Osceola County Stadium

New York Yankees @ Houston Astros

2012 Spring Training. Houston Astros hosted the New York Yankees at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Florida; a year where they would play their last season in the National League. After this, they went from the National League (NL) Central Division to American League (AL) Western Division. All the other teams in the AL West we’re building championship caliber teams at the time. Josh Hamilton and the Texas Rangers were still relevant after playing in the 2010 & 2011 World Series. Albert Pujols was starting the first of his 10-year $240,000,000 contract with the Los Angeles Angels; the same time when Mike Trout would be the Rookie of the year and a strong candidate for the MVP every year after that. Oakland A’s were matched with Detroit Tigers in the 2012 AL Division Series and Seattle Mariners played in an AL Wild Card Game. In other words, the Houston Astros were moving to a division that was feverishly developing their organizations from the ground up for sustainable winning. But, Astros were also working on a 5-year rebuild that would put them in a position to win in that group. This was the same year that Houston Astros signed Carlos Correa as the overall first round draft pick. Chicago Cubs and more recently Chicago White Sox have done something similar; focusing on player development, down to the A-ball level. Players from the 2017 championship team, like Jose Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez, were already with the organization. Long time Astro Carlos Lee was traded to the Miami Marlins later that year.

A game with the New York Yankees was good practice for that; facing a line-up that included players like Raul Ibanez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Robinson Cano in the lineup. There is always a huge following for the New York Yankees when they are in Kissimmee, Florida. It’s more of a barnstorming atmosphere than the typical methodical spring training game. Of the list of parks visited, Osceola County Stadium is my most attended. But this is true in all the Spring Training venues. There is always a short-list of teams who have the potential to sell out higher priced tickets in any spring training park that they arrive at; a dynamic reserved for a larger market team or a defending champion.

When the Houston Astros pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training the following year, it was a new year, a new division, in new uniforms, with new ownership in Jim Crane, and a new front office; eventually a new president in Reid Ryan, son of legendary Nolan Ryan. Jeff Luhnow was on hand to meet all invitees on their first day at the alternate fields next to Osceola County Stadium. The new general manager hired by the Houston Astros the previous December. The first few days of reporting are usually the best time to interact and get autographs. You’re up close and personal with the players, who rotate from station to station during their drills and exercises. Sometimes it’s just a rope that separates you from the action.

As I walked around, I passed a player and, as a gesture, I wished him good luck. “Thanks,” he said as he headed for the batting cages. Initially, I didn’t recognize him. After looking again, I asked if he used to be a pitcher. “Yes!” he said. He was a position player who reported early to do some work in the batting cages. But it was only natural that he be with pitchers and catchers. It was Rick Ankiel who debuted as a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999. Issues with control ended his pitching. His toughest outing was game one of the 2000 NLDS, when Tony Larussa slipped him in under the media radar after many of his pitchers were injured that post season. After a series of setbacks, he came back in 2007 as a centerfielder and reinvented his career. He made the 2013 Houston Astros squad but was released a month later, then picked up by the New York Mets and finally made his last MLB appearance June 08, 2013. In one word; resilient.

The Houston Astros trained here until 2016. After that, they moved to a $148.6 million complex in West Palm Beach that they now share with the Washington Nationals. Sadly, this would eventually leave a void for baseball in Central Florida. Florida Fire Frogs (Atlanta Braves Advance-A Affiliate) called this home until they also moved to a new facility last year in Sarasota, Florida. But, since 1984, Osceola County Stadium has withstood the test of time. Its still a haven for USSSA tournaments, the building along the right field line houses their Hall of Fame and Museum.

Fenway South

Minnesota Twins @ Boston Red Sox

2012 Spring Training at Jet Blue Park; an inaugural year for The Boston Red Sox. They hosted Minnesota Twins at the new ballpark better known to Red Sox nation as “Fenway South.”  Before this, they trained at City of Palms Park, since 1993. Today, that park is home to Florida South Western State College. The Boston Red Sox would report to their new home under precarious conditions from the epic collapse late in the 2011 regular season. With renewed hope that comes from an upcoming spring, they dusted themselves off in an $80 million facility here in Fort Myers, Florida. Bobby Valentine was hired to steer the ship as the Boston Red Sox Manager for this 2012 regular season. In hindsight, it was the beginning of the end as the Red Sox went on to only win 69 games in that campaign. In his 2017 book, “Papi: My Story,” he recalls the 2012 regular season as the worst of his stretch with Beantown. This, as opposed to 2013 when Boston won it all and David Ortiz was World Series MVP; just a year later.

Jet Blue Park opened March 04, 2012. Construction cost was subsidized, in part, by bonds from Lee County, also the owners of City of Palms Park. Seems like a lot of money for something used 30-45 days in the Spring. Grievances aside, it’s a great place for a ball game. The Rookie League GCL Red Sox of the Gulf Coast League also played approximately 40 home games here. In 2013, The Florida High School Athletic Association started to have their final rounds of baseball state championships here in the month of May.

Aside from the mass following of the Red Sox Nation faithful, Jet Blue Park has design elements similar to the iconic Fenway Park. The most obvious is a “Green Monster” wall in left field. There’s a “Pesky’s Pole” to mark foul territory in rightfield, including the signatures and written messages from attending fans. The bullpen locations are also beyond the right-center field wall; just before a “Williamsport” area. Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau was in the middle of a three-year struggle from a concussion sustained in 2010. He came back this year to play 134 games with a .257 batting average. Teammate and catcher Joe Mauer was also coming back from various ailments in 2011. He went on to set the all-time Minnesota Twins record for most games played by a catcher (832).

Dustin Pedroia was also in the game for the Boston Red Sox. His ordeals with the disabled list are well document. After three years of battling injuries, Dustin Pedroia was forced to finally announce his retirement this week. From 2006 to 2019, Dustin Pedroia was 2007 Rookie of the Year, 2008 AL MVP, a 3-time World Champion, 4-time All Star, and 4-time Gold Glove. And a 2008 silver slugger. With 1805 total hits, he ranks 8th with the Boston Red Sox in all-time hits, finishing with a .299 batting average; a 300 hitter if you round it off. He is the only player to attain a World Series Title, an MVP, a Rookie of the Year, and Gold Gloves all in his first two seasons. Not bad for someone who spent much of the start to his career convincing security that he was on the team. That, along with other discouraging episodes, was attributed to his 5’-9” stature. Being called out on his height or lack thereof, was something Dustin Pedroia grew used to. “I didn’t know there was a height requirement like when you go the theme parks,” he once said. I’m sure that it was a source of motivation.

Last but not least, it was a very hot day at the ballpark. Hydration and occasional shelter are key. The forecast on this day in early April was an average high of 86.5 degrees; reaching an actual high of 91.9 degrees. At times, ballparks are revisited after an inaugural year to address sun and shade issues, both for player and fans. For example, lack of shelter for fans sometimes requires installations of canopies. The Florida sun is unforgiving. In general, negotiating around it requires the skills to both prepare and adapt. We can now add pandemic protocols to that list of acquired skills. The Boston Red Sox announced February 02, 2021 that fans will be allowed to attend at 24% capacity, primarily on the back fields. As of now, they’re set to begin February 17, 2021.

Spartans at Phillies

University of Tampa Spartans @ Philadelphia Phillies

2016 Spring Training Philadelphia Phillies hosted University of Tampa Baseball with an impressive resume best described by the analogy of their mascot, the Spartans. They are the best kept secret in baseball; reigning in the shadows of college baseball. As in the 2006 film “300,” this Division II college baseball program has “stood and fought” with the highest level of competition.  In January of 2014, the Spartans went to Cuba on a good will tour and went undefeated with a 3-0 record. The intent was a cultural exchange. Nonetheless, they played tough teams. Spartan later won the 2015 NCAA Division II National Title. That tournament was held at the USA Baseball National Training Center in Cary, North Carolina. Since their first NCAA Division II National Championship in 1992, they’ve gone on to win (8) total; (5) of those titles in the last (15) years. Spartans have been on the good side of winning baseball; playing .500 since its 1978 season. During that same time, there have been over 50 MLB Amateur Draft Picks who came from University of Tampa.

In 2015, 2016, and 2017, Spartans were invited by the Philadelphia Phillies to play an exhibition game, kicking off Spring Training at Bright House Field (currently renamed Spectrum Field), the Florida home of the Philadelphia Phillies. These invites are not unique to the Phillies. Other teams have done the same. The New York Mets have played University of Michigan Wolverines and the Boston Red Sox have played Boston College. This was the second invitation for the Spartans. Just the year before, Spartans beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-2; their inaugural game in the Grapefruit League. Andrew Amaro, the nephew of General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was on that Spartans team. It goes without saying that Ruben Amaro Jr. received ongoing questions about the upcoming 2015 Regular Season. For the most part, Spartans were playing with players at the Triple-A level. Of course, any given MLB team will send invitations to their prospects at varying levels of player development and can have a roster with as many as (45) players in camp. Clearwater, Florida, is “Phillies Nation.” The city has hosted the Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training since 1947.

There’s no doubt that these young Phillies were playing like their life depended on it. Yet, the mutual respect and overall friendliness between the two teams was very noticeable. The Phillies were on the right side of winning on this day, beating Spartans 8-3. For the 2016 regular season, Phillies would go on to win (15) games in the month of April.

Champion Stadium

Miami Marlins @ Atlanta Braves

Spring Training 2012 at Champion Stadium; part of ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex located in Walt Disney World (Lake Buena Vista, Florida). Atlanta Braves hosted Miami Marlins in late March, as teams finalized their rosters. But, the news throughout baseball broke here just moments before the game. Atlanta Braves third base star Chipper Jones announced he would retire at the end of the season. On this day, he took a pre-game walk to home plate and exchanged starting line-ups with Joey Cora of the Miami Marlins and to exchange pleasantries with Joe West and the three other umpires on duty. He received a lengthy standing ovation on his way back to the dugout, rightly so. In 18 years with the Atlanta Braves, he is an 8-time all-star, a 2-time silver slugger, the 1999 NL MVP, a 2008 batting champion, and a 1995 World Champion. Chipper Jones was the face of all those post season years for the Atlanta Braves.

Over in the other dugout was the newly minted Miami Marlins team. Over the off-season, the Franchise in South Beach was preparing to open the New Marlins Park; launching a marketing campaign that rebranded the team from the Florida Marlins to the Miami Marlins, a throwback to the Triple-A Minor league team (1956-1960). Satchel Paige played for that team in the twilight of his career. The front office also worked feverishly in the hot stove to make good on their promise of putting a team on the field that would go the World Series. Free agents like Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez singed on to the build. The Marlins were also close to signing Albert Pujols, who was also on the free agency market after winning the 2011 World Series. He would reject a contract worth up to $300 million over 10 years from the Marlins. Apparently, the deal breaker was a no trade clause that was non negotiable as far as Pujols was concerned. He would sign with the Los Angeles Angels at $254 million, also over 10 years. It was substantially less money but included a full no trade clause from the Angels. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the Marlins would be plagued by controversy. For the Marlins, the season would fizzle into a bad ending to a B-movie.

Champion Stadium was the Spring Training home for the Atlanta Braves from 1997 (opening year) to 2019. The team now trains at CoolToday Park (Sarasota, Florida). Technically, it opened for the last spring training game of 2019. But, 2020 was to be the inaugural year. Over the years the 7500 seat Champion Stadium has been home to baseball tournaments at just about every level of amateur, as well as professional, competition. This was the site of the 2006 World Baseball Classic; First round, Pool D. In an effort to promote Tampa Rays fandom. The team scheduled a regular season series in the 2007 (Texas Rangers) and the 2008 Regular Seasons. The Rays won all six of those games. Champion Stadium is one of the ballparks most visited in my baseball pilgrimage; purely by default. I lived nearby for over 15 years. I was here when Sammy Sosa, with the Texas Rangers, returned to the team that first signed him to play his final year in 2007.  I also had the fortune of seeing David Ortiz and Team Dominican face Mike Piazza and Team Italia in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Hall of Famer Mike Piazza would go on to coach Team Italia under the counseling of legendary Tommy Lasorda.

And speaking of legends, with the passing of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron today, the Braves family, along with the rest of the world, mourn the loss of an icon that was a legend among legends. In the last nine months, (10) Hall of Famers have passed away. The annual induction ceremonies in August of 2020 were cancelled. When the Hall of Fame does reconvene, roll call will be difficult.   

Citi Field

2010 Regular Season at thenew Citi Field. Just a year earlier, the New York Yankees would have their own inaugural season in 2009 at the New Yankee Stadium. Going into Citi Field, they were also defending 2009 World Champions after defeating the 2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies the previous Fall. It was early in the season. But, just the day before, the New York Mets had a team meeting to stress the “importance of winning.” They would go on to win (8) of the next (11) games: they had momentum on their side. Regardless of what the situation is, when these two teams meet, they play with the utmost urgency. Needless to say, there was a lot at stake here. Constant trash-talking from fans in the stands reminded you of that.

Design of Citi Field includes the main entrance exterior that strongly resembles the old Ebbets Field. The lobby area housed inside is the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Below is the inscription along the barreled wall.

“I life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Jackie Robinson.

The original “Home Run Apple” measures (9) feet high and is located just outside of the main entrance of Citi Field. It was replaced by another “Home Run Apple” measuring (18) feet. Twice as tall, it carries on the tradition of popping up beyond centerfield when a Mets player hits a Home Run. Transitions to other the parts of Citi Field are not so smooth. Walking around the park leads to obstructed or blocked views of the field. The major trade off to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda is that the skybox suites or other facilities lined behind home plate do not allow a view of the game as you walk down the hallways in that area; reduced to seeing the game on occasional monitors.

In its (58) year history, the New York Mets have played in five World Series (1969, 1973, 1986, 2000, 2015); winning two of them in 1969 & 1986. Both those teams represent a renaissance era for the organization. The 2021 regular season marks a new beginning for the New York Mets franchise. On November 06, 2020 Associated Press reported that Steve Cohen, CEO of Point72 Asset Management and lifetime Mets fan, closed on a deal to purchase the New York Mets at $2.64 Billion; increasing his financial interest in the New York Mets from 8% to 95%. The Wilpon and Katz families (previous owners) will retain the remaining 5%.

Many changes on the way. But, the biggest game-changer was the recent signing of superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor for a year at $22.5 Million. The plan is to lock him in for the long term (similar to what the L.A. Dodgers did with Mookie Betts). If they do, and with the potential for other signings in the horizon, the New York Mets stand to be a big threat in baseball. “Yes, it is what the Mets fans wanted to see, their team acting like a big-market bully,” wrote Ken Rosenthal in “The Athletic.” For the Mets fandom, its hopefully an end to disfunction within the organization and the start of a new renaissance era.

New York Yankees @ New York Mets

Negro Big Leagues

2016 visit to Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM), in Kansas City, Missouri. A group of local historians, business leaders, and former baseball players came together to create the NLBM in the early 1990s. It’s located in the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District of Kansas City, MO., the center for black culture and life in Kansas City from the late 1800s-1960s. A top baseball destination; next to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

MLB announced, December of last year, that it would recognize the Negro Leagues as a major league. Since then, the nervous energy of questions and reactions grows.  For those who have studied or procured the delicate history of the Negro Leagues; could they ever have imagined this outcome? Through their blood sweat and tears of research, we know that the Negro Leagues were comprised of seven leagues listed below.

  • Negro National League (1920-1931)
  • Eastern Colored League (1923-1928)
  • American Negro League (1929)
  • East-West League (1932)
  • Negro Southern League (1932)
  • Negro National League (1933-1948)
  • Negro American League (1937-1960)

The Challenge to merge these sparse records with over 140 years of the leagues that have formed Major League Baseball. We’ll hear debates that will change the way we think of the timeline; rewriting the record books for decades to come.

2020 was the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues in 1920. Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro League Baseball Museum here in Kansas City, recently announced that they will continue to celebrate the leagues. The “Negro Leagues 101” Campaign will include opportunities to engage, to educate, to make discoveries, and to find new ways to celebrate the history.

Affiliated Times

2013 Midwest League Regular Season at Perfect Game Field (Opened 2002) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Minnesota Twins Class-A Affiliate Cedar Rapids Kernels hosted the Oakland Athletics Class-A Affiliate Beloit Snappers in the second game of a three-game series. I spent a week in Iowa and realized the Kernels were in town less than a mile away, an offer that I couldn’t refuse. Cedar Rapids Kernels were down 5-1 in the 6th inning when they tied and ultimately won with a walk off double in the 9th inning. They went on to sweep the series.

Here is where naming rights get a bit awkward. Perfect Game USA, the world’s largest scouting service, has naming rights. Just outside the stadium is All Veterans Memorial Park, a memorial of the armed services veterans from all the wars. Local residents call it the “New Veterans Memorial Stadium”, in contrast to the original park that existed 1949-2001. It’s testimonial to the relation between Veterans and Baseball. Historically, over 400 MLB players have dropped their baseball equipment to serve in the military. In a time of war, fit men who could play baseball could contribute to the war effort, a sense of patriotic duty that resonated with the times. Back home, Americans were motivated by the notion that the game should go on because, after all, it was the pastime that lifted the spirits of a country in turmoil. That was also a driving force to the war effort.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels were founded in 1890, tracing it back to the early years of baseball. Since 1962, they’ve competed in the Midwest League. Over the years, the team has had 14 affiliations with MLB teams starting in 1932. Of those affiliations were the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (1993-2012). Among the long list of Alumni who played here are Mike Trout and the late Nick Adenhart. We all know about Mike Trout. Nick Adenhart’s career and ultimately his life was tragically cut short on April 9, 2009 in a car accident, shortly after midnight at the tender age of 22. After a pitching injury in high school and a series of setbacks, Perfect Game Field was a vital part of his road to recovery. He had just reached a milestone when he made his first start to debut in the 2009 Regular Season with the Angels. Just hours after that, Nick Adenhart was traveling with two friends when he was broad sided at the intersection of Orangethrope Avenue and Lemon Street killing all three in the car at the scene. In honor of his memory, there is an image of him and his number on the outfield wall of Perfect Game Field. The family gives a Nick Adenhart Memorial Scholarship every year for a student athlete in the area going into college.  Eric Davis also began his professional career in Cedar Rapids back in the 1980s. He played for this affiliate before going on to stardom and winning the 1990 World Series with the Cincinnati Reds.

Just as the rest of the Minor Leagues, this year was canceled. Needless to say, it’s been tragic for teams this year. And, like many other teams, the Kernels have been innovative in still creating promotions and engaging the community. In addition to the impact of a pandemic, the threat of MLB downsizing and causing teams to lose existing affiliations has been lurking for years now. The news came earlier this month that invitations for affiliations went out to 119 minor league teams. That means that some 43 other teams will need to come to terms with their fate. It’s the biggest change in Minor League history.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels were offered to remain the Class A Affiliate for the Minnesota Twins. In a related story, the St. Paul Saints, a storied and very successful independent team was invited to be the Class Triple-A Affiliate as well for the Minnesota Twins. The Beloit Snappers were offered to be a Miami Marlins Affiliate. Hopefully, the popularity of independent baseball will sustain some of the other teams that are having to reinvent themselves. In the face of crisis, change is no longer a choice.

Miller Park

2010 Regular Season at Miller Park and the Milwaukee Brewers are hosting the Minnesota Twins. There are other stadiums with retractable roofs. But this one is fan-shaped that starts at midpoint and extends out to the perimeter of the structure. Completed in 2001, its one of the largest construction projects in Wisconsin history, great place for a ball game. Casey McGehee and Rickey Weeks hit home runs for Milwaukee which means “Bernie Brewer” went down his slide beyond left field. Prince Fielder was still roaming first base before the career ending injury in 2016. This was my second visit and the Twins were in town both times. Milwaukee is about a 7-hour drive to from Minneapolis. The trip is not long at all for the Twins faithful who turned out for the game. Milwaukee baseball is one of the best kept secrets in the sport. It’s a long tradition that traces back to 1901 at the start of the American League (AL). That team would move to St’ Louis to become the St. Louis Browns. For the early 20th Century, Milwaukee Brewers were a Minor League Team. Milwaukee Chicks of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League played a single season in 1944 and won the Championship.

Before Miller Park, the Milwaukee Brewers played in Milwaukee County Stadium Where the Milwaukee Braves also once played. That Braves era captured the rising stardom of future Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, becoming the NL MVP and a part of the World Champions in 1957. The Milwaukee Brewers were originally the Seattle Pilots. In their only season of 1969, the Pilots finished last in the AL West with a record of 64-98, as expected with any inaugural expansion team. Bud Selig, who was the eventual Commissioner of Baseball, led a group that purchased the Pilots, then moved them to Milwaukee as Brewers just days before the start of the 1970 Season. Milwaukee Brewers were in the AL Division, in the same division with Chicago White Sox, until 1998. Now they are a thorn on the side of Chicago Cubs in recent years. Miller Park is a couple of hours from Chicago so Cub fans migrate here to support their team. In fact, its safe to say teams in the Midwest have a loyal fan base willing to take that road trip to a tail gate.

Hall of Famer Paul Molitor played on both the Brewers and Twins teams. He is remembered more for his 1993 MVP year with the World Champion Toronto Blue Jays. Yet, he left an indelible mark on the Milwaukee Brewers and the A.L. Championship run in 1982. Hall of Famers Robyn Yount and Rollie Fingers were also part of that historic 1982, better known in Milwaukee as “Harvey’s Wall Bangers” (named after their Manager Harvey Keunn), a colorful cast of characters that went on to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1982 World Series. Robin “The Kid” Yount who was called up out of high school played his entire career in Milwaukee (1974-1993), still the last 18-year-old to hit a home run in MLB history. “Fingers” who defined the value of a relief pitcher was at the tail end of his career. He was able to get 29 saves for the “Brew Crew” before the injuries. Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, and Bob Uecker have their numbers retired here. There’s a punchline in there somewhere. Only Bob Uecker can deliver on that. He’s been in baseball for 50 years and Milwaukee would not be the same without him.

Minnesota Twins @ Milwaukee Brewers

Winter Meetings

2013 Baseball Winter Meetings held at the Dolphin Resort in Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Among other things, there was also a job fair and trade show, an important time of year for many in the industry who are looking for advancement. It runs from Monday morning to early Thursday afternoon and its usually set in a different city every year. Headlining Monday morning was the news that Pitcher Roy Halladay would retire. There was also a press conference to announce the Hall of Fame induction of Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, and Tony La Russa, a combined 93 years of managerial experience. They were elected by a special “Expansion Era Committee.”

Bobby Cox played a couple of years for the New York Yankees as a backup infielder. He found his real calling while managing in the Yankees minor league system and in Venezuela. He was a first base coach for the 1977 World Champion New York Yankees. That all set the tables for his first MLB Manager job in 1978 with the Atlanta Braves. 32 years later he would lead his teams to 16 Division Titles, 5 Pennants, and 1 World Championship.

Joe Torre was a player for 18 years and was an All-Star, a Gold Glove, an MVP, & a Batting Champion. But, never anything in the post season. He actually started managing as a player manager for the New York Mets in 1977. Ironically, his second manager job was to replace a fired Bobby Cox with the Atlanta Braves. 28 years later he would lead his teams to 13 Division Titles, 6 Pennants, and 4 World Championships. His legendary run with the New Yankees gave him something he never had as a player.

Tony La Russa played between 1962 and 1977. I good part of that time was spent in the minors as he injured his shoulder early on while playing a game of softball. His last Major League appearance was one game in Chicago with the Cubs in 1973, where he scored a run. His first Manager job was also in Chicago with the White Sox in 1979. 33 years later, he led all organizations he managed to the post season with 12 Division Titles, 6 Pennants, and 3 World Championships.

 There were also wild card births that all three managers took advantage of in post season competition. The expansion era of baseball is marked from 1973 to present. And, when you talk about the changes of the games since, it’s impossible to leave these three names out of the conversation. Frank Thomas, Greg Maddox, and Tom Glavine were added to this Hall of Fame Class of 2014 a couple of weeks later (January of 2014) through the regular ballot voting.

A buzz was in the air from the schedule of events and the big names in baseball roaming around. Owners, front office executives, general managers, and coaches from all 30 MLB teams were all on hand here. You know you’re at the epicenter when you see baseball insiders John Heyman and Ken Rosenthal zipping through the hallways of the lobby.

CBS Sports Writer Mike Axisa reported the deals listed below on Wednesday December 11, 2013.


  • Pirates: Signed RHP Charlie Morton to a three-year, $21 million extension. The contract includes a $9.5 million club option for a fourth year.


  • Mariners: Agreed to a one-year deal worth $5 million with 1B/OF Corey Hart. He can earn another $8 million or so in incentives.
  • Mets: Agreed to terms with RHP Bartolo Colon. It’s a two year $20 million deal.
  • Pirates: Agreed to a one-year deal worth $5 million with RHP Edinson Volquez, adding to their pitching depth.


  • Astros: Acquired RHP Anthony Bass and either a player to be named later or cash from the Padres for a player to be named later or cash, the team announced.
  • Mariners: Acquired 1B/OF Logan Morrison from the Marlins for RHP Carter Capps.
  • Nationals: Acquired LHP Jerry Blevins from the Athletics for minor league OF Billy Burns.
  • Yankees: Acquired minor league RHP Kyle Haynes from the Pirates as the player to be named later in last week’s Chris Stewart trade, the team announced.

Overall, this was a relatively quiet meeting of the minds, nothing earth shattering or game changing. Yahoo Sports reported on a fight in the parking lot outside between a couple of agents that got into a scuffle over a player, one accusing the other of stealing a prospect. A small 22 second video clip from the phone of an witness showed the two taking their swings. It briefly went viral but was not enough to identify them. According to witnesses, one even threatened to burn the other’s house down. With a slow week came a side-story with more excitement on the parking lot outside then in the hotel reservations.

USA Baseball

USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina, develops young talent from around the country. Aside from its role in the Olympics, USA Baseball continues its matrix of developing talent by participating in international competition, around the world, throughout the year, in all age categories. Their mission to is to grow the game through youth programs, player development, as well as safety and education initiatives. This place is the epicenter of those endeavors. The Town of Cary, North Carolina was selected to be to home of USA Baseball in 2002. It opened in 2007. Bill Coleman, the former Town Manager of Cary who helped to bring this complex here, passed away in September of 2014. In his honor, the main diamond was named Coleman Field. Stadium seating was set at 1,754 and 250 for grass seating. Located within the 221 acres of Thomas Brooks Park, it has all the specs. of your normal spring training facility. I visited in the USA Baseball National Training Complex in 2014 & 2015, while working and living in the Carolinas. Aside from Coleman Field, there are (3) other training fields. All four field are maintained at MLB standards.

Visit (1) was during the16U and 17U Tournament which was held August 21-24 of 2014 for the selection of the National Teams. Close to 50 games were played here over the weekend. It’s a launching point for USA Baseball to select players for National Team programs. Throughout the year, this place is host to many other tournaments and invitationals. Although there is currently no MLB team here, this part of the country is a hot-bed of baseball activities with competition in the high school and college ranks. Minor League baseball also thrives here.

Visit (2) was the 4th Annual National High School Invitational held at USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina. San Clemente Tritons (San Clemente, California) met College Park Falcon (Pleasant Hill, California) for the final game on Saturday March 28, 2015. 16 high school baseball teams from 10 states were invited to compete for a national title at the scholastic level. 8 of the 16 teams were ranked in the nationwide pre-season top 25. Some teams are reigning state champions in the respective homes. This new venue allows an opportunity to determine a, “National Champions” and gives high school players added exposure to both collegiate recruitment and MLB prospect lists. Tritons won 8-3 to take the trophy home.

“Our Pastime’s Future” is the USA Baseball slogan. Nothing else can better describe what happens here. The program has served as an institute to player development. It’s had a heavy influence on talent at all levels. Here is a list from USA Baseball of current MLB players who have been a part of USA Baseball.

Arizona Diamondbacks

  • Jon Jay 2005 Collegiate
  • Carson Kelly 2010 16U; 2011 18U
  • Mike Leake 2008 Collegiate
  • Daulton Varsho 2019 Professional
  • Luke Weaver 2013 Collegiate

Atlanta Braves

  • A.J. Minter 2014 Collegiate
  • Drew Smyly 2011 Professional; 2017 Professional (WBC)
  • Dansby Swanson 2014 Collegiate
  • Touki Toussaint 2011 16U
  • Kyle Wright 2016 Collegiate

Baltimore Orioles

  • Thomas Eshelman 2014 Collegiate
  • Rio Ruiz 2007, 2004 14 U
  • D.J. Stewart 2014 Collegiate

Boston Red Sox

  • Christian Arroyo 2012 18U
  • Matt Barnes 2010 Collegiate
  • Jackie Bradley Jr. 2010 Collegiate
  • C.J. Chatman 2019 Professional
  • Bobby Dalbec 2015 Collegiate; 2019 Professional
  • Robert Stock 2004, 2005 16U
  • Alex Verdugo 2010 14U

Chicago Cubs

  • Albert Almora 2007, 2008 14U; 2009, 2010 18U; 2015 Professional
  • Kris Bryant 2012 Collegiate
  • Nico Hoerner 2011 14U; 2012 15U
  • Craig Kimbrel 2013 Professional
  • Dillon Maples 2010 18U
  • Kyle Ryan 2009 18U
  • Kyle Schwarber 2013 Collegiate

Chicago White Sox

  • Zach Burdi 2015 Collegiate
  • Gio Gonzalez 2013 Professional (WBC)
  • Yasmani Grandal 2009 Collegiate
  • Nick Madrigal 2011 14U; 2012 15U; 2014 18U; 2017 Collegiate
  • James McCann 2011 Professional
  • Carlos Rondon 2012, 2013 Collegiate
  • Blake Rutherford 2012 15U; 2014, 2015 18U

Cincinnati Reds

  • Trevor Bauer 2009 Collegiate
  • Nick Castellanos 2009 18U
  • Kyle Farmer 2012 Collegiate
  • Sonny Gray 2009, 2010 Collegiate
  • Ryan Hendrix 2015 Collegiate
  • Michael Lorenzen 2008 16U; 2010 18U; 2012 Collegiate
  • Mike Moustakas 2006 18U, 2010 Professional
  • Mark Payton 2019 Profesional
  • Lucas Sims 2010 16U
  • Jesse Winker 2011 18U

Cleveland Indians

  • Francisco Lindor 2009 16U; 2010 18U
  • Tyler Naquin 2011 Collegiate
  • Adam Plutko 2012 Collegiate

Colorado Rockies

  • Nolan Arenado 2017 Professional (WBC)
  • Daniel Bard 2011 18U
  • Davis Dahl 2011 18U
  • Mychal Givens 2006 16U; 2007 18U; 2017 Professional (WBC)
  • Garrett Hampson 2015 Collegiate
  • Peter Lambert 2014 18U
  • Daniel Murphy 2017 Professional (WBC)
  • Dom Nunez 2011 16U; 2012 18U
  • Tony Wolters 2008 16U; 2012 18U

Detroit Tigers

  • Daz Cameron 2014 18U
  • Kyle Funkhouser 2014 Collegiate
  • Grayson Greiner 2013 Collegiate
  • Casey Mize 2017 Collegiate
  • Christian Stewart 2014 Collegiate
  • Troy Stokes Jr. 2010 14U

Houston Astros

  • Alex Bregman 2010 16U; 2011 18U; 2013, 2014 Collegiate; 2017 Professional
  • Chase De Jong 2011 18U
  • Lance Mc Cullers 2010 18U
  • George Springer 2010 Collegiate
  • Kyle Tucker 2012 15U
  • Justin Verlander 2003 Collegiate

Kansas City Royals

  • Danny Duffy 2010 Professional; 2017 Professional (WBC)
  • Cam Gallagher 2015 Professional
  • Alex Gordon 2004 Collegiate
  • Matt Harvey 2006 18U
  • Ian Kennedy 2002 18U; 2004, 2005 Collegiate
  • Bubba (Derek) Starling 2010 18U

Los Angeles Angels

  • Jo Adell 2019 Professional
  • Hoby Milner 2011 Collegiate
  • Noe Ramirez 2010 Collegiate
  • Anthony Rendon 2010 Collegiate
  • Max Sassi 2006, 2007 16U; 2008 18U
  • Matt Thaiss 2015 Collegiate
  • Mike Trout 2010 Professional
  • Justin Upton 2004 18U
  • Tayler Ward 2014 Collegiate

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Walker Buehler 2014 Collegiate
  • Joe Kelly 2007 Collegiate
  • Clayton Kershaw 2005 18U
  • Jake McGee 2017 Professional (WBC)
  • A.J. Pollock 2011 Professional
  • David Price 2005, 2006 Collegiate
  • Corey Seager 2010 16U

Miami Marlins

  • Logan Forsythe 2007 Collegiate
  • Sean Rodriguez 2001 16U
  • Ryne Stanek 2011, 2012 Collegiate

Milwaukee Brewers

  • Brett Anderson 2004 16U; 2005 18U; 2008 Professional (Olympics)
  • Ryan Braun 2009, 2013 Professional (WBC)
  • J.P. Feyereisen 2019 Professional
  • Josh Hader 2015 Professional
  • Keston Hiuri 2016 Collegiate
  • Corey Knebel 2011 Collegiate
  • Mark Mathias 2014 Collegiate
  • Corey Ray 2015 Collegiate
  • Bobby Wahl 2012 Collegiate
  • Christian Yelich 2017 Professional (WBC)

Minnesota Twins

  • Tyler Clippard 2017 Professional (WBC)
  • Brent Rooker 2019 Professional
  • Caleb Thielbar 2019 Professional

New York Mets

  • Gerrit Cole 2009, 2010 Collegiate
  • Erik Kratz 2010, 2019 Professional
  • Giancarlo Stanton 2013, 2017 Professional (WBC)

Oakland Athletics

  • Skye Bolt 2013 Collegiate
  • Matt Chapman 2013 Collegiate
  • Robbie Grossman 2007 18U
  • Daulton Jefferies 2015 Collegiate
  • James Kaprielian 2014 Collegiate
  • Mike Minor 2007, 2008 Collegiate
  • Sheldon Neuse 2010 16U
  • A.J. Puk 2015 Collegiate
  • JB Wendelken 2015 Professional

Philadelphia Phillies

  • Jake Arrieta 2006 Collegiate; 2008 Professional (Olympics)
  • Alec Bohm 2019 Professional
  • Zach Eflin 2015 Professional
  • Carson Fulmer 2011 18U; 2014 Collegiate
  • Bryce Harper 2008 16U; 2009 18U
  • Adam Haseley 2010 14U; 2013 18U
  • Tommy Hunter 2006 Collegiate
  • Cole Irvin 2011 18U
  • Andrew McCutchen 2004 18U; 2017 Professional (WBC)
  • Mickey Moniak 2013 15U; 2015 18U
  • Davis Roberton 2017 Professional

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Anthony Alford 2008 14U
  • Adam Frazier 2012 Collegiate; 2015 Professional
  • Ke’Bryan Hayes 2014 18U
  • Derkl Holland 2013 Professional (WBC)
  • Cody Ponce 2019 Professional
  • Bryan Reynolds 2014 Collegiate
  • Jameson Taillon 2009 18U
  • Cole Tucker 2013 18U
  • Trevor Williams 2012 Collegiate

San Diego Padres

  • Jason Castro 2009 Professional
  • Jake Cronenworth 2019 Professional
  • Zach Davies 2007 14U
  • Trent Grisham 2014 18U
  • Eric Hosmer 2007 18U 2010 Professional; 2013, 2017 Professional (WBC)
  • Manny Machado 2009 18U
  • Drew Pomeranz 2009 Collegiate
  • Ryan Weathers 2017 18U

San Francisco Giants

  • Tyler Anderson 2010 Collegiate
  • Tyler Beede 2013 Collegiate
  • Trevor Cahill 2008 Collegiate
  • Brandon Crawford 2006 Collegiate; 2017 Professional (WBC)
  • Alex Dickerson 2010 Collegiate
  • Kevin Gausman 2009 18U; 2011 Collegiate
  • Evan Longoria 2007 Professional; 2009 Professional (WBC)
  • Buster Posey 2004 18U; 2017 Professional (WBC)

Seattle Mariners

  • J.P. Crawford 2009 14U
  • Marco Gonzales 2012 Collegiate
  • Tim Lopes 2010 16U
  • Tom Murphy 2011 Collegiate; 2015 Professional
  • Justus Shefield 2012 18U
  • Evan White 2016 Collegiate

St. Louis Cardinals

  • Jack Flaherty 2013 18U
  • Dexter Fowler 2008 Professional (Olympic)
  • Paul Goldschmidt 2017 Professional (WBC)
  • Andrew Miller 2017 Professional (WBC)
  • Brad Miller 2009, 2010 Collegiate
  • Lane Thomas 2013 Collegiate
  • Matt Wieters 2005 Collegiate
  • Kolten Wong 2009 Collegiate

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Austin Meadows 2011 16U
  • Brett Phillips 2015 Professional

Texas Rangers

  • Koby Allard 2014 18U
  • Derek Dietrich 2008 Collegiate
  • Joey Gallo 2011 18U
  • Kyle Gibson 2008 Collegiate
  • Lance Lynn 2007 Collegiate
  • Jeff Mathis 2005 Professional
  • Jose Trevino 2012 Collegiate

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Cavan Biggio 2012 18U
  • A.J. Cole 2001 16U
  • Randal Grichuk 2007 16U
  • Robbie Ray 2009 18U
  • Tanner Roark 2017 Professional (WBC)
  • Matt Shoemaker 2011 Professional

Washington Nationals

  • Sean Doolittle 2013 Collegiate
  • Erick Fedde 2005, 2006 Collegiate
  • Josh Harrison 2017 Professional (WBC)
  • Howie Kendrick 2005 Professional
  • Stephen Strasburg 2008 Collegiate; 2008 Professional (Olympic)
  • Kurt Suzuki 2006 Professional
  • Trea Turner 2012, 2013 Collegiate
  • Ryne Zimmerman 2004 Collegiate

The USA Baseball DNA is found throughout the Major Leagues. JP Raineri of Valley News reported 2021 will prove to be another busy year for USA Baseball. Programming will cover opportunities to qualify for the Olympics, compete for world championships. “This year has given us a chance to learn and develop as an organization and we are excited for the opportunities presented to us to get back into action in 2021 and continue developing young athletes both on and off the field.” said Paul Seiler, executive director and CEO of USA Baseball.