Sunday, August 25, 2019

Doug Simons, As Excited - 19

Originally published April 23, 2011
Doug Simons was never an emotional player. So, in April 1991, after getting his first major league win, the rookie looked as if he didn't realize he'd reached that milestone, according to the Thomson News Service.

"I knew," Simons confirmed to the news service after the win. "If you know me, this is about as excited as I get. I'm throwing a party in my mind."

For Simons, however, the such parties were already half over. That win in April, and one more that June, amounted to the only two wins of Simons' major league career.

Simons pitched in 42 major league games for the Mets that year, mostly as a reliever. He got into seven more the next, with the Expos, and his big league career was done.

Simons' professional career started in 1988, selected by the Twins in the ninth round out of Pepperdine. He started that year at single-A Visalia, going 6-5, with a 3.94 ERA.

He split 1989 between Visalia and AA Orlando, going 13-5 between them, with a 2.63 ERA.

At Orlando, Simons discussed a possible disadvantage for him on the mound, his size. Simons was 5 feet, 11 inches and 160 pounds, according to The Orlando Sentinel.

''I'm not concerned with that the size issue," Simons told The Sentinel. "If I pitch my game and keep us close, who's going to care how big I am."

Simons returned to Orlando for 1990, going 15-12, with a 2.54 ERA. He won his 13th in early August, a 7-5 win over Huntsville. ''It was just one of those games where I didn't pitch as well as I would have liked, but my teammates got me some runs to work with early,'' Simons told The Sentinel of that 13th victory.

Taken by the Mets in the Rule 5 draft, Simons spent all of 1991 with the big club. The starter, however, moved to relief. He got into 42 games, only starting one.

In April 1992, the Mets traded Simons to the Expos. He got into seven games for Montreal that year, amounting to 5.1 innings. He gave up 14 earned runs. Eight of those runs came in three April outings, ones that amounted to a third of an inning. The rest came in September.

In August, Simons told The Los Angeles Times, he hoped to get back to the majors, and get back to starting. But maybe not with the Expos.

"I know I'm capable of winning up there, but I think I need to be a starter," Simons told The Times. "I haven't pitched in the big leagues when I really felt like myself. When you pitch a lot, you get everything going."

After 1992, Simons never got back to the majors. He played through 1996, with the Expos, Royals and Astros organizations, ending his playing career.

Simons went on to be a coach in the Mets organization, and a scout with the Rangers. In 2005, Simons became head baseball coach at Covenant College in Georgia, helping revive a dormant program. He remains Covenant head coach for 2011.

"I am excited and honored to be the head baseball coach at Covenant College," Simons told The Chattanooga Chattanoogan after his selection. "It will be a challenge to start a program from scratch, but it will also be very rewarding, and not to mention fun."

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Terrel Hansen, Wrong Time - 30

Originally published July 21, 2010
Talking to a columnist in 2009, Terrel Hansen's assessment of his career was succinct.

"I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time or behind somebody," Hansen told The Kitsap Sun of Bremerton, Wa.. "But when you are a $100,000 guy and there are $6 million guys ahead of you, those guys have to play. That is just a part of the game."

Hansen was speaking of a professional playing career that spanned 13 minor league seasons and two major league days.

That's two major league days.

Hansen's career began with the Expos, taken in the 14th round of the 1987 draft out of the University of Washington.

He started at short-season Jamestown, then made West Palm Beach in 1988 and Rockford in 1989. It was AA Jacksonville in 1990. Hansen never hit better than .269 in those four seasons. But he did become a home run hitter. He hit 16 for Rockford and 24 for Jacksonville.

It was enough for the Expos to ship him to the Mets in a four-player deal, getting Alex Diaz and Darren Reed in return.

With the Mets, Hansen found a home at AAA. He would play the next two seasons there, at Tidewater. Then it was back with the Expos at AAA Ottawa. His final three years in affiliated ball were spent largely at AA Jacksonville.

In 1994, Hansen hit .317 and made the Southern League All-Star Team. In 1996, Jansen hit the most home runs he'd hit in a year, 26, 25 of those at Jacksonville. Two of them came in one June game. His four seasons at Jacksonville, for three different organizations, earned him a spot on the all-time Jacksonville Suns team from The Jacksonville News.

His time in affiliated ball over with 1996, Hansen held on three more years with independent Chico. He hit 46 home runs over three seasons, earning a spot in the Chico Pro Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. He's since moved into teaching baseball, as an instructor.

Back to those two days in the majors. Those came in 1992, with the Mets. Called up in late April when infielder Kevin Baez went down. He was sent back down two days later, as Vince Coleman came off the DL.

He never got an at-bat, or in a game. At one point, according to The Sun, he was going to pinch-hit, but was told to put the bat back down. The starter was going to stay in.

To make the situation worse, just after Hansen was sent back down, the player who prompted it, Coleman, got hurt again. But Hansen couldn't be brought back up, not for 10 days due to a rule about recalling players, The Sun wrote.

His replacement, according to The Sun, stayed up for a month. Hansen never got back.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Ron Gideon, Another Job - 23

Ron Gideon agreed to try pitching in late 1988. The next spring, the Mets informed the first baseman the wanted him as a pitcher full time, according to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

To The Clarion-Ledger that July, Gideon explained plainly his reasons for accepting the assignment.

"When it comes to finding another job or this, I'll take this," Gideon told The Clarion-Ledger. "It's a big adjustment. I've been swinging a bat all my life, and I've loved it."

Gideon soon did have to find another job, his foray into pitching lasting two seasons. Gideon, however, didn't have to look far as he soon landed a minor league hitting coach job with the Mets.

Gideon has since gone on to a long career in both the minors and the majors as a coach, manager  and coordinator, most recently serving as first base coach for the Rockies in Colorado.

Gideon's long career in baseball began in 1984, taken by the Phillies in the first round of the June secondary draft out of Panola College in Texas. Gideon is also credited as Ronnie Gideon.

Gideon started with the Phillies at short-season Bend. He hit .270 in 66 games. He then moved to single-A Peninsula for 1985 and then the Mets and single-A Lynchburg for 1986.

He returned to Lynchburg for 1987 and got a seven-game look at AA Jackson. He hit .247, with 25 home runs on the year.

Gideon then played 1988 back at Jackson before making his move to the mound for 1989. He saw 17 games at single-A St. Lucie and 11 back at Jackson. He went 1-4 overall, with a 1.98 ERA  He then saw nine final outings in 1990 at Jackson to end his playing career.

By 1991, he was back in St. Lucie as hitting coach. He got his first look at the manager's office in 1993 at rookie Kingsport and he continued to manage in the minors through 2005, moving to the Rockies system in 1996.

In 2000, he managed Shawn Chacon at AA Carolina. He later explained to The Greeley Tribune Chacon's path to the majors.

"I think it was primarily a mental thing, but he had some mechanical problems, too," Gideon told The Tribune. "In the past, he's been able to live on power alone, and he likes being a power pitcher. But success at this level will come with location and finesse, too."

Chacon served as a minor league field coordinator and then as manager at AA Tulsa.

When he joined Tulsa for 2009, Gideon received praise from Rockies assistant GM Bill Geivett in The Tulsa World.

"It's great when you can call on someone with Giddy's experience to step in when you have an opening," Geivett told The World.

In 2017, the Rockies had an opening as a major league coach and filled it with Gideon. He remains as a coach with Colorado for 2019.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,167
Made the Majors:1,150-36.3%
Never Made Majors:2,017-63.7%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 476
10+ Seasons in the Minors:283

Woody Williams, Good Time - 20

Originally published March 21, 2013
By mid-September 2007, Astros starter Woody Williams was 8-15, with a 5.04 ERA.

He was also 41 years old and pulled from the Astros' starting rotation, according to

"It's sad that the season's come to this, and it's sad that we're doing as poorly as we are, but it's a good time to look at some young kids and see what they can do and give them some experience," Williams told "I always remember my first time up in the big leagues. Being a September callup for them is special, and it's a good time to put some excitement out there."

It was almost a wonder that Williams remembered that first big-league call up. It happened 15 seasons earlier.

From that big league debut to his time with the Astros in 2007, Williams amassed a total of 132 major league wins, including one season with 18, the season he made his All-Star appearance. He also posted a career ERA of 4.19 and struck out nearly 1,500 batters.

Williams' pro career began back in 1988, taken by the Blue Jays in the 28th round of the draft, out of the University of Houston.

With the Blue Jays, Williams started at short-season St. Catharines, getting a look at AA Knoxville that first season. In 1990, Williams played at Knoxville full-time, getting three appearances at AAA Syracuse.

Williams, though, stayed in the minors into 1993. It was in May 1993, at the age of 26, that Williams debuted with Toronto.

Williams ended up getting into 30 games for the Blue Jays in 1993, all in relief, posting a 4.38 ERA. In 1994, he got into another 38 games, posting a 3.64 mark.

It was in 1996 that Williams turned starter. He pitched just 12 games for Toronto that year, but started 10 of them. He hardly relieved for the rest of his career.

In one August 1996 start, Williams went seven innings, giving up just one earned run, after his previous start where he gave up five in just two innings, The Associated Press wrote.

"I told myself to be more aggressive," Williams told The AP afterward. "I told myself if I'm going to get beat, I'm going to get beat by being more aggressive."

Williams stayed with the Blue Jays through 1998, going 10-9 his final season there. For 1999, he was traded to the Padres, picking up double-digit wins in each of his first two seasons there. 

In 2001, Williams moved to the Cardinals mid-season, getting a career-high 15 victories between them. With the Cardinals in 2003, Williams career-high win total went up again, going 18-9 on the season.

In July, Williams made his only All-Star appearance. But it didn't go as he had hoped.  The National League lost 7-6. Two of the American League's runs were given up by Williams.

"I just knew I had to pitch one inning," Williams told afterward. "Hopefully, I would go out there and not give up any runs, but it didn't work out."

Williams stayed with the Cardinals through 2004, getting his only outing in the World Series that October. Williams started Game 1 for St. Louis, but couldn't get out of the third, giving up seven earned.

Williams returned to the Padres for two seasons, then signed with his hometown Astros for 2007. After getting pulled from the rotation in favor of younger pitchers that September, Williams returned for spring 2008, but didn't pitch in the regular season again.

Williams has since spent three seasons as head coach for Fort Bend Christian Academy in Sugar Land, taking his team to the state semi-finals in two of those seasons, according to The Examiner.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Dave Proctor, Power Potential - 14

Dave Proctor's coach at Allen County Community College thought highly of him. The Mets did, too.

Shortly after the Mets selected Proctor 21st overall in the 1988 draft, Allen County coach Val McLean told The Associated Press he saw big things in Proctor's future.

"Dave's got the world by the horns," McLean told The AP. "I think he's ready to go out and have a bright future in major league baseball."

Mets director of scouting Roland Johnson explained to The Hackensack Record Proctor's potential in simpler terms.

"He's a big, strong man who has the potential to be a solid power pitcher," Johnson told The Record.

Proctor, however, never lived up to the lofty expectations that came with his status as a first-rounder as injuries helped end his career short of the majors.

Proctor started with the Mets at short-season Little Falls. He went 5-3, with a 4.21 ERA over 12 starts.

He moved to single-A St. Lucie for 1989. In 22 outings, 21 starts there, he went 7-6, with a 2.36 ERA. He struggled in an August game, giving up five earned in four innings and 11 runs overall against Vero Beach, according to The Palm Beach Post.

"I had a little trouble finding the (strike) zone for a while, but it wasn't all that bad," Proctor told The Post afterward. "(The Dodgers) were just swinging the bats tonight."

Then Proctor got injured. He had been set to join AA Jackson for 1990, but an injury to his elbow led to surgery in May and a lost season, according to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Proctor returned for 1991 and 1992, playing both between AA and high-A. He went 3-7 over 12 starts in 1992, with a 4.78 ERA to end his career.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,166
Made the Majors:1,150-36.3%
Never Made Majors:2,016-63.7%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 476
10+ Seasons in the Minors:283

Luis Gonzalez, One Hit - 29

Originally published Jan. 14, 2012
Closing out the 1993 season, Luis Gonzalez needed one hit to reach a milestone.

In only his third full season in the majors, Gonzalez had a .300 batting average within reach and he got it, a single putting him over the top.

"To hit .299 would have been a good year," Gonzalez told The Chicago Tribune the next spring, "but .300 sticks out a lot better when you've finished your career and look back."

While that hit in 1993 put Gonzalez at the .300 mark, a mark he would reach four more times in his career, it's another hit, achieved on the biggest of stages and the biggest of moments, that is the Gonzalez hit that would come to stick out most.

Gonzalez' road to that moment, though, began in 1988, taken by the Astros in the fourth round of the draft, out of the University of South Alabama.

Gonzalez spent his first two seasons at single-A, moving to AA Columbus in year three. By the end of year three, Gonzalez was in Houston.

That first September with the Astros, Gonzalez got into 12 games, getting four hits in 21 at bats. He didn't look back. In 1991, Gonzalez got into 137 games with the Astros, hitting .254. He got into another 122 in 1992, hitting .243. Then came hit first .300 season in 1993.

By that July, Gonzalez was on a roll, arriving at Chicago's Wrigley Field, a place where he always seemed to hit well, he told The Tribune. In one game, he hit two home runs.

"I feel comfortable and confident here," Gonzalez told The Tribune afterward. "My rookie year, I got a couple of hits off Greg Maddux here, and that turned around my whole season."

By the end of June 1995, Gonzalez was with the Cubs, traded there by the Astros in a three-player deal. He stayed with the Cubs through 1996. For 1997, Gonzalez was back with the Astros, hitting .258 on the year. In May and June, though, he rattled off a 23-game hitting streak.

After a season with Detroit, Gonzalez arrived with the Diamondbacks, the team for which he would have his best seasons, including his four other .300 seasons.

In 1999, his first year in Arizona, Gonzalez hit .336, with 26 home runs. In July, he got his first All Star nod. In an August game, he knocked in four runs on four hits.

"A day like today," Gonzalez told The Associated Press after that game, "every time I came to the plate, I had runners in scoring position. When I have that, I just try to hit the ball hard in play."

In June 2000, he did that a little better. He hit for the cycle, on his way to a .311 average on the season.

Gonzalez became an All Star again in 2001, part of a season where he hit .325, with 57 home runs. His previous home run high was 31, the year before.

Gonzalez led the Diamondbacks all the way to the World Series. In Game 1, he went 2 for 5, with a home run, helping Arizona to a 9-1 win.

In Game 7, a bloop single was all Gonzalez needed. And he got it off none other than the Yankees' Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth, knocking in the game-winning and series-winning run.

"Stepping up to the plate there in the ninth inning, that's what everybody dreams about," Gonzalez told reporters afterward. "A key situation to drive in the winning run in the World Series, against one of the best relievers in all of baseball. I choked up (on the bat) and to be honest with you that was the first time I did it all year."

Gonzalez went on to play five more seasons with the Diamondbacks, seven more overall. He was an All Star three more times, making five All Star selections overall. He last played in 2008.

He formally announced his retirement in August 2009. He has since gone on to spend time as a Diamondbacks broadcaster.

"I still feel I can play. It just didn't happen," Gonzalez told reporters then. "So this is a bittersweet day or me. It's tough to close the book on something you love to do.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Toby Nivens, Biggest Thing - 17

Toby Nivens quickly made AA with the Twins, but he had trouble making the next step. So, when he underwent arm surgery in his third pro season, Nivens thought his career had ended, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Then the Twins sent Nivens to the Mets in a trade. Nivens told The Tribune later that he believed that  trade kept his career alive.

''Probably the biggest thing is the Mets are more patient,'' Nivens told The Tribune. ''They stress little things more than the Twins. The Twins would take for granted that you should know something if you were at a certain level. If you didn't know it, you never learned. Here, they make sure somebody teaches it.''

Nivens then returned to AA for another season, his third at that level. He played at AA in two more campaigns after that. He never made AAA or higher.

Nivens' career began in 1986, taken by the Twins in the first round of the January secondary draft out of San Jacinto College in Texas.

Nivens started with the Twins at rookie Elizabethton. He went 9-2 over 13 starts there, with a 2.62 ERA.

He then made the jump to AA Orlando for 1987. He went 2-7 there over another 13 starts, with a 4.14 ERA.

Nivens had a rough start at Orlando, but he earned praise from his manager, George Mitterwald, according to The Orlando Sentinel.

"In his last four or five starts, he has pitched outstanding," Mitterwald told The Sentinel of Nivens that May. "He's 1-3, but he easily could've been 4-3. Some no-decisions and some shoddy defense have hurt him. But he's a gamer."

Nivens returned to Orlando for 1988. That June, he threw a three-hitter and had a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He went 7-7 overall, with a 3.82 ERA. Then came his arm surgery and trade to the Mets.

Nivens then played 1989 at AA Jackson. He went 6-11 his first year there, with a 4.04 ERA. He returned to Jackson for 1990 and went 6-8 over 18 starts. He then moved with the Mets AA club to Williamsport for 1991. He went 10-11 there, with a 4.19 ERA to end his career.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,165
Made the Majors:1,150-36.3%
Never Made Majors:2,015-63.7%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 476
10+ Seasons in the Minors:283


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