|Ty Boykin (left) manages the Tempe Angels. Tom Kotchman manages the Orem Owlz.|
It’s usually within a few days after the annual amateur draft ends that I receive an e-mail from a player’s parent asking why their son should sign with the Angels. Maybe he was selected in the draft, maybe he wasn’t drafted but he’s being offered a contract as a free agent. Either way, they want guidance and assurance that it’s the right career move for their son.
Let’s get the life-altering decision out of the way first.
I can’t tell you if your son should leave school or a full-time job opportunity to play pro ball. You need to be honest with yourselves about that.
Not every young man is ready for the pressures of pro ball. Minor league baseball is a business. It’s not like high school or college, where he played two or three times a week. In pro ball, he’ll be paid to produce results. He may work eight hours a day, but those hours could be 3 PM to 11 PM, 10 AM to 6 PM, or other bizarre hours. He may not get an off day for three weeks. He will be riding a bus much of his daily life, sometimes for 14 hours in a trip to the next stop.
He will no longer be a student. He will be an entertainer. That means he will be in the public spotlight. Immature behavior that might be charming as an amateur may get him suspended, fired or even worse embarrassed in the media. He will have to participate in random drug testing. Don’t think it can be beat. It can’t. And when he’s caught, his name will appear in media reports of ballplayers suspended for violating the drug rules.
Do you think your son is mature enough to handle all that? Good. Let’s move on to the main question — should your son sign with the Angels?
The good news is that the Angels are generally considered to be one of the class organizations in baseball. They set the gold standard when it comes to professional behavior. Players are expected to conduct themselves as responsible adults.
The minor league coaching staff is one of the best in the business. Most of them have been with the Angels for many years, some for decades.
Your son will probably be assigned to the minor league camp team in Tempe, Arizona or the advanced rookie team in Orem, Utah.
One of four playing fields at the Tempe Diablo complex.
Ty Boykin manages the Tempe Angels. “Bone” began his baseball career as your son will, as a minor league player. In 1996, Boykin was a player-coach and the next year began his coaching career within the Angels’ system. Ty was named the Arizona League Manager of the Year in 2008, and has taken Tempe into the playoffs the last two seasons. Bone was signed in May 1991 by Tom Kotchman, who’s now the Owlz manager.
“Kotch” has 1,583 wins. It’s believed he has the most career wins of any manager active in the minor leagues. His teams have gone to the post-season every year since 2000. He won the Pioneer League pennant in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009.
Each team has a manager, a pitching coach and a hitting coach. They’re backed up by an organizational staff of roving instructors, or “rovers.”
The rovers spend most of the season on the road, visiting each of the Angels’ six minor league affiliates. They see the “big picture” and report back to the field coordinator, Todd Takayoshi, who handles field operations for Director of Player Development Abe Flores.
The Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia and his coaches closely follow player development in the minors. After every minor league game, the manager and coaches call in game reports to a centralized phone system. All the coaches, including those at the major league level, can listen to those reports. The Angels also use Dartfish, a software application that lets authorized users view video of the players via a secure Internet connection.
Instruction is consistent within the organization. Much of it comes directly from Scioscia and his staff. They define the “Angel way” to play baseball. Should your son reach the majors one day, he’ll already know how to play Scioscia’s style of baseball.
You can find in the FutureAngels.com Video Gallery clips of instruction by Angels minor league coaches. Here are some examples (you need Windows Media Player and a broadband Internet connection to watch):
Tom Kotchman leads Owlz players through a baserunning lecture in June 2005. This was filmed the day the players took their first batting practice in Orem. You’ll hear Kotch tell them many times they’re being taught to run the bases the way Mike Scioscia wants.
Bruce Hines shows players how to properly run the bases. This was filmed in September 2008, just before Hines was hired by the Seattle Mariners to be their third base coach. He’s now the third base coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Tom Gregorio leads catcher Anel de los Santos through a series of catching drills in September 2009. A one-time All-Star catcher for the Dodgers, Scioscia pays particular attention to catcher grooming in the minors. Gregorio, the minor league catching rover, reflects Scioscia’s philosophy in his training.
But there are limits to instruction. If your son can barely hit the ball out of the infield, they can’t turn him into the next Albert Pujols. If his fastball tops out at 85 MPH, they can’t make him the next Randy Johnson.
Let’s also be honest about the odds against your son. Baseball America determined a few years ago that only one in ten minor leaguers ever sets foot in a major league dugout. Of those who get there, only one in four will play five years in the majors.
Combine the numbers, and they tell you that only 1 of 40 minor leaguers will be a major league regular. The other 39 are fodder to get that 40th player to the majors.
Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher in 2000 as the pitching coach for Rookie-A Butte.
If your son has the ability to play major league baseball, he’ll be given the opportunity to prove it. If he doesn’t, no shame in that, but there are plenty of careers in professional baseball other than as a major league player. Several of the managers, coaches and rovers in the Angels’ system began their professional careers as minor league players with the Angels. When they retired as players, they were hired as coaches. Ty Boykin with Tempe and Keith Johnson at Rancho Cucamonga advanced to manage. Angels’ pitching coach Mike Butcher pitched for the Angels in the 1990s, then coached in the farm system, and was promoted to the pitching rover before becoming the major league pitching coach. So there’s more than one path to the big leagues.
If your son wants to play professional baseball, he’s lucky to have been drafted by the Angels. If he decides to sign, I’ll be there one day to photograph and film him for FutureAngels.com. If he doesn’t sign, and goes on to a life in the real world, good for him but this opportunity comes along only once for most players. The brass ring is there to be grabbed if he wants it.