As soon as the announcement was released that Baseball Prospectus would be hosting an evening at the Rangers Ballpark, I was excited. Once I learned that Jon Daniels would be a part of a Q&A session, I was ecstatic. Hearing that Kevin Goldstein, Jason Parks, and Jamey Newberg would also be present to interact with the fans and readers, I was enthused. Then came the announcement that Don Welke (“Coach”) wanted to join in on the fun, and I was delighted. If I were allowed to hand-select who I would want to be present and accessible at this kind of event, I would have been hard-pressed to choose a better list. My expectations were high. My experience blew the expectations out of the water.
After a brief greeting by Joe Hamrahi, CEO of Baseball Prospectus, and introductions of Newberg, Parks, Goldstein, and Coach, we were immediately underway with the questions. The fans at the event were poised from the time that the word “Go” was given, tossing up question after question that displayed a better-than-average understanding of the Rangers, their minor league system, and a keen interest in the development process. The presenters were equal to the task, delivering thorough answers to each question, and in most cases going above and beyond to reach a deeper level of insight.
Don Welke was the least public figure on the stage. He doesn’t have 20,000 followers on Twitter, nor does he appear in newspaper headlines, but Coach stole the show. A baseball scout since 1965, the current Senior Special Assistant to the GM, Scouting provided the audience with perspective on changes in scouting in the last 45+ years, relevant information on prospects currently in the Rangers system, a Jairo Beras take that will make your prospect pants go crazy, and proof of what has made him a hall-of-famer in the world of professional scouting. Most of the questions were deflected to Coach, which was clearly justified, and yet I walked away wanting to hear Coach talk baseball just a little longer.
Three minutes before his scheduled time, Jon Daniels entered the room. He was introduced to a standing ovation. Upon greeting and acknowledging Newberg, Parks, Hamrahi, Goldstein, and Coach, he took his seat and readied himself for being peppered with his own line of questions. The questions for Daniels began with Joey Butler and ended with Prince Fielder, and covered everything in between. In every question, Daniels was candid and confident. I had never attended a Jon Daniels Q&A session before, but had heard great things. All of those rumors were true. He conveyed a demeanor that spoke volumes. He has a firm grasp on the helm of the Rangers ship. He appreciates those he works with in the front office. Under his leadership and direction, the Rangers front office is one that pursues all options, understands what they’re trying to accomplish, and is ready to outwork the other 29 teams in the league for the sake of being better.
There were numerous anecdotes and one-liners that stuck with me. The following were some of the best:
Welke: “Jason talked about Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara taking BP, they’re good-looking kids, they could really be impact guys here. But, you see this guy Jairo Beras taking BP and it’s similar to Josh, and he’s 17 years old. We want this guy badly.”
“Beras loves the Rangers. He’s in our camp. He wears #32 every day in our camp.”
Welke: “We don’t need just bodies anymore, we need premium talent. We need high-level guys that can be stars.”
Welke: “Jordan [Akins] has struggled like crazy, but he’ll hit bombs. He’s got great size. Will it ever come together? We don’t know. But if it does, it won’t be normal.”
Parks: “Guzman speaks better English than some of the American kids.”
Welke: “I graduated from Harvard…Illinois high school.”
Daniels: “We want to treat our people like gold. They’re the difference, we’re winning.”
Goldstein: “There’s no baseball team right now that is as set as the Rangers when you combine the talent they have at the big league level, and the talent they have in their minor league level organization. There is no team in better shape right now, and that doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and I don’t think this front office gets enough credit for being as good as they are.”
If you are a baseball fan and especially a Rangers fan, and have the means and the opportunity to do so, I cannot put too much emphasis on a recommendation to attend an event such as this one. It was a true privilege to observe a glimpse into some of the brightest baseball minds around, particularly because it was clear that they were genuine in their appreciation of those in attendance, as well as displaying respect for each question by providing an authentic answer.
Thank you to Joe Hamrahi for coordinating the event. Thank you to Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks for traveling from Illinois and New York to be in attendance. Thank you to Jamey Newberg for his part in the day, particularly in his part in getting Don Welke in the room and on the stage. Thank you to Coach and Jon Daniels for taking time out of their incredibly busy schedules to answer questions and talk with fans afterward as well.
As I said, my expectation level may have been unrealistically high, but the experience was incredibly superior.