Minor League Spotlight: Summer Wrap, Part 1

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

The 2010 season was the debut season of the Minor League Spotlight,with profiles of the minor leagues and independent leagues, along with teams and people that make up these organizations. Part of the success of the MLS can be attributed to the numerous writers that contributed their voices to the series throughout the season. Several of them took some time out after the season to talk about the teams they cover and how the season shaped up for them. Due to a large response, the Summer Wrap for the Minor League Spotlight will be a two part series. Keep an eye out for the second installment on November 16th.

The first article of the Minor League Spotlight featured the great writing staff of Bus Leagues Baseball, one of the top sources for original minor league baseball coverage.

Michael Maher: Can you tell us a little bit about how your season shaped up at Bus Leagues?

Brian Moynihan: “We had an interesting, busy season. One of our writers, Chris Fee, saw Stephen Strasburg and Aroldis Chapman when they passed through the International League, and another, Jordi Scrubbings, went to the Florida State League All-Star Game. We also had the opportunity to do a number of interviews with players, writers, and executives from around the game, which was very cool.Right now, we’re wrapping things up with our 2010 Player of the Year awards.”

“We typically don’t post much during the offseason, but you never know. Our guys are always coming up with good ideas to keep us moving forward, and I don’t expect the next few months to be any different. As far as what’s on tap for next season, more of everything, hopefully – more interviews, more ballpark visits, more book reviews. Just more interesting stories in general.”

Eric Angevine: “I had the chance to go to the Richmond Flying Squirrels opening day game, which was great. Will Georgantas was with me, and we posted some fun video on our YouTube channel. I also got to stop by the Akron Aeros a couple of months ago while I was on my way to Cleveland to see an Indians game.”

“Brian took our player interviews to a whole new level this season, for which I have been eternally grateful. He spent time with Kyle Drabek and Mike Moustakas this season, and got some excellent insight into how they approach the game. They obviously ended up being two of the best MiLB players of the season.”

“Jordi has been writing some wonderful pieces about his experiences in that hotbed of minor-league ball, Florida. I especially liked his write-up of cub scout campout night – it really captured the nostalgic feeling of being at a ballgame with kids. The way kids look at the game at any level takes a lot of the cynicism out of our adult way of looking at things.”

Be sure to take a look at all of the coverage over at Bus Leagues. They were incredibly helpful during the first season of the Minor League Spotlight!

During the season, I received a great insight into the every day life of working in the business through the Birmingham Barons Clubhouse Manager, Jeff Perro. Like earlier in the year when I wrote about the Birmingham Barons, he was a great source when I asked him about his season.
MM: With a 53-87 record, the Birmingham Barons slumped to a last place finish. As the Clubhouse Manager, how would you describe the season finished professionally and as someone who spends a great deal of time with the players?

Jeff Perro: “It was a tough season, but it was fun! This season was different for me than any other in my career, it was the first time my team hasn’t at least made the playoffs. Even though we didn’t quite put it together on the field, we had a very good team in the clubhouse. It was, without a doubt, the best group of guys that I’ve had. It was just a fun, easy to get along with group. I’ve heard stories of clubhouses and locker rooms being tense places to be when a team is not performing. It wasn’t like that at all, there was no finger pointing or any drama of the sort. I think everybody just decided to grin and bear it.”

“Most of the players and staff were glad to see the season end. Not only because we lost a handful of games, but because they got to go home, see their families and loved ones, and just relax. I, however, never want baseball season to end. Sure, there are crazy long hours during baseball season, but it beats the long off-season. I typically take a two to four week vacation after the season before I find something for the time between seasons.”

“I would say that there is a 95% chance that I will be back as the Home Clubhouse Manager of the Birmingham Barons next year. This is what I want to do and this is the town that I want to do it in. It would take something pretty special to drag me away from it. By special I don’t mean “well-paying,” I mean “fun and baseball related.” This is not a profession to get into to get rich, you have to be beyond passionate about the sport.”

You can follow Jeff Perro all season(and off-season) long on Twitter, @MiLBClubbie. He was incredibly helpful with providing an insider’s view for the Minor League Spotlight this past season.

One of my go-to reads on Twitter has been @HeelsOnTheField, the Twitter feed for Jessica Quiroli. She covers the Trenton Thunder, New Jersey high school sports, and writes on her own blog, High Heels On The Field. In July, she answered a few questions for the Minor League Spotlight, and offered a few tidbits of insight as we enter the long off-season.

MM: How did this summer compare to previous seasons covering the MiLB/Indy scene?

Jessica Quiroli: “I’m just learning more and more, and I’m always seeing something new. This year was different from the last, because I gained even more experience. Which is what any writer hopes for with each passing season. Or at least, the ones who don’t get in the frame of mind where they start to just feel like experts. Those types are stale to me. They have no inspiration, but plenty of ego and a desperation to feel they’re better than the guy next to him in the press box. I think Jayson Stark’s a great example of a guy who’s seen it all and there’s still so much energy in his writing. There’s a youthful, awestruck quality to his tone. I hope to keep that kind of curiosity my whole career. If I dig a little deeper, I’d say that the players recognize me more and there’s more respect than before. I value that more than anything.”

MM: The Trenton Thunder reached the playoffs this season, had you covered postseason games before? Do you notice any difference in coverage aside from the obvious excitement of the playoffs?

JQ: “I had covered the Trenton Thunder in 2008 during the post-season, but it was very odd. No one knew me and I just kind of breezed in for a few days for The Trentonian and that was that. I didn’t really have any kind of feel for the team or what that felt like for them. The atmosphere was exciting, but it was just a job that week. This year was completely different. I had been around a lot of those guys all last year and the new guys for a full season, so I cared more and felt their triumph and struggles more. I was also, obviously, able to see firsthand who made progress throughout the season. I got to see Brandon Laird go on a remarkable run. I was able to watch Austin Romine firsthand, after hearing all the hype. It was clear to me why he commands such respect as a catcher. When you just hear reports and are told to write about the player, it’s not the same. While you’re not supposed to root for anyone, watching them get to the post-season and all the work that went into it was very meaningful to me.”

MM: Do you have any plans for the off-season in covering MiLB/MLB/Indy baseball or another sport? 2011 is far off, but any changes for next season?

JQ: “I’ve covered high school cross country the last two baseball off-seasons and have enjoyed that a lot. I love writing about high school sports. I was hired by Ultimate Athlete magazine which covers high school sports in New Jersey and New York this season for feature work. I’d like to continue to cover the Thunder in 2011 and also continue covering the Eastern League. It’s always stocked with so much talent and I find that exciting. What I get at Trenton is the chance to cover one team regularly, while also doing stories on the visiting team, so there’s still a freedom there. I value my relationships with the Thunder, particularly with manager Tony Franklin who teaches me something everyday I sit in his office. I also hope to give my collection of Minor League short stories to a publisher. I’ve been working on them for seven years. My hope is to be known as a Minor League baseball writer and all I want is to add to that next season. It’s where I always want to be.”

Jessica Quiroli is a must read for MiLB coverage, and one of the best sports writers you’ll find on Twitter.
Look for the second installment of the Summer Wrap on November 16th, as it will include the Q&A with a few more of the great writers featured in the Minor League Spotlight, including Jesse Jack of 49th State Hardball and Chris Moore of Examiner.com.

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