On February the Association of Professional Ballplayers of America held its 91st Annual Dinner and Get-Together in Long Beach, California at the Grand Event Center. Over 200 members and guests enjoyed the festivities. Numerous players and baseball personnel were recognized. Of special note is Ed Carroll, a former minor league player in the Dodgers organization who each year invites a number of his former teammates to attend a mini-reunion, and the number increases each year.
Our keynote speaker was Jim Rantz, the current President of the Association. Jim was the Director of Minor League Operations for the Minnesota Twins from 1986 until his retirement in 2013. He attended the University of Minnesota on a hockey scholarship but made his mark as a pitcher for the Gophers baseball team. He was the winning pitcher in the final game of the 1960 College World Series. After his collegiate career he signed with Washington and remained in the organization when it moved to Minneapolis in 1961. Jim was a player and manager for five years before joining the Twins front office. He was Assistant Public Relations director for four years before moving into minor league operations where he remained for the rest of his career At his retirement he was the longest serving Twins employee. A number of Twins scouts were in attendance to greet Jim, and he saw some men who he hadn’t seen for many years.
The Chuck Stevens award is presented annually to the most outstanding minor league player from Southern California . The award is in honor of the long time Secretary of the Association who served in that position for 38 years and enjoyed a playing career of over twenty years which included several years with the Hollywood Stars. Previous award winners have been Keith Ginter, Sean Burroughs, Ryan Madson, Greg Jacobs, Jeremy Reed, Jerry Owens, Jason Hirsh, Evan Longoria, Josh Vitters, Tommy Hanson, Thomas Neal, Freddie Freeman, Brett Pill, Christian Bergman, Kyle Hendricks and Kevin Pillar.
This year’s winner is RYAN MCMAHON, a third baseman with the Colorado Rockies organization. Ryan is a resident of Yorba Linda and a graduate of Mater Dei high School. He declined a baseball scholarship to USC to sign with the Rockies, who drafted him in the second round in 2013. He spent the 2015 season at Modesto in the High A California League where he hit .300 with an .892 OPS and hit 18 home runs. Ryan has impressive left handed power and projects as a middle of the order threat. He is rated the fifth best prospect in the Rockies system and will probably spend the 2016 season at Double A Hartford in the Eastern League. His parents joined him at the dinner and were very proud to see Ryan accept the award.
The Win Clark award is presented to the most outstanding first year player in Southern California. This year’s winner is DAVID FLETCHER, a shortstop with the Angels organization. A resident of Cypress, David was drafted in the sixth round of the 2015 draft after he completed his college career at Loyola-Marymount. He was assigned to Orem in the short season Pioneer League. David hit.331 before he was promoted to Low A Burlington in the Midwest League with an OPS of .842 and only struck out 9 times. At Burlington he hit .283. He is a line drive hitter who sprays the ball all over the park. David will probably begin the 2016 season at Burlington with a likely promotion to High A Inland Empire of the California at mid-season. Last year’s winner, Josh Morgan, had a fine season in the Low A Carolina League. David was unable to attend the Dinner as he received an early call to spring training. His father accepted the award on David’s behalf.
The Clark award is in honor of a long time secretary of the Association and has been given each year since 1951, Among the recipients are Lee Walls, Tony Gwynn, Willie Davis, Jim Lebvre, Mark Grace, Tim Wallach, Steve Kemp, Carlos Quentin and Jeff Cirillo, all of whom have enjoyed significant major league careers. Last year’s winner, Josh Morgan enjoyed a fine season at Low A Hickory in the South Atlantic League.
Phil Oueltte gave a beautiful presentation In memory of George Genovese, the legendary scout who had passed away in November. Phil was one of the many players signed by George in his long scouting career. George’s daughter, Kathy Haworth, was also in attendance. Other luminaries in attendance were Marti Wolever, a Director of the Association and former director of scouting for the Phillies, and Matt Hammons, who spent 17 years in the minor and has developed a new product, a Pitching Tunnel, which he hopes will revolutionize the development of pitching talent. Matt spoke about how much the Association had meant to him when times were tough many years ago.
The Association will hold its 92nd Dinner and Get-Together on January 28, 2017.
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