April 2012

Coach and scout James Vilade pulls double duty

     Coaching and scouting both come with a unique set of challenges. This season James Villade is tackling both as a Texas Rangers scout and helping Jason Hart with Frisco RoughRiders batting skills. Vilade said it’s an interesting combination and both aspects have different objectives that work towards one common goal.

     “With scouting, you’re trying to identify talent that can come into an organization and have a huge impact on the organization,” he said. “As far as coaching goes, player development is key and being able to develop players and get them to the next level.”

     Vilade was a college baseball coach for 12 years, starting baseball programs at the University of Dallas and the University of Texas at Tyler. When he retired from coaching in 2010, Vilade left as the second winningest NCAA baseball coach in Texas and the eighteenth winningest coach in NCAA history. He credits his players and fellow coaching staff members for achieving that level of success.

     “I’ve always had a great coaching staff and I’ve always had tremendous players and that’s what it comes down to,” he said. “What’s special about it is the people that I got to be around and the lives I got to touch along the way.”

     Vilade said the key is building a trusting relationship between the players and their coaches.

     “I think success of the coaching and player development side is that number one: you need to have a plan. You have to know what your goals and know what you’re working towards,” he said. “You have to develop a routine that’s meaningful for the players that they believe in, that they know is going to enhance them and their abilities. Then there’s dependability. You have to be a very, very dependable source for the players because there are a lot of ups and downs as a player and to have people to go through the ups and downs knowing you have some consistency, that speaks volumes to players.”

     In 2007, Vilade joined Frisco as the hitting instructor. 

     “The first player I ever worked with as a professional coach was Elvis (Andrus). When I reported, Scott Coolbaugh had contacted me and said you’re going to be doing some extra work with one of our players that’s coming off the disabled list,” Vilade said. “Elvis had been injured so I helped him with his workouts and we built a great relationship and a great trust. His year here in 2008 was unbelievable. In 2009, he was in the big leagues so there’s a lot to be said for his work ethic and drive.”

     Vilade coached alongside Head Coach Dave Anderson and Scott Coolbaugh during his time in Frisco. He credits the two for mentoring him and helping him develop into a better coach.

     “For my first time coaching professional baseball, I had some great examples and some great mentors,” he said. “The time I spent working under Dave Anderson as a manager in 2007 was amazing. It really was to work with a guy who has that much care for his staff and that much passion for the game. He might ever know it but the impact he had on me was phenomenal. Scott Coolbaugh was very professional. He teaches you how to reach the players individually as well as collectively. That’s a talent. When you can reach everyone on a team level, on a group level, and you can also reach guys individually, that’s a true talent.”

     Vilade said his background as a coach helped him make baseball connections which have aided him in scouting.

     “My college experience brings a lot of connections to high school and junior college coaches. It’s one of those things when you scout. You have to be efficient. You have to be out and about. You have to make connections so college has helped me make a lot of connections in the game of baseball,” he said.

     It was those connections that led the now Miami Marlins to offer Vilade a job as a North Texas scout in 2010.

     “That’s what got me into scouting and I think the Marlins saw my value of being a college coach for a long time. When you’re an NCAA coach, you’re connected to high schools. You’re connected to junior colleges and you’re connected to NCAA clubs,” Vilade said.  “It’s an advantage for me going into the professional scouting side of it to get me connected to the North Texas area because I’ve spent my whole, with the exception of one year, coaching career within 100 miles of Dallas or in Dallas so I’ve been functioning in this area for a long time.”

     Family played a major factor in his decision to take the scouting job in 2010 and he viewed the opportunity as a chance to get closer to family.

     “For me, scouting was a way to get back to Dallas which is where my wife’s family is and it was a way for us to connect the kids with their grandparents and with family and have a broader support system,” Vilade said.

     Vilade worked as a scout for the Marlins in 2010 and 2011 before joining the Texas Rangers organization in 2012. He is one of three amateur scouts covering the North Texas area. He said there is never a boring day and that decision-making is the most important part of his job.

     “When you scout, you’re continually building a database of players. You’re crosschecking players. You’re trying to figure out who do you want to invest a lot of time in and who’s maybe a guy you follow up with later on down the road,” Vilade said. “A lot of my time is spent communicating with Jay Ennings who runs the North Texas area.”

     Although scouts look for skills on the field, Vilade said there’s more thought behind evaluating a player.

     “As far as scouting goes, we’re going to grade out on five skills: run, throw, field, hit, and hit for power. Then there’s the character, the make-up part of it. That’s the toughest part to evaluate as a scout. It’s finding out the player’s character, finding out his work ethic, finding out who he is, what he stands for, and is he going to be somebody that represent the organization at a high leve,” Vilade said. “I mean holding up a radar gun and saying yeah this guy’s got a good fastball, sometimes that becomes obvious but does he project out over the long haul and what kind of person is he?”

     Vilade said he is excited to coach in Frisco and is looking forward to this season.

     “I’m thankful for the opportunity. To be back in Frisco and be a Frisco resident is really special. It’s fun not only to represent the Texas Rangers but also the city of Frisco.”

Story Written by: Jarah Wright and Michael Damman

Photo credit: Frisco RoughRiders

All-‘Riders Team: Left Field

2012 marks the RoughRiders’ 10th season as a franchise, all as the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate. Since 2003, there have been hundreds of talented players come through Dr Pepper Ballpark, but some have stood out more than others.  With the help of Michael Damman, the RoughRiders’ Director of Statistical Research, we’ve come up with the All-’Riders Team: the best player at each position in franchise history.  Today we continue with the RoughRiders all-time best left fielder.

Michael Damman’s Take:

Drafted in the 14th round of the 2005 draft out of Kansas State University, Steve Murphy hit .283 with 38 doubles, 5 triples, and 19 homeruns in his first full season of minor league baseball in High-A in 2006. He reached Double-A with the Frisco RoughRiders the following season.

Dubbed as “Mr. Frisco” by the press box of the RoughRiders, Steve Murphy played two full seasons (2007-08) and one half season (2009) with the ‘Riders. Murphy was a starter and key contributor on two of Frisco’s best teams in 2007 and 2008. His best minor league season came in 2008 when he posted career bests in runs (84), triples (9), homeruns (20), RBI (87), steals (15), and walks (36). Steve finished up his two and a half year tenure with Frisco as the ‘Riders all-time leader in career hits (319), homeruns (41), RBI (194), and runs (194). Renny Osuna topped his career hit total last season, but Murphy remains Frisco’s all-time leader in homeruns, RBI, and runs.

Murphy made it as far as Triple-A in 2009 for the Oklahoma City Redhawks, but retired after the season.

Up Next: Center Field

All-‘Riders Team: Shortstop

2012 marks the RoughRiders’ 10th season as a franchise, all as the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate. Since 2003, there have been hundreds of talented players come through Dr Pepper Ballpark, but some have stood out more than others.  With the help of Michael Damman, the RoughRiders’ Director of Statistical Research, we’ve come up with the All-’Riders Team: the best player at each position in franchise history.  Today we continue with the RoughRiders all-time best shortstop.

Michael Damman’s Take:

Signed out of Venezuela by the Atlanta Braves and acquired by the Texas Rangers in the Mark Teixeira blockbuster trade on July 31, 2007, Elvis Andrus spent the 2008 season with the Frisco RoughRiders. It was his first and only full season in the Ranger’s minor league system.

As a 19 year old shortstop in Double-A, Andrus impressed immediately as he displayed excellent speed and outstanding defense at a crucial “up the middle” position. Andrus struggled the first couple months in Double-A, but was able to adjust and batted .313 with a .364 on base percentage after the Texas League All-Star game. Andrus used his plus-plus speed to steal a franchise best 54 steals for the ‘Riders. After committing 17 errors in the first two months, Andrus made 15 errors over the final three plus months.

Andrus made the jump from Double-A to the major leagues in 2009 and started 140 games at shortstop for the Texas Rangers. As a rookie, Andrus batted .267 with a .702 OPS and stole 33 bases in 39 attempts. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year award behind reliever Andrew Bailey of the Oakland Athletics. Andrus batted .265 in 2010 with a .643 OPS and stole 32 bases in 47 attempts. He drew 64 walks at the plate and led the league in sacrifice hits with 17. He was selected to his first All-Star game and set a career best in fielding percentage with a .978 fielding%. Andrus helped the Rangers to their first World Series appearance in franchise history. He batted .294 overall in the postseason for the Rangers. Andrus had 6 multi hit games throughout the 2010 postseason. In 2011, Andrus set career bests in batting average (.279), extra base hits (35), total bases (212), steals (37), RBI (60), runs (96), and OPS (.708). He batted .275 with a .364 on base percentage in the second half and walked more (35) than he struck out (29).

Up Next: Left Field

All-‘Riders Team: Third Base

2012 marks the RoughRiders’ 10th season as a franchise, all as the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate. Since 2003, there have been hundreds of talented players come through Dr Pepper Ballpark, but some have stood out more than others.  With the help of Michael Damman, the RoughRiders’ Director of Statistical Research, we’ve come up with the All-’Riders Team: the best player at each position in franchise history.  Today we continue with the RoughRiders all-time best third baseman.

Michael Damman’s Take:

The only current RoughRider position player to make it, Tommy Mendonca enjoyed a breakout season with Frisco in 2011. Mendonca batted .278 with 27 doubles, 3 triples, 25 homeruns, and drove in 87 runs while scoring 75. Mendonca got off to a great start as he hit .345 with 6 homeruns and a .990 OPS in April and was hitting .335 with 19 doubles, 15 homeruns, 59 RBI, and a .983 OPS in the first half of the season. However, during the all-star break, Mendonca learned that his friend was involved in a fatal car crash. Between those emotions and possibly  of it being the hottest summer in Dallas history, his numbers came crashing down to earth in the second half when he batted just .214 with 18 extra base hits (10 homeruns) and a .635 OPS in the second half. Mendonca’s 25 homeruns are still the 4th most hit by a RoughRider in a single season and his 87 runs batted in are the 5th most by a RoughRider, 2 behind teammate Mike Bianucci. At one point in the season, it seemed as though Mendonca would never be stopped on the road as the third baseman rode a 41 game road on base streak throughout much of the first half of the season and he finished with a .304 average and .849 OPS on the road. Perhaps his most memorable game came at home, however, when Tommy blasted 3 homeruns and drove in 6 runs in a 19-4 Riders victory over the Corpus Christi Hooks on July 22nd. Mendonca finished with a 2011 team high 13 total bases in the game. One of the most fascinating and intriguing aspects of Mendonca’s game is his ability to go to the opposite field and not only go there, but drive the ball with power. Of his 25 homeruns, 16 of them were hit to left field or centerfield. With power and a strong arm at third base, the former second round pick Tommy Mendonca has the potential to reach the big leagues within the next couple of years.

Up Next: Shortstop

Player Profile: RHP Barret Loux

Since he was 3-years-old, Barret Loux knew he wanted to be a baseball player.

Growing up, the Houston native played on tournament teams traveling the country playing ball. Years of hard work paid off when he was drafted in 2007 by the Detroit Tigers. Despite the offer, Loux decided to postpone the professional baseball dream and go pitch for Texas A&M University.

“I wanted the college experience,” Loux said. “At that point and time I didn’t feel like my arm was ready to throw every five days and after having surgery [bone chip removal] I realized that. Having surgery made it able so it’s been a big help.”

Loux’s college experience proved to be what he expected it to be.

“I really liked the atmosphere. If you’ve ever gotten the chance to go, you know what I’m talking about,” Loux said. “It was a lot of fun and it like home. I graduated this fall (with a finance degree) and I had a lot of fun playing baseball.”

The professional baseball dream looked to be in sight following the 2011 Major League Baseball draft where he was picked in the first round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, the Diamondbacks chose not to sign him leaving Loux devastated.

“It started out really fine and then it was kind of hard on me,” Loux said. “You know once I found out that they weren’t going to sign me, it took me a while to get over it. But I finally did realize there were bigger things in life and that I was still very lucky and blessed. It helped me get over it and see things clearly.”

Loux would return to College Station and go back to school that fall. A phone call that September announcing he was a free agent revived his hopes at pursuing a professional baseball career.

“That was a pretty happy day. You know when I heard the news that it was going to happen, it was a relief,” Loux said. “Sitting in limbo is probably the hardest part, not knowing what was going to happen. But as soon as I found out that I was going to keep playing baseball still, that was a big relief.”

After receiving several offers, Loux decided to accept the Rangers.

Loux spent his first season in the Rangers organization playing with High-A Myrtle Beach. He posted a record of eight wins and five losses striking out 127 batters over the course of 109 innings before being promoted to Frisco for the start of the 2012 season. Loux says his trip through the farm system has been more than enjoyable.

“It’s been fun,” he said. “You know you have a lot of talented players around you but that makes you better working with guys that you’re competing with but you’re friends with. You’re rooting for them and they’re rooting for you. It’s a really good atmosphere.”

Written By: Jarah Wright

Photo By: Alex Yocum-Beeman

Rangers vs. RoughRiders

Spring training provides the chance for players to prepare for the upcoming season. For those in the front office, it’s no different. Events go on year-round at the ballpark including the recent One Direction concert. Preparations for these events take many people working hard behind-the-scenes to make everything appear to be flawless.

The exhibition game between the Frisco RoughRiders and the Texas Rangers was no different and helped to kick off this year’s baseball season and introduced players to the North Texas community.

Fans lined up at the gates hours before first pitch anticipating seeing some of their favorite players. The teams played before a sold-out crowd of over 10,000.

RoughRiders alums Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus smile outside their former clubhouse. Fellow alum Scott Feldman also played during the exhibition game.

A member of the field crew puts the final touches on painting the RoughRiders logo on the field before the game.

Josh Hamilton is interviewed by members of the media before the exhibition game began. He hit an RBI double in the first inning to drive in two runs for the Rangers.

Company B Texas Ranger David Armstrong waits in front of the home dugout with Daisy. He was packing and throwing the heat delivering the ceremonial first pitch.

Ron Washington takes time out to sit in the dugout before the game began.

Mike Olt signs autographs for fans before the game. The 23-year-old Connecticut native was promoted to Frisco after splitting time last season between the Arizona Rangers and the High-A Myrtle Beach.

The Rangers played a series of exhibition games playing against the Round Rock Express, the Diablos Rojos del Mexico and the Frisco RoughRiders. They opened their season with a 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.

Dave Anderson and Steve Buechele meet at home plate to exchange rosters and wish the other luck under the gaze of the watchful umpires. This is Buechele’s third season at the helm of the RoughRiders.

The crowd cheered for Bridgette Hammers’ rendition of the national anthem.

Josh Hamilton focuses on the flag while Ron Washington bows his head as the national anthem is sung.

The grass berm provided a great vantage point for families looking to relax on a warm, sunny day.

Left-handed hurler Tim Murphy eyes the plate with his first pitch of the game. Murphy gave up two runs in the first inning after hits by Josh Hamilton and Michael Young.

Yu Darvish, the Japanese phenom, threw four scoreless innings and struck out five RoughRiders in his North Texas debut. In his first MLB start, he led the Rangers to a win over the Seattle Mariners.

One of the two hits Darvish gave up was a single from Val Majewski. Majewski advanced to third on a single by Ryan Strausborger but the rally was cut short after a ground out by Zach Zaneski.

Darvish’s debut attracted over 100 members of the media. More than 20 of them were from his native Japan.

Jake Brigham came in during the fourth inning giving up an RBI triple to Frisco alum Craig Gentry. Gentry was 2 for 3 on the day also singling and scoring during the sixth inning.

David Murphy swings and misses on a pitch to Zach Zaneski. Murphy would account for one of Texas’ six runs after moving to second on a squeeze bunt from Craig Gentry, a wild pitch and a squeeze bunt by Jose Felix.

Young Rangers fans take the time out from the action to take a quick picture.

Chris McGuiness and Mike Napoli watch intently for the possible throw to first. The RoughRiders stranded three base runners over the course of the game.

 The vantage point from the Dr Pepper Patio gives fans the perfect opportunity to catch up while watching the game.

Nothing misses catcher Zach Zaneski’s eyes as he points towards second base.

An overthrow at second base allows Charlie Villanueva to slide in safely. The throw was backed up and no runs were allowed to score.

Michael Young waves to the fans with a smile on his face while walking with Elvis Andrus back to the clubhouse. The Rangers won over the Roughriders 6 to 1.

Photos By: Alex Yocum-Beeman & James Garner

Written By: Jarah Wright

Meet the Press

With Opening Day upon us, Dr Pepper Ballpark and the RoughRiders have a new voice, and a great cast of supporting characters.

They thought it would be a good idea to get to know the people that you hear over the airways, tweet you back and bring mass amounts of ‘Riders information out to the masses.

ALEX VISPOLI —Manager of Broadcasting and Media Development

I like going to baseball games.

That seems pretty obvious considering my line of work, but I probably like them a little more than I should.

When you are present at 140 baseball games over a 152-day period, you cherish those 12 precious off-days like every bite of an expensive Texas steak.  Most of the time, you try to find a level of normalcy that evades you when seemingly half of your life is spent on a bus and the other half at a baseball game.  Whether that time is spent catching a movie   or just milling about Barnes & Noble, the point is to get away from the sport that takes over your life for five months at a time during the year.

There have been a few instances where I must have missed that memo.  One July, the team I was broadcasting for in Winston-Salem, North Carolina was wrapping up a four-week stretch of games without a day off with another one on the near horizon.  Instead of using that glorious off-day to find some semblance of a normal life, I called another baseball game.

A friend of mine is the Syracuse radio broadcaster and his team was in nearby Charlotte.  He invited me down to call the game with him and, because I like going to baseball games, I said yes and drove two hours down to Fort Mill, South Carolina (because the Charlotte Knights don’t actually play in Charlotte or in North Carolina for that matter) with my scorebook and collection of colored pens and highlighters (don’t worry, we’ll touch on that later this season) in tow.

I have been called somewhat insane for using an off-day to broadcast a baseball game and for how I have spent my All-Star break over the past two years.  Instead of getting away from baseball for three days, I visited Citi Field in New York to take in a couple of Mets games with some family (and no, I am not a Mets fan, thank goodness).

There’s just something about the atmosphere of a baseball game that I enjoy.  From the competition on the field to the sights and sounds of a ballpark that just seem right to me.  I am at peace when sitting or standing in the broadcast booth talking baseball.  They say that a bad day at the ballpark beats a good day at the office, and I can’t help but agree with the cliché.

So now that you are aware of my baseball-obsessive tendencies, time for an introduction to the person behind the voice you will be hearing from for the next five months on the radio/television/internet.

Me and my brother, young Kevin Vispoli, at a Mets game in 2010.

I am originally from Andover, Massachusetts and grew up going to Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics games (while I rooted for the Bruins, they were the red-headed stepchild of my favorite childhood sports teams).  This season will be my sixth broadcasting affiliated minor league baseball, as I have also worked for the Salem Avalanche (2007, Astros Advanced-A), Lynchburg Hillcats (2008, Pirates Advanced-A), Dayton Dragons (2009, Reds Single-A) and Winston-Salem Dash (2010-2011, White Sox Advanced-A).

I saw Elvis Andrus as an 18-year-old in the Carolina League with the Braves organization and am looking forward to following 19-year-old Jurickson Profar this season for the ’Riders.  There’s a nice pseudo-symmetry to that, something you often get when you go to a baseball game.

Take my word for it, I’ve been to plenty.

GEOFF ARNOLD — Media Relations Administrator

If you ask a lot of broadcasters, most will say they knew from age 10 it’s exactly what they wanted to do. That they wanted to be the next Marv Albert, or Al Michaels, or Harry Kalas-I’m from Philadelphia so he is automatically included-but the reality is…I didn’t.
I always loved sports, particularily baseball, but the way I always planned to launch my post-college career was through doing something most people would NEVER EVER EVER DO. Did I mention most people would NEVER want this job? And hence begins one of the most unusual “I knew I wanted to broadcast when” stories that you’ve ever heard in your life.
When I was probably four or five, I went to my first Phillies game. It was the days of  John Kruk-pre-ESPN-Lenny Dykstra-pre-grand theft auto-and Darren Daulton-pre-everything. They were hoot. A bunch of beer-leaguers in the big leagues. I loved watching them. But I also was fascinated by four guys in blue on the field. The umpires.
Shocked yet?
They were screamed at, spit on, called things that can’t be recorded on this post. In short, they were garbage.
Not the way little Geoffrey saw it. They got the best seat in the house, enforced the rules, worked next to future hall of famers, and got to go to some REALLY COOL places.
So I set my sails, and gradually picked up wind as I got older. By the time I was in college, I was umpiring college baseball. The money was great, and it didn’t even feel like work!
Some of my peers told me, “Maybe you should do this for a living”, “I wish I was as good as you when I was your age”, “Try and go pro! You’re young!”

Geoff behind the plate.

So I listened. And I did. After making it through professional umpire school in January 2011, and the professional evaluation course, I got the call I’d always dreamed of: to start my journey to the majors. Except it wasn’t that much fun. The travel was brutal-and you drive yourself- you worked every day, you ate out all the time, and when things like college reunions, family vacations, and other get-togethers came up? You were stuck. Oh and did I mention someone will always yell at you?
So midway through the summer, I started looking at other options. I was a sports broadcaster in college, and loved calling play-by-play. But like trying to become a minor league umpire, it’s very hard to get started. But it didn’t stop me. I worked, and worked, and worked. And eventually someone took a chance and gave me an opportunity. I think you will agree, its’s a pretty good one.
So if you see me around the yard-a lot of umpires refer to the ballpark this way, and I still do-at your local Jason’s Deli-convenient and delicious- or about Frisco….stop by and say hello. And if you forget my name? No worries. “Blue” will do just fine.
JARAH WRIGHT — Media Relations Intern
Jarah Wright joined the RoughRiders in October of 2011.

Jarah is a senior broadcast journalism major at the University of North Texas where she also serves as an executive board member for the Sports Marketing Association.

She graduated from Tyler Junior College with a journalism degree in May of 2011. During her time at TJC, she was an editor/reporter for the student newspaper winning awards in sports reporting and sports photography for her coverage of the baseball team.

Jarah is no stranger to baseball and softball fields playing competitively for 13 years and umpiring for 3 years with the Texas Association of Sports Officials.

Originally from Tyler, Texas, Jarah enjoys going to different sporting events, playing music, and spending time with friends and family.

MICHAEL DAMMAN — Media Relations Intern

My first baseball game in person came in Omaha, Nebraska in the College World Series.

My love for the game grew when my family moved back to St. Louis, MO, where I was born. While many boys grow up wanting to be a player in the major leagues, I actually grew up wanting to be the General Manager of a Major League baseball team. From going to Cardinals games in St. Louis to working for the Frisco RoughRiders, I have always known that I wanted to be involved with baseball as a career.

I have worked for the ‘Riders since 2005, when I started as a bat boy. I have worked in the press box of the club since late 2005. I took it a step farther by starting a blog last season for the team, http://chatterfromthepressbox.blogspot.com.  This year I am a Media Relations intern and will help contribute weekly to the Riders Insider blog. I have been around for nearly all of the RoughRider’s existence and have enjoyed seeing players like Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, and many others come through Frisco and go on to have success at the big league level.

I look forward to helping out the Media department more in 2012 and to help bring ‘Riders coverage to the millions of Frisco RoughRiders fans out there in the world.