Thursday, November 26, 2015

Chris Bando, Offered Continuity - 2200

After six seasons away from the majors, Chris Bando returned in 1996 - this time as a coach.

Bando spent that time away as a manager for the Brewers in the minors. For 1996, the team promoted Bando to the job of major league third base coach.

"We've watched Chris grow for several years in our system," Brewers manager Phil Garner told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after the hiring. "He offers continuity with the young players from our organization, which will be essential in the coming years."

Bando stayed in Milwaukee for three seasons. That major league stint came after a nine-season stint there as a player, one spent largely with Cleveland.

Bando's career began in 1978, taken by the Indians in the second round of the draft out of Arizona State University. Bando's brother is fellow major leaguer Sal Bando
Bando started with the Indians at AA Chattanooga, hitting .228 in 76 games. He went on to impress Indians coaches the next spring.

"I was happily surprised at the way he handles himself behind the plate," Indians manager Jeff Torborg told The Associated Press that March. "Especially the way he blocks balls in the dirt and his quickness."

Injury shortened Bando's season that year, which he spent back at Chattanooga. He then played all of 1980 back at AA. In 1981, Bando made his major league debut.

Bando got into 21 games for Cleveland in 1981, then 66 in 1982. Going into 1984, Bando looked to have a more regular role for the Indians. Manager Pat Corrales believed Bando was the best they had, according to The Milwaukee Journal.

"Out of the three catchers, he has been the best," Corrales told The Journal. "He's worked the hardest and thrown out more runners than anybody in our intrasquad games."

From 1984 to 1987, Bando got into at least 73 games for the Indians each year, including 92 in 1986. He hit a career high 12 home runs and had a .291 average in 1984.

His final major league time came in 1988 and 1989, with brief time spent between the Indians, Tigers and Athletics.

Bando then started his post-playing career in 1990, serving as manager at high-A Stockton. He moved up to AA El Paso as manger there in 1992, then AAA New Orleans in 1993.

He then moved up to Milwaukee as third base coach for 1996 and 1997. He served as bench coach in 1998.

He then returned to the minors. In 2001, he served as manager at short-season Mahoning Valley. In 2005, he was a scout for the Diamondbacks. More recently, he served as manager for the independent Washington Wild Things in 2012.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,187
Made the Majors: 929-42.5%-X
Never Made Majors:1,258-57.5%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 391
10+ Seasons in the Minors:234

Juan Uribe, In Relief - 2179

The Stockton Ports were on their way to a loss. Relief pitcher Juan Uribe helped eat innings.

The Ports didn't score until the ninth inning. In all, rival Modesto scored eight times. Three Stockton pitchers combined to face Modesto that night, among them was Uribe, according to The Lodi News-Sentinel.

Uribe pitched that year in his third season with time in the United States. It was also his last season in the U.S. After already spending time in his native Mexico, Uribe is credited as continuing his career there.

Uribe's U.S. career began in 1987 when the Brewers purchased his contract from Monterrey of the Mexican League.

He got into two games for single-A Stockton that year, giving up three earned in 2.2 innings. He then returned to play at single-A Beloit for 1988.

Uribe then returned to Mexico for 1989, playing at Monterrey. His final professional season in the United States came in 1990 back at Stockton. He got into 31 games in relief, starting two. He picked up one win, 11 saves and a 4.62 ERA.

Uribe is then credited as returning to Mexico to play, playing there as late as 2001.

1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,186
Made the Majors: 928-42.5%
Never Made Majors:1,258-57.5%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 391
10+ Seasons in the Minors:234

Mike Muhlethaler, Loosey-Goosey - 26

Originally published March 13, 2014
Mike Muhlethaler did his best to keep his pro dreams alive in 1990 by calling an old coach and scout, according to The Los Angeles Times.

What he got was an audience of two scouts, both for batting practice and in that night's game, according to The Times.

"I just went out there loosey-goosey," Muhlethaler told The Times. "All I did was swing free and easy."

And, with hot play down the stretch, Muhlethaler found himself just where he wanted to be: The pros. His pro stint, though, ended up being a brief one. His professional career lasted just a single season, 62 games.

Muhlethaler turned pro in June 1990, after being taken by the Athletics in the 39th round of the draft out of the University of California, Berkeley.

Muhlethaler went to Berkeley after graduating from Crescenta Valley High School in California. There, Muhlethaler also played football, winning a Times award for back of the year in his area.

As a pro, Muhlethaler was sent to short-season Southern Oregon. In a mid-July, he smacked his second home run on the year.

For the season as a whole, Mulethaler ended up hitting .256, with four home runs and knocking in 31. He didn't come back for a second season.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Curt Krippner, Good Fastball - 2184

Curt Krippner worked out for Brewers coaches in July 1987. Brewers coaches hoped their second-round pick would finally sign, according to The Milwaukee Journal.

"He threw well," Brewers scouting coordinator Dan Duquette told The Journal. "He has a good fastball, a heavy fastball which is hard to catch and hard to hit."

The University of Texas product soon signed, but not in time to play in 1987. He first hit the field the next year and played in a total of four seasons. He never made AA.

Krippner's career began that year in 1987, taken by the Brewers 55th overall out of Texas. He went to Texas out of Cypress Creek High School in Houston and turned down a 1984 second-round selection by the Reds to go to Texas.

With Texas, Krippner threw a complete game in a March win over Baylor. In May, he earned Converse Division I All-America honors.

He also helped the Longhorns to the 1987 College World Series. He went three innings of shutout relief to help eliminate Florida State - after throwing a complete game loss to Stanford.

"Once I got in there I didn't even care if I was hurting or not," Krippner told The Associated Press afterward. "I was going to keep throwing, because I think I was all on adrenalin. I wanted to win that game pretty bad."

Krippner played his first season with the Brewers between rookie Helena and single-A Beloit. He threw a complete-game, seven-hitter in a July Helena win over Salt Lake. Overall, Krippner went 5-9 between the two levels, with a 4.21 ERA.

Krippner returned to Beloit for 1989, going 8-9 with a 4.06 ERA. He then started 1990 at high-A Stockton. He got into only two games, giving up five earned in two innings. His final season came in 1991 at short-season Erie. He went 3-6 over 15 outings, with a 5.50 ERA, ending his career.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,185
Made the Majors: 928-42.5%
Never Made Majors:1,257-57.5%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 391
10+ Seasons in the Minors:234

Eric Christopherson, Not Afraid - 13

Originally published Jan. 18, 2013
The scout spoke to The Los Angeles Times on condition of anonymity before the draft, but he had nothing but good to say about the young San Diego State catcher Eric Christopherson.

Christopherson, the scout told The Times, was one of the better college catchers in the country.

"The question is whether he'll hit for a high average in professional baseball," the scout told The Times that May in 1990. "But with his defensive skills, if he hits .240 it would be a plus. . . . His baseball has improved each year (in college). He has gotten to the point where he is close to major league ability in catching right now."

The next month, it was the Giants who publicly put their faith in Christopherson, taking him in the first round, 19th overall.

But, while Christopherson often hit the batting average mark set by the scout, in a career that lasted a decade, he never got his opportunity to play in the majors.

He started his pro career at short-season Everett, playing 48 games there and seven with high-A San Jose. Between the two, Christopherson hit .254, with 23 RBI.

After arriving at Everett, told The Seattle Times about his history as a catcher, citing his grandfather and uncle, both catchers, as inspirations.

"The way I use two hands (to catch), the way I set up and frame the ball are kind of a modern-day throwback to that style," Christopherson told The Seattle Times. "And I'm not afraid to take a hit."

Christopherson moved to single-A Clinton for 1991, then AA Shreveport for 1992. He hit .270 at Clinton and .252 at Shreveport.

His 1993 season was abbreviated at just 23 games. He returned to Shreveport for 1994, then hit AAA Phoenix in 1995. At Phoenix, he hit .220 in 94 games. It was his last season in the Giants system.

For 1996, Christopherson moved to the Astros and AAA Tucson. In 67 games, he hit .267, with six home runs. His season, though, was cut short by a knee injury.

He ended up playing through 1999, playing his final three seasons for four different organizations. He played his last games with the White Sox at AAA Charlotte.

In 1996, as he played for the Astros at AAA Tucson, Christopherson was just looking to impress enough to take that last step.

"For the most part, they know what I can do," Christopherson told The Tucson Citizen that May. "I am just trying to do more for them."

Interview Part 4: Pete Alborano, Different Role

Pete Alborano at bat for the Reading Phillies in 1992. (Photo Provided)
Part 1: Constant Hustle | Part 2: Couldn't Wait
Part 3: League Leader | Part 4: Different Role

Pete Alborano made a good showing, but it didn't seem to matter.

Late in the 1992 season, Alborano got a start as the designated hitter for the AA Reading Phillies and he went 4 for 4. He recalled using those four hits to hit hit for the cycle.

"It was very exciting to do it," Alborano recalled recently to The Greatest 21 Days, "and then the wind came right out of my sails."

After having perhaps the best game of his career, the 26-year-old's reward was a renewed seat on the bench. And he stayed there through the next road trip.

As he sat, Alborano recalled his father encouraging Alborano to go in and ask to be released. Maybe Alborano would have better luck with another organization.

Alborano's thought: Give it more time. As it turned out, there wasn't much more time.

"I came back from that road trip where I never played and then they gave me my release," Alborano said. "I didn't have to ask for it."
Pete Alborano with the Memphis Chicks. (Photo Provided)
Alborano thought about trying to catch on elsewhere. He even received one offer to play at a lower level. But Alborano felt it was time to move on. He and his wife had a 2-year-old son by then.

Minor league baseball made it hard to be a dad.

"We decided against it," Alborano recalled. "I figured 'Let me start working and earning a decent paycheck' because you don't make any money in the minors."

That decision ended Alborano's seven-season professional career. He spent three of those seasons at AA and parts of a fourth. He never made the majors.

Alborano spoke to The Greatest 21 Days recently by phone from his Long Island home. He covered his career in the game from its start playing for his father at Brooklyn College through his time playing in the minors for the Royals and then the Phillies.

Alborano played his first six seasons in the Royals system. His last there came in 1991 back at AA Memphis. He got into 51 games that year and hit .257.

The limited playing time continued a trend in his career. In full seasons that are typically 140 games, Alborano never got into more than 92 games in a season. He played 77 of those games in 1989 as the starting left fielder at single-A Baseball City.
Pete Alborano, right, with his daughter Amanda, left, and son Christopher, center. Alborano raises and shows English Bulldogs in his spare time. (Photo Provided)
"It was tough to deal with," Alborano said of the limited playing time, "but I'll be honest, at the time, as a young man, I was a little bit scared to really make waves so I just kind of rolled with it and went with it."

He noted that as a 29th-round pick in 1986, the team had little invested in him. "I thought maybe I'll just be quiet and maybe something will happen and I'll get in there," he said.

In that final season with the Royals, Alborano recalled the team talking about moving him from the outfield to first base. He even started taking grounders, but he soon turned his ankle. That essentially marked his end with the Royals, he recalled.

Alborano, though, continued. He signed with the Phillies for 1992. Alborano recalled a few people put in a good word for him with the club and they brought him in.

Alborano tried to take advantage. He recalled having a great spring training hitting close to .400. He didn't think they expected him to do that well.

"I went down there in shape. I took pride in getting on the plane from New York to spring training in shape," Alborano said.

He recalled getting help from his father and brother. His father was also his old college coach. He worked with his brother on strength training at a gym.

"They didn't know what to do with me," Alborano recalled of the Phillies.
Pete Alborano more recently. Behind him are jerseys from his time with the Royals and Phillies organizations. (Photo Provided)
The team ended up sending Alborano to AA Reading in the Eastern League. His playing time ended up being similar to his time with the Royals. He got into 52 games and he hit .232.

But there was that final big game, then that was it.

He recalled having one more chance to go back. John Boles and the Marlins offered him a slot in the high-A California League. It was a step down from AA, and there was little prospect of moving back up. Alborano passed and moved on. 

He soon took a job back in Brooklyn with the Teamsters driving truck. For a decade now, he's been in a different job as an officer for the Nassau County Sheriff's Department working with inmates.

In his free time, he raises and shows English Bulldogs, something he got involved with with his family. He has a grown son and a daughter, Christopher, 25, and Amanda, 21.

He recalled having some opportunities early on to continue in baseball as a coach with all the time commitment that would have come with it. Alborano wasn't interested.

His son, he said, is sometimes upset with him for not continuing. But Alborano did continue, just in a different role.

"He forgets," Alborano said, "that I was at all his Little League games and I coached him. ... If I'm in the minor leagues traveling, I'm never going to be here. I respect the guys who do it."

Part 1: Constant Hustle | Part 2: Couldn't Wait
Part 3: League Leader | Part 4: Different Role

Be sure to read Part 1: Pete Alborano, Constant Hustle

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Interview Part 3: Pete Alborano, League Leader

Pete Alborano with the Florida State League's Baseball City Royals in 1989. (Photo Provided)
Part 1: Constant Hustle | Part 2: Couldn't Wait
Part 3: League Leader | Part 4: Different Role

Pete Alborano wonders if maybe the Royals promoted him too quickly in 1989.

He had the best batting average of anyone in the league, .337. He also made the league All-Star team.

But the best batting average doesn't always mean batting title. Alborano his 77 games and 279 at bats left him short of the official batting championship. He came up short because the Royals took notice of his success and moved him up to AA Memphis before he could qualify.

"It sounds crazy, but they promoted me to AA that year and I think they should have just left me lead the league that year," Alborano told The Greatest 21 Days recently. "If they would have left me to the Florida State League, I probably would have led the league in hitting and then I probably wold have had a little bit of leverage."

Leverage is what the 29th round draft pick seemed to lack through much of his career. That season between Baseball City and Memphis - his fourth as a pro - marked a career high in games played at 92.

He went on to play in seven seasons, he never played in more games in a single season. He also never made it higher.

"I often ask myself," Alborano said, "'Wow, I wonder if someone was in my corner and gave me a little bit more of an opportunity to show my stuff and play every day on a regular basis, what I could have done."

Alborano still played professionally for seven seasons, getting much of that time two steps away from the majors.
Introductions for the 1989 Florida State League All-Star Game. Pete Alborano, far left, made the team with Baseball City. (Photo Provided)
Alborano spoke to The Greatest 21 Days recently by phone from his Long Island home. He covered his career in the game from its start playing for his father at Brooklyn College through his time playing in the minors for the Royals and then the Phillies.

Alborano played his first two seasons with short-season squads in the rookie Gulf Coast League and the Northwest League. His first time with a full-season team came in 1988 at single-A Virginia.

Alborano remained in the Royals system, but he played for Virginia, a co-op team made up of Royals minor leaguers and others.

Alborano wasn't sure how to take the assignment to a team outside the normal Royals system. Still, he went out and played well. He made the Carolina League All-Star team. Others making the team, he recalled: Bernie Williams, Albert Belle and Kent Mercker.

Injuries that year, though, conspired to limit his time. Though he made the All-Star team, he couldn't play. He tore ligaments in his thumb ahead of the game on a slide into third. He remembers spending the All-Star game with a cast on his hand unable to play.

"I just think I hit some bumps in the road," Alborano said.

Overall, he got into 69 games for Virginia that year and hit .305. He then started 1989 at Baseball City and he played much of the season as that club's starting left fielder.

In his 77 games at Baseball City, Alborano hit his league-leading .337 and he won his promotion to AA Memphis.
A 1989 newspaper clipping from Pete Alborano's collection. Alborano is shown at right. (Photo Provided)
One of the first pitchers he faced with Memphis, he recalled: Greenville's Steve Avery.

"I remember facing a tough Braves team in Greenville and I'm like 'Wow, this is different than class A,'" Alborano said. "From there, we went on to Jacksonville, ... I had like a reality check there in '89 because I really saw a difference in the caliber of pitching and the playing.

"I thought AA was a really big difference from class A," Alborano said.

Alborano appeared in 15 games down the stretch for Memphis that year. He hit .250. He then returned to Memphis for the full season in 1990. He recalled getting used to the pitching more, but he also wasn't starting every day.

Alborano served as an extra outfielder, a designated hitter and as a pinch hitter. The team had outfielders who could track some fly balls better than he could. He hit .255 in those roles over 81 appearances.

Alborano recalled frustrations on the field that year, but also joys - both on and off it.

On the field, the frustrations showed on a particularly cold and rainy night. Alborano came off the bench to hit and then play in the field. He struck out.
Pete Alborano's 1990 Southern League championship ring. (Photo Provided)
Alborano walked out to left field upset and kicking the grass. He recalled his manager Jeff Cox quickly responding and setting Alborano straight: The fans deserved better.

The biggest mid-season joy came with the birth of Alborano's son, Christopher. Memphis was on the road, but Alborano's wife was back in Memphis.

Memphis was back in Greenville, but Alborano won permission to fly back to witness his son's birth. Alborano recalled his own father advising against it.

Alborano's father, also Peter Alborano, spent time in the minors himself in the 1950s. His advice, the son recalled: Alborano's wife could take care of it.

"He's like 'Pete, you're leaving the team? I would never leave the team,'" Alborano recalled of his father's reaction. "I'm like, 'Dad, it's different now. The manager gives permission to see the birth of your child.' He was old school."

On the field, the joys included a big home run and a league championship. Alborano hit two home runs for Memphis that year, one of them off future major leaguer Denny Neagle, he recalled. Memphis also went on to win the championship over Neagle's Orlando SunRays. Alborano still has the ring.

Alborano then went into the home stretch of the career before going out on a big game. (Go to Part 4)

Part 1: Constant Hustle | Part 2: Couldn't Wait
Part 3: League Leader | Part 4: Different Role

Go to Part 4: Pete Alborano, Different Role
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