Monday, March 2, 2015

Interview Part 2: Walt Roy, Just Focus

Walt Roy on the mound at Community Field in Burlington, Ia., in 1990. (Photo Provided)
Part 1: Gung-Ho | Part 2: Just Focus

Walt Roy remembered arriving with the rookie-league Pulaski Braves and heading straight to the ballpark for that night's game. He didn't even have a place to stay.

Helping Roy and a few other team members, Roy recalled recently, was Braves roving pitching instructor and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro.

But first, after the game Niekro took the group out for a late dinner - at the local Hardee's.

"We stayed out until five in the morning talking baseball with him," Roy recalled recently to The Greatest 21 Days. "Then the next day he let us take his car to go out and find a place to live."

"That was something special," Roy added later. "He was a great guy, one of the nicest guys I ever met in my life as a pro athlete."

Roy also met Javy Lopez that year, as the Puerto Rico-native Lopez also acclimated to his first season as a pro.  Roy was one of Lopez' roommates, helped him learn proper English and got a mention in Lopez' memoir.

Roy spoke with The Greatest 21 Days recently by phone from his home in Michigan. He spoke of growing up and learning the game in a small town. He then went on to college at the direction of a pro scout, then eventually turning pro with the Braves.

His pro career ultimately lasted two seasons, ending with an aggravated shoulder injury. He tried to get back, but it didn't work.
Walt Roy delivers to the plate at Burlington in 1990. (Photo Provided)
Roy's pro career began out of Saginaw Valley State. He signed with the Braves and soon found himself in the Appalachian League.

He also soon found his throwing motion altered. Working with Pulaski pitching coach Matt West. Roy dropped down from throwing overhand to about three-quarters.

His pitches started to move a little more.

"It's hard to say exactly how I felt that first game," Roy said, "just getting out on the mound, 'here we go, got to do good, just focus."

Baseball Reference has Roy going 2-1. Roy remembers going 3-1. His loss, he recalled, came against Martinsville in one of his two starts. He ended with a 2.12 ERA in 14 total outings. 

It was at Pulaski that Roy played and roomed with Lopez, along with another teammate, Darren Ritter and Roy's wife.

Lopez wrote in his book of having to learn English living with them. Roy recalled that also involved Lopez not learning certain aspects of the language.

"I remember some of the guys on the team were trying to teach him some bad words in English," Roy said, "I told Javy, 'Javy, those words are not words you want to learn.'
Hall of Famer Phil Niekro in 2010 at the Hall of Fame Classic in Cooperstown. Walt Roy got a chance to spend time with Niekro at rookie Pulaski in 1989. (Greatest 21 Days)
Years later, Roy recalled taking his family to Florida and stopping by Braves spring training. Lopez took Roy and his family into the clubhouse to visit.

When they were done, Roy recalled coming out and Lopez signed autographs for everyone who wanted one, holding up the team bus to do so.

"He was always there for the fans," Roy said.

After his season at Pulaski, Roy recalled returning home and working out harder. In 1990, that resulted moving up to single-A Burlington.

Burlington and the Midwest League were closer to his home in Michigan, Roy noted. In his first outing, though, Roy recalled lasting two outs, giving up four earned runs.

That troubled outing put his ERA in a hole that he had to dig out of. But he trimmed it back down and in the second half, he recalled going through a stretch where he only gave up one earned run.

Overall, Roy got into 34 games and picked up seven wins. He didn't lose a game all with a 2.60 ERA.

"I was talking with my dad and he goes 'I can't believe they didn't move you up," Roy recalled. "I go, 'it is what it is. They have a plan for me.'"
Community Field about as it looked when Walt Roy played there in 1990. Photo is from the Burlington gift shop in 2010. (Greatest 21 Days)
But Roy also got injured that year. It was toward the end. He was shagging balls during batting practice and he tripped, landing on his shoulder. He was out for two weeks.

He came back, got into a few more games. Then, in a six-inning outing, he hurt his shoulder again.

"I didn't feel anything go wrong," Roy recalled. "I woke up in the morning, my shoulder was hurting, it was bruised."

He told his trainer, but the thought was he just strained it. But every time he tried to throw, it felt like his arm was coming out of the socket.

He threw in a couple more games, getting two more saves. But he couldn't throw his regular fastball, his shoulder hurt so bad. He threw a cut fastball.

He returned home and tried to rest it. But he got a call that the Braves were looking at him for the 40-man roster. He reported to Florida, but he could hardly pitch.

He told his old pitching coach  Matt West. After a trip to a doctor, the verdict was a possibly torn rotator cuff.

Roy wasn't making the 40-man. He underwent surgery and rehabbed into the next season. As he rehabbed, he was assigned to high-A Durham. Every time he tried to pitch, though, he seemed to have problems.
A Burlington Bee winds up at Community Field in Burlington in 2010. (Greatest 21 Days)
Roy stuck it out through spring 1992. He had a good day throwing with Lopez. The next day, though, he topped out in the low-80s in a game situation.

"From one day to the next, it just died," Roy said. "The next morning, I got a knock on the door and I was released that morning."

Roy knew he was done. His shoulder wasn't getting any better.

"Up until then, I just did my rehab and hopefully it would come back," Roy said. "I figured I'd give it the best shot I could and it just never panned out."

His career over, Roy and his wife Jodi returned to Michigan and raised their family. They've been together since 1988, married for nearly 20 years. They have two boys, age 19 and 22.

Roy's tried to stay involved in the game by giving lessons. His day job is as a corrections officer with the state of Michigan.

"I told my wife I still think about every once and a while the guys I played with and I was just as good," Roy said. "I see how they made it up to the big leagues and played a few years. But what can you do?"

Part 1: Gung-Ho | Part 2: Just Focus

Be sure and read Part 1: Walt Roy, Gung-Ho

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Interview Part 1: Walt Roy, Gung-Ho

Walt Roy in 1990 with the Burlington Braves. (Photo Provided)
Part 1: Gung-Ho | Part 2: Just Focus

Walt Roy pitched well in college, but injuries and other issues had held him back.

So, when the 1989 college season was coming to a close and another injury slowed him further, Roy told his coach he was ready to move on.

Roy had just been healthy enough to pitch at one event, talking to his coach there. He recalled striking out five of the six batters he faced. But he was also ready to be done with school. He was also ready to get a regular job.

Soon, though, the Braves came calling.

"They made an offer and the next thing I know I'm on a flight going down to Pulaski, Va.," Roy recalled to The Greatest 21 Days recently.

"It was neat. I was excited," Roy added. "I started packing my things and I was ready to go. It was something I always wanted to do."

Roy went on to play two seasons in the Braves organization, the injuries he suffered in college coming back to help limit his professional playing career.

Along the way, though, Roy got into 48 professional games between rookie Pulaski and single-A Burlington. He also helped introduce future Braves star Javy Lopez to the English language.
Walt Roy with the Pulaski Braves in 1989. (Photo Provided)
Roy spoke with The Greatest 21 Days by phone from his home in Michigan. He spoke of growing up in a small town, part of a large family. He then went on to college at the direction of a pro scout, but he kept getting pulled home by family ailments and tragedy.

His pro career lasted those two seasons, before finally ending in an aggravated shoulder injury. He tried to get back, but it didn't work.

Roy grew up in West Branch, MI, a small town in northern Michigan. It was the same town where he met and married his wife of two decades Jodi.

Roy came from a family that had showed some promise in baseball. He recalled hearing stories of his uncle getting a tryout with the Tigers and doing well but not signing.

His immediate family was a large one. Roy was one of 10 children. He was ninth, the final of five boys. He recalled his older brothers playing the game, especially his brother who was a year and a half older than him. Roy tagged along, as well.

He recalled going with one of his brothers to get the neighborhood kids to play. "Even if it was only three kids on each team, we'd close down half the field."

"It's always been my life to just play baseball," Roy said.

Roy recalled always being able to throw hard for his size. Getting to play with older kids, he said, made him especially competitive.
Walt Roy played at Burlington's Community Field in 1990. Photo is from 2010. (Greatest 21 Days)
In high school, he did well. He recalled rarely losing and making the all-state team twice. Scouts from the Dodgers and the Phillies even expressed interest.

"It was neat and everything like that," Roy said of the interest from scouts, "and it was my dream. But I always looked at it as it didn't matter who I played. I always took them serious."

One thing that caused some questions, though was his size. He was 5 feet, 9 inches tall. He recalled being told by some that his size would prevent him from being a pitcher.

Roy responded by working harder. "That was a driving force for me to get better," Roy said.

He lifted weights to increase his velocity. He also worked on his control by throwing against a building.

"I always threw against the school wall trying to hit a certain brick of cement," Roy said. "I always worked on my control."

He recognized control was something that could set him apart from others.

The interest from scouts in high school didn't get him drafted, but it did give him some direction. The scout from the Dodgers set him up at a school in Iowa, Des Moines Area Community College in Boone.
Walt Roy played at Community Field in Burlington, Iowa., in 1990. Photo is of Community Field in 2010. (Greatest 21 Days)
His time there didn't go well. He was far enough from home and a big enough city. More importantly, his mother was hospitalized with asthma. "That messed with my head a little bit," Roy said. "I was more concerned about her than worrying about my ball out there."

On the field, Roy spent time pitching. He also played some infield at shortstop. He had a good glove and a strong arm, he recalled. Hitting was always a weak spot. He also injured his elbow.

Roy left Boone and then went through three more colleges, Central Michigan University, Mott Community College and Saginaw Valley State University. After Central Michigan, he took a year off. One of his brothers passed away and he took the time to set himself back in the right mind.

When he got back into the college game, he took another shot at putting himself in a position to play professionally.

"I knew I wanted to get back into it," Roy said. "I felt good. I knew it was always my lifelong dream to play pro baseball."

He played in a summer league and pitched well against players who hailed from major colleges. At Mott he recalled only losing one game. He also played well after moving to Saginaw Valley State.

From Saginaw Valley, Roy made the pros, signing with the Braves and on his way to the Appalachian League.

"That's why I went back to school," Roy said. "I figured I could do it. I always had the talent. It was good to hear. I wasn't expecting it and I was all gung-ho for it." (Go to Part 2)

Part 1: Gung-Ho | Part 2: Just Focus

Go to Part 2: Walt Roy, Just Focus

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium 2013: Gone Fishing

McCoy Stadium in August 2013. (Greatest 21 Days)
Whenever I get to a new stadium, I try and share some of the pictures I took. Sometimes I get to working on other things, though, and I the post never goes up.

That's what happened with our trip to Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium. My wife and I stopped there back in late-August 2013, on the final home game of the season. We were on our way to Cape Cod to spend a few days and we hadn't been to McCoy.

As it turns out, it appears the chances to get to McCoy again will be dwindling. In February 2015, it was announced that the PawSox will be moving a few miles down the road to Providence. ProSox, maybe?

After hearing the news, it got me to thinking about our trip in 2013, and how I never posted about our trip.

The game was the Aug. 31 game and it was against Syracuse. Though this trip wasn't about interviews, I did put an unsuccessful request to interview the PawSox manager, Gary DiSarcina, a member of the 1990 Edmonton Trappers.
Pawtucket Red Sox manager Gary DiSarcina and Syracuse manager Tony Beasley exchanging lineups before the game. (Greatest 21 Days)
Triple-A teams can be hit-or-miss on interviews, so I wasn't counting on an interview. It didn't come through. The game being the final one at home I'm sure didn't help either.

Our first stop in the day was elsewhere in Rhode Island, at the Spring Lake Arcade. It's supposedly the oldest penny arcade in the world. We had a good time there, but it was gloomy and rainy. fBy the time we get to Pawtucket, the rain had stopped. But it was really muggy.

That's what I remember most about the game. It was really muggy.

McCoy Stadium itself was interesting. It definitely had its history and the team drew on that history well. The team's long history with the same team, the Red Sox, obviously makes that easier.

The big history for me is that McCoy was the home of the 1990 Pawtucket Red Sox, so it was cool to be able to get there.
Fishing for autographs at McCoy. (Greatest 21 Days)
We walked around the outfield on our way in and banners of former PawSox players were facing out. On our way out, we went down a spiral walkway and there were pictures of other former PawSox.

There was also a banner marking the longest game, going 32 innings in April 1981 before being suspended. Among those to play in that game was Roger LaFrancois. My 2010 interview with LaFrancois.

What got me, though, was the distance from the stands to the field. The dugout was at field level. To do that, the first row of the stands was way high, to the point where kids trying to get autographs can't interact with players.

They have to essentially go fishing. The use a bucket with a string and wait for bites. It's interesting to see, but it's pretty impersonal.

Anyway, here are the pictures from our August 2013 trip to McCoy Stadium:
The outfield wall at McCoy Stadium from the parking lot. Note the banners. (Greatest 21 Days)
The Glenn Hoffman banner. He was a player/coach at Albuquerque in 1990. (Greatest 21 Days)
The Mo Vaughn banner. Mo Vaughn played at Pawtucket in 1990. (Greatest 21 Days)
Marking the longest game, which was played at McCoy. (Greatest 21 Days)
More fishing. The clip boards have cards to sign. (Greatest 21 Days)
McCoy Stadium. (Greatest 21 Days)
The McCoy scoreboard. (Greatest 21 Days)
At bat at McCoy. (Greatest 21 Days)
PawSox hurler Allen Webster delivers to the plate. (Greatest 21 Days)
The McCoy Stadium press box. (Greatest 21 Days)
PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina coaching as Bryce Brentz is at third. (Greatest 21 Days)
The McCoy Stadium outfield. (Greatest 21 Days)
McCoy Stadium under the lights. (Greatest 21 Days)
Josias Manzanillo, 1990 New Britain Red Sox, poster on a walkway at McCoy. (Greatest 21 Days)
 - Gary DiSarcina, Got Settled, 5/7/12
 - Glenn Hoffman, Also Instruction, 10/20/11
 - Roger LaFrancois, 7/5/10
 - Josias Manzanillo, His Stuff, 1/4/14
 - Mo Vaughn, For Miles, 1/20/14

1990 Martinsville Phillies

Features on each member of the 1990 Martinsville Phillies, rookie-league affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. Players featured are as included in that year's team set. Click on the player's name to read more.

Martinsville Phillies (34)
1 - David Agado, Best Performance
David Agado helped pitch his college team to a title.
2 - Chad Anderson, Extra Pitch
Chad Anderson added an extra pitch, but he didn't make the bigs.
3 - German Arias, Didn't Advance
German Arias didn't advance through the minors, or to the minors.
4 - Bob Badacour, All Conference
Bob Badacour made his college all-conference team.
5 - Gary Bennett, One Thing
Gary Bennett couldn't pinpoint what changed.
6 - Jeff Borgese, Other Sport
Jeff Borgese helped his high school football team and his coach to a section title.
7 - Derek Botelho, Good Pitch
Derek Botelho threw good pitches. He coached them later.
8 - William Carmona, Go-Ahead
William Carmona helped give his rookie ball team a lead in 1991.
9 - Darren Cooper, The Rest
Darren Cooper did the rest for his college team in a big win.
10 - David Croak, College Accolade
David Croak won the outstanding pitcher award at his college.
11 - Roly DeArmas, Father Hen
Roly DeArmas believed a rookie-ball manager was like being a father hen.
12 - Ray Domecq, Team Slogan
Ray Domecq made his mark on the bigs a decade after he last played.
13 - Mike Farmer, In Awe
Mike Farmer made the majors and he was in awe.
14 - Lamar Foster, Lucky One
Lamar Foster felt like he was one of the lucky ones.
15 - Pete Freeman, Preserved Win
Pete Freeman helped preserve a Legion win. He played one pro season.
16 - Antonio Grissom, Signed Him
Antonio Grissom played, scouted and instructed.
17 - Darren Hedley, The Rest
Darren Hedley wasn't among those from his college to make bigs.
18 - Bill Higgins, College Asset
Bill Higgins pitched well in college. He played one season as a pro.
19 - Maurice Hines, Playoff Wins
Maurice Hines helped his high school to two playoff wins.
20 - Robbie Kamerschen, Dog Pile
Robbie Kamerschen made it to a pitcher's mound dog pile.
21 - Gary Lance, Picked Up
Gary Lance's pro career was brief - a single game.
22 - Mike Lieberthal, His Mark
Mike Lieberthal made his mark with the Phillies.
23 - Facaner Medina, Spelled Right
Facaner Medina had to wait two seasons for his correct name.
24 - Patricio Medina, Very Quick
Patricio Medina came from a quick country. His career was also quick.
25 - Rick Meyer, Different Call
Rick Meyer answered a different call and it almost got him killed.
26 - J.J. Munoz, Something New
J.J. Munoz was pleased at a coaching chance in in his eighth season.
27 - Mike Murphy, Own Momentum
Mike Murphy gave his single-A team momentum in 1993.
28 - Jorge Pascual, In Time
Jorge Pascual made it to Aquinas Junior College just in time.
29 - Francisco Rosario, First Flight
Francisco Rosario's first flight led to his only season as a pro.
30 - Dagoberto Tapia, Only Information
Dagoberto Tapia showed up with the Martinsville Phillies, but he never played.
31 - Domingo Tejada, Photo Day
Domingo Tejada arrived in time for photo day. He didn't stay long.
32 - Terry Tewell, Seemed Right
Terry Tewell chose the pro option. He never made AA.
33 - Alberto Vicente, Important Point
Alberto Vicente explained why Dominicans were so skinny.
34 - Winston Wheeler, Took Deep
Winston Wheeler played a single season as a pro.

Robert Moore, Best Arm - 230

Originally published Feb. 3, 2011
Modesto Manager Pete Whisenant saw potential in Robert Moore, just not as a starter. His hunch quickly paid off, with Moore taking two quick wins in relief in June 1982.

"I saw him this spring, liked him, and thought he could be a hell of a reliever," Whisenant told The Modesto Bee that June. "He was starting up in Madison. I wanted to make him a reliever. I think he could be awesome coming out of the bullpen in the second half."

Moore was already in his seventh season as a professional. Used mostly as a starter, he'd only made it as high as AA twice. After Whisenant's switch, Moore soon left single-A for good, he also made the majors.

Moore's career began in 1976, drafted by the Athletics in the 11th round out of high school. He started that year at short-season Boise. That first season he pitched that year mostly in relief, posting a 5.32 ERA.

He played 1977 between rookie league Medicine Hat and single-A Modesto, his ERA topped 5. Moore moved to starter full time in 1978 In his first six, sometimes wild, professional seasons, Moore never posted an ERA under 5.

The best of Moore's early runs came in 18 appearances with Modesto in 1980, posting a 4.62 ERA. Helping him was an August outing where Moore gave up only one hit against Lodi and struck out 11. A five-game run at AA West Haven pushed his ERA on the year over 5.

Despite his wildness, by May 1981, Athletics Manager Billy Martin called Moore "the best arm in the Oakland organization," according to The Bee. That year, Moore went 9-15 with a 5.12 ERA.

He returned to Modesto in 1982 for his fifth run with the team. Upon his return, The Bee called Moore "he of the smoking fastball and uncertain control." It was his last trip to Modesto.

Switched to relieving, Moore posted a 0.64 ERA in 14 innings of work. He also played at AA West Haven that year, his ERA returning to 5.89.

In 1983, Moore played most of the year back at AA, at Glens Falls with the White Sox. He got his first taste of AAA in 1984, playing at Phoenix with the Giants. He returned to Arizona for 1985, posting a 3.50 ERA in 50 outings. He also lost 10 days and $50 with pine tar on his glove.

He made his major league debut Sept. 11. In a total of 11 games with San Francisco, Moore gave up six earned runs in 16.2 innings of work. He also struck out 10 and walked 10. Moore struck out two and gave up one earned run in a Sept. 15 outing.

Going into spring training 1986, Moore was looked at for a Giants roster spot, and even as a possible starter. But Moore never made it back that year or ever.

Moore played that season back at Phoenix and later with the Rangers at AAA Oklahoma City. He got a look with the Tigers system in 1987.

He returned for 33 outings in 1990 with the Reds and Angels systems and then nine games in independent ball in 1995, ending his career.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Darren Cooper, The Rest - 3200

The Community College of Spokane ran out to a big lead in this April 1986 game and Darren Cooper did the rest, according to The Spokane Spokesman-Review.

Spokane picked up 16 hits and 11 runs. Cooper, in turn, pitched a complete game, giving up four hits, two runs and striking out nine, The Spokane-Review wrote.

Cooper went on to turn pro four years later, in 1990, after a stint at at least one other college, Lewis-Clark. His pro career, though, was brief. He played in a single season.

Cooper's brief pro career began and ended in 1990, signed by the Phillies as an undrafted free agent out of Lewis-Clark.

Cooper was a native of Yakima, Wa. He spent the summer of 1985 with the local American Legion team. He went 17-1, with 115 strikeouts.

For Spokane, Cooper picked up a save in an April 1986 game. The next month, he went six innings of relief, giving up three hits.

Cooper went on to Lewis-Clark and then to the Phillies organization. With the Phillies, Cooper was assigned to rookie Martinsville. In 15 games, 12 starts, Cooper went 1-6, with a 5.08 ERA. It was his only season as a pro.
1990 CMC-Pro Cards Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:1,946
Made the Majors: 882 - 45.3%
Never Made Majors: 1,064-54.7%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 377
10+ Seasons in the Minors:219

Robbie Kamerschen, Dog Pile - 3199

Georgia-native Robbie Kamerschen helped Stanford University to two national championships, one in 1987 and one in 1988.

He explained the experience years later to Morris News Service, on the occasion of his alma-mater facing his home state University of Georgia in the College World Series.

"It's the pinnacle," Kamerschen told the news service. "It's what these guys at Georgia want to experience. It's a dog pile on the pitcher's mound. You work all year for that. ... It really was special."

Kamerschen went on from Stanford to turn pro. His professional career, though, was brief. He played a single season.

Kamerschen's playing career began and ended in 1990, signed by the Phillies as an undrafted free agent out of Stanford. Kamerschen has also been credited by his formal name Robert Kamerschen.

At Stanford, Kamerschen went 6-0 in 1988, with a 3.91 ERA over 14 outings, six starts.

With the Phillies, Kamerschen was assigned to rookie Martinsville. He got into 20 outings, starting two games. He had a 5.33 ERA over 50.2 innings. It was his only season as a pro.

Kamerschen went on to a career in business. He spent a brief time as the deputy press secretary for U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby. He then returned to Georgia and got his law degree, according to Georgia Trend.

In 2004, he served as vice president at an identification company called ChoicePoint. In 2013, he was named senior vice president and general counsel at lease-to-own retailer Aaron's.
1990 CMC-Pro Cards Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:1,945
Made the Majors: 882 - 45.3%
Never Made Majors: 1,063-54.7%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 377
10+ Seasons in the Minors:219
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