Updated: July 17, 2013 7:21AM
The RailCats kept an eye on last week’s major league draft more for who wasn’t picked than for who was.
They typically hold a post-draft workout for unselected college seniors, and were planning to have this year’s edition on their next homestand later this month.
“That’s why independent baseball is so good — it creates an opportunity for every player to pursue his goal of playing in the major leagues,” said manager Greg Tagert, who was a scout for the Detroit Tigers early in his career. “Being drafted or not being drafted is not the end-all; it doesn’t assure you anything, but it also doesn’t mean you won’t accomplish that.”
The RailCats invited 18 players to last year’s workout, and that crop yielded this season’s starting second baseman Chase Tucker, who played 12 games with the team last season; and this season’s starting shortstop Zac Mitchell, who played 30 games with the team last season; as well as released first baseman Kenny Bryant, who played 16 games last season and had the inside track to the position this season before Steve Liddle won the job in spring training.
“Last year was as good as I’ve seen,” Tagert said.
Tagert pointed to George Sherrill as his “best success story.” The left-hander went undrafted out of Austin Peay, and played his first two professional seasons in 1999 and 2000 for the Frontier League’s Evansville Otters under Tagert. In 2004, Sherrill made his major league debut with the Seattle Mariners.
“Fifteen years later, he’s still toiling in the big leagues,” Tagert said.
Built on pitching and defense, and with the way the Steel Yard plays, the RailCats pretty much never are going to be a home-run hitting team — though Tagert attempted to upgrade that area with several offseason acquisitions.
Still, through the homestand they completed on Wednesday, they had a grand total of an American Association-low three homers — two from Cristian Guerrero (one at Kansas City, one in Gary) and one from Craig Maddox at home. El Paso had the next-lowest total with six, and Sioux Falls was leading the league with 39.
“We have to do everything so fundamentally correct,” Tagert said. “As much as we thought there would be more power, it just hasn’t come yet. Until we provide a little bit more offense, we’re going to have to do everything else extremely well, and we haven’t been consistent enough.
“Not that I thought we’d have 15 or 20 home runs, but I thought we’d have a little more run production.”
— Relatively speaking: Through marriage, Phil Jackson is Ari Ronick’s uncle. June, Ronick’s mother’s sister, is an ex-wife of the 11-time NBA champion coach.
Ronick recalled attending several Bulls games as a kid, and once going to the Berto Center. More recently, within the last several years, he stayed with Jackson for a couple of weeks in Los Angeles when the left-hander was working with a pitching coach.
“Great guy, really gracious host,” Ronick said of Jackson. “Just one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, smartest people too.”