Hot Stove Wrap-Up
We officially kicked off the 2009 season and the Seattle Mariners era with our Hot Stove Banquet on January 24th. This year was my first opportunity to serve as the emcee of the event, and after fighting some nerves and thinking up different ways to roast General Manager Ted Tornow, I think I pulled it off.
Our speakers included team president Paul Schnack, assistant General Manager Nate Kreinbrink, “Friends of Riverview” vice president Judy Dennis, Clinton mayor Rodger Holm, and our keynote speaker John Boles.
For a longtime follower of the Florida Marlins like myself, it was an honor to be able to introduce Mr. Boles, a man who formed young talent like Edgar Renteria, Charles Johnson, Mike Lowell, Luis Castillo, Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, etc. into World Champions in 1997 and 2003. As one of the great baseball minds and the special assistant to Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik, Boles used his speech to familiarize the fans (and myself) with what the Seattle system is all about.
He talked about the Mariners’ philosophy of finding players with character in addition to ability, something that can be lost in today’s sports culture. A player has to be well-rounded and mentally strong, not just talented to succeed in the Seattle system. I think that certainly fits well with this community. Boles also had high praise for the character and leadership of manager Scott Steinmann, who takes over the LumberKings after managing in double-A last season.
In talking with Boles after the banquet, it was easy to get a sense of the optimism surrounding this organization. It reminded me of our first meeting with the Mariners’ brass at the 2008 MLB Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. Building this franchise back into a powerhouse through the draft and international scouting unlike any other in baseball is what they are about. It is certainly a philosophy that is going to help us put a great team on the field in Clinton.
(Left to right: myself, Head Groundskeeper Mitch Langstaff, General Manager Ted Tornow, Mariners’ Special Assistant John Boles, Assistant GM Nate Kreinbrink, Director of Operations Justin Sampson, Director of Promotions Mitch Butz, PA Announcer Brad Seward).
While we move forward officially as a Mariners affiliate, I still get emails from time to time asking about former players and coaches. I thought I’d close this entry with an update on the 2008 LumberKings.
Each of last year’s coaching staff has moved to a new post in 2009. Manager Mike Micucci has taken over the managerial role for the double-A Frisco RoughRiders and will likely have many members of last year’s LumberKings opening day roster. Mike got the nod after being named the “Best Managerial Prospect” in the Midwest League by Baseball America last year.
Pitching coach Danny Clark moved into the minor league pitching coordinator role with the Texas Rangers, after Rick Adair ironically left to become the pitching coach for the Mariners. Small world, huh? I’m glad for DC, he certainly deserved it after grooming a staff that featured Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, Blake Beavan, Michael Main and Kennil Gomez last year.
Hitting coach Brian Dayett has taken over the same post in low-A Hickory, while coach Jason Hart is now the hitting coach for short-season Spokane. Trainer Jacob Newburn is headed West for high-A Bakersfield.
Of course, for those of you who kept up with the Rangers this winter, their farm system was ranked the best by Baseball America, thanks to many a LumberKing. Here’s the list of their Top 10 Prospects, with former Kings in bold:
1. Neftali Feliz (RHP) – class of ’08
2. Derek Holland (LHP) – class of ’08
3. Justin Smoak (1B) – class of ’08
4. Elvis Andrus (SS)
5. Martin Perez (LHP)
6. Taylor Teagarden (C)
7. Engel Beltre (OF) – class of ’08
8. Michael Main (RHP) – class of ’08
9. Julio Borbon (OF)
10. Max Ramirez (C/1B)
Congrats to those guys. There was obviously a lot of talent on last year’s club. You’d likely see second-baseman Jose Vallejo and right-hander Omar Poveda on the list (both ’06-’07 Kings), but both are currently on the Rangers’ 40-man roster and have legitimate shots at making their big-league debuts this year. I’ll be sure to post something when they do.
Finally, thanks to graphic artist Bowen Hobbs for creating the official logo for this blog. Bowen is my old college roommate from my days at UW-Oshkosh, and most notably, the creator of this year’s Midwest League All-Star Game logo.
Lookin’ good. Me, and the logo.