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Old 07-08-2018, 04:25 PM   #1
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New World Baseball League: Funky Times (Season 1)

Background
In late 2005, after years of legal wrangling, Major League Baseball was disbanded due to anti-trust concerns. For the next decade or so, baseball foundered, relying on a handful of independent leagues and college baseball to keep the spark alive. In 2013, a consortium of potential owners came together with ideas for starting a new league (and capture all of that revenue). After several years of negotiations, 2015 ushered in the first season of the New World Baseball League.



It's now January of 2026, and the NWBL has grown steadily in popularity. Heading into its 12th season, Funky Times follows the managerial career of Paul Funk, a former NWBL player.

League Details
The New World Baseball League is a completely fictional league consisting of the following:
  • 24 teams split into 2 subleagues with 2 divisions each.
  • 5 levels of minors, although the rookie, S A, and AA levels are each split into two different leagues with 12 teams each. Each major league team has one minor league affiliate at each level.
  • College and high school feeder leagues provide all draftees.
  • All ratings and potential ratings are disabled except for the overall potential rating and "other" ratings (baserunning, bunting, etc.)
  • Most rules, overall, are similar to modern MLB, including free agency, rule 5, trading, etc.

Hope you enjoy it!
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Old 07-08-2018, 11:45 PM   #2
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How it Begins...

Paul Funk

Paul sat alone on his couch, tossing a tennis ball off the wall of his apartment endlessly. There had been a beautiful sunset through the picture window behind Paul, but he was oblivious, and now the room was growing darker as the December sun disappeared behind the Kansas City skyline. The ball thudded against the drywall monotonously as Paul mulled over his day. Woke up at noon. Watched replay of the 2016 playoff series vs Buffalo. Should've won that series, but got blown out three games to none. Eight seasons in pro ball, seven playoff games. No wonder he still wanted more. Anyway, for the rest of the day, he'd just sat here on the couch thinking. Well, to be honest, hard to even call it thinking. More like eyes glassed over while the same video played over and over again. He sighed deeply. What the hell was he doing? He'd been retired for three years, and still hadn't figured out what to do with his life. No baseball, no Patty, no kids, no legacy at all. Sure, he had done pretty well financially, but he just felt . . . dead. He hadn't wanted to retire. Didn't feel like he had lost that much. Hell, a .356 OBP wasn't bad at age 37. But Jersey hadn't resigned him, and that damn strained ACL made it so no one wanted to give him a chance.

The doorbell rang (tones of Nickelback's "Photograph"; still cracked him up). He wasn't expecting anyone. Who visited anymore? He creaked his way to his feet, and shuffled towards the front door with the dullness of a former professional athlete gone to seed. Or at least, on his way there. He opened the door, saw a tall gentleman in a stylish suit and bolo tie. His weathered face broke into a smile. Paul recognized him immediately, but had to wait a minute for his brain to remind him how he knew him.

"Hey Paul, mind if I come in?" asked the visitor, with a slow Texas drawl. Cary. That's who it was. Cary Henderson. Owner of the Kansas City Comets. Paul had been drafted by Cary in the inaugural draft back in 2015. He'd had his best years with KC, but it had been years since he had seen or even spoken to anyone from the organization.

Cary Henderson

"Cary? What are you doing here?" Paul stammered, confused. "I mean, yeah, sure, come on in." Paul stepped to the side and waved Cary in. The banking tycoon was a commanding presence; he stepped into the room and took in Paul's apartment in a glance.

"Like what you've done with the place, Paul," he deadpanned, and Paul flinched, embarrassed. Between the dirty sweat socks, the empty beer cans, and the pizza boxes, he was suddenly sharply aware that he had regressed to a college student's level of cleanliness.

"Yeah, uh, my maid quit," Paul muttered, "sorry about the state of the place." He hastily cleared off the kitchen table by transferring a heap of plates and takeout cartons to the counter. He gestured sheepishly at a chair. Cary took the seat and fixed his gaze on Paul, waiting for him to sit as well. Paul complied.

"No she didn't, Paul."

"What?"

"Your maid. She didn't quit, Paul. You fired her two weeks ago." Cary had the grace to look slightly sheepish. "Stilts told me. He was worried about you." Stilts was Brian Bradley. He had also been drafted by Kansas City; Paul and he had been teammates for four years and close friends for longer than that. Stilts had retired last year, and had taken a scouting position in the Kansas City organization. "So what's going on Paul? What are you doing here? Stilts told me Patty's not around either?" Paul's head dropped involuntarily.

Stilts Bradley

"Yeah, she left a few months ago. I don't know Cary, she stuck by me through all of the crappy parts of being a baseball wife. All the travel, all the rumors, me never being around. And then once I was done, it was like we couldn't figure out how to act around one another." He shook his head slowly. "I gotta admit, I haven't exactly been a joy to be around these past few years. But by the time I figured that out, she was out the door." Paul paused for a moment, examining his feet, then shrugged and looked up in defeat. "I dunno, I guess it just feels like I've been . . . stuck in neutral since I left the game."

Cary flashed him that businessman's smile. "Well, that's why I'm here son. Time to get you to shift things into gear." Paul stared at him blankly. "I'm talking about baseball, Paul, baseball. I need good baseball people, and you're one of them. I don't know if you knew Ace Ashe. Great guy. Salt of the earth type. Managed for me in the minors since the laegue started. Well, he had himself a heart attack a little while back. I swear to God he'd manage the game from his hospital bed if I let him. But I don't care if the sonofabitch begs me, I'm not putting him on the bench again for a good while. And I don't have anyone else in my organization right now I trust with his job." Realization started to dawn within Paul, and he felt his pulse quicken for the first time, in, oh, a thousand years or so.

"Cary, what exactly are we talking about here?" he asked slowly.

"Why Paul," Cary said with smile, "I'd thought that was pretty clear already. I'm talking about you managing my rookie team." Paul shook his head.

"But Cary, why me? I've been out of baseball for three years now. Never coached a lick in my life. As you can see," he gestured to the room, "I don't exactly have my **** together." Cary sat back in his chair, his board room presence filling the cluttered kitchen.

"Well, you see, Cary, I believe in taking calculated risks, and I believe that good people will deliver good work, even if they have their ups and downs." He leaned forward. "Cary, I saw you in the clubhouse. I saw you helping the younger players. I saw you in the batting cage with Stilts all through that 2015 offseason and into 2016. Kid hit .216 in his first year. After working with you, he brought that up 50 points. And you were in the middle of your best season as a pro. Gold Glove. All-star. Platinum Stick. You could have had a head as big as the moon, but you just kept working and helping the guys around you. You know the game. You know how to help kids. And at the end of the day, I believe that you're a good person, and that you'll do good work. That's what I need."

Embarrassed and a little flattered, Paul stayed silent. Cary pushed away from the table and headed for the door. He knew when a deal was closing. Meanwhile, Paul's mind was whirling. He was filled with doubts, but a voice deep inside of him was shouting "YES!" Cary reached the door and turned to face Paul again.

"So, we have a deal, son?" Cary swallowed hard and nodded. Cary nodded back. "Good, good. I'll have my people get in touch with the details. Oh, and one more thing, Cary?"

"Yes, sir?" Paul asked.

Cary rested a hand on the doorknob, stepping into the hall. "How's your Spanish? I'll meet you in Hermosillo on New Year's Day. Adios!" With a last grin, he pulled the door shut behind him.

"Wait, what?" Paul shouted at the closed door.
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Old 07-09-2018, 12:18 AM   #3
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Liga Mexicana

About La Liga Mexicana


La Liga Mexicana is a rookie ball league in the New World Baseball League. Rookie leagues are a little bit different in NWBL. Feeder leagues are completely fictional and I don't really put much effort into making them realistic (college names and so on). They're merely there to provide players with statistical background to the league. The amateur player draft happens in late March, and rookie ball starts in mid-April. Rookie ball teams play a 106-game schedule with playoffs. Only division winners make the playoffs.

La Liga Mexicana is a 12-team league with Norte and Sud subleagues with six teams each. Teams play 70 games within their subleague and 36 games "interleague."

Paul Funk will be managing the Hermosillo Estrellas. The Estrellas went 56-50 last season, and finished in second place, their first winning season in three years. Hermosillo has won the La Liga Mexicana championship once, in 2016. That's the only time they have made the playoffs.

Liga del Norte
Tijuana Potros
Mexicali Diablos
Hermosillo Estrellas
Juarez Jalapenos
Chihuahua Whirlwinds
Monterrey Tejanos

Liga del Sud
Mexico City Aztecs
Ecatepec Vaqueros
Guadalajara Gauchos
Puebla Muertos
Acapulco Bandidos
Leon Amigos
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Old 07-10-2018, 10:16 PM   #4
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A Fresh Start

The truth was, Hermosillo wasn't half-bad. It was kind of like Arizona, really, and although he'd never lived there, Paul had enjoyed the times when he had traveled to the area. It was hot and dry, mainly a desert town. It was about a three-hour drive to the border, and five to Tucson, so if he ever got really lonely for the 'States, it wasn't totally unreasonable. Then again, it didn't look like he'd have much time for personal trips anyway. He looked around at his office. Papers were scattered everywhere. Even with all of the technology at his fingertips in today's baseball, he still had a much easier time reading scouting reports when he had a paper in his hand. Besides, his eyes hurt if he used the computer too much.

Cary's people had been in touch almost immediately, as promised. He'd inked a one-year contract for $90,000. Chump change for a guy like him who had once made over twenty million per season, but hey, this wasn't about the money, right? January had been a whirlwind. He had met Cary in Hermosillo on New Year's Day, as promised, at the Hermosillo ballpark. It was a pretty nice park, deep in center and right-center, with a high right-field wall that made it a bit pitcher-friendly, in Paul's opinion. But nothing he could do about THAT. He learned that the Hermosillo mascot "Estrellas" meant "Stars," and got his first look at the uniforms, which featured a blue star outlined in white, with rays of red coming out from the left side of the star. Pretty damn smart for a rookie-league uni, Paul thought. Cary never liked to do things halfway. He'd met Mark Sherman, his pitching coach, and Alejandro Lopes, his hitting coach. The rest of January went by in a flash. He returned home, got his apartment straightened up, arranged to have it maintained while he was gone. Left a message on Patty's voicemail telling him the news. She didn't return his call.

By mid-February he had landed again at Hermosillo International Airport. Cary's team had found him a nice little apartment (emphasis on LITTLE) in downtown Hermosillo that was only a 20-minute drive from the park. His office in the park was fairly modern, if a little spartan, with an updated computer, Wifi, air conditioning (thank Christ), and pretty much any other amenities he needed. He wasn't going to be uncomfortable in there. But there was a LOT to do. Paul was never one to shirk his work, and he loathed feeling behind, so he had plunged himself into reading. He read everything he could about baseball management. After all, he'd been in baseball for most of his life, but he had never once managed a team. He hadn't even coached Little League, for chrissakes.

The season was due to start on April 19th. The rookie league didn't even have a spring training, so players reported to the facility two weeks before the start of the season. In late March, the annual rookie draft was held, and Paul had even more scouting reports to review. By the time April rolled around, he was sick to death of scouting reports and desperate to meet his players. He had two weeks to get to know these kids - 35 of them in all, all between the ages of 18 and 22. They weren't all rookies, either. Some of them had spent the previous season in Hermosillo, and either hadn't progressed enough to move up yet, or possibly were blocked at their position at the next level. He had several players for whom this would be their FIFTH season in rookie ball. In his book, if you were still in rookie ball after five years, you probably weren't going to amount to much, but it wasn't really his call. 35 was a tough number, too. That was a LOT of players to find at-bats or innings to pitch.

He knew their profiles by heart at this point. Now it was time to actually put the pedal to the metal and see what these kids had!
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Old 07-11-2018, 07:31 PM   #5
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2026 Pre-Season Infielder Preview

2026 Pre-Season Infielder Preview

Catchers
I don't know how I'm going to find time for all of these catchers, to be honest. Obviously, we can get some at-bats through the DH, but I have SIX of them on the roster, for crying out loud. I'll have to work some of them at first, at least.

Alex Bowen
Rookie and fellow New Yorker. Highly-rated prospect who was an inconsistent hitter in high school. Hit .311 his junior year, but only .171 his season year. Definitely a power hitting prospect though. Looks like a solid defensive catcher. Would like to get him plenty of time behind the plate, and management will be pushing to see him play as such a high draft pick.

Larry Brown
Another pure rookie, this time a later-round pick. He struggled to hit even in high school, and seems really raw defensively as well. Slow as molasses. I'm not quite sure what they saw in this kid, to be honest, but I'll try to get him in a game here and there.

Andrew Moss
20-year old, big kid for a catcher. Was a pretty high pick last year, and got into 16 games. Didn't do much (.194/.318/.222). Seems like he has a good eye, but that's about it. Looks OK behind the plate. Scouts seem to think he could develop into a solid power hitter. Not sure I see it, but OK.

Santiago Sanchez
19-year old Dominican kid that came through the international complex. Played 41 games for Hermosillo last year and hit .303/.356/.333. Not bad. Bit of a noodle of an arm, but really catches the ball nicely. Goes about his business pretty quietly. Definitely going to need to find games for this guy.

Jose Zuniga
Pickup from Brazil. Brazil? I didn't even know they had baseball there... He's been in the organization since 2023, but this is the first year they rostered him, so I don't have a ton to go on. Decent arm for a catcher, I think. I'll keep an eye on him, but I don't see him stealing that many gams from Bowen and Sanchez.

Duane Baker
10th-rd pick in this year's draft, drafted after his second year of college. Big, solid kid (6'3, 210) from Maryland. Only played 18 games in two years in college, why do they draft these guys? Looks pretty good behind the plate, but with a sitck doesn't seem to have very good plate discipline. Still, there's so little tape to go on... Just going to have to throw him out there.

Infielders

Travis Crawford
Pretty slick fielder. He's played at first and third, but I might like him at third, with that arm. Only got 12 PAs at Hermosillo last year, managed a .286 average. Hit around the same number throughout high school, so the potential to be a decent contact hitter is there. Hit a bunch of homers in HS, so hopefully his power will continue to develop.

Scotty Smith
Third round pick from a few years ago. Huge kid, 6'5 215. Everyone seems to like him quite a bit. Has been in Hermosillo for two years, but only got into 3 games in his first year. Played almost the entire season last year, hit .253/.353/.320. Seems to have some position flexibility. Has played a bit of corner outfield and at first. He lumbers around the outfield, but he's surehanded, and Christ what an arm! Really not quite sure what to do with him. Playing him at first seems like a waste of that arm. But he has no range in the outfield. Might try him at third, but he's not especially surehanded, so I'm not sure that will work at the hot corner. Lots of options with this kid.

Mike Davis
This kid seems like a player. 2nd overall pick in last year's draft. Like lightning on the base path. One of the older players on the team. Averaged around .330 for his three years in college. Only hit .239/.289/.351 last year, but his eye isn't terrible. I just think he needs a little more work. Looks pretty comfortable in the infield; super smooth at second. Might get him a little more work at short, too.

Walt Armstrong
Just six days younger than Mike Davis, but ol' Walt has been hanging around Hermosillo for three seasons now. At Hermosillo, he has hit for .303/.384/.402. Not quite sure why they haven't moved this kid up yet, and if they don't want to, why they haven't moved him. He's a solid 3B. Plays a little second as well. Well, as long as I have him, I'm not turning down a consistent .300 hitter!

Johnny Brandon
8th round pick from this year's draft. Guess they were really loading up on catching talent? Kid hit .300 with a .394 OBP in college, and a .477 slugging %, so I'd definitely like to see if he can hit at this level. Looks solid at third. But just like catcher, I have all of these third basemen! Gotta move some bodies around.

Brooks Clark
Four. Did they really draft FOUR thid basemen in this year's draft? Yep, they did. This one has a rocket for an arm, but struggles to hold onto the ball a bit. Only hit .250 in college, not much power. Feels like "just a guy" to me, but let's see what I can do with him.

Luis Rubio
Another draft pick 3B; at least this one was drafted three years ago. So what's he still doing here? He'll be 23 in a few weeks, oldest player on the squad. In three years here he has only played in 62 games, and hit .234/.326/.311. Either the pitchers REALLY like him, or he has photos of someone. He's not especially slick defensively either. I can't promise I'm going to fight to get this kid innings, unless he really shows me something early on.

Cyril Stefanelli
Really young Venezuelan kid from the international complex. Great position flexibility; already looks comfortable all over the infield and has even played a little in the outfield. Switch-hitter; nice. Scouts think this kid could make the bigs, so I'm going to get him plenty of at-bats.

Ivan Cordova
Another Hermosillo vet, almost 23 years old, local Mexican find. This kid is a Gold Glove-caliber fielder who can play all four infield positions. But he's heading into season 5 in Hermosillo and has averaged .227/.310/.314 during that time. On the plus side, last year he was .242/.315/.326, so he's at least improving. Question is, is he improving enough to go anywhere? Still, hard to keep defense like that out of the lineup. I'll certainly use him late in games.

Carlos Trujillo
Carlos is a rarity on this team; he was signed as a FA last season. There's something interesting about this kid. I like him a lot. At 21 years, he has already bounced around a bit. Even got a sniff at low A and AAA last season (didn't do much). But in his one year here, he hit .296/.322/.357. Bit of a free swinger, but at least a decent contact guy. Like Cordova, though, really excellent defensive player. He's so damn smooth on the double-play, it's a joy to watch.

Likely Starters

Catcher - Alex Bowen
First Base - Santiago Sanchez
Second Base - Carlos Trujillo
Shortstop - Mike Davis
Third Base - Cyril Stefanelli
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Old 07-11-2018, 07:50 PM   #6
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2026 Pre-Season Outfielder Preview

Outfielders
Not sure what it is about this team. I have like 15 right-handed infielders, and like 8 left-handed outfielders. Not ideal. But I definitely have some hitters!

Daniel Davis
Another Hermosillo vet. This will be his fourth season here, and he has already played over 200 games at this level, hitting to a .260/.323/.376 clip. Not amazing, but not a complete liability either. Last year he hit .320/.390/.462, so here's hoping he has turned a corner. And with that kind of production last season, he's going in the starting lineup for me! He's really fluid in the outfield and on the base paths, too. While I don't think he's a five-tool guy, there's enough to work with here.

Victor Gutierrez
International complex player from Venezuela, who, like Davis, will be in his fourth season in Hermosillo. Unlike Davis, however, Gutierrez hasn't found his bat. Whether it's here or in a brief stint in low A ball last year, he's a consistent .200 hitter. The scouts seem to think he will continue to develop. We'll see. He's competent in the outfield, but not a rock star out there.

Dennis Bergeron
Rookie outfielder from Connecticut who is working his butt off. Great, powerful arm out there, and can cover some ground, but needs to work on his concentration. Already looks at least comfortable in all three spots out there. Hit .277 with some pop in his one year of college ball. Good speed on the base paths too.

Glenn Payne
6th round pick from 2025. Played in 55 games last year and hit a measley .205. But a cheetah on the bases. Just wish he could get there more. For a guy with such raw speed, you'd think he could get to more balls in the outfield, but just doesn't seem to have great range. Really nice arm, though. We're gonna throw some people out this season.

Rich Ferris
Third season at Hermosillo. Got a few PA in his first season, but really tore it up last year with a full-time role, to the tune of .323/.398/.497, probably the best slash I've seen so far. Won the MVP last year! He's great on the bases and a pretty solid outfielder too.

Alfonso Martinez
Wow, another left-handed outfielder, what a surprise! Martinez is from the DR, just up from the international complex, so we don't have much to go on, but the scouts see him as a solid contact hitter. He also has a great outfield arm, and looks like he has the flexibility to play a little infield if necessary too.

Likely Starters

Left Field - Rich Ferris
Center Field - Alfonso Martinez
Right Field - Daniel Davis
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Old 07-12-2018, 10:35 PM   #7
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2026 Pre-Season Pitching Preview

Starters
Would be nice to have a southpaw, but I've got what I've got. With this many pitchers, I'm planning on going with a six-man rotation, at least until I see how everyone performs. If someone looks terrible out there, I might shorten it to five eventually.

Darwin Allen
Allen was the first pick in this year's draft. Most scouts are drooling over him, but Bo (our Scouting Director) isn't quite so high. But what's not to like? Throws 97-99 at age 21. Already has six pitches he can throw for strikes. Unbelievable stuff. Killer circle change. Pitched four years in college and had a WHIP of under 1 during that time! Kid has a very bright future and I'll get him as many innings as I can.

Ron Baker
Third year at Hermosillo for Baker, another New Yorker (yay!), although from the Upper East Side (boo!). He has scattered 12 starts over those two seasons, with a 4.62 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. Not ideal. Has a nice array of pitches, just hasn't quite put it all together yet.

Bob Dingess
Rookie second round pick, he's not as heralded as Allen, but looks like he has some potential. Fastball, curveball, changeup might not be enough as a starter long term, but he keeps the ball down and kept his WHIP around 1.10 during his HS career.

Edward Robbins
11th round pick this year out of Hawaii (!). Doesn't throw all that hard, but sports a fastball, changeup, slider, and splitter. Needs to work on his command. Nothing particularly special to start with there.

Wayne Swift
Swift pitched in Hermosillo last season, and even pitched in 9 games at low A (and got knocked around quite a bit). But we was pretty solid in 30 innings at rookie ball last year, posting a 1.32 WHIP without giving up a home run. His fastball can get up near 96, and his splitter is pretty nasty too. I'm not sure if he's a starter long term unless we can help him improve that changeup, though.

Bill Winters
7th round pick this year, Winters is fresh out of high school, where he had a sub-3.00 ERA the past three seasons. He also throws with some heat. But like Swift, his lack of a strong third pitch is going to push him to the pen long-term.

Bullpen

Joe Carver
A free agent signing last year, Carver threw only 18 innings last year, and managed a 3.00 ERA, but only a 1.83 WHIP. Good fastball, but not sure he can put the rest of it together.

Dave Plourde
Sinker-slider pitcher who keeps things on the ground. Threw 45 innings last season in Hermosillo, and was middle of the road. 1.55 WHIP, 5.32 ERA. I'll say this, though, the man can BUNT like no other!

Jose Ruiz
The first southpaw we've come across! A Dominican lefty with a fastball, splitter, and circle change. Not much speed, but he keeps the ball on the ground.

Carlos Souza
Another international prospect, this time from Colombia. Decent stuff, but I don't now much else about him.

Mel Strand
Pennsylvania native who has spent parts of two seasons here. He seems to be the leader in the bullpen. Real "take charge" kind of guy. He's pretty much fastball, curveball, slider, but gets good movement. He has only given up 2 HR in 77 innings up here. He really cut back on his walks last season too, he just needs to, you know, not get HIT so much.

Walter Studebaker
When did people start naming their kids "Walter" again? Seems like something you see in the baseball history books or in old movies, and here I am with two of them on the same team. Anyway, ol' Walt here is a TALL drink of water. (6'7"). Throws over the top, gets up to 95 on the gun, mainly with his cutter, but struggles with control. He's probably the closest thing to a closer I have on this roster.

Bill Ulrich
Another lefty, this time an imposing 6'5 kid from LA. One of the few players acquired via trade, with my old team the New York Ninjas. Has pitched 50 innings at this level, and doesn't have much to show for it. 6.48 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, .332 BABIP. Going to use him sparingly.

Likely Rotation

1 - Darwin Allen
2 - Bob Dingess
3 - Ron Baker
4 - Wayne Swift
5 - Bill Winters
6 - Edward Robbins
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Old 07-13-2018, 09:19 AM   #8
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Welp

Paul paced around the room, phone to his ear.

"Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. So how long?" He listened intently for a few seconds, then practically threw his phone against the wall. "Are you freaking kidding me?!?!" he demanded. "No, no, I understand. Whatever you think is best, Doc. Thanks."

Paul hung up the phone and ran his hand through his hair. He knew that winning wasn't the priority here, but this wasn't really how he wanted to start off the season. Darwin Allen, probably one of his top pitching prospects, had only made it into the fourth inning in his debut. After getting knocked around a bit, he had signaled to the bench. Out on the mound, he'd complained about his elbow. They weren't going to take any chances with a #1 pick, so out he came, and now the doctors wanted to put him on the shelf for two months! Paul kicked at his trash can.

The game hadn't gone all that well after that. The Diablos, who won something like 38 games last season, knocked his pitchers around pretty good. It seemed like every damn hit was a double. Of course, it was a tough spot to put a reliever in, coming in unexpectedly in the fourth. So, his top pitching prospect had an ERA of 16.20 after one game. Carlos Souza and Dave Plourde had both given up runs out of the pen. The sole bright spot on the pitching front was Joe Carver, who had come in after Souza and pitched two scoreless innings. That's what he needed.

Meanwhile, they just couldn't keep up at the plate. They got some hits, but they were scattered, with the team stranding sixteen runners, and three in scoring position with two outs. Cyril Stefanelli looked like the real deal out there, going 3-for-4 out of the nine-hole and looking smooth at third. Maybe he needed to move up in the order, but Paul wasn't going to start moving everyone around just yet. Only his other potential star, the catcher Alex Bowen, and CF Alfonso Martinez failed to get on base. Oh yeah, and they didn't take a walk. Not one walk for the team the whole damn game. So, it seemed like they might need to preach some more plate discipline in practice.

Well, thought Paul, I guess that's the great thing about baseball. No time to dwell on stuff. There's another game tonight.
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Old 07-23-2018, 08:27 AM   #9
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April 16 - April 25, 2026

From the bus, Paul watched the evening desert landscape through a dirt- and fingerprint-smeared window, saguaro and mesquite rolling by in flashes of green scattered across the vast, undending browns. They were on their way to Monterrey now, after a three-game set in Juarez. It was brutal; the game at Juarez had ended around four, and they had hopped straight onto the bus for a 12-hour ride. They'd roll into Monterrey around four in the morning, with a 6:05 start that evening. Well, that was life in the minor leagues, certainly. As much money as the club made, they weren't going to fly around a bunch of rookies who would probably never even reach the show. He was probably the only one who was used to something better.

Funk hated hitting the road after a loss. After taking the first two against Juarez, they'd lost a tight one to finish off the series that afternoon. But as losses go, this one wasn't awful. The day before they had gone 13 innings, and Bill Winters had given him nothing at all today on the mound, and he'd yanked him after three innings and five runs allowed. He'd lost a starter earlier in the week when Bob Dingess went down, and Stanley Schneider, the GM, hadn't gotten him a replacement. And after heavy usage all week, his bullpen was just gassed. Ended up losing that last game 6-5, but it was hard to complain after they'd won six straight following the Opening Day debacle with Darwin Allen. In the "learn something new every day" category, after Winters came out, he'd gotten five solid innings out of Scotty Smith, who up until this game had been playing first base. They had known Smith could pitch, but the club really wanted to work him as a hitter. Paul had just had no choice, and Smith really saved his butt. At least a few pitchers would be ready to go against Monterrey.

At the end of the day, they were in first place at 6-2, with Monterrey right behind them at 6-3. Today would be game four in a ten-day stretch with ten games. The next four versus Monterrey, then three straight versus Leon, who led the southern division with a 6-4 record. You learned quite a bit from stretches like this.

The sun was setting, fierce oranges and pinks lighting up the clouds near the horizon. Paul had never lived out here, and was partial to the midwest, but he had to admit it: the sunsets in the desert were second to none. He leaned back as far as his seat would allow, soaking up the muted conversations of the team behind him, and thinking about what he'd learned about the team so far...

He certainly had a good infield. Despite playing both Carlos Trujillo and Mike Davis out of position to get them more experience, they were hitting the cover off the ball. Trujillo was hitting close to .400 and had already stolen 16 bases. David was hitting 20 points less, but was almost on base half the time, and with a litle more pop. At third, they hadn't been kidding about Stefanelli, who was hitting close to .500. It was going to be hard to keep those guys out of the lineup, but he needed to get some other guys some at-bats. He'd been playing one of his catchers, Sanchez, at first, and he was doing OK there. Scotty Smith was too, but he might need to keep pitching through this tough stretch. Maybe he could get a start out of him later in the week. At catcher, Bowen was a tough call. Just not seeing the ball well (.150/.190/.400), and certainly he had enough catchers to sit him down for a bit, but he was clearly the most heralded talent at that position. And after hitting .323 last year, Rich Ferris was in a season-long slump so far (.150/.320/.250). Dennis Bergeron had looked much better in 11 PAs (.300/.364/.600), so he might start Bergeron for a bit.

As for the pitching, Paul sighed... He'd lost his top two pitching prospects for a long time. He'd only gotten one pitcher back from the GM, and they had a long stretch without a break coming up. Either someone was going to need to come up big, or he was going to have to win with hitting this week. Right now, no one was exacting lighting things up on the mound. Bill Ulrich had pitched a strong seven innings against Chihuaha, only giving up one run. Out of the pen, Joe Carver had pitched six scoreless innings, and the lefty Ruiz had pitched three without giving up a hit or a run. But that was about it. On the plus side, no one had been outright awful, although Carlos Souza was close (3 runs allowed in 3 innings pitched). Anyway, it always took pitchers a while to get going. He would see what this week would bring.

Team Status
Season Record: 6-2
Record for this Stretch: 6-2
Position: 1st

Standout Performers
3B Cyril Stefanelli (.484/.514/.677, 0 HR 4 RBI)
SS Carlos Trujillo (.395/.410/.500, 0 HR 3 RBI)
2B Mike Davis (.375/.459/.719, 1 HR 11 RBI)

SP Bill Ulrich (7 IP, 1.00 WHIP, ERA+ 366)
RP Joe Carver (6 IP, 1.00 WHIP)
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Old 07-25-2018, 11:12 PM   #10
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April 26 - May 2, 2026

Well, Paul thought, here I am again. He had another stack of papers in front of him on his desk. It was an old affair, a mahogany roll-top credenza with six cubbies neatly arranged across the width of the desktop. Littered, of course, with papers. If the desk looked like it had been picked up off the street on trash day, well, that's because it had been. Paul had seen it on the way back to his apartment the other night, and then had spent 15 minutes trying to explain what he wanted to his office manager, Alejandro. Alejandro's English was just about as good as Paul's Spanish, and after fifteen minutes of mutually furious pantomiming, Paul had practically dragged Alejandro to his car, driven him to the credenza, pointed, and exclaimed,

"Quiero esa mesa!!!" As realization dawned on the stocky manager's face, Paul heaved a sigh of relief. International communication having succeeded, Alejandro took them back to the ballpark, borrowed one of the groundskeeping trucks, and together they lugged the heavy old desk back to the office. All it had cost him was a few beers for Alejandro, and it made the office feel a little bit more "his." The sterile, modern desk management had installed was on its side in the hallway.

Paul put his feet up on the desk and looked at the latest set of scouting reports. He had gained around ten new players in just the past week, and since they'd had games every day, he really hadn't had much of a chance to look at them much. The most intriguing one was . . . you guessed it . . . a catcher. Big, strapping Venezuelan kid by the name of Francisco DeLeon. The GM had moved him from the low A Golden State league, where he wasn't getting much work. Great, Paul had thought, the perfect place for him to get at-bats: a team with six catchers! But Paul had thrown him into a game near the end of the week, and he had promptly gone 4-for-4 in that one. So, Paul sighed and guessed he would have to find the kid more at-bats.

At any rate, there hadn't been much positive to look at this week. 7 games in 7 days, and two wins at opposite ends of the week, sandwiched by five straight losses. In a week they had gone from first place to 4.5 games back, as Juraez was on an eight-game winning streak. The Estrellas had lost three of four to Monterrey, then had made another 12-hour drive that night to start a home stand against Leon, who had taken two of three from them. And very nearly three, as his team had gone from a 6-1 lead in the 9th to eking out a 6-5 victory. He had gained a few gray hairs from that one. This coming week was against two new teams; two three-game sets against the 9-6 Ecatepec Vaqueros and the 4-11 Tijuana Potros. Today was a much-needed off day. His bullpen had been taking a beating all week, so they desperately needed a day off in this brutal schedule.

There had been some big personnel changes this week. Mike Davis, his biggest power bat, had gone up to Golden State. But, for some reason, Cyril Stefanelli remained in Hermosillo and seemed to be taking his frustration out on opposing hitters. He had hit .600 this week. He'd given outfielder Glenn Payne some work this week, and he'd responded with a patient eye and a .583 OBP. Santiago Sanchez, playing out of position at first, continued to be a tough out, hitting .385 with .529 OBP. But Carlos Trujillo, who had dominated opposing pitchers during the first week of the season, cooled off considerably, hitting just .136 in a team-leading 23 plate appearances.

As for his pitching staff, well, as anticipated, they hadn't fared very well against the stiff competition this week. Newcomer Jorge Escobar, a 19-year old Dominican righty with some great heat, had thrown the closest thing they'd seen to a gem so far this season: 6 2/3 innings of 4-hit, 1-run ball. Scotty Smith had held his own in his start as well, before returning to the outfield when reinforcements arrived. But other than that, his staff's stat sheet was filled with numbers like "31.5 RA/9" or "3.25 WHIP". Hell, only two of his thirteen pitchers struck out more than he walked. Ah well, it was a work in progress. If they could just take two of three from Ecatepec, that would be a great start to the week.

Team Status
Season Record: 8-7
Record for this Stretch: 2-5
Position: 3rd

Standout Performers
3B Cyril Stefanelli (.600/.611/.733, 0 HR 2 RBI)
C Francisco DeLeon (.800/.833/.800, 0 HR 2 RBI)
1B Santiago Sanchez (.385/.529/.462, 0 HR 1 RBI)
RF Glenn Payne (.375/.583/.500, 0 HR 0 RBI)

SP Jorge Escobar (6.2 IP, 0.75 WHIP, ERA+ 999)
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Old 08-02-2018, 08:34 PM   #11
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May 3 - May 9, 2026

Paul thanked Carlos Trujillo for coming in, and closed the door behind them as they left the office. Good kid. His English had already improved drastically in the few weeks he'd been here. He was doing everything you want to see as a manager; worked hard, really kept on his teammates to be accountable, especially the Spanish-speaking ones. Really busted it out on the field. He was going to run away with the stolen bases title if he kept this up. Kid was AVERAGING over a steal a game, and they were almost quarter of the way through the season! Granted, the league wasn't all that old, but he was going to shatter the Liga Mexicana record for steals in a season, which was a mere 29 back in 2015. Trujillo had 23 already!

Carlos Trujillo:

They parted ways, with Trujillo heading to the locker room, and Paul shouldering his bag and heading for the parking lot. They were hitting the road again tonight after a homestand that hadn't been terribly welcoming. After a great start, they now had lost four straight series, including to a Tijuana Potros team that was now a putrid 7-14 even after taking two of three from Hermosillo. Next up was a set with the 18-4 Juarez Jalapenos, who were on a 9-1 tear in their last 10. Not looking great.

The rapid-fire personnel changes continued, as they were likely to do all season. Paul's "he doesn't belong here" calls up the chain hadn't gone unheard, and Cyril Stefanelli had headed up to Anaheim on Wednesday after hitting .441/.478/.593 in 15 games. With no Cyril, and having lost Francisco DeLeon after a hot minute, they had struggled to score consistently all week. It was Santiago Sanchez who was keeping things going offensively. He'd remained hot this past week, hitting .385/.529/.456, although he didn't have a ton to show for it, with just 1 RBI and 3 runs scored. Outfielder Glenn Payne had been pretty productive as well (.375/.583/.500). Between him and Alfonso Martinez he'd at least gotten some production from his outfield, but beyond those three, the cupboard had been pretty darned bare in the past week. They just had so little power on this club. At this point he had ONE home run on his club, between all of his players put together. And that was from Alex Bowen, the catching golden boy, he of the .094 average that was making it nearly impossible to play the kid.

His pitchers were having a tough go of it. Granted, it was hard to follow with all of the turnover. But it didn't take an analytics whiz to realize that Bill Winters was really struggling out there. Opponents were hitting .500 against him, for Pete's sake! Six of his pitchers had WHIPs over 2.00 for the season. That wasn't going to cut it. One of the new kids, Sean Basinger, had looked pretty good. They'd picked him up as a FA, and he'd thrown 10 innings this week. 0.97 WHIP, 6.1 K/9 and only 2.6 BB/9. Paul didn't know if he could keep it up, but it was at least a promising start, and the club desperately needed one of those. And actually, the week was very up and down. They'd pitched two shut-outs, a 10-0 win vs Ecatepec and 3-0 vs Tijuana to close out the week. But in their other four games they had given up an average of over seven runs a game.

But the kids seemed to be doing OK. The clubhouse didn't seem tight, and they were starting to develop some camaraderie. There were a couple of unhappy faces. Will Lucas looked like someone had killed his dog, but it was a tough thing to be up in A ball, then find yourself back with the rookies. Not everyone could deal with that. They'd talked about it a bit, but Lucas was wearing his emotions on his sleeve, and Paul would have to keep an eye on him. It was an interesting situation for him to be in as a manager. He'd played professionally, so he had that wisdom to share with these players. He knew the game, he knew what it took to be in the big leagues. But he'd been playing in independent leagues after MLB shut down, and he was drafted right into the new league in 2015. He had never played a day in the minors. So, they were going through an experience he couldn't quite empathize with. But he certainly knew plenty of guys who had.

He saw pitching coach Mark Sherman up ahead, and shouted at him to wait up. He jogged to catch up with Sherman, and the conversation quickly turned to pitching as they headed for the bus.

Team Status
Season Record: 10-11
Record for this Stretch: 2-4
Position: 3rd

Standout Performers
1B Santiago Sanchez (.385/.529/.462)
RF Glenn Payne (.375/.583/.500)

SP Sean Basinger (10.1 IP, 0.97 WHIP, ERA+ 274)
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Old 08-05-2018, 11:45 PM   #12
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May 10 - May 16, 2026

The start of the week had been promising, taking two three from Juarez, and wow, what a series! On Sunday, they'd fallen behind 1-0 in the first, and 3-2 in the fourth, and had trailed all the way up until the bottom of the ninth. And then they'd walked it off . . . literally. CF Dennis Bergeron had led off with an infield single. Trujillo had advanced him to third on another single. Alfonso Martinez had grounded out but moved Trujillo to second. They had walked Daniel Davis, and Paul had sent up lefty Jorge Flores to face Carroll Crumpler. Good call, as the Dominican free agent signing had drawn a walk to score Bergeron and tie the game. Then Johnny Brandon had come up, and they'd seen that Crumpler was struggling and signaled Brandon to be patient. And to his credit, the kid had done the job. A four pitch walk to end the game! A great start to the week.

Then Monday was even better! This time they had fallen behind 3-0 in the 4th, and trailed into the 7th, when a four-spot put them in the lead. But then they couldn't hold it, as Walt Studebaker had walked the first two hitters in the ninth, and Eduardo Maldonado had scored on a squeeze bunt to tie the game. But he had gotten out the innning still tied. And in the bottom of the ninth, Trujllo was the catalyst again, singling to right, then stealing second. They walked Sanchez, but Andy Moss singled and moved everyone up to load the bases. Glenn Payne had struck out, but then Paul had sent up Ivan Cordova, he of the 4 AB so far this season, and Ivan delivered his only hit of the season to bring Trujillo home with the winning run! Man, it had been a while since he had enjoyed a game like that! Juarez was now 21-8, and way ahead them in the standings, but 4 of those losses were courtesy of your Hermosillo Estrellas.

But they'd lost the following series, to Chihuahua, bringing the Whirlwinds to within a half a game of them in the standings. Paul wasn't under any pressure from management to win the division, but for anyone who had played the game, the desire to win was pretty much hard-wired. He knew the minors were all about player development, but he certainly didn't want to finish in the bottom half. Besides, he had something to prove. To himself, to Cary, to Patty, to everyone.

So, it wasn't a great week overall. Paul would have felt better if they had gone 4-2 at least, but there was certainly some great team effort. And individual ones too. Trujillo had broken the Liga Mexicana steals record, and he hadn't stumbled across the finish line, either. He had been simply a terror this week, in the running for player of the week with a .417/.440/.625 slash, a grand slam, 7 RBI, 7 runs scored, and TEN stolen bases, bringing his total to 33, without ever having been caught! Paul had noticed his bevy of talented baserunners, and had long since determined to be aggressive on the base paths, and it had paid off. Not only had Trujillo already smashed the record, but the top six players in the league in steals were all on his roster. The pitching was still a little spotty, but Bill Ulrich had pitched a solid seven, something they hadn't had enough of. And with the team in the midst of a stretch of ten games in ten days, they needed as much of that as they could manage. This was a long stretch on the road. They'd finished three, but this week they had four in Mexicali, three in Puebla, and next week three in Guadalajara before finally coming home on the 28th to play Acapulco. Two of those three sets versus teams they hadn't faced before. They hadn't seen Mexicali since their first series of the season, and the Diablos were now firmly mired in the basement at 10-19. Puebla, at 15-13, was right in their neighborhood. Acapulco, however, was at the bottom of the Division Sud, with the worst record in the entire league at 7-21. Paul was hopeful the next few weeks would get them back at least a few games over .500.

Team Status
Season Record: 13-14
Record for this Stretch: 3-3
Position: 3rd

Standout Performers
2B Carlos Trujillo (.417/.440/.625, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, 10 SB)
LF Terry McCoy (.400/.462/1.000, 2 HR, 5 RBI)

SP Bill Ulrich (7.0 IP, 1.29 ERA, 0.86 WHIP)
RP Ken Carman (2.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 13.5 K/9)
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Old 08-11-2018, 09:42 PM   #13
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A Drink with Stilts - May 17 - May 24, 2026

Paul Funk Stilts Bradley

Paul laughed out loud and waved two raised fingers at the young waiter.

"Dos cervezas mas, por favor!" He turned to his guest, "Stilts, man, it's so damn good to see you! What the hell are you doing in Puebla?" "Stilts" was Brian Bradley, a former teammate of Paul's from his days with the Comets. Tall and broad, Bradley had had deceptive speed for a big guy, and his range and glove skills had earned him two Golden Gloves in center field over his eight-year career. The New Hampshire native had never shaken his thick New England accent, despite spending years in Kansas City. He grinned and took a big swig of Corona, then tipped the bottle in Paul's direction.

"Came to see YOU, big man." He paused for a moment, "Well, I mean, that was the intent. Stanley gave me the means, since he's thinking up some trade and wanted me to look at that second baseman New York has at Puebla - Carl Vogel." Bradley was currently a scout for Kansas City. He'd earned his nickname not because of his 6'2 frame, but because as a high school student in Bedford, he had spent summers working part-time for a renaissance faire walking on stilts and juggling. The nickname had followed him ever since.

"I read his scouting report," Paul mused about Vogel, "Looks like a decent prospect. I'll keep an eye on him too this week." Stilts nodded.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm sure he's OK," he replied, waving a hand dismissively. "But that's not why I'm here man, I want to hear about YOU. I've been worried about you for a long damn time. Cary's said you're doing well, but I wanted to see it with my own eyes." He took another drink and fixed Paul with a gimlet eye. "You really doin' ok?" Paul took a deep breath and held it, scanning the bar absently. He exhaled and returned his friend's stare.

"I think . . . I think I'm getting there, man." He looked down at his scuffed loafers for a moment, collecting his thoughts. "It's funny, you know? There are some days when I feel like it's all heading in the right direction. I really like working with the kids. I still love the game. And I think being down here has been better for me than moping around my apartment in KC. And then as quick as that - " he snapped his fingers for effect, " - I feel like it's all just a facade, and nothing has really changed at all. Patty's still gone, the kids won't return my calls, and I'm just running around in the desert with a bunch of kids who are probably going to be car salesmen in a few years." He sighed and kicked at a stray bottlecap on the floor.

Bradley reached over and put a strong hand on Paul's shoulder. "I'm really sorry about Patty, Paul. I never got a chance to talk to you when that happened." Paul choked up a bit, and nodded, keeping his eyes down. He looked up at his friend uncomfortably. This sort of conversation wasn't exactly his forte.

"Yeah, well, I didn't exactly make myself easy to get ahold of, now did I?" Paul finished off his beer and looked around for the waiter, to no avail. "It's odd. I look back on my relationship with Patty, and I just look like such a colossal screwup to myself. Just a total caricature of a bad husband. Wasn't there for her. Wasn't there for the kids. Totally self-absorbed. And I kinda get it now, and I have no freaking clue what to do about it. I think the answer is 'nothing.' I'm just too late."

"Patty's a good woman, Paul," replied Stilts. "I can't pretend I know what she's thinking these days, but I know this - she doesn't hate you, man. The kids don't either. Hell," he chuckled, "I think I have a great relationship with my kids, and they never return my calls, either! That's just how kids are these days. If you try and pull them away from the video screen for two minutes, you're the worst dad ever!" Paul nodded. He found the waiter, who procured a bottle of tequila.

"I hope you're right, Stilts, I hope you're right. But enough of that crap!" He brandished the bottle at his best friend. Let's get drunk and talk some baseball!"

---

The week had gone well for the Estrellas. After splitting a four-game set with the Mexicali Diablos to start the week, they had finally gotten some momentum in the latter half of the week, sweeping a three-game series from the Puebla Muertos to give them a four-game winning streak and put them two games back over .500 at 18-16, just a half-game behind the Tejanos for second. (Carl Vogel, the second baseman Stilts was scouting, had played decently against them, going 3-for-10 with 2 RBI.)

The roster had remained relatively stable in the past week. They'd had some unexpected offensive contributions in the last week from bench players. In fact, four players who had combined for 18 at-bats hit for .555 with 3 HR and 7 RBI; Scotty Smith, Glenn Payne, Ivan Cordova, and Fracisco Deleon. Some of the usual suspects had continued to perform as well. Daniel Davis had hit .421/.522/.421 for the week, driving in 4 and scoring 3, with 4 stolen bases. Andrew Moss was continuing to press for more time behind the plate, hitting .357 with a .643 slugging %, with a homer and 5 RBI. Alfonso Martinez and Santiago Sanchez just kept on chugging, each hitting over .350 for the week. Unfortunately, despite extra hitting practice, Alex Bowen just couldn't get out of his own way, swinging at balls and watching strikes, and making soft contact when he did hit the ball. He was rapidly turning into Paul's biggest frustration. Great kid, he just couldn't seem to put it together, and Paul could hardly justify giving him at-bats, with Moss and Sanchez both producing at high levels, and Francisco DeLeon back in Hermosillo.

They'd actually gotten some great pitching in the past week as well. Joe Carver had pitched 7 innings of one-hit ball against Puebla. Bill Ulrich had had another great start against Mexicali, giving up one run in six innings, nad earning a callup to Anaheim. Good for him! Scotty Smith, starting again in an emergency role, had scattered 5 hits and a run across six innings. In the pen, newcomer Justin Meeks had thrown just three innings, but hadn't given up a run, and had held opponents to a .100 BA.

One thing Paul loved about what he was getting out of these kids - it was definitely a team effort. When you looked at the leaderboards, they weren't well-represented at all, apart from stolen bases. No, they were playing solid baseball and getting timely contributions from a variety of players, and that's the way Paul liked it.

The next week was looking like another opportunity to make hay. A three-game set at Guadalajara would be tough. The Gauchos were 22-14 and battling with the Ecatepece Vaqueros for first place in the Division Sud. Dennis McDougle had just been tearing the cover off the ball for them lately, so they would have to be careful with him. But the second half of the week was a home set against Acapulo. (Long trip; the team had actually sprung for a flight from Guadalajara back home with the quick turnaround.) Acapulco was the worst team in the league so far this year, at just 10-26. Paul was hoping for 4-2 on the week to keep climbing the standings.

Team Status
Season Record: 18-16
Record for this Stretch: 5-2
Position: 3rd

Standout Performers
CF Daniel Davis (.421/.522/.421, 4 RBI, 4 SB)
RF Glenn Payne (.571/.625/1.429, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 5 R)

Daniel Davis

SP Joe Carver (7.0 IP, 1.29 ERA, 0.29 WHIP)
RP Justin Meeks (3.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP)

Joe Carver
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Last edited by battists; 08-21-2018 at 08:36 PM.
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Old 08-21-2018, 08:35 PM   #14
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Just a phone call - May 25 - May 31, 2026

Paul sat on the edge of his office chair, absently looking out over the ballfield. His cell phone was pressed rather harder than necessary to his ear as he listened intently to the voice on the other end of the line.

"Straight "A"s?? That's amazing! Please tell her I told her that when she wakes up, ok?" He smiled. "What? What? I'm sorry honey, this connection is terrible. What? Yeah, OK, I'll talk to you later." He paused nervously. "I love you," he finished, but Patty had already hung up. Paul let out a long sigh, and consciously willed his muscles to relax.

Paul heaved another sigh and tried to focus on the status report up on his computer screen. Cary expected weekly reports from his minor league managers touching on a number of things: team performance, player development, etc. It wasn't exactly Paul's favorite task of the week, but lately he had come to realize that the job he had seen as simply a lifeline at first had the potential to turn into something more like a career for him.

This week had been good. The Estrellas had won five of six this week, bringing them to nine wins in their last ten games, and sending them into second place in the division, just two games out of first place. There was nothing quite like chasing the division leaders to get the competitive juices flowing! The kids were excited, and so was Paul.

There had been a few personnel changes. They'd gotten Francisco Deleon back, and finally jettisoned one of the logjam of catchers (Zuniga, who Paul wouldn't miss at all). Deleon had responded by getting on base in eight of his nine plate appearances for the week, going 4-for-5 with 4 walks. All of his catchers were picking it up, in fact. Moss had hit at a .438 clip for the week, and Santiago Sanchez, still playing at 1st, just continued to mash, hitting .412. For the season, Sanchez was now hitting .336 with a .404 OBP, but his power hadn't developed just yet. Even the much-maligned Alex Bowen, who seemed more and more destined for a season-plus in rookie ball, had hit .333 for the week. Duane Baker had chipped in with three hits in ten scattered at bats.

They had picked up two new infielders. Melvin Ashley was another New Yorker, a left-handed bat who had made it all the way up to A ball, but who had managed to get released five separate times since being drafted two years ago. Didn't exactly smack of someone who would be around for a long time, but Paul liked having the extra left-handed bat off the bench. Cris Guzman, at 24, was an old man on this roster. He had been in the Detroit organization for almost six years before being released. He'd bounced around low A and rookie leagues during that time, never hitting higher than .267. Solid defender, not much with the bat. Ashley had stroked the ball well this week, hitting .375 and knocking in a run in nine plate appearances. The rest of his infielders were struggling a bit. Carlos Trujillo, who had previously been red-hot, had hit just .200 for the week. With the new additions, it might be time to give him a few games off. 3B Travis Crawford had been productive, hitting .278 and knocking in five. Everyone else was at or below .250.

The outfield, though, was mashing the ball something fierce. He had five outfielders get more than 10 PA this week, and the lowest batting average among them was Denny Bergeron's .317. Daniel Davis had had himself another smoking week - .400/.516/.640 with a HR, 9 RBI, and 7 SB. How this guy didn't win player of the week was beyond Paul.

The pitching was starting to perform better as well. Another stellar outing from Joe Carver was rubbing off on the other guys. Lanny Hall had had two good starts at the beginning and end of the week, and Chad Huckey had thrown six innings of scoreless ball as well. New signee Luis Bruno had thrown 3.2 innings of scoreless relief this week.

Team Status
Season Record: 23-17
Record for this Stretch: 5-1
Position: 2nd

Standout Performers
C Santiago Sanchez (.450/.455/.450 2 RBI 6 R)
CF Daniel Davis (.400/.516/.640 1 HR, 9 RBI, 7 SB)

Santiago Sanchez

SP Chad Huckey (6.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP)
RP Luis Bruno (3.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP)

Chad Huckey
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Old 08-23-2018, 05:47 PM   #15
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I Woke Up with Who?? (June 1 - June 7, 2018)

The clanging of pots and pans was so loud Paul could have sworn someone was slamming them together next to his ear. He groaned and rolled over onto his back. Lord have mercy. He cracked a crusted eyelid, and the blurry image of a young Latina woman gradually came into focus. Long, brown, wavy hair. A tank top over white cotton panties. Sassy swing to her hips. His heart jumped into panic mode as he wracked his brain. What the hell had he done last night? He tried to stretch naturally, working his eyes into fully operational mode. She sauntered by again and disappeared down a hallway briefly. On the way back, she caught his eye, and he was sure he turned six shades of red.

"Ooh, papi, you're awake! Long night for an old man like you!" she teased, waving a small Teflon sautee pan at him. He blanched and kept searching his disloyal memory . . . nothing. Jesus, she was young. She could practically be his daughter. What the hell did he do?? He wasn't a prude, by any stretch, but it wasn't like him to end up in a situation like this, either, and his brain felt like it was in quicksand right now. With a sudden awkward fear, he looked down. Whew. At least he had his boxers on. The pans clanged again, and he winced and raised a hand to his temples. Jesus. Just then, a man's voice called out from the hallway.

"Jesus Christ, Maria, where the hell are my pants??" The voice was immediately recognizable as Alejandro Lopes, the Estrellas' long-time hitting coach. Just like that, the evening started to come back to Paul. They'd gone out to celebrate. Twelve wins in a row, and 16 in the last 17. All of that had snuck them into first place in the Norte. And on top of that it had been Alejandro's fiftieth birthday the night before. But who the hell was the girl, Paul wondered?

Alejandro Lopes

"They're folded, in your drawer!" Maria shouted, and Paul winced again at the sound. "You know, where normal adults keep their clothes?" Paul levered himself into a sitting position with a groan, just as Alejandro came out of the hallway, with a small canvas duffel bag on his shoulder. The smell of cooking eggs and coffee wafted into the room. Paul's stomach roiled uncomfortably at the thought of food.

"Don't mind her, Paul," Alejandro waved, "this insolent brat is my daughter, Maria." Maria stuck her tongue out at her father.

"Awww papa," she pouted, "why'd you have to spoil the surprise? I was having fun."

"Because I'm a good person, Maria, that's why. Now you be a good girl too and pour me a cup of coffee. One for you, Paul?" Paul grunted assent, then thought better of his manners.

"Yes, please," he croaked. He glanced at his watch. It was still early, but they had to be off to Chihuahua again. Whoever set up this schedule hadn't been too concerned about their travel itineraries. Bleary-eyed, he staggered to his feet. Alejandro pointed him in the direction of the bathroom with a sympathetic pat on the shoulder.

Breakfast was a pleasant affair, with Maria chattering away. Paul nursed a black coffee and a couple of Aleve that Alejandro had dug up for him. The huevos rancheros Maria had whipped up LOOKED tantalizing, but his stomach was rebellious and wanted none of it. Rather than offend Maria by accepting some and pushing it around his plate, he pleaded mercy instead.

Maria filled out the picture about his hitting coach while they ate. Alejandro had been born in Venezuela, and his family had emigrated to the U.S. when he was twelve. They had bounced around California during his childhood. Alejandro had married young, to a fellow Venezuelan immigrant, and they had Maria when they were just 21. As it turned out, then, Maria was quite a bit older than she looked. She had just turned 29 the week before, which temporarily made Paul feel better for having slept with her . . . until his slow-moving brain realized he HADN'T slept with anyone. Maria had grown up in Yorba Linda. Sadly, Alejandro's wife Eugenia had passed in a car accident in 2014 when Maria was just 17. Alejandro had been working as a hitting instructor at Cal State Fullerton, but after Eugenia's death, he accepted a better-paid position with Hermosillo and moved to Mexico. Maria had stayed in Yorba Linda with her aunt and uncle until she graduated high school. She had split time since then, sometimes with Alejandro, sometimes in the states with her relatives. She was an elementary school teacher and had just arrived to spend some time with Alejandro during her summer break.

As they chatted, Paul realized again how isolated he had been for a long time after the separation, and how good it felt to be in the company of friends. He thanked Maria warmly as they left the apartment, and she threw her tan arms around him and planted a wet kiss on his cheek. Alejandro shrugged.

"Don't get a big head. She's like that with all of my friends. You ready?" Paul, nodded, and they headed out.

Team Status
Season Record: 30-18
Record for this Stretch: 6-1
Position: 1st

Standout Performers
SS Carlos Trujillo (.400/.455/.450 4 RBI, 3 R, 7 SB)
RF Scotty Smith (.316/.435/.579 1 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R)

Carlos Trujillo

SP William Lucas (12.1 IP, 2.92 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 1.54 WHIP)
RP Justin Meeks (4.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 2.74 FIP, 0.43 WHIP)

William Lucas
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Old 09-03-2018, 01:18 PM   #16
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The Prodigal Son Returns (June 8 - June 14, 2018)

The coaches and players huddled in small groups outside the bus, despite the fact that the heat was radiating off the pavement in waves. Pretty much everyone was damned sick of the close, oppressive atmosphere of the bus by this point in the season, and with another fourteen-hour drive ahead of them, no one was in a rush to board. Paul and hitting coach Mark Sherman were talking hitting, as usual. Mark had a toothpick in his teeth and a distinct look that said he should have been playing ball back when the likes of Mantle and DiMaggio were swinging bats. Paul glanced at his watch. A few more minutes, and then it was back into the sardine can. Idly, he wondered where Alejandro had gotten off to. No sooner had he thought this than his phone buzzed in the back pocket of his jeans. He wasn't familiar with the number, but the message read, "Hey Paul, it's Maria. Dad lost his phone. Wanted me to tell you he was running a few minutes late and not to leave without him!" She ended the text with a kiss emoji. Paul snorted to himself and pocketed the phone. The bus driver, uniformed and stereotypically Mexican, gestured at Paul, who nodded in response.

"Let's go, boys," he called out, and with a cacophony of grousing, they filed onto the bus. At least they had won the previous night. Always better to travel after a win. Now it was off for a four-game set in Tijuana before they returned home for a four-game set.

***

It was good to be home, Paul thought. "Home." Was that what this was? His little apartment definitely felt like it was his now. Although he didn't spend all that much time here, he'd made a conscious effort to stay on top of things around the house. It wasn't spic-and-span, but it wasn't embarrassing either. He sat down in his leather recliner and sighed. He'd had a similar chair at home in Kansas City. It had gotten a little worn, and Jesus Patty hated the thing, but Paul had been adamant that it stayed. Well, he mused, at least there's no one to tell me I can't enjoy my chair here! And immediately, he felt sad and guilty for having thought it. He shook his head as if to clear it, and clicked the TV on. His Spanish still wasn't good enough to follow most of what was on the local TV, but he liked having it on as white noise. As a rerun of Corazon Salvaje played in the background, he collected his thoughts on the week.

The rest of the week had gone decently. Tijuana always seemed to play them tough, and they'd split the four-game set. They'd come home on Monday morning and won the first of their four-game set with Mexicali earlier today. They were still two up on Juarez and with two games in hand. The next three against Mexicali would let them make some hay. He wanted to take at least three of four, because the week ended with three in Ecatepec against the league-leading Vaqueros, who were just a wrecking crew at 36-18 (8-2 in their last 10).

Andrew Moss was eliminating any doubt about who should be playing most of the games at catcher. While Alex Bowen sleep-walked through another week, going 1-for-6, Moss had hit almost everthing thrown at him, going 9-for-16 on the week, scoring five runs, and driving in three. That had him hitting .354 on the season, better even than Santiago Sanchez, who had been playing at first most of the season anyway. With Sanchez at first, and a few other catchers shipped up or out, he finally had a manageable rotation with just three catchers: Moss, Bowen, and Duane Baker. Since only Bowen was a lefty, Paul would get him a few at-bats against righties. The bulk of the at-bats would go to Moss, with Baker coming in occasionally as DH or to give Moss a rest.

This week had brought the return of Darwin Allen, too. Allen was the #1 overall draft pick who had pitched a little over three innings before going on the shelf for the last two months with elbow tendinitis. The whole thing had rubbed Paul the wrong way. He knew they would coddle kids like this, and the higher the draft pick, the more likely they would be cautious. But Allen's attitude hadn't been great to start with. He'd said a few things in the locker room or on the field that had made their way back to Paul. The kid was certainly talented. There's no reason he couldn't make the bigs, but it seemed like he felt put-out that he was even pitching in Hermosillo, like he expected things handed to him on a silver plate. Well, that's not how it was going to work while he was under Paul's command. Still, despite his moping, Allen had delivered in his first return from the DL, giving up one run in eight strong innings against Tijuana. That was especially impressive considering how often the ball had been in play. 94 pitches, zero walks, zero strikeouts. That was 24 outs on batted balls. When he had that splitter working, people just couldn't drive it. He had another start tonight against Mexicali, whose lineup wasn't particularly threatening, so hopefully he'd get some momentum.

Paul's phone buzzed. He glanced at the screen and smiled. It was Maria, who, once learning his number, had since sent him an almost ceaseless barrage of inanities and stream-of-consciousness texts. Paul wasn't much of a texter, and he hadn't replied to more than a handful of her messages, but he had to admit, he enjoyed hearing from her.

Team Status
Season Record: 34-20
Record for this Stretch: 4-2
Position: 1st

Standout Performers
C Andrew Moss (.563/.588/.688 3 RBI, 5 R)
RF Scotty Smith (.417/.462/.500 3 RBI, 2 R)
CF Alfonso Martinez (.364/.429/.455 3 RBI, 5 R)

Andrew Moss

SP Chad Huckey (13.0 IP, 2.08 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
RP Frank Lee (4.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1.07 WHIP)

Chad Huckey
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