I had a nice chat with Winnipeg Owner (and Mayor) Sam Katz a few days ago with two especially interesting points emerging.
I knew that Sam and new Hall of Fame electee Pat Gillick were friends, but what I did not realize was that "he (Gillick) got me into baseball". The friendship has had continuing threads with Gillick throwing out the first ball when the Goldeyes opened their stadium, newly renamed Shaw Park, in 1999 and with Seattle (with Gillick as general manager) purchasing pitchers Bobby Madritsch and George Sherrill, both of whom went on the play in the major leagues. Sherrill has had quite a career, of course, with Atlanta his newest bullpen stop for this season.
Madritsch got sidetracked by injuries, but Katz still looks back on him "as a winner." Katz said if Winnipeg "had a losing streak and he was pitching you felt good" about the team's chances.
The other comment that hit home was Katz's overall take on baseball business today: "It gets tougher, not easier", which drives home the lesson about the need to work extra hard to stay on top since Winnipeg not only led the former Northern League in attendance one more time in 2010 and also ranked second (to Long Island, NY) in average attendance in Independent Baseball at 5,654 fans per game. While still an impressive average, this was a drop from 6,180 one year earlier.
Katz, like others I have talked to in Winnipeg, is enthused about the opportunity "to renew old rivalries" now that the Goldeyes have moved to the American Association.
BYRDAK JOINS METS, GETS NON-ROSTER INVITE
Tim Byrdak could well be one of those left-handed relievers who goes on and on. Now 37, Byrdak has been in 343 major league games--every one of them in relief--with most of them since pitching for Gary, IN and Joliet, IL when both were in the Northern League in 2003.
He will bid to hurl for his fifth major league team when he reports to the New York Mets next month, even though his free agent signing was to a minor league contract with a major league spring training invitation. Byrdak went 2-2, 3.49 in 64 appearances for Houston last season. The fact he has held left-handed hitters to slightly better than a .200 average in his career gives the 5-foot-11 hurler an excellent chance of staying in the majors.
His competition this spring could include a more recent Independent Baseball player, Mike O'Connor, who spent a portion of 2009 at Southern Maryland (Waldorf) in the Atlantic League. O'Conner, a 30-year-old southpaw, has some major league time, mainly as a starter, with Washington. He struck out 70 International League hitters in the same number of innings for the Mets' top farm club in Buffalo, NY in 2010.
Monday, January 24, 2011
BUSINESS 'GETS TOUGHER' EVEN FOR ATTENDANCE LEADERS LIKE WINNIPEG
Former chief spokesman for Major League Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth. Six years as publicity director for the Kansas City Royals, and a background in newspaper, radio and television. Started Wirz & Associates, a sports PR and consulting firm, in 1985. Has written extensively on Independent Baseball since 2003.