Former S.A. Dodger Dave Stewart discusses his MLB ownership dream

Acereros de Monclova pitching coach Dave Stewart returned to San Antonio on Thursday night. The Acereros defeated the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos 4-3 in an exhibition at Wolff Stadium. Stewart pitched for the San Antonio Dodgers in 1978 and went on to become one of the best right-handers in major league baseball. — Photo, by Jerry Briggs

If you think about the most accomplished pitchers ever to have toed the rubber for a San Antonio minor league ball club, a short list comes to mind, including Pedro Martinez, Orel Hershiser and Fernando Valenzuela.

I had a chance to talk to another guy on that list, Dave Stewart, on the eve of tonight’s exhibition between the Acereros de Monclova and the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos.

Stewart is the pitching coach for the Acereros, who play the Tecolotes in exhibitions tonight and Friday night at Wolff Stadium.

I caught up with the former World Series MVP in a telephone interview Wednesday.

A few newsworthy nuggets came up in our 20-minute conversation. Stewart, now 64, says he remains a principle in the effort to bring a major league baseball franchise to Nashville, Tenn.

After working for two seasons through 2016 as general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, he’s involved with a group lobbying MLB on behalf of Music City.

Stewart says he’s ready to get back into the game at the highest level.

“We’re still doing everything we have to do from our position to make that dream come true for the Nashville community,” he said.

I first met Stewart in 1978 when I was a 23-year-old, first-year reporter for the San Antonio Light, the local Hearst newspaper affiliate.

At the time, Stewart was a strong, 21-year-old kid from Oakland who stood out among some great athletes who had convened that summer to play for the San Antonio Dodgers.

At the time, Stewart was still trying to find his footing in the game, playing at the Double-A level for manager Don “Ducky” LeJohn.

The team was based at V.J. Keefe Field, at St. Mary’s University. Mike Scioscia, who went on to play and manage in the majors, was his catcher.

With the Mexican League games in San Antonio looming, Stewart said he has been thinking about that time of his life over the past few days.

“We were talking about that last night,” Stewart said in a telephone interview. “You popped out two names that we were talking about. Ducky LeJohn and Mike Scioscia.”

Stewart was the ace of the San Antonio ball club’s pitching staff that year, posting a 14-12 record with a 3.68 earned run average.

I remember him as an athletic wonder, a guy who could seemingly pitch all night.

The records bear that out. According to the player register at, Stewart started 28 games and pitched 193 innings in San Antonio.

He pitched five complete games and two shutouts.

“Coming into San Antonio that year, I had just come off an 18-4 season,” Stewart said. “I was of the mind that I was getting closer to the big leagues. In San Antonio, I got off to a good start and ended up having a good year, a good year personally, as I got my first call-up to the big leagues.”

In September of 1978, Stewart made it to Los Angeles for one game. It would not be his last. In a 16-year playing career, he posted a 168-129 record with a 3.95 ERA.

He won 20 games four straight years.

In the playoffs, Stewart was a master, fashioning a 10-6 record. He won title rings with the Dodgers, the A’s and the Toronto Blue Jays. He was MVP of two playoff series, including the 1989 World Series and the 1990 AL Championship Series, both with the A’s.

Those are the kind of games that defined his playing career, but I still remember him throwing fast balls from the mound at V.J. Keefe, when he was just a young guy out of Oakland with a dream.

Age changes all of us, but in many ways, Stewart hasn’t changed a bit. He still stays awake at night thinking about new challenges. One challenge is to try and become the first African-American with a majority ownership stake in the major leagues.

Initially, I asked him about his level of optimism that something good could happen for Nashville.

“What I do know is that Major League Baseball has two agendas,” he said. “One is to get a new stadium for Tampa and two, to get a new stadium for the Oakland Athletics. Once those things are off the agenda, then Major League Baseball has told us they will look at expansion for their next project.

“So, I’m very optimistic that it will happen. But what I can’t tell you is when it’s going to happen.”

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred suggested only a few days ago that expansion franchise fees could be in the range of $2.2 billion.

“If in fact these assets are worth an average $2.2 billion, I think that’s kind of a lodestar in terms of where you would start in terms of evaluating expansion opportunity,” Manfred said in an Associated Press story.

“A lot of cheddar,” Stewart said.

Asked if he thought that figure would scare off any prospective owners, he said it doesn’t scare the Nashville group.

“We were expecting it would be in the upper one billions (of dollars),” he said. “And so we were prepared, that if it was going to be in the upper one billions, that it could possibly sneak into the two billions. To me, when that time comes and the process happens, we’ll be prepared.

“We’ll be funded and ready to go.”

On a personal level, Stewart said it’s important to have an ownership group emerge that would include persons of color.

“Basketball, baseball, football — it’s important to all of us,” said Stewart, who is African-American. “We could talk about Derek Jeter’s ownership in the Marlins. Now, LeBron James has bought ownership in the Boston Red Sox. Magic Johnson has ownership in the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not one franchise is majority owned by a minority. When that happens, it will be ground breaking.

“It’ll break the glass ceiling, and in baseball, particularly, which is predominantly white, both on the field and in the (front) office, I think that would be trend-setting and ground-breaking.”

So, is there an African-American that could be the majority owner in Nashville?

“You’re talking to him,” Stewart replied, laughing.

Big dreams, indeed, for the former young star for the San Antonio Dodgers, who grew up without much material wealth in Oakland as the son of a man who worked on the docks.

“My dad was a longshoreman and my mom worked for the United Postal Service,” Stewart said. “To say we didn’t have a lot, I wouldn’t say that is correct. I’d just say, we had what we needed.

“We had a large family. Eight siblings. The values I had from my mother and father were that hard work (pays) and to always believe that you could accomplish the dream.”

After all these years, such dreams still drive Dave Stewart.

“I’ve been in baseball all my life,” he said “The next step in the evolution, for me, would be ownership. So, yes, I’d love to be in a position to own a baseball franchise.”

The Acereros rallied to down the Tecos 4-3 Thursday night. The teams will play at Wolff again on Friday night, with former Cy Young award winner Bartolo Colon scheduled to start for the Acereros.

Monclova’s president proud to bring his team to San Antonio

Nearly two full years have passed since the Acereros de Monclova won the 2019 title in the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol, and they remain as the defending champs of Mexico after Covid-19 wiped out sports leagues all around the world in 2020.

Led by a team president who grew up in South Texas and got his start in sports administration in San Antonio, the Acereros will christen the return of pro baseball in the Alamo City in the post-pandemic era when they take the field in exhibition contests Thursday and Friday against the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos.

Former San Antonio resident Jose Melendez is the team president of the Acereros de Monclova baseball club. — Courtesy photo

First pitch both nights is set for 7:05 p.m. at Wolff Stadium. It’s a two-night production sponsored by the San Antonio Missions, who will open their new season next week.

“We’re still in the spring training phase (of our camp), so tomorrow is the first time we’ll have most of our real lineup (on the field), to get ready for our season opener on May 20,” Monclova team president Jose Melendez said. “It’s a great trip for our players, to go into different cities. We’ve never played in San Antonio before. To play in front of a crowd in San Antonio will be very good for them. It’s a very exciting thing for us, for our players, to make this kind of trip.”

The trip is also special for Melendez, who grew up in Laredo, attended college in San Antonio and once worked in the front office for the Missions.

“It’s one of those things in life where you come full circle,” said Melendez, who went to school at both Incarnate Word and UTSA. “You have fond memories of starting your career with the Missions, and to come in with another international team, the defending champions, and to play at (Wolff) Stadium, it’s kind of a full circle thing for me. It’s something we always strive to do in our organization, and that’s to break boundaries.

“To me, it’s a very exciting thing. Not only because of my personal affection for the San Antonio Missions, but also to have our club play in front of a great crowd, in a different market — in a major league market, in San Antonio. People (in San Antonio) can experience our kind of baseball, our kind of players, so it’s very exciting. I’ve been looking forward to this for the longest time.

“I can’t believe it’s here.”

Starters named

Thursday: Greg Mahle for the Tecos vs. David Richardson for the Acereros.
Friday: Richelson Peña for the Tecos vs. Bartolo Colon for the Acereros.


Missions president revels in ‘special time of year’ for baseball

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

The return of professional baseball to San Antonio looms in only a few days, and Missions president Burl Yarbrough on Tuesday admitted to feeling some extra adrenaline after having the entire 2020 season canceled because of the pandemic.

Last summer, Yarbrough and his staff kept the turnstiles at Wolff Stadium spinning by fielding a team in the Texas Collegiate League. But for the first time in San Antonio since the 1960s, there were no pro games to watch.

The game’s return, for the faithful, will be like a three-course meal at a favorite eatery.

Fans will get an appetizer on Thursday and Friday night at Wolff Stadium, with a pair of exhibitions between teams from the Mexican League. The Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos will play the Acereros de Monclova each night.

Next up will be a main course, so to speak, when the Missions open their season on May 4 on the road against the Corpus Christi Hooks. Finally, dessert will be served on May 18 when the Missions open at home against the Frisco RoughRiders.

Yarbrough is ready for it all to start.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time and still get very excited … probably a little moreso this time because of the fact that we missed last year,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s a special time of year, knowing that our season starts a week from today. After missing a year, it makes it that much more special.”

Schedule at a glance

Home games at Wolff Stadium

Mexican League exhibitions — Two games, Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos vs. Acereros de Monclova, Thursday and Friday (both at 7:05 p.m.)

Missions’ season — 120 games, 60 at home, 60 on the road, May 4 through Sept. 19

Texas Collegiate League season — 44 games, 22 at home, 22 on the road, May 28 – Aug. 1

Mexican League flair

The Tecos and the Acereros will be playing exhibitions as part of their preseason schedules, a pair of games set up between Yarbrough and one of his former employees, Acereros president Jose Melendez.

Initially, Yarbrough tried to work out a deal to bring Monclova to San Antonio to play the Missions. But it couldn’t be done because of health-related protocols, and so the Tecos and Acereros games were booked.

It should be an interesting show with Monclova featuring players such as Bartolo Colon, Addison Russell, Erick Aybar and Chris Carter.

“They do things the right way,” Yarbrough said of the 2019 Mexican League champions.

It’s the first time a pro team from south of the border will play in San Antonio since 1994, when Wolff Stadium opened and hosted an all-star game between the Mexican and Texas leagues.

Colon is expected to start on Friday night.

Franchise in transition

The Missions are a franchise in transition, having linked up in 2019 with the Milwaukee Brewers, with a move from Double-A to the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. As it turned out, the team played only one season in the PCL.

A cascading series of unfortunate events started in March of 2020 with a suspension of spring training and later a delay on the start of the season because of the virus.

By mid-summer, officials decided to scrap the minor league season at all levels.

In the fall, Major League Baseball started a reorganization of the minors, which ultimately resulted in the Missions being placed back in Double-A. Given the age of Wolff Stadium, the move was expected, but it was still painful.

Earlier this year, the Padres became the Missions’ parent-club once again.

The Tatis factor

Yarbrough said he thinks that the Missions’ history with former Padres prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr., now regarded as perhaps the most exciting young player in the game, could help his ball club this summer in terms of fan recognition.

“He had a pretty good weekend last weekend, didn’t he?” Yarbrough said.

Tatis, who played for the Missions in 2017 and 2018, electrified the fans by leading the Padres to three victories in four road games against the defending world champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

“For us, we went off and played Triple-A for one year,” Yarbrough said. “With the new arrangement with major league baseball, and us going back to Double-A, it’s very exciting to re-affiliate with the Padres. Because, we had 12 great years with them (from 2007-18). They always treated us like partners from Day One. Just (had) good relationships (with) good people who worked for ’em.

“When anybody says, ‘Oh, you’re back in Double-A.’ I can say, ‘Fernando Tatis.’ “That’s who we had on our team when we were in Double-A in our last year. (Also) Chris Paddack on that team. Let me tell you. Fernando Tatis is the most exciting player in baseball right now, and he was on this field just a few years ago, and he probably has as much in front of him as anyone in the big leagues right now.

“So for us to re-affiliate with them and for him to be a part of our team, I mean, he was here in ’18 when the Flying Chanclas were born, and he loved wearing that uniform. The way he played for us, you see it now in the big leagues … It’ll be very easy for our fans to root and follow him in the years to come.”

Missions’ roster update

The makeup of this year’s Missions’ roster is still something of a mystery, as the Padres haven’t released any information on players yet.

Regardless, a solid team led by manager Phillip Wellman is expected to arrive later this week. The Padres’ minor league system is ranked among the top ten in baseball despite a number of moves over the past few years to acquire veterans in exchange for prospects.

“The system’s got very good players still,” Yarbrough said.

The organization’s top prospects include pitcher MacKenzie Gore, infielder CJ Abrams, catcher Luis Campusano and outfielder Robert Hassell III.

Regardless of who is on the team, Yarbrough will look forward to May 18 when he can invite fans to come out and watch the first Missions home game in 20 months.

“So excited to see people in the ball park again,” Yarbrough said.