“Hero’s Welcome” for Suarez Sparks Controversy in Jackson

In his role as owner/whiz-kid GM of the Jackson Hammerheads, Steven Butler has made two things clear: he loves putting on a show, and he hates the rival Knoxville Smokies.  Those two threads came together in spectacular fashion this weekend.  The Heads had their home opener against the Smokies on Saturday, and Butler marked the occasion by overseeing a wild, over-the-top opening ceremony that left some of the Smokies seeing red.

Santiago Suarez

The controversy began in fittingly strange fashion.  Shortly before the season began, Jackson acquired CF Santiago Suarez from the California Sharks.  The trade seemed to surprise Smokies owner Jeremy Mills, who had called Suarez a “hometown hero” and predicted that he would never be dealt.  Mills also appeared irked that Butler dubbed himself the “Sultan of Swap” in the wake of the Suarez trade; the Smokies owner is also known as a frequent trader.  Mills’ comments were innocuous enough, but Butler spied an opportunity to stoke the rivalry with his foes from Tennessee.

Butler announced that he would hold a “Hero’s Welcome” ceremony to greet Suarez during Jackson’s home opener, which just happened to be against Knoxville.  Asked what the ceremony would entail, the whiz-kid GM was tight-lipped on the details, but said that it was a ceremony that the Smokies and the fans “would never forget.”

On Saturday, everyone got to see what Butler had planned.  Just before the teams were due to be introduced, the lights at Cash Carter Downs went out.  The fans initially believed it was a blackout, but that suspicion was soon dispelled as colored searchlights began sweeping the field.  As the lights came back up, the strains of James Brown’s “Living in America” began to throb over the PA system.

As the fans began to clap along with the song, the center-field gate opened and a group of male dancers clad in sparkly bodysuits and hats paraded onto the field.  While the fans laughed and cheered, the visiting Smokies looked around in bewilderment.  The male dancers were then joined by a group of women dressed like old-fashioned Vegas showgirls, and the crowd erupted with delight.

The spectacle became even more spectacular as the Hammerheads’ ground crew ran onto the field waving giant American flags and a pair of WWI-era biplanes flew over the stadium.

Just when it seemed like the ceremony couldn’t get any crazier, the fans suddenly spotted Butler and Suarez descending from the roof of the stadium on a platform containing a golden shark head with glowing red eyes, with flames shooting upward from the corners.  As the pair came into view, the crowd saw that the owner/whiz-kid GM was clad in an Uncle Sam hat, an American-flag tailcoat, and star-spangled shorts.  Butler danced frantically along with the music while Suarez, wearing his uniform with an American flag draped over his shoulders, smiled and waved to the crowd.

The platform came to rest on the field, and Suarez jogged to his position in center field and acknowledged the roars of the fans.  Butler lit a pair of sparklers and sprinted along the warning track, high-fiving fans as he passed.  Meanwhile, a brass band wearing Hammerheads-blue tuxedos marched onto the field, adding to the general mayhem.

The Hammerheads’ in-game entertainment crew fired Jackson T-shirts with Suarez’s autograph out of a cannon and into the crowd.  Butler, meanwhile, ran to the mound and thrust up his arms, whereupon two bald eagles came screaming out of the sky and landed on his shoulders.

Finally, as the song came to an end, Butler collapsed to his knees, and a team employee ran out and threw a flag cape over his shoulders before escorting him off through the home dugout.  In the ensuing pandemonium, several fans rushed on the field; others threw beer cups, coins, and hot-dog wrappers at the Smokies.  Irate Knoxville manager Snuff Wallace raced after head umpire Trent Capps to demand a forfeit, a demand the umpire refused to grant.  It was almost 45 minutes before order could be restored and the game could begin.

After the game, a 6-3 Knoxville win, Wallace began his post-game press conference with a stream of obscenities directed at Butler, Suarez, and the Hammerheads.  “Damn fools can’t beat us, so they’re out here trying to start a [expletive] riot,” fumed the Smokies skipper.  “Is this a [expletive] ballgame or the [expletive] circus?  Well, you can [expletive] well believe that they sure as [expletive] fired us up to win this game and kick the [expletive] out of them.  And you [expletive] well believe this [expletive] ain’t [expletive] over.  Me and Mr. Mills both got a [expletive] memory like a [expletive] elephant, and we’re good and hell well going to get our [expletive] revenge for this [expletive] show.”

The league has not announced plans to discipline Butler or the Hammerheads for their actions.

When the whiz-kid GM was asked about the incident, he only smiled.  “I know I had a good time,” said Butler.  “Didn’t you?”

Hammerheads Hire Henley As Manager

Jackson HammerheadsThe Jackson Hammerheads had a tumultuous debut season, to say the least.  After a so-so start, the Heads surged to the top of the East, only to fall back out of the penthouse at midseason.  Manager Lou Hayes was sidelined by a heart attack in the final month of the season, only to pass away at season’s end.  Interim manager Eddie Harris guided the team to a 13-11 record and was dismissed.

Jackson owner Steven Butler wanted a strong hand to guide the team in 2017, and he announced today that he had found his man: Nationals third-base coach Bob Henley.

bob-henley
Bob Henley

“We needed someone who could step in right away with a winning team and help us reach the next level,” Butler told reporters.  “After extensive conversations with our whiz-kid GM [himself], we came to a unanimous conclusion: Bob is our guy.”

The 43-year-old Henley is a baseball lifer.  After a playing career spent mostly in the minors, Henley went into coaching immediately after his retirement.  He spent a decade as a minor-league manager and roving instructor before joining the Nats’ big-league staff in 2013.

“I’m all about baseball,” said Henley.  “I live, eat, sleep, and breathe baseball.  Having this job is like being a kid in a candy store every day.”

A native of Mobile, Alabama, Henley said the chance to manage close to home was appealing.  “I never thought I’d be able to have a big-league job so close to my old stomping grounds,” said Henley.  “I’m proud as hell to be representing for the Deep South here.  I’m as Southern as Moon Pies and magnolias.”

Henley’s aggressive reputation as a coach – with the Nats, he earned the nickname “Sendley” for his wave-‘em-in tendencies – made him appealing to Butler.  “I like a gunslinger,” said Butler.  “I like a manager who throws caution to the wind and isn’t afraid to make the tough calls.  That’s the kind of manager that’s going to help us win a title.”

“My mama always said I was a pepper-pot,” said Henley.  “I guess that never left me.  That’s how I’ve managed to make it as far as I have.”

Henley plans to bring that same spirit to Jackson.  “I want to see us playing hard, balls to the well,” the new manager said.  “I’m not gonna ride the guys, at least not at first.  But they’ll get the message soon enough.  If they’re playing hard and winning, I’ll be their best friend.  If they’re slacking off and losing, I’ll be their worst enemy.  But I don’t expect I’ll have to do that.  I think we know what we have to do.  Let’s win some games and have a good time doing it.”

Henley has not announced the rest of his staff, or whether he plans to retain any of last year’s coaches.  “I’m still picking out curtains,” said Henley.  “Y’all will have to get back to me on coaches and the rest of that.”

Dragons Announce Coaching Hires

Jacksonville Dragons 2The Jacksonville Dragons are looking for a new direction after a disappointing 72-78 inaugural campaign.  That new direction will start with a new coaching staff, as Dragons owner Eric Stetson today announced several key hires for the 2017 season.

Taking over as manager will be Steve Califano.  The 43-year-old Califano, a native of Southern California, takes over from Harlan Davidson, who was fired at the end of last season.  This is Califano’s first managing job, but he brings significant playing experience to his new role.  Califano was the ace starter for the Portland Pioneers of the United Baseball League for several seasons.  After the UBL dissolved in the early 2000s, Califano went on to pitch in Japan and in American independent leagues.  Since then, he has worked as a pitching coach in the minors and in college.

steve-califano
Steve Califano

“This season is crucial to our growth as a franchise, and finding the right manager is essential,” said Stetson at Califano’s introductory press conference.  “We talked to a lot of guys, but Steve really stood out as the right fit for our players and our team.”

Califano has a reputation as a laid-back and player-friendly coach, which will be a marked change from the acerbic Davidson.  Jacksonville’s former manager frequently made waves due to his frequent public disparagement of players, creating a sour clubhouse atmosphere that was a key factor in his firing.  Califano, on the other hand, stresses the importance of maintaining a positive relationship with players.

“I know that as a player, I did my best when I felt that my team and my manager were confident in me,” said Califano.  “I believe in the power of affirmation, and I want my guys to know I have their back.”

In addition to introducing his new manager, Stetson also unveiled his pitching and hitting coaches, both of whom also have UBL ties.  Pitching coach Nick Altrock pitched for several UBL teams during his career.  He had a reputation as a pitcher who succeeded more through guile and studying hitters than through raw power, and the Dragons hope he can tutor their promising but raw young staff.

“All the time throughout my pitching career, guys told me I should be a coach,” said Altrock.  “I finally decided to listen.”

Hitting coach Ernie Zambrucka is another UBL alumnus.  Although he spent most of his playing days in the Mexican League, Zambrucka spent a couple seasons at the tail end of his career as a bench player for the UBL’s Monterrey Toros and Chicago Wolves.  After his retirement, Zambrucka ballooned to over 350 pounds, before dedicating himself to a fitness and weightlifting regimen that he credits with saving his life.

“I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t gotten myself together and gotten control of my health and my life,” said Zambrucka.

The former slugger is expected to implement a strict weight training regimen with Jacksonville’s hitters, with the goal of unleashing their power potential, which was largely absent last season.

“You know how they say that chicks dig the longball?” said Stetson.  “I say everyone digs it.  We expect to be one of the top power-hitting teams in the league, and Ernie should help us get there.”

The Dragons still have several coaching vacancies to fill, including their first and third base coach, bench coach, and bullpen coach.  Stetson said that he plans to defer to Califano on those hires.  “I want Steve to build the staff that he thinks will help him win,” said the Jacksonville owner.

PBL Expands By 4 For Season 2

After a rousingly successful debut season, the Patriot League is growing aggressively for its second season.  Commissioner Jeremiah Mills has officially announced that the PBL will be expanding from 8 teams to 12 for the 2017 season.  “Our first season was a tremendous success,” said Commissioner Mills, “and we’ve clearly demonstrated that there’s an appetite and an audience for this.  I know going from 8 to 12 may seem like a big jump, but I see it as a sign of how well we’re doing that we’ve got four new owners who want to join us.”

These are the new teams that will be joining the fold next season:

carolina-cometsCAROLINA COMETS

The Comets, who will be joining the PBL’s Eastern Division, are the brainchild of owner Steven Roseman.  Roseman believes that there is a significant untapped market of baseball fans in the Carolinas, and he expects the Comets to demonstrate it.  Roseman has committed to his vision with money, constructing a retractable-roof stadium in Catawba, NC to house his team.  Catawba is located roughly equidistant from the Charlotte and Winston-Salem/Greensboro metropolitan areas, and he expects to draw fans from both cities.

Despite being housed in an up-to-date modern facility, Roseman expects his team to play with old-fashioned flair.  The Comets certainly won’t lack for color under the direction of manager Taylor “Two-Buck” Ashy, a protege of Knoxville Smokies skipper Snuff Wallace.  “Ol’ Taylor reminds me a lot of myself,” said Wallace, “only meaner, drunker, and crazier.”  The Comets will also get a healthy dose of flair from their hometown stars. Left fielder Stargell Jackson‘s father is a diehard Pittsburgh Pirates fan who named his son after his hero, Hall of Famer Willie Stargell.  Southpaw starter Randy “Satchel” Flats earned his nickname due to his multi-pitch arsenal and quippy nature, both reminiscent of Negro League great Satchel Paige.

kalamazoo-kazoosKALAMAZOO KAZOOS

The Kazoos will be competing in the league’s Western Division.  Owner Will Norman selected his team name to honor “America’s greatest musical instrument.”  He doubled down on the kazoo motif by naming his stadium Kazoobie Kazoo Field, securing the sponsorship of America’s oldest and most venerable kazoo manufacturer.

Norman’s unorthodox choices extend to his choice of managers.  Jacques “Zippie” DeFlute has no background in baseball.  The Montreal native played several years of minor-league hockey.  More recently, he has been a traveling musician.  Despite his lack of baseball experience, DeFlute’s upbeat, effervescent personality is sure to make him a hit with the fans of western Michigan.

The fans are also sure to love the Kazoos’ pair of hometown stars.  CF Damian Mash was a star at Kalamazoo College, and SS Johnny Shorts is a native of neighboring Portage.

The Kazoos hope to establish a regional rivalry with the PBL champion Milwaukee Bear Claws.  It seems likely that rivalry will be fairly one-sided at the outset, but as DeFlute said, “It gives us a goal to shoot for.”

 

 

las-vegas-narwhalsLAS VEGAS NARWHALS

The Narwhals are prepared to make a big splash in the Western Division.  Win or lose, the squad from Vegas is certain to attract attention.  From their striking violet-and-gold uniforms to their stadium, MGM Jackpot Field, which will be the second Patriot League stadium (along with Orlando) to have a built-in casino, the Narwhals are sure to be noticed.  The team is going to have the glitz and glamour of Sin City, which is the way owner Tricia Butler wants it.  Bright lights, big flies, and high scores… that’s what Narwhals baseball is going to be about.

The Narwhals’ style and flair starts at the top with manager Benjamin Banks Mahoney, who prefers to go by “B. Money.”  Mahoney’s goals for the season are to “win a lot of games and raise a lot of hell, and not in that order.”  Mahoney’s quest will be aided by the Narwhals’ local stars.  LF Andrew Zocken figures to bring a lot of pop to the heart of the Vegas order.  And ace pitcher Jose Oro has the golden fastball to blow it by visiting hitters.

Traditionalists are likely to hate the Narwhals, finding the uniforms gaudy and the stadium more like an amusement park than a ballpark.  But the team will fit well with its city.  The fans of Las Vegas can look forward to a summer of high scores and high stakes both on and off the field.

new-orleans-sazeracsNEW ORLEANS SAZERACS

While it’s far from clear how well the Sazeracs will fare in the PBL’s Eastern Division this season, the team is going to have a lot of fun along the way.  According to owner Jeff Wiggins, that’s by design.  Wiggins said he loves the Big Easy because it’s “a fun location [where you’re] able to bring your drinks wherever you want.”  He’s made it his goal to assemble a team that reflect the fun-loving spirit of the city.  He said that the team’s motto will be “Work Hard, Play Hard.”

The team’s outlook is also reflected in its name.  Wiggins named the team after the Sazerac, “a strong all-alcohol drink invented in New Orleans.”  Te Sazerac (made with 1/4 oz Absinthe, one sugar cube, 1 1/2 oz Rye whiskey or Cognac, and three dashes Peychaud’s Bitters) is one of the most famous products of New Orleans, and the name gives the team a true local flavor.  Continuing the alcohol theme, the Sazeracs will play at Abita Field, named after a local brewery.

The team will take the field under the veteran leadership of former Angels manager George Knox, who is known for having a “magic touch” with his players.  New Orleans will also be led by a pair of hometown heroes, outfielder Ben Williams and shortstop Al Angel. Wiggins believes that Williams and Angels will be wildly popular, because the fans “are just as likely to see them hitting a home run or making a game-saving play, as they are to see them out on Bourbon Street with everyone else.”

 

Along with the PBL’s expansion, Commissioner Mills announced that the playoffs will be expanding next season as well.  Going forward, the top two teams in each division will make the playoffs.  The winners of the two division series will face each other in the Patriot Series.

“We are confident that the expanded playoffs will only increase fan interest in our league,” said Commissioner Mills.  “This year, the action is going to be hotter than Snuff’s temper!”

League Clears Dragons of Game-Fixing

Jacksonville Dragons 2Good news for the Jacksonville Dragons: the league office has cleared the team of the wild allegations of game-fixing out by former reliever John Longroofan.  “The league has thoroughly investigated Mr. Longroofan’s charges, and found them to be completely without merit,” read a statement issued by Patriot League Commissioner Jeremiah Mills.

Longroofan, a 20-year-old left-handed prospect whom the Dragons signed during spring training, posting an 0-1 record and a 22.00 ERA in 5 appearances with Jacksonville before being demoted in mid-May.  He quickly became far better known for his outlandish behavior and obscenity-filled quotes than for anything he did on the field.

John Longroofan
John Longroofan

In mid-August, Longroofan went public with allegations that the Dragons bullpen conspired to throw games in league with gamblers.  The young lefty claimed that his poor performance was related to his participation in the conspiracy, and that his bizarre behavior was meant as a mask.  “I played it off like I was drunk or crazy, so they wouldn’t catch on that I was tanking,” Longroofan claimed.

The Jacksonville relievers vehemently denied any illegal activity, and the Dragons quickly released Longroofan after his charges came to light.  But the league office conducted a detailed investigation of the accusations.  They interviewed Dragons players and staff, discussed the situation with the Jacksonville police department, and attempted to locate people who might have knowledge of the conspiracy, if it existed.

“Even though I doubted Mr. Longroofan’s story from the beginning,” said the statement from Commissioner Mills, “I felt it necessary for the sake of the Dragons and the league to examine the charges in detail.  The league’s integrity is my first concern, and I wanted to be certain that if there was any merit to the allegations, that we take swift action to address it.”

Longroofan did little to bolster confidence in his story during his initial interview with league investigators.  Sources described his answers as vague and evasive, and he was unwilling or unable to provide details on the names of any gamblers or organizations involved, claiming that “they’d rub me out” if he named them.  Investigators suspected that he was either drunk or on drugs during the interview.

Later, pressed to provide evidence to substantiate his claims, he produced a crumpled note written on the back of a fast-food wrapper that said in a wobbly script, “John: Good job fixing last night. We’ll leave the money under the clubhouse door.”  Handwriting analysis suggested that Longroofan wrote the note himself using his non-dominant hand.

The further the league looked into Longroofan’s story, the more holes appeared.  The reliever provided telephone numbers from which he claimed he’d talked to the gamblers.  One number was that of a local Chinese restaurant; another belonged to a 90-year-old retired postal worker.  After initially declining to provide names, Longroofan offered several, such as “Mike Hawk,” “Dick Long,” “Randy Schwang,” and “Hugh Jorgen.”  Investigators discovered no evidence that such people existed.  Nor were the Jacksonville police familiar with any organized gambling rings operating in the city.

The league also reviewed tapes of Longroofan’s pitching performances for signs of any intentional tanking.  The league’s report pointed out that he rarely appeared in games whose outcomes were still in doubt, making it almost impossible that he would have been able to throw a game.  “Typically, players involved in game-fixing will mix in some good outings to avoid suspicion,” the report stated.  “Mr. Longroofan’s unimpressive record appears to be entirely due to his complete lack of pitching ability.”

The league also reviewed tapes of other Dragons relievers, but found no pattern to suggest game-fixing.  Given that and the fact that investigators could find no hard evidence or other voices to substantiate Longroofan’s charges, the league exonerated the Dragons organization of all charges.

“Needless to say, I’m very happy with the findings,” said Dragons owner Eric Stetson.  “On behalf of the organization, I want to thank the league for conducting a prompt, thorough, and fair investigation.  I never believed the accusations for a minute, but it is a tremendous relief to have an outside investigation clear our organization.

“We can now head into the offseason without the cloud of these baseless charges hanging over us, and I can return my focus to building a championship team for our fans.”

The top priority for the Dragons this offseason will be finding a new manager, as they terminated Harlan Davidson the day after the regular season.

Hammerheads Skipper Hayes Dies; Team Fires Harris

Jackson HammerheadsThe Jackson Hammerheads organization is in mourning today.  Manager Lou Hayes, who was sidelined in midseason due to a heart attack, passed away this morning at the age of 54 due to complications from his coronary.

Lou Brown
Lou Hayes

In his inaugural season with Jackson, Hayes compiled a 70-56 record before collapsing in the locker room while addressing his team on August 25th.  He underwent apparently successful bypass surgery the next day, but he was unable to return to the team.  In recent days, he had returned to the hospital after feeling discomfort in his chest.  He was scheduled to be released later this week, but unexpectedly succumbed to a valve rupture.

Hayes was widely respected and loved within the Jackson clubhouse, and news of his passing sent shockwaves through the organization.  “I can’t believe Lou’s gone,” said Hammerheads C Clarence Doyle.  “It’s pretty ironic that he had heart trouble, ‘cause he had a bigger heart than anybody I know.”

“It’s just not right,” said CF Damian “Black Hammer” Deason.  “Lou was my guy. He was the White Lightning to my Black Hammer.  I can’t imagine him not being here.”

“Lou and I had our tough times,” said closer Rick Sheen, “but he was like a father to me.  I can’t help but feel responsible; I probably did more than anyone to cause his heart attack.”

“The Hammerheads organization extends its deepest condolences to the Hayes family,” said Hammerheads owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler.  “Lou Hayes embodied all that was great about baseball and instilled the ‘get on base’ methodology that will lead the Hammerheads to numerous championships.”

Butler announced that the team would dedicate next season to Hayes’ memory.  He also said that a plaque honoring the manager would be placed in the center-field fence, forever memorializing Hayes in Hammerheads lore.

Hayes’ passing creates a somewhat awkward situation for the Hammerheads, who already knew that they would be searching for a new manager next season.  Prior to his passing, Hayes had already decided to retire due to his health, and had informed the organization of his plans.

Eddie Harris
Eddie Harris

The Hammerheads had already made the decision not to retain interim manager Eddie Harris, who went 13-11 over the final month of the season.  The organization considered delaying the announcement about Harris in the wake of Hayes’ passing, but felt that it would be best not to leave Harris twisting in the wind.

“Eddie Harris had a run; not great and not awful,” said Butler. “That’s not good enough around here. We wish him well.”

A distraught Harris fought to hold back tears as he addressed the press.  “I guess it’s an understatement to say it’s a hard day for me,” Harris said.  “Lou’s my friend, and it hurts to know he’s gone.  My only consolation is knowing that St. Peter’s getting a nice room ready for him up in heaven.  Next to that, getting fired isn’t as bad, but it’s still tough.  I guess the team did what they felt they had to do.  But the good Lord wouldn’t put me through this trial if he didn’t think I could handle it.”

Harris joined the team in May as pitching coach, after Steve Parkinson resigned for family reasons.  It was hoped that the former major-league pitcher would be able to turn around Jackson’s struggling staff.  Though that didn’t happen, Harris reportedly developed a rapport with the players.  That is presumably why the team appointed him as interim manager when Hayes went down.

Butler declined to address the status of the rest of the Jackson coaching staff.  Bench coach Pepper Leach, first base coach Gus Cantrell, third base coach Duke Temple, bullpen coach Jake Taylor, and hitting coach Pedro Cerrano remain in limbo while the Hammerheads search for a new manager.

According to team sources, the Hammerheads will cast their net far and wide in searching for a replacement.  Among the reported candidates: former Angels manager George Knox, ex-Cubs pilot Sal Martinella, former Twins skipper Billy Heywood, noted youth coach Gordon Bombay, and current Nationals third-base coach Bob Henley.

Dragons Fire Manager Davidson

Jacksonville Dragons 2In the day after the season finale, the Jacksonville Dragons responded to a disappointing season by firing manager Harlan Davidson.  The decision was widely expected around the league, both because of the Dragons’ subpar record and the high level of tension between Davidson and his players.

“This had to happen,” said an anonymous Dragons player.  “Either he had to go, or one of us was going to beat him to death in the parking lot.”

The Dragons were expected to contend this season, but finished 72-78 and disappointed on both sides of the ball.  According to team sources, Davidson’s firing was motivated partially by the team’s record, but also by his penchant for criticizing and ridiculing his players during interviews.  The skipper’s caustic comments made him popular with reporters seeking material for their stories, but it earned the ire of the players.

“There was a definite perception in the clubhouse that [Davidson] was throwing us under the bus to take the heat off himself,” said Dragons 1B Jake Kapoor.  “You never heard him say, ‘I screwed up’ or ‘I made a mistake.’  It was always ‘This guy sucks’ or ‘If that guy screws up again, I’m going to kill myself.’  Remarks like that from time to time are one thing, but when it happens again and again, it gets old.”

Harlan Davidson
Harlan Davidson

Frustrations between Davidson and the team boiled over in midseason, when the manager reamed out many of his players by name after a tough loss to Orlando.  The furious players held a closed-door meeting, then went to the manager to discuss the situation.  The conversation produced a détente, with Davidson agreeing to keep his complaints in-house, and the Dragons ran off a winning streak.  But things fell apart over the last month, as the team’s attempts to get over .500 fell short and Davidson began firing off barbed comments to the press again.  Several players reportedly went to the front office to demand the manager’s firing.

Upon hearing news of Davidson’s dismissal, many of the Dragons gathered in a local bar to celebrate and express their relief.

“You could ask every one of the players and, to a man, you’d hear the same thing,” said Dragons C Judson Teachout.  “All of us were ready to be done with him.  You can’t lead an army into war and keeping fragging them at the same time.”

Dragons owner Eric Stetson had reportedly become disenchanted with Davidson over the course of the season.  According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Stetson considered terminating the manager in midseason, but decided to give him a chance to turn things around in the second half.  When the Dragons fell short in their late-season pursuit of the .500 mark and Davidson returned to sniping in his postgame remarks, it apparently sealed his fate.

In a press release announcing the termination, Stetson said, “The Dragons thank Harlan Davidson for managing the team this season, but in light of the disappointing results, we have decided to go in a new direction. We will be conducting a thorough search for a new manager who can inspire our young players to reach their full potential.”

For his part, Davidson did not go quietly, according to sources.  When Stetson called him in to inform him of the termination, Davidson reportedly lit into the owner.  He claimed that Stetson needed to “take off [his] rose-colored glasses” and understand that the Dragons weren’t good.  “You can get rid of me,” Davidson reportedly said, “but it’s not gonna fix what’s wrong with this bunch.  Have fun failing again next year!”

Davidson remained defiant when speaking with reporters afterward.  “I figured they were setting me up to be the fall guy,” he said.  “Whenever a team goes bad, they always look for a fall guy.  You can’t fire the whole team, and the owner can’t fire himself.  It’s easier to say I was the problem.”

Davidson also alleged that the team deliberately underperformed in order to get him fired.  “Oh yeah, there were definitely guys sandbagging me, especially toward the end,” Davidson said.  “It’s not real professional, but it happens all the time.”

The ex-manager’s remarks weren’t all negative.  “There were definitely a few guys on that team that I respect,” said Davidson.  “Kapoor, [SP Randy] Cannon, Razor Corridon.  But mostly, we were all sick of each other, and we’re better off.  Sometimes when a marriage goes bad, divorce is the best thing.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go to the bar and try to drink myself to death.”

Along with Davidson, the Dragons dismissed the entire coaching staff, including first base coach Rod Roche, third base coach Milt Jamison, bench coach Randy Wilkins, hitting coach Steve Hartwell, pitching coach Jerry Kinser, and bullpen coach Bump Carruthers.  According to Stetson’s press release, the coaches may be rehired at the discretion of the new manager.

The team did not identify any potential candidates to replace Davidson.

Hammerheads Manager Out With Heart Attack

Lou Brown
Lou Hayes

The Jackson Hammerheads’ faltering pennant chase took an unexpected turn today, as manager Lou Hayes was sidelined with a heart attack.  Pitching coach Eddie Harris will take over managing duties on an interim basis.

“Obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with Lou right now,” said Jackson owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler.  “Some things are more important than a pennant race.  Okay, that’s a lie.  But some things are almost as important as a pennant race.”

Hayes fell ill the day after the Hammerheads suffered a crushing 16-5 defeat to the Knoxville Smokies, the team leading them in the East.  As the team assembled for pregame practice this morning, Hayes lit into his team for showing a lack of intensity and making excuses for their failures.  He ticked off a list of excuses given by different players, ending with, “…or a heart attack!”

“Who used ‘heart attack’?” said C Clarence Doyle.

“Me,” said Hayes just before collapsing.

Hayes was rushed to the hospital, were he was diagnosed with an arterial blockage.  He is scheduled to undergo bypass surgery tomorrow, and is expected to be out of action for the remainder of the season.

“It was a shock to all of us,” said CF Damian Deason.  “I mean, granted, watching our bullpen on a regular basis would be enough to kill anybody, but we definitely didn’t see this coming.”

Reached in his hospital room, Hayes said that he expects to make a full recovery.  He said that the hardest part would be not getting to see him team play.  “The nurses tell me they’re gonna put the TV on public broadcasting and lose the channel changer.  But I have a plan for that.”

Eddie Harris
Eddie Harris

In Hayes’ absence, Harris will take the reins of the club.  A former big-league pitcher and devout Christian, Harris joined the team in midseason after the incumbent pitching coach stepped down for personal reasons.  While Harris has not managed to work miracles on the Hammerheads’ struggling staff, he has won the trust of Hayes.  The new manager is well-regarded in the clubhouse; although he is fairly firm on club discipline, he’s not above cutting loose when the situation calls for it.

“We’re gonna come in here and win this one for Lou,” said Harris.

Hayes had a message for the interim skipper.  “You gotta talk to the team,” Hayes said.  “Give ‘em hell.  Let ‘em know they’re too damn good to roll over and play dead.”

He did ask for one promise, though.  “Don’t give ‘em one of those ‘let’s win one for Lou’ corny speeches.  I couldn’t stand that.”

PBL All-Star Rosters Set

The league has announced the rosters for this year’s All-Star Game.  The selections were voted on by the league’s owners.  Each team has at least three All-Star representatives.

The All-Star rosters can be found below (starters identified in green below):

Eastern Division

Western Division

C Judson Teachout Jacksonville C Frances McGuigan Milwaukee
  Clarence Doyle Jackson   Thaddeus Lockley California
1B Malcolm Bryant Knoxville 1B Felipe Mateo Milwaukee
2B Homer Righter Jackson 2B Dominique Barkan Silver City
  Jeremiah Campo Knoxville   Richard Iddings Milwaukee
3B Kim Fleitas Jackson 3B Rusty Brewmaker Silver City
  Ronnie Aceuedo Knoxville   Ikaru Suzuki Milwaukee
SS Octavio Westerberg Jackson SS Rubin Smyth California
  Armand Moriarty Knoxville   Morris “Red” Petitt Milwaukee
LF Track Johnson Jackson LF Kenneth Mader California
  Lauren Hartl Orlando   Arthur Mealey Milwaukee
CF Damian Deason Jackson CF Lee Cosgrove Salt Lake
  Joe Blair Knoxville   DeRonde Maxwell Milwaukee
RF Magnus Larson Orlando RF Nathaniel Wason Silver City
  Jackson Campo Knoxville   Romeo Martinez Salt Lake
DH Eddie Battin Knoxville DH Eddie Nix Calfornia
  Jake Kapoor Jacksonville   Muzz Elliott Silver City
           
SP Elicio Santana Knoxville SP Pedro Rodriguez Silver City
  Nathan Nunb Orlando   Patrick McNorman Milwaukee
  Biggs McGee Jacksonville   Pierre La Rue Calfornia
RP Charlie Pasternak Knoxville RP Eugene Grace Calfornia
  Hilton Sircy Jackson   Oscar Buenaventura Milwaukee
  Jerry Tile Knoxville   Jan Arzola California
  Ruben Quesara Orlando   Timmy Almon Milwaukee
  Aron Filippi Orlando   Dean Gamble Salt Lake

 

The All-Star game will be held on July 1st at High Life Field in Milwaukee.

First PBL All-Star Game Goes to Milwaukee

Today, Commissioner Jeremiah Mills announced that the Patriot League’s inaugural All-Star Game will take place at High Life Field, home of the Milwaukee Bear Claws.

High Life FieldThe park offers an attractive venue for the game, one deeply steeped in the city’s history.  High Life Field was built as part of the redevelopment of the abandoned Pabst Brewery complex in downtown Milwaukee.  The park, which was designed as a tribute to Milwaukee’s beer heritage, fits in perfectly with its surroundings.  The exterior of the park was designed to resemble the faux-castle style of the old Pabst corporate office building.  The left-field wall backs up to the façade of the main factory building, which is decorated with a clock and a Pabst Blue Ribbon logo.  Fireworks shoot out of the top of the old smokestack every time the Bear Claws win.

Upon entering through the main gate, fans pass through the King’s Courtyard, in the middle of which is a statue of King Gambrinus, the unofficial patron saint of beer.  Surrounding the courtyard are multiple beer gardens, which are positioned to allow fans to watch the game while enjoying a cold one.

Although the Bear Claws have the league’s best record, Mills said the decision was not made on that basis.  Rather, he said that he intends to rotate hosting honors among the league’s charter cities.

“The Bear Claws are honored to host the inaugural Patriot League All-Star Game and look forward to welcoming you all to Milwaukee,” said Bear Claws owner Jennifer Petitt. “Join us in raising a cold Miller High Life in celebration of this great event. The Champagne of Beers is never better than when served ice cold on a prematurely hot day like today.”

The selection of High Life Field met with widespread acclaim around the league.  “Down in Jackson, we are all about the High Life,” said Jackson Hammerheads owner Steven Butler.

Snuff Wallace
Snuff Wallace

One dissident, though, was Knoxville Smokies manager Snuff Wallace.  Unsurprisingly, he believes that Commissioner Mills, who also owns the Smokies, should have selected Knoxville’s Rocky Top Park for the honor.

“I mean, what the hell good is it to be the man in charge if you don’t pull strings for your own guys?” said Wallace.

In the end, though, Wallace isn’t too upset about the decision.  “Everyone will get a real good look at our park when we’re claiming the championship trophy,” said the Knoxville skipper.  Besides, he adds, “I like beer.”