Stubby Clapp walked out for batting practice before the Triple-A National Championship Game on Tuesday.
Wearing Cardinals’ red, the Memphis skipper reflected on the last time he was representing the Redbirds in the last game of the Minor League season.
“I remember playing in those games,” Clapp said. “I remember how much fun and how important it was as far as continuing to represent your team and your organization for those couple extra games and today’s the same way.”
Seventeen years ago, Clapp was an infielder for the Redbirds, leading the squad to the 2000 Las Vegas Triple-A World Series, the predecessor of the current end-of-the year matchup between the winners of the Pacific Coast League and the International League.
“I’m definitely glad it’s this version. I didn’t like that version, three games in Vegas, day games, no fans in the stands was no fun,” the skipper said with a laugh. “I think that they’ve made a great adjustment with this one-game playoff and having fun with that idea,”
This year, Clapp drove his Memphis club from the dugout against Durham in front of 9,383 attendees at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s PNC Field in Moosic, Pennsylvania. And just like in 2000, Bryan Eversgerd was by his side.
That day Albert Pujols slugged the winning homer while the Redbirds pitching coach threw the final three innings and notched the win in extras to punch Memphis’ ticket to Las Vegas.
“Him and I being able to partner up again and be on a team and on a staff together is pretty special,” Stubbs said.
Besides the setup for the final matchup of the year, Stubbs has noticed a lot of changes in the game over the past 17 years.
“Back then it was, you showed up and played, and you made adjustments as the pitches were made. So the analytics is the big thing,” the manager said. “And just different ways to pitch has changed a little bit. Hitting techniques, exit velocities and launch angles and all that stuff — we didn’t talk about all that stuff back then.
“We relied on our buddies, we didn’t worry about video, we trusted our friends to work on making adjustments. It’s a little bit different era when it comes to the technology and all that stuff.”
In Stubbs’ first season at the helm, the Redbirds became the first Minor League team to clinch a spot in the second half of the season, notching 91 total wins — tied for second with Class A West Michigan for most victories in the Minors, one shy of Double-A Trenton.
Proud of how hard his players worked this season, Stubbs was glad his team got the opportunity to be in the national spotlight — though he admittedly didn’t realize the stage was going to be so big, given what it was like when he played in the Triple-A World Series.
“We walk out here and reporters are everywhere, TV [crews]are everywhere, cameras are everywhere,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s a mini [preview of]the big leagues for the players.”
Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.