Results tagged ‘ Roger Clemens ’
The Houston Astros released him at age 24, six years after they drafted the power-hitting first baseman out of high school in Griffin, Ga. Nash made it to Double-A with the Corpus Christi Hooks, but by that time he had been tugged between Rookie ball, High-A and Low-A for five years.
“I was lost,” Nash said. “I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest with you. I had to change my attitude about a lot of things.”
Immediately after the release, the phone calls came.
Calls from independent ball teams from all over the world. Mexico. Taiwan. Korea. Only one phone call mattered: from the independent Atlantic League manager Mark Mason, who received the Astros’ release form, like he does all the Major League team discharges, with Nash’s name on it. He wanted Nash on his team, the York Revolution, out of Pennsylvania.
Nash did his research. Almost 100 Revolution players and coaches, now including Nash, have been signed by the MLB from York. 40 percent of the players in the Atlantic League have already made it on the Major League stage.
This – independent ball in York – is what Nash said “changed [his] whole thought process of baseball.” Where he “became not only a baseball talent, but baseball smart,” according to Mason.
On June 12, a little over a year since the Astros released Nash, the Chicago White Sox signed him as a free agent and sent him to Winston-Salem.
In between the Astros and the White Sox, Nash played for Mason in the Atlantic League, a faction of independent baseball, one of many leagues that enlist former and hopeful Major Leaguers on their teams. They are not in conjunction with any Major League or Minor League teams, but the MLB employs scouts specifically for independent baseball.
“We have extremely high-caliber talent level here,” Mason said, listing off Rickey Henderson, Roger Clemens, Tim Raines and Jose Canseco as former players of the Atlantic League.
The manager describes the Atlantic League as a showcase tool for those in need of a mental or physical fix after years in baseball. Some go after rehabbing from surgery, others have just been released by a MLB team. This is their second chance.
On its website, the Atlantic League, which is the only independent team that has no roster age specifications, dictates that their teams “pay players to win baseball games, not apprentice in baseball’s developmental leagues.”
Mason does not recruit his players to develop them, which is what Mason says to be the difference between the Minor Leagues and independent ball.
“We are instant gratification here,” Mason said. “Most of the guys already know how to play the game. There’s a reason why they’re here.”
Like Nash. He already had a moment at the top, drafted out of high school in the third round. The first-baseman has the tools as a 6’1″, 250-pound power hitter. But the first time around, he was unable to break out of Double-A with the Astros.
The ex-big leaguers in York are the teammates who schooled Nash on the game. He was taught by the guys who did it “old school,” Nash said, who already experienced what he couldn’t quite reach the first time, getting into and through Triple-A.
“[Nash] was like a sponge when it came to absorbing knowledge from professional players that played in higher levels,” Mason said. “The guy talked. Approaches, fundamentals and mechanics.”
A self-proclaimed “energizer guy,” this is where Nash learned team camaraderie. Before York, he kept to himself and concentrated on his own game. With the Revolution, Mason said Nash was a clubhouse leader by the time he left for the White Sox.
“When you are silver spooned, when you’re given the world, you take that for granted,” Nash said. “You lose the love of the game. I needed to mature big time. Independent ball helped you mature and find yourself.”
His newfound baseball education contributed to his understanding of how pitchers were trying to get him out and which pitches to attack. By the time he left York after 54 games in the middle of the 2016 season, he led the league with 15 home runs and 26 extra-base hits. The slugging first baseman also wielded a .275 batting average.
“Now [Nash is] going to find out, [pitchers are] going to approach him a different way,” Mason said. “And for him to evolve and stay consistent, he has to evolve with them. And he’ll do that.”
December is almost here, so the Dash front office is busy spreading holiday joy, hanging out with Santa and gearing up for the holiday season. With 2013 approaching, big league organizations are making some important decisions for the upcoming season. Here are a few notes to quench your baseball thirst on a Thursday afternoon:
- Congrats to Bobby Thigpen, who will join the White Sox staff as the bullpen coach. Thiggy was the Dash’s pitching coach from 2009-11 before spending this season with Double-A Birmingham in the same role. Thigpen was certainly a fan favorite here in Winston-Salem, and Chicago skipper Robin Ventura has known him for his entire career.
- The Sox also announced that Daryl Boston, who spent 12 seasons as the organization’s outfield instructor, will join the big league staff in 2013 as the first base coach. Boston made a handful of stops in Winston-Salem this season, and it was good to occasionally chat with him. Congrats to him, too.
- The only Carolina League team to announce its field staff for 2013 is the Carolina Mudcats, who will have a new look when the Dash open the campaign in Zebulon April 5. David Wallace becomes the Muddies’ manager after guiding Lake County, the Indians’ Low-A affiliate, to the playoffs this season. Hitting coach Rouglas Odor and pitching coach Jeff Harris will accompany Wallace, who replaces 2012 skipper Edwin Rodriguez. The former Marlins boss will lead Cleveland’s Double-A affiliate in Akron.
- The White Sox have yet to announce their minor league staff assignments for 2013, but this news should be released soon. Last year, Dash fans learned that Tommy Thompson was Winston-Salem’s 2012 manager in mid-November, while the 2011 staff decisions were made public a few days before Christmas.
- Earlier this week, the BBWAA released the 37-man ballot for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. More than 600 voters have until December 31 to submit their vote, and some notable (and controversial) names are on the list. A few players linked to performance-enhancing drugs (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa) will prompt many debates on the standards to reach the Hall of Fame. It should be fascinating to watch.
The Dash’s season opener is only 127 days away. We can’t wait!