JaysProspects http://jaysprospects.com A Blog of Toronto Blue Jays Prospects Interviews, Evaluations and News Mon, 11 Aug 2014 20:28:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Anthony Alford: Two Sports, No Problemhttp://jaysprospects.com/2014/08/11/anthony-alford-blue-jays/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=anthony-alford-blue-jays http://jaysprospects.com/2014/08/11/anthony-alford-blue-jays/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 20:28:17 +0000 http://jaysprospects.com/?p=9702 Playing professional baseball can be a tough task with all the responsibilities that athletes undertake on a daily basis. Now, imagine mixing that busy schedule with college classes and football. Sounds tough, right? Well that’s business as usual for Blue Jays outfield prospect Anthony Alford. Juggling the two sports is nothing new to Alford who [...]

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Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Anthony Alford plays both baseball for the Blue Jays and football for the Ole Miss Rebels.

Anthony Alford plays both baseball for the Blue Jays and football for the Ole Miss Rebels.

Playing professional baseball can be a tough task with all the responsibilities that athletes undertake on a daily basis. Now, imagine mixing that busy schedule with college classes and football. Sounds tough, right? Well that’s business as usual for Blue Jays outfield prospect Anthony Alford.

Juggling the two sports is nothing new to Alford who has spent most of his life handling the schedules and demands of being a multi-sport athlete.

“Playing both baseball and football has been good to me so far,” explained Alford. “Growing up I always had to juggle the schedules of playing two sports, so I’m used to it.”

The Mississippi native enjoys playing both sports so much he decided he wanted to pursue both as a future path. Alford chose to pursue football at the collegiate level and baseball at the professional level. His dream of playing professional baseball became a reality when the Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the 3rd round of the 2012 MLB draft out of Petal High School. The moment was special for both Alford and his family.

“Being drafted by the Blue Jays was a neat experience,” Alford said. “It is really nice hearing your name called on draft day. My family was really proud of me. Everybody around town was proud. It was a great experience.”

Being drafted came after being named Mr. Baseball in the state of Mississippi, a memorable moment for Alford who edged out fellow Blue Jays prospect D.J. Davis and Dodgers prospect Zachary Bird for the honor.

“Being named Mr. Baseball was special,” explained Alford. “There were some excellent candidates in the state of Mississippi. It was an honor to be named the number one player in the state with that kind of competition.”

Since beginning his professional baseball career, Alford has spent time in the Gulf Coast League, Appalachian League, and the Midwest League. Most recently with the Lansing Lugnuts, Alford batted .320 with a double, a home run, and three RBIs.

The speedy center-fielder was four-for-four on steal attempts and didn’t make an error in the five games he played roaming the Lugnuts’ outfield. Alford explains how he uses his speed to his advantage.

“On the base paths I understand when it’s the right time to use my speed and when it’s the right time to shut it down,” stated Alford. “I feel I have good baseball instincts. I just let my athletic ability take over.”

Another aspect Alford enjoyed was playing for Lugnuts’ hitting coach Ken Huckaby.“I’ve really enjoyed working with Huckaby. He’s really cool and feels like a mutual friend to me,” Alford explained. “Ken feels like a mutual friend, because the guy that I work with back home was roommates with Ken for five years. From a coaching standpoint I feel he did a great job with me and I feel blessed to have worked with him.”

After completing his most recent stint with the Lansing Lugnuts, Anthony Alford was reportedly approached by Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos in hopes of persuading the young athlete to commit to baseball on a full-time basis. Alford, however, politely declined and has returned to Ole Miss’ training camp for the collegiate season.

Alford is preparing for his sophomore football season at Ole Miss where he has now transitioned to safety in 2013, after sitting out a year due to transfer rules. Prior to joining Ole Miss, Alford spent a season at Southern Mississippi as a dual-threat quarterback in 2012.

“I’m really looking forward to helping my team any way I can at Ole Miss,” stated Alford. “I chose to transition to safety, because I felt it would be better for me in the future.”

“The transition started out a little slow, but it wasn’t hard,” he added. “The toughest part of the transition was learning the playbook.”

Much like baseball, Alford was named the best football player in the state of Mississippi, as he was named Mr. Football in both his junior and senior years of high school.

“Being named Mr. Football in the state of Mississippi was a huge honor,” stated Alford. “Football is a really big sport in Mississippi and to be named the number one player in the state meant a lot to me personally.”

Even though football takes up a lot of Alford’s time. He’s proud of the development he has made in baseball since being drafted in 2012. “I feel my development is going well,” stated Alford. “Every season I come here to play I feel I learn a little bit more than I knew before.”

“After every season I play with the organization, the Blue Jays coaching staff tells me what they want me to work on,” he added. “I take that information and work hard on it throughout the off-season, so my next season can be even better.”

Whether it’s one or two sports in Alford’s future, may he continue to develop and reach his future goals.

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Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Dawel Lugo's Season Impressing in Lansinghttp://jaysprospects.com/2014/07/30/dawel-lugo-lansing-lugnuts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dawel-lugo-lansing-lugnuts http://jaysprospects.com/2014/07/30/dawel-lugo-lansing-lugnuts/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 18:49:45 +0000 http://jaysprospects.com/?p=9536 Every young baseball player dreams of being on the same field with their favorite player. While some players get the chance, very few are in the same position as Dawel Lugo who is gunning to be the Blue Jays shortstop of the future. A role currently filled by his childhood idol, Jose Reyes. Just as [...]

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Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Dawel Lugo

Dawel Lugo plays shortstop for the Lansing Lugnuts. (milb.com)

Every young baseball player dreams of being on the same field with their favorite player. While some players get the chance, very few are in the same position as Dawel Lugo who is gunning to be the Blue Jays shortstop of the future. A role currently filled by his childhood idol, Jose Reyes.

Just as Reyes is impressing fans in Toronto, Lugo is making a name for himself in Lansing. The Dominican Republic native is batting .282 with 16 doubles, two triples, three home runs, and 43 RBIs in the Midwest League. Lugo has also displayed above-average defensive skills, turning 41 double plays and currently sporting a .948 fielding percentage.

It’s safe to say Lugo is meeting all expectations of him which only got higher after an excellent 2013 season split between the Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian League) and the Vancouver Canadians (Northwest League). Lugo batted .297 with 11 doubles, two triples, six home runs, and 36 RBIs win Bluefield before finishing up his 2013 in Vancouver, where he batted .246 with four doubles and eight RBIs.

Lugo ended his season in Vancouver, helping his team the NWL Championship. A moment he said was something he would never forget.

“Winning the championship was a lot of fun,” said Lugo. “I remember getting really happy, because I made the final out. It was a big game for me.”

Working with Lugo the past two seasons, Hitting Coach Ken Huckaby has nothing but praise for the young shortstop. He also believes the fans in Lansing are in for a treat for the remainder of the season.

“Dawel is a kid that’s going to turn a lot of heads,” explained Huckaby. “He’s starting to show the signs of Lugo. Everybody knows he can hit, but he’s really warming up and will definitely start impressing people. He’s exciting to watch.”

Getting the opportunity to work with Huckaby again was exciting for Lugo who admitted that he really enjoys learning from his mentor. “I like his approach to the game,” he said. “He’s very knowledgeable and makes the game fun.”

“Huckaby always has tips for me before every at-bat,” he continued. “I’ve learned a lot from him the past two seasons. He’s a great guy.”

The Blue Jays are fully vested in Lugo’s future, giving the young prospect a $1.3 million signing bonus when he joined the organization as an international free agent in 2011.

“When I found out Toronto wanted to sign me, I was very happy,” Lugo recalled. “I knew I wanted to sign right away. I thanked God for giving me the ability to be a professional baseball player. It was an exciting moment for sure.”

Family is very important to Lugo. In fact his father Ursino was once a Cleveland Indians minor leaguer and evidently, his father had a major influence on Dawel’s career.

“[My dad] got me started and taught me what I needed to know to get to this level,” Lugo said with a smile. “I could never thank him enough for what he has done for me in baseball and life.”

At just 19-years old, Lugo’s road to the major league might take a little time. The process is fine with him, as he has enjoyed every stop he’s made so far in the Blue Jays minor league system and he’s excited for the future.

“Every place I’ve played has been a lot of fun,” said Lugo. “Each city had different things to do, but they were all great places to play with amazing fans.”

“Honestly, I just love playing baseball!”

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Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Daniel Norris Settling In With Fisher Catshttp://jaysprospects.com/2014/07/30/daniel-norris-fisher-cats/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=daniel-norris-fisher-cats http://jaysprospects.com/2014/07/30/daniel-norris-fisher-cats/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 18:03:29 +0000 http://jaysprospects.com/?p=9730 After he produced some very solid numbers with the Dunedin Blue Jays, everybody thought that Daniel Norris would fit in just fine in the New Hampshire Fisher Cats rotation. Perhaps the 21-year-old left-handed product is just shaking off the jitters as he makes the transition to Double-A baseball.

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Patrick Cavanaugh

Patrick Cavanaugh

Patrick Cavanaugh is a 15-year-old sports journalist, covering the New Hampshire Fisher Cats for Jays Prospects. He is also the Voice of the Laconia Muskrats, one of the twelve teams in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He spends his summer traveling all over New England to call the 42 game schedule. Patrick has covered the Fisher Cats for various outlets since 2010. Follow him on Twitter: @pcava12.

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Daniel Norris

Daniel Norris started the 2014 season in Dunedin (milb.com)

After producing solid numbers with the Dunedin Blue Jays to start the season, everybody thought left-hander Daniel Norris would fit in just fine in the New Hampshire Fisher Cats rotation. Perhaps the 21-year-old southpaw is just shaking off the jitters as he presently makes the transition to Double-A baseball.

Starting his career in 2012 with the Bluefield Blue Jays (Rookie Appalachian League), Norris has been known throughout the Blue Jays organization as a reliable starter who can fan batters left and right. He split his rookie season between Bluefield and Vancouver posting an ERA of 8.44, while allowing 58 hits, issuing 18 walks and striking out 43 batters in 42.2 innings pitched.

Last season, the up-and-coming lefty pitched with the Lansing Lugnuts (Single-A) and the Dunedin Blue Jays (Advanced-A). His season record of 2-7 did not give his performance on the mound any justice as in over 90 innings pitched, he gave up 85 hits, walked 46 and struck out 25% of the batters he faced (100). His performance was recognized by many and by the time the 2014 season approached, Baseball America had ranked Norris as the 6th best prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays organization

Daniel Norris

Daniel Norris is now with the NH Fisher Cats. (danielnorris18/Instagram)

Starting the season in Dunedin, Norris was flawless, going 6-0 in 13 starts. He pitched 66.1 innings, giving up 18 walks and striking out a total of 76 batters. After being activated from the temporarily inactive list on July 19, Norris has gone 1-1 with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and unfortunately has had a had a couple of rough outings. In his last few outings, he’s allowed 27 hits and 17 walks in merely 29 innings pitched. The upside is that he continues to use a good mix of his five pitches well, striking out 41 batters during this time. If his past is any indication of what will come later in the season, his record will improve and ERA will drop as his number of appearances increases.

While his next start has yet to be officially announced, Norris will likely take the hill for New Hampshire this weekend against Reading Fightin Phils (Philadelphia Phillies) at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

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Patrick Cavanaugh
Patrick Cavanaugh
Patrick Cavanaugh is a 15-year-old sports journalist, covering the New Hampshire Fisher Cats for Jays Prospects. He is also the Voice of the Laconia Muskrats, one of the twelve teams in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He spends his summer traveling all over New England to call the 42 game schedule. Patrick has covered the Fisher Cats for various outlets since 2010. Follow him on Twitter: @pcava12.

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David Harris Offers Great Utility For Lugnutshttp://jaysprospects.com/2014/07/17/david-harris-lugnuts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=david-harris-lugnuts http://jaysprospects.com/2014/07/17/david-harris-lugnuts/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 19:17:05 +0000 http://jaysprospects.com/?p=9678 Every great baseball team has utility guys – players that can play a wide variety of positions and fill numerous roles on the team. The Lansing Lugnuts have that and more in David Harris, who joined the team in June. With the ability to play anywhere on the left-side of the field, Harris displays above [...]

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Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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David Harris takes batting practice with the Vancouver Canadians (Charlie Caskey/Vancouver Sun)

David Harris takes batting practice with the Vancouver Canadians (Charlie Caskey/Vancouver Sun)

Every great baseball team has utility guys – players that can play a wide variety of positions and fill numerous roles on the team. The Lansing Lugnuts have that and more in David Harris, who joined the team in June.

With the ability to play anywhere on the left-side of the field, Harris displays above average speed with quick hands at the plate. Excited to get to know the speedy prospect, Lansing Lugnuts hitting coach Ken Huckaby discusses what he has seen from Harris since he has arrived in Lansing.

“I’m still getting to know David Harris,” said Huckaby. “David has really quick hands and great speed. David is a clubhouse guy and an excellent baseball player. I’m looking forward to getting to know him better in the future.”

Joining the Lugnuts was exciting for Harris as well. Enjoying the opportunity to play the game with a lot of his 2013 teammates from the Northwest League is a huge thrill for the Texas native.

“It’s a blast playing in Lansing,” said Harris. “I’m more comfortable with these guys from playing the game with them last year. I know how they play and they’re all team players.”

Currently batting ..333 with three doubles, a triple, four home runs, and ten RBIs in 74 plate appearances, Harris is enjoying the facilities the Blue Jays Midwest League affiliate has to offer the players.

“Lansing is really nice,” Harris said, smiling. “It’s a great baseball town with an awesome stadium. I feel Lansing has some of the best facilities in minor league baseball.”

The utility player is also enjoying the opportunity to work with his new hitting coach Ken Huckaby. Harris really enjoys Huckaby’s approach to coaching.

“Huckaby is a great guy,” stated Harris. “Huckaby keeps it loose and makes sure you’re sticking to your approach at the plate. He doesn’t focus a lot on mechanics, but more on your swing timing.”

Harris batted .263 with nine doubles, two home runs, and 19 RBIs as a member of the Vancouver Canadians in 2013. He had a great time in the Northwest League, especially winning the championship, last September.

“Winning the Northwest League Championship was awesome,” Harris recalls. “The guys were great and it was cool being part of a winning squad. Everybody wants to be on a team that wins games and it was a great way to begin my professional career.”

Selected in the 36th round of the 2013 MLB draft, Harris has nothing but good things to say about his draft experience which he was able to share with his family.

“My draft experience was cool,” Harris said with a smile. “It was exciting having my family there. Everybody showed up at the same time when my name got called. My cousin was the first to hear the news and he went nuts. It was a really cool and memorable experience.”

Prior to playing professional baseball, Harris played college baseball at Southern Arkansas University. An experience he claims was great due to excellent coaching and advice.

“My time at Southern Arkansas was amazing,” said Harris. “Playing for Coach Browning was awesome. He’s a hard-nosed coach.”

“Coach Browning always told us to never give up and we would have a chance after college,” he added. “That message really stuck in my mind and I’m glad it worked out.”

It was while attending Southern Arkansas that Harris had his most memorable baseball game of his career when he hit a walk off grand slam in the bottom of the 9th to give the Muleriders a 13-11 victory.

“It was the bottom of the 9th inning and I came to the plate with the bases loaded. It was a 1-2 count and I fouled off a curveball for the fourth pitch. The pitcher threw another curveball for the fifth pitch and it hung up a little bit. I hit it and it left the field. It was a great feeling and a great day!”

Hopefully David Harris will continue to make memories in the game of baseball for years to come.

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Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Blue Jays Rule 5 Selection Roberto Espinosa Improving with Increased Fastball Velocityhttp://jaysprospects.com/2014/07/15/roberto-espinosa-lansing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=roberto-espinosa-lansing http://jaysprospects.com/2014/07/15/roberto-espinosa-lansing/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 18:39:56 +0000 http://jaysprospects.com/?p=9706 With a focus on pitching last December, the Toronto Blue Jays selected three arms in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Right-hander Roberto Espinosa was the highest selected of the Blue Jays three picks when he was taken with the 6th overall pick of the Triple-A Phase of the draft. Espinosa was [...]

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Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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With a focus on pitching last December, the Toronto Blue Jays selected three arms in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Right-hander Roberto Espinosa was the highest selected of the Blue Jays three picks when he was taken with the 6th overall pick of the Triple-A Phase of the draft.

Espinosa was one of the youngest players available in the draft, which probably explains why the Blue Jays were so high on having him in their organization. Currently, just 22-years old, Espinosa discussed what being picked up in the draft meant to him.

“Being selected by the Blue Jays felt really good,” Espinosa explained. “It felt good, because it presented a new opportunity for me with a new organization. Being selected felt like a new beginning to my career. It was a moment I will never forget. It was very exciting.”

Starting his Blue Jays career in the Midwest League, Espinosa made an instant impression on his new pitching coach Vince Horsman.

“I really liked Roberto from the start,” explained Horsman. “What stood out to me at the beginning was Roberto’s ability to throw everything over the plate for strikes. Roberto features a great slider and a slurvy little curveball that he can get over the plate. Roberto makes hitters swing the bat.”

After a slow start to the season, which saw Espinosa go 1-0 with a 7.00 ERA and 23 strikeouts in his first 27 innings of work, pitching coach Vince Horsman knew an adjustment had to be made. The former major leaguer noticed Espinosa was overexposing his slider, so he expressed the importance of a quality fastball for future success at higher levels.

“I changed Roberto’s mindset,” stated Horsman. “Roberto needed to understand the difference between playing in Mexico and playing here. I stressed the importance of the fastball when moving up the levels.”

“Roberto has adhered to the change well,” he added. “Roberto is going out there and is attacking the strike zone more with his fastball, not his slider. Earlier in the year Roberto was relying on the slider a little too much. Roberto deserves all the credit, because he has taken all the information I gave him and he’s applying it to his game. He’s doing a really nice job, it’s great having here with us.”

The transition has worked out well for Espinosa, who is currently 1-1 with a 0.81 ERA and 25 strikeouts since the beginning of June. Excited for the increased velocity in his fastball, Espinosa discusses what stands out to him about working with Horsman.

“Vince has a lot of experience, so I feel good learning from him,” said Espinosa. “Honestly, I’m just trying to feed off of him, so I can learn as much as possible while I’m here in Lansing.”

“My velocity has gone up from working with Vince,” he added. “It feels good. I feel more comfortable using my fastball. I have a lot of confidence in the pitch now.”

Roberto Espinosa

Roberto Espinosa was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization in the Triple-A portion of the Rule V Draft. (begreen90/Flickr)

Prior to joining the Blue Jays organization, Espinosa spent five seasons in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, playing games for their Venezuela Summer League, Gulf Coast League, New York-Penn League, and Florida State League affiliates.

“I really enjoyed playing in the Pirates organization,” stated Espinosa. “I feel my numbers were pretty good and I made a lot of memories in their organization. It was a great experience, both professionally and personally.”

While playing in the Pirates organization, Espinosa achieved his biggest baseball accomplishment when his GCL team won the league championship in 2012.

“Winning the GCL Championship is my greatest baseball accomplishment to date,” said the young prospect. “Obviously when you play the game, you play to win, so winning that championship really means a lot to me personally.”

Watch for Roberto Espinosa as he continues to develop his game with hopes to win a championship with his new organization.

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Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Tim Raines Mentors in Lansinghttp://jaysprospects.com/2014/07/09/tim-raines-lansing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tim-raines-lansing http://jaysprospects.com/2014/07/09/tim-raines-lansing/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 18:37:59 +0000 http://jaysprospects.com/?p=9669 The Blue Jays’ outfield and baserunning duties are in good hands with roving instructor Tim Raines. The retired outfielder and four-time National League Stolen Base Champion brings his knowledge to the Blue Jays organization and helps players sharpen their skills – specifically in the areas of base running and defensive outfielding. “I really enjoy being [...]

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Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Fred McGriff and Tim Raines (John Lott)

Fred McGriff and Tim Raines (John Lott)

The Blue Jays’ outfield and baserunning duties are in good hands with roving instructor Tim Raines. The retired outfielder and four-time National League Stolen Base Champion brings his knowledge to the Blue Jays organization and helps players sharpen their skills – specifically in the areas of base running and defensive outfielding.

“I really enjoy being around the players,” explained Raines. “It’s great working with them and to be a small part of their lives. I enjoy all the players in the organization. It’s great helping them; it’s my small way of giving back to baseball all that it has given me in my life. Hopefully all the teaching and encouragement will help them become major league players one day as well.”

Bringing more than just coaching to all the Blue Jays affiliate clubs, Raines prides himself on his experience in the game and willingness to be a role model for the younger players trying to reach the major leagues.

“I’m always there to answer player’s questions,” said Raines.“It’s not like I’m a guy who never played the game. I have over 30 years’ experience between playing and coaching. There isn’t a lot they can ask me that I don’t have an answer to.”

Enjoying every opportunity to mentor the Lugnuts, Raines feels Lansing has a great atmosphere and amazing facilities for a low-A baseball team. “This is a low-A club and the players here never complain about anything. The fans in Lansing are great – especially on Thirsty Thursdays,” Raines said, smiling. “The players compete hard every outing. It’s a great atmosphere for baseball.”

Playing a game with my son was the number one moment of my career

Another aspect Raines enjoys is Lansing’s coaching staff which features two familiar faces from his playing days. “I love hanging out with these guys. John Tamargo is awesome. I played the game against Vince Horsman and Ken Huckaby. It’s a great situation because you know them as players and coaches. I look forward to coming here every time.”

Having spent a lot of time in Canada during his 13 seasons with the Montreal Expos starting in 1979, Raines discusses how baseball has progressed in Canada in the last 35 years.

“Baseball has come a long ways since I began my career with the Expos,” explained Raines. “You’re seeing MVP’s coming out of Canada. When I first started there was Fergie Jenkins, a hall of famer, and a couple other guys from Canada. There’s a lot of talent in their junior baseball program. A lot of Canadians get drafted every year and you’re seeing major league all-stars from Canada all the time. It’s great to see.”

With a long list of accolades in the game of baseball, which includes being a seven time all-star and a three time World Series Champion, the moment that sticks out the most to Raines was playing a game with his son, Tim Jr., with the Baltimore Orioles in 2001.

“Playing a game with my son was the number one moment of my career,” Raines recalls. “It was the most exciting and unexpected moment of my career. It was the biggest joy I could have as both a player and a father. It’s something I never imagined would happen. The Griffeys are the only other father-and-son combo to play in a MLB game together. That moment was very special.”

Spreading his love of the game to all the players in the organization, Raines hopes mentoring will produce a lot of future talent for the Blue Jays.

“Baseball is my life,” said Raines. “I have been involved in the game as a player and a coach every year since I was drafted at 17. I hope all the players that I’ve coached can take the information I gave them and use it towards their career in some way.

“I love baseball.”

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Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Frank Viola III Developing his Game in Lansinghttp://jaysprospects.com/2014/06/30/frank-viola-iii-lansing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=frank-viola-iii-lansing http://jaysprospects.com/2014/06/30/frank-viola-iii-lansing/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 19:01:39 +0000 http://jaysprospects.com/?p=9676 The Blue Jays made headlines when they signed knuckleballer Frank Viola III in March. The second generation pitcher is looking for a second shot at pitching in the big leagues after many thought his career was over when a series of injuries sidelined his development in the Chicago White Sox minor league system. Throwing the [...]

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Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Frank Viola III is learning the art of throwing the kunckleball. (MiLB.com)

Frank Viola III is learning the art of throwing the kunckleball. (MiLB.com)

The Blue Jays made headlines when they signed knuckleballer Frank Viola III in March. The second generation pitcher is looking for a second shot at pitching in the big leagues after many thought his career was over when a series of injuries sidelined his development in the Chicago White Sox minor league system.

Throwing the knuckleball is still relatively new for Viola, but he is appreciating the transition he has made to get a second opportunity in professional baseball.

“Learning the knuckleball is a mental journey,” explained Viola. “It’s still a work in progress, but the organization feels it’s ready to take the next step to test things to see what works and what doesn’t.”

It’s safe to say the transition is working so far in Lansing as Viola is 2-1 with a 3.54 ERA and 11 strikeouts through 20 1/3 innings of work with the Lugnuts.

Even though Viola is pitching well in Lansing he’s really enjoying the opportunity to work with the Lugnuts coaching staff. Specifically, he really appreciates the ability to learn from former professional catchers and left-handed pitchers, which makes up the Lugnuts coaching staff. Pitching coach Vince Horsman was a major league lefty, hitting coach Ken Huckaby was a major league catcher, while manager John Tamargo Jr. is a son of a former major league catcher who caught a couple games in the minors himself.

“I love the coaching staff in Lansing. They’re baseball guys,” said Viola. “Catchers are my favorite players to talk to because they know the game better than anybody. They remind me of caddies in golf. I might shake a catcher off once, but never twice because they know what’s happening out there.”

“I really like left-handers too,” he added. “I think that comes from my Dad. I tried throwing left-handed, but never got it down. I consider myself an internal lefty.”

Viola gets a big boost from working with his new teammates. He thrives off of the passion and talent that exists in the Lugnuts clubhouse.

“My teammates are great guys,” stated Viola. “They’re young in their early 20’s which is fine with me. I was their age not too long ago.”

“The talent here really stands out,” he added. “The talent in Lansing is just as good as AA, AAA, and the big leagues. It’s just a matter of finding consistency out of these kids and figuring out what they need to do to move forward. I hope with me being an older guy I can impart some of my wisdom on them to better their games. They’re great kids.”

Knuckleballers are said to be a part of a secret club since nobody else fully understands the pitch and what it takes to throw it with consistency. As such, Viola credits his success on the coaching and advice he has received from R.A. Dickey, Tim Wakefield, and Charlie Hough.

“I wouldn’t have gotten here without the help of Dickey, Wakefield and Hough,” he said. “The knuckleballers are in a fraternity, because we’re the only ones that understand the success and failures of the pitch. It’s a very hard thing to do; because you’re throwing one pitch you’re not fooling anybody they know what pitch is coming to them. I’m just looking for consistency.”

Inspired to be a pitcher from his father Frank, the younger Viola is looking to take the best parts of his father’s 421-game big league career and insert his best parts to make the best version of himself.

“My dad was a major influence on my career,” Viola said, smiling. “I think every boy wants to be like their father and in my case it’s pretty damn hard. My dad was always a great influence and my hero growing up. I accept the fact I will never be quite like him, but I can be the best me I can be. I’m trying to take his best parts being my father and combine them with my best parts and be the best I can be.”

Enjoying the opportunity to help Viola out, Lansing Lugnuts pitching coach Vince Horsman is enjoying the opportunity to coach a knuckleballer and impart the knowledge he has on the pitch from being around the game a long time.

“I’m going on what Frank says,” explained Horsman. “Working with a knuckleball guy is harder, because there are not a lot of them around. I’m using information from him and from other knuckleballers like Tom Candiotti, who was a teammate of mine, and from watching Tim Wakefield pitch to figure out the dynamics.  I’m helping with the mental side of the game as he needs to adhere to the mechanics of pitching. The knuckleball is a feel pitch and a very unpredictable pitch. Frank is still new to it, but he’s doing well throwing the pitch and I’m doing well coaching a kid who can throw it. It’s been a good experience.”

Watch for Frank Viola III as he continues to develop the knuckleball and work his way up the Blue Jays minor league ladder.

 

Author information

Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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