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 Eastern League. When the club moved to Holyoke, Mass., he became one of the youngest general managers in Minor League Baseball at age 24. He later purchased the club at 27. A 1974 graduate of Point Park College (Pa.), Kayser has also worked for the Cincinnati Reds, Calgary Cannons of the Pacific Coast League and the Rockford Lightning of the CBA. He recently co-authored a book about the history of the Texas League called
Baseball in the Lone Star State: The Texas League's Greatest Hits.
What makes the Texas League special?
Its History. We're the longest-standing Double-A league in terms of years of operation, going back to 1888. Because of that, we have some truly unique stories. I think it's hard for other leagues to match that, purely based on the longevity of the Texas League.
Outside the Texas League, what's your favorite Minor League ballpark?
Boy, that's a hard one, there are so many neat ballparks. But in terms of the "ooh, ahh" factor, I'd have to say the ballparks in Memphis [AutoZone Park] and Oklahoma City [SBC Bricktown Ballpark] are my favorite. I haven't seen that many ballparks outside of my league, but I've always said that if Horace Stoneham had stopped in Oklahoma City and seen the ballpark there -- had it been built then -- he never would have moved the Giants to San Francisco.
Who is the best player you've seen come through the Texas League?
I remember plays more than I remember players. I remember the very first Texas League at-bat of a kid named Adrian Beltre, how you could tell from his approach at the plate why the Dodgers thought so highly of him. I mean it was obvious that this kid got it. I also remember Eric Gagne because of his presence on the mound. And I remember a home run hit by Ruben Mateo in the Texas League All-Star Game, one of the hardest hit balls I've ever seen. I have seen many plays that have taken my breath away.
What's the one initiative you'd like to see accomplished before your term ends?
I think it's well on its way to being accomplished, as we are in an unprecedented [ballpark] building phase. We're working on a new ballpark in Little Rock now, and by next year I think five of our eight ballparks will have been built since 2002. Hopefully this building boom will continue.
Favorite offseason activity?
I love to travel. My favorite annual trip is to visit my niece and her husband in San Francisco and then go spend a few days in the wine country of Napa Valley. My favorite trip ever was to Italy. I could spent the rest of my days traveling around Europe.
Being the league president is...
More diverse than it would appear. There are so many different aspects to the job, whether it's ordering new equipment, editing the media guide, working with farm directors. There's a lot of stuff that needs to get done.
What's the best thing about Minor League Baseball?
I think it's the opportunity to get close to everything. You can take that opportunity to get to know the players if you care to. The ability to build relationships with everyone is much easier because of the scale of the game in the Minors. The kinds of friendships and relationships built at the Minor League level last a lifetime.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.