‘Cookie-Cutter’ Approach Out the Window As Mark Mason Develops Pitchers
Mark Mason has been unusually busy in recent days as interim manager of the Atlantic League’s two-time defending champion York (PA) Revolution while Andy Etchebarren recovers from his latest back surgery, but with that stretch ending he will slide back into concentrating on being a pitching coach with a record most people can only dream of emulating.
The 51-year-old native of Canonsburg, PA, which also turned out the music world’s Perry Como and Bobby Vinton, estimates some “40 to 60″ of his hurlers in 25 seasons in the college and Independent ranks have gotten opportunities with major league organizations, including southpaw Justin Hampson, who joined the New York Mets this week.
Few, if any, pitching coaches among the 50 Independent teams can make a similar claim, or point to as many as six protégés now toiling for major league organizations.
“I don’t like to be a cookie-cutter coach,” said the onetime pitcher, whose own career topped out in the Class AA Eastern League (Lynn, MA) in the Pittsburgh chain in 1983. “It’s not only my way. I try to build on (a pitcher’s) strength and understand (his) weaknesses.” While he does have preferred throwing and conditioning programs, “the most important thing (for a pitcher) is confidence. Sometimes, if he is going good, (it is best to) leave them alone.” Whatever the individual’s needs, Mason’s approach seems to be working splendidly for Hampson, who relieved 11 times for York in 2010 (1-0, one save, 4.96) and four more times for Long Island, NY in the same league one season after undergoing shoulder surgery.
The pitching contracts being sold out of York the last two seasons have been at quite a pace with Scott Rice and Mike DeMark among those from the ’11 team and Ryan Feierabend, Shawn Hill and Ian Thomas already this season. It may be coincidence, but DeMark and Hill are the only right-handers. Most are in the upper levels of the minor leagues with Rice (0.00 in his last 10 games with four hits in 10.1 innings) in Triple-A with the Los Angeles Dodgers, DeMark (1.38 in last 10 outings) at that level for Arizona, Feierabend (one hit in a seven-inning start this week) with Cincinnati’s top farm club and Hill (1-0, 4.09) in AAA for Toronto. Thomas is in Class A for Atlanta.
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NAL’s Cedeno Only Yankees Rep in Triple-A All-Star Game
With all of their prestige, the only member of the New York Yankees’ top farm club in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA who will represent the International League when it faces the Pacific Coast League in the Triple-A All-Star Game July 11 in Buffalo will be left-hander Juan Cedeno, who was on his way to a 3-1, 6.49 season in the North American League (Rio Grande Valley, Harlingen, TX) last year.
Cedeno, who pitched in Korea in ’09 and missed the next season with injuries, has bounced back with a 2-0 record, three saves, a 1.98 ERA and a strikeout an inning this season. A mound mate in the star tilt will be righty Dane DeLaRosa (Durham, NC), who has pitched in the Atlantic League (Southern Maryland), American Association (El Paso, TX) and four separate Golden League teams and was in the majors briefly this season with Tampa Bay.
Nava Heeds ‘Track It and Whack It’ Advice
Former major league star Chili Davis has moved on from Boston’s minor league system to serve as hitting coach for the Oakland Athletics, but some advice he gave surprising Red Sox leadoff hitter Daniel Nava at Pawtucket, RI last season may shed some light on the improvement of the switch hitter, a onetime outfielder in the Golden League (Chico, CA).
The Eagle Tribune of North Andover, MA saidDavis told Nava during one batting practice session to “Track it and whack it.” In other words, trust your mechanics instead of constantly tinkering with them.
“At the end of the session he looks at me and goes, ‘What was that little saying…’” Davistold The Eagle Tribune last year. “I said, ‘Track it and whack it—and it all computes into trust it.’ And that’s his saying now. He comes up to me and goes: ‘Trust it.’ And he’s just taken off.”
Uninvited even to spring training, Nava is hitting .315 with a gaudy .433 on-base percentage and playing nearly every day in the American League.
(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball. Fans may subscribe for 2012 at reduced rates at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy his blogs, www.AtlanticLeagueBaseball.com and www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, or comment to RWirz@aol.com. The author has 16 years of major league baseball public relations experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners and lives in Stratford, CT.)