Etch’ calls it quits
Before we get to talking about Etch’s retirement, just wanted to point a few other noteworthy things:
- York defeated Sugar Land on Thursday night by a final score of 7-6. Click here for the full game details. Andres Perez and Chris Nowak hit back-to-back homers. It marks Perez’s 20th homer of the season and Nowak’s league-leading 28th. It also marks the first time in franchise history that two players hit at least 20 homers in the same season.
-Corey Thurman picked up the win Thursday despite allowing five runs on nine hits in just five innings of work. He is now 12-3 on the season, one win shy of the 13-win club-record he set last year. Maybe Thurman was due for a rough outing considering the right-hander had entered having given up just three combined runs over his previous four starts (23.2 innings for a 1.14 ERA).
- The Revs enter Friday’s series against Southern Maryland sitting 4.5 games back of Lancaster in the second-half Freedom Division race but six up on Somerset in the wildcard. The Blue Crabs are currently 5.5 games up on Bridgeport in the second-half Liberty Division race. It could very well be a preview of what we might see in the league championship series next month.
-I’ve been meaning to get around to this, and I finally did Thursday night. Check out the blog entry chatting about Lorenzo Barcelo getting picked up by the Dodgers last week. While it’s good news for Barcelo, it’s not-so-good news for the Revs, who were looking to bring in the 6-foot-4 right-hander after he finished up pitching in the Mexican League playoffs.
-York now hits the road for a four-game set at Southern Maryland – the final regular series set between the clubs. The Revs will play 13 of their final 17 regular season games on the road.
Andy Etchebarren doesn’t get as fired up as he used to.
“You can tell in the second half of the season I’ve hardly been out talking to them (the umpires),” he said Wednesday. “And I used to enjoy talking to the umpires. If they made a bad call I’m going to let them know it’s a bad call. Now they make bad calls I go out and talk to them and I turn around and come in. I have never done that before.”
He can’t enjoy the game like he used to, thanks in part by the spinal surgeries he went through – one after the 2010 season and the other midway through this season.
“I can’t throw batting practice. I can’t mess around with the guys. I can’t do that anymore,” he said. “I can’t hit fungos (a small bat used for infield practice). All I can do is manage the game.”
And he misses spending time with his family, which has become even more valuable to him since his wife, Vicki, died in January 2010 after a battle with Hepatitis C.
“I have two grandkids who I’ve hardly seen. One is 18 and one is 15. My two daughters are 50 and 48. It’s time that I spend some regular time with them before God takes me off the Earth,” Etchebarren said.
Combining all of those factors, the 69-year-old Etch’ thinks it’s time he hangs up his uniform. He said as much Wednesday when the club made his retirement as manager at the end of the season official, naming pitching coach Mark Mason the club’s next skipper in 2013.
Etchebarren’s accomplishments over his five-plus decades in baseball, either as a player, manager, scout or the many other roles he’s assumed, are enough to fill a book. But in his time in York, he is 223-199 all-time at the helm, including a 12-5 playoff record, having guided the Revs to Atlantic League championships in each of his two full seasons.
Turning down the majors: With everything stated above, it’s no wonder Etch’ has stayed around in York. The former Orioles catcher thinks he may not have lasted had he left York for a coaching gig in the majors.
“What gets me is a lot of guys sometimes don’t listen. You take plane trips every three or four days getting in at five in the morning. I’m worn out now, can you imagine if I was with a major league team? I can’t imagine it,” he said. “I told my daughters that I had an opportunity to go with a major league team but I’m not gonna do it. I would have been dead by now (had I went to the majors). I’m sure I would have been dead by now.”
Winning over fans: He admits the first couple of months in York were tough on him to win over respect from the fans. Etch’ took over near the end of the 2009 season for a club that finished 53-87, succeeding former Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles.
“The other thing is ‘hit-the-wall’ guy Don used to yell at me ‘Bring Hoiles back’ and this and that,” Etch’ said. “I didn’t talk to him. And then he apologized to me after we won a few games. He’s been one of my biggest supporters the past three years.”
Etch’ said he also recognizes some mistakes he may have made along the way. In particular, he pointed out not bringing back fan favorite Matt Esquivel in 2010.
“I might have made a couple mistakes. I might have released a couple guys. I made a mistake with Esquivel for sure,” Etch’ said. “He plays very hard. That’s wasn’t my call. I offered Esquivel a contract and he told me that he wouldn’t come back unless I sign (Matt) Padgett and (Tom) Collaro. I’ve never been in a situation in baseball where a player tells a manager what to do.”
(Esquivel, Padgett and Collaro all played for the Revs in 2009. Esquivel and Padgett also wanted raises that off-season before landing with Long Island).
Still, Etch’ said he’s looking forward to getting back to his home in Florida that sits on Lake Marian. He’ll drive around in his red truck he drives to and from the Yorktowne Hotel and Sovereign Bank Stadium everyday – he mentioned he’s only put about 7,000 miles on it this season, which is more than average thanks to the mid-season trip to Camden for the 2012 All-Star game (reliever Adam Thomas drove him there). And he can’t wait to spend time with his dog. He has pictures of all those images hanging in his office.
His presence will definitely be missed by some of the players, including slugger Chris Nowak.
“When you got a manager behind all of his players and rooting for you, that’s who you want,” Nowak had said Wednesday night following a multi-homer performance. “And somebody that wants you that’s the biggest thing, too. He’s like me. He’s like my attitude in the way I play since I came here last year. It’s great to play behind that. Sometimes you get managers for whatever reasons you just get bad vibes and it seems like they don’t want you to succeed. I’ve been down that road a couple times, too. It’s nothing like that (here). It’s been great.”
Moving on: Etchebarren said he’ll continue to stay involved in the game by assuming an advisor role for Opening Day Partners, which owns five of the eight teams in the league, including York.
“I haven’t not put a uniform on in 51 years. How am I going to be working for Opening Day Partners?” Etchebarren said. “(Opening Day Partners chairman) Peter (Kirk) hasn’t told me exactly what I’m going to do yet. I know that I’m going to get to go home in the summer, every seven to ten days going home in the summer.”
Mason: Managing is nothing new to Mason. He’ll bring more than 400 games of managerial experience in the Frontier League to the Revs as skipper next season. Along with that, he said one of the biggest things in managing an independent club is being used to the turnover.
“I told somebody the other day that ‘Look, we’ve won two championships in a row and I believe the only four guys on this roster that were here in 2010 are Liu (Rodriguez), (Scott) Grimes, R.J. (Rodriguez) and (Corey) Thurman. That’s it. So there’s a lot of turnover in this (league). You have to have been able to withstand that because everywhere I’ve ever been we’ve always had turnover. That’s what it’s about.”
He was named the Frontier League’s Manager of the Year in 2005 when he guided Ohio Valley. He also managed Chillicothe and Washington before his arrival in York in 2010. Often known for having a calming influence on pitchers, some might think Mason doesn’t have the fire like Etch’ does when it comes to competing. However, he did have some blow-ups with umpires during his time in the Frontier League.
“There won’t be a lot of changes as far as how we handle the guys in the clubhouse and stuff like that. My mark will be on it to some degree with some things,” Mason said Wednesday.
Mason moved from Washington County with his fiancee, Molly Baldwin, in the off-season to a home in West Manchester Township. The two plan to get married this off-season. Mason lived in Washington County most of his life, having been born there in 1961. He double-majored at Waynesburg University, where he also pitched before playing in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league system, reaching Class AA Lynn (Mass.) of the Eastern League. He actually spent a number of years working in the business world – for U.S. Steel, Westinghouse and his family’s laundry business – before getting back into baseball in 1987. He coached Washington & Jefferson College from 1987 to 2002 before getting involved in the pro game.
Coaching plans: Mason said he plans on bringing back third-base coach Enohel Polanco and hitting coach Liu Rodriguez next season. He’ll look elsewhere for a pitching coach.
“For me to manage a team is to manage a team, to build a team,” he said. “To get more intimate with the fans. I think that’s what the manager has to do. Whereas the pitching coach is working with the pitchers. There’s the hitting coach that handles the hitters”