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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Darrin Duffy proved capable over seven pro seasons; Made AAA, missed bigs


The single-A Madison Muskies saw future major leaguer Walt Weiss move up in 1986. Taking his place was shortstop Darrin Duffy, The Wisconsin State Journal wrote.

Duffy then went out and picked up hits in his first 15 games with the club and ultimately amassed a .304 batting average over 35 games there. 

"Anytime you lose a player like Walt you're going to worry, but I didn't worry too long," Madison manager Jim Nettles told The State Journal. "Duffy has been a very capable replacement. Oakland said he was good defensively, but his hitting has been somewhat of a surprise."

Duffy went on to see time in seven professional seasons. He ultimately made AAA over 31 contests, but he never saw the majors.

Duffy's career began that year in 1986, taken by the Athletics in the third round of the draft out of Grand Canyon University.

At Grand Canyon, Duffy became a top-25 prospect based largely on his throwing arm. He spoke to The Arizona Republic in May 1986 about working on his game, and his patience with umpires.

"It's been my biggest problem," Duffy told The Republic. "I know I'm outspoken, and I found myself having to control it a lot. But (the coaches) have settled me down to where I've very much learned to control it."

Duffy played his first season with the Athletics between single-A Madison and Modesto, as well as short-season Medford. He hit .264 overall in 69 games.

He returned to Madison and saw 38 games at AA Huntsville for 1987, then played 1988 between Huntsville and Modesto.

That August in 1988, he spoke to The Oakdale Leader about life in the minors and injuries. He lost part of his 1987 campaign to a hip injury.

"I lost a little range and speed," Duffy told The Leader. "It's always in the back of my mind that I might re-injure it, so I've been babying it. I want to work on it in the off-season because you can't afford to have any injuries."

Duffy moved to the Cubs system and single-A Winston-Salem for 1989, then to AA Charlotte in 1990. He hit .241 in 108 games there.

His 1991 season was limited to eight games at single-A Peoria. He then returned to see 31 games at AAA Iowa in 1992. He hit .211 there. He also saw 17 games back at Charlotte. That season in 1992 marked his last as a pro.

1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,594
Made the Majors:1,244-34.6%
Never Made Majors:2,350-65.4%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:517
10+ Seasons in the Minors:305

Friday, March 5, 2021

Rusty Crockett got hit off Clemens in college exhibition; Played six pro seasons, made AA


Rusty Crockett played well enough at the University of Texas to be taken late in the 1988 draft by the Cubs. 

Coming out of college, though, Crockett pointed to a career highlight that came not in an official game, but in an exhibition contest, according to The Oklahoman.

"Getting a hit off of the Boston Red Sox' Roger Clemens in the 1988 Texas alumni game," Crockett told The Oklahoman of his highlight.

Crockett went on to a pro career that lasted six seasons. He never got the opportunity to face Clemens or any other major league pitcher in the bigs. He topped out at AA.

Crockett's career began that year in 1988, taken by the Cubs in the 46th round of the draft out of Texas.

At Texas in May 1987, Crockett put down a successful suicide squeeze bunt with the bases loaded, touching off a six-run rally, according to The Austin American-Statesman.

"I knew I had to get it down or someone was going to get a chewing," Crockett told The American-Statesman afterward.

Crockett started with the Cubs at single-A Peoria. He hit .242 over 63 games. He then moved to single-A Winston-Salem for 1989, then AA Charlotte for 1990. He hit .243 at Charlotte over 133 games.

That July in 1990, The Charlotte Observer featured Crockett for his tendency to get hit by pitches. By that point, he'd been hit by pitches 24 times.

"He's just a tough, gutty little guy," Charlotte manager Tommy Helms told The Observer then. "They got that on-base percentage now, and that's just like adding 24 hits to your average."

Crockett continued at AA with the Cubs over the next three seasons, 1991 and 1992 at Charlotte and 1993 at Orlando. He saw 33 games at Orlando in 1993 and hit .204 to end his career.

1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,593
Made the Majors:1,244-34.6%
Never Made Majors:2,349-65.4%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:517
10+ Seasons in the Minors:305

Jay Loviglio assessed talent over long minors coaching career; Saw bigs as player


Rockies prospect Scott Randall went up to AAA in 1999 and struggled. Back at AA Carolina, his manager Jay Loviglio figured out what went wrong, according to The Raleigh News and Observer.

"I could see where the problems were that he was having in Triple-A," Loviglio told The News and Observer. "He was a little bit tentative, cutting off a lot of his pitches. That usually comes with lack of success, a lack of confidence."

Loviglio assessed Randall that year in the midst of a long career assessing talent in the minors, and after his own playing career took him to the majors over four seasons.

He played in 46 total major league games, then saw a minor league coaching and managing career that spanned a quarter century.

Loviglio's career in baseball began in 1977, signed by the Phillies as a free agent out of Suffolk County Community College.

Loviglio started with the Phillies at single-A Spartanburg and short-season Auburn. He made AA Reading in 1979, then AAA Oklahoma City and Philadelphia in 1980.

He debuted in the majors with the Phillies in September 1980. He got into 16 games and went 0 for 5 at the plate. He moved to the White Sox for 1981 and 1982. He saw 14 games his first year there and 15 in his second.

He scored the tie-breaking run in an early September game, running in from second on an infield hit, UPI wrote.

"I didn't know what was going on," Loviglio told UPI afterward. "I just kept running. I thought the ball was going through and I got a good jump from second base. I was going to score."

Loviglio then saw one final major league game in 1983, with the Cubs

By 1986, he'd started his coaching career. He served as manager that year at short-season Geneva, then moved to single-A Winston-Salem for three seasons. He arrived at AA Charlotte as a coach to start 1990, before taking over as manager mid-year.

He turned roving infield instructor for 1992. He managed at single-A Augusta in 1996, served as hitting coach at AA New Haven in 1997 and managed at high-A Salem for 1998.

In 2000, he managed at single-A Hickory. He watched as an opposing pitcher with a high leg kick allowed his team to run in an April game, The Greensboro News and Record wrote.

"That made him go to a slide step and he didn't throw strikes from that, so we took advantage it," Loviglio told The News and Record. "If he throws strikes from the slide step, he shuts us down."

He's credited as managing at high-A Lynchburg in 2004, then next as hitting coach at independent Long Island in 2011 and 2012.

Loviglio has also served as varsity head coach at Central Islip High and, continuing in 2021, he serves as an instructor at Pro Game Athletics in Bay Shore, NY.

1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,592
Made the Majors:1,244-34.6%
Never Made Majors:2,348-65.4%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:517
10+ Seasons in the Minors:305

Dick Canan made AAA, felt no butterflies in debut; Saw eight pro seasons, never made bigs

Dick Canan made it up to AAA for the first time in June 1991 and he thought he'd have been more nervous than he was, he told The Des Moines Register after his debut.

Instead, he went out and hit the ball to the fence in his first at bat and then knocked in a run on a single in his second at bat, The Register wrote.

"I was surprised that I had no butterflies," Canan told The Register. "I did before the game, but once I got on the  field, it all went away."

Canan's stay at AAA Iowa lasted for 32 appearances. Those turned out to be the only AAA appearances of his career. He never made the majors.

Canan's career began in 1985, taken by the Cubs in the 13th round of the draft out of the University of Illinois.

Canan started with the Cubs in the rookie Appalachian League at Wytheville. He hit .277 in 40 games. 

He moved to single-A Peoria for 1986 and 1987. He hit .251 his first year there, then .197 in an abbreviated 45-game second season there. He lost time that year after he picked up a knife in a restaurant and cut a tendon in his little finger.

Canan split 1988 between Peoria and single-A Charleston, then played 1989 at single-A Winston-Salem. He hit .246 in 110 games there.

For 1990, he made AA for the first time, at Charlotte. He hit .233 in 123 games there. That June, the third baseman and outfielder spoke to The Charlotte Observer about injuries and a directive that spring that he needed to make AA or be released.

"I thought about that a lot," Canan told The Observer. "And during the winter I worked my butt off and made this team. And I think I've played well here."

Canan then played 1991 between Charlotte and Iowa. He hit .266 in his 32 appearances at Iowa. His last pro season came in 1993 at independent Duluth-Superior. He got into 38 games and hit .306.

Canan has since turned youth coach. He's served as an assistant coach with Reavis High in Illinois since 1997, continuing to be listed in that role in 2021. He also continues in 2021 to serve as an instructor with the Willowbrook-Burr Ridge Sports Performance Center in Willowbrook, Il.

1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,591
Made the Majors:1,244-34.6%
Never Made Majors:2,347-65.4%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:517
10+ Seasons in the Minors:305

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Bob Grimes used his training experience over three decades in the minors


Bob Grimes had been a trainer in the minors for more than 15 years by 1998, so he knew enough not to put a firm timeline on Iowa Cub Pedro Valdes' injury, according to The Des Moines Register.

Valdes' injury: A dislocated kneecap.

"It's one of those injuries that can change daily," Grimes told The Register that April. "He could be out anywhere from a week to a month."

Grimes has since gone on to a career as a trainer that's spanned three decades. He spent most of that time in the Cubs system. More recently, he's been with the Mets.

Grimes started with the Cubs in 1985, having graduated from Central Washington University with a degree in sports medicine.

He started out at short-season Geneva, then made single-A Winston-Salem in 1986 and single-A Charleston and Peoria in 1988 and 1989. 

Grimes made AA Charlotte in 1990, then AAA Iowa in 1995. In August 1997, Grimes spoke about one of his team's catchers, Mark Dalesandro, who'd played through injury because the team had no one else.

"He won't leave until we have to carry him off on a stretcher," Grimes told The Register. "He's tough."

In 2001, still with Iowa, Grimes served as a trainer at the AAA All-Star game. In April 2007, Grimes got to see Felix Pie off to his major league debut

"He was still excited when I saw him at 5," Grimes told The Register then.

In 2011, he worked at short-season Boise. He also worked to help stock the visiting clubhouse food on a road trip, a local media report noted.

He moved to the Mets system after 28 total years with the Cubs. The 2018 season marked his second year there.

1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,590
Made the Majors:1,244-34.7%
Never Made Majors:2,346-65.3%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:517
10+ Seasons in the Minors:305

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Jim Bruske enjoyed the moment of Dodger Stadium debut; Saw time in five ML seasons


Originally published April 24, 2014
Newly minted Los Angeles Dodger Jim Bruske's first two major league appearances came on the road.

To The Los Angeles Times, Bruske looked forward to his home debut - at Dodger Stadium.

"I've always watched games here from a fan's standpoint," Bruske told The Times. "The first time I get out there I'm going to pause, look around and enjoy the moment."

Bruske enjoyed the moment that year and in four more major league seasons. His final big league season came in 2000, after a season lost to Tommy John surgery.

Bruske also first made the majors in what was his 10th professional season. In his first three pro seasons, Bruske wasn't even a pitcher. He was an outfielder.

Bruske's career began in 1986, taken by the Indians in the first round of the June secondary draft out of Loyola Marymount University in California.

Bruske helped lead Loyola Marymount to the College World Series, his bat leading the way. With that, the Indians kept him in the outfield, according to The Times. Then, for 1990, the Indians switched him to pitcher.

"Basically I started from the beginning (as a pitcher)," Bruske told The Times in August. "Mechanics-wise, I was not even close to what I should have been. The pitching coach there, Will George, really helped me a lot. And he still is."

Bruske first made AAA in 1991. He then moved to the Astros system in mid-1992 then, finally, to the Dodgers system for 1995.

Bruske debuted with the Dodgers Aug. 25, 1995. In nine outings that year, Bruske gave up five earned in 10 innings. He returned to the Dodgers for another 11 outings in 1996 then moved to the Padres for 1997.

With the Padres, Bruske got his first four major league wins. He also got his first hit, a double, in his first at bat.

In 1998, Bruske split time between the Padres, Dodgers and Yankees. He got into a total of 42 games between the three teams, with a 3.45 ERA.

Bruske then underwent Tommy John surgery. He then returned for 2000 with the Brewers. He then got Milwaukee's first victory of the year. In that game, Bruske got a key out by getting Ken Griffey Jr. to ground into a fielder's choice, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote.

"You can't let him beat you there," Bruske told The Journal Sentinel. " I wanted to make him hit my pitch. It was a sinker away."

Bruske finished with 15 outings and a 6.48 ERA. He played one more season in the minors, ending his career.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Jason Jackson never liked to look at his stats; Played eight pro seasons, made AA


Originally published April 28, 2014
Jason Jackson knew he was driving in runs. He did make the league all-star team.

But, he told The Lakeland Ledger in June 1987, he never liked to look at his stats.

"It's not that I don't think they're important," Jackson told The Ledger, "but I looked at stats a couple years ago and I found myself pressing and pressing. Now I might take a good look at them once a year."

When Jackson looked at his final stats for 1987, they were good. He hit .310 and knocked in 53 for single-A Winter Haven. His stats were good enough to move up to AA the next season. His stats, though, were never good enough to move higher.

Jackson's career began in 1983, taken by the Red Sox in the ninth round of the January draft out of his native South Carolina. Jackson is also credited by the name Leverne Jackson.

Jackson's played his first year at short-season Elmira, hitting just .130. He returned there for 1984, improving his average to .276. He also stole 20 bases that year.

He made single-A Greensboro for 1985, then Winter Haven for 1986. He hit .283. Returning there for 1987, he hit his career-best .310. Jackson had two hits in a May 1987 game. That July, Jackson knocked in a go-ahead run on a single.

Jackson made AA New Britain in 1988. In 97 games, his average dropped to .213. He returned to New Britain for 1989, getting his average back up to .260.

For 1990, he moved to the Indians system and AA Canton-Akron. He hit .234 there in 104 games. It was his final season as a pro.