Sunday, October 21, 2018

Greg Kobza, Not Easy - 24

Originally published April 3, 2017
Greg Kobza described his coaching style in 2007 to The Houston Chronicle as "very aggressive." He wanted his Lamar Consolidated baseball team to constantly put pressure on the opposing defense.

"Our goal," Kobza told The Chronicle, "will be to put the ball in play, to run the bases and make as many things happen as you can, and to put a strong defense on the field, especially up the middle at catcher, shortstop and second base."

Kobza spoke as he took over as Lamar Consolidated baseball coach outside Houston. He turned to coaching after a brief career as a player himself. Kobza played four seasons in the minors. He made it briefly to AA, but no higher.

Kobza's pro career began in 1989, taken by the White Sox in the 11th round of the draft out of Texas Tech University. He also attended Blinn College and graduated from Stroman High in Victoria, Tex.

Kobza started with the White Sox at short-season Utica, playing at first and third. He hit .215 over 68 games. He then moved to single-A South Bend, where he hit .268. He went 0 for 5 in an August game.

He played 1991 at high-A Sarasota, getting a game at AA Birmingham. He hit just .169 over 73 games on the year.

Kobza finished out his career in 1992 with the Brewers at high-A Stockton. He got into 57 games, hitting .198, ending his playing days.

He later moved into coaching. In 2015, serving as coach at George Ranch High School, one of his baseball former players went on to Bossier City Community College, the daughter of former major leaguer John Hudek, Sarah Hudek.

Kobza recalled to The Chronicle being unable to think of a reason why the girl couldn't play on his team.

Sarah Hudek's father recalled to MLB.com Kobza integrating her into his team.

Kobza "didn't make it easy," John Hudek told MLB.com. "But he doesn't make it easy on anyone. And she didn't want it easy. She just wants to be treated as one of the guys on the team. To see her out there, it's exciting."

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Lance Rice, Helped Out - 23

Lance Rice felt he needed to step up and help his Great Falls Dodgers, so he stepped up to the plate as a right-handed hitter, according to The Great Falls Tribune.

The switch-hitter had helped his team to the playoffs. He also seemingly had been in a slump.

"Right now I'm a better hitter right-handed," Rice told The Tribune after he'd knocked a single to give his team a lead for good. "This is the playoffs so we've got to do what we do best. It was about time I did something to help out."

Rice helped out that year and in a total of eight more pro campaigns. He made it briefly to AAA twice, but never made the majors.

Rice's career began that year in 1988, taken by the Dodgers in the 15th round of the draft out of Oregon State University.

Rice started with the Dodgers at Great Falls. He hit .283 and knocked in 27. He  then moved to single-A Bakersfield for 1989. The catcher hit .222 there, with five home runs.

He made AA San Antonio in 1990 and returned there for much of 1991 and 1992. His only time away from San Antonio those three seasons came with a one-game look at AAA Albuquerque in 1991. He went 1 for 3 there, with a double.

At San Antonio, Rice homered in a May 1991 game,  singled and scored in a May 1992 contest. He hit .232 his final year there.

He then moved to the Expos system and AA Harrisburg for 1993 and 1994. He hit .235 in 46 games there in 1993 and got into just 13 games in 1994.

Rice returned in 1995 with the Tigers, where he played at AA Jacksonville and got 15 games at AAA Toledo. He then finished out his career in 19966 with the Orioles at AA Bowie.

Rice has since gone on to change sports, to golf. In 2007, he participated in the Kenridge Invitational, a golf tournament in Virginia, where he settled. He then spoke to The Charlottesville Daily Progress about his baseball career and about leaving after nine seasons.

"I wouldn't change a day," Rice told The Daily Progress. "It was nice to have a taste of it. You always think, 'Well what would have happened if I had stayed with it.' You miss some of the camaraderie and the lifestyle, but no regrets."
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,999
Made the Majors:1,098-36.6%
Never Made Majors:1,901-63.4%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 456
10+ Seasons in the Minors:275

Leo Tejada, Big Night - 18

Originally published April 1, 2018
Leo Tejada had a big night in this August 1988 game and his Utica Blue Sox got the win, according to The Associated Press.

Tejada picked up three hits as the Blue Sox came back for a 5-3 win. One of his hits was the game-winner, The AP wrote.

Tejada got those hits in his second pro season. He went on to play in five. He never made AA.

Tejada's career began in 1987, signed by the White Sox as a free agent out of his native Dominican Republic. Tejada was also credited by his given name, Eugenio Tejada.

Tejada started with the White Sox in the rookie Gulf Coast League. He got into 11 games, playing in the outfield.

He then moved to short-season Utica, hitting .247 over 71 games. He broke up a perfect game in June with a double.

Tejada arrived  at single-A South Bend for 1989. He hit .174 in 75 games. He also got to play with Sports Illustrated writer Rick Wolff, who played with South Bend for three games that summer for a magazine piece.

By 1990, Tejada's average and field play had him known more for his defense, according to his Best card. He hit .243 that year, knocking in 17. He went 2 for 4 in an August game, scoring once.

He played 1991 at high-A Sarasota. He got into 109 games, hitting .252, marking the end of his career.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Mike Mitchener, Uncharted Waters - 11

Originally published April 4, 2017
Mike Mitchener played baseball because he loved it, he wrote years later. He also used it as a way to pay for college.

So, when he turned pro in 1988, he made sure that the remainder of his college tuition would be paid for.

"I wanted to use baseball as a way to pay for my college," Mitchener wrote. "I had promised my parents that, and I delivered. Now I was in uncharted waters."

Mitchener went on to a pro career that lasted three seasons, then to a long career in management with Sam's Club.

But, if Mitchener was in uncharted waters when turning pro, he certainly was again on Sept. 11, 2014 and it almost cost him his life.

Mitchener suffered a massive heart attack. His heart stopped. Paramedics got it going again. His stopped a second time after arriving at the hospital.

"They got my heart firing again and brought me up to the cardiac unit where they determined that I'd had a 'widowmaker' heart attack, which normally has a 98 percent death rate," Mitchener said in an article on the hospital's site. "They knew they were battling time."

Mitchener survived and went on to write a book, a faith-based look at his experience and survival called "Bring the Rain."

Mitchener's pro playing career began in 1988, taken in the third round of the draft by the White Sox out of Armstrong State University in Savannah, Ga. Mitchener is also credited as Mike Mitchner.

 At Armstrong, Mitchener hit a home run in a Division II World Series game. He also made the school's All-Decade team for the 1980s and made the school's Hall of Fame in 1996.

Mitchener started with the White Sox at short-season Utica and in the rookie Gulf Coast League. The hurler got into nine games in relief, giving up one earned in nine innings of work.

He moved to single-A South Bend for 1989, getting into 33 games, starting eight. He went 6-4, with a 4.15 ERA. Mitchener then returned to South Bend for 1990, getting into another 34 games, going 6-6, with a 4.40 ERA, ending his career.

Mitchener joined Sam's Club then eventually settled in Daytona Beach, Fl. In 2016, his Sam's Club was named regional Market Club of the Year. "I'm very proud to bring (the award) back to Daytona," Mitchener told The Daytona Beach News-Journal of the award.

He published his book in December 2016. The News-Journal published a story on Mitchener and his book Christmas Eve, including the prayer he expected to offer for that Christmas morning and each since his heart attack.

"Thanks for one more day," Mitchener's prayer goes, according to The News-Journal. "I'm just grateful every day for the things that I have."

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Adam Brown, Felt Invincible - 7

Originally published Oct. 15, 2011
Adam Brown was entering his 10th season as a pro in 1995, speaking the The Dayton Daily News about his career.

It was a career spent entirely in the minor leagues. Talking to The Daily News about what went wrong, Brown pointed directly at himself.

"Nobody got in Adam Brown's way but Adam Brown," Brown told The Daily News. "When I first signed, I was young and felt invincible. I played hurt all of 1986 and had to have Tommy John surgery. I sat out all of 1987."

Brown returned to hit AA San Antonio in 1988 and get his first brief look at AAA Albuquerque in 1990. But Brown never got his look at the majors, his career ending that year in 1995 playing at AA.

Brown's career began in 1986, taken by the Dodgers in the fourth round out of Georgia Perimeter College. At Georgia Perimeter that year, Brown had won National Junior College All-American honors.

With the Dodgers, Brown started at rookie Great Falls. The catcher hit .301, with eight home runs in 64 games. Then he lost all of 1987.

Returning to the field in 1988, Brown played much of the year at single-A Bakersfield. In 92 games, he hit a smoking .352. He also earned a 30-game promotion to AA San Antonio and he continued his hitting, hitting .296.

He returned to San Antonio for 1989, but got into just 42 games on the year. In 1990, he got five games at AAA Albuquerque, but again played just 48 games on the season. He played the rest back at San Antonio.

In 1991, Brown played much of the year back at high-A Vero Beach. There, Brown hit .284 in 58 games. He also made the All-Star team. He also played 15 more games at San Antonio.

Brown returned to the Dodgers organization for one more season, in 1992. He played 37 games between AA and AAA. For 1993, Brown moved to the Cubs system and 38 more games. Thirty-six of those were back in the Florida State League at Daytona.

Brown returned for one last look at AAA in 1994, 60 games at Iowa. He also started with 11 games at AA Orlando, helping tie one April game with a double.

Then came 1995. The occasion for Brown's interview with The Daily News was the strike. Brown signed a minor league contract with the Reds. And he refused to be a replacement player.

Instead, he returned to the minors, at AA Chattanooga. He played 77 games there, hitting .266, ending his career without making the majors.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,998
Made the Majors:1,098-36.6%
Never Made Majors:1,900-63.4%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 456
10+ Seasons in the Minors:275

Scott Johnson, Award Winning - 8

Originally published April 20, 2017
Scott Johnson added another award to his resume in summer 2015 - best trainer in the International League, according to MiLB.com.

For the longtime Charlotte Knights trainer it was his third such award in 13 seasons with the club, MiLB.com wrote.

"I'm honored to receive this award," Johnson said, according to the site. "I would like to thank the other trainers in the International League for voting for me this season. It truly means a lot knowing that this award has come from my peers."

Johnson's career as a trainer has now lasted nearly three decades. He started his professional career in 1989 with the White Sox at single-A South Bend and continues with the organization's AAA team in Charlotte for 2017.

Johnson graduated from North Dakota State in 1988, serving three summers as a trainer for the Goldpanners of the Alaska Baseball League.

Johnson spent three seasons in South Bend, then moved to high-A Sarasota. He earned spots as a league all-star trainer in 1989 and 1992.

He then went on to serve as trainer at AA Birmingham from 1995 to 1997. He first arrived at Charlotte in 1999, after first hitting AAA at Calgary in 1998. He served as for Venezuela in the 2000 Caribbean World Series.

Johnson won the International League Trainer of the Year award with Charlotte in 2000 and 2001, as well as 2015.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Shannon Strong, Loved It - 30

Shannon Strong called turning pro in 1990 the best thing he'd ever done, according to The Eugene Register-Guard.

He expected long days, long nights and long road trips. He loved it, he told The Register-Guard.

"I know the odds are against us making it (to the major leagues) but I've never thought about not making it," Strong told The Register-Guard late that June. "This is it. I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing."

Strong's career began with the Royals' short-season team in Eugene that year. It also ended with Eugene. Strong played just that single season as a pro.

Strong signed on with the Royals that June as a 41st round pick out of Treasure Valley Community College in California.

At Treasure Valley, Strong played two seasons and hit .368, with 15 triples in 1990. He also hit four home runs in one game that spring, according to The Register-Guard.

With the Royals in June, Strong helped his team to an early-season win by simply standing at the plate as two balk calls sent two runners home, The Register-Guard wrote.

"Runs are runs," Strong told The Register-Guard afterward. "I was just trying to concentrate, trying to get a hit, and it screwed me up. But, hey. those two runs got us back in the game."

Strong went 1 for 2, with a run scored in that game. Overall, he hit .117 in 38 games. He had no home runs and two RBI. That season marked his only season as a pro.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,998
Made the Majors:1,098-36.6%-X
Never Made Majors:1,900-63.4%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 456-X
10+ Seasons in the Minors:275

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