Results tagged ‘ Steve Buechele ’

Catching up with… Steve Buechele (Part One)

Steve Buechele shakes hands with Springfield manager Mike Shildt on Opening Day at Dr Pepper Ballpark on April 12, 2012. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

Recently, I had the chance to speak with RoughRiders manager and former Rangers third baseman Steve Buechele.  We talked about the off-season, the playoffs and some of his players on the 2012 RoughRiders.  This is part one of our conversation with part two coming tomorrow.

 

Alex Vispoli: First of all, how has the off-season been treating you?

Steve Buechele: It’s always nice when you get away from the field and spend some time with the family and just do family stuff.  That’s what makes the off-season so special.

AV: It’s been about a month and a half since the season ended.  Are you still enjoying your time off or have you gotten to the point where you’re itching to get back to the game?

SB: Oh no, I’m happy to be away.  I think everybody looks forward to getting back to the game but you know, that there are still months to go and the time that you have to spend with your family and be away, it’s very precious.  Once you get back into baseball, that’s what takes up all your time.  I’m sure after the holidays and after Christmas when spring training comes close that’s when [we’ll all be looking forward to getting back to it].  It’s kind of like the swallows going back to Capistrano; you know you’re supposed to be somewhere, you get that itch and you want to get going.

AV: When does it all start up again for you?  The season begins in April, the Minor Leagues’ spring training begins in March; are you out there in Arizona come February?

SB: Yeah, the Rangers bring the Double-A and Triple-A staffs to big league camp. [At the moment, the Rangers have not announced their spring training schedule, but pitchers and catchers reported to Surprise, Arizona on February 22 this past year.]

AV: The way the 2012 season ended, going back to the Cardinals series, was there something missing from the performance or did Springfield just out-execute you guys?  How do you look back on that series?

SB: You know, when I look back at it we had a chance in Game 2 [in Springfield] with a four-run lead] and I think if you had to go back and do it all over again it’s one of those things where I wouldn’t do any thing differently.  I would have felt absolutely awesome knowing that I’ve got Grimm and Wolf coming in to get the last four outs.  But it’s the playoffs and it’s baseball and those kind of things happen.  I think [the Cardinals] played good and I think we played good.  They pitched well, we pitched well and they beat us.  I don’t think we did anything to lose the series.  I look back and I’m super-proud of my guys and the way we played.  Obviously we all wished we could have won the championship but to get there with the group that we had was awesome.

AV: You can even see in this ridiculous Major League Baseball postseason the fact that momentum seems to carry such weight and it seems like it’s even more difficult to stop when you have it on your side.  Especially when you’re at home like Springfield was in that Game 2.

SB: Well I think the momentum thing that you talk about, it probably applies more to that Corpus Christi series than anything else.  To me, looking back, winning one game in Corpus Christi may have been one of our best accomplishments of the year.  That’s a really tough place to play.  The fans came out for the playoffs.  Usually in the Minor Leagues stadiums are not full, they’re more toward the empty side.  But Corpus Christi’s ballpark was full, they had the rally towels and just the atmosphere that was there in that game… You’re thinking you’ve got to play three of them there and we’re going to have a tough time getting through this.  But to win that series [in three games] I think was a huge accomplishment for us.

AV: When you look back at the last game of the year, do you think about what could have been based on that controversial call that happened, down 2-0 in the eighth inning with Leury Garcia getting called out on the close play at first base and then Chris McGuiness then hitting the home run on the very next pitch?

SB: Yeah you can think about it.  But you know what?  Had Leury Garcia been called safe, they probably would have pitched McGuiness a little bit differently too.  Those are the things in baseball that, the way they happen and what ends up happening, you look at it in a very general way and think, “Oh gosh, that would have been a two-run homer.”  I guarantee you had Leury been called safe and been on first base they would have been careful to Chris McGuiness.  I’m not saying he wouldn’t have hit a home run, but I don’t look at as if that home run would have definitely happened to tie the game up.

AV: Looking at the season as a whole, you really seemed to enjoy this season and this group.  You spoke about it with me on plenty of occasions.  In your mind, what made the group of players as special as it was?

SB:I think it was such a new group and such a fresh group, a bunch of guys coming up from A-ball and making that jump.  It was a group of kids that was just raw for our level and learning and talented obviously, a very talented group.  But you just don’t know how the kids are going to adapt to moving up a level and facing that challenge.  Once you get to Double-A it’s a whole different ballgame as a lot of our kids found out.  I think what made it special for me was that it was just a great group of kids that came to the park everyday ready to play, wanting to learn.  And for the most part, they played their tails off and they played the game the right way.  They took their lumps, a lot of those kids, but I think they all got better and they understand what it’s going to take to move on.

Team chemistry was always high for the RoughRiders in 2012. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

AV: Talking to people inside and outside the organization and there seems to be an intentional strategy of getting good clubhouse guys who are obviously talented as well.  You saw how important that chemistry is at the big league level, the way the players interacted during the Rangers’ two World Series runs.  Do you think that element on this year’s ’Riders team is more of a coincidence or was this part of the plan with this particular group just now reaching this point on the Minor League ladder?

SB: I’m not sure, Alex.  I think when you draft and sign kids, to me, number one above ability is the makeup of the kid.  I think a lot of times that gets thrown in the background a little bit because of a kid’s ability and his talents and his skill level.  They wow you so much that, you know what, maybe you take a chance on the makeup of what kind of kid he is.  To me, that becomes first and foremost is what kind of kid he is.  How does he approach the game?  What does he do when he’s on the field?  How does he come to the ballpark everyday?  Is he ready to go?  How does he prepare?  Those are more important to me sometimes than a kid’s physical abilities.  And this was just a group of young kids that was raw, as I said, they had great talent.  But for the most part those guys came to the ballpark every day and they were ready to play.  What they did in the first half was, to me, very exceptional.

Coming tomorrow: We discuss Jurickson Profar’s future, what happened to the Rangers at the end of the season and his future in the game.

-          Alex

Season in Review: June

On June 15, the ‘Riders celebrated clinching a spot in the playoffs for the seventh time in ten seasons. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

The 2012 Frisco RoughRiders season was an unquestioned success.  The ’Riders won the first half South Division title, finished with an 80-60 record (good for the second-best overall mark in the Texas League) and advanced to the Texas League Championship Series before losing to the Springfield Cardinals.  Along the way, there were standout performances from big-time prospects, thrilling games and terrific storylines.  Before looking ahead to the 2013 season, we look back at a special 2012 campaign that proved to be a memorable one for the ’Riders.

JUNE

Record: 11-16 (6th of 8 TL teams)

Average: .244 (6th)

Home Runs: 26 (2nd)

ERA: 5.20 (8th)

Top Offensive Players: Mike Olt (.325-10-24, 3 2B, 17 R, .438/.738/1.175), Chris McGuiness (.274-8-16, 5 2B, 14 R, .365/.619/.984), Jose Felix (.294-3-9, 2 2B, 5 R), Jurickson Profar (.290-2-12, 4 2B, 3B, 15 R, 2-3 SB)

Top Pitchers: Ryan Rodebaugh (8 G, 1-1, 0.69 ERA, 1-1 SV, 13 IP, 7 H, 18 K, 1.08 WHIP, .159 BAA), Carlos Pimentel (7 G, 1 GS, 2-0, 1.88 ERA, 14.1 IP, 10 H, 17 K, .204 BAA), Joseph Ortiz (9 G, 1-1, 2.79 ERA, 1-2 SV, 9.2 IP ,7 H, 0.93 WHIP, .200 BAA), Justin Grimm (2 GS, 0-0, 1.93 ERA, 14 IP, 11 H, 10 K, 2 BB, 0.93 WHIP, .216 BAA)

June was a month to remember and a month to forget at the same time for the Frisco nine.  On one hand, the ’Riders experienced the high of clinching a spot in the postseason, an extreme power surge by Mike Olt, a direct promotion to the big leagues of Justin Grimm and the sight of a former Major League All-Star wearing a Frisco uniform.  On the other hand, however, the team’s 11-16 record was by far its worst of the season and Steve Buechele’s club was hurt by sudden roster turnover, a sluggish offense and underwhelming pitching.

Roy Oswalt started on June 12 for the ‘Riders in a game that lasted nearly five hours. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

No doubt about it, June was eventful for reasons both good and bad.  To paraphrase Buechele, it was evident that the RoughRiders, after two months of stellar play, were coming back to the pack as many players were forced to make their first true adjustments since joining the Texas League.  The letdown factor after securing a playoff spot was evident and the relative inexperience of the team allowed the funk to permeate longer than it probably should have.

Still, the ’Riders were in an enviable position after finishing the first half with the best record in the Texas League.   Frisco and Tulsa earned the right to play a little more relaxed in the second half, knowing that they were the only two teams guaranteed to keep playing after Labor Day.

TIMELINE:

June 1: After ripping off ten straight wins to begin the season, Barret Loux gets his first no-decision of the year.  He and future 2012 big leaguer Edwar Cabrera of Tulsa pitched to a 3-3 stalemate before Ryan Strausborger sent Frisco to a 4-3 walk-off victory with an RBI single in the ninth inning.  The win secured the ’Riders’ first series sweep of the season.  In the game, Mike Olt goes 3-for-4 with two home runs, three RBI and three runs scored.

June 2: Frisco loses 10-5 to Northwest Arkansas in ten innings after the Naturals victimize Wilfredo Boscan and Zach Osborne in the extra frame.  Olt goes 3-for-3 with two more home runs, four RBI and two walks while Jurickson Profar extends his on-base streak to 50 straight games with a single and a walk.

June 3: In a 10-3 loss to the Naturals, Olt makes it three straight games with two home runs with a pair of solo shots.  In this three-game stretch, he increases his season homer total from 11 to 17, the most in the Texas League.  Over his last 11 games, Olt is hitting .489 with eight home runs and 19 RBI.  In the same game, Profar goes 0-for-4 and fails to reach base for the first time since April 6 (the second game of the season), ending his 50-game on-base streak.  The streak would endure as the longest of its kind in Major or Minor League Baseball in 2012.

June 4: Profar is honored by the Texas League as its “TOPPS Player of the Month” for May while Olt is named the TL “Player of the Week” for his recent offensive heroics.  That night, Frisco is swept for the first time this season in a 3-1 loss to Northwest Arkansas.  In a reminder of the tenuous nature of the profession, ’Riders reliever Corey Young is released by the Rangers organization.  Two days later, bullpen-mate Trevor Hurley is released as well.

June 8:The RoughRiders rebound from getting swept by winning their third in a row at San Antonio by a 5-2 final score.  Zach Zaneski goes 2-for-4 with his first career triple to extend his season-best hitting streak to 14 games and raise his batting average to .346 (it was .188 through his first nine games).  The triple was Frisco’s 32nd of the season, the most by any team in professional baseball.  The win shrinks the ’Riders’ magic number for a playoff berth to seven.

Legendary pitcher Greg Maddux and Zach Zaneski share a moment during one of Maddux’s visits to Frisco this season. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

June 11: The Rangers name Olt their “Minor League Player of the Month” for May, but the night belongs to fellow corner infielder Chris McGuiness, who hits a grand slam in a 10-1 win over Midland.  McGuiness had just hit a three-run home run the night before.  The offense supports a dazzling Chad Bell (6.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K), whose performance was personally observed by pitching great and Rangers special assistant to the general manager Greg Maddux.  The future Hall of Famer calls Bell’s performance one of the greatest he has ever witnessed by a Minor Leaguer.

June 12: Roy Oswalt, recently signed by Texas, continues his road back to the big leagues with a start for the RoughRiders against the RockHounds.  Oswalt (3.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, BB, 3 K, WP) looks rusty, but so do both teams’ bats as the game progresses.  The contest goes 14 innings before Jose Felix wins it with a walk-off single to send Frisco to a 5-4 victory.  The four-hour, 47-minute affair ends nine minutes before midnight and is easily the longest game of the season.  Complicating matters, the two teams must play an 11 a.m. game the next day.  Midland easily wins that game 10-2.

June 14: On the day the All-Star Game rosters are announced, Justin Grimm is shocked to learn that he will be promoted directly to the Rangers in two days and make his Major League debut in a start against the Astros.  That night, Frisco beats Corpus Christi 4-3 to whittle its magic number to one with five games remaining in the first half.

June 15: Ryan Strausborger’s RBI fielder’s choice in the eighth inning snaps a tie game and the ’Riders win 3-2 over the Hooks to clinch a spot in the Texas League playoffs for the seventh time in ten years.  Nick Tepesch, just promoted to take Grimm’s recently vacated spot in the rotation, allows just two runs over seven innings in his Double-A debut.

June 16: While the ’Riders meekly fall to Jose Cisnero (two-hit complete game shutout) and the Hooks 5-0, Grimm wins in his first-ever big league game down the road in Arlington.  Playing in front of a sellout crowd that includes former President George W. Bush, Frisco’s Opening Day starter allows three runs on six hits with no walks and seven strikeouts over six innings as the Rangers beat Houston 8-3.

June 17: Facing a shortage of pitching, Steve Buechele is forced to turn to a pair of position players to pitch the 11th inning against Corpus Christi.  With the game tied at five, outfielder Val Majewski and infielder Guilder Rodriguez combine to allow nine runs on eight hits, a walk and a hit batter.  The Hooks prevail 14-5.

June 19: Frisco beats Midland 5-1 to finish the first half with a 41-29 record, the best mark in the TL.  The ’Riders benefit from six RockHounds errors and a good game from Majewski (2-for-4, double, RBI) on his 31st birthday.  Brad Hawpe, who played the first two months of the season for Frisco while recovering from elbow surgery, requests and his granted his release by the Rangers.

Fortunately, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar are better hitters than they are dancers. Both had big months in June. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

June 21: Over a three-day period, the ’Riders experience a flurry of roster moves.  Gone from the active roster are: LHP Bell (promoted to Round Rock), RHP Fabio Castillo (disabled list), LHP Tim Murphy (disabled list), LHP Joseph Ortiz (Round Rock) and IF Rodriguez (Round Rock).  Frisco receives: LHP Richard Bleier (off the disabled list), RHP Cody Buckel (up from Myrtle Beach), OF Jared Hoying (Myrtle Beach), RHP Neil Ramirez (down from Round Rock) and RHP Ross Wolf (Round Rock).

June 22: Corpus Christi thumps Frisco 13-7 despite three solo home runs from McGuiness, a new career-high.  After getting hit hard in a no-decision by the Hooks in his last outing, Loux (3+ IP, 8 H, 9 R, 8 ER, BB, 4 K, BK) cannot escape his first loss of the season this time.  It is his first defeat in exactly 11 months; he last lost in 2011 to Frederick while pitching in the Carolina League.  Buechele is ejected for the only time all season in the middle of the third inning while Profar is tossed in the ninth.

June 24: The ’Riders lose their season-high fourth straight game in a 3-2 defeat to the Hooks.  In a matchup of terrific pitching prospects, Corpus Christi’s Jarred Cosart (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, K) outduels Buckel (4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 3 K), who is making his first Double-A start.

June 25: Ramirez (6 IP, 2 H, R, 3 BB, 6 K) makes his first start since coming down from Triple-A Round Rock and looks sharp in a 4-1 ’Riders victory over the Hooks.  The result takes Frisco into the All-Star break on a winning note.

June 28: The North Division bests the South 3-1 in the Texas League All-Star Game at Tulsa’s ONEOK Field.  Nine Frisco players were named to the South Division team: Bell, Engel Beltre, Jake Brigham, Grimm, Loux, Olt, Carlos Pimentel, Profar and Zaneski.

June 30: The ’Riders look listless in Springfield, losing their second straight game 11-6.  Tepesch and Miguel De Los Santos combine to allow five home runs in the route.

Coming tomorrow: A look back at the month of July.

-          Alex V.

Catching up with… Mike Olt

Mike Olt was an All-Star third baseman for the RoughRiders before he was promoted to the Majors on August 2.

Occasionally throughout the off-season we will spend some time catching up with former RoughRiders.  In this edition, we hear from Rangers rookie Mike Olt, who spent most of the 2012 season in Frisco.  A Mid-Season and Postseason Texas League All-Star, Olt played in 95 games for the RoughRiders, hitting .288 with 28 home runs and 82 RBI.  He was called up directly to the Texas Rangers on August 2 but has been hampered by a foot injury in most of his time as a big leaguer.  ‘Riders broadcaster Alex Vispoli caught up with Mike at a recent Rangers home game to reflect on making the Majors and his time with Frisco.

Alex Vispoli: When you found out you were going up, was that a surprise for you or were you expecting it?

Mike Olt: No, it was definitely a surprise.  It was weird how in those last couple of days they were trying to do some [different] things with me, especially playing first base on back-to-back days.  But really going into the office I thought they were going to talk to me about what my plan was because the trade deadline was over, what they wanted me to shoot for.  I knew I was ready, and then when they were able to say I was getting the call up, it was quite the feeling.

AV: I know Frisco manager Steve Buechele has had creative ways of telling guys that they are being promoted, the one with Justin Grimm comes to mind.  If I remember correctly, he was telling you the route to get down to Round Rock?

MO: Yeah, he said to pack my car up and try and head out early to go to Round Rock and he kept the story going the whole time, he probably talked about for five minutes just to stay focused and keep doing what I’m doing, don’t change anything.  And then, just when I’m leaving he’s like “make sure you’re in Arlington in time for C.J. Wilson.”  So that was good, that’s something I’ll never forget.

AV: What are the emotions you’re feeling at that point, where’s your heart at that moment?

MO: Oh, I couldn’t talk.  And that’s the first time in my life I probably couldn’t talk.  I was just really excited.  You always hear stories about [getting promoted to the big leagues]; I have some buddies that got called up and they tell you what their feelings are and you can understand where they’re coming from, but when you feel that [yourself] then you really understand what it’s like, you just get goose bumps.  It’s everything you’ve worked for.

AV: Just in terms of the roller coaster for you, I remember talking to you the week or so leading up to the trading deadline and we weren’t really sure what was going to happen.  You were trusting whatever the plan was and I guess the plan all along was to get you right up there after the trade deadline.  Looking back on it the whole range of emotions must have made it both a little fun and at the time a little stressful.

MO: It was, but I did my best to block it all out.  And I always said I was definitely able to block it out but there were times when I just wanted to know what was going on.  When it was all over with that was definitely relieving, but I definitely did know that I was in a good situation either way so that helped.

AV: You had a base hit in your first Major League at bat.  What’s going through your head when you step into the batter’s box in a big league game for the first time and then you connect on that base hit?  Hitter’s always talk about getting that first hit early in a game to take some stress off the rest of the way and that you got a hit in your first-ever at bat must have been a weight off of your shoulders.

MO: I was nervous during the day but when it got to game time and I got out there and walked into the box it really felt like just another at bat.  I tried to make it as close to normal as I could.  Obviously facing C.J. Wilson it’s tougher to stay within your approach against a guy like that.  But I wasn’t nervous which helped me stay [within myself] and not try to do too much so that helped.

AV:Have you had a moment yet where you’ve taken a step back and said to yourself “Wow, I’m in the big leagues.”?  Have you had a “welcome to the big leagues” type of moment that you can remember where all of a sudden you realize that you’re not in the Texas League any more?

Olt gets a high five from Rangers manager Ron Washington after his walk-off pinch hit RBI single against the Tigers on August 11.

MO: That happened the first day, even with just the crowd.  It’s a totally different feeling when you have 45,000 fans cheering for you, that’s a great feeling.  And then in my second at bat I hit a ball up in the hole and a guy makes a “Top Play” on it.  I get back to the dugout and that was a time where it was like “welcome to the big leagues.”  That usually doesn’t get caught in Double-A.

AV: Unless it’s [Jurickson] Profar, right?

MO: Right [laughs].  No, I would have taken care of him if he caught it.

AV: Has it been nice to see four guys [Wilmer Font, Justin Grimm, Jurickson Profar and Robbie Ross] that you played with in the Minors on the big league roster now with you?  Guys that you came up playing with, to play alongside them has that been a fun experience for you?

MO: Yeah, definitely.  It always helps to have guys that you’ve played with and that you’re comfortable with.  Especially because it’s a good group of young guys mixed with the good group of older guys.  The veteran guys really show us the way and they make it really easy for us up here.  Some of the other guys from other teams that I talk to, for them it’s a little of a different atmosphere.  Not once when you’re here do the veteran guys make you feel like a rookie, so that also helps.

AV: How tough has it been just with the fact that you haven’t been able to get on the field in being a rookie and also with the injuries?  Unfortunately you’ve had plenty of practice overcoming the minor injuries, but it’s still an adjustment.

MO: No, this isn’t the way I want to start my career with something as small as plantar fasciitis.  I don’t even know how I got it; I don’t know how it happened or why it had to happen in the first four days of my big league career.  But I was still able to get a lot out of [the experience here] while I was hurt and on the bench.  I’ve learned a ton and I’m excited to take what I’ve learned and incorporate it with how I go about my business and improve.

AV: How proud were you of your Frisco teammates, following them from afar and seeing what they accomplished without you and without Profar?

MO: I watched every step of the way and I kept in contact with a bunch of the guys.  I knew they didn’t need Profar or myself to win it; they had a great team and great pitching, timely hitting and that’s what we were going to need and we got it for the most part but came up a little short.  So that’s tough but it was a great year and I have a lot of good memories there.

- Alex

Futures Game Recap

The Futures Game is a chance for major league baseball organizations to showcase talented minor league players who could make it to The Show one day. Two minor leaguers are picked to represent each MLB team. Third baseman Mike Olt and shortstop Jurickson Profar were chosen for the Texas Rangers and RoughRiders manager Steve Buechele was chosen as a coach.

Jurickson Profar was interviewed by members of the media before the game. (Twitter: @MLBFutures)

This was the second Futures game in a row for Jurickson Profar who took part in the festivities last year in Arizona. He made an impression quickly. In his first at bat in the 2012 game, he hit a home run to right field to put the World team up 1-0. As he rounded second base, he looked at Mike Olt who was playing third base for the US team and laughingly said ‘I told you.’ Profar went 2-3 with one RBI. He played shortstop for four innings before being replaced by Francisco Lindor. Profar was mic’d up during his first at bat and the video can be seen below.

However, Mike Olt played the entire game for the US team. He started the game at third base and was moved over to play first base for the remainder of the game. Olt went 1-5 with one RBI including a fly out to Profar. Olt was part of the winning team as the US team defeated the World team 17-5.

Mike Olt talked to US team manager George Brett during batting practice. (Twiiter: @MLBFutures)

Olt and Profar were not the only representatives of the Texas League in the Futures game. They were joined by eight others. Here’s a quick rundown of how the fellow Texas Leaguers did in the game.

Oscar Taveras (Springfield Cardinals): Taveras went 1-3 with one RBI. He split time playing right field and center field for the World team.

Kolten Wong (Springfield Cardinals): Wong went 0-2 and played second base for the US team.

Jean Segura (Arkansas Travelers): Segura went 2-3 and played second base for the World team.

Ariel Pena (Arkansas Travelers): Pena pitched for 0.1 innings allowing seven hits and eight runs for the World team.

Nolan Arenado (Tulsa Drillers): Arenado went 1-3 and played third base for the US team.

Jonathan Singleton (Corpus Christi Hooks): Singleton went 3-4 with one RBI. He split time at first base and left field for the US team.

Michael Choice (Midland RockHounds): Choice went 0-2 and played left field for the US team.

Ali Solis (San Antonio Missions): Solis went 0-1 and played catcher for the World team.

Written by Jarah Wright

Draft Diaries: The Beginning and the End

Major League Baseball holds their annual Amateur Draft from June 4 through the 6 this week, and we have decided to get a look from different angles on the Frisco RoughRiders. A very low percentage of draft picks ever reach the Major Leagues and those that do never take the exact same path to reach it. There will be 1,200 or so players drafted over the next three days and a large majority of them will likely never make it to Double-A, let alone the Big Leagues. Here are stories from those that have or have played roles in those that have.

On Monday night Major League Baseball held the first round and supplemental rounds of the 2012 amateur draft. From that point through Wednesday, the lives of approximately 1,200 players will be forever changed with the words “drafted by ________ in the ___ round”. Some will ultimately not sign, but hundreds of them will move onto their first opportunity at professional baseball. For some, just making it to professional baseball will be a dream come true. For others, it’s one step closer to their ultimate dream of making it to a major league stadium.

The dream that each player has does not become a reality overnight, however, and there are many paths to realizing the goal. Every player, whether it’s one in high school or college, has to have someone backing them both long before the draft process and during the draft process.

In the case of the Frisco RoughRiders, we have examples of both in the clubhouse alone.

When the Texas Rangers selected Steve Buechele in the 5th round of the 1982 draft, they probably had a good feeling that he could be a major league caliber player. But, they probably did not expect the pick to still be rewarding the organization 30 years down the road.

After spending three seasons in the minor leagues, Buechele made his debut on July 19th, 1985. He would become an 11 year major league veteran amassing 1,046 hits, 137 home runs, 547 RBI, and 501 runs over that time. In his third season as Frisco’s manager Steve Buechele has made an impact on the game both on the field as a player and on the field as a coach. He also has made an impact as a father.

“Well I think it’s…you’ll hear things. Every player no matter who they are unless they’re just a bona fide number one pick, I think will always hear something. You’ll go in the top three, the top seven, top ten, top fifteen, whatever it is, you know, and I think just to take everything with a grain of salt because you never know what’s going to happen on draft day,” Steve Buechele said about the difference of having gone through the draft process himself.

In the 2010 draft, the Texas Rangers selected Garrett Buechele out of the University of Oklahoma with their 18th round pick. After not signing and returning for another year, Garrett was taken by the San Francisco Giants in the 14th round of the 2011 draft at which point he signed.

“I think for us, you know, he went…one year he was drafted by the Rangers, it was kind of neat,” Buechele said when asked about the feeling of seeing his son getting drafted, “But he went back to school and then last year when he was drafted by the Giants our reaction was we were just happy that he was going to get a chance to play baseball which is what he’s always wanted to do.”

While the player can have the talent and the parent can help the son, baseball players would not be as easy to find without the help of the scout and coach. In Frisco, we have one person who has done both, in James Vilade.

During his career as a college baseball coach at the University of Dallas and UT-Tyler, James Vilade went 348-117 and helped over 50 players make it to professional baseball in twelve seasons as a college coach. Since then Vilade has worked as an area scout for the Florida Marlins and currently is a part-time scout for the Texas Rangers as well as an assistant hitting coach for the Frisco RoughRiders.

Asked about how it feels as a coach to see players make it: “It’s exciting. I mean from the standpoint of where I am now with player development and also scouting, it’s a unique position on its own but Monday night I was with Elvis Andrus at the Ballpark in Arlington. It’s nice to see guys make it. It really is so it’s nice to see guys accomplish their goals and our job is to develop guys and get them to Arlington. It’s rewarding when they do.”

Draft day for many baseball fans happens quickly and before you know it it’s over and you might not hear of 90% of the players ever again. For scouts, however, especially on the amateur side, the draft is a yearlong process, if not more.

The chain of command is long and winded as well. From the area scouts to the crosscheckers to national supervisors, the process of getting players recommended can be long and tedious. And heaven forbid a player has a bad day when the scout’s supervisor is there. But, once draft day comes along, the responsibility is no longer on the part of the area scout and now on those in charge of the draft.

“As far as my job, my job on actual draft day, my role really dwindles. It’s up the guys in the front office and the national guys that make the real big decisions so for us working in a certain area, the pressure is off us that day. It goes to the front office and those guys are all working hard and I know there’s hours of meetings and trying to make it the best draft possible,” Vilade said.

It can make for fascinating debates years down the road. Take for instance a very interesting tweet by former Houston Astro C.J. Nitkowski ( @CJNitkowski ):

“18th anniversary of me being taken 9th overall in the MLB draft. I often reminisce about how many people were fired over that decision.”

And that comes from somebody that appeared in 336 big league games.

Written By: Michael Damman

Sundays with Steve Buechele: May 6

Every Sunday Frisco broadcaster Alex Vispoli sits down with manager Steve Buechele to talk about important events that took place during the week. Learn about what Buechele said about the series against Midland and San Antonio, Mini-Me, and the athletic approach to pitching.

Vispoli: Steve, last night’s game was a little bit of a strange way that it turned there in the seventh inning but I think it says something about the way this team has just been able to pull out these one-run games, the blowouts, the close games. It’s just a team that can win in any sort of fashion.

Buechele: Well yeah it was a little unique last night. We gave them the go-ahead run on a wild pitch and they come right back and give us the tying run on a wild pitch and then we battle. We get a couple, you know, soft singles but that’s what we needed at the time and give the guys credit. They never hung their head or gave up last night and it was a well-pitched game on both sides and I think you’ll see that in the series. They’re a much-improved team over last year. They’ve got some pitching this year.

Vispoli: And this is a team that you’re going to be fighting with for first place during this first half it looks like. These two teams Frisco and Midland are the two that have sort of separated themselves here through the first 30 or so ball games. Does it set any sort of standard here, the way you move forward? Is this a tone-setting series moving forward?

Buechele: You know, I don’t know. I think the kids in the room, the players, they know where they stand. I think they keep an eye on it and so do we. I mean we look at it and I’m not really concerned at this point. The fact that we’re playing good baseball that, you know, we saw Jake Brigham battle against one of the best pitchers from Midland who’s one of the tops in the league and Briggie is one of the tops in the league too and he battled him pitch for pitch and you know our guys did what they had to do to win. It was certainly a nice sign to see that.

Vispoli: You look at the way the bullpen has pitched and they’ve been tremendous this season in maybe getting into situations but getting out of them, it seems, has really been the key for them. Joseph Ortiz last night five batters, five up, five down, a couple of strikeouts to get out of that eighth inning. It seems like Ortiz can come into a game at any spot whether it’s set-up or end of ballgame, he can pitch in those pressure spots and he does it with the unconventional stature that you don’t normally see of a baseball player.

Buechele: Yeah. You’re right. We call him Mini-Me. Mini has been very good and it certainly gives us another option for someone to close the game out after Yan. Jeff likes to rest the guys and I’m in full agreement with that too and you’ll see Yan go back-to-back days every now and then but he had a 28 pitch load the night before in San Antonio and an inning and a third I believe and, you know, warranted a day off yesterday so we knew we would close with Mini and he did a great job but give a lot of credit to the bullpen and the starters. I couldn’t be happier with the way our pitching has gone but like you said the bullpen has come into some pretty tough situations, worked their way out of it and they’ve also created some tough situations for themselves but had enough composure and poise to work themselves out of it as well.

Vispoli: With Ortiz, where does it seem like his 92 mile an hour fastball comes from a guy who does not have that standard frame that you look for in a pitcher but he throws pretty hard and for a left-hander?

Buechele: Yeah, well he’s got a good arm. I think sometimes you get the shorter stature pitchers that when they throw hard and the ball doesn’t have the tilt, sometimes it looks better than it really is when the ball’s up. I think what separates Mini or gives him a great chance to succeed is he has a very good slider that he can throw to lefties or righties and he’s shown a really good changeup which I haven’t seen, I didn’t see in spring training. It’s kind of popped up these last couple outings but it’s also very good so he has three good pitches.

Vispoli: Earlier this week you won three out of four in San Antonio. You were remarking to me a little bit that that had been a house of horrors over the last few seasons. I looked up the numbers, 5 and 15 over the last 20 ballgames. It’s big to go in there and get a couple of wins and there were all really hard-fought victories.

Buechele: Yeah and that’s how that field plays. The wind blows in scoring runs, comes at a premium there and they’ve had good teams the last couple of years. We’ve played good but found a way to kind of squander it or give up one or two late in the game. To leave there with three out of four was like I had told you a really good feeling. After winning two of them, you almost felt like shoot two of out four is going to be a nice road trip there but to come away with three was great.

Vispoli: Your starter in the series finale Barret Loux, you look at his numbers. Six starts and he’s the only pitcher in major or minor league baseball to get six wins out of his first six starts. He has joked that he has been the pitcher who’s thrown on the run-scoring day and he has had a lot of those games where the team has really inflated the run support numbers for him but to his credit he’s pitched well and he’s been able to, without having his lights-out stuff, be able to be effective and seemingly only give up one or two runs a ballgame.

Buechele: Yeah and we need to support them all that well but came through with some runs when we needed to in the last one but he is, he’s a guy that gosh dang it he throws strikes and he stays away from the middle of the plate and he’s very composed on the mound. He doesn’t seem to get flustered but I think what sets him aside is, you know, he keeps things off the middle. These young guys when you talk about command and you hear everybody talk about it, you know, that’s not putting the fastballs or hanging breaking balls over the middle of the plate. The ones he did, they hit for home runs but when he’s throwing good, he’s been really good.

Vispoli: That must something that you and Jeff really appreciate, a guy who’s around the plate but not leaving them right over the plate. He’s doing exactly what I’m sure a pitching coach would like.

Buechele: Yeah for sure. There’s no question about that. You know we have confidence in him as with the other guys as well but they’re going to go out there and suck up some innings for us and we’ve given them a little, light loads these last couple of outings. Briggie’s six last night, Loux I think was five the other day and Grimm was five the other day too because they have been going so many innings so we’ve decided to maybe give them one inning off shorter than we normally would with the off day coming up they should be ready to go and be even better.

Vispoli: This team that you’re facing here, Midland, leading minor league baseball in walks and I’m sure that’s not necessarily lost on you and the rest of the coaching staff. Does that change at all the way that you approach pitching to this squad? Does Jeff tell the pitchers anything in particular or is it just more going about playing your own game and trying to do what the game plan is anyway and throw strikes that aren’t hittable pitches?

Buechele: You know I think maybe they’ve changed as an organization, their approach of maybe taking a few more pitches but it certainly doesn’t affect our approach as pitchers. Mike Maddux stresses it and Jeff does here as we do at all the levels that strike one is the most important to get ahead of these guys and make them swing the bat. They walk a lot. They strike out as well so I think working ahead and getting favorable counts for the pitcher is huge and Briggie was great last night. I think he had two strikes on something like 18 out of 21 hitters that he had faced so you know I think getting ahead of these guys and then making them hit your pitch is key.

Vispoli: I’m interested in your take on that, not necessarily for what you think about what Oakland does with its approach but what you think about taking pitches at this level. I’ve heard two different ways of thinking. You take a lot of pitches. You put yourself in a position to get on base, the more saber metric way of looking at things and then there’s the thought well if you don’t swing at this early point in your development, you’re not going to learn how to swing enough when you get up to the big leagues. What is your thought on taking pitches and when do you get into more of the nuance of your at-bats versus discovering where you’re swing is?

Beuchele: Well I don’t know if I have the right answer or if I even have the answer at all for that one. To me, 0-0 count is a great count to hit, you know, and you don’t see very many guys taking advantage of that first pitch fastball. I think it becomes an individual thing as to how they develop. You can be an Ian Kinsler and take a lot of pitches or you can be a Josh Hamilton and go up there and swing at the first couple ones so I think it’s an individual thing and we obviously stress swinging at strikes and I think that’s the key to the whole thing. If you’re swinging at balls, you’re going to get yourself in trouble. If you’re ready to hit strikes, you’re going to be successful.

Vispoli: Well today’s ballgame you got Tim Murphy going. Last two starts, he’s looked like a completely different pitcher. He says he is taking a more athletic approach to pitching which I’m not quite sure what that means but you have to have liked what you’ve seen from Tim in the last two.

Buechele: Yeah, the athletic approach to pitching was a quote that came from Greg Maddux by the way and I don’t know what it means either other than it’s going out there and competing. I think that’s what Tim is saying and I think that’s what Greg means too is your going out there and just competing as an athlete and you’re right. His last two starts have been very good and it’s really nice for him to come back today and I expect he’ll do the same.

Vispoli: Well Steve, as always thanks a lot for the time and best of luck out there.

Buechele: Thanks.

Photo Credit: Alex Yocum-Beeman

Wednesday’s News & Notes

  • According to a press release by sent out this morning by the Rangers, the Ballpark in Arlington will be decorated inside and out with signage and other décor to display the arrival of the Fall Classic to Arlington. Today at approximately 11:00 a.m., five large World Series banners with images of the Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals logos are scheduled to be installed at each of the Ballpark’s entrances. The first banner will be installed at the third base entrance.
  • It was announced shortly ago that Doug Dascenzo, the Texas League Manager of the Year, has accepted a position in the Atlanta Braves organization as their minor league base running and outfield coordinator.  Dascenzo, a former major league teammate of ‘Riders skipper Steve Buechele, spent 13 years in the San Diego system, the last two with the Missions. He played seven seasons in the majors after being drafted in 1985 by the Cubs. Little known fact, he was a Texas Ranger in 1993. Dascenzo began his big league career by playing in a then National League record 241 games without committing an error.  I’m sure he’ll continue to do well with Atlanta.
  • In other Missions’ news,  BallparkDigest.com is reporting that the wheels are in motion in San Antonio for a new ballpark.  As aptly stated by the website, “Despite the size of the San Antonio market (25th largest in the nation, third-largest in Texas), the Missions ranked last this past season in Texas League attendance, drawing just 4,202 fans per game. ”  Although the ballpark is not all that old (built in 1994), there’s no doubt it ‘s been beat up.  It would be great to see a new ballpark built closer to downtown San Antonio where there is steady tourist activity.  San Antonio is a nice city and deserves a great ballpark.
  • If you read yesterday’s blog, you learned of my pair of ballpark seats from the old Busch Stadium.  This is where I’ll be sitting while watching tonight’s game on TV.

-AG

 

Game 4 Preview – San Antonio at Frisco

Texas League South Division Series
San Antonio Missions at Frisco RoughRiders
Saturday, September 10 – 7:05 p.m.
Game 4 – San Antonio leads 2-1

GAME 4 BACKGROUND:

The RoughRiders face elimination tonight in Game 4 of this South Division Series after San Antonio’s 5-3 win Friday at Dr Pepper Ballpark. The ‘Riders battled back from three separate deficits in Game 3, but Cody Decker’s eighth-inning solo shot, his second homer of the game, proved to be the difference. Frisco used five pitchers in the loss, four of whom allowed at least one run. With a win tonight, the Missions would return to the Texas League Championship Series for the first time since winning the title in 2007. The RoughRiders are 1-4 all-time when facing elimination in the postseason.

STARTING PITCHERS:

Frisco – RHP Adalberto Flores (5-4, 3.32 ERA): Flores joined the rotation late in the regular season after Derek Hankins’ promotion to Triple-A Round Rock. Tonight will be Flores’ fourth career minor league start. In his two starts thus far this season, Flores has allowed eight runs (seven earned) in seven and two-thirds innings. Against the Missions, Flores is 1-1 with a 4.96 earned run average in eight appearances spanning 16 and a third frames. Flores was a midseason All-Star in the Texas League after going 2-1 with a 2.41 ERA in the first half.

San Antonio – LHP Robbie Erlin (1-0, 1.38 ERA): For the second time this series, the RoughRiders must square off with a former Frisco hurler. Erlin has shined in six starts with the Missions since the Rangers traded Erlin and Joe Wieland, who earned the Game 1 win for San Antonio, for San Diego reliever Mike Adams. The Padres’ front office has been cautious with Erlin’s pitch and inning count, which explains why he is averaging barely more than four innings per start with the Missions. This figures to change tonight, as it did with Wieland Wednesday. Overall this year, Erlin is 9-4 with a 2.99 ERA.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • San Antonio’s offense has forced Frisco’s pitching staff to work in this series. Through the first three games, the ‘Riders have had to throw 445 pitches, or 17.1 per inning. Compare that to San Antonio, a unit that has needed only 353 pitches. This calculates to 13.1 per frame.
  • In particular, Frisco’s starters have labored through their outings. The trio of Robbie Ross (6IP, 1R, 107 pitches), Ben Snyder (6IP, 0R, 100 pitches) and Carlos Pimentel (4IP, 2R, 80 pitches) have ultimately been successful. They have a combined earned run average of 1.69. However, the bullpen has been taxed because the Missions have elevated the pitch counts quickly.
  • Mitch Hilligoss has been the best hitter not only on the RoughRiders, but in the Texas League this postseason. Hilligoss paces all Texas Leaguers with a .385 batting average (5-for-13). The next highest batting average on the ‘Riders is Renny Osuna’s .250 mark.
  • Offense has been tough to come by in both divisional series here in 2011. Hilligoss is one of only three men to hover above .300. San Antonio’s Cody Decker (.364) and Blake Tekotte (.333) are the others.
  • The Arkansas-Northwest Arkansas series, which is now 2-1 in favor of the Travs after the Naturals stayed alive with a 3-1 win last night, has only featured eight runs. Through three games, Roberto Lopez’s .273 average is the best in that set.
  • Low-A Hickory’s season is done after a 2-0 loss at home to Greensboro last night. The Grasshoppers swept the ‘Dads 2-0. High-A Myrtle Beach will face elimination tonight after losing at Kinston 7-0 Friday. Triple-A Round Rock barely avoided a sweep in a 9-8, 11-inning win over Omaha. The Storm Chasers still lead the set 2-1.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

You can catch tonight’s game, along with every 2011 playoff game, on 1630 KKGM or online here. You will hear from Frisco skipper Steve Buechele in addition to former RoughRider Robbie Erlin on the pre-game show, which begins at 6:35.

Game 2 Preview – Frisco at San Antonio

Texas League South Division Series
Frisco RoughRiders at San Antonio Missions
Thursday, September 8 – 7:05 p.m.
Game 2 – San Antonio leads 1-0

GAME 2 BACKGROUND:

The RoughRiders look to even up this best-of-five series after mustering only two hits in a 3-0, Game 1 loss Wednesday night. Former Frisco hurler Joe Wieland held the ‘Riders off the scoreboard for seven innings. Nick Vincent and Miles Mikolas each posted a perfect inning out of the bullpen for a hold and a save, respectively. Frisco starter Robbie Ross struck out a career-high 12 Missions in six innings, but he suffered the loss. Frisco fell to 5-12 at Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium this season.

STARTING PITCHERS:

Frisco – LHP Ben Snyder (11-5, 3.87 ERA): After 26 relief appearances, Snyder joined the RoughRiders’ starting rotation at the outset of the second half. Snyder has been steady for Frisco, posting a 4.15 ERA in his 14 starts. Entering the playoffs, Snyder has notched a quality start in five straight efforts, and he has worked through six frames in his last seven starts. In 12 appearances (three starts) against the Missions in 2011, the RoughRiders’ regular season wins leader is 1-2 with a 3.30 ERA.

San Antonio – RHP Simon Castro (5-6, 4.33 ERA): Castro has made 16 starts with the Missions this season. Since August 1, the righty is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA. Against the RoughRiders, Castro has been pretty solid. He is only 1-2, but his ERA sits at 2.67. He has whiffed 25 in 27 innings of work over the course of four starts. The righty has posted a quality start in five of his last seven starts.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • During the franchise’s playoff history, the RoughRiders are 5-5 in a game following a loss. Frisco’s loss to the Missions last night dropped their all-time playoff record to 17-15.
  • In Game 1, the ‘Riders were only one hit better than their season low of one, which came back on June 22 against Midland. San Antonio’s trio of Joe Wieland, Nick Vincent and Miles Mikolas only faced two more than the minimum.
  • The RoughRiders’ 12 losses at San Antonio have come by a combined 27 runs, which comes out to only 2.25 runs per game. The Missions have held the ‘Riders to three runs or less six times during the two clubs’ battles at the Wolff.
  • Cody Decker finished the regular season with a batting average of .186 (8-for-43) against the RoughRiders, yet he was the only Mission to get a base hit against Robbie Ross. It was the RBI double in the bottom of the sixth, a knock that proved to be the game winner.
  • Wednesday was the RoughRiders’ sixth shutout loss this year. Frisco’s pitching staff has six shutouts to its credit, too.
  • It was not a good day for the Rangers’ minor league system, as three other affiliates opened up their postseason journeys. Triple-A Round Rock lost at home to Omaha 4-0. Low-A Hickory spoiled three extra-inning leads in a 5-4, 15-inning loss at Greensboro. Only High-A Myrtle Beach picked up a victory, 4-1 over Kinston.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

You can catch tonight’s game, along with every 2011 playoff game, on 1630 KKGM or online here. You will hear from Frisco skipper Steve Buechele on the pre-game show, which begins at 6:35.

Game 1 Preview – Frisco at San Antonio

Texas League South Division Series
Frisco RoughRiders at San Antonio Missions

Wednesday, September 7 – 7:05 p.m.
Game 1 – Series tied 0-0

GAME 1 BACKGROUND:

The RoughRiders begin their sixth postseason journey tonight in San Antonio against a Missions team that finished with minor league baseball’s best record (94-46). These two teams posted the top two records in the entire Texas League. San Antonio won the season series 19-13, which includes an 11-5 mark against the ‘Riders at Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium. These two franchises have not met in the postseason since 2008 when the RoughRiders swept San Antonio 3-0.

STARTING PITCHERS:

Frisco – LHP Robbie Ross: Ross earned a promotion to Frisco in early August, and he has an ERA of 2.61 in his six starts with the ‘Riders. With High-A Myrtle Beach, Ross went 9-4 with a 2.61 ERA, which was enough to earn him the Carolina League’s Pitcher of the Year honor. The southpaw squared off with San Antonio August 26, and he worked seven innings and gave up three runs (two earned) on seven hits. Left-handed hitters are hitting just .143 against Ross.

San Antonio – RHP Joe Wieland: Wieland joined the Missions after Texas shipped the right-hander to San Diego, along with lefty Robbie Erlin, for big league reliever Mike Adams. Since joining San Antonio, Wieland is 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in five starts. The Reno, Nevada, native earned a victory against the ‘Riders in his only start against his former club August 25. Overall this year with High-A Myrtle Beach, Frisco and San Antonio, Wieland is 13-4 with an ERA of 1.97, which is fifth in minor league baseball.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • The RoughRiders are 4-4 all-time in playoff series openers, which is also their record in playoff series. When the ‘Riders win Game 1 of a playoff series, they have always won the series. When they lose Game 1, they have always lost the set.
  • Robbie Ross’ Double-A debut came in Game 4 of the Texas League Division Series last year. He gave up seven runs in three-plus innings in a season-ending loss at Midland.
  • Renny Osuna has been the ‘Riders’ best hitter against the Missions this season. In 29 games, Osuna is hitting .328 with 13 RBIs. Frisco’s home run leader, Mike Bianucci, has also enjoyed some success against the Missions. Bianucci hit seven of his 30 homers against San Antonio pitching.
  • The RoughRiders enter the postseason without a player on the disabled list. San Antonio is missing only Beamer Weems, who has been out of action since July 5. The Missions did get an offensive boost with the return of Vince Belnome, who returned to the lineup August 30 after missing a month and a half. Belnome boasted a .327 average against the ‘Riders in 15 games.
  • Three other Rangers affiliates begin postseason play tonight. Triple-A Round Rock hosts Omaha in their first playoff game since 2006. High-A Myrtle Beach is in the playoffs in its first season as a Rangers farm club, and the Pelicans play Kinston. Low-A Hickory travels to Greensboro for the opener of a best-of-three semifinal.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

You can catch tonight’s game, along with every 2011 playoff game, on 1630 KKGM or online here. You will hear from Frisco skipper Steve Buechele and LoneStarDugout.com’s Jason Cole on the pre-game show, which begins at 6:35.

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