As the temperatures drop, every player has a different set of offseason plans. Some of them participate in baseball leagues around the world. Others prepare to spend time with family and do some traveling. Whatever happens, things always end up presented in an entertaining way on social media.
Josh Lindblom is all about those cough drops
Josh Whitaker provided a strange truth to the world
Ryan Doolittle was able to produce a healthy, productive season in 2014
Here’s to hoping Rudy Owens brings his perm to Nashville
Seth Frankoff came across a unique sight
Billy Burns gave a shout out during an important day of the year
Daniel Robertson was obviously watching Sunday Night Football
Tucker Healy really likes chocolate
The big news coming out of Oakland on Wednesday was the signing of free agent Billy Butler. The splash that the transaction left may have overshadowed another signing: minor league pitcher Pat Venditte.
While Venditte has yet to reach the Major League level, he has excelled during his seven professional seasons to the tune of a 2.46 ERA in 242 games. The reliever appeared with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in parts of 2012 and 2014, spending the majority of last season with the Yankees’ top minor league affiliate.
The acquisition of Venditte is out of the ordinary though due to the fact that the 29-year old is ambidextrous. The switch-pitcher is a natural right-hander but has thrown with both arms since he was three years old.
The former Creighton Bluejay is the only pitcher in professional baseball that pitches to hitters with both his left and right arms. He works on the mound with a six-finger glove capable of allowing him to switch pitching hands with ease. Essentially Venditte has the potential to obtain the upper hand with every at-bat.
Many fans may remember a clip a couple years back of Venditte going back-and-forth with a switch hitter (view above). That episode forced the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation to create a specific rule.
Rule 801(f) states: “A pitcher must indicate visually to the umpire-in-chief, the batter and any runners the hand with which he intends to pitch…”
Not only can he throw with both hands, but if the opportunity of hitting arises, Venditte can appear from both sides of the plate. While it may be some time til the seven-year veteran gets to bat in a game, he undoubtedly hopes for the chance to do so in a Major League uniform.
Athletics’ farmhand Daniel Robertson concluded his Arizona Fall League with a .301/.398/.356 stat line. The infielder played 20 games at shortstop during the exclusive offseason league, recording team-high marks in hits (22) and runs scored (13).
Robertson was awarded the AFL Player of the Week on October 28 after batting .556 (10-for-18) with a homer, eight RBIs and five runs scored in just four games.
Oakland’s top prospect is considered the Athletics’ shortstop of the future. He provides plenty of range for a middle infielder and even has the flare to make tough plays look easy (see above video).
Robertson is coming off a successful year with the Advanced-A Stockton Ports. With a .310 batting average and .402 on-base percentage, he ended up on the leaderboard for all of Minor League Baseball with 170 hits (3rd) and 110 runs scored (4th). The former first-round pick also showed more pop in his bat than years past, blasting 15 home runs with 60 RBIs in 132 games.
A’s fans need to keep a close eye on the 20-year old Robertson who could be in for a breakout campaign during 2015.
Construction at First Tennessee Park continues to progress. Lights are going up and seating bowls are starting to take shape. Check out more by visiting the media gallery on the park’s website.
Construction on First Tennessee Park continues to progress as the baseball season approaches. Fans have the chance of securing season tickets now to be apart of the inaugural year at a new park. Don’t forget to check out the park’s website for updated construction photos and a live webcam as well.
As the chill of winter begins to set in, Nashville continues to look forward to an exciting 2015 season of baseball. As many have heard, the Sounds announced plans to affiliate with the Oakland Athletics through 2018. A new organization will bring about a whole new set of players prepared to continue the set of winning ways in Nashville.
Fans may be curious of what players could see time with the Sounds in the upcoming season. Stats can help with performance-based questions, but social media aids in personality-grounded inquiries. Listed below is the first “Twitter Talk” segment, allowing fans to see what is happening during the offseason with various A’s talents. Give these guys a follow and keep counting down the days until April 17.
Matt Olsen let A’s top prospect Daniel Robertson know he was cheering him on
— Matt Olson (@mattolson21) November 5, 2014
Sometimes you just gotta laugh negative things that happen off — Daniel Robertson (@D_Robertson28) November 5, 2014
In the spirit of Christmas and postseason baseball…
Is it just me or does Hunter Pence look like Marv from Home Alone.
— Nathan long (@1GiantNatertot) October 25, 2014
I just lost fantasy football this week by the big toe of Antonio Brown — Josh Whitaker (@JWhit25) October 21, 2014
A big welcome to outfielder Andrew Brown, claimed off waivers on October 31
— Andrew Brown (@ambrownie03) October 31, 2014
Jeff Urlaub looks similar to Jeremy Roenick with this Halloween getup.
— Jeff Urlaub (@JeffUrlaub) November 1, 2014
1. Four Years of Moneyball. On Tuesday, September 23, the Nashville Sounds signed a four-year Player Development Contract with the Oakland Athletics. The agreement makes Nashville the A’s Triple-A affiliate. Every minor league team reports to a parent big league club and previous Sounds affiliates have been the Reds (’78-79, ’87-92), Yankees (’80-84), Tigers (’85-86), White Sox (’93-97), Pirates (’98-04), and Brewers (’05-14).
2. New players and coaches. The Sounds of First Tennessee Park will have an entirely different roster from the season before, as Nashville welcomes those players assigned to Triple-A by the Athletics. For an idea of some of the players coming our way, we can look to Sacramento’s final roster from this season, which featured Postseason All-Star OF Shane Peterson and 2013 All-Star Nick Buss. In addition, this MLB.com Top 20 A’s Prospects List provides a good idea of the A’s and Sounds’ upcoming talent.
3. Triple-A Baseball in the Pacific Coast League. While names and faces may be changing, one thing remaining the same is league structure. The Sounds will still play in the Pacific Coast League’s American Conference Southern Division and see each of their seven conference opponents a total of 16 times, including the St. Louis Cardinals affiliate and cross-state rival Memphis Redbirds. As usual, Nashville will face out-of-conferences foes only four times each season. However, the Sounds were one of six PCL clubs to change affiliations this off-season (see item #5 below for details).
4. Rule 6.10. A product of switching from a National League affiliate to a American League affiliate, the Sounds will use a designated hitter for all 144 games. Love it or hate, Sounds pitchers will stay 60 feet, 6 inches from the plate next season, which is sure to lengthen Kyle Heckathorn’s reign as the last Sounds pitcher to go yard (June 12, 2014 at Greer).
5. Minor League Mix-Up. Including Nashville’s switch to Oakland, six of the PCL’s 16 teams have new major league affiliates for the 2015 season: The Giants move their Triple-A talent from Fresno to Sacramento; the Dodgers from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City; the Astros from Oklahoma City to Fresno; the Rockies from Colorado Springs to Albuquerque; and the Brewers from Nashville to Colorado Springs. Thus, per item #3, the Sounds will host the Dodgers Triple-A team more frequent than in 2014 and the Rockies only four times a season.
Nashville is a special city, and its charm isn’t lost on the many who have played for the Sounds over the years.
Keith Brown, who pitched for the Sounds in parts of five seasons between 1988 and 1992, fell in love with the Music City during his playing days and still lives here. He recently swung by for his #LastCheerAtGreer and threw out the first pitch before Game 2 of Nashville’s doubleheader against Round Rock on August 8.
“I’ve made so many memories here, both on and off the field,” Brown said. “This is home.”
It is hard to read the Sounds’ record book and not come across Brown. He currently ranks second in team history in starts (72), wins (39) and strikeouts (333) and fifth in total pitching appearances (153).
For someone with so many highs in his career to choose from, finding his favorite moment in a Sounds uniform may be tough, but Brown didn’t hesitate when mentioning the events of August 6, 1988 as the best. That day, future Major League star Randy Johnson and Pat Pacillo of the Indianapolis Indians combined to throw a no-hitter, but Brown got the win when walks and errors allowed the Sounds to steal a 1-0 victory.
“That one sticks out,” Brown said. “It’s neat to be a part of a historic game like that here.”
Brown and many of his Sounds teammates would eventually go on to contribute to the 1990 Cincinnati Reds’ squad that won the World Series. Brown appeared in eight games for the Redlegs during their championship season, and wound up appearing in 25 MLB games over the course of his career.
He feels that the chemistry that those players used to win the title was developed while playing together in Nashville, and many former players from those years still keep in touch.
Now with the Sounds’ final season at Greer Stadium in the books, Brown is excited for what the future has in store for Nashville baseball at First Tennessee Park.
“I really want Nashville to get into baseball like they do the other sports,” Brown said. “I feel Nashville needs that feel of a big-time facility, and it looks like the new park will do just that. I can’t wait.”
Oklahoma City RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco recently made his #LastCheerAtGreer with a four-game series against the Sounds from July 25 to July 28.
DeFrancesco donned a Sounds uniform in 1988 and again in parts of the 1990 and 1991 seasons. When asked about his playing days at the Big Guitar, the thought brought a smile to his face.
While it doesn’t seem all that long ago, Nashville was a much different city back then, and the same was true for the Sounds.
“[Nashville] is a major city now,” DeFrancesco said. “When I was here as a player it was much smaller. It was still fun. [The team] had a real family feel to it.”
The “family” that he was a part of in Music City featured future World Series champions such as Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton and Jack Armstrong plus other players who would eventually make their mark in the coaching ranks such as Ron Roenicke and Randy St. Claire.
Other players he grew close to over the years include Sounds legend Skeeter Barnes, whom DeFrancesco roomed with on the road, and Dixon, Tenn. native Charlie Mitchell.
With Greer Stadium being the stage where all these players developed, DeFrancesco has fond memories of the building and the fans that would come here for games.
“The whole history of the Sounds is here,” he said. “Some of those local guys, Chuck [Ross] and “Black Cat” who used to sit right behind the dugout, and you could always hear their voices coming from the stands.”
The Sounds’ Greer Stadium chapter comes to an end on August 27 at the team’s last home game of the season. The Sounds will call First Tennessee Park their new home come the 2015 season.
“It’ll be like we’re playing in a whole different city,” DeFrancesco said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”