Taking Care of “My Guys”

Taking Care of “My Guys”

In nine years of Minor League Baseball, between all the leagues I worked in, I always kept one thing constant.  I always took care of the players who used to play for my teams, by playing their walk-up music when they came in as a visiting player.  Sometimes, I had to get creative, others it

In nine years of Minor League Baseball, between all the leagues I worked in, I always kept one thing constant.  I always took care of the players who used to play for my teams, by playing their walk-up music when they came in as a visiting player.  Sometimes, I had to get creative, others it was easy to do.

Photo From www.mister-baseball.com

Nestor Perez. Photo From www.mister-baseball.com

The first such player, is Nestor Perez who played in St. Petersburg in 1999 and 2000.  The first time I met Nestor, he came into the office to ask a question and we chatted for a little bit.  He told me his favorite song is “Conga” by Gloria Estefan.  That’s what he would get the next two seasons in St. Pete.  That song became synonymous with Nestor that the local stations were getting calls to play the song from some of our fans.  Fast forward to 2002 and I am working full time for the Modesto A’s as the P. A. announcer and DJ, along with working in corporate ticket sales.  Nestor came through with Bakersfield, who was the Devil Rays affiliate after they left St. Petersburg.  Each game that Nestor played, I found a way to play Conga.  Since we played them 12 times in Modesto that year, the song got some air time.

Another interesting note on Nestor, is that in 2014, he was the hitting coach for the Rome Braves.  On that team, Connor Oliver who I announced for when he played in high school at DeMatha Catholic High School.  Didn’t realize Nestor was Connor’s hitting coach until the end of the season.

Photo by  Jerry Hale/MLB.com

Caonabo Cosme.  Photo by Jerry Hale/MLB.com

While in Modesto, there was a ballplayer name Caonabo Cosme.  “CC” spent parts of five seasons in Modesto with varying success, including the 2002 season.  In 2003 he would sign to play in the St. Louis organization and was assigned to the Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League.  That same season, I was with the Carolina Mudcats, working as the emcee and back-up announcer for the then-AA Mudcats.  I only announced three games that season, one of which was a game CC was playing in, and I had my sound computer hooked up to the sound system.  As CC led off an inning, I played his walk-up music.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember what the song was as it was a meringue song he’d asked for in Modesto.  He was appreciative and thanked me after the game, even though the Smokies had been eliminated from the playoffs.

Before I continue, there were several players from the 1998 St. Petersburg Devil Rays who I announced for in 1999 on a fill-in basis with the Orlando Rays.  I’m not really focusing anything on those players because it’s a natural progression.

Photo from www.baseballcamps.com

Brian Becker.  Photo from www.baseballcamps.com

You’ll see a lot of connections to my time in St. Petersburg because I was there for three years and several players would wind up crossing my path years later.  Another of those players was Brian Becker.  Brian earned the Chicken Dance as his walk-up song when, one night in St. Pete, he went bowling with the staff in 1998.  During the outing, the song started and he did a dance that was so memorable, the next day the staff begged to have it played for him when he came up.  I did, and it stuck.  He would go on to play for Orlando where it was revived in 1999 for the few games and playoffs.  After that, he thought he’d probably never hear that song walking to the plate again.

That was, until 2004 when he was playing for Winston-Salem in the White Sox Organization.  I was announcing the final season of the Potomac Cannons (they would change to the Potomac Nationals the next year) which featured a few future Major League players including Joey Votto and Ryan Hanigan.  As he strode to the plate in his first game at Pfitzner Stadium that season, a familiar musical strain would come over the sound system.  It was one of those times that a song was played and probably the only people who would get it were me and the player.  It was played every time he came up.  The next day I had the chance to go down to the dugout to talk to him, his response was funny.

“I was wondering why they were playing the Chicken Dance for me last night!” Becker said.  Even five years later, some things just seem like time hasn’t passed.

Brad Correll.  From Joy R. Absalon/MLB.com

Brad Correll. From Joy R. Absalon/MLB.com

On that same 2004 Potomac Nationals team was Brad Correll who would, two years later, play against Potomac with Lynchburg.  On his first plate appearance during his first visit back to Woodbridge, he walked up to 311’s “Creatures (For A While)”.  He stopped, looked up at the pressbox and gave a thumbs up to me.  In 2004, I hadn’t really made it a point to get to know the players so I never really knew Brad.  He was a good ballplayer who was part of that 2004 team and well liked by the fans.

His salute was well received, by both teams.  The next day, I had the chance to talk to some of the Potomac Nationals players (whom I was the Media Relations Director for).

“That’s classy that you did that, salute the guy who used to play here,” said Luke Montz.  “If I came back somewhere to play, I would hope they’d do that for me.”  One of those things that you remember.

Brad would go on to play for four teams in the Carolina League, which has to be a record.  In addition to Lynchburg and Potomac, he would also play for Salem and Wilmington.  Strangely, Potomac, Lynchburg and Salem were all, at one time, Pirate affiliates, and Wilmington, Salem and Lynchburg were also Red Sox affiliates at one time.  Yeah, I was the kind of useless information.

Matt Diaz.  From AJC.com

Matt Diaz. From AJC.com

The strangest happening was Matt Diaz.  Matt was born in Portland, Oregon, though raised in Lakeland, Florida.  He played for Florida State University in what would be the first exhibition game for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on February 26, 1998, a game that I DJed.  In 1999, he was drafted and signed by the Devil Rays, assigned to Hudson Valley.  The next year, 2000, he would come to St. Petersburg.  Matt is a devout Christian and took his walk-up song on the same level by choosing “Jesus Freak” by DC Talk.  That was his song all throughout 2000 and probably a very surprising song to hear during batting practice in his home town a few years later.

In 2005, I was the DJ for the Portland Beavers and Matt was playing for the Omaha Royals.  I looked forward to this visit because I’d known their manager–and current Royals third base coach–Mike Jirschele back when he was managing Wilmington in the Carolina League, and for Shawn Camp who I’d announced for when he played at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Va. back when I was in high school.

On the afternoon of July 27, 2005 (box score), I was playing music when I looked down to the cage to see Matt getting ready to take batting practice.  So when he stepped into the box, I played Jesus Freak.  Matt would use that inspiration to go 6-for-6, with two runs, two doubles, a triple, stolen base and three RBI in a 16-8 victory over the Beavers.  The next day, I had the chance to talk to Matt and see his parents again who were in town to see him play.  We laughed about the performance the previous night and he would end up going 2-for-4 with a double that day.

The next year, I was back in Woodbridge, working for the Potomac Nationals and would run into Matt after the April 23 game between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves at RFK Stadium.  Matt was now with the Braves and I was, for that night, Uncle Slam, the mascot for the Potomac Nationals.

Stephanie Best

Stephanie Best

I have always stood by the rule of playing music for “my guys”, though that changed to “my players” when Stephanie Best was with the Washington Glory and was traded to the Rockford Thunder of National Pro Fastpitch.  When Steph came back with the Thunder, we played her walk-up song, a loop of “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent each time up.  Steph is still a friend and was inducted into the University of Central Florida Sports Hall of Fame earlier in 2015.

It’s one of the fun things about working different places, at different times and seeing some familiar faces come through different places.  You never know when you might run into someone again, whether it’s a high school baseball game, the mall, or simply just a random meeting.  This is what makes pro sports so much fun to work in.

Jarrod Wronski

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