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Sunday Notes: Steve Sparks Performed With Troy O’Leary and Dave Nilsson

12 min read

Steve Sparks had a stable enjoying profession. The now Houston Astros broadcaster debuted with the Milwaukee Brewers two months earlier than his thirtieth birthday, in 1995, and went on to toss butterflies within the massive leagues by means of 2004. His finest season got here with the Detroit Tigers in 2001 when he logged 14 wins and posted a 3.65 ERA over 232 innings.

Sandwiched between the knuckleballer’s stints in Beer Metropolis and Motown have been a pair of seasons in Anaheim, the place his teammates included Orlando Palmeiro. Based on Sparks, the left-handed-hitting outfielder wasn’t all the time a left-handed-hitting outfielder.

“He was initially a right-handed second baseman, however he broke his arm,” the pitcher-turned-broadcaster defined previous to a current sport at Fenway Park. “He was ambidextrous to start with, so he began enjoying the outfield throwing left-handed, and that’s how he remained. I performed with Orlando, however he by no means advised me that. Joe Maddon was a minor league area coordinator with the Angels, and he’s the one who advised me.”

Sparks proceeded to level out that Palmeiro made the ultimate out of the 2005 World Sequence towards the Astros whereas enjoying with the Chicago White Sox.

In the meantime, an outfielder whose finest big-league seasons got here with the Boston Purple Sox performed with Sparks on the rookie-level Helena Brewers in 1987.

“He was very gifted,” Sparks mentioned of Troy O’Leary, who was simply 17 years previous at the moment. “We knew that he was going to get by means of the system fairly rapidly due to his bat. He was additionally one of many nicest, hottest guys that we had within the system. Troy had a coronary heart of gold from day one. He really jogs my memory of Rafael Devers. Their physique language, the free whippy swing. Each time we play Boston and I see him, I consider Troy.”

O’Leary wasn’t nearly as good as Devers — his profession numbers embrace 1,100 hits, 127 house runs, and a 97 wRC+ — however he did have lots of success towards Sparks. The Compton, California native went 9-for-12 with a double and a house run towards the Tulsa, Oklahoma-born right-hander.

“I don’t do not forget that, but it surely doesn’t shock me,” Sparks mentioned of their head-to-head document. “And it’s humorous, as a result of after I look again at guys I’d performed with beforehand, many had a good quantity of success towards me. I assume Troy is certainly one of them.”

Dave Nilsson was 17 years previous and a handful of months faraway from signing with the Brewers out of Brisbane, Australia when he performed alongside O’Leary and Sparks in Helena. He by no means bought an opportunity to bat towards Sparks, however the two do have an attractive historical past collectively. Following Sparks’s 1995 rookie season, Nilsson, who by then was Milwaukee’s’ major catcher, requested him to be the pitching coach for the crew he’d be managing in Brisbane that winter. Sparks accepted, and proceeded to spend 4 months Down Below the place, because the previous Foster’s Beer advert knowledgeable us, individuals “converse Australian.” Having roomed with Nilsson within the minor leagues, he was already accustomed to the language.

“Dave would get actually pissed off when he’d name Domino’s Pizza,” recalled Sparks. “They couldn’t perceive his accent, as a result of it was so thick. He ended up making me place his orders, as a result of they couldn’t perceive what sort of pizza he needed. However he may actually hit. I feel he batted .390 within the Pioneer League. He got here out swinging, proper from the get-go, at a younger age. He went on to have an All-Star season and was the most effective hitting catchers within the main leagues.”

Nilsson performed eight MLB seasons, all with the Brewers, and all earlier than celebrating his thirtieth birthday, ending with a .284/.356/.461 slash line and a 108 wRC+. He subsequently represented his nation within the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Video games, and within the 2006 WBC. Nilsson is now the pinnacle coach of Workforce Australia.



Homer Summa went 26 for 54 towards Hooks Dauss.

Homer Smoot went 12 for twenty-four towards Big Jeff Pfeffer.

Homer Peel went 2 for 4 towards Boom Boom Beck.

Home Run Baker went 6 for 13 towards Slow Joe Doyle.

Cookie Rojas went 1 for two towards Darcy Fast.


The Los Angeles Dodgers have performed each crew this season aside from the Detroit Tigers and the Seattle Mariners. Final weekend, I requested LA supervisor Dave Roberts which opponent, aside from the powerhouse Atlanta Braves, he has been most impressed with. He named two.

“The Orioles are very spectacular,” replied Roberts, whose membership gained two out of three from the AL East leaders in mid-July. “It’s a disgrace they’re dropping Félix Bautista. I actually like that shortstop [Gunnar Henderson]. [Adley] Rutschman is particular. That crew actually impressed me.”

“The best way that the Reds have performed, persistently holding on and persevering with to grind… I actually like [Matt] McLain. [Elly] De La Cruz is a human spotlight movie. He’s just like the Dominique Wilkins of baseball. These two groups have actually stood out to me.”


Dusty Baker had an extended checklist after I requested him the identical query this previous Monday.

“It relies upon,” mentioned the Houston Astros supervisor. “I used to be impressed with this crew [the Red Sox] once they beat us 17-1. I used to be impressed with Seattle the final time we noticed them [August 18-20]. I used to be impressed with the Braves, though we swept them. I used to be impressed with the Dodgers; they beat us two out of three after we performed them on the market. However I strive to not be over-impressed by anyone. I additionally strive to not underestimate anyone.”

Following up, I requested the longer term Corridor of Fame supervisor what had impressed him concerning the Mariners. His response included point out of two different golf equipment.

“Their pitching and the truth that they have been sizzling as hell,” Baker mentioned of Seattle. “And Cincinnati got here in and swept us as a sizzling crew… They’ve bought lots of pace. A whole lot of pace. They’ve bought some younger guys who can hit. And Texas. These two groups are actually improved.”


A quiz:

Solely two pitchers in MLB historical past have allowed 500 or extra house runs. Who’re they?

The reply will be discovered beneath.



Ned Yost was formally inducted within the Kansas Metropolis Royals Corridor of Fame yesterday. Yost managed the membership from 2010-2019, a ten-year interval wherein they went 746-839 and captured a World Sequence title in 2015.

The Web Baseball Writers Affiliation of America (IBWAA) has honored Mark Armour with its first ever lifetime achievement award. The founder and director of SABR’s Baseball Biography Project, Armour at present serves as SABR’s president.

Registration is now open for SABR’s Girls in Baseball convention, which will probably be held just about from on September 29-October 1. Extra data will be discovered here.

Pat Corrales, a catcher who appeared in 300 video games whereas enjoying for 4 groups from 1964-1973, and later managed the Rangers, Indians, and Phillies, died on August 28 at age 81. The final of the backup backstop’s 4 profession house runs was a ninth-inning, three-run shot that gave the Reds a 3-1 win over the Braves in 1970. Corrales had one at-bat that October when Cincinnati misplaced to the Orioles within the World Sequence.


The reply to the quiz is Jamie Moyer with 522 house runs allowed, and Robin Roberts with 505 house runs allowed.


Ryan Lefebvre isn’t distinctive in having gone from the enjoying area to the printed sales space. The best way he made the transition is considerably distinctive. Now in his twenty fifth season behind the mic for the Kansas Metropolis Royals, Lefebvre hung up his spikes two-plus weeks after being drafted out of the College of Minnesota, having enjoying simply six skilled video games. Furthermore, he’d simply helped lead the Gophers to the 1993 Massive 10 title, and his slash line over 4 collegiate seasons was a rock stable .344/438/.443.

I requested the son of former Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Jim Lefebvre — together with Wes Parker, Maury Wills, and Jim Gilliam, a part of MLB’s solely all switch-hitting infield — why he opted to not chase his boyhood dream.

“My dad, along with being a participant, coach, and supervisor, was additionally a farm director,” replied Lefebvre. “For years, his group needed to put an finish to extra desires than they noticed youngsters’ desires realized. I used to be drafted within the twenty seventh spherical [by Cleveland] and knew it was going to be a tough highway, that I wasn’t an actual prospect. I went to school eager to be a significant league participant, however I spotted that I wanted to have a stable Plan B too.”

Lefebvre earned a level in Speech Communication, Sociology, and American Research at Minnesota, working on the campus’s two radio stations alongside the best way. He additionally had an internship at a Falmouth, Massachusetts station whereas enjoying within the Cape Cod League. It was there that he started to significantly contemplate an on-air profession. He additionally got here to appreciate that whereas he may compete towards his friends on the diamond, “they cared about it much more than I did.”

A giant-league broadcasting job was proper across the nook. The Twins employed the then-24-year-old in 1995, and he spent 4 years calling video games in Minnesota earlier than transferring on to Kansas Metropolis. Shortly after taking the Twins job, he had an fascinating encounter with Cleveland GM John Hart.

“I launched myself to him,” recalled Lefebvre. “I needed to say hi there, as a result of the Indians had been nice to me once they realized I didn’t wish to play anymore. He was in all probability simply making an attempt to be good, however John Hart mentioned to me, ’Ryan, good luck to you; we certain want we had you in our outfield.’ I keep in mind considering, ‘Actually? With Manny Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, and Albert Belle? What precisely would I be doing in your outfield?’ I feel I made the correct alternative.”



The Australian Baseball League has launched its 2023-2024 schedule, with the season set to start on November 17. The Adelaide Giants are the defending champions within the six-team circuit.

Kazuma Okamoto leads NPB hitters in house runs (35) and whole bases (254). The 27-year-old nook infielder is slashing .298/.393/.615 for the Yomiuri Giants.

James Marvel is 2-2 with a 2.18 ERA in 20-and-two-thirds innings with the Nippon-Ham Fighters. The 29-year-old right-hander signed with the NPB membership after being launched by the Texas Rangers in June. Marvel’s MLB expertise contains 4 appearances with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019.

Seunghwan Oh is 3-4 with 23 saves and a 4.28 ERA for the KBO’s Samsung Lions. The 41-year-old right-hander logged 16 wins and 42 saves pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, and Colorado Rockies from 2016-2019.

Ronnie Dawson is slashing .357/.429/.479 with three house runs in 163 plate appearances for the KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes. The 28-year-old outfielder performed for the impartial Atlantic League’s Lexington Counter Clocks earlier this season after beforehand getting cups of espresso with the Houston Astros in 2021 and the Cincinnati Reds in 2022.

Kiwoom’s Woo-Jin An will reportedly endure Tommy John surgical procedure. The appropriate-hander, who turned 24 earlier this week, has a 2.24 ERA over 54 begins prior to now two seasons. He led the KBO in strikeouts final yr and was in line to take action once more this yr.


Spencer Jones has confronted lots of high quality arms this season. Drafted twenty fifth general final yr by the New York Yankees out of Vanderbilt College, the 22-year-old outfielder has logged 485 plate appearances between Excessive-A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset. The nastiest pitcher he’s stood within the field towards?

“Final evening I had a fairly nasty at-bat towards their nearer,” Jones mentioned in response to that query on Thursday. “I imply, he went again to again splitters and I used to be like, ‘all proper.’ Then he went 99 [mph] on the high of the zone and I walked again to the dugout. That was fairly enjoyable. The man’s bought an electrical arm. ”

Described by Eric Longenhagen as “an arm power maven whose stuff overpowered hitters within the decrease minors,” Luis Guerrero was ranked No. 28 with a 40 FV when our Boston Purple Sox High Prospects checklist got here out in mid-June. The 23-year-old right-hander has a 1.81 ERA to go together with 59 strikeouts, 30 walks, and 26 hits allowed in 49-and-two-thirds innings with the Portland Sea Canine. He has 18 saves.



Carter Aldrete homered thrice on Thursday because the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels outscored the Hartford Yard Goats 17-10. The 25-year-old infielder/outfielder within the San Francisco Giants group is the nephew of former big-league outfielder, and present Oakland Athletics first base coach, Mike Aldrete.

Ben Rice is slashing .323/.428/.625 with 18 house runs in 278 plate appearances throughout Low-A Tampa, Excessive-A Hudson Valley, and Double-A Somerset. The 24-year-old catcher/first baseman was taken within the twelfth spherical of the 2021 draft by the New York Yankees out of Dartmouth Faculty.

Jett Williams is slashing .260/.429/.440 with 11 house runs in 475 plate appearances between Low-A St. Lucie and Excessive-A Brooklyn. No. 8 on our New York Mets High Prospects checklist with a forty five+ FV, the 19-year-old shortstop/outfielder was drafted 14th general in 2022 out of Texas’s Rockwell-Heath Excessive Faculty.

Colson Montgomery is slashing .298/.470/.494 with six house runs in 238 plate appearances throughout the Arizona Advanced League, Excessive-A Winston Salem, and Double-A Birmingham. No. 1 on our Chicago White Sox High Prospects checklist coming into the season, the 21-year-old shortstop was drafted twenty second general in 2021 out of Huntingburg, Indiana’s South Ridge Excessive Faculty.

Luke Little is 5-2 with a 2.12 ERA, one save, and 105 strikeouts over 63-and-two-thirds innings throughout Excessive-A South Bend, Double-A Tennessee, and Triple-A Iowa. The 22-year-old southpaw was chosen within the fourth spherical of the 2020 draft by the Chicago Cubs out of San Jacinto Faculty.

Marc Church is 8-3 with two saves, a 3.38 ERA, and 73 strikeouts in 53-and-a-third innings between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Spherical Rock. The 22-year-old right-hander out of Georgia’s North Atlanta Excessive Faculty is No. 20 on our Texas Rangers High Prospects checklist with a 40+ FV.



Sports activities Illustrated’s Emma Baccellieri wrote about how Stephen Strasburg’s profession amounted to extra than simply an all-time what-if.

Purple Row’s Renee Dechert looked at how efficient the Colorado Rockies are on the bases.’s Evan Desai wrote about how Lansing Lugnuts left-hander Kumar Lambiar, Oakland’s Thirty fourth-round decide in 2019 out of Yale College, is proud to symbolize his Indian origins.

Why has Minnesota Twins nearer Jhoan Duran been scuffling? John Foley delved into that query at Twinkie City.

The Chicago White Sox have produced a documentary “highlighting the crew’s rebrand within the ’90s and its intersection with hip-hop, popular culture and vogue.” Brent Maguire has the story at



The common time of a nine-inning MLB sport this season is 2:39, down from 3:04 a yr in the past. 9-inning postseason video games averaged 3:23 final yr.

Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners starters have thrown 762 innings this yr, tied for essentially the most within the majors. San Francisco Giants starters have thrown 611-and-two-thirds innings, the fewest within the majors.

The San Diego Padres are 0-11 in extra-inning video games this season. The 1969 Montreal Expos, who completed their ninnaugural season 52-110, went 0-12 in extra-inning video games.

Heavy Johnson slashed .406/.471/.722 with 20 house runs in 429 plate appearances for the Negro Nationwide League’s Kansas Metropolis Monarchs in 1923. A yr earlier, the Atchison, Kansas native slashed .406/.450/.715 will 11 house runs in 263 plate appearances.

On immediately’s date in 1917, Grover Cleveland Alexander logged a pair of complete-game wins because the Philadelphia Phillies swept a double-header from the Brooklyn Robbins by scores of 5-0 and 9-3. The Corridor of Fame right-hander went on end the season 30-13, his third consecutive yr with 30 or extra wins.

St. Louis Cardinals southpaw Bud Smith threw a no-hitter towards the San Diego Padres on immediately’s date in 2001. The rookie went on to complete his temporary MLB profession with a document of 7-8 and simply the one full sport.

Gamers born on immediately’s date embrace Katsy Keifer, a left-handed pitcher whose big-league profession comprised a complete-game win for the Federal League’s Indiana Hoosiers in 1914. The California, Pennsylvania native’s 10-year minor-league profession included stints with the Traverse Metropolis Resorters, Battle Creek Crickets, St. Joseph Drummers, and Worcester Boosters.

Additionally born on immediately’s date was Weldon West, a southpaw who went 3-4 with a 4.29 ERA pitching for the St. Louis Browns in 1944 and 1945. St. Louis’s beginning centerfielder in all three of West’s wins was one-armed Pete Gray.

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