Around the Pacific Coast League

A Cubs fan proudly displays a ball given to her by Jonathan Mota in Nashville - John Davis (@bologna1226)

A round-up of some of the personal PCL happenings you might have missed.

KTSM in El Paso did a story about a retired police lieutenant and captain named Connie Van Putten, who plans to visit every professional ballpark in America. She’s already visited every MLB park and every park in Japan, so she has turned her attention to Triple-A parks. She’ll be hard to miss if she pulls up at a ballpark near you because she’ll be driving a Volkswagen Beetle painted like a baseball. And she’ll be wearing a vest with pins from every park she has visited. For the record, she enjoyed her visit to Southwest University Park – home of the El Paso Chihuahuas.

Speaking of the Chihuahuas, two El Paso players – Jeff Francoeur and Jason Lane – are featured in a New York Times article that talks about their attempt to get back to the big leagues. As someone who is feeling his age, I smiled at what Lane, 37, had to say about the topic: "I look at the rosters and look at the birthdays and go, Sheesh, there’s no one else left from the ’70s, much less the early ’80s," Lane said. "So I don’t look at that. But I feel like the age thing is a nonissue."

Round Rock manager Steve Buechele was a pre-game show guest with Omaha broadcaster Mark Nasser recently. Buechele reminisced with Nasser, talking about Nolan Ryan (a former teammate and the namesake of the team he currently manages), and he talked about rooming with John Elway while he was at Stanford, whom he recently got together with for dinner. Buechele says if Elway had chosen the baseball route, he would have been an All-Star in the major leagues.

If you are a sucker for a good comeback story like I am, you might be interested in reading this article from the Fresno Bee about Fresno Grizzlies 31-year-old infielder Mark Minicozzi.

Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman made it clear where he stands when it comes to the PCL and the International League (its Triple-A counterpart) in an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal: "The PCL, from what I’ve seen, is a much better league than the International League, with more professional hitters. You make mistakes in this league, you’re going to get hurt." I’m guessing that comment will draw a response or two.

In what is quickly becoming an article mostly about PCL managers, it was nice to see Oklahoma City RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco return to the helm recently after missing nearly two months of the season to undergo cancer treatments.

Nashville starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson was a pre-game show guest with broadcaster Jeff Hem recently. Nelson has had a couple of tastes of the big leagues with the Brewers – including a May 25 start against the Marlins – and he told Hem he sent the game ball and some tickets home to his middle school brothers. "It’s pretty fun for them to have that kind of memorabilia and to be able to show their friends and stuff like that. It makes me happy to see them enjoying that," he said.

That brings me to a photo that appeared on Twitter Tuesday afternoon. As fun as it is to talk prospects, there is a part of me that will always prefer the simple joys of the game – like seeing the wonder on a little girl’s face after a player goes out of his way to make sure she gets a ball. During the Iowa-Nashville game in Nashville, as Cubs first baseman Jonathan Mota came off the field at the end of an inning, he presumably saw the Cubs gear that a father and daughter were wearing, so he pointed to the girl (whose name is Gracie) and tossed the ball to her father. Here is the result:

But it got even better when Iowa outfielder Ryan Kalish handed her another baseball:

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