Former Angels Minor League Coaches in the Majors
Tim Wallach managed the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in 2001.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on October 25 that Dodgers’ Triple-A manager Tim Wallach had been eliminated as a candidate to manage the Milwaukee Brewers.
Wallach began his managing career with the Angels. In 2001, he ran the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in their first season as an Angels affiliate. The Quakes finished 63-77 with a roster largely devoid of talent. Wallach was very frustrated with the players’ inability to grasp what he was teaching, although I think it was more that he couldn’t accept they didn’t have the talent to execute what he wanted.
I remember Wallach being tossed from a game, then sitting up the runway in a folding chair. The camera well is at the bottom of the runway where it connects to the dugout. I was in the well shooting photography; Wallach would call down to me when he wanted to relay a message to the bench.
On another occasion, Wallach made a pitching change and while the pitcher warmed up the umpire approached Tim and gestured in my direction. Whatever it was, it was quite the animated discussion. What had I done?! Tim approached me and said:
“The umpire wants to know if you’ll take pictures of him.”
Only in the minors …
Doug Sisson, another former Angels minor league manager, recently landed the first base coaching job with the Kansas City Royals. He managed the Arkansas Travelers in 2002, finishing with a 51-89 record. That would have been largely the talent pool Wallach had in 2001.
Former Yankee Bobby Meacham managed the Quakes in 2002-2004. He began a major league coaching career in 2006, when he was the third base coach for the Florida Marlins. He was the Padres’ first base coach in 2007, then the Yankees’ third base coach in 2008. This year, he was the first base coach for the Astros.
And although he never coached in our system, the Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo played in the Angels’ minors from 1982 through 1984. (The 1984 Redwood Pioneers were Tom Kotchman’s first Angels team.) Rizzo just added the title Vice-President of Baseball Operations to his business card, giving him the authority to report directly to ownership.
Coast to Coast: The FWBL Tryouts
“El Duque” Orlando Hernandez (center) watches the Florida Winter Baseball League tryouts Saturday at Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium in Sanford, Florida.
The Florida Winter Baseball League held its second of two tryouts on Saturday. The first was two weeks ago in Miami. Demand was so high, a second tryout was scheduled.
The FWBL is an attempt to create a viable professional winter league here in the United States so players won’t have to go to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Venezuela. The season begins October 30 and has a 60-game schedule.
League officials tell me they have verbal commitments from 13 of the 30 Major League Baseball organizations to provide players, mostly from the lower minor league levels. The league itself is independent of MLB, so right now it’s scouting and signing players from the independent leagues, or those who have been released.
Space Coast Surge general manager Sean Boudreaux (left) and Global Scouting Bureau president James Gamble evaluate players during Saturday’s workout.
Some players have been signed without a tryout, based on past performance or scouting reports. The FWBL has partnered with the Global Scouting Bureau, an independent outfit out of Louisiana, to find and sign players.
Although they’ve been reluctant to tell me who are the investors behind the league, some prominent baseball names have publicly associated themselves with the effort. Ken Griffey Sr. is the league commissioner, and it’s been made very clear to me he’s more than a figurehead. Former Cincinnati Reds slugger George Foster will manage the Lake County team. And former major league star pitcher “El Duque” Orlando Hernandez is apparently one of the investors.
Hernandez was quite actively involved in Saturday’s tryouts. He was all over the field injecting his opinion into how things should be run, offering advice to the tryout players, and acting as a mentor for the Latin players.
I haven’t seen any former Angels minor leaguers yet, although I was told two former players are possible signees.
As for the stadium used for the tryout, it sounded awfully familiar. A visit to the stadium’s web site reminded me that Sanford is the home town of popular former Angels infielder David Eckstein.
Saturday’s tryout was supposed to be limited to 100 players, but about another 20 walked up. They had to wait until everyone who pre-registered showed (or didn’t show), and then they were allowed to sign up. Some guys showed up by prior arrangement. A couple Latin players were referred by Hernandez.
Everyone was fed at lunch time with cheese pizza from a local pizzeria while the scouts made the first round of cuts. An afternoon game was played, nine innings, with 18 pitchers given one inning each. No one scored, as base runners weren’t allowed past third base, and the batting cage was kept in place so the scouts could stand behind it and watch. (The cage was a major buzz killer for photography …)
I’d guess that about a half-dozen players were offered contracts at day’s end. The scouts made it clear that others might be offered contracts later, or might be on a depth list if a player is needed later in the season. I saw a couple pitchers I thought had decent enough stuff, although few came close to, say, Tom Kotchman’s Rookie-A Orem Owlz talent.
If you’re thinking these guys sound like the bottom of the barrel … you’re right. But every once in a while, the independent leagues help to resurrect a player’s career. It’s more common for major league organizations to reach into the independent leagues to acquire players to fill out rosters, especially at the Double-A and Triple-A level, to surround top prospects with experienced players.
If nothing else, I would expect this league to help place some players with major league organizations for the next minor league spring training. After that, their talent will take them as far as it can.
Players stretch at the beginning of Saturday’s workout.
Click Here to watch an interview with Jake Leonhardt, an independent player who signed at Saturday’s workout. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection are required. A Houston native, Leonhardt formerly pitched in the Astros system and travelled here from Texas to qualify for the league.
Coast to Coast: A Surge in Space Coast Baseball
You probably know that baseball is played during the winter in Latin and South America. Fall and winter leagues have been tried over the years in Hawaii, California and Maryland, but none lasted long because Major League Baseball wouldn’t provide funding.
No problem, say the people with the Florida Winter Baseball League.
The FWBL will begin play October 30 in four Florida cities. Each team will play a 60-game schedule.
I recorded an interview today with Sean Boudreaux, general manager of the Space Coast Surge, which will play out of historic Cocoa Expo Stadium. Click Here to watch the video interview. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.
Most of the players will probably be from the independent leagues, although a number of major league organizations have said they’ll consider sending players from their lower minor leagues. Apparently the Angels are not one of those teams, although I wouldn’t be surprised if former Angels minor leaguers from Florida who were released surface in the league.
For history buffs, Cocoa Expo Stadium was the spring training home for the Houston Astros until the early 1980s, then the Marlins in 1993 in their inaugural year.