June 19, 2013
By RUSS EISENSTEIN
"Voice of the Bobcats"
Listen to "Voice of the Bobcats" Russ Eisenstein's interview with Seth Streich
The road to "The Show" can go through Athens, Ohio and Beloit, Wis. Former Ohio pitcher, and current Oakland A's prospect Seth Streich hopes that's the case.
Streich is a year removed from his Bobcat pitching days, and he's in the middle of his second minor league season. After being selected in the Sixth Round of the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft, he's already climbed three rungs of the A's system. He started in the Arizona League, then was promoted to the team's Short Season Class A affiliate in Vermont last year. This could be a full year in Low A ball as a Beloit Snapper. The righthander is 6-4 with a 5.52 ERA.
If you ask him, he'll tell you he was fortunate to be drafted in the sixth round. Being selected that high means he received a sizeable signing bonus. Just because he was taken where he was doesn't mean his spot in Oakland, or elsewhere, is guaranteed.
What is a certainty for Streich? Long bus rides, road hotels of varying quality, stadiums of varying quality, time to prove he's worthy of a promotion or time to prove baseball won't be his profession. He's fine with putting in his time to reach his goal.
Beloit is a working class city of 40,000 that has had affiliated baseball since 1982. It's 75 miles southwest of Milwaukee, and the team was in the Brewers system for over two decades.
Growing up a Brewer fan, my family and I have been to Pohlman Field at Telfer Park hundreds of times. I saw the likes of Gary Sheffield and Prince Fielder when they wore a Beloit uniform. It was there where I saw Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez before they were big league stars.
I grew up following the league, and traveling to parks across the Midwest. I've seen the minor league life as a fan and as a broadcaster. I was the "Voice of the Eugene Emeralds" in the Northwest League for two seasons. David Freese, Mat Latos and other current big leaguers started their professional days in Oregon then. I was even on the mic in Beloit once. In college, I broadcasted a Snappers-Dayton game that went to extra innings. So, I can tell you with first hand experience, the road that Streich is traveling down isn't an easy one. The odds are stacked against him.
For every Fielder, Pujols and Rodriguez, there are hundreds of names you have never heard of who have filled out a minor league roster. The way the system is setup requires great drive, patience and development.
It also demands luck. There are only so many spots on the next level. Baseball is a numbers game, and the baseball roster game is a numbers game too. Streich is aware of all of this. His soft spoken nature and calm demeanor will help him. His knowledge of how the game works, his own skill set and what he needs to improve on will help too. If the numbers work out, for himself and in the system, he would welcome a promotion to Stockton or Midland, the A's High A or Double A affiliates. But, he knows a year in Beloit would not be bad either.
Survival is not just a goal for tournament play, or for minor league players, it's the goal of teams too. The minor league baseball boom occurred in the 90's and early 2000's. Suddenly, towns were clamoring for teams, and they were willing to build sparkling new ballparks - Dayton is a prime example. Towns like Clinton and Burlington, Iowa, and Beloit are trying to survive. They are what minor league baseball used to be.
Pohlman Field largely looks like it did in the 80's. There have been minor improvements, a new park is needed, but those talks have quieted. The Snappers are facing another year of sub one thousand per game attendance figures in a park that seats 3,500. There's no guarantee that affiliated baseball will still be there in ten years time. So, there's a poetic link between the players playing, and the stadium/town they're playing in. Streich and the Snappers are trying survive, and yes, advance.
The road to "The Show" CAN go through Athens and Beloit. If it's a full season in Wisconsin, Streich will pitch in the playoffs. On Sunday, the Snappers walked off with an 8-7 win over Clinton to clinch the MWL's West Division Title on the final day of the first half of the season. A rare crowd over 1,500 saw it. There hasn't been a division winner there since 2007, and a Bobcat helped make it happen.