Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland Indians’
The Dominican Republic has been a longtime hotbed for Major League Baseball talent. The Cleveland Indians are aware of the trend and their short-season affiliate, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers currently have eight players on their roster who call the Dominican Republic home. One of these young men, Charlie Valerio, is really enjoying the chance and getting by just fine with everything, except, well, interviews.
While trying to interview Valerio, we came across that frequently crossed path of language difficulty. Hunter Jones did his best to serve as interpreter (below) and I thought the interview went well, all things considered. The ending impression you should take away about Valerio is that he is a very happy-go-lucky and free-spirited person who wants to get better and is willing to work hard to get there.
Paneech: Which Dominican players do you admire that are currently playing in the majors?
Valerio: Carlos Santana. I like the way he plays the game when he is hitting and catching. He is very aggressive and I like the way he plays the game. I think that Manny Ramirez was the best hitter to come from the Dominican Republic.
Paneech: You have many choices of places to eat here. What is your favorite place and do you have those choices in the Dominican Republic?
Valerio: No, there are no restaurants there, I ate a lot of my mother’s home-cooked meals. She made a lot of good dishes with rice, chicken, and beans. I like Chipotle and have eaten there a couple of times. I get the bowl with the chicken, rice, guacamole, cheese, and beans.
Paneech: Are the fields you played on at home as nice as this field?
Valerio: It is really the same, the field is nice, the big difference is that we didn’t have all the seating and bleachers that we have here.
Paneech: You are married. How difficult is it for you to be married and away from your wife?
Valerio: It is very difficult. I have a daughter too that I love with all of my heart. I try to communicate with them every day. I miss them both all of the time, she will be coming here in a month.
Paneech: How far can you see yourself going with this whole baseball life?
Valerio: I am working very hard to play in the Major Leagues someday. I am enjoying the fans and I sign autographs all of the time. I am getting used to these new people I am meeting on this team. I am friends with people now like Hunter [Jones].
Paneech: When the game is over at night, what do you like to go home and do?
Valerio: I don’t play video games (laughs). I watch Sportscenter every night. I will also text and talk with my wife and talk with my mother.
Paneech: What do you like to drink?
Valerio: I like Red Gatorade!
Paneech: What could you hope for for yourself and your new teammates this season?
Valerio: I would be happy if my friends make it. When my teammates are having a bad day, it hurts my heart. Even if I have three hits, it hurts me if one of them have a bad day and do not get a hit. We all want to do well and want to win, but most of us want each other to do well too.
Paneech: Which current Scrapper that you did not know have you gotten close with?
Valerio: Hunter Jones has become a good friend. I have gotten closer with him faster than all of the American players. All of the Spanish-speaking players sort of hang together because we can communicate better. It isn’t because we don’t get along, but we are kind of grouping to understand each other, where maybe we can’t always understand a player who does not speak the same language.
Paneech: Talk about your coaches.
Valerio: Coach Ted Kubiak is very good, a good manager. Coach Mansolino is a very good hitting coach and I am enjoying working with them. Coach Hibbard is a joker, very funny man, and keeps things fun when we need that sometimes.
Valerio says the speed of the game is much faster here, but he is doing all he can to adapt. He is always smiling, win or lose, but more when the Scrappers are winning. The free agent signed in 2011 and is really enjoying the experience of a new culture, a big opportunity to fulfill his childhood dreams, and a lifestyle he had never known. It is hard not to root for Charlie Valerio.
Cleveland Indians fans, meet Tony Wolters. He is a shortstop who is doing it with, both, the glove and the bat for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Wolters missed time last season due to injury after being selected by the Indians in the third round of the 2010 Draft. So far in 2011, he has not disappointed. Hustle and dedication are two intangibles that cannot be taught. Wolters runs out every ball, no matter how routine of a play it looks like. He is a quiet guy with a big smile who signs plenty of autographs for the fans after home games. Learn the name, he is Cleveland’s shortstop of the future.
Paneech: Growing up in California, were you a Padres, Dodgers, Giants, or Angels fan?
Wolters: I was a Padre fan. We use to constantly go to the games when they used to play at Qualcom Park. My dad would always get tickets in the outfield right on the edge, those were his favorites. The first player I was always watching was Tony Gwynn. I try to pattern myself after him from a hitting standpoint. My dad always tells me a 180-foot hit will get you there, keep doing those. So Gwynn was my idol. I was amazed with Khalil Greene at shortstop because he made some special plays and I tried to mock him and even went as far as wearing my pants the way he did, and I grew my hair out because he had long hair. I liked Mark Loretta a lot too while he was there. Once they moved to Petco, we started going there too. I actually got to play at Petco for the Afflac game, it was an awesome and great experience for me.
Paneech: When you are here in Niles, Ohio, there is about a six foot radius around the mall with some nice restaurants but no beach, no Disney, no mountains. There isn’t really as much to do, does that free your mind to think baseball?
Wolters: I love the game of baseball and feel truly lucky to play every day. If I strike out, I get mad, but then I think myself down that I am so, so lucky to be doing what I am doing on a day-to-day basis. Baseball was my first sport, I also played hockey, and very little, but some soccer. Hockey was my first sport and then I fell in love with baseball. It came easy, but as I progress it gets harder. I have to get in the right mindset everyday and find my swing. I love the challenge and feel like over the next few years, I want to develop into the best possible player that I can become.
Paneech: Coach Wallace and others before him say that this is a developmental league and the wins are nice but winning and losing are outweighed by progress of individual players. What are your feelings on winning versus going 0-5 in a win?
Wolters: All of the players on this team want to win. A lot of it is development, as far as learning how to be a winner at this level. When we lose, nobody should have a smile on their face and be goofing around. We want to win. We want to get to the playoffs and win the whole thing. We see it as getting better everyday, and secondly, winning as a team.
Paneech: You are in the 2011 Bowman Baseball Card Set. How do you get into that process and are there other contracts for you?
Wolters: It all goes through my agent, and I really don’t know all of the aspects of it. Every year you have a card that comes out at some level. At extended Spring training, I took about five hours to autograph the cards of myself as part of the agreement. (** Bowman Baseball inserted autographs into packs randomly in 2011. There are 500 Wolters Autos, plus 150 Blue, and 50 Gold randomly inserted in the whole print run**). The other contracts, I can’t really talk about right now.
Paneech: Last year you were injured and missed a lot of time. What was going through your mind when you were drafted by the Indians?
Wolters: I was at breakfast and missed school that day. I wasn’t expecting a call or anything and was kind of sad. My dad looks at his phone and says ‘hey, you just got drafted by the Cleveland Indians’. I was like ‘really?’ Right after that, I got a call from the scout. I was really not expecting the Indians to pick me. Ironically, I played for a team called the Indians when I was in Little League, and my father just happened to be wearing his old Indians shirt. The Cleveland Indians were like the only team in the majors that I didn’t talk to much before the draft. It was kind of a boring Summer. I did go play for Team USA in 2010. When I first got to Arizona, I was so excited, and I am loving it right now.
Paneech: What is it like playing for Coach Wallace and Coach Mansolino?
Wolters: It is awesome. They both know so much about baseball. I have learned so much physically, as well as, mentally. I am working hard on my mental side and they are guiding me through it. CoachWallace always comes to me and drops pointers of things that I need to work on. Coach Manso has done good things for my hitting. We butt heads sometimes, but that is how you learn. They haven’t coached much, but I feel like they have.
Paneech: Sometimes when you bat, you lay the bat across the box (above), is it alignment or superstition?
Wolters: I am measuring how far I am from the plate. If I don’t see where I step in, I do it. I am very superstitious. If I have a bad game, I can’t wear the same sliders, and I have to wear different socks, different things on my wrists, or rearrange the order of what is on my wrists. I have to go out earlier to change the rhythm. I do everything different until the right combination of things work, and if they work, I stick with them. If they don’t then I change things some more.
Paneech: So if you go five-for-five tonight, what time do I have to come back and interview you tomorrow?
Wolters: (laughs) You are totally obligated to do that.
** Wolters went 5-6, and was 5-5 until his last at-bat the day of this game.
One Word Answers
Favorite Meal of The Day: Dinner.
Favorite Thing To Drink: Always Water.
Favorite TV Show: ESPN Sportscenter.
Favorite College Football Team: USC.
Favorite Baseball Team Still The Padres? I can’t say that (laughs).
Musical Preference: Starting to like Country.
Song on Your ipod That People Would Be Surprised By: Baby by Justin Bieber.
Best Friend On The Team: Jake Lowery.
Favorite Candy: Sour Patch Kids.
Fast Food Order: Chipotle, Chicken Burrito with rice, no beans, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, and medium salsa.
Favorite Cartoon Character: Tasmanian Devil.
** Top Photo Courtesy of Jesse Piecuch.
The Mahoning Valley Scrappers have undergone a few changes from last season to this season. One of the big personnel moves was bringing in David Wallace to be the new manager, replacing Travis Fryman. Wallace has been, for the most part, in the Cleveland Indians organization his whole career at some capacity but this is his first stint as a frontman. So far, the new skipper has put up very good signs that he is plenty capable of not only managing his team, but also making personnel decisions, dealing with the media, and keeping positive. After the first two Scrapper home losses, Wallace was still smiling and optimistic. The Indians have made a very good choice with Wallace, but many of the fans do not know much about him, so this interview was conducted to better understand Wallace and what makes him tick.
Paneech: I was reading through your biography page and saw that your title last year was “Assistant to The Staff“. What exactly did you do?
Wallace: That is just a glorified name for a bullpen catcher. Being the bullpen catcher was a good transitional role for me to go from playing into coaching and to get some valuable experience that I was not able to get as a player. I was there to do whatever they needed me to do, and during the games, I was in the bullpen warming guys up.
Paneech: Were you assigned to help catchers or relief pitchers, or was it a combination of both?
Wallace: A little bit of both. Before the games, I would alternate turns in the cage throwing batting practice and then during the games, I would catch in the bullpen. I was there and able to watch Sandy Alomar [Indians First Base Coach] and Manny [Acta] and all of his guys work with the players. I would ask questions like “Why was this decision made?”, and would learn from what they did.
Paneech: Was it your decision to bring in Greg Hibbard as a pitching coach and Tony Mansolino as a hitting coach or are those guys assigned to you?
Wallace: They are assigned, the front office in Cleveland puts together all of the coaching staffs in the minors. I had Greg as a pitching coach when I was a player in two different seasons. We already had a good working relationship together. Tony, I met a while back in Nashville at Vanderbilt. We never played together there, but had met each other through mutual friends. Our families have been in town, and the three of us will sit there after games and start talking about different things we saw. Before you know it an hour or two has passed and our families are still waiting for us.
Paneech: Have you talked to Travis Fryman about the Scrappers and what maybe worked or didn’t work for him while he was here?
Wallace: Oh yeah. Travis has been huge for me. I have had multiple conversations with him from Spring training and on the phone. He has been a huge help as I tried to get ready for a very hectic first week. We are signing guys, moving guys to Lake County, moving guys to Arizona, and trying to work the guys we have here. I was familiar with the area because I played here for the Scrappers in 2002, but the area has changed a lot since then, and he has been a tremendous advisor in that regard too. He is a guy I will continue to lean on and ask questions, not only about baseball, but also about life, because he is a great life coach as well.
Paneech: Why and how did your playing career end?
Wallace: In 2008, I was in Triple A with the Nationals, Cleveland had traded me there. I was backing up their catcher and there was actually a better opportunity for me to get some playing time in the Washington farm system, which at that time, was in Columbus. The Indians traded me there, kind of as a favor, so I could get more playing time. I didn’t get called up there and felt in my heart that it was time to move on. I think I could have hung around, and maybe in a year, the planets might have all aligned, and I would have gotten called up for a cup of coffee. At that point it would have been tough to put together a solid career as a player. I talked with Ross Atkins [Cleveland Indians Developer of Player Personnel] about this opportunity and to go into the coaching and player development part of this. I miss playing, but I don’t regret my decision.
Paneech: Is this a big change from your hometown of Jacksonville?
Wallace: I don’t feel like it is really that big of a change for me. I played long enough that I know what to expect. I have spent more time in Ohio at Cleveland, here, Lake County, Columbus, and Akron, than I have in the five years I have been in Jacksonville. It’s a bigger adjustment for players coming from the West Coast.
Paneech: Past coaches have had things that they could not tolerate. For example, Tim Laker couldn’t tolerate the media, Travis Fryman couldn’t tolerate showboating and one-upmanship. What is it that you will not tolerate?
Wallace: (laughs) I would say lack of respect. Whether it is a lack of respect for the game, which has given us all so much, or lack of respect for teammates and staff, or anyone that you come across. No one person is better than the others and that includes me, and I tell the players that. That would be the one thing, a lack of respect, that I will not put up with.
One Word Answers:
Favorite Meal of The Day: Breakfast.
Favorite Non-Sports Show On TV: This is embarrassing, but Glee.
Best Baseball Movie Ever Made: Bull Durham.
Biggest Phobia: Frogs.
Favorite Vacation Destination: Home, but I would like to go back to New Zealand.
Junk Food: Junior Mints.
Worst Habit: Not making the bed.
Favorite Musician: George Strait. I love country music.
Animal At The Zoo You Most Resemble: Hopefully, a lion.
Prediction For The Season: I stay away from predicting wins. I will, however, predict that we go out and play hard every night.
Being geographically close to Cleveland, I feel bad for my fellow sports fans who root for Cleveland teams. Admittedly, I am a Cavs fan and will continue to root for the team with a shiny new record for most NBA losses in a row with 26. The overall compilation of these three teams has produced zero championships in 50 plus years in any of their respective sports. Certain towns (Cubs fans, turn your heads), have a team who hasn’t won anything over a longer time span, but collectively, the Browns, Indians, and Cavs comprise the worst trifecta of a regional sports market that currently exists.
Let’s start with the oldest, the Cleveland Indians. The Indians won a World Series in 1920 then had to wait 28 years to get another. This is when there were no more than 20 teams in the league and the odds of winning were greater. The 1954 Indians, who won a then-record, 111 games, failed to complete the mission and are simply a highlight of a Willie Mays running over-the-shoulder catch. Did this start the futility on the diamond? In 1995, with a start studded lineup and a brand new stadium, the Indians drew large crowds and won games, but no trophies or flags. Nowadays they are playing the Pittsburgh Pirates price is right. Dump Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, etc. but make some scratch.
Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, and Larry Nance were the nucleus of some of the best Cavs teams of the late eighties and early nineties. Unfortunately, as Craig Ehlo can testify, they played during the Michael Jordan Era. We all know about Lebron James and the “decision” he made. Before his decision, he got Cleveland into the 2007 NBA Finals to play San Antonio. It was big progress for a franchise that never won. Now that James is wearing a Heat uniform and playing with two All-Stars and his former supporting cast starring Anderson Varajeo and Antwan Jamison has set the NBA standard for consecutive losses, did he still do the wrong thing? Or was he that good? I think he was. His supporting cast sucked, and still do. The guy wanted to win a championship, not babysit Delonte West or teach JJ Hickson how to dribble.
Then there are the Browns. Always a good supporting cast, but no stars, and Phil Dawson may have his own “decision” show on the deuce here pretty quick. Granted, Art Modell is a hated man in Cleveland and rightfully so. However, the drafting and coaching since Palmer took over in 1998 for the return season have been awful. Butch Davis? Wow. The worst part is that Browns fans have argued with anyone who questions the ability of a hired hand in Cleveland. Draft Day is a mess too. Hopefully the Browns can pick something other than a new season ticket package offering reduced ticket prices for 2011.
The one constant that amazes me is the fan support of all three teams. Hats off to Cleveland sports fans for remaining some of the most loyal people who root for a team.
The Mahoning Valley Scrappers are pleased to announce a bus trip ticket package to the Cleveland Indians Home Opener against the Chicago White Sox on Friday, April 1, 2011 . The cost of the trip is $40 per person and includes the bus trip and a right field, upper level ticket to the game.
The bus leaves Eastwood Field for Cleveland at 12:00 pm with first pitch at 3:05 pm . Seating is limited to the first 50 people.
For more information, contact the Scrappers Front Office at (330) 505-0000 or visit www.mvscrappers.com for a registration form.
Asdrubal Cabrera has started his path back to the Cleveland Indians. Cabrera is playing two rehab games with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers before moving on to Akron to finish the transition back to the majors. Cabrera is anxious to return to the big team, but understands the process and expectations placed upon him before he can be re-promoted.
Cabrera talked about how the arm feels and his physical status. “I feel really good right now. I feel like I am getting stronger and have been improving. I don’t know exactly how many more games I have to play when I go to Akron, but I think it is more than two.” Indians Coach Manny Acta said he wanted Cabrera to have 30 at-bats before a call-up. If the timetable of four at-bats per game holds true, Cabrera would be set to be recalled on Wednesday, July 21.
“It’s been hard for me to watch the games on television and the team [Indians] have not been doing very well, so I am anxious to get back in there”, said Cabrera. “I want to get the rehab done as soon as I can so I can get back. That is the first extended injury of my career and it happens when you play this game hard.”
Cabrera who was escorted to Niles, Ohio by family talked about their presence through a hard time. “That was my dad, my wife, and my son. My dad is my number one fan and my family has been very supportive through this. They have followed me wherever I have gone.”
The AL All-Star SS is back, and he looks primed to aid a flailing franchise back to respectability. In Monday’s Scrapper game, Cabrera was 1-3 with a 2-run double in his third and final at-bat of the evening.
Call it luck by proximity. The Mahoning Valley Scrappers games are played by younger prospects who hope to make their way to Cleveland someday. This week, the script has been flipped and Asdrubal Cabrera is in town for a couple of nights to begin a rehab assignment before joining the Indians later this week. Hudson Valley rose to the challenge, handing the Scrappers a 10-5 setback, the fourth loss in a row for Mahoning Valley.
Cabrera started at shortstop and played five innings. He turned a sweet looking double play to end the second inning. At the plate, Asdrubal was 1-3 with a two-run double in his third at-bat. Scrappers Manager Travis Fryman said that Cabrera would play five innings the first night and DH on Tuesday for no more than four AB’s.
Scrapper starter Owen Dew came into the game having pitched 17 innings and only giving up one earned run. Dew reminds me of Tim Lincecum – very skinny, number 40, hair a little longer than usual… Hudson Valley was not intimidated by the resemblance or the numbers and tagged Dew for four runs in their first at-bat. The big blow was a Derek Dietrich 3-run homer.
Diego Seastrunk closed the lead to 4-1 when he connected for a solo shot in the bottom of the third. Cabrera followed that with his 2-run double in the fifth, and Giovanny Urshela, who has been heating up at the plate, hit a sac fly later in the same inning to tie the game at four runs apiece. Seastrunk commented on Wyatt Torregas being promoted to AAA, thus opening the door for him to garner more playing time. “I have mixed emotions, on one hand I will get more playing time, but I’m really gonna miss Wyatt, he was like my mentor.”
Dew, who had appeared to settle down, got into trouble in the sixth. Call it failing the “Wunderlich” test, as Phil Wunderlich smashed a Dew offering deep into right center, narrowly missing the scoreboard and handing the Renegades a 6-4 lead. Wunderlich later connected for a three-run double off of Scrapper reliever James Reichenbach in the seventh to push the lead to 9-4.
Dietrich, a college teammate of Chase Burnette at Georgia Tech, had a big night for the Renegades going 3-4 with a single, double, homer, and a walk. Burnette went 2-4 with a pair of singles for the Scrappers.
Manager Travis Fryman is growing a bit frustrated by his team’s inconsistencies. “Last night we had great pitching and didn’t get any offense. Tonight we had enough offense to win and we didn’t pitch well. Obviously, we are fighting a lot of issues.”
Fryman also spoke on Asdrubal Cabrera’s stint with the Scrappers. “He’s a wonderful player and I have watched him for years. He is very flashy and you don’t watch him to learn from him, you watch to appreciate what a good athlete he is. It was like me watching Omar Vizquel play shortstop, I watch but know that I couldn’t do that. People look at me and say, dang, you are not as big as I thought you were. He [Cabrera] does things that I can use to teach, some things really, really well. He came up tonight with the bases loaded and two outs. He battled with two strikes and choked up on the bat for a double. Those are the things I want these guys to learn from him.”
Asdrubal Cabrera is set to do a rehab stint with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Cabrera will be in the lineup for the Scrappers on Monday and Tuesday. Indians Manager Manny Acta said he would like Cabrera to get about 30 or so at-bats before he rejoins the Indians. After Tuesday, Cabrera will finish his rehab assignment in Akron with the AA Aeros.
Cabrera injured his arm and was placed on the 60-day DL on May 18. Cabrera is currently with the Indians in Tampa and has been taking batting practice. The rehab starts with the Scrappers will be his first live game-action in the rehab process. If all goes well, the Indians should activate him right after the All-Star Break.
It happened. The announcement was made Thursday at around 9:35 p.m. that Lebron James would be leaving the nest to fly South and play with his friends. The announcement and ESPN hype show that aired took over the Mahoning Valley Scrappers game for a brief moment. PA Announcer John Brown aired the decision to the audience and was greeted by a loud chorus of boos. Not only that, but it happened to be buck night, so some of the booing was vulgar and malicious.
Travis Fryman spent some time in Cleveland as an Indian and although he confessed he does not follow other sports very closely, “the decision” that Lebron made is another black eye to Cleveland. “Although my opinion on the subject doesn’t really mean squat, it disappoints me. I have always admired a player like Alan Trammel who spent his entire career with one organization. Loyalty, to me, means that both sides give up something. The team was willing to pay the guy, but the player should want to give something back to that organization. He certainly gave his best effort while he was here.”
“We are gonna win here, we are gonna lose here, either way, I am a Cleveland player. I like that mentality”, said Fryman. “I felt that way when I was in Detroit until somebody traded me, so then I decided to feel that way about Cleveland. I am sure it was not an easy decision for him.”
Fryman also added, “It’s tough. It’s been tough on Browns, Indians and Cavs fans for the last several years. Cleveland deserves a winner, hopefully sooner than later. It’s been awhile and it seems like Cleveland is chasing the Cubs. It’s a great place to play and there are some great fans there. They deserve a winner too, every now and then.”
Lebron choosing Miami over Cleveland also brings to mind that three stars who like their numbers and their press have to share the ball. One piece of corn, three pigs, you do the math. How cool would it be to see the Cavs, Knicks, or Bulls, knock Miami out of the playoffs?
They are usually advertised weeks ahead of time, held in the early Summer months, and involve two parties, a buyer and a seller. I can only be talking about a garage sale Major League Baseball team selling its star players by the deadline to insure a “profit” while rebuilding. Some of this year’s advertised garage sales are already listed.
The Houston Astros will peddle Roy Oswalt (above) to either the New York Mets or Chicago Cubs by the end of June. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Oswalt doesn’t get any run support in Houston, but neither does John Santana as a Met. Same song, different band. The Astros may also peddle Lance Berkman and possibly, red-hot Hunter Pence.
Pittsburgh is an annual stop on the garage sale circuit. Unfortunately, all of the stuff in the shed is pretty much useless to families with bigger gardens. I don’t see a Pirate going anywhere unless Paul Maholm stays hot. They have no big salaries to dump right now and what a perfect way to lure the fans into thinking they are seriously rebuilding for next season instead of trying to make money.
Cleveland made out the last few years by selling. They have some players that might be on the move. Grady Sizemore, hurt and all, is a prime target to go. Really, Cleveland has nothing to play for so anyone on the field has a “For Sale” sign on their back right now. The only Indian who should be safe is Carlos Santana (above) who is absolutely destroying the minor leagues as the Indians future catcher.
This may come as a surprise to some, but I see the Seattle Mariners playing yard sale games this year. The plan was to bring Cliff Lee in, use a decent offense and a solid staff to win the division. Lee only has three starts and guys Like Rowland-Smith couldn’t hold things up in his abscence. Cliff Lee will be headed South to either the Angels or Padres by July when the Mariners realize that they can’t get there this season. Ichiro may get dumped as well, I am sure the Dodgers would love to have him.