Life in the Minors
Minor league baseball season brings back fond memories
Yes, apparently it is THAT time once again. After seven or eight months at home in Hawaii, living in paradise and enjoying each and every benefit of home, I am back in the very, very crazy world of minor league baseball. Back for another season of 100 baseball games, another summer of playing games in blistering heat, four more months of touring the various motels of the Midwest, another season of seeing the countryside by bus, and I don't think I'd have it any other way.
Sure it means I can't pop into Zippy's for a chili and chicken mixed plate, won't see my family and friends, and I won't be with my fiancee for the next few months, but I am doing what I feel I do best, developing young pitchers and helping them pursue their dreams in professional baseball.
Last year, as pitching coach for the Windy City Thunderbolts, I was fortunate enough to earn my second straight championship ring. This season I accepted the position as the pitching coach for the Evansville Otters down here in southern Indiana. It has been a homecoming of sorts, as I spent part of the summer of 1999 pitching for the Otters as we won a division title.
Several other factors have made my return to Evansville as enjoyable as it could be. Coming back to a true minor league baseball city -- one that first hosted professional baseball in 1914 -- has been a joy.
The community support for the Otters ballclub is second to none in our league. Our stadium, Bosse Field, is an absolute classic. The oldest minor league baseball stadium in the U.S., Bosse Field is a well-preserved red brick wonder of a ballpark. It is truly a step back in time to another era of baseball.
Also this year, I had the pleasure of bringing in two players from Hawaii with me to the Otters. Former Mid-Pacific Institute and University of Hawaii teammates Ricky Bauer and Isaac Omura signed contracts with our team this offseason and are here with us in our spring training. Ricky was recently released from his contract with the San Francisco Giants and Isaac from the Oakland A's. While I was very disappointed to hear of their releases from those clubs, I am glad they made the decision to continue their professional careers with us.
About a week into camp, we were also able to acquire Pearl City High alum Gavin Concepcion from Windy City, giving us four local boys on our club. Gavin, who caught for us last season with the Thunderbolts, has been battling injury problems.
Another very rewarding experience for me has been the opportunity for me to re-connect with my host family from the 1999 season, John and Brenda Brazelton. When I signed to pitch here in Evansville late that season, John and Brenda really made me feel welcome in their home. That year there were five of us living with them and it was a ball.
It has always been amazing that families in so many minor league towns have opened their homes to players chasing their dreams for so many years. When I spent time as a player or coach in other leagues, we always were put into apartments, but the Frontier League uses host families, and it has been a good situation most everywhere I've been in this league.
Maybe it's because they were my first host family, or because they are such good, kind people -- John and Brenda have always held a special place in my heart.
This past February was my first chance to spend time again with my family in southern Indiana. John and Brenda made their first trip to Hawaii for a two-week vacation with some family, and thankfully my fiancee, Michelle, and I were able to spend some time with them out there. We took them around and had dinner with them on Oahu before they continued their vacation on Maui.
As a part of my contract with the Otters, I am to be provided an apartment to live in here during the season. Just a couple of days before I flew out of Honolulu, I received notice from our front office that my unit would not be ready for me when I arrived. Of course, John and Brenda volunteered their home and I've been here ever since, sleeping upstairs in one of their extra bedrooms. It felt so familiar, except this time, it was just me from the team.
And of course, when I flew in, John scooped me up from the airport. He wouldn't have it any other way, and to be honest, neither would I. John even drove me around Evansville for a couple of days to help me get my bearings back around the city. Over the past couple of weeks, Brenda's cooked me a number of dinners, and John has written down directions and drawn me maps to just about everywhere I need to go around Evansville, and they've both provided me with great company.
I'm sure my apartment will be ready for me soon, and I will move out of John and Brenda's place. Sure it will be nice to settle into my space for the season, and finally completely unpack, but I have to admit I'll miss seeing John and Brenda every day. They are good people, the best kind. I know I'm out here in the Midwest, and things are so different from home, but the aloha spirit is not lost on John and Brenda Brazelton.
Brendan Sagara, a Leilehua and UH Hilo alumnus, is the pitching coach for the Evansville Otters.