Bayrouty has been in Stockton for two years.
The 2007 season was an eventful one for the Stockton Ports. The Ports played host to the Cal League/Carolina League All-Star game and, despite missing the playoffs, drew more than 218,000 fans, an all-time high for the Ports. We recently caught-up with the Ports’ broadcaster Zack Bayrouty to get his thoughts on the season and some of the prospects that came through Stockton in 2007.
Zack Bayrouty just completed his second season as a part of the Stockton Ports’ front office. The Massachusetts native and Northeastern University graduate joined the Ports before the 2006 season as the Ports’ Media Relations Assistant. During his first year with the team, he was the color man in the Ports’ broadcast booth, working with lead broadcaster Bo Fugliniti. When Fugliniti left the Ports for the Augusta GreenJackets after the 2006 season, Bayrouty was promoted to Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations.
We recently spoke to Bayrouty about the 2007 season.
OaklandClubhouse: What was the highlight for you this season? Was it hosting the Cal League/Carolina League All-Star game, or was there another moment that stood out for you?
Zack Bayrouty: I think overall, the All-Star game was a personal highlight of mine this season. As far as a Ports highlight would probably be the second-to-last game of the season. We were playing Visalia and the Oaks had a lead going into the bottom of the ninth. A guy named Barry Enright, who actually grew up in Stockton and is a big prospect for the Diamondbacks now, came in to try to close it out. The crowd was a buzz because he had his friends and family here and the Ports were trailing and he was going to try to close it out. Then the Ports came back and tied it up in the ninth. Branden Dewing [a pitcher] came in for the Ports to pinch run and he ended up scoring. We also had Jon Zeringue [an outfielder] come in to catch in extra-innings, and we wound-up winning that game. It was just a really exciting win. The Ports really had nothing to play for at that point, but the game just was really exciting.
OC: Do you think Dewing has a future as a left-fielder?
ZB: [laughs] He actually made a really good catch out there. The first ball of the 10th inning was hit right to him and he had to go back towards the track to make the catch. He made a pretty good run at it. It was funny, and we were all holding our breath, but he looked fine out there.
OC: Anthony Recker was only with the Ports for a half season, but he put up huge numbers. What did you see from him during his time in Stockton?
ZB: He was awesome. He is just a very hard worker, and I think it translates into whatever he does. He is a really hard-nosed guy. He gets right after it. He basically worked his way to hitting over .300. For a period, he was the guy who always came through in the clutch and that is sort of when I knew that he would be the All-Star representative from our team, especially after Luke [Appert] left for Midland. Anthony was just great. He came through in the clutch and really hit the ball on the nose every time. He’s got a really good work ethic and that is definitely going to translate when he gets up to the higher levels.
OC: How about Javier Herrera? What do you see him becoming down the road?
ZB: He got off to a slow start, but when he started to heat up, you saw everything that was talked about with him as far as all of his tools. He can do it all, and when he gets completely healthy, he is going to rise really quickly. I think as far as his hitting goes, I think when he gets better at pitch recognition, he’ll improve dramatically. It’s something that I talked about with Tim Garland, the hitting coach, that it looked like he was just guessing at pitches at times. It might have just been the rust from having the year off [after Tommy John surgery], but when he is on, he can hit the ball as hard as anyone in the league. He has a lot of speed, he has a cannon for an arm. He’s going to be a very good player if he can stay healthy.
He came back from the Tommy John this season and he would sometimes get a couple of days off here and there to rest his elbow when it was fatigued. It would still bother him if he took extra BP or something. He’d definitely still feel it. So he had to overcome that this season.
OC: You got to see Tom Everidge for a second time in 2007. We talked during the season about how it looked like he had made some significant adjustments during the year. What did you see from him?
ZB: He is the guy who impressed me the most, especially down the stretch. Coming into this season, he was a guy who you sort of thought you knew what to expect from him. He was a power guy who hit a lot of homeruns and struck out a lot and he really didn’t hit for average, but he had that raw power. He sort of started off that way again this season. I don’t know what the exact adjustment was that Everidge made, but I talked to a scout who had seen Tommy a lot and he asked me, ‘What’s going on with Everidge?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, what do you see?’ And the scout replied, ‘I see a guy who is hitting everything up the middle.’ That was the result of whatever adjustment he made, I think.
He wasn’t so much a strictly pull hitter after that. He really could hit to all fields and I think that played into him really raising his batting average by the end of the year and really having a great season. He finished the year at .258, but when you consider that he spent much of the year hitting around .220, that is a pretty big jump. He didn’t lose any power with that approach, either, since he won the Cal League homerun title.
OC: There were a lot of transactions with the Stockton team this season. Do you think it was hard for the team to gel with so many guys coming and going during the season?
ZB: Yeah, I really think that was a factor in the down season. The month of July when we went 6-23, you saw a lot of that. I know that people say that when you lose guys, you get guys back, so that it doesn’t have that much of an impact, but after awhile, it takes a toll. Especially when you lose guys who carried you in the first half of the season, like Luke and Anthony and Javier and Cliff Pennington and Trent Peterson. When those guys all left, it was a little tough. I’m not saying anything against the guys who were here because they all played as hard as they could, but it definitely took a toll on the guys who stayed behind, I think.
OC: You got to see a much better Cliff Pennington this season than in 2006. What did you see that was different from his 2006 and 2007 seasons?
ZB: The main thing was just that he was healthy the whole time. In 2006, he had the hamstring [injury] and you never knew when he was going to get in there and what he was going to do. I think the consistent playing time really helped him this season. He got on-base a lot and he made pitchers throw him a lot of pitches. He did what a lead-off hitter is supposed to do this season and when he got on base, he showed what he is capable of. I think it was just a matter of him staying healthy and just building up his confidence again. I think that there was a confidence thing, too. I know that he was pretty down about not playing in 2006, so he had to feel a lot better about 2007.
OC: If you had to describe Justin Sellers to someone who had never met him, how would you describe him?
ZB: The scout from the Chicago Cubs referred to him as “pee-wee” because he is just this small guy running around out there with baggy pants – I’m not sure there is a pair of baseball pants that would fit the guy – but he just has natural ability. There is actually a story I like to tell about that. When we were on one of our trips to Visalia, we went to the gym in the morning and after the workout was over, we were all just waiting around for the bus. There was a speed bag in the gym and we were screwing around and trying to hit the speed bag. Sellers had never done it before, and he came up and just started going to town on it. It’s all a hand-eye coordination thing and he had never done it before and he was the best of all of us. That just says a lot about his hand-eye coordination and his natural athletic abilities. In the field, it translates because he is a wizard in the infield. He can do so much.
OC: He played a little second in addition to his natural shortstop position. Did he look comfortable in both positions?
ZB: Yeah, he is pretty interchangeable in both of those positions.
OC: Switching to the pitching-side a bit, we talked a lot about Vince Mazzaro during the season and about how he was dominant at times and really struggled at other times. What did you see from him?
ZB: His stuff was the best on our staff this season. His slider is outright nasty. He’s gotten it up to 90 miles per hour, it’s a power slider, and I think it is his favorite pitch to throw. He’s also got a knuckle-curve and when he commands his fastball, all three of his pitches really work well together. I think it is going to be the most interesting to see what happens to him next season. He’s so young. Are they going to give him a chance at Midland at the start of next season, or are they going to keep him here for a few months or so? It was weird because he was so inconsistent during the season. I know that he is young and still developing, so that might have a lot to do with the inconsistency. As far as his stuff goes, it was outstanding and I know that every scout who came here was just drooling over it because they saw what he brought to the table.
OC: How about Andrew Bailey? He struck-out a ton of guys in a half season with Stockton. What did you see from him?
ZB: He was fun to watch. His fastball is huge. It’s a swing-and-miss fastball. His curveball is also great and when he is setting up his fastball with his 12-6 hook, he’s great. His fastball kept getting better every time that he took the mound. He’s also got a great attitude and he comes right after hitters and dares them to hit the fastball. It’s going to be fun to watch him move up fast.
OC: What was it like to see a guy like Bobby Cramer basically come to the Ports out of retirement and pitch as well as he did?
ZB: That was one of the coolest stories this season. He just kind of came out of nowhere and in his first appearance, he struck-out something like four hitters in a row, and everyone was like, ‘wow, who is this guy?’ It was really great to see. He is a great guy. To think that he hadn’t been in baseball since 2005, you’d never know it by the way that he pitched because he knew how to pitch. He never lost that. He had a little veteran savvy to him even though he had been out of baseball for a couple of years. I’ve emailed with his dad a bit and his dad was telling me that [Bobby] is really excited and serious about taking his career to the next level. He’s definitely committed to taking the next step.
OC: Was there anyone this season who sort of flew under the radar who you think could make a big leap forward next season?
ZB: Mike Affronti. He came in at the end of the season. He really goes all out on every play and he is explosive. He does everything on the field pretty well and he is a very hard-nosed player. I think he’s one to watch for next season. He hit over .300 in 26 games and was really fun to watch in the short time that he was here.
OC: How was this season different for you being the only announcer in the booth after working with Bo Fugliniti last season?
ZB: It was really different. Coming into 2006 when I was with Bo, I had never broadcasted before. I never went to school for it or anything. Bo and I just kind of had fun on the air, and everything I know about broadcasting I learned from him. I was really scared going into 2007 because I had never done it by myself, but it ended up being really fun. It is just something special to able to go out there every night. I can listen to clips from the first game and from game 139 and I can tell that there is a really big difference. The schedule sort of forces you to get better as it goes along. Both seasons were a lot of fun, but very different. I’m hoping it is something I can really grow and take to the next level some day, but right now I am having a lot of fun.
OC: You obviously grew-up a big baseball fan. How differently do you view the game now that you have been in this line of work for a little while?
ZB: As a fan, even though you think you know everything about baseball, you really don’t. Even after three years of working in baseball, I find that I learn something new about baseball every day. Whether it be about the business side or the game itself. Certainly watching 140 games makes you pay attention to the details a little differently and notice more of what is going on in-between the lines. There are so many little nuances. From a business standpoint, you really learn about what everyone in the organization needs to do to make it successful. I’ve learned so much in three years in working in baseball and there is definitely a lot more to learn and I am excited to learn it.