Chanclas’ smallest player earns a major-college ticket to Texas A&M

In 2019, Jordan Thompson hit .310 in 25 games as a freshman at the University of the Incarnate Word. Notably, he belted a three-run homer to lead UIW’s 6-5 victory at Texas A&M – Photo, courtesy of UIW athletics.

Competing to win a starting job in the outfield for the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio, Jordan Thompson paused Friday night to discuss what the fans might expect when a 30-game Texas Collegiate League season starts next week.

“I think we’re going to be really good,” Thompson said. “I know it’s only been a couple of days, but after what I’ve seen from the pitchers and the hitters (this week), our team looks really, really good. I know that our pitchers are going to be throwing a lot of strikes … and I know that our hitters are going to be more than ready.”

From all indications, Thompson could play a major role despite his physical stature (5-feet-9, 165 pounds) as the smallest player on the squad. He is coming off a spring in which he hit .435 for Grayson College, earning an offer to play next season at Texas A&M.

“I think this summer’s really going to help me develop as a player, because of our coaching staff,” Thompson said. “They’ve had so much experience at the professional level. It just gives me an opportunity to pick their brains and learn what I have to do to better myself, to (reach) the next level.

“And our team, it just has a lot of talent on it. (I want to) just pick their brains, too. Because there’s obviously a reason where they are. You can always learn a lot of things from a lot of people, different perspectives. It’ll just be really good getting that from everyone else.”

In 2018, as a senior at Boerne Champion, Thompson hit .548 and earned first-team, all-state honors in Class 5A.

Judged as too small by some major college recruiters, he accepted an offer to play as a freshman at the University of the Incarnate Word, where he made headlines early in the spring with a three-run home run to beat A&M at College Station.

But just as Thompson started to make substantial progress with the Cardinals, hitting at a .310 clip over the first 25 games, he suffered a painful back injury that knocked him out for the season.

Later that year, in the summer, Thompson was confronted with another bit of adversity when Pat Hallmark resigned as UIW’s coach to take a job at UTSA.

The ball player decided he, too, would leave.

Thompson turned up for the 2020 season at Grayson, a powerful junior college program located in Denison, about 70 miles north of the Dallas-Fort Worth MetroPlex.

Intent on proving himself, he jump all over the baseball, pounding out 27 hits in 62 at bats in 19 games.

Of those hits, six went for doubles, two for triples and five for home runs. He also drove in 21 runs in the coronavirus-shortened season, prompting the Aggies to come calling.

Thompson, who will enroll at A&M in the fall, said “it feels great” to get the scholarship to a Southeastern Conference program.

“My journey to get there was a little unconventional, but it’s my journey, and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” he said. “Going from UIW, a coaching staff change, leaving to go to Grayson, then going on to Texas A&M, I love my story. I’m just really excited to be where I want to be. It’s every kid’s dream to go to a Power 5 conference, Texas A&M especially.”

Even though he humbled the Aggies with his mighty swing for UIW two seasons ago and ripped five more over the fence at Grayson, Thompson’s game revolves more around hitting for average and then running the bases aggressively.

“I think that’s real big (in my game),” he said. “The presence of speed on the bases … will speed up the pitcher’s head. They always have to worry about you on first base, second base. There’s a lot of problems you can create with speed.”

To illustrate his point, Thompson, who hits from the right side, said he singled into left field once earlier this spring against Ranger Junior College. He said he took advantage when he noticed that the fielder was playing the ball with a “lackadaisical” effort.

“I just decided to go for a double,” he said. “It caused a little problem. They were all frantic. And, just got into their heads.”

It’s a style that should mesh with Chanclas manager John McLaren’s philosophy of pushing the pace in a game. Thompson said he thinks he will enjoy playing that style, under McLaren, a former manager with the Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals.

“I like to put pressure on people, because some people can’t take the pressure,” he said. “Some people will just fold underneath it. I love the pressure and I embrace it. I use it to help drive me through games and practice. Being aggressive, that’s just how I am.”

Chanclas manager to the fans: ‘We need to pick each other up’

Flying Chanclas de San Antonio manager John McLaren. - photo by Joe Alexander

Flying Chanclas de San Antonio manager John McLaren. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The coronavirus has hit San Antonio hard since it reared its ugly head in March.

Not only has it sickened thousands, it has slammed the local economy and has placed many, many people in painful situations where they must wait for hours in their cars at food bank distribution centers, just to get groceries.

In athletics, the virus has completely upended one of the city’s most enduring summer traditions — minor league baseball. For the first time in 53 years, there is no pro ball to watch in the Alamo City.

As a result, the San Antonio Missions have secured a team in the Texas Collegiate League to help fill the void, and they have hired John McLaren, a 50-year baseball veteran, to lead the new squad into a regular season set to start next week.

McLaren, who has been in town since Sunday and has hosted only a few practices, said he is well aware that local fans could use a lift mentally.

“I have thought about it,” McLaren said Thursday night. “This is a baseball city. This is an old-school baseball city. They support their team. They’ve been deprived of (professional) baseball, and they’ve had a tough go, and, you know, we need to pick each other up.

“That’s one of the real beauties of baseball. It can bring people together. We’re hoping to do that this summer.”

The 2020 Flying Chanclas de San Antonio go through practice and meet with the local media on Thursday, June 25, 2020, at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

The 2020 Flying Chanclas de San Antonio go through practice and meet with the local media. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Liftoff at The Wolff

In a sense, it was liftoff on Thursday morning for the Chanclas, who held their first public workout in front of the media at Wolff Stadium. Their season-opener is set for Tuesday night (June 30) in Amarillo, in the first of a three-game series. They’ll return to the Wolff for the home opener on Friday (July 3) against Acadiana.

Jaime Ramirez Jr. The 2020 Flying Chanclas de San Antonio go through practice and meet with the local media on Thursday, June 25, 2020, at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Chanclas pitcher Jaime Ramirez Jr., from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and San Antonio’s Holy Cross High School, addresses the media. – Photo by Joe Alexander

One player sidelined

The Chanclas announced a 30-man roster, but one player hasn’t practiced after testing positive for the virus. “I really felt bad for him,” McLaren said. “It’s a bad break. I just called him and told him, ‘Your main priority right now is to get well. Just keep in touch with us. We still consider you a part of the team.’ ”

McLaren said “we all” have been administered tests over the past few days.

“We should hear back by Saturday how everybody tested,” he said. “This is a process and a step. I think the whole league is doing this. So we all took our tests (Wednesday) night and this morning. We got our fingers crossed that we’re a go for everybody.”

Another Chanclas player, a pitcher, is weighing an option on whether to sign a professional contract.

A third player, TCU third baseman Conner Shepherd, has not reported yet but is expected to be in camp within a few days, McLaren said. “He was in a transition of moving from California … so we should have everybody here by tomorrow or Saturday.”

Optimistic outlook

“I like what I’ve seen,” McLaren said. “We have a combination of good hitters. We don’t have an abundance of power. But we do have some power. And we’ve got a nice off-set of left-right hitters. I think we’re going to be good in the catching department. I like the arms (on the pitching staff) and I think we’re going to have an exceptional outfield.”

Outfield could be a strength, with three of the four players on the roster scheduled to play major-college baseball next spring. In addition, Kyte McDonald of Mississippi State, Porter Brown (TCU) and Jordan Thompson (Texas A&M) all played in high school locally.

McDonald came out of Antonian High School. Brown led Reagan to state tournaments in 2017 and 2018. Thompson emerged as a standout at Boerne Champion. A fourth outfielder, Peyton McDowell, is from Clemens. He is now at Connors State (Okla.).

Missions baseball: on hold

The Chanclas are playing under the administration of the Triple-A Missions, whose own Pacific Coast League season has been shut down because of the pandemic.

Wolff Stadium, the home of the San Antonio Missions. — Photo by Jerry Briggs

Affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers, the Missions were set to open their second season in Triple-A at home on April 9. But, so far, no games have been played anywhere in the minor leagues, and aren’t expected to be played at all this season.

Major League Baseball, on Monday, announced plans to resume play play on July 23. But it has yet to announce formally what it will do with its minor-league affiliates. Minor League Baseball, in all classifications, drew more than 41 million fans last year.

San Antonio Missions join lawsuit against insurance firms

The San Antonio Missions are one of 15 teams in minor league baseball suing for alleged breach of contract after being denied business-interruption insurance claims for financial losses tied to the coronavirus pandemic.

Wolff Stadium, the home of the San Antonio Missions. — Photo by Jerry Briggs

Filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the suit names Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., Acadia Insurance Co., National Casualty Co., Scottsdale Indemnity Co., and Scottsdale Insurance Co. as defendants, according to the Associated Press.

The AP reported that teams named in the suit are the Chattanooga Lookouts, Augusta GreenJackets, Boise Hawks, Columbia Fireflies, Eugene Emeralds, Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Frederick Keys, Greenville Drive, Idaho Falls Chukars, Inland Empire 66ers, Amarillo Sod Poodles, the Missions, the Stockton Ports and the Delmarva Shorebirds.

The legal action was first reported Tuesday morning by ESPN.

Minor league franchises said in the suit that even though they pay premiums to providers for business-interruption insurance, they have been denied coverage after Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred indefinitely suspended their seasons in March.

Nationwide said in a statement obtained by the AP that “we are committed to doing all we can within the coverage our members have purchased” to help businesses navigate the pandemic.

“We have implemented a process to address and assess coronavirus-related claims and we will evaluate any reported claim based on the relevant facts and individual merits of the claim,” the statement said. “Business interruption coverage due to a virus outbreak has been excluded from standard policies issued to business owners across the insurance industry for quite some time.

“The risk for such an event is so vast, including it in standard coverage would make such coverage unaffordable or even unavailable.”

Because of the pandemic, the city of San Antonio likely will be without professional minor league baseball for the first time in 53 years.

Language in the suit, reported on Tuesday morning by ESPN, admits as much, saying, “It is now clear that (major league) teams will not provide players to (minor league) teams for the entire 2020 season.”

The Missions are hosting a team in the Texas Collegiate League. The team is set to open a 30-game season on June 30 in Amarillo. Known as the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio, they are scheduled to open at home on July 3.

Most recently, they announced a roster that includes several college players with ties to the local area.

Brown embraces homecoming opportunity with the Chanclas

TCU outfielder Porter Brown hopes to show off his versatility this summer with the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio. — Photo by Gregg Ellman, TCU athletics

Porter Brown attends Texas Christian University as an undergraduate student in neuroscience. He is a young man with high hopes of one day becoming a doctor, possibly an orthopedic surgeon.

In addition, Brown also plays baseball, a sport in which he may already have earned enough credits to enter the school of hard luck.

It’s true. After sparking San Antonio Reagan to two straight UIL state tournaments, Brown’s career on the diamond has been stalled the past few years by misfortune.

In 2019, he emerged in his first season as a collegian to snag a spot in the starting lineup at TCU, one of the top programs in the nation.

But after hitting .278 and stealing seven bases in eight attempts, the speedster went down with a shoulder injury that knocked him out for the year.

Just as Brown got healthy, adversity emerged again, like a bad hop on a bumpy infield.

The Horned Frogs were off to a fast start in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit, shutting down operations at TCU’s Lupton Stadium, along with just about every aspect of sports and life in America.

Trying his best to shrug it all off, Brown stayed calm, focusing in the ensuing months on what he could control.

Now he’s set to resume his career this summer with the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio in the Texas Collegiate League.

“Growing up in San Antonio, I’ve always watched the Missions and the Flying Chanclas,” Brown said. “When my coach (at TCU) called and told me I had an opportunity to play in my city, in my hometown, I was grateful and excited. I’m excited for baseball to start up in the summer league.”

Brown is scheduled to report to the Chanclas, based at Wolff Stadium, on Tuesday.

The season opener is set for June 30 in Amarillo, and then he and his teammates will open in front of the home fans on July 3 against Acadiana, a ball club based in Lafayette, La.

Even though Brown brings only modest credentials from his star-crossed TCU career to the TCL, he may immediately emerge as a player to watch, especially when fans witness his speed.

For fans who have never seen him accelerate from first to second base on a steal attempt, they can ask Reagan coach Chans Chapman for verification of his ability.

“I think the thing that jumps out at you is the way he runs,” Chapman said. “I mean, he’s one of the fastest guys, as far as baseball speed, that I’ve ever been around. Like I said, he’s a very dynamic player. I mean, he can hit. He runs the bases well. He’s good defensively.

“You know, he can change the game. He can affect the game in so many ways.”

Ever since he donned a uniform and suited up at McAllister Park Little League as a 10-year-old, Brown has played with joy and enthusiasm.

He’s played for his teammates. But this summer, the season is also about opportunity.

A year from now, he’ll be eligible for the Major League Baseball draft. And because he’s only played a combined 29 games at TCU during the past two springs, Brown knows he needs to turn it on.

He is a strong student academically at TCU, one who might one day wield a surgeon’s knife. But Brown also wants to find out whether he is good enough to swing a bat in the pros.

Asked about his big-picture dream in baseball, Brown paused and answered carefully.

“Right now, my dreams are smaller,” he said. “One pitch at a time. One game at a time. One summer league at a time, is really what matters. Once I get to the future, I’ll worry about that then.”

Brown was a dynamo at Reagan, batting .360 and .385 in his last two seasons, respectively. Over those two years, he smacked 18 doubles and stole 55 bases, including 29 steals in 31 attempts as a senior.

In the past few weeks, Chapman has watched Brown take batting practice at Reagan. As Brown battered balls to the fence and beyond, the coach marveled at the way his former player has changed physically since 2018.

“You could tell that getting bigger and stronger has helped him, just the way the ball comes off the bat now,” the coach said. “That’s not to say it didn’t … when he was in high school, but (after) two years in a college weightlifting program, it does come off different.”

At TCU, fans have yet to see Brown’s full potential. He played only 16 games in 2019 when he hurt his shoulder.

This year, he was batting .189 in 13 of TCU’s 15 games when it all came to a stop, with the COVID-19 threat eventually ending the season.

Regardless, Brown remains as a prospect. He was scheduled to play in the highly-regarded Cape Cod summer league before it, too, was canceled.

TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said it’s evident that his outfielder’s progress has been slowed by the circumstances.

“Porter is an outstanding young man with an incredible amount of potential both on the field and off,” Schlossnagle said. “When he is at his best and healthy, he is a dynamic offensive player and a very capable defender in the outfield.

“He has had to overcome some injury and, like the rest of our players, the COVID pandemic has stunted his development. (But) he is a supreme worker, incredibly intelligent and very self aware.”

Brown also is grateful, happy to have the chance to play at home this summer.

“I am happy to be back,” he said.

Flying Chanclas roster

Pitchers

Jaime Ramirez Jr., RH, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Johnny Panatex, RH, St. Mary’s
Connor Schmidt, RH, St. Mary’s
Marcelo Perez, RH, TCU
Austin Krob, LH, Mississippi State
Kobe Jaramillo, RH, UTSA

The Flying Chanclas of the Texas Collegiate League are scheduled to play their home opener on July 3. All home games are set for Wolff Stadium. — Photo by Jerry Briggs

Catchers

Tyler LaRue, Rice, Grayson College
Nick Wolff, UTSA.

Outfielders

Kyte McDonald, Mississippi State
Jordan Thompson, Grayson College, committed to Texas A&M
Porter Brown, TCU

Infielders

Johnny Hernandez, St. Mary’s
Grant Smith, Incarnate Word
Ryan Flores, Incarnate Word
Lee Thomas, Incarnate Word
Conner Shepherd, TCU
Leyton Barry, UTSA
Garrett Poston, UTSA

From San Antonio-area high schools

OF Porter Brown, Reagan; OF Kyte McDonald, Antonian; OF Jordan Thompson, Boerne Champion; P Jaime Ramirez, Jr., Holy Cross; C Tyler LaRue, Blanco; P Connor Schmidt, Devine.

Flying Chanclas manager ‘ecstatic’ about opportunity during ‘crazy’ times

John McLaren has been in baseball for 50 years. He’s played in the minor leagues. He’s managed in the majors and has coached in the playoffs.

John McLaren – Photo courtesy, San Antonio Missions

Now the 67-year-old Arizona resident and Texas native is happy to continue with his passion as manager of the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio. The Chanclas will play in the Texas Collegiate League this summer, with the season starting June 30 in Amarillo.

The team will open at home at Wolff Stadium on July 3.

With the minor league season on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, Missions president Burl Yarbrough elected to host a team in the TCL.

One of the key hires was McLaren, who has managed the Seattle Mariners and, briefly, the Washington Nationals.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, McLaren said he’s “ecstatic” about the opportunity to work during a “crazy” time in baseball.

“I’m excited about it,” McLaren said. “The last time I coached in the major leagues was in 2017 in Philadelphia and then I did the China national team (as manager, at the 2017 World Baseball Classic). I have a lot of international experience.

“San Antonio was always one of my favorite spots when I was scouting, and there are a lot of reasons for that.

“It’s the atmosphere. Burl and his staff treated all the scouts great. Probably one of the most influential people in my baseball career, (the late) Al LaMacchia was from San Antonio. I’m from Houston. So I grew up with the Alamo and the history and everything.

“I just always enjoyed going to San Antonio. It’s one of my favorite spots that I ever (visited). When Burl called (with the job opportunity), I was ecstatic.

“I (told him) I really wasn’t doing anything. Baseball’s kind of crazy these days, as we know. This is something good. I get to work with kids. I enjoy coaching. I hope I can share some experiences with them to make them better players. It’s always fun putting teams together.

‘I’ve had great support from (scouts) Jimmy Gonzales and Brandon Larson, Johnny Almaraz. I’m a Texan. I live in Arizona. But I’m a Texan. I can’t say anything more than that. With my heritage, I like being around Texans.

“They’re good people, and they’re caring. So, it’s a great fit for me.”

After a full career in baseball, including coaching appearances in the major league playoffs with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Mariners, not to mention multiple trips to the World Baseball Classic, McLaren jumped at the opportunity to work in the collegiate league in spite of concerns about people 65-and-over being susceptible to serious illness as a result of COVID-19.

“I’m a baseball guy,” he said. “My life — my DNA — is baseball. I understand the risks. My wife is concerned. Not only about me, but she has an optical shop, and she has to work with people and be around people.

“I try to be extremely careful. I wash my hands a lot. I wear the mask when I’m around people. I keep my distance. I’m going to be careful with my life, and baseball is my life. You take that away from me, and I don’t know what I have.

“It’s my 50th year in baseball. I want to celebrate it by being in baseball.”

McLaren was born in Galveston and grew up in Houston, where he attended Westbury High School. Drafted in 1970 by the Astros, he played seven years in the minors before shifting his focus to the coaching profession.

In the major leagues, he worked for 14 years on staffs with manager Lou Piniella, including a 2001 team in Seattle that tied a baseball record with 116 regular-season victories before losing in the American League Championship Series to the New York Yankees.

He managed the Mariners from mid-season in 2007 through the mid-season in 2008. McLaren also worked briefly in 2011 as interim manager of the Nationals. He described his style as aggressive.

“I’m always on the offense,” McLaren said. “I’m always aggressive, trying to make things happen. I like the game in motion. I think we got to find out, No. 1, what kind of team we have … what kind of personnel we have.”

Without knowing much about Flying Chanclas personnel at this point, McLaren kept it simple when asked about his goals for the season.

“We want to be competitive and we want to make all the players better,” he said. “I want ’em to have fun. I want to have baseball in San Antonio — for the fans. Just want everybody to have a good time.”

Roster announcements

TCU

OF Porter Brown
RHP Marcelo Perez
LHP Austin Krob
INF Conner Shepherd

UTSA

INF Leyton Barry
INF Garrett Poston
RHP Kobe Jaramillo
C Nick Wolff

Missions to host high school baseball ‘Seniors Celebration’

The Missions have extended a helping hand to the San Antonio high school baseball community with a doubleheader featuring top local prep talent at Wolff Stadium.

The Missions on July 2 will host a pair of San Antonio high school baseball games at Wolff Stadium. — Photo by Jerry Briggs

Partnering with McCombs Ford West and the San Antonio Area Baseball Coaches Association, the Missions will host the two games back to back on July 2.

A “High School Baseball Seniors Celebration” will get underway with a 4 p.m. game involving players from San Antonio area sub-Class 6A and private schools.

The nightcap at 7 p.m. will feature players from area 6A schools. Following the doubleheader, fans will be treated to a fireworks spectacular.

The games will be played a day before the home debut of the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio, a team of college players set to play a 30-game schedule.

The Chanclas will be a part of the 10-team Texas Collegiate League.

Developments in the local high school and college game promotions at the Wolff have emerged against the backdrop of professional baseball around the nation in disarray because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Major league baseball, plagued by growing tensions between the owners and players, is trying to come up with a plan for a shortened season that would start in July.

Meanwhile, the idea that MLB would send players to their respective minor league affiliates seems to be fading by the day.

As a result, speculation is growing that San Antonio fans will not see a professional baseball team of their own for the first time in 53 years.

MLB teams reportedly are preparing for “taxi squads” of between 20 and 25 players to be located within 100 miles of their home stadiums.

The Triple-A Missions of the Pacific Coast League are in their second and final year of a two-year agreement with the Milwaukee Brewers.

But if the MLB season gets underway and the ‘taxi squad’ system is employed, it seems that the top Brewers’ prospects might be headed to Appleton, Wis. Appleton is the home of Milwaukee’s Class A affiliate in the Midwest League.

San Antonio hasn’t been through a spring and summer without professional baseball since 1967.

Chanclas staff named

The Flying Chanclas de San Antonio on Monday announced their manager and coaching staff for the upcoming Texas Collegiate League season.

Manager: John McLaren

McLaren, a Texas native, has played and coached in baseball for 50 years. He served as a major league manager for the Seattle Mariners from June 2007 to June 2008. He also worked as interim manager for the Washington Nationals in 2011.

Pitching coach: Calvin Schiraldi

An Austin native and eight-year major league player, Schiraldi was the MVP of the 1983 College World Series, where he led the Longhorns to the national title on a team that included Roger Clemens.

Hitting coach: Bryan Aughney

Augney has been head baseball coach at Our Lady of the Lake University. He’s also worked at Harlingen High School and the University of Texas at Brownsville, now UT Rio Grande Valley.

Notable: The Chanclas, a team made up of college players, open the season on June 30 and open at home on July 3. Home games will be played at Wolff Stadium.

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Missions set to host a team in the Texas Collegiate League

Making alternate plans in the wake of a national health crisis, the San Antonio Missions professional baseball club announced Thursday that it would host a team this summer in the Texas Collegiate League.

The Missions will host a team at Wolff Stadium this summer in the Texas Collegiate League. Reports indicate that a traditional minor league season isn’t likely. — Photo by Jerry Briggs

The Missions, a Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, have yet to play this season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But officials said in a news release that local administrators will host a collegiate team that will be known as the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio.

The Chanclas are set to play a 30-game season, including 15 at home at Wolff Stadium. They’ll open June 30 at Amarillo, with the home opener set for July 3 against Acadiana of Lafayette, La.

While the Missions are holding out hope that they could still put together an abbreviated, late-summer schedule with the Brewers’ organization players, such a scenario isn’t viewed as likely, and they’re moving forward with a plan to host an entry made up of collegians in the 10-team, wood-bat TCL.

“We are extremely excited to be hosting live baseball at Wolff Stadium this summer for the San Antonio community,” Flying Chanclas president Burl Yarbrough said.

According to the news release, the Flying Chanclas would play from June 30 through Aug. 2, followed by a postseason.

Fans will be allowed to attend in the wake of new state guidelines allowing for stadiums to operate at 50 percent capacity.

Social distancing protocols will be in effect during all games at the Wolff, according to the Missions.

The Missions, a franchise that has played pro baseball in San Antonio for most years since 1888, are in the second and final year of a two-year Player Development Contract as the Triple-A affiliate of the Brewers.

The ball club’s schedule in the Pacific Coast League, originally set for April through August, has been suspended because of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

COVID-19 has affected sports around the world. In the United States, most sports have been shut down since March.

Officials in baseball are working on a plan to resume the major league season in July. A deal is contingent on an agreement between the MLB owners and players. In the meantime, what will happen with the minor league season remains to be seen.

Published reports say a traditional minor league season isn’t expected to be played, raising the distinct possibility that city of San Antonio will be without professional baseball for the first time in 53 years.

After the 1964 season, ownership of the parent-club Houston Colt .45s sold its Double-A franchise in the Texas League — then playing at Mission Stadium as the San Antonio Bullets — to a group from Amarillo.

As a result, there was a pro baseball void in the city for three years, from 1965-67.

A new club emerged in 1968 at V.J. Keefe Field, on the campus of St. Mary’s University. The Missions have played since 1994 at Wolff Stadium, on the far west side, at Interstate 90 and Callaghan Road.

In 2019, they linked with the Brewers’ organization and moved up a level to Triple-A, all in hopes of marshaling support for a new stadium.

Lacy, Westburg selected in first round of MLB draft

Former San Antonio area high school standouts Asa Lacy and Jordan Westburg were selected Wednesday on the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft.

Lacy, a pitcher at Texas A&M who played in high school at Kerrville Tivy, emerged as the fourth overall choice by the Kansas City Royals.

Westburg, a shortstop at Mississippi State out of New Braunfels, was selected 30th overall by the Baltimore Orioles. The 30th pick was the first in MLB’s Competitive Balance Round A.

When the Royals announced Lacy, a hard-throwing left-hander, it signaled the continuation of a trend as the San Antonio area has now produced three picks in the top 17 over the last five drafts.

Forrest Whitley, a right-handed pitcher, was the No. 17 overall pick on the first round in 2016. He signed with Houston out Alamo Heights High School. Jung, who attended MacArthur and Texas Tech, was the eighth choice last year by the Texas Rangers.

The draft started under unprecedented circumstances, with both major league and minor league baseball shuttered because of the national health crisis.

MLB hopes to start an abbreviated season in July, pending resolution of a deal between the owners and the players.

The possibility of games being played in the minors, however, is likely a long shot as the nation struggles to regain its footing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nevertheless, baseball forged ahead with the start of a five-round draft.

The Detroit Tigers picked slugger Spencer Torkelson of Arizona State first overall. Arkansas’ Heston Kjerstad, a former standout at Amarillo Randall High, went No. 2 to the Orioles. The Miami Marlins picked right-handed pitcher Max Meyer from the University of Minnesota at No. 3.

Others taken in the competitive balance round included: Baylor infielder Nick Loftin, by the Royals, with the No. 32 pick; also, Llano High School pitcher Justin Lange, by the San Diego Padres, with the 34th choice.

Loftin played in high school at Corpus Christi Ray.

Rounds 2-5 of the draft will be staged on Thursday at 4 p.m. (ESPN2). The Associated Press reports that 160 players will be selected.

According to the AP, undrafted players will need to wait until Sunday before they can sign with major league teams, and they can sign bonuses for no more than $20,000.

Rangers, Astros

The Rangers took second baseman Justin Foscue, from Mississippi State, at No. 14. The Astros won’t pick until No. 72 on the third round. They have been stripped of their first two choices as part of their punishment from baseball in the sign-stealing scandal.

First-round draft picks – San Antonio area

2020 – Pitcher Asa Lacy, Kerrville Tivy, fourth overall, out of Texas A&M, to the Kansas City Royals
2020 — Shortstop Jordan Westburg, New Braunfels, 30th overall, out of Mississippi State, to the Baltimore Orioles (competitive balance Round A).
2019 – Infielder Josh Jung, MacArthur, eighth overall, out of Texas Tech, to the Texas Rangers
2016 – Pitcher Forrest Whitley, Alamo Heights, 17th overall, out of high school, to the Houston Astros
2012 – Tyler Gonzales, Madison, 60th overall (supplemental first round), out of high school, to the Toronto Blue Jays
1997 – Third baseman Brandon Larson, Holmes, 14th overall out of LSU, to the Cincinnati Reds
1997 – Outfielder/first baseman Lance Berkman, New Braunfels Canyon, 16th overall out of Rice University, to the Houston Astros
1989 – Outfielder/first baseman Scott Bryant, Churchill, 20th overall out of the University of Texas, to the Cincinnati Reds
1984 – Pitcher Norm Charlton, Madison, 28th overall, out of Rice University, to the Montreal Expos
1980 – Catcher John Gibbons, MacArthur, 24th overall, out of high school, to the New York Mets
1973 – Infielder Pat Rockett, Lee, 10th overall, out of high school, to the Atlanta Braves

In his final days, John ‘Mule’ Miles had something to say

I distinctly remembered feeling anxious a little more than seven years ago as I walked through the parking lot at a Northwest Side assisted living facility. A queasy feeling hit me just as I passed through the front door.

San Antonio’s John Miles played for the Chicago American Giants in the Negro Leagues from 1946-49

On assignment to interview former Negro League baseball standout John “Mule” Miles, I knew that Mr. Miles, at age 90, wasn’t feeling well. I knew it might be our last conversation. Nevertheless, my assignment from a trusted editor at the San Antonio Express-News was clear.

I had been asked specifically to explore how Miles felt about the social injustice that made it necessary for black ball players to play in one league and whites in another, for so long.

Having interviewed Miles a few times before our last meeting in April of 2013, I knew that he had deftly skirted some of those difficult questions in the past.

From the day I met him in the early 1990s, he exuded positive vibes and loved to talk baseball, but “Mule” had always stopped short of expressing his most painful feelings on the subject of race.

He was charismatic. Charming. Gracious. But never really forthcoming about his own personal journey.

So there I was, standing at the reception desk at an assisted care center off Huebner Road, and my stomach was in full churn. The last thing I wanted was for Miles to feel uncomfortable with my line of questioning.

Not this time.

Looking a little frail, Miles invited me into his room with a welcoming smile and took a seat. I took mine. As the afternoon sun splashed through the curtains, we started to talk, and it was pure gold.

We talked about Jackie Robinson. Satchel Paige. Josh Gibson. Oscar Charleston. We talked about Miles’ best friend, Clyde McNeal, his boyhood pal from San Antonio and a flashy shortstop with the Chicago American Giants.

Miles had always been so grateful for McNeal’s friendship.

In 1946, McNeal talked Miles into leaving his job as a mechanic at Kelly field to take an offer to play for the American Giants, where they remained as teammates for a few years under manager “Candy” Jim Taylor.

The friendship continued for decades, until the end of McNeal’s life, when Miles would help transport his wheelchair-bound friend to some major-league cities, to attend some of the celebrations of former Negro League ball players.

We had talked about all of that. But, never had we really got down to the nitty-gritty on how he felt about discrimination. Until our last meeting, when it all poured out of the old ball player, perhaps because he sensed it might be the last time to get it off his chest.

I remember sitting there, stunned, as Miles started to talk about 1942 and his trip to Tuskegee, Ala., to work as mechanic trainee with the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

The Tuskegee Airmen were American heroes. A World War II fighting force. But Miles said he remembered one incident when he didn’t feel like a hero.

“I’m in my car with Texas plates and driving 20 miles per hour,” he said. “I said, ‘Oh, my goodness, the law is behind me.’ ”

With his pregnant wife in the passenger seat, Miles pulled over, and the officer approached on foot holding a gun, talking about how a tail light needed to be fixed.

“He says something, and I say, ‘I beg your pardon?’ ” Miles asked. “And then he said, ‘Oh, you’re one of them smart ones.’ Then that guy doubled up his fist and hit me, knocked my baseball cap across the window.”

Miles said he didn’t retaliate because he remembered what his mom and dad had told him before he left Texas.

“My mother and father taught me how to act,” he said. “They said, ‘You don’t get ugly, because if you do, things happen, and they happen real fast.”

About a month after my story was published, John Miles passed away.

The likeness of native Texan Biz Mackey, an Eagle Pass native who grew up in Luling, adorns the official logo of the Negro Leagues centennial.

I wanted to share it with everyone today because, No. 1, this is the centennial year of the Negro Leagues. No. 2, because guys like Miles and McNeal never really received the credit for their athletic success. And, No. 3, because of current events.

In exploring Miles’ experience with law enforcement in the South in the 1940s, maybe we can begin to understand why so many remain so frustrated with the system more than 70 years later, in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Like Miles, Floyd was an athlete from Texas. Miles grew up in San Antonio. Floyd in Houston. Miles survived racism in the 1940s and lived a long and mostly happy life. Floyd, who attended Houston Yates High School in the early 1990s, wasn’t nearly as fortunate.

He passed away on May 25 in Minneapolis, with an officer’s knee on his neck, setting off waves of protest in the nation. Knowing Miles, he no doubt would disapprove of the violence and looting plaguing American cities for the past week.

But knowing how it feels to be targeted, I am certain that he would feel sympathy for those who are offended and angry with a system that continues to yield bad results for minorities.

It is a galling reality that, all these years later, should make everyone feel a little bit queasy.

Mexican Baseball League sets plan to open play in August

The Mexican Baseball League is planning to start its season in August, according to a news release.

The league said in the release issued Thursday that it would play according to the plan “as long as there are the right conditions to carry out a season with the public in the stands.”

Originally set to open play in April, the Mexican league has been on hold, suspending its schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A unanimous vote of team presidents and managers this week produced the following plan:

# 48 games per team

# Start of the regular season on Friday, Aug. 7

# End of the regular season on Thursday, Oct. 1

# Start of the playoffs on Saturday, Oct. 3, with playoffs expanded to 12 teams.

# Start of the King’s Series (Mexico’s World Series) on Monday, Nov. 2.

“Barring any setbacks, that’s the plan for the re-start of the season,” said Jose Melendez, president of the defending league champion Acereros de Monclova.

Melendez is a 39-year-old Laredo resident who attended college in San Antonio at UTSA and at the University of the Incarnate Word.

Asked what would happen if one or more of the league’s 16 teams could not get clearance to play with fans in the stands, Melendez said in a text that it’s possible games could go on.

“Some teams have made compromise to play with gates closed, in case that happens,” said Melendez, a former front-office staffer with the San Antonio Missions.

Because of the pandemic, travel restrictions between the U.S. and Mexico have been in effect since March. But Melendez said it’s his understanding that the border will be opened in June.