Thursday, September 18, 2014

Kalamazoo Growlers: Chest-Bumping Bear

Kalamazoo mascott Barlee the Bear chest bumps with Growler catcher Ryan Lidge, of Notre Dame, before an August 2014 game at Kalamazoo. (G21D Photo)
The Kalamazoo Growler mascot seems pretty cool. At least he can execute a good chest bump. His actual growling, I would assume, might leave something to be desired.

I visited Kalamazoo's Homer Stryker Field early last month as part of my trip back home to Iowa. I got to see the hometown Growlers take on the visiting Madison Mallards in some end-of-season Northwoods League action.

The purpose of my stop was to interview visiting Madison manager Donnie Scott, then get some pictures to go along with that interview. His was my 74th overall player interview, but my landmark 75th interview posted. (Scott's interview)

But I also got to see a game and a ballpark that opened in 1963. It was an interesting field in that it is oriented the wrong way. Instead of being put so the sun set behind the stands, and out of the way of batters, the field is oriented so the sun sets in right field.

The sun sitting in right also made for some unusual shadows cast as the pitchers delivered to the plate.
Watching the Growlers at Homer Stryker Field. At bat is Thomas Hook. (G21D Photo)
This was actually Kalamazoo's first season in the Northwoods League and there was a good crowd on hand. Judging by Baseball Digest's rankings of collegiate league attendance, Kalamazoo did pretty good for itself this year, drawing more than 2,200 fans per game. That's good for seventh best among more than 100 collegiate teams nationwide.

The highest average attendence by far? Scott's Madison Mallards. The Mallards averaged more than 6,100 fans per game, nearly twice the second place La Crosse Loggers, also a Northwoods League team.

In his interview, Scott said the game played in the Northwoods League reminded him of the way baseball used to be, when he was coming up in the minors.

Down the right field line the fan walkway goes above the visitor's bullpen. That allowed one of the Mallard pitchers to pass the time playing a friendly game of keep-away with a couple local kids. That was kind of cool.

Then, of course, there's Barlee the Bear. Barlee seemed friendly to both Growlers and Mallards alike. As seen in the photo above and some below, he chest bumped, high-fived and low-fived his way through the Growler lineup. He even greeted Scott warmly with a hand slap. Not very growler like.

Too many pictures from my trip to Kalamazoo:
The front entrance of Homer Stryker Field in Kalamazoo. (G21D Photo)
Madison Mallard players during warmups. No. 48 is Tim Black, of Central Michigan, 0 is Matt Thaiss, of the University of Virginia, 2 is Charlie Naso, of Illinois. (G21D Photo)
Homer Stryker Field. Note the bullpen under the walkway. (G21D Photo)
The Madison bullpen before the game. No. 28 is A.J. Bogucki and No. 42 is coach Zeke Zimmerman. (G21D Photo)
A sign on the walkway to the stands. (G21D Photo)
Mallard Logan Regnier, of Central Michigan, practices his swing. (G21D Photo)
Barlee coming for Mallards manager Donnie Scott. He wants to low five. (G21D Photo)
Barlee and Growler Jesse Puscheck, of Canisius College. (G21D Photo)
Barlee and Karl Sorensen, of St. Cloud State. (G21D Photo)
And Barlee and John Brodner, of Wright State. (G21D Photo)
Mallard Michael Handel, of Minnesota, at bat. (G21D Photo)
Mallard Connor Marabell, of Jacksonville, on the base paths with Donnie Scott coaching third. Note the shadows. (G21D Photo)
Mallard pitcher Nathan Hoffman, of Madison College, on the mound. Note his shadow. (G21D Photo)
Growler L.K. Thompson at bat. (G21D Photo)
The sun going down in right. (G21D Photo)
Nathan Hoffman through the fence behind home plate. (G21D Photo)
Who wants a T-shirt? (G21D Photo)
Mallard reliever TIm Black passes the time by playing keep-away with a local kid. The ball would be caught and returned. (G21D Photo)
Moon rising over Stryker Field. (G21D Photo)
The statue and the sky. (G21D Photo)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Interview Part 4: Donnie Scott, Did Humble

Madison manager Donnie Scott, right, in the visitor's dugout at Kalamazoo in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Down the Road | Part 2: So Neat
Part 3: Curtain Call | Part 4: Did Humble

The call came at the end of the 2008 season. It also marked the end of Donnie Scott's 19-season connection to the Cincinnati Reds organization.

It was in that call that the manager of the single-A Dayton Dragons learned he wasn't being invited back to the Reds organization for 2009.

"I really didn't ask the day that it happened," Scott said of why he wasn't being brought back. "I just said 'OK.' hung up the phone and left it at that."

To onlookers, though, the origins of that call seemed to have roots going back two months, to one of the worst minor league brawls in memory, one that left a fan injured and an opposing pitcher under arrest.

It was a brawl that Scott attributed to a mistake he made, one that he said he regrets every day.

"I got into an argument with my fellow manager, Carmelo Martinez, who I consider a friend," Scott said, "and it just got away from us. That's why you've got to keep your emotions in check."

Scott has spent his time since still in the game, but managing in summer collegiate ball. He spent 2013 and 2014 as manager of the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League.
Donnie Scott exchanges lineups before an August 2014 Northwoods League game at Kalamazoo. (G21D Photo)
It's a job he said he's happy to do and a job he enjoys. But he said he also wishes he was still in the minors.

The Greatest 21 Days caught up with Scott in August in Kalamazoo, Mich. That's where Scott's Mallards were taking on Northwoods League foe Kalamazoo Growlers.

From the visitor's clubhouse at Kalamazoo's Homer Stryker Field, Scott recounted his career, starting with growing up learning to switch-hit in Florida. His major league career was one that spanned nine years, but one where he saw time in just four individual seasons.

Scott then went on to his long minor league managerial career with the Reds and, more recently, in the Northwoods League.

Scott remembered his coaching and managerial career actually began while he was still playing. He made the majors as a player in four seasons, 1983 to 1985 and 1991. In the middle, he played largely at AAA.

The catcher was playing, but he was also working with his teammates, he recalled.

"I was really trying to help others, help pitching staffs and everything," Scott said. "I knew there was going to be a day that I was finally going to have to shut it down and I finally made that decision."

At that point in the interview one of Scott's coaches interrupted. Who did Scott want catching that night? Thaiss, Scott responded. That was University of Virginia catcher Matt Thaiss.
Madison manager Donnie Scott in the visitor's clubhouse at Kalamazoo after speaking with The Greatest 21 Days in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
Scott made it back to the majors for one last, brief stint as a September call-up for the Reds in 1991. Scott recalled Reds director of player development Jim Bowden taking care of him because he knew Scott was going to shut it down.

He said he knows he was lucky to get that call and he really didn't deserve it. The final day of that season Scott called bittersweet.

"When you make the decision to shut it down, boy, you get a lot of emotions go through your mind," Scott said.

"I was happy, but sad," he added. "But I knew I was going on, I was going to stay in the game, I was going have the opportunity to pass along things other players and help them out and help them get to the big leagues."

Scott said his experience playing is a central part of how he manages. When he has to motivate, he motivates.

For the most part, though, he just tries to be understanding and let his players play.

"That's what they're here for. They're entertaining the fans," Scott said. "It should be a fun experience. I want them to have fun out there. You're not always going to win championships. You're not always going to get three or four hits - just learning how to deal with all of it."
Madison manager Donnie Scott low-fives the Kalamazoo mascot after exchanging lineups in August 2014 at Kalamazoo. (G21D Photo)
Scott's first managerial job came in 1992 at rookie Billings. He managed there for four seasons. He also managed at single-A Charleston, high-A Sarasota and in the Gulf Coast League. He also managed five seasons at Dayton.

The brawl came July 24, 2008. Peoria was in town. MiLB.com had the description of the build up. There was a hit-by-pitch. A fielder suffered a broken leg on a collision. Dayton scored four times. Then there was another hit-by-pitch and a hard slide.

That's when interim Peoria manager Martinez got into the argument with Scott, who was coaching third base.

The rest was caught on video. As the two managers appeared to make contact, the player brawl broke out. Peoria pitcher Julio Castillo quickly came into the frame, firing a ball toward the dugout. It hit a fan. Castillo was arrested.

Scott said he was humbled. He made a mistake. He wishes it wouldn't have happened.

"I really wish I was still there and helping those guys," Scott said of the Reds. "But God had a plan for me to come here. I love the Northwoods League. I love the college kids and trying to help them get to pro ball.

"So, that's the way I look at things. I try to keep things as positive as I can," Scott added. "I do miss affiliated baseball, though, I really do."
Madison manager Donnie Scott talks with Kalamazoo skipper Joe Carbone before an August 2014 game at Kalamazoo. (G21D Photo)
Still, Scott said he's been fortunate in his long career in the game.

"I love the game," Scott said. "Like I said, the game will humble you and you have to learn how to deal with adversity and I'm trying to do the best I can."

Does he want to get back to pro ball himself?

"It would be nice," Scott said. "But I'm happy here, too. I mean, I'm really happy here. The league has treated me well."

Northwoods League president Dick Radatz, Jr., Madison owner Steve Schmitt, Madison team president Vern Stenman, Madison general manager Conor Caloia, Scott said, "these are good people."

"This reminds me of baseball the way it used to be, when I was coming up playing," Scott said.

He doesn't miss writing all the player reports, he added with a laugh. But it can also be stressful.

"As much as we're trying to help kids, we're trying to win baseball games, too," Scott said. "I like that part."

Part 1: Down the Road | Part 2: So Neat
Part 3: Curtain Call | Part 4: Will Humble

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Interview Part 3: Donnie Scott, Curtain Call

Madison manager Donnie Scott chats with a fan before an August 2014 game at Kalamazoo. Scott gave fans a curtain call in April 1985 after hitting two home runs in a game. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Down the Road | Part 2: So Neat
Part 3: Curtain Call | Part 4: Did Humble

Donnie Scott had already tied this April 1985 game in the ninth with a home run.

In the 10th, facing the Brewers' Ray Searage, Scott won it. He did it on his second home run of the game.

"He threw one fastball by me and I said, 'Please, throw that again,'" Scott recalled to The Greatest 21 Days in August, "and he put it in the same spot. I got fortunate enough to connect."

On top of it all, the switch-hitting Scott hit the two home runs from opposite sides of the plate.

"That was probably the highlight of my career, that's for sure," Scott said. "It was a neat feeling. The fans were great. I ended up having a curtain call and all that. I never got to do anything like that again or anything like that.

"But that night was very, very special."

The Greatest 21 Days caught up with Scott in August in Kalamazoo, Mich. That's where Scott's Madison Mallards were taking on the Kalamazoo Growlers in collegiate Northwoods League action.
Madison manager Donnie Scott walking along the first base line at Kalamazoo in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
From the visitor's clubhouse at Kalamazoo's Homer Stryker Field, Scott recounted his career, starting with growing up learning to switch-hit in Florida. His major league career was one that spanned nine years, but one where he saw time in just four individual seasons.

Scott then went on to his long minor league managerial career with the Reds. Since then, though, he's found a home coaching college kids in the summer, in the Northwoods League. This past summer was his second with Madison. In 2011, he coached Battle Creek and won league Manager of the Year honors.

Scott joined the Mariners for 1985, traded there from the Rangers just before the season's start for Orlando Mercado. (Mercado Interview)

Scott had played 81 games for the Rangers in 1984, hitting .221, with three home runs. On the final day of the season, though, Scott couldn't get a hit. Nobody else on the Rangers could, either.

On the final day of the season, Scott and the Rangers faced the Angels and Mike Witt. Witt ended up throwing a perfect game in a 1-0 California win.

Scott figured in the Angels' only run. In the top of the seventh, Doug DeCinces hit a single. Scott thought he'd try to pick DeCinces off with a throw to first.

Instead, Scott didn't even catch the Charlie Hough pitch.
Madison Mallards manager Donnie Scott, No. 3, behind home plate just before an August 2014 game at Kalamazoo. (G21D Photo)
"That mitt, it was just so big," Scott recalled. "I had no business trying to do it and I forced it and let that thing go by."

A ground out sent DeCinces to third and then a fielder's choice brought the run home.

Scott went 0 for 2. He recalled seeing seven total pitches from Witt, all curveballs. Scott struck out both times.

"I don't think anybody was going to hit him that day," Scott said of Witt. "He was on."

Traded to the Mariners for 1985, Scott debuted with his new club April 26. Scott got a hit that day and one in his third game two days later. His fourth game was April 29, against Milwaukee.

He actually started that game as a goat. A couple passed balls from the catcher led to an earlier run.

By the bottom of ninth inning, Scott's Mariners were down by one. Scott was due up first against future Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers.

Scott recalled hearing the story later from Chuck Cottier that the original plan was for Scott to not hit at all. Cottier wanted to send someone else to bat.

"I was already starting to the plate," Scott recalled of the account. "He said,'aw, just let him (hit).'"
Madison manager Donnie Scott, top right, in the dugout at Kalamazoo in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
And Scott did.

"A split-finger, 0-2 pitch," Scott recalled. "He hung it and I hit that out."

He tied the game. He then won it one inning later.

Scott went on to play in 80 games for the Mariners that year. He also hit just two other home runs. He never played every day, something Scott recalled was difficult.

"Believe me, I got my opportunities," Scott said. "But that would have been something to see what could have happened to play every day. But you've got to earn that right.

"It didn't happen," Scott added, "and I ended up going back to AAA for a while."

For Scott, a while ended up being six seasons. His patience was rewarded with one final call up to the majors - and a post-playing career as a manager in the minors. (Go to Part 4)

Part 1: Down the Road | Part 2: So Neat
Part 3: Curtain Call | Part 4: Did Humble

Go to Part 4: Donnie Scott, Did Humble

Monday, September 15, 2014

Interview Part 2: Donnie Scott, So Neat

Madison Mallards manager Donnie Scott, right, in August 2014 at Kalamazoo. Scott played in four major league seasons. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Down the Road | Part 2: So Neat
Part 3: Curtain Call | Part 4: Did Humble

Donnie Scott was ecstatic.

This was September 1983, the conclusion of his fifth season as a pro, and he had just gotten his first call to the majors.

"I just got numb," Scott said of his reaction to being called up, "and I got nervous at the same time."

Giving him the news, he recalled, was his manager at AAA Oklahoma City, Tom Burgess broke the news.

"It is so neat probably for coaches to be able to tell a player, 'hey, you're going to the big leagues,'" Scott said. "I never have gotten the opportunity to do that, but I know how special that must feel."

Scott went on to play in four major league seasons. He's also gone on to a long career as a manager in the minors and in summer college ball.

The Greatest 21 Days caught up with Scott in August in Kalamazoo, Mich. That's where Scott's Madison Mallards were taking on the Kalamazoo Growlers in collegiate Northwoods League action.

Madison Mallards manager Donnie Scott rallying his team in August 2014 at Kalamazoo. Scott debuted in the majors in 1983. (G21D Photo)
From the visitor's clubhouse at Kalamazoo's Homer Stryker Field, Scott recounted his career, starting with growing up learning to switch-hit in Florida. He also told of signing his first pro contract and making the majors.

Scott's major league career was one that spanned nine years, but one where he saw time in just four individual seasons. Along the way, he hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same game. He also ended up on the wrong side of a perfect game, Scott's catching proving crucial to the only run scored in the game.

Scott then went on to his long minor league managerial career with the Reds. Since then, though, he's found a home coaching college kids in the summer, in the Northwoods League. This past summer was his second with Madison. In 2011, he coached Battle Creek and won league Manager of the Year honors.

Scott's own road to the majors began with a jump directly from high school. He was still learning to catch. He was also still perfecting switch-hitting.

He played well. Assigned to the rookie Gulf Coast League, Scott hit .308 in 45 at bats. At Asheville in 1980, he hit .295.

But Scott also recalled those early years putting too much pressure on himself to perform.

"That's why I am the way I am with kids now," Scott said. "I don't like them feeling a lot of pressure because I know what that's like.
The Madison Mallards and Kalamazoo Growlers line up for the National Anthem in August 2014. Mallards manager Donnie Scott closest to the plate on the first base line. (G21D Photo)

"I was probably the worst about being too hard on myself," Scott added, "and that's why I try not to be like that with players, even now."

Scott's first bad year came in 1981 at AA Tulsa. In 114 games, he hit just .236 and knocked in 41.

It was Scott's first year at AA and his poor season, Scott recalled, resulted in him having some doubts about whether he'd make it. But then he went to winter ball, did well and got back on track.

He recalled getting through those doubts by just working harder.

"I ended up playing the game for what it was and not for what it is, if that makes any sense," Scott said. "I started to play in between the lines and forgot about all the other stuff, the money, whatever, prestige, and really enjoyed the game."

Scott returned to AA in 1982. He then made AAA Oklahoma City in 1983. It was that September that he got his call up to Texas.

Scott recalled getting the news. His first call was to his parents. He recalled each having distinct reactions.
Madison Mallards stay loose before a game at Kalamazoo. Madison's manager in 2014 was Donnie Scott. (G21D Photo)

"My dad was his same old self, 'congratulations,' level-headed," Scott recalled, "and my mom was screaming."

Scott finally debuted as a late-game defensive replacement Sept. 30. His first at bats, though, didn't come until the final game of the season.

Scott got to the plate four times. He also recalled hitting the ball on the nose all four times, but he didn't get a hit.

"I went the whole winter saying 'Please, don't let anything happen to me,'" Scott recalled, "'because I've got to get back.'"

Scott ended up starting 1984 back at Oklahoma City. His next call up came, but not until June.

"I waited all that time and in my first at bat, I got a base hit off Matt Young," Scott recalled. "As soon as I got to first base, I was like, 'Thank you, God, I appreciate that.' It meant a lot."

Scott ended up getting into 81 games for the Rangers that year. He spent the time platooning, he recalled, mainly hitting left-handed off of right-handers. He hit .221 on the year.

On the final day of the season, though, no Ranger could get a hit, or even on base. It was a perfect game. Those offensive struggles also magnified Scott's defense, where one mental lapse led to the game's only run. (Go to Part 3)

Part 1: Down the Road | Part 2: So Neat
Part 3: Curtain Call | Part 4: Did Humble

Go to Part 3: Donnie Scott, Curtain Call

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Interview Part 1: Donnie Scott, Down the Road

Madison Mallards manager Donnie Scott meets Kalamazoo manager Joe Carbone before an August 2014 Northwoods League game at Kalamazoo. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Down the Road | Part 2: So Neat
Part 3: Curtain Call | Part 4: Did Humble

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Donnie Scott didn't think he really deserved that call up, but he thanked the Reds organization every day he was there.

This was September 1991 and Scott was back in the major leagues for the first time in six years. He'd seen time in three other seasons, but not since 1985.

"I learned some things about it, I got to see what the big leagues were about again," Scott told The Greatest 21 Days in an interview last month. "I think the reason was that I could pass that along to the players I was going to end up coaching down the road."

Scott's coaching career continued in 2014, just not with the Reds. His tenure with Cincinnati ended up lasting 17 seasons as a manager and coordinator. He managed in rookie ball. He managed in single-A  He also served as a minor league field coordinator.

But it was at single-A, in what ended up being his final season in the Reds organization, that Scott said he learned another important lesson: Emotions have to be kept in check.
Madison manager Donnie Scott coaching third at Kalamazoo in August 2014. Scott spent 17 seasons managing and coordinating in the Reds organization.
This was the game between the Peoria Chiefs and the Scott's Dayton Dragons in June 2008, the one that included one of the worst brawls in minor league memory. A fan seriously injured and an opposing player was arrested for injuring that fan.

"If I could take anything back in the game, it would have been that day," Scott said. "I made a mistake and I just wish it wouldn't have happened."

It was an argument between Scott and the opposing manager that blew up beyond anything either likely could have imagined. Scott finished out the season, but he wasn't asked back.

"If there's anything that I learned," Scott said, "it really humbled me. Being away from the Reds now, it's on my mind every day."

Scott has been away from the Reds, but he's continued managing. The Greatest 21 Days caught up with Scott in August in Kalamazoo, Mich. That's where Scott's Madison Mallards were taking on the Kalamazoo Growlers in the collegiate Northwoods League.

From the visitor's clubhouse at Kalamazoo's Homer Stryker Field, Scott recounted his career, starting with growing up learning to switch-hit in Florida. He also told of signing his first pro contract and making the majors. He made the bigs, then had to wait an entire winter for a second shot at his first major league hit.

Scott's major league career was one that spanned nine years, but one where he saw time in just four individual seasons. Along the way, he hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same game, all after he was supposed to have been taken out.

He also ended up on the wrong side of a perfect game, Scott's catching proving crucial to the only run scored in the game.

Scott then went on to his long minor league managerial career with the Reds. Since then, though, he's found a home coaching college kids in the summer, in the Northwoods League. This past summer was his second with Madison. In 2011, he coached Battle Creek and won league Manager of the Year honors.
Madison manager Donnie Scott, right, in the visitor's dugout at Kalamazoo in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
Scott grew up in Tampa, Fla. He got involved in the game through his father and his two older brothers. The kids played Little League and their father was their coach.

Beyond that, though, it was simply watching the game on TV that made baseball the game that Scott wanted to play.

"It was actually because of watching the Game of the Week every Saturday that got me hooked on baseball," Scott recalled. "Tony Kubek and Joe Garagiola and all that. That's what kind of got me watching big league games on Saturday. I couldn't miss them."

He'd watch the games and then go out and play himself.

On the field, Scott recalled starting to have success by age 12 in Little League. It was around that time that he started experimenting with a skill that would serve him well later, switch-hitting.

Scott's father owned some batting cages and he started trying it. But it wasn't until his senior year that he really focused on it. By then, scouts were looking, he recalled. They suggested the trying to hit from the other side of the plate.

He also started catching that year, he recalled. "That was a lot, trying both things at the same time," he said.

Learning to switch-hit, Scott said, wasn't easy.

"I went through a lot of hard times with it," Scott said. "But I had a guy tell me one time, 'If you can get over the first three serious times you want to quit switch-hitting, you're going to be a switch-hitter.'"
A Madison Mallard takes a swing at a Kalamazoo offering in August 2014. Donnie Scott managed Madison in 2014. (G21D Photo)
He got past those. And he became a switch hitter.

Still, he recalled, there were times later that the thoughts of going back right-handed crossed his mind. But not for long.

"I'd go back hitting right-handed, get jammed once or twice, and I'd go back to switch-hitting," Scott said.

Scott recalled going to his first pro camp when he was 13. There, he met Reds scout George Zuraw. They then stayed in touch as Scott got older.

In high school, Scott drew enough attention from scouts to expect to be taken high in the draft. He ended up being taken in the second round, directly out of Catholic High School in Tampa.

The team that took him, though, wasn't expected. He was drafted by the Rangers. He also had it in his mind that he might even go first round. But he didn't care. He was a pro.

"The second round came around and I got a phone call," Scott recalled. "I was the happiest guy on the planet.

"At the time, I expected it," Scott added. "But now I look back, it was quite an honor."

As a pro, Scott used his catching and switch-hitting skills to make a steady climb to the majors. Once in the majors, he used his switch-hitting skills to launch two home runs in the same game, one from each side of the plate. (Go to Part 2)

Part 1: Down the Road | Part 2: So Neat
Part 3: Curtain Call | Part 4: Did Humble

Go to Part 2: Donnie Scott, So Neat

Jeff Grotewold, Fun Run - 1227

Jeff Grotewold hit just four home runs in his brief major league career. But in one series in 1992, he seemed to be just as big of a home run hitter as anyone.

Three of Grotewold's four home runs came on consecutive days early that July in San Francisco.

"It was a fun run, I've got to tell you," Grotewold told MLB.com years later. "Besides being called up and telling my family that we'd made it to the big leagues, that was the highlight, absolutely."

Grotewold got into 72 games total for the Phillies that season. He got into just 15 more with the Royals three seasons later, rounding out his major league career.

Grotewold's career began in 1986, signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent out of the University of San Diego.

Grotewold started with the Phillies at single-A Spartanburg. He made single-A Clearwater in 1988 and then had his first stint at AA Reading in 1989.

Grotewold returned to Reading for all of 1990. He hit .269 in 127 games there. He also hit 15 home runs. That August, Grotewold told The Reading Eagle he was comfortable then as a hitter.

"I feel very confident at the plate right now," Grotewold told The Eagle. "It's not how you start, it's how you finish that counts. I plan on finishing strong."

Grotewold made it to AAA Scranton in 1991. In 1992, he made Philadelphia. With the Phillies in 1992, Grotewold got into those 72 games. He hit .200 in 65 at bats. He also hit those three home runs.

Grotewold then spent 1993 with the Twins at AAA Portland. He spent 1994 at independent Duluth and independent high-A San Bernardino.

For 1995, Grotewold signed with the Royals. He also made it back to the majors for 15 games, helping the team to a June win with his fourth and final major league home run. He also joined Kansas City after playing in replacement games that spring, The Associated Press wrote.

"It was nice to have an opportunity to contribute to this team," Grotewold told The AP after that June game. "Anytime you can help the team win for the first time, it makes you feel more a part of the team."

Grotewold played one more season at AAA Omaha, ending his career.

He has since returned home to California and entered the carpet business, serving as owner of the Carpet Station in Crestline.
1990 CMC-Pro Cards Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:1,744
Made the Majors: 827 - 47.4%-X
Never Made Majors: 917-52.6%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 358
10+ Seasons in the Minors:209

Mike York, New Start - 374

Originally published Oct. 21, 2011
Mike York was so nervous, he wasn't sure if he would bounce the first pitch to the plate or throw it right to the backstop, he told The Associated Press.

The occasion was York's first big league appearance, in his eighth professional season.

"I think I threw a strike," York told The AP, recalling the reality of that first pitch, "and after that I was all right. I guess the nervousness flattened out my curve. I threw only about two good ones all night, but we won."

The Pirates won that night in August 1990. York did, too. But York won by just being there.

Four years earlier, on the last day of the 1986 season at single-A Gastonia, York had been released by the Tigers. It wasn't so much poor play on the field that led to the Tigers releasing York. It was poor decisions off it.

York was an alcoholic. And, at that point in 1986, he had yet to admit to it.

But, with the help of the Pirates organization, Alcoholics Anonymous and the counseling of a former pitcher who also was an alcoholic, York dried out, swore off alcohol and made it to the major leagues.

York's career began in 1982, taken by the Yankees in the 40th round of the draft, out of junior college.

He spent just one season, though, with the Yankees, nine appearances at short-season Oneonta. Then it was on to the White Sox in the rookie Gulf Coast League in 1984. Then the Tigers in 1985, at rookie Bristol.

He split 1986 between single-A Lakeland and Gastonia, the reliever going a combined 3-5, with a 5.06 ERA.

All the while, though, York was drinking. Some nights, York drank a case of beer and a fifth of whiskey, he told The Beaver County Times in September 1990. Then came that day in Gastonia, when he was released from his third organization in four years.

"I walked into the clubhouse and my uniform wasn't hanging in my locker," York told The Times. "A cold chill went up my spine. It finally hit me that my career was over. I loved the game and thought I'd never play again. I thought I'd have to go work for a living."

A four-week alcohol binge later, the Pirates called. They knew of his troubles, but they still wanted to sign him. But he also had to deal with his drinking. The Pirates introduced York to Sam McDowell, former Indians pitcher and recovering alcoholic himself.

With McDowell's help through talks and some heated discussions, York straightened out. Or, as The Associated Press wrote in February 1988, "York realized a pitcher can't reach the top of the ninth when all he cared about was reaching the bottom of a fifth."

York later credited McDowell with saving his life. York didn't know where he'd be without him, he told The Los Angeles Times later.

"He's my best friend. He's my life-support system," York told The LA Times in 1992. "I remember when I got out of rehab, I must have called that man every day, at every hour of the night, for four straight months. I mean, I was calling him at 5 in the morning, midnight, it didn't matter. He was always there when I needed him."

The first year with the Pirates, York played at single-A Macon. Turned starter, he went 17-6, with a 3.04 ERA. In 1988, he went 9-7 between single-A Salem and AA Harrisburg, though going 0-5 at Harrisburg. Overall that year, he had a 3.19 ERA.

Then, in 1989, he went 12-8, with a 3.22 ERA, between 18 starts at Harrisburg, and eight at AAA Buffalo. At one point that year, York won six-straight decisions at Harrisburg.

He played 1990 at Buffalo, before injuries led to him being called up to Pittsburgh for that August game, the front end of a double header.

In that Aug. 17 start, York went seven innings, giving up six hits and no earned runs. He returned in September for three less-successful relief outings. Still, he was there.

He started 1991 back at Buffalo, before being traded to the Indians for Mitch Webster. York got into 14 outings with Cleveland, posting a 6.75 ERA. They were his final outings in the majors.

York signed with the Padres in 1992, before returning to the Pirates. He played the year at AAA. He's not credited with pitching in 1993 or 1994. But he returned in 1995 with the Blue Jays at AAA Syracuse.

He played 1996 in the independent Western League, then five final games in 1997 with the Ranges at AA Tulsa and AAA Oklahoma City, ending his career.

Back in 1990, before his major league debut, the one where he worked seven innings without giving up a run, York spoke with The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

He thanked the Pirates.

"I'll always be grateful to this organization," York told The Post-Gazette, "no matter if I'm here one more day or the next 20 years. They gave me a chance for a new start, not just in baseball, but in life."
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