Big leaguers, past and present, star at banquet
BY BARRY LEWIS World Sports Writer
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
1/15/13 at 7:14 AM
CLAREMORE - For former Texas Rangers all-star catcher Jim Sundberg, one of the most enjoyable things about events such as the eighth annual Field of Dreams Baseball Banquet is running into some of his boyhood heroes.
That occurred again at the Claremore event held at Rogers State's Centennial Center when he saw former New York Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry.
"These are fun," said Sundberg, who was guest speaker at Monday evening's event. "The little kid in me comes out when I see someone I watched when I was a growing up. I was a huge Yankees fan."
Terry was a part of two memorable postseason moments, giving up Bill Mazeroski's World Seriers-winning homer in 1960 and then pitching a 1-0 shutout in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series, in which he was named most valuable player.
Among the guests at the dinner was the producer of one of 2012's most dramatic major league postseason moments - St. Louis shortstop and Owasso graduate Pete Kozma.
His two-out, two-run, tiebreaking hit in the ninth inning of the National League Division Series' ultimate game at Washington was described by master of ceremonies and long time major league broadcaster Bob Carpenter as one of "the biggest postseason hits in Cardinals history."
"I'll leave it for everyone else to talk about how big a hit it was," Kozma said.
The hit capped a dramatic last two months of the season for Kozma, who had only played in 16 major league games before being called up on Aug. 31 to replace injured all-star shortstop Rafael Furcal. Kozma batted .333 in 26 games for St. Louis. His 14 RBIs in September were the most by a Cardinals rookie shortstop during that month in at least 50 years. He also had a three-run homer in another Division Series win.
So what was Kozma thinking when he was at the plate for his decisive hit at Washington?
"I just tried to treat it as another at-bat," Kozma said. "It's a big stage and if you don't do that, you'll crumble."
The Cardinals appear to be confident in Kozma as they had not added any veteran middle infielders during the offseason. Kozma is treating this winter just as he would any other.
"It's been a good offseason," Kozma said. "It's the same except that it's a little shorter because we were in the postseason. I'm just getting ready to compete for a job in spring training."
Kozma was sitting at a table between two of baseball's top pitching prospects - Baltimore's Dylan Bundy of Owasso and Arizona's Archie Bradley of Broken Arrow.
Bundy was a combined 9-3 with a 2.08 ERA for three minor league teams in 2012 before finishing his first pro season with two scoreless relief appearances for the Orioles.
"I hope I've got some of the nerves out of the way and that will help the next time," Bundy said as he looked ahead to his next major league opportunity. "It was a great experience to pitch in Fenway Park and also to experience being in the race to the playoffs."
Bradley was 12-6 with a 3.84 for low Single-A South Bend in 2012. In 136 innings and 27 starts, he allowed only 87 hits and struck out 152.
"I feel like I threw well and I got a grasp on some things that I needed to get a grasp on," Bradley said. "I've got a better idea on how to prepare and go into this next season."
The only negative for Bradley was some control problems as he walked 84 and ran up some high pitch counts that kept him from going deeper into games.
"That's very uncharacteristic of me," Bradley said. "I had never had struggles like that and thrown that wildly. I would give up one or two hits a game and give up two or three runs. But I would rather go through that now and figure out how to get over it, and get past it and get through it, than have that happen to me down the road. I think I have figured that out and won't have that problem again."
Bundy and Bradley don't know where they will start the 2013 regular season although the odds are they will open in Double-A.
Other active pro players attending the banquet included Houston pitcher Dallas Keuchel, New York Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner, and Baltimore pitching prospect Bobby Bundy. Also there was former Rogers State pitcher Matt Sample, who was a teammate of Bradley's last season, and pitcher Parker Frazier, who was with the Tulsa Drillers last year and is hoping to move up in the Colorado system.
Sundberg, the Rangers' senior executive vice president, sees bright days ahead for the Rangers in 2013 as they try to reach the playoffs for the fourth straight season and win their third American League pennant of the decade despite losing key veterans such as Josh Hamilton and Michael Young.
"We've still got a good core of players and a good group of young players," Sundberg said. "We probably won't be picked to win it (the AL West), but we'll have a good team."
Barry Lewis 918-581-8393
Former Texas Rangers all-star catcher Jim Sundberg speaks during the Field of Dreams Baseball Banquet on Monday night at Rogers State's Centennial Center in Claremore. Sundberg was among many big baseball names present. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Owasso graduate Pete Kozma (right) and Bishop Kelley graduate Dallas Keuchel sign autographs Monday at the Field of Dreams Baseball Banquet at Rogers State University. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World