A: First of all, thanks for having me. I love talking baseball, and that's how I got to Des Moines. I've held all sorts of jobs over the years, but nothing has ever been as fun as simply talking baseball with listeners every night. It's a great life. I've spent ten years in the minors, including the last five years with the I-Cubs. I've also done some fill-in radio work for the San Francisco Giants (no Barry Bonds homeruns before anyone asks). But I'm a lucky guy. I also have two little boys (two years old and three months), and being a dad is much more interesting and fun than being a broadcaster.
Q: In your opinion, who of prospect status deserved MVP honors last season at Iowa as a position player and a pitcher?
A: Richard Lewis was impressive in his short stint with us, but clearly Jason Dubois shined in his first Triple-A season. He's going to entertain the folks at Wrigley for a long time and he's just an outstanding hitter. On the pitching side, Michael Wuertz was rock solid for us. I don't know that he's really thought of as a "prospect" per se, but he was awfully good. Renyel Pinto didn't spend a lot of time with us, either, but it's clear that he's a prospect and that he has a mountain of talent. Sergio Mitre would have to be the MVP, though. Every start he gave was the same: six or seven innings and about two runs allowed. He was just awesome, and I don't think I've ever seen a pitcher work harder on a day-to-day basis in Des Moines. He sees a much bigger picture, and I was really impressed with his effort.
Q: Going a step further, which two players are the most ready for the MLB level?
A: Well Mitre could be a No. 4 or 5 starter for about 25 major league teams. He's absolutely ready and heck, he's already performed for the Cubs. Pinto is very close, too, and I should mention John Koronka. He's a solid lefty with one of the all-time best pickoff moves to first. I realize that's three guys, but let me add Lewis. I have to believe he'll be there shortly, too. Sorry for rambling.
Q: Are Jason Dubois' strikeout numbers cause for alarm?
A: Not at all. The fact is that teams are much more willing to put up with high strikeout totals if they think they can get the type of power and run production Dubois is projecting. He's a pretty special hitter to this point. His power is impressive and he didn't flinch to the move to Triple-A. He also has a terrific and quiet confidence. If he can get on base, hit for power and continue to drive in runs, who is going to care about the strikeouts? They're a far cry better than double-play balls.
Q: David Kelton, a hard-working, overall good kid, has had his share of struggles over the last two seasons at Iowa. What do you attribute to his diminishing status as a Top 5 prospect in the organization?
A: You don't meet too many people like David. He's a top-notch guy and he's got a load of talent. I think it would a little presumptuous of me to try to answer this one. All I know is that he can hit. When he gets hot, he's impossible to stop. But as you know, he's had a lot of trouble finding a position. He's finally comfortable again in the outfield and you can tell. He's been under a lot of pressure being tabbed as such a high prospect over the years, but when he relaxes and gets in a groove, he'll be on his way.
Q: What was the biggest loss to the Iowa Cubs last season: Brendan Harris and Francis Beltran being traded, Nic Jackson suffering injury, or other?
A: We're still waiting to see Nic Jackson's full potential. He had two triples in the first game of the season and was gone the next day. Very disappointing. I've talked to a lot of people who have seen Nic at full-strength over the years - from umpires to players to coaches - and they all say the same thing: "Nic Jackson might be the best athlete in baseball." To me, every game he misses is a huge loss. There is too much potential there. That was easy. Next question.
Q: David Cash was another guy injured early in the season and was seemingly never heard from again. Have you heard from him recently and if so, what are his plans with the organization?
A: Ooooh, good one. That was another huge loss. David was really impressive in his first several starts. He looked like another great acquisition by Jim [Hendry] and Oneri [Fleita], and coincidentally, we do stay in touch by email. Great guy. He had surgery in late May and was playing catch by early September. Obviously, everyone hopes to see him back soon. He's a competitor. You hate to put expectations on kids, but we might see him throw this coming season.
Q: What's your most memorable moment or story from the broadcast booth through the years?
A: You see and experience a lot of interesting/memorable things in the minor leagues. I've seen the game balls delivered to the home plate umpire by a llama (the Bali Llama) for the now defunct Bend, or Bandits, and I've seen an out-of-control mascot throw a handful of rocks at a guy who, allegedly, slept with his girlfriend the night before. The subsequent arrest made for a special nights for the kids. Ever see a mascot dragged out in handcuffs? Real nice. I could write a book.
Q: Describe the feeling of clinching the Pacific Coast League Central division on the final weekend of the year.
A: Well, it's always a thrill to work with a winning group of guys. With all the traveling, and up's and down's a team goes through in a season, the payoff of winning a division or league is the ultimate. The way the 2004 team won was unique. Frankly, it looked like they would clinch weeks earlier. That near-collapse in the final month was devastating, but the relief when they finally got the job done was palpable. It's an amazing game that way. At exactly the time you think you've got it figured out, it tosses you a change-up and makes your heart beat a little harder. Next thing you know, you're wearing the same socks for a week, or eating your breakfast at 8:17 am everyday. The game has a spell on us. That's why it's such an intoxicating passion for people like me and your readers.
Q: How big was it to the team's morale to have guys like Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Mike Remlinger sit in their clubhouse and alongside them in the dugout throughout the year? Did this aid the team a little in going as far as they did in their championship quest?
A: The impact was great, but that team didn't need the help. The chemistry in the clubhouse was as good as any club I've seen. Credit Mike Quade and his staff for a lot of that, but this group was special that way. Having Prior, Wood, Ryan Dempster, etc. come through town gave a shot of energy to everyone (broadcasters and fans included!). And the fact is, they performed well while here. Sometimes rehabs don't work out so well, but by and large, these guys came in and dominated. It was a special year.
Q: Who are you most excited about seeing in an Iowa Cubs uniform from last season from Double-A?
A: I'd like to see more of Micah Hoffpauir. We saw him very briefly at the end of last year, and we got a glimpse of Pinto as well. Wow, what an incredible young pitcher! I'm very excited about him, but mostly I want to see Dwaine Bacon run the bases. The numbers are impressive (60 stolen bases in 80 attempts). I can't wait!
Q: Were you ever contacted by the Cubs about a position in the WGN-TV booth?
A: Of course. Unfortunately, KXNO and the Iowa Cubs wouldn't let me out of my contract.