Chatting with Tony La Russa, Mike Bell

Tony La Russa

Believe it or not, the All-Star Break is right around the corner. After wrapping up a series in Chattanooga against the Lookouts, the Generals have just ten more games until the midpoint of the 2017 campaign.

After a quick 19-9 start to the season, the Generals have slowed down some. Going into the finale in Chattanooga Thursday night, the team is just a game above .500 and 3.5 games back in the North Division. The team is still alive for a playoff spot, but they’ll need to make a run quickly.

Even with the team scuffling some, things have been good around the Generals. We were fortunate enough to have both Tony La Russa and Mike Bell in town for the series against Mississippi. La Russa doesn’t need much of an introduction, especially in West Tennessee. He ranks third all-time in managerial wins among MLB skippers, has three World Series Rings and is in the Hall of Fame. He has been in Arizona’s front office since 2014.

La Russa could not have been nicer or more welcoming. I know the coaches and players enjoyed having him around. He took ample time to chat with me in the interview below.

Mike Bell is the Vice President, Player Development for the D-backs. He is in charge of all things minor leagues in the organization. I spoke with him about some of the standout performers for the Generals in the First Half of the season and what we can expect to see as the year goes on.


The 2017 Southern League All-Star Game is Tuesday, June 20 in Pensacola. Six Generals were named to the initial North Division roster earlier this week. Congrats to those guys!

 

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Dispatch from D-backs Spring Training

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The bad news is that we’re within a month of the season starting and it’s only a few degrees above freezing in Jackson. The good news is that it has to warm up at some point, right?

One place where it is much warmer is Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Arizona’s gorgeous Spring Training facility in Scottsdale. I was fortunate enough to take in some Diamondbacks’ Spring Training last week.

As the season approaches, Tyler and I will do our best to introduce you all to Jackson’s new parent club. After a successful 10-year run with Seattle culminated in a Southern League championship, the Generals and Diamondbacks agreed to a four-year player development contract in September. It’s a partnership that everyone in the organization is excited about.

A good place to start is Mike Bell. Bell has been with the organization for more than a decade. He currently serves as the Vice President, Player Development. I got a chance to sit down with him at Salt River Fields to talk about some of the things we can expect to see in West Tennessee this year.

While much of what we see on the field will be different in 2017, there are some familiar faces in Arizona’s clubhouse thanks to a number of recent trades between the Diamondbacks and Mariners. The D-backs acquired a pair of former Generals in Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte in an offseason trade with Seattle. Infielder Jack Reinheimer and pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen are also in big league camp at the moment.

Walker could play a big role for Arizona this year. Fans in West Tennessee remember him anchoring a pitching staff that took the Generals to a Southern League Championship Series (One that the team coincidentally lost to an Arizona affiliate in Mobile). After spending much of the past two years in Seattle’s rotation, he was traded last November.

So far, things have gone well to put it lightly. Obviously, it’s just Spring Training but Walker has impressed the folks in Arizona. In three starts, he has struck out 13 batters while walking just one in nine scoreless innings. Last Friday, he retired the first 11 batters he faced and struck out eight in four hitless frames.

Randy Johnson was on the Fox Sports Arizona telecast while Walker was pitching, and noted that going from Seattle to Arizona isn’t a bad trajectory for a pitcher. We’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on Taijuan.


More baseball to come for sure, but I also wanted to say how stellar everything was in Scottsdale. The facilities really are second-to-none, and the Diamondbacks were fantastic to work with. If you have a chance to make it to the Cactus League, I can’t recommend Salt River Fields at Talking Stick enough.

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