Monday, December 11, 2017

Steve Decker, Up There - 5

Originally published April 20, 2016
Coming off a season in 1990 where he made his major league debut, Steve Decker spoke to The Spokane Spokesman-Review and looked ahead to 1991.

The catcher's main goal, he told The Spokesman-Review: Stay in the bigs.

"I don't want to go to AAA," Decker told The Spokesman-Review that October. "I mean, that's just natural. When you get to the major leagues, you don't want to go back to the minor leagues."

Decker did return to the majors in 1991 - and in five more seasons after that. He didn't stay exclusively in the majors, but he did see time in 263 total major league games through 1999.

He's since gone on to a long career as a coach. In 2015, he returned to the majors as assistant hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants.

Decker's career began in 1988, taken by the Giants in the 21st round of the draft out of Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho. He made his way there after graduating Rock Island High School in Illinois.

Decker played his first year between short-season Everett and single-A San Jose. He then played 1989 between San Jose and AA Shreveport. He played all of 1990 at Shreveport, then got his first call up that September.

Decker got into 15 games for the Giants to close out 1990. He hit .296, with three home runs. He returned in 1991 for 79 games. He hit .206.

He then saw dwindling time. He got into 15 games in 1992 for the Giants, then eight games for the Marlins in 1993. He didn't play at all in the majors in 1994.

Decker returned to the majors for 51 games with the Marlins in 1995, hitting .226. He split 67 games between the Giants and the Rockies in 1996.

His final major league time came in 1999 with the Angels. That August, he picked up three hits in a game and then was shipped back to AAA. "I did my best," Decker told reporters after his demotion.

Decker finished with 28 games that year. He hit .238, ending his major league playing career.

Decker soon began his coaching career. He served as hitting coach at short-season Salem-Keizer. He then got his first managerial job there in 2005. He continued as a minor league manager through 2011 at AAA Fresno.

Then, in 2015, he returned to the majors as a coach with the Giants. He continues in that role in 2016.

"I'm excited. You know the old cliché, it's a new challenge for me," Decker told The Salem Statesman Journal after his promotion. "I look to get up there and work hard and do everything I can to help that team win."

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ben O'Connor, Strike Zone - 16

Ben O'Connor pitched well early in this 1987 game for Howard County American Legion. Pitches started to get away toward the seventh, according to The Baltimore Sun.

"I got a little tired," O'Connor told The Sun. "But mainly the ump just started shrinking the strike zone."

Whatever the strike zone, O'Connor went on from that American Legion game to play in college and in the pros. In the pros, O'Connor saw two seasons. He never made AA.

O'Connor's career began in 1990, taken by the Dodgers in the 30th round of the draft out of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. O'Connor's name is also misspelled as Ben O'Conner.

O'Connor started with the Dodgers at short-season Yakima and rookie Great Falls. He got into 21 games in relief at Yakima, with a 2.25 ERA, and started one game at Great Falls. He gave up two earned in two innings of work in an early September game and took the loss.

O'Connor returned to Yakima and played at high-A Bakersfield in 1991. In 16 relief outings at Bakersfield, he saved two and turned in a 3.70 ERA. He also played five games back at Yakima  and gave up six earned in 10 innings of work to end his career.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,844
Made the Majors:1,071-37.7%
Never Made Majors:1,773-62.3%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 444
10+ Seasons in the Minors:267

Mike Remlinger, Got Back - 21

Originally published April 22, 2016
The Giants took Mike Remlinger in the first round of the 1987 draft, but a quick move up to AA nearly proved disastrous, according to The Associated Press.

Pitching on a cold night in Tulsa for Shreveport, suffered an arm injury and ended up losing speed on his fastball as a result, The AP wrote.

"I got off track for a while," Remlinger told The AP years later. "But I'm back."

Remlinger spoke to The AP after making the majors briefly with San Francisco in 1991. He wouldn't return to the majors again until 1994. But once he got back, he became a major league fixture for a decade.

He also made a major league All-Star team.

Remlinger's career began that year in 1987, taken by the Giants 16th overall out of Dartmouth College.

He played that first season between short-season Everett, single-A Clinton and a stint at Shreveport, all as a starter. He returned to Shreveport for 1988, but got into only three games.

Remlinger returned to the field for a full 1989 between Shreveport and AAA Phoenix. He turned in a total 4.98 ERA. He played all of 1990 at Shreveport, then started 1991 at Phoenix.

In June 1991, Remlinger debuted in the majors for the Giants. He got into eight games, starting six. He went 2-1, with a 4.37 ERA.

After moving to the Mariners system in a trade and spending the next two seasons back in the minors, Remlinger returned to the majors with the Mets in 1994. He got into 10 games, starting nine. That July, he threw a four-hitter in a win over his old team the Giants.

"I've worked really hard the last two years," Remlinger told The AP of his return. "I've really struggled, so coming back here was very special. I was treated real well by the Giants and outstanding by the Mets."

He then tried relieving. He got into just seven games in 1995 between the Mets and the Reds, then 19 games with the Reds in 1996. He became a regular in 1997. Remlinger got into 69 games, starting 12 that year, with a 4.14 ERA.

After a brief return to starting in 1998, he moved to the Braves and into full-time relief. He got into 73 games in 1999, with a 2.37 ERA. He got into 71 games in 2000. That April, Braves manager Bobby Cox couldn't say enough about his middle reliever.

"Remlinger is the guy no one talks about. I can't get anybody to write about him," Cox told The AP. "He comes in and strikes out one or two guys every time he pitches. He's been dynamite for two years."

Remlinger stayed with the Braves through 2002. That final year with Atlanta, Remlinger turned in a 1.99 ERA over 71 games. He also made the All-Star team.

Remlinger moved to the Cubs for 2003, staying there into 2005. He then got time that year with Boston before returning to the Braves for 2006. He got into 36 games that year, with a 4.03 ERA, ending his career.

Remlinger finished with time in 14 major league seasons, 639 big league appearances and a career ERA of 3.90.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Joe Kelly, Versatile Pitcher - 17

Joe Kelly earned the Georgia Bulldogs' title of most versatile pitcher in 1989, starting in 11 games and relieving in another 11 more, according to The Georgia Bulldog.

Kelly picked up two wins and seven losses in those outings. He also picked up a complete game and a save, The Bulldog wrote.

The next year, he helped the team on to the College World Series and a title. He also helped himself on to the pros. Kelly, though, proved less versatile there. He played in 17 games, all in relief. Those 17 games marked the extent of his pro time.

Kelly's pro career began and ended that year in 1990, signed by the Dodgers as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia. He went there out of Notre Dame High School in Utica, NY.

At Georgia, Kelly was a member of both the 1987 and 1990 College World Series squads. He even helped the team at the plate, going 2 for 4 as the designated hitter in the championship game.

The Dodgers sent Kelly to short-season Yakima. He gave up one unearned run in two innings of work in an August game. He then gave up two earned in early September over five outs. Overall, Kelly gave up 12 earned in 23.2 innings for a 4.56 ERA in his only season as a pro.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,843
Made the Majors:1,071-37.7%
Never Made Majors:1,772-62.3%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 444
10+ Seasons in the Minors:267

Orlando Gomez, Stayed Young - 26

Originally published May 31, 2014
Speaking to The Wilmington Star-News in 2012, Orlando Gomez had a simple assessment of his career to that point.

"Baseball has really been my life,'' Gomez told The Star-News. "I do it because I try and stay young.''

By that time, Gomez had stayed young for nearly five decades.  Gomez' life in baseball began back in 1964, as an 18-year-old signed as a catcher out of his native Puerto Rico.

He went on to play professionally for 13 seasons. He made AAA, but never made the majors.

His coaching career started soon after, Gomez serving as a manager in rookie ball in 1977. It's continued ever since. Along the way, he served as a major league coach for three different organizations, then as a bullpen catcher.

For 2014, he's back managing in rookie ball, helming the Orioles Gulf Coast League entry.

Gomez the player started with the Yankees in the Sarasota Rookie League. He moved to the Reds' system in 1966 and the Athletics for 1967. He then stayed with the Athletics through the end of his playing career in 1976.

By 1977, Gomez was managing in the Oakland system at rookie Medicine Hat. He then briefly turned to scouting.

It was as a scout for the Rangers that Gomez signed Jose Guzman, according to The Associated Press. Gomez then followed Guzman's progress after his return to managing, becoming like a father figure to Guzman, The AP wrote.

In 1991, Gomez as Rangers bullpen coach, he told The AP about encouraging Guzman back after surgery and then being released.

"He was disappointed," Gomez told The AP that June. "We talked about it a lot. He grew up in this organization."

Gomez also signed Ruben Sierra. Gomez returned to managing by 1983, taking over single-A Burlington. He moved to AA Tulsa in 1984, then AAA Buffalo in 1987. He arrived at single-A Gastonia in 1988, staying there for three seasons.

Gomez finally made the majors in 1991, serving as bench coach for the Rangers. He stayed there for two seasons. By 1993, he was back managing in the minors in the Mariners system.

In 1996, Gomez was at AA Port City, watching over a young Raul Ibanez.

"I think Raul was born to hit," Gomez told The Star-News that April. "He's going to be a great hitter. He needs to quit fighting himself so much. He wants to be perfect every time."

Gomez returned to the majors in 1998, serving as bullpen coach for the Devil Rays. He stayed there for three seasons. He later was bullpen coach for the Mariners for 2003 to 2004. From 2005 to 2007, Gomez served as Orioles bullpen catcher.

He has remained with the Orioles system through 2014, managing back in the minors starting in 2008. In 2011, managing high-A Frederick, Gomez spoke to MASNSports.com about his team.

"The pitching has been good, but another key is our defense,"Gomez told MASNSports that September. "We've played great defense. We probably have 65 or so fewer errors than last year. We are making some plays where we had trouble with last year. When you make routine plays and do the little things, it can help a lot."

Jose Oliva, Show People - 17

Originally published May 20, 2014
Jose Oliva started off his major league career well in July 1994. He just hoped it was enough for him to stay.

"I just want to show people I can play in the majors," Oliva told The Associated Press after his latest 2-RBI performance. "I want to stay here. I don't want to go down."

Oliva ended up staying in the majors through the end of that month. He returned for the next season, getting into 89 major league games in all. His big league career consisted of just those two seasons.

Oliva's career began in 1987, signed by the Rangers out of his native Dominican Republic.

He started in the rookie Gulf Coast League, then played 1989 at rookie Butte. He played his first full season in 1990, hitting .209 over 120 games. He also hit 10 home runs.

Oliva made AA Tulsa in 1992, then AAA Richmond in 1993. At Richmond, he hit 21 home runs. He then hit 24 there in 1994, spending that July in Atlanta.

After getting called up, Oliva got his first start a week later. "I'm not going to put any pressure on myself," Oliva told The Spartanburg Herald-Journal. "I'm just going to go out and play."

With Atlanta, Oliva got into 19 games. His average ended up at .288. He also hit six home runs, two of those in the same game, July 16.

Oliva returned to the Braves for 48 games in 1995. He hit just .156, with five home runs. He hit one of his home runs in a late-April game. He moved to the Cardinals in an August trade. In 22 games there, he continued his slow hitting, with a .122 average.

Oliva returned to the field for 1996, playing for the Cardinals at AAA Louisville. He hit .242 there, but didn't make it back to the majors, ending his career.

A year later, in December 1997 Oliva was looking to make another run at the pros, signing a minor league contract with the Mariners, according to The AP. Days later, though, he was killed in a car accident.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Greg O'Halloran, Second Sport - 14

Baseball was Greg O'Halloran's second sport growing up. The Canadian's first: Hockey, according to The Los Angeles Times.

His college baseball coach at Orange Coast College Mike Mayne explained to The Times in 1990 O'Halloran's smaller size helped him make his decision to play baseball over hockey.

"When he got into the higher levels of hockey, he was getting his block knocked off," Mayne told The Times. "He figured that even catching would be safer than playing hockey."

O'Halloran's choice eventually paid off in the majors. His major league career consisted of 12 games spent with the Marlins in 1994. He played as a pro over eight seasons, but his big league time remained confined to that one season with Florida.

O'Halloran's career began in 1988, taken by the Blue Jays in the 32nd round of the draft out of Orange Coast.

O'Halloran joined the Blue Jays after playing on the 1988 Canadian Olympic baseball team.

He recalled in May 1990 to The St. Petersburg Times telling his family outside of Toronto of his hopes in baseball. Everyone laughed.

"This winter I even found a journal I had kept where I had written what I said and people told me, that's great Greg. Hope you do it. But nobody took me seriously," O'Halloran told The Times.

O'Halloran started with the Blue Jays at short-season St. Catharines in 1989. The catcher hit .283 over 69 games. He hit five home runs.

He moved to high-A Dunedin for 1990. He hit .284 over 121 games. He made AA Knoxville in 1991 and again in 1992. He made AAA Syracuse for 1993. He hit .267 over 109 games, but he didn't make Toronto.

O'Halloran moved to the Marlins for 1994 and then he made the majors. He debuted May 16 and played his last game Aug. 6. He scored the winning run of a May game after getting his first hit.

He played the balance of that year at AA Portland. He then played 1995 with the Cubs briefly at AAA Iowa and then at independent Duluth-Superior. He finished out his career in 1996 in Mexico and 1997 in Taiwan.

He served as a scout with the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau and coached with Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009. In 2016, he joined Terriers Baseball as a coach.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,842
Made the Majors:1,071-37.7%-X
Never Made Majors:1,771-62.3%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 444
10+ Seasons in the Minors:267

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