The San Antonio Missions are the AA affiliate for the San Diego Padres. This past season saw the Missions win their 12th Texas League Championship, as they completed a four game sweep over the Arkansas Travelers. The Missions finished the season with 94 wins and 46 losses. Their team slash line was (w/league ranking): .269 (2nd)/.355 (1st)/.440 (2nd). The team clubbed 159 homers, good for 3rd in the league. On the pitching side, their ERA of 3.43 was best, and their 12 shutouts were second in the league. They also had a league best K/9 of 7.8 and a league best WHIP of 1.272.
It’s no wonder San Diego’s minor league rankings continue to rise with numbers like those. To explore this team in depth, I had a chance to e-interview the Missions’ Director of Public Relations, Jim White.
Jim is entering his second consecutive year as the Missions Director of Public and Media Relations and fifth year overall. He served in the same capacity from 1998-2000. A native of Albuquerque, NM, Jim earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from New Mexico State University in 1996. He started his career in baseball as a public relations intern for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in 1997 before beginning his first stint with the Missions. He spent the 2001 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in their Media Relations department then returned home to Albuquerque where he continued his PR career, working in an agency, then came back to the Alamo City in January of 2011. Jim is responsible for the overall media and community relations efforts of the team as well as various team publications such as the game day program and media guide.
What is a typical game day like for you?
The day starts by uploading the current team stats, league standings and league leaders and once that is done, we can start on the daily game notes. We also write a daily press release which highlights the previous game and previews that night’s game. We’ll get the starting line-ups from each manager, print them up and take them to the press box along with all the other game day information. We’ll also coordinate all interviews around the players/managers/coaches schedules, typically after batting practice. During the game we take care of the media, making sure they have everything they need and providing them with information they may need during radio broadcasts or TV highlights. After the game we coordinate all interviews and write a game story which will be sent to the media and placed on our website.
What do you enjoy most about being the PR director?
The thing I enjoy most is getting an opportunity to work with the many people in all the types of mediums. I’ve been able to work with some great reporters, TV and radio personalities and the like.
What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Winning the championship last year in my first year back with the team would have to be one of the highlights of my career. It was nice to be a part of a season like we had because it probably won’t happen again (for any team) for quite some time. Working for the Dodgers was also a highlight. It was a great experience for me to see how things are done on a big league level, especially in such a large media market. I’ve taken some of those experiences and used them in what I do here.
Give me an update on the potential new stadium.
As of right now the talk of a new downtown stadium is just that, talk. The city council has been in discussions about it for a while now. The big issue is what part of downtown to build it and how to fund it. The Missions are no way involved in either of those discussions. If there is a new stadium built, it would be a great opportunity for downtown and an exciting event for the Missions and our fans.
Is the Wolff truly a pitcher’s park and the TL a pitcher’s league?
The Wolff historically has been a pitcher’s park which is why the team’s home run output last season was so shocking. We set a record for most homers (159) in a season in the Wolff Stadium era (1994-present) which was also the second-most in franchise history behind the 171 hit by the 1925 team. The wind almost always blows in from right field which makes it almost impossible for lefthanders to hit it out unless they go opposite field. The Texas League as a whole is typically a pitchers league. Compared to some of the other minor leagues, the ERA of Texas League teams is typically one of the lowest.
And now, on to the player talk…
Who’s the best overall guy in the system?
The best overall guy in the system is probably Rymer Liriano. Everyone from the coaching staff, other players and scouts say he’s the real deal and compare him to Vlad Guererro. He’ll start in Lake Elsinore most likely and we’ll probably see him at some point this season.
Of the players you’ve seen, name one position prospect who you think will be an MLB starter.
Of the guys I’ve seen I would say Jedd Gyorko. He may not be an ideal third baseman but when you can hit like that, they’ll have to find a place to play you. He tore up the California League and hit very well when he got called up here in early July. He slumped for a while after pitchers adjusted to him but he, in turn, made the adjustment and ended up hitting .373 over the final 15 games of the season, including hitting safely in the last 12 games. He carried that over to the Arizona Fall League where he hit .437 which is the second-highest average in that league’s history.
Same as above…only make it a pitcher.
Robbie Erlin. Lefties are always valuable but he can throw strikes and make batters miss. He’s mature beyond his years and doesn’t get rattled. He reminds of Tom Glavine but is a better strikeout pitcher at this point and all of his pitches are Major League quality.
Who’s the most underrated guy you’ve seen?
Vince Belnome. He isn’t considered a high prospect by the Padres or any publications but all the guy does is hit. He’s a career .301 hitter who averages 14 home runs and 67 RBI’s a season so far. He hits very well to all fields, has a great eye at the plate (102 walks in 2010), is always on base and was arguably our MVP last season before he got hurt. He probably doesn’t get the recognition defensively either but he led the league in fielding percentage for second baseman prior to his injury. It would be great to see him get a chance to play in the big leagues.
What has you excited most about the upcoming season?
I’m most excited to see how good we can be in 2012. We should have plenty of guys starting the season for us who were on last year’s championship team. Plus, there’s an abundance of talent at the levels below that everyone is excited about. The Padres farm system is in great shape for years to come. Also, it will be interesting to see how John Gibbons does with this bunch. He has a completely different personality than Doug Dascenzo.
Bonus: What was the single biggest key for San Antonio’s championship season? The one thing that helped them become so successful.
I don’t know if there was just one key to us winning it all last year. We had great leadership with Doug and the rest of the coaching staff, and most of our guys have been on successful teams in the past. Some of the players we had here were on the 2009 Fort Wayne team that also won 100 overall games and won the Midwest League championship. Most of the guys we had come from very successful college programs, so they just know how to win.
There you have it. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jim for his valuable time and thoughtful responses.