Thursday, February 21, 2019

Len Picota, Tight Game - 24

Len Picota threw a gem for the Nashua Pride this night in 2001 at Atlantic City, according to The Nashua Telegraph.

He struck out nine and allowed five hits over eight innings in the 1-0 victory, The Telegraph wrote.

"Tight games like this make you concentrate a little more," Picota told The Telegraph afterward. "You don't want to make mistakes in any situation. You've got to try to stay away from extra-base hits and just make quality pitches."

Picota threw that gem a full 17 years after his professional career began. He played in the minors over 10 of those seasons and later saw Korea and the World Baseball Classic. He made AAA, but he never made the majors.

Picota's career began in 1984, signed by the Cardinals as an amateur free agent out of his native Panama. Picota was also credited as Lenin Picota.

Picota started with the Cardinals as a 17-year-old at rookie Johnson City. He went 3-5 over 15 outings, 10 starts, and had a 4.44 ERA.

He hit short-season Erie in 1985, then single-A Savannah in 1986 and 1987. He went 10-9 at Savannah his second season there, with a 3.02 ERA.

Picota made AA Arkansas in 1989. He went six innings for an April win. He went 4-4 over 19 outings. He then returned to Arkansas for 1990 and went 10-8, with a 4.57 ERA. He got out of a bases-loaded August jam with a strikeout and picked up the win.

He made AAA Louisville for 1991. He saw 28 games, 11 starts. He went 3-6, with a 5.83 ERA.

Picota moved to the Expos and AA Harrisburg for 1992. He also turned closer, saving 26 games for the club, turning in a 1.88 ERA.

He played one more season in the minors, including eight appearances at AAA Ottawa with the Expos and 22 with the Mariners at AAA Calgary.

Picota then played in Mexico and returned stateside in 2001. He even saw time that spring with the Expos, before playing the year at independent Nashua.

He then played in Korea in 2002 and 2003, then later returned to Mexico. He made the World Baseball Classic for Panama in 2006. He went four innings in a loss to Puerto Rico. He's last credited as playing for Aguascalientes in 2007.

In 2018, Picota was named manager of Saltillo.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,062
Made the Majors:1,124-36.7%
Never Made Majors:1,938-63.3%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 466
10+ Seasons in the Minors:279-X

Scott Davison, Watch Him - 6

Originally published Dec. 6, 2013
Scott Davison was out of baseball by 1992. He'd played shortstop in the Expos system for four seasons, but it didn't work out, and he was released.

After turns as a UPS driver and helping coach at the high school in his hometown, Davison, in 1994, thought he should give the pros another try - as a pitcher, according to The Seattle Times.

"I called a Mariner scout I knew and asked him to watch me throw," Davison told The Times.

The scout did, and soon Davison was a pro again. Not only was he a pro again, he was also on his way to the major leagues.

By the time his career was finally over, Davison had seen time in two major league seasons, both with the Mariners. He also even saw time in Japan.

Davison's first pro career began in 1988, taken by the Expos in the fourth round of the draft, out of Redondo High School in California.

At Redondo, Davison was both a pitcher and a shortstop. His father Ralf Davison told The Los Angeles Times his son always had a good bat and arm.

"I started him on a plastic tee and he hit the (bleep) out of the ball," Ralf Davison told The LA Times. "He picked up a ball when he was 4 or 5 years old. You could tell he was going to have a good arm. He could just fire it. He's excelled ever since he got into T-ball."

And he showed both with Redondo. By late-April 1988, he was 10-0 on the mound, 40-5 over his career, according to The LA Times. He also had 133 hits, then second all-time at the school. In 2013, he made the school's inaugural Hall of Fame class.

When the Expos came calling, they chose the hitter-infielder Davison. He started in the rookie Gulf Coast League, moving to short-season Jamestown in 1989. He hit .239 at Jamestown, then just .215 the next year at single-A Rockford.

His final season with the Expos was in 1991, at high-A West Palm Beach. Over 82 games, he hit .168.

Then came his two years away from the game, and his return as a pitcher.

He signed with the Mariners for 1994, and, still just 23 years old, he started moving up. He started at short-season Bellingham, getting a 1.80 ERA. He then moved up to single-A Appleton. By the end of the year, he was at AAA Calgary.

For 1995, Davison posted a sterling 0.89 ERA in 34 relief outings at AA Port City. He then saw time at AAA Tacoma. That September, he debuted in Seattle.

With the Mariners in 1995, Davison got into three games, 4.1 innings of work. He gave up three earned. He returned for another five outings, nine innings, for 1996. He gave up nine earned. He'd made the majors for a total of eight games. it was the extent of his major league career.

Davison spent 1997 injured, then returned for 1998 to play in Japan. He got five outings with the Chiba Lotte Marines, 7.2 innings. He gave up two earned. He then played one more season, coming back in 2001 in the minors, ending his career.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Deryk Hudson, More Swings - 55

Originally published Dec. 12, 2013
Deryk Hudson's Richmond Oilers ran up against a good pitcher in this April 2013 game, losing 13-1, according to Richmond Confidential.

But Hudson had some advice for them afterward.

"We have to learn to come out fighting and not come out on our heels," Hudson told his high schoolers after the loss, according to Richmond Confidential. "I'd like to see you guys swing at a lot more pitches. We're not swinging at enough pitches."

Hudson spoke having had his share of swings years earlier, as a professional in the minors, though likely not as many swings as he would have hoped. Hudson's pro career lasted just two seasons, never making it above single-A.

Hudson's brief pro career began in 1989, taken by the Expos in the 34th round, out of Cal State-Long Beach and Fullerton College.

At Fullerton, Hudson hit two home runs and knocked in four in an April 1988 game. At Long Beach, Hudson helped his team to a 1989 College World Series trip, knocking in four runs in the game that sent the club to Omaha. Earlier in the year, Hudson hit a double and a home run in a win.

With the Expos, Hudson played his first year at short-season Jamestown. He hit .311, with six home runs and 43 RBI.

He moved to single-A Rockford for 1990, but hit just .207 over 111 games, along with four home runs and 41 RBI. It was his final year as a pro.

Hudson has since gone on to coach high school baseball, serving as head coach at Richmond High School in California in 2013.

In another April 2013 game, Hudson's team edged out a 7-6 win, but a late surge by their opponent had Hudson concerned, according to Richmond Confidential.

"I thought that we played six-and-three-quarter innings of quality baseball," Hudson told Richmond Confidential afterward. "But we got complacent at the end because we wanted it to be over. Toward the end of the game you have to play the same way as the beginning. One of the hardest things to do is to finish anything."

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Ben Howze, Another Sport - 40

Pensacola's Booker T. Washington High School started on its own 33 yard line in this November 1986 contest and drove for the score, according to The Pensacola News Journal.

Headlining the drive, The News Journal wrote, was Washington quarterback Ben Howze's 41-yard run.

Howze played another sport at Washington, baseball, and baseball got him to the pros. His professional baseball career lasted six seasons. He never made AA, but he has gone on to serve as an instructor.

Howze's pro baseball career began in 1988, taken by the Expos in the second round of the draft out of Washington High.

Howze started with the Expos in the rookie Gulf Coast League. He went 2-5 over 12 starts, with a 4.87 ERA.

He moved to single-A Rockford for 1989 and would stay there for three seasons. He went 8-12 in 26 starts in 1989, with a 5.08 ERA. He walked a runner that later scored in an August contest.

Howze returned to Rockford for 1990. In 19 outings, 14 starts, he compiled a 2-7 record and a 6.28 ERA. In 1991, he saw 25 outings, 10 starts and ended with a 4-3 record and a 4.22 ERA.

After not being recorded as playing in 1992, Howze returned for 1993 and went 2-7, with a 4.55 ERA for the Cubs at high-A Daytona. He got into eight more contests there in 1994 to end his career.

In 2019, Howze serves as director of Showcase Baseball Academy in Georgia, "one of the premier youth baseball operations in the country," according to the academy site.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,061
Made the Majors:1,124-36.7%
Never Made Majors:1,937-63.3%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 466
10+ Seasons in the Minors:278

Doug Bochtler, That Determination - 49

Originally published Dec. 11, 2013
Doug Bochtler had a lot of positives going for him in 1991 at high-A West Palm Beach, Expos minor league pitching coordinator Rick Williams told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

"His determination, on and off the field, is great," Williams told The Sun-Sentinel. "It's just one piece of the puzzle, and it's a positive piece of the puzzle."

Bochtler had that determination in his third season as a pro and he kept it until he made the majors. But he needed that determination. It took him until his seventh season to get there.

Once he got there, he stayed for parts of six seasons. In three of those seasons, the reliever got into no fewer than 51 games each year.

Bochtler's career began in 1989, taken by the Expos in the ninth round of the draft, out of Indian River Community College in Florida.

Bochtler started in the rookie Gulf Coast League, moving to single-A Rockford for 1990. He made AA Harrisburg in 1992. He then moved to the Rockies system, taken in the expansion draft, and landed with the Padres mid-1993 in a trade.

Bochtler played that season and the next at AAA. He then started 1995 at AAA, as well. Then, in May 1995, he debuted in the majors, in San Diego.

With the Padres that year, Bochtler got into 34 games in relief, posting a 3.57 ERA. He also picked up four wins and four losses. He then came back for 63 outings for the Padres in 1996, with a 3.02 ERA, then 54 outings in 1997.

In an early June 1997 game, Bochtler picked up his second save of the year, with the help of Steve Finley's bat, and his glove.

"When you have a guy who can run like that in the outfield, you have to make them put the ball in play," Bochtler told The Associated Press. "That's all I did, and Finley did the rest."

Bochtler moved to the Tigers for 1998, getting into another 51 games. He finished out his career with 12 games with the Dodgers in 1999 and six with the Royals in 2000.

He didn't play his final professional game, though, until 2003, playing his final seasons in the Twins and Dodgers systems.

Bochtler has since gone on to coach. He served 2013 as pitching coach with rookie Missoula, watching over young pitchers like Cody Geyer.

"You can't watch Cody Geyer pitch," Bochtler told The Missoulian in June 2013, "and not take a look at that arm say, 'Wow, there’s some lightning coming out of that thing.'"

Sunday, February 17, 2019

John Cain, Winter Meetings - Expos

Years after his baseball training days ended, John Cain saw a big league city - and he did so at winter meetings. These winter meetings continued in relation to his initial job as a trainer for the Rockford Expos, but with a different focus.

These meetings were the Great Lakes Athletic Trainers Association's winter meeting in Minneapolis in 2011, and Cain went as an athletic trainer for local Rockford-area Ogle County Physical Therapy, according to The Rockford Register-Star.

The meeting covered baseball and softball injuries, concussions and Kenesio taping, among other topics, The Register-Star wrote.

Cain attended those meetings just over two decades after his last recorded time as a trainer in minor league baseball.

Cain's career as a trainer started about 1988, as an assistant with Rockford. He received a card in that year's team set, his hometown listed as Byron, Ill.

He didn't get a card in 1989, but returned to the Rockford set for 1990 as the team's full trainer. His card noted he had received his athletic training certification the previous year. It also incorrectly identified 1990 as his first year in professional baseball.

Those two cards are the only two he is credited as having. Years later, he was in Ogle County, just south of Rockford, heading to those training winter meetings.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,060
Made the Majors:1,124-36.7%
Never Made Majors:1,936-63.3%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 466
10+ Seasons in the Minors:278

Michael Grace, Extended Lead - 34

Originally published Dec. 12, 2013
The Salt Lake Trappers had taken the lead in this late-June 1989 game and Mike Grace helped them extend it.

Leading off the seventh inning, Grace hit one over the fence, to extend that lead to 7-4, according to The Deseret News.

That home run was one of six Grace hit in 63 games that summer for independent Salt Lake City. It was a performance that caught the eye of the Montreal Expos, seeing his contract purchased by the club before the year was out.

Grace ultimately played in four more seasons, but he never made it above AA.

A native of Texas, Grace's pro career began that year in 1989, signed by the independent Salt Lake City Trappers.

With the Trappers, Grace hit .350 while knocking in 37. He also hit 17 doubles, one in a late-June game and another in a mid-July game to help extend a Trappers lead.

After moving to the Expos, Grace played four games at short-season Jamestown. He then moved to single-A Rockford for 1990. He hit .287 on the year, with three home runs and 42 RBI. Grace also won organization player of the month honors that June.

For 1991, Grace moved to the Cubs system, playing at high-A Winston-Salem and AA Charlotte. He hit .339 in 51 games at Winston-Salem and .207 in 73 games at Charlotte.

Grace returned to Charlotte for 1992, hitting .249, then stayed at AA with the Cubs at Orlando in 1993. He hit .271 at Orlando, over 120 games, but it was his final season as a pro.

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