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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Interview Part 5: Tom Gamboa, Player Stories

Brooklyn Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa, arms crossed, with his Brooklyn Cyclones players in the dugout in Troy, NY, in 2014. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Accomplished Something | Part 2: Common Good  
Part 3: Strange Deal | Part 4: Truly Passionate  
Part 5: 1990 Player Stories

Tom Gamboa returned to the manager's office in 2014 because, he said, he missed working with and teaching young players.

In the league he returned to, the New York-Penn League, Gamboa also got to see one of his old players again: Phil Clark.

"It was great running into him this year," Gamboa told The Greatest 21 Days. "It brings back all the memories."

Gamboa was the manager of AAA Toledo in 1990, the year Clark first made that level on his way up to the majors. Gamboa also managed Clark during Clark's first year in pro ball, at Bristol in 1986.

In 2014, Gamboa returned to the field as manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Clark served in the same league, as hitting coach of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

Gamboa gave his recollections of three of his players on that 1990 Toledo squad as he spoke with The Greatest 21 Days recently at Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy, NY.
Ned Skeldon Stadium in 2011. Ned Skeldon was home to the 1990 Toledo Mud Hens. (G21D Photo)
Gamboa took over the MudHens in 1990 in late-April, as he filled an early season opening. Gamboa went back and forth from being a minor league manager and a minor league coordinator, before he later made the majors as a coach.

He had fond memories of that Toledo team, even though he recalled it broke a winning streak of sorts.

"You always have good flashbacks, whether it be a winning or a losing season," Gamboa said. "Fortunately for me, that was the only team that I ever managed that did not win more games than it lost and one of the few teams that did not win a pennant. But we had some real good individual players."

One of those players, Gamboa recalled was Clark. (Clark was also interviewed here recently)

"At Detroit, we were converting him into a catcher," Gamboa recalled. "He was just a good athlete that could hit. And, of course, Phil Clark went on to play in the big leagues as his older brother Jerald did."
Mahoning Valley Scrapper coach Phil Clark, left, in Troy, NY in August 2014. Clark played for Tom Gamboa twice, in 1986 and 1990.
Playing with Clark on both the Bristol and the Toledo teams was Milt Cuyler, Gamboa recalled.

Cuyler, an outfielder from Macon, Ga., was actually a player Gamboa had scouted himself. Cuyler led the International League in stolen bases in 1990, Gamboa recalled.

Gamboa also recalled that Cuyler went on to serve as an instructor in the Twins system.

"I was glad to see that some of my proteges, Cuyler and Clark went on to have coaching careers," Gamboa said.

Gamboa also recalled another player on that team, a "big left-hander" named Scott Aldred. Gamboa said that from the first time he saw Aldred throw, he knew he was going to be good.

"Having scouted for 10 years," Gamboa said, "seeing a big left-hander with a good arm, good breaking ball and, like a lot of young left-handers some control issues, but it was very easy to project him that he was going to turned into a real good pitcher."
Brooklyn manager Tom Gamboa, No. 20, passing on more of his decades of baseball knowledge in August 2014 at Troy, NY. (G21D Photo)
Gamboa said it was fun to watch Aldred's progression, not only for his pitching skills, but because he was a local Michigan kid. Aldred went to high school in Montrose, MI.

Aldred debuted with the Tigers that September in 1990. He ended up seeing time in nine big league seasons, three of those with Detroit.

"It's always good when a home-city boy from Michigan ends up making the Tigers," Gamboa said. "That's kind of an added bonus both for the city and the player."

Aldred also has something else in common with Clark and Cuyler. He's also gone on to a career in coaching, spending the last several years as a pitching coach at AAA Scranton in the Yankees system.

Clark, Cuyler and Aldred all went on to coaching after long careers as players. Gamboa went into coaching and scouting after a brief, two season career on the field. But, Gamboa said, they're all doing the same thing: continuing in a game they love.

"It's nice to see guys like myself, that they carried on their passion for the game when they could no longer play it," Gamboa said. "To stay in the game, make a living and kind of pay it forward, giving back to the game things they had learned to younger players that were coming on."

Further Reading:
1990 Toledo MudHens: 27 features, 3 interviews 
Phil Clark interview: Part 1: Phil Clark, That Opportunity
Milt Cuyler research-based post: Milt Cuyler, Ran Into
Scott Aldred research-based post: Scott Aldred, Left-Handed Longevity
Tom Gamboa interview: Part 1: Tom Gamboa, Accomplished Something

Part 1: Accomplished Something | Part 2: Common Good
Part 3: Strange Deal | Part 4: Truly Passionate
Part 5: 1990 Player Stories

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