another season cut short by wrist issues.

Mota returned for all of 1994 at Jackson, hitting .239. He then played 1995 in the Phillies system at AA Reading. His season there was hampered by a strained hamstring. He hit .227 in 33 games.

Mota returned to the Astros system for 1996. In August 1997, he found himself playing at high-A High Desert with the Diamondbacks. He remained optimistic, according to The Times.

"I just hope I can build on all my injury problems and the mistakes I've made in the past," Mota told The Times. "It's still very important for me to make the big leagues, because I love this game."

Mota also played that year at independent Bend and in Mexico, ending his career short of the majors.

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