Lancaster had a great season with a lot of standout players this year. Let's
talk about a few of them. How about Jon Zeringue?
A lot of what I'll say is just from a baseball fan's perspective. I work
with these guys, but I see what the fan sees. With Jon I think you're going to
see, obviously, a guy who's going to hit. Also, I think he really showed the
Diamondbacks a lot with his defensive skills and that just enhances his prospect
of moving up. Certainly with him, the biggest thing was getting him signed and
seeing the opportunity to start his career at High A, which means next year he's
going to be moving up that much closer. So it accelerates his career. He's a
great guy. I think he's someone that you'll see playing on TV pretty quick.
What about Conor Jackson and Carlos Quentin?
Conor and Carlos were as advertised. We heard about them all last off-season
and they came in and they showed why they are the top prospects in the
organization. So, again, I think you're going to see two individuals that are
going to be an integral part of the Diamondbacks in years to come. They're fun
players to watch and they're guys that play all out. With Carlos, his
defensive skills are second to none that I've seen at this level. Conor is
still learning the outfield, but the guy can hit like there's no tomorrow. So,
I think you're seeing two individuals that, as they progress up, are as
Yeah, and Carlos Quentin – Not too shabby for a guy who just came off
Tommy John surgery.
He showed why he was a top pick. He showed how he contributed to Stanford in
the World Series for several years in a row. I think there's nothing but
upsides for these guys. Certainly they were a big reason why we had the season
we had. They're decent clubhouse guys, but they're also guys that are going
to come out and play and I think that's what people are looking for.
Are there any other players that you think standout or get overlooked?
Phil Avlas was our catcher the entire season. He was not really considered a
top, top prospect, but he made giant headway this year offensively. He has a
major league arm and from an offensive standpoint he really stepped up this
year. From a defensive standpoint, the guy is as good as it gets. He was able to
keep the pitching staff under control. Throughout the season, we had a lot of
changes and he was kind of the glue that held everyone together through the
From a pitching standpoint, Enrique Gonzalez converted from a relief guy into
a starter's role and absolutely dominated. He's now on the 40-man roster.
Jason Bulger and Justin Wechsler were with us, both as closers and they both
stepped up. I think with all these guys, from a Diamondbacks perspective, there's
a lot to be optimistic about, because there's a core group of guys that are
moving up in this organization that are going to prove that they can succeed at
the next level.
As I said before, the JetHawks had a great season, quite possibly one of
their best seasons. This was in large part because of Wally Backman. What kind
of manager was Wally during his time in Lancaster?
Wally was great. What I look for in a manager has nothing to do really with
baseball. It's how do they interact with us and what they are willing to do.
Anytime we needed a player to sign an autograph or make an appearance or do
something, Wally was backing it up one hundred percent. That's what you need
in a manager at the minor league level: someone who is willing to do some of the
things that, from a community standpoint, we need. From a baseball perspective,
it doesn't get any better than what Wally offers. During one of his
suspensions, I had the opportunity to sit up and watch part of a couple of
innings with him. Watching him dissect certain situations as they're taking
place and then, in essence, predict what's going to happen, was remarkable.
The guy was always doing his homework before and after games, identifying things
that the team could take advantage of. From that perspective, it doesn't get
any better in terms of a baseball guy. And then you have a team with players who
will walk through a brick wall for him. So, he brought that to the table. Yes,
he's going to get on your case, but at the same time, you're going to want
to play for this guy. So, all of it wrapped up into a package was as good as it
gets from a baseball perspective.
As a GM, taking into account his stellar baseball past, do you think that
Wally's past off the field should have been a factor in getting the
Diamondbacks managerial position?
In terms of Wally's background, it is what it is. You'd like to think
that someone has overcome that and gotten by. Did it warrant his firing? I can't
say. It's not my decision; I don't know all the facts. I only know what it
was like working with Wally for one year and from my perspective, it was a great
experience. So, it's tough to say how the other stuff factors into everything.
Are you involved in any way of hiring a new manager for the JetHawks?
The Diamondback organization tells me that they're making their decision on
who our coaching staff is going to be, but I don't have any say in that. They
say, "here's three or four guys, and they'll be joining you next
year." Then, I make contact with those guys, introduce myself and we see
each other next year.
Do they give you any names of people up for the job?
Well, they give me some names and they give me some ideas of what they're
thinking, but they say they'll let me know. The Diamondbacks have gone through
a lot of changes at the Major League level. So, as they determine who their
coaching staff is going to be, it all kind of trickles down from there, and that
has an effect all the way down the organization. They'll give me an idea of
who they're looking at, but nothing's set in stone until they call me and
say, "this guy's coming."
And do you know when that might be?
With in the next couple of weeks. Probably shortly after Thanksgiving. Last
time I talked to them was last week and they're narrowing things down.
One final off the wall question: Did you see the brawl at the
Pistons/Pacers game or the similar brawl at the Ranger/A's game earlier this
year? Have you ever seen anything like that in your career and how would a
situation like that be handled in Lancaster?
One thing is, at this level, fans aren't knowledgeable about who our
players are, except for a very small few. For the most part, when you're
talking about a Major League player, regardless of the sport, you're
constantly hearing about them in the media. You're hearing about their
personalities, about their transgressions or things that go on and why they're
good or bad and that carries over to fans that attend those games. The fans like
to heckle and you're not going to see that necessarily at this level. Except
for the very few fans that study on this. The majority of our fans are here,
again, for reasons other than baseball. They're here for a community event,
they're here for a bobble head that we're going to giveaway, or they're
here for fireworks. So, what it comes down to is you don't have the animosity
between the fans and the players at this level. However, I never say never,
because you never know what could happen. I've been to games where, especially
with the independent club, there were certain managers or certain players that
had been in the league for four or five years that developed some sort of
reputation that the fan base got to know and they like to get on a little bit. I've
seen beer thrown at a manager, that type of thing, but erupting into something
bigger? No. I think it would be a very rare occasion for that to even happen at
this level. But, it's something that we have to keep in the back of our minds.
We're in a venue that has 3,000 to 4,000 people on any given night –
anything could happen. If there's a fight on the field, that obviously gets
everybody jazzed up and you can see it when the intensity level in a ballpark
picks up a notch. People are more vocal or they're heckling another club. So,
those are things for us to be aware of. We have to try to go in and squash that
intensity right away, whether it's escorting a fan out or telling a fan to
calm down or having security really be attentive to what's going on. That's
how we are able to avoid those things.
In Part 2 of Merisa Jensen's interview with the Lancaster JetHawks' Brad Seymour the General Manager talks about some of the players he's worked with and the manager who guided the JetHawks to a fantastic 2004 season, Wally Backman.