Independent Baseball Insider – Vol. 12, No. 11 – May 15, 2014
With so many new wrinkles in baseball, it is always fun to know there is some old school still in play, and it will be on display this very evening (Thursday) when the Gary Southshore RailCats open defense of their American Association title in Minnesota against the St. Paul Saints.
RailCats Manager Greg Tagert even sticks with a four-man starting rotation, which most everyone else has abandoned in favor of utilizing five starting pitchers, and it is difficult to dispute Tagert’s success since he has won three championships at Gary and lost in the final playoff round four other times in the last nine years.
Tagert has a roster loaded with rookies (nine) and he is currently only utilizing two of the five allowed veteran slots (six or more years of professional experience). One vet is onetime Atlanta Braves hurler James Parr, only 28, and coming back after missing multiple seasons because of two separate surgeries. The other vet also embraces old-school play, which Wally Backman, Jr., a corner infielder and outfielder, learned from his dad, a 14-year major leaguer remembered as a peppery second baseman for the 1986 World Champion New York Mets.
“He (Tagert) plays that old-school baseball and I really enjoy it,” Backman told The Gary Post Tribune recently, as he enters his first year with Gary but his 11th as a professional at the age of 28. “And I consider myself a gamer. I’m going to run down the line every time–I may be a big guy (6-2, 200), but I’m going to break up a double play, I’m going to come in hard to home.”
Winnipeg, which won the American Association two years ago, starts with a 10-game road trip and is doing so without one of its most experienced players, infielder Amos Ramon, who was released this week. The 30-year-old was the playoff MVP in the title season, and hit .268 while playing in 97 of 100 games last year.