Every now and then a name will pop up in my mind or in conversation around this time of year regarding a former Revs’ player and his potential of coming back to York. Given the success left-handed starter Chris Waters had for the Revs in 2012, I figured he’d be a lock to come back in 2013.
So it surprised me a couple weeks ago when I broached the subject with Revs’ manager Mark Mason, who informed me Waters had found a player-coach deal with a pro team in Hawaii. Now that I’ve found time to get around to this, Revs’ baseball operations manager Andrew Ball recently provided me a phone number for Waters, which I called Wednesday to get to the bottom of what is going with the former big league starter.
Before we get to that, he’s a refresher on what Waters did last season:
Waters joined the Revs in mid-June shortly after the club released Jesus Sanchez. The former Baltimore Orioles starter came to York 15 months removed from Tommy John surgery to his throwing elbow. But the southpaw didn’t suffer the injury in typical fashion. Rather, it was caused in 2010 when Waters was at-bat while playing in a game for Nashville against Albuquerque, the Class AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. An Albuquerque pitcher drilled Waters in his throwing arm with a pitch. Anyway, Waters had a pretty good year considering his health factors. The 32-year-old posted a 6-7 ERA and 4.38 ERA over 18 starts, striking out 59 and walking 29 in 90.1 innings of work. Among his 2012 highlights, Waters threw a complete-game one-hitter at Sugar Land on Sept. 18, marking the first time he accomplished the feat since 2008 as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. Overall, it was 10th complete game of his now 12-year pro career. He was one of three York pitchers to throw a complete-game nine inning shutout in 2012.
Given his success and his health factors, I figured the 32-year-old Waters would have a good shot at getting picked up in 2013 should he come back to York and post solid numbers again while showing he’s healthy.
Unfortunately for the baseball vet and his family, some factors outside of the game caused him to contemplate retirement.
Paralyzed: It was the day before Waters’ Aug. 28 start when he learned his younger brother, a husband and father to two young kids ages eight and seven months, was involved in a serious motorcycle accident.
“He was an electrician in Florida,” Waters said. “He was on the way home from Universal Studios, where he was working on a ride. He got in a wreck around 3 a.m.”
The accident left Waters’ brother, who will turn 27 later this month, paralyzed from the chest down.
“To be honest after last season I basically hung ‘em up. I was retiring after this past year. My brother getting in the wreck and breaking his neck…the mental side of it being away from my family. That put family in a different perspective for me.”
Waters said his brother is doing as well he can recovering in a hospital in Tampa, Florida.
“He’s in a wheelchair,” Waters said. “He’s paralyzed from the chest down. He’s working hard to gain ground.”
Opportunity: Waters is living in South Carolina with his wife and their two-year-old son this off-season. The couple is expecting is their second child in July. It’ll be Waters’ fourth child – he also had two kids with his ex-wife.
He’s spent the off-season working towards a business degree online through the University of Phoenix while staying in baseball shape at The Dugout, an indoor baseball and softball facility in Myrtle Beach. It’s there he met Jeff Brooks, a former Arizona Diamondbacks’ and San Diego Padres’ prospect who played high school ball across the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County for the Solanco Mules. Brooks last played in 2006 as a member of North Shore (Can-Am League) and is taking over the managerial reigns this season for Na Koa Ikaika, which plays its home games on the island of Maui in Hawaii.
In search of a pitching coach, Brooks kept pushing Waters to help him out and come to Hawaii, a place Waters has never been.
“He (Brooks) is one of the guys who gives lessons down here (at The Dugout). He was the hitting coach last year (for Maui) and asked to be the manager for them this year. He asked me for two months straight to be his pitching coach. We got to talking and were able to work out a deal where I could coach and also continue pitching.”
According to Waters, Maui is a lot like the Atlantic League in that it puts together a new roster of pro players each season. However, the schedule is a bit different to say the least. Maui plays teams on the Hawaiian islands, in addition to trips to San Francisco, Japan and South Korea. It’s those latter trips that made the deal more appealing for Waters.
“Before I had Tommy John surgery, I was talking with a team in Japan and they were talking big numbers (for a contract) and then I got hurt,” Waters said.
So, there’s a chance Waters could end up pitching against some teams in Japan. And if he does well, it could lead to a gig with a team there. Plus, the Maui deal offers other benefits for Waters. He said he’ll be able to make a lot more money than he would in the Atlantic League. And he’ll be able to test being a coach, something he’s had thoughts of doing after his playing days.
“I figured I’d give it a shot this year and see what happens,” Waters said. “My ultimate goal is to be a scout or a police officer. That’s the two things I can do if I’m done with ball.”
Return to York?: Waters said he’ll be leaving South Carolina for Maui at the end of April. The season starts around the end of May.
“But the season ends at end of August,” Waters said. “I told Mason if they had an opening around that time then I could potentially come back. I really enjoyed it last year. But as far as financially, it wasn’t quite feasible to come back (this season).”
J.Rich update: Waters said he still keeps in touch with former Revs’ pitcher Jason Richardson. The players were high school teammates and later teammates again in the Atlanta Braves’ organization. Richardson had a locker next to Waters’ in York last season while Richardson rehabbed from Tommy John surgery. If you remember, Richardson was putting up arguably his best numbers of his career in 2011, going 4-0 with a 3.33 ERA in 19 relief appearances, before the season was cut short due to injury problems, which led to TJ surgery.
Anyway, Waters said Richardson is still hoping to sign on with a team somewhere this season.
“I told him we don’t have much money (in Maui) to offer, but I would love to have him,” he said.
DeSalvo update: Revs’ manager Mark Mason said Wednesday evening that he thinks former Revs’ starter Matt DeSalvo has signed to play in Taiwan again this season. Last season, York was hoping to add the right-hander in September to bolster its starting rotation going into the post-season. But DeSalvo couldn’t give a clear timeline as to when he could become available since his team in the Chinese Professional Baseball League made the playoffs. York eventually had to proceed without him.
DeSalvo helped York capture back-to-back Atlantic League titles in 2010 and 2011 – his first ever championships won as a pro. In 2010, he came to York in mid-August after pitching for Class AAA New Orleans (Marlins). The former big leaguer went on to post a 5-2 record and 4.67 ERA in seven starts and five relief appearances for the Revs. He followed that up in 2011 with a 6-3 record and 3.89 ERA in 18 starts and five relief appearances.
Loudon Hounds update: The Loudon (Va.) County Planning Commission approved plans for a soccer and baseball stadium at a meeting Tuesday night. Should the stadium ever come to fruition, it would be home to the Loudon Hounds, which is aiming to become a member of the Atlantic League. While it’s good news for the Hounds, it sounds like the stadium still has some hoops to jump through before getting a plan finalized. For more more details on it, click here.Read More