A Chat With Brian Graham About Prospects To Watch (5/2018)
The sole purpose and mission of Baby Birdland is to provide the readers a “one-stop shop for all Orioles’ minor league news, notes and analysis”. We strive for that every day as we cover the big names such as Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle and Hunter Harvey as well as the lesser known names like Jose Lizarraga, Max Knutson and Brandon Bonilla and everyone in between.
We write about the players and try to let the readers know who deserves a look and who is worth the time to follow. That may not be enough for some; a more authoritative voice may be needed. Keeping that in mind, I reached out to Mr. Brian Graham, Director of Player Development for the Baltimore Orioles and asked him to give me the names of five minor league players that fans should keep an eye on this season. Mr. Graham was gracious enough to give me five names as well as his thoughts on them.
Here are the five he thinks fans should keep an eye on and are, as he says “a little bit lesser known but definitely good prospects”.
Keegan Akin, LHP, Bowie Baysox (AA)
Akin currently owns a 4-4 record with a 3.22 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and .224 batting-average-against in 8 games (44.2 innings). He has struck out 46 and walked 17. Akin leads the Baysox in both wins and starts.
Mr. Graham says of Akin, “fastball, slider, change, 91-95 (mph range), commands the fastball, pitches inside well, good competitor, good slider for strikes that looks like a tight curve ball at times, solid average change for strikes in all counts…true starter but could pitch in any role”.
Michael Baumann, RHP, Frederick Keys (A-High)
Baumann, who was just promoted to Frederick, pitched to a 5-0 record for the Delmarva Shorebirds (A-Low) with a 1.42 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and .180 batting-average-against in 7 games (38.0 innings). He struck out 47 while walking 13 and was the Shorebirds’ leader in wins, starts and ERA among the starters.
Mr. Graham’s comments: “big RH starter, first full season, started the year in Delmarva, promoted to Frederick…plus fastball, 91-95 (mph range), good downhill angle, curve ball, slider and change, four good pitches for strikes, great make-up, tough kid”.
Luis Gonzalez, LHP, Bowie Baysox (AA)
Gonzalez, a member of Bowie’s bullpen, has no record on the season but has converted all four of his save opportunities. He owns a 2.00 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 18.0 innings over 12 appearances. Gonzalez has struck out 24 while walking just 4.
Of Gonzalez, Mr. Graham says: “LH relief pitcher in Bowie, fastball, slider change, three pitches for strikes, 91-96 (mph range), challenges hitters, good stuff, interesting pitcher”.
Brenan Hanifee, RHP, Delmarva Shorebirds (A-Low)
Hanifee has started for the Shorebirds and owns a 4-1 record with a 2.56 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and .223 batting-average-against. He leads the team in innings pitched (38.2) and has struck out 27 batters while walking 8.
Mr. Graham’s comments: “RH starter in Delmarva, sinker, slider, change, great feel to pitch, plus sinker, throws strikes with all three pitches, really good strike thrower, plus ground ball ratio, three pitches for strikes”.
T. J. Nichting, CF, Frederick Keys (A-High)
Nichting, who was promoted to Frederick on May 15th, had a .326/ .359/ .431/ .790 slash line with 20 RBI and 12 extra-base hits. Since his promotion he has appeared in two games for the Keys and is 2 for 8 in those games.
Mr. Graham had this to say: “switch hitting outfielder, good defender, can play all three outfield positions, runs well, can steal a base…high energy, tough out, aggressive approach, good swing both sides of the plate, good baseball player”.
There you have it fans, five Orioles’ prospects to keep an eye on and Mr. Graham’s candid analysis of them. Please keep in mind that this list is not in any way his favorites nor the organization’s favorites, it is simply five players he says are worth watching.
The Baltimore Orioles organization is full of players who are worth watching and following and you can count on Baby Birdland to report on all of them all year long.
I would like to thank Mr. Graham for taking time out of his busy schedule to provide this list and analysis for myself and the readers of Baby Birdland.
Cedric Mullins Interview (4/2018):
It is no State secret that Cedric Mullins is one of my (and Baby Birdland’s for that matter) favorite Orioles’ prospects. On Saturday I had the distinct pleasure and honor to have a face-to-face interview with Mullins. The interview took place outside of the Baysox clubhouse after the team’s game with the Harrisburg Senators. What follows is that interview; I hope you find it enlightening.
(CB) I have it on good authority, from someone very close to you, that last year’s injury was the first time since you were four years old that you have missed significant time. Your dad told me that. How is the hamstring?
(CM) “It’s feeling great. Regardless of the weather situation I have been able to take care of my body pretty good. It’s been a learning experience for sure. It is what it is but we learn from it.”
I’ve seen the infamous Jeep video; you pulling a Jeep. Did you change anything in your routine during the off-season to accommodate the injury, to get that better specifically?
“Yes, the main focus was getting the leg back strong, that was basically the main thing, making sure it was explosive coming back. I had multiple people that I worked with during the off-season, not just one particular guy. I had my own massage therapist who worked with me; I had my own speed and agility guy, my own weight trainer. All that combined with telling them what had happened with the injury and them being able to accommodate for that was huge.”
This was your first Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, was there one player down there that took you under their wing to mentor you?
“I would say as a whole the whole team did; whatever situation came up that they feel could be a learning experience for me. Adam Jones, we had our talks about situational hitting, bunting, and stuff like that…just knowing how to play the game correctly. Outfield wise, Kirby definitely took me in and made me feel comfortable…just continued to push me to play hard but play correctly…to say within myself. I will see the results from all that.”
When you had your exit meeting with Buck (Showalter) was there anything in particular he told you to work on?
“He said put together a good season. I’ve always been one of those guys that have had to prove people wrong. He said continue to do that, get out there and break through the wall because I am on their radar. I just have to put together a season.”
How do you stay grounded with all the buzz and accolades that surround your career?
“I would say by being around my teammates. We are all in the same position, trying to make it to the bigs. We keep each other humble, we push each other and that drive that we give each other keeps us within a certain mental state not letting ourselves get too high on ourselves or too down while we’re playing.”
I’ve asked your other @GBSA brothers this, how did that experience prepare you for this level?
“In my case I am one of the older guys so I feel like I strive to be a teaching tool for them, guiding them through what they might experience going through a full season; trying to help them stay away from injury, staying away from trouble that they may encounter and continuing to push and learn how to take care of their bodies. We learn from each other too, there’s certain things that they do that I lack in and that I learn from them; it’s a great trade-off.”
I understand that you go back to that organization during the off-season and help the younger ones coming up, that’s really great to see.
“I always love watching the younger guys grind, just being in that state, being in that position where anything can happen regardless of what school you might go to or anything like that. Just being able to help them and keep them on a good path basically is what I strive for.”
Is there a particular player you feel you model your game after or do you want to be your own guy?
“I’d say I never necessarily modeled my game after anybody, I do watch a lot of guys. Andruw Jones when he played with the Braves, he was my favorite player. I don’t necessarily catch balls at my waist (laughs) because that was his thing, I’ll let him have that; the fluidity of his movements in the outfield, staying smooth, not freaking out, just knowing the situation at hand, that’s probably the stuff I look at and try to take into my own game.”
If you had the chance, one player past or present you’d like to sit down with and talk to?
“Woo, that’s tough, there are so many great players. I’d like to have a conversation with Ken Griffey. He is one of the greatest and to be able to know and get an idea of his train of thought, his mindset every single day. That would be an amazing experience on top of being able to talk to one of the greatest guys to ever play the game.
One last thing, since I know you have dinner waiting for you. In your own words tell the fans who come here (to Bowie) and the ones I know are going to see you at Oriole Park at some point, what kind of player are they going to see when they watch you play?
“They’re going to see a guy who is very level-headed; never gets too upset about situations that go on. The game of baseball is majority failure and when you take that into account you have to take advantage of the successes. I am not going to be the type of person who brushes people off because I had a bad game, stuff like that…very easy-going, easy to talk to, I love interacting with people: it’s always fun meeting new people.”
I would like to acknowledge the help of and express my gratitude towards Joe Fitzhenry of the Bowie Baysox organization for facilitating this interview. I am grateful for all his help on Saturday.
I especially want to thank Cedric Mullins for taking the time to talk to me and to put my nerves at ease despite the cold (44 degrees at game time) and an awaiting dinner in the clubhouse. I sincerely appreciate him taking time out for Baby Birdland and myself.
Cedric Mullins is an extraordinary young man and I hope that our conversation shed some light on that fact. He is worth rooting for as he is the future of the Baltimore Orioles.
An Interview With Ben Breazeale (8/2017):
Aberdeen Ironbirds (Class-A Short) catcher/DH Ben Breazeale is putting up some stellar numbers in 2017. Currently slashing (as of 8/25) .339/ .452/ .491 with 27 runs scored, 30 RBI and 18 extra base hits, which include 4 homeruns, Breazeale has been named a New York-Penn League Player of the Month (7/9) and was selected to the NYPL All-Star team. In addition, the Baltimore Orioles named him their Minor League Player of the Month for the month of July. His numbers rank among the league leaders in batting average, OBP, slugging %, doubles and RBI.
As a follow up to a piece I wrote on Breazeale https://baltimoresportsnut.blogspot.com/2017/08/c-ben-breazeale-is-off-to-one-heck-of.html I sat down with him for a one-on-one interview at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium. During the interview we touched on many subjects including his season, his college years and his All-Star Game experience among others. His responses provide an insight into the life of a Minor League baseball player. I hope you, the reader, gets as much out of the interview as I did.
(CB): How would you assess your season so far?
“ I would say it’s been good. It’s been a transition from college to pro ball, getting used to some of the things that are different like pitch calling and calling your own game. It’s been an interesting but fun transition of taking more accountability for your career; professional ball is more so you and you do have the coaching staff and resources that help but at the end of the day you are responsible for your career. So it’s been interesting to see that transition.”
(CB) How then is this different from your college years, is it that personal responsibility?
“A little bit of the personal responsibility. You’re with a new group of guys. It was like that the first year of college and it will be a new group of guys at every level. It’s different just in the fact that you’re away from everyone you know. But it’s fun, it’s still baseball, at the end of the day you have to come out here and be prepared; it’s the same game.”
(CB) Looking at your stats, you have had hitting streaks of 3 games, 17 games and 6 games (twice). What is your hitting philosophy?
“I would say being aggressive early in the count when you get a pitch you’re looking for. Early in the season the guys don’t know you and as the season goes on they get to know your more as a hitter so you have to tinker with your approach a little bit. For me it’s being aggressive and looking for something away that I can drive early in the count.”
(CB) What one aspect would you like to improve in your game?
“Probably defense mostly, just learning to polish my skills behind the plate and be a better receiver/thrower; just an all around catcher. That’s’ probably the one area I want to improve on.”
(CB) You were 1 of 8 Wake Forest players drafted, what is it about that team that produced so many players this year in the Draft?
“It’s a lot about the coaching staff doing a good job recruiting first of all and getting the facilities you need to develop the players. If you had told me there was going to be 8 guys off that team drafted my freshman or sophomore year I wouldn’t have told you that would have happened. A lot of that goes into what they are doing down there. They’ve been successful at getting the right guys and turning them into polished baseball players that are ready to play at the next level.”
(CB) What’s been the biggest surprise as a professional so far?
“I can say I’m not really surprised by anything. I’ve had friends that have played so I knew what to expect, so I can’t really say there’s been a biggest surprise out of all of it. Probably just being drafted, just that experience; it was nice, it was fun, but nothing surprised me.”
(CB) What were your thoughts on being named Minor League Player of the Month for July by the Baltimore Orioles?
It’s an awesome honor. It’s something I didn’t even know existed honestly. I just went out there and was just playing and to hear that was so cool; I was just playing, I had no idea. KB (Kevin Bradshaw, manager) called me into his office and told me and I was like that’s awesome. I didn’t know how to react ‘cause I didn’t even know about it. It’s definitely cool but you got to keep working, you can’t get complacent. It was a nice honor.”
(CB) What was the All-Star experience like?
That was fun too. We had 7 guys off this team that went so to do that with all the guys was fun. A really good time, had fun, just relaxing, baseball, it was a good time.”
(CB) What other sports did you play growing up?
I played football all the way to eighth grade and then focused on baseball after that. I played basketball as well. Growing up it was nice to have different seasons: football in the fall, basketball in the winter and then baseball in the spring.”
(CB) Who’s had the biggest influence in your life so far?
“It’s probably both my parents, I can’t really say one. They raised me, made me who I am, taught me valuable lessons along the way, how to grow up and how to be a man; that transition, so probably them.”
(CB) What are your general impressions of Aberdeen?
Aberdeen’s awesome. I lived in Cockeysville, MD and played for the Maryland Redbirds in the Cal Ripken League (College Summer League) so I’m really familiar with the area and the culture and what it’s all about. I like it here, it’s not hard to adjust. I got drafted and came here; ‘another summer here’, it’s good.
(CB) Playing in that summer league then for you, the transition from college to pro ball was not hard. You were used to playing that many games in the summer.
“It’s like that for every college player. You have the summer season so you’re used to it. The demands are a little more here, obviously, than in a collegiate summer league but as far as playing games in the summer it’s not terrible, you know what to expect.”
(CB) What advice do you have for any young, aspiring baseball player?
“I would say just follow what you like. If you like a position just keep with it. I don’t think there’s a secret to making it where you want to go other than working hard and keeping your head down and keeping at it. You’re going to have failure and success no doubt but if you can be the guy who stays level through it all you have a good shot.”
(CB) What will your downtime be like once the season ends?
“I’ll be going to the Instructional League. If we make the playoffs with the Instructional League starting in the middle of September I won’t have much downtime. It ends the 14th of October so I’ll go down there for a month and then I have the off-season. I’ll just take a little break from baseball and work on body, nutrition and recovery and all that good stuff. I’ll turn it back on in December. You lift and do mobility all the time and then start hitting and throwing in December usually.”
Breazeale finished up our interview with these thoughts and he even let me know what he’s currently working on:
“It’s been fun, it’s been a cool experience just to play pro ball: not a lot of people get to say that. To do well is a nice thing, it’s never a bad thing, it feels good. It’s baseball; you’re going to fail more times than you’re going to succeed. It’s a humbling sport, that’s for sure. It’s tough no doubt, it’s tough; I think every player goes through that period where you got to find yourself, find who you are and just stay with it. I’ve struggled in college-it sucks.
I’m actually working on some stuff on my swing that will allow me to have success in the future rather than immediately. It’s stuff that will make me a better hitter at the end of the day. Right now I’m kind of uncomfortable and I’m struggling a little bit with my timing. It’s what I need, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s good.
I’m having fun, it’s the end of the season; just finish strong and go from there.”
I appreciate Ben Breazeale for taking the time to submit to this interview especially after a long trip and late arrival from a series at Hudson Valley and after catching a bullpen session.
I would also like to acknowledge the assistance I received from Daniel Kurish of the Aberdeen Ironbirds in facilitating the interview and in showing me the ropes from a media standpoint.
An Interview with Brian Graham [Part 2] (12/2016):
As a follow-up to my written correspondence with Mr. Brian Graham I was afforded the opportunity to speak with him via phone about his answers and the Orioles’ Minor League system in general.
Our conversation covered many topics: players, coaches, philosophy and how our minor league system at times gets a bad rap nationally.
I found Mr. Graham to be very open, honest and happy to talk about the system. He truly cares about the system and takes great pride in both the players and the coaching staff. His main goal is to do it right.
If you’re wondering why Mr. Graham agreed to talk to a novice such as myself his answer was simply “I like talking baseball” and “it’s always good when people get good information.” I hope to provide the fans with that good information and to give a bit of insight into the Orioles’ minor league system through my chat with Mr. Graham.
I commented to Mr. Graham that it was impressive to me that with all his duties and responsibilities he had the time to be in uniform and to be hands on. He told me that his reasoning for this is “it gives me credibility because when the players see me hit fungos, throw BP and be a part of the process, the teaching process, they understand that the person who’s making decisions on them is a baseball mind, it’s a guy who has baseball experience.” He further went on to tell me “from a player’s perspective it’s always nice to know that the person making decisions on you has coached and managed and played and been in the big leagues”. He added, “the players respect the fact that you’ve done the grind.”
I asked Mr. Graham if being in the trenches with the players made it harder when he had to release them and his reply showed that he really does care about these players and that he knows what it is like to be in their shoes. He told me “Releasing a player is absolutely, positively, the worst part of my job. As I’ve told everybody you’re just not releasing a player, you’re releasing his mom and dad, his brothers and sisters. You’re releasing his cousins, his high school coach, his grandparents.” He went on to say “there’s such an impact in the player’s life not just the player.”
I asked him how he feels about all the naysayers about our minor league system and his reply shows the commitment he has. “It’s hard to put in perspective because they don’t see the names out there in the top-10 lists and the top-20 lists. The fact is Donnie Hart never made any list anywhere. He was an important part of the major league club’s success down the stretch being able to get left-handers out. Mychal Givens was never on anybody’s list and all of a sudden I moved him from shortstop to pitcher and two years later people are going ‘WOW, he’s a prospect’.” He also told me “We’ve done a really good job of developing players. We traded minor league players to get J.J. Hardy, we traded minor league players to get Brad Brach. We’ve done a really good job of the minor leagues helping the major league club.” As to if the lists are aggravating when we are rated low Mr. Graham said “I think it’s frustrating because we know internally how good we are. We know we have some hidden nuggets. It doesn’t do you any good to stand up on a chair and announce to the world how great your players are. That’s just not a positive thing for anybody. We’ll let time run its course and we’ll let these players help the major league club get to the playoffs; we’ve been to the playoffs 3 of the last 5 years. You can talk about prospects all you want but at the end of the day who’s helping your major league team get to the playoffs and we have a lot of names of minor league players that are helping our major league team get to the playoffs.” I personally think that as fans we all need to remember that last sentence because that is what the minor league system is really about.
On my comment that I admired his upbeat attitude about the organization Mr. Graham said “I’m excited. When you look at the passion Buck Showalter has and Brady Anderson has and how Dan Duquette cares and our coaches and managers in the minor leagues they’re very unselfish and their egos are in their back pockets. Their goal is to make the players better. It’s really neat. It motivates me to go to work every day.”
Mr. Graham also had high praise for Vice-President of Baseball Operations Brady Anderson. “Brady has a big role in the organization. I don’t think people realize how impactful Brady is and what his responsibilities are. He oversees strength and conditioning for the whole organization. He’s very involved with the hitting program at the minor league level. Brady and I talk at least 3 times a week and we discuss player performance. Brady has a vast knowledge of baseball, he’s a really, really intelligent guy.”
There was also high praise for the organization. “At the end of the day there are a whole bunch of really good baseball people who are working together to make this thing work and nobody knows the reality of what’s going on except those of us on the inside. We know how good Cody Sedlock is, how good Aiken is, how good Austin Hays is.” Mr. Graham did tell me to keep an eye on Matthias Dietz as a sleeper who he said is a “big raw kid and in a year from now you are going to say ‘WOW’”.
I asked Mr. Graham what qualities he looked for in a coaching candidate and his response may surprise you. “First and foremost character, I want good quality character people. I want guys with integrity, I want guys with work ethic, I want honesty, I want guys who care. Integrity is so big for me. What’s big for me is presentation.” Mr. Graham explained that aside from baseball knowledge these were the characteristics that players want in their coaches; they want professionals. As far as coaches for 2017 go, Mr. Graham was proud to tell me that he has hired John Wasdin (Orioles, 2001) as the pitching coordinator, Buck Britton as a hitting coach at an yet to be determined team and Butch Davis as hitting instructor. Mark Hendrickson (Orioles, 2009-2011) has been offered the job of pitching coach for the Aberdeen Ironbirds and it is hoped he will accept it. These hires have not been announced so I am the first to report this. The pride in these hires was evident in Mr. Graham’s voice as he told me. He said they are “a really good group of guys.”
When asked how he keeps in touch with everyone when he has so many responsibilities Mr. Graham replied “I talk to 1/3 one day, another 1/3 the next day and another 1/3 another day. I may circle back and talk to the same guy 3 days in a row. They turn in game reports every single night and the game reports are probably the determining factor in who I talk to. Every day is a grind.” He went on to say “having good guys around me is hugely beneficial. It’s such an intricate process.” He cited Jeff Manto, Dave Anderson and Donnie Warner as coaches in the system that are very helpful.
Mr. Graham also cited Caleb Joseph’s making it to the major leagues after spending so much time at Bowie as something that makes him as Farm Director feel good.
I was left with this from Mr. Graham, “if you’re going to do it right it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of effort; that’s our goal, to do it correctly.”
Our minor league system is in good hands, in my opinion and Brian Graham is the reason. He cares and he instills that in all of his staff. I do not think the Oriole Way is dead and I am proud to learn how the system works and works together. Good people produce good results. I know I covered a lot and I hope you enjoyed hearing from Mr. Graham.
A Conversation With Brian Graham [Part 1] (12/2016):
Mr. Brian Graham serves the Baltimore Orioles as the Director of Player Development and in that capacity has his fingers on the pulse of the entire Baltimore Minor League system. I recently had the opportunity to send some questions to Mr. Graham and then was able to have a conversation with him as a follow up to the questions I sent him. I found Mr. Graham to be personable, engaging and passionate about the Orioles’ system.
Mr. Graham was a two-sport (baseball and football) star at UCLA. He was a member of UCLA’s 1978 Fiesta Bowl team as well as holding school records for hits, runs and stolen bases. Drafted in the 4th round of the1982 draft by the Oakland Athletics Graham played as an infielder in the Oakland, Detroit, Milwaukee and Cleveland systems.
Never reaching the Major Leagues, Graham began managing in the Indians’ system in 1989. Over a span of 9 years managing in the Cleveland system Graham led his team to the playoffs 8 consecutive years. He led the Kingston Indians (Class-A High) in 1991 and the Buffalo Bisons (Class-AAA) in 1997 to League Championships. He has managed in both the Dominican Republic Winter League and the Arizona Fall League. Graham has held Major League coaching jobs with the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles, the Field Coordinator job with the Florida Marlins as well as serving the Pittsburgh Pirates as General Manager. In 2013 Graham was named as the Director of Player Development for the Orioles.
Here are the questions I submitted to Mr. Graham as well as his answers:
Your title is Director of Player Development, what does that entail?
As Director of Player Development I’m directly responsible for overseeing the Orioles player development system, which includes the individual development of every pitcher and player, the coaches, managers, instructors, trainers, strength coaches, and numerous other important staff members.
Our most important job is developing good players to help our major league team win.
What are your main responsibilities?
My responsibilities include the teaching process for every position, as well as the coordination of instruction from the major league level to the rookie league level, including the mental development program, the strength and conditioning program and the baseball IQ teaching and learning process.
I’m responsible for player assignments, daily player movement, promotions, demotions, etc.
I assist the Major League Manager and General Manager on a daily basis as needed.
I also execute all administrative duties as needed.
I communicate daily with the managers, coaches, pitching coaches, hitting coaches, instructors, trainers and strength coaches (as needed), as well as the affiliate needs.
One of my other important responsibilities is coaching the coaches and helping develop staff members.
How do you keep up with the affiliates during the season? (number of visits/reports from other personnel)
I prioritize the biggest needs. I’m in uniform every day so I also have the opportunity to teach and coach and instruct. I spend the most time where I am needed the most. My coordinators are a huge asset to me, they are an extension of me and my eyes and ears, and when you add them to our group of coaches and managers we have a great instructional staff.
How do you balance a family in PA and teams in MD?
Balancing a family and a high intensity job takes a lot of time on both ends. I’m very lucky to have a great wife and kids who share in my career.
Given the fact that the Orioles supply /pay the players, how much autonomy do the affiliates have?
We work very closely with the affiliates. We are responsible for the Orioles players and the baseball side, and the affiliates are responsible for the stadium and their business operation.
What is the most common misconception of the Minor League system?
The most common misconception of our Minor League system is that we have a below average player development system. We are absolutely one of the best two development systems in baseball as far as teaching, coaching, instructing, and supplying our Major League team with players to help us win at the Major League level. The confusion comes in when national media outlets subjectively talk about the number of high profile prospects we have or don’t have. Our actual development system is really good. We have great coaches, managers and instructors and we have a great development system in place.
How are the decisions made as to which team a player will be assigned to?
How are player promotions decided? Are manager/coach promotions handled the same of differently?
I’m responsible for the rosters and the roster management. I resource a lot of people including Dan Duquette, Buck, Brady Anderson, Kent Qualls, and our minor league staff. I collect the information, opinions and recommendations and make the decisions accordingly
How do you assure that the affiliates are working together for the good of the MLB club? RE: The Oriole Way
Regarding the affiliates, Kent Qualls is our Director of Minor League Operations, and he works closely with the affiliates and does a great job. Between the two of us, and the fact that we have really good affiliates, it’s a great working relationship
Knowing Buck attends the minor league games on his off days, what is his input, if any, in player development?
Buck loves player development, and I love the fact that Buck and Brady Anderson are strongly involved in Player Development. I have great respect for their opinions, thoughts and ideas.
I’m fortunate to have such great support.
Is there a support system in place for the players? ie. those out of High School and those new to the United States
We have a great transition program for our young Latin American players who come to the United States for the first time. Included is mandatory English classes, education on nutrition, cultural awareness, social education, financial management, as well as numerous other important areas. We also have several Spanish speaking coaches.
Our young high school players are also carefully looked after and attended to because most of them are away from home for the first time and that presents a lot of challenges.
You were a 2 sport star at UCLA, do you share Buck’s preference for multi-sport athletes?
Two sport athletes suggest that a player has a lot of physical ability, some special mental abilities, usually above avg. mental toughness, and many times a special skill set.
Buck and I both love 2 sport athletes.
Do you feel your experiences in MiLB help you in relating to the players?
My years of experience as a minor league coach, manager, coordinator and farm director absolutely helps me relate to players and their needs and thoughts and mentality.
Experience is a tremendous asset.
What is more rewarding: coaching a successful team or overseeing an entire organization?
Successfully overseeing an entire minor league system is extremely rewarding.
I managed eight consecutive playoff teams in the minor leagues, but being responsible for an organizations development system is the most motivating and rewarding job I have ever had.
Is there a specific part of the O’s system you are most proud of?
I’m most proud of the culture we have created, and the professionalism and the discipline we’ve created in the minor leagues. Our players and staff conduct themselves as first class professionals, they work hard, they play hard, and they have tremendous respect for the game of baseball.
I’m also very proud of how so many of our minor league players (Machado, Wieters, Schoop, Britton, Gausnman, etc.) have impacted the success of our major league team.
Name a prospect, past or present, whose development you are most proud of.
It was certainly easier to project the success of young players like Machado, Wieters, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Andrew McCutchen, Sean Casey and many others.
The guys like Jonathan Schoop, Donnie Hart, Rajai Davis, Caleb Joseph, Brian Giles, Michael Givens, a lot of time and work went into their development and I am really proud to have been a part of their development process.
Can you name 1 or 2 players you feel are “under the radar” that the fans should keep an eye on?
Under the radar: We have a lot of players who do not get a lot of national attention and they are really good players. Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Wynns, Garrett Cleavinger, Alex Wells, and several others. These are just a few of the guys.
Do you see your 2013 “Chief” Bendar award as an individual accolade or as a validation of our entire system? Why?
I’m proud of the Chief Bender award, but I also understand that after 35 years in professional baseball, in a variety of roles, maybe longevity played a part in the award (LOL).
You live north of Pittsburgh, Steelers or Ravens?
Ravens over Steelers because of Harbaugh.