(Pictured above: Eddie Robinson, right, and C. Paul Rogers III. This and all photos on this page by Ryan Pollack)
Two former Major League Baseball players with a combined nine decades of professional baseball experience were the headliners for another great day of baseball talk at the 8th Annual Winter Meeting of the Rogers Hornsby Chapter on Jan. 11, 2014.
In addition, 55 members and guests -- our largest winter meeting attendance ever -- got a preview of the upcoming national SABR conference in Houston from Bob Dorrill, chair of the Larry Dierker Chapter, which is hosting the conference July 30 to Aug. 3.
Eddie Robinson recounted his time in baseball, including as a member of the 1948 World Series Champion Cleveland Indians, and later as a scout and general manager. He was also in the Houston Colt .45s front office as head of player development when the team signed future Hall of Famer Joe Morgan. Robinson signed copies of his book, "Lucky Me: My Sixty-Five Years in Baseball," and was joined by co-author C. Paul Rogers III, professor of law and former dean of Southern Methodist University School of Law. Rogers is also the chair of SABR's Hall-Ruggles Chapter in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Robinson shared many interesting stories about his baseball experiences, including the time relatively early in his career when Rogers Hornsby advised him on hitting. Pondering whether he should try to guess what pitchers were about to throw, Hornsby told him no -- that he should hit what he sees.That, coupled with other advice about working the count, helped him improve as a hitter, he said.
Former MLB player Matt Kata (pictured on right) also shared stories about his time playing for Vanderbilt and later as one of the "Baby Backs," the infusion of young players on the 2003 Arizona Diamondbacks, which made a run for the playoffs when the team suffered a number of injuries. He also talked about the pressure of playing second base in Randy Johnson's perfect game against the Atlanta Braves in 2004.
Kata spent 14 years in professional baseball, including time with the Phillies, Pirates, Astros and Rangers in addition to the Diamondbacks and with the Triple-A Round Rock Express. Today, he is the manager for baseball outreach for the Express, helping with the team's community outreach and working with Ryan-Sanders Sports Turf Services, which recently replaced the turf at Texas State's baseball field.
Mike Capps, director of broadcasting and the voice of the Round Rock Express (pictured below), returned to give us a preview of the 2014 Express and Texas Rangers. He expressed hope that the Rangers would pursue Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. And he warmed the hearts of Astros fans in the audience when he said he thought the Astros would avoid another 100-loss season.
Jan Larson (pictured below on left) recounted details of his trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown last summer. In the afternoon, Chuck Kaufman (pictured below on right) discussed his recent trip to Cuba, which included watching Cuban baseball games. Jim Baker opened the meeting by sharing details of his first Major League Baseball game and asked members of the audience to share theirs.
We missed having Norman Macht with us at this winter meeting. Macht is the author of the definitive biography of Connie Mack; the third and final volume is set for publication soon. For a number of years, he has opened our meetings with creative trivia questions. Having recently relocated to California, Norman sent these icebreakers: 1.Take a Hall of Fame pitcher, add an "S" to his name and get a Hall of Fame outfielder who was born in Shiner, died at 30 and is buried in San Antonio; and 2) Take a Hall of Fame outfielder, remove the "S" from his name and get a first baseman who batted .389 with two home runs for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970 World Series (Scroll to the bottom to check your answers).
Also, special thanks to all of our presenters. Monte Cely, who helps run the Hornsby Chapter, deserves special thanks and recognition for assembling the meeting agenda and lining up another great panel of presenters.
Much thanks for these fantastic photos by Ryan Pollack, who volunteered his time to photograph the meeting. Here's his website: www.ryanpollack.com
Below are more photos from a great day of baseball talk.
(Answers to Norman Macht's icebreakers: 1. Cy Young/Ross Youngs; 2.Willie Mays/Lee May)