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Notebook: Moss praised for his acumen

SAL founder's keenly felt by administrators at Texas League All-Star Game
July 1, 2009
FRISCO, Texas -- It stands to reason the passing of a veteran president of a southern MiLB league would be felt deep within the Texas League.

After all, John Henry Moss never saw a territory he didn't like.

Moss, 90, the founder and longtime president of the South Atlantic League, died Wednesday morning in Kings Mountain, N.C., where he had been since suffering a stroke June 7.

Texas League president Tom Kayser, Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Conner and executive vice president Jimmie Lee Solomon all described Moss as a farsighted expansionist before Wednesday's Texas League All-Star Game at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

"He was both a nurturer and a visionary," Kayser said. "The old joke was there wasn't a territory that didn't interest John Henry Moss."

After World War II, the former Minor League player returned to his native Kings Mountain. In 1947, founded the semi-pro Western Carolinas League, which joined the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues within a year. He was a general manager in the Detroit Tigers system for most of the 1950s and returned to reorganize the Western Carolinas League in 1959. The league took on the name of the retired South Atlantic League in 1980.

The South Atlantic League, commonly called the Sally League, grew to 16 teams in eight states while Moss, who headed the league until 2007, also helped bring professional baseball to 43 cities.

"It was very devastating that I didn't get the chance to say good-bye to him," said Solomon, who was making arrangements to visit Moss when an assistant caught him with a phone call at a rental car counter.

"I started in 1991, he was one of the first Minor League officials or league presidents to basically take me under their wing and introduce me around and let me get to know people," he added.

Solomon said he was reminded of how the people he meets in his line of work make it all special.

"The real true essence of baseball and Minor League baseball, especially, are the people you meet along the way," Solomon said. "The relationships that you make and have for years and years. Sometimes we need to step back sometimes and do a personal account of our relationships and our friendships, because we lost a true giant today."

As players began signing for increasing sums of money and the pressure grew to get them Major League-ready even more quickly, Moss grasped the need for modern ballparks and facilities. But that wasn't the only example of Moss' ability to work toward the future, O'Conner said.

"He was talking about streaming video before I'd ever heard of streaming video," he said, praising Moss for his ideas regarding expansion, innovation and debt-free operation.

"He plowed the field we get to play on," O'Conner added.

Kayser, who didn't meet Moss until after Kayser assumed the Texas League presidency in 1992, called for a moment of silence during the league meeting Wednesday.

"John was one of those people who was just extraordinary in his willingness to help you," Kayser said. "Anybody. Whether it was an operator, whether it was a colleague, he just had the very best interest of baseball, always foremost. I was thinking about this today, he's like the Connie Mack of league presidents. Fifty years running a league, being a mayor and being one of the most prolific at getting benefits for the city that he worked for.

"Just an extraordinary, extraordinary person."

LATOS IN LINE: San Antonio Missions right-hander Mat Latos was a late replacement for injured Corpus Christi pitcher Douglas Arguello on the South roster in Wednesday's game.

Latos (4-1 with 1.89 ERA in 38 innings) is the top pitching prospect in the San Diego Padres organization and was promoted from Class A Fort Wayne after starting the year 3-0 with an 0.36 ERA.

"I'm healthy, I'm relying on my fastball," said Latos, who pitched two innings, giving up one hit and striking out three, including Home Run Derby winner Mark Trumbo of Arkansas. "I'm pitching to my strengths instead of pitching to their weaknesses, regardless of who it is and just going out there and doing my thing and pounding the strike zone."

Describing himself as "the most laid-back guy you'll meet," Latos said he doesn't feel any pressure as the Padres' top mound prospect.

"I'm here to do one thing," he said. "I'm here to get out there and compete with everybody, win a Texas League championship and move way up as quickly as possible.

"I don't read very much on it. My Mom does, that helps, but that's about it."

STRONG IN SECOND: Midland slugger Chris Carter launched 10 home runs in the first round of the Home Run Derby, but didn't have any in the second round as Arkansas' Mark Trumbo overtook him for an 11-10 victory.

It's not going to spoil Carter's season. With Adrian Cardenas (.419 on-base percentage) usually in the No. 3 spot ahead of him, Carter has risen to second in the league with 59 RBIs and 13 home runs, leads the league with 40 extra-base hits and is in the top five with 91 hits.

"I'm just driving the ball and hitting the gaps," said Carter, batting .302.

Carter was traded twice in December 2007 from the White Sox to the Diamondbacks after leading all Sox Minor Leaguers with 25 home runs, then from Arizona to Oakland.

"I just thought it was a good thing for me, like a team wanted me," said Carter, who had 39 homers at Class A Advanced Stockton last year. "I like how things are going right now. I like my opportunities. It looks good. I think I have a good chance of making it [to Oakland] soon."

LOOKING TO THE FUTURES: The All-Star honors don't stop for some of the participants in Wednesday's game.

Six of them will head to St. Louis to play in the Futures Game on July 12 as part of Major League All-Star Game festivities at Busch Stadium. The Futures Games pits a team of top prospects representing the United States against a World Team of international up-and-comers.

Carter, Latos, Springfield outfielder Daryl Jones and Arkansas pitcher Trevor Reckling will play for Team USA, while San Antonio outfielder Luis Durango (Panama) and Tulsa pitcher Jhoulys Chacin (Venezuela) will represent on the World Team.

"The Futures selection is a great accomplishment for me and I'm happy I got selected for it," said Reckling, a top Angels prospect sporting a 4-2 record and a 2.52 ERA. "I'm just going to go represent my organization and do what I have to do."

STAR SUBS: It wasn't exactly the roster as chosen by the Texas League voters, but in Kayser's opinion, it was still an All-Star roster.

The league suffered more than its share of lineup changes, though. Because of injuries and promotions, the South Division made seven substitutions, while the North had four. "It's been a little more than routine," Kayser said.

Todd Traub is a contributor to