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Q&A with TL president Tom Kayser03/26/2008 8:00 AM ET
By Rob Kuhn / Special to MLB.com
Tom Kayser began his tenure as president of the Texas League in 1992. He broke into baseball back in 1976 as the business manager of the Berkshire Brewers of the Double-A Eastern League. When the club moved to Holyoke, Mass., he became one of the youngest general managers in Minor League Baseball at age 24, and then one of the youngest owners when he purchased the club three years later. A 1974 graduate of Point Park College (Pa.), Kayser has also worked for the Pittsburgh Pirates under current PCL president Branch B. Rickey, the Cincinnati Reds, the Calgary Cannons formerly of the Pacific Coast League, and the Rockford Lightning of the Continental Basketball Association.
Where will you be on Opening Day?
I'll be in San Antonio with last year's champion for their home opener (April 3). I'm also looking forward to welcoming the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, who are replacing the Wichita Wranglers this year, at their first home game April 10. In the meantime and afterwards, I'll be traveling to as many other home openers as I can.
What are you most looking forward to in the 2008 season?
Better weather. We had just an unusually brutal year last year -- games cancelled by snow, sleet, rain at probably twice the rate we normally see. Ordinarily, if there are 10-15 rainouts across the league all year, that's typical, and we might see 3,000,000 fans come through the gates. San Antonio can go for years without a postponement, and they had four or five last year, and may as many as 30 games affected by bad weather.
What is one little-known fact about being a league president?
I think one thing that's interesting is the amount of difference in backgrounds and experience among us. You have former players, attorneys, former club owners. It's just a very broad diversity that you see.
What is your favorite part about being league president?
It's difficult to pin down just one. I guess in a way it's the opportunity to fulfill the childhood dream -- or maintain the joy that baseball gave you as a youngster. Realizing you're not going to be a professional player doesn't end the desire to stay around the game. I just relish every trip to the ballpark. It's really extraordinarily enjoyable, not just to be able to watch the games, but to get there early, to be involved behind the scenes a bit and know what's going on in the big picture, as well as on the field. It's especially true when things are going well, but really, it's always fun.
What would you be doing if you didn't work in baseball?
I'd probably be a history professor. (Kayser is co-author with David King of Baseball in the Lone Star State: The Texas League's Greatest Hits, published by Trinity University Press, 2005.)
What's your favorite Minor League promotion?
There are so many good and different choices, it's tough to pick one. One that I enjoy now is Myron Noodleman. He was an acquired taste, though, I guess, since I wouldn't ordinarily consider myself a big a fan of that "Nutty Professor" style. But he sort of grew on me, and I think he really epitomizes why folks like coming to Minor League Baseball games, because in addition to the game you get his fun, unobtrusive, campy comedy. Just as long as he's not performing too close to me.
What is your favorite Minor League memory?
On top would have to be my first involvement with a championship team in 1980, when I was the owner of the Double-A Brewers in Holyoke, Mass. There's no two ways about it, winning a championship is fun. More recently, in our 1992 All-Star Game, the East squad scored seven runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the game. And then our playoffs the past two years have had great games, as well. In 2006, Corpus Christi defeated Wichita in a 14-inning Game 4 that included one triple play, nearly had a second one, and remains the longest postseason game (by time) in league history. The Hooks had to get a run in the eighth to tie the game, both teams scored in the 10th to extend it, and probably more than 8,000 fans stayed past midnight to see Corpus Christi finally win it all. Something like that is hard to top, I guess, but we had drama last year, too. In Game 4 of the finals, San Antonio took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Springfield and led 11-0 in the ninth, when the Cardinals rallied for seven runs. It gave you goose bumps, but the Missions managed to hang on and win the game and the championship.
Have you ever witnessed a no-hitter? If so...when and where?
I have. I have been pretty lucky with that. I saw Edgar Ramos of Jackson throw a goofy no-hitter in 1996 (Aug. 6). During the game, I was talking with a scout, not paying real close attention to the line score. It seemed like he put a lot of runners on base, but he had walked maybe seven batters, and all of a sudden we realized what he was working on, and he beat Shreveport, 3-0, in nine innings. I missed one of Bud Smith's two no-hitters in 2000 (June 11) because it came in the second game of a Sunday doubleheader. He'd had one six weeks earlier (May 6), and I even joked to (San Antonio president) Burl Yarbrough when I left after the first game, that he'd probably throw another one. I was very fortunate to be behind home plate working a radar gun in 1988 (Sept. 16) when Tom Browning threw his perfect game for Cincinnati.
If I were a Minor League mascot, I would be...
Well, he's not a Minor League mascot, but there's no question it would be the Phillie Phanatic. No disrespect to Ted Giannoulas (The Famous Chicken), but day-in, day-out, no one was as good as Dave Raymond, the original Phanatic. Most people see and enjoy the frenetic, bombastic behavior, but the opportunity to see him all the time lets you appreciate what he could also manage in slow motion or with some subtle movement -- he was a master inside that suit.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.