April 16th 2015 (Sugar Land Texas) by James Larken Smith (KTSR/KTXF Sports Radio) – The Sugar Land Skeeters hosted Media Day at Constellation Field in Sugar Land as they prepare for their 2015 season. I had the opportunity to not only meet and speak with folks from the front office, and players and coaching staff, but some of the local media folks as well. The Skeeters held a home run contest for the media, with pitches being thrown by Dale Robertson, long time sports writer for the Houston Chronicle, with proceeds going to some charities of their choice. Other media at the event, Bob Slovak of KTRK 13, Randy Mcllvoy of KPRC, and it was nice to converse with Matt Wyatt of the Houston Chronicle, among others. The main business at hand was to talk to Skeeters coaches and players, and front office staff about the upcoming season, which opens up on April 23rd here in Sugar Land.
One of the major changes this year is the change in ownership from Opening Day Partners (I apologize for saying “3rd Day Partners” in the interviews…) to Bob & Marci Zlotnik. Both manager Gary Gaetti and broadcaster Ira Leibman had nothing but great words of praise for both the entrance of the new ownership, and how the transition took place. Ira spoke at length about projects to expand how the team is marketed, and that they are just good quality people to work for. There was much optimism for the future of the ball club and the game day experience that the Zlotniks wish to see take place. One question I had going into Media Day was if the Zlotniks still were able to retain their minority ownership in the Houston Astros, which they have per Ira.
I spoke at length with Ira Leibman. He has been with the Skeeters for all four years, and is the play by play man for their ESPN3 coverage of home games, and on online radio broadcast for away games. I asked Ira how the ESPN3 broadcast went last year, and it was pretty phenomenal. The Skeeters had viewership at +400, 000. That is about equal with their home attendance for the year. He praised his broadcast partners Brett Dolan and Greg Lucas, both seasoned broadcasters formerly with the Astros. The exposure it has given not only Ira personally, but for the Atlantic League as a whole, and fans of the visiting clubs has been a welcome success. We talked about the Atlantic League’s Pace of Play also. He loves the 2 time out rule, and the requirement that the batter stays in the batters box.
Listen to the interview with Ira below.
I had the opportunity to talk with Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti. Gary, a MLB World Series player with the Minnesota Twins in 1987, is very optimistic about the club this year. One of the new players is Patrick Palmeiro. His dad is 4 time MLB All Star Rafael Palmeiro. He said Patrick is young, but feels he has a lot of potential. Gary shared there is a possibility that we ‘could’ see a father-son game this year. We also talked about how he had to manage the club with NBA star Tracy McGrady last year. He had praise for his clubhouse presence and his work ethic on the club.
Listen to me speak with Gary Gaetti below.
I spoke with Patrick Palmeiro about his role with the Skeeters and his relationship with his father. Listen to my interview with Patrick below.
Delwyn Young was MVP with Skeeters last year. We spoke about his role on the club this year, and his view on the Pace of Play effects on defense during the game. Listen to Delwyn below.
I spoke to 4th year Skeeters veteran Matt Wright. We spoke not only about his pitching performance, but his new role as Assistant Pitching coach. Listen to Matt below.
Pitcher Shane Loux is in his first season with the Skeeters. Shane was on the 2012 World Series San Francisco Giants club that won the World Series. He is excited to be able to play with his family in attendance. We spoke about his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and what it was like to play with former Astro Hunter Pence in San Francisco. Listen to Shane below.
Brooks Conrad joined the club this year. A former MLB since 2008, Brooks spent 6 years in the Astros organization. Listen to Brooks below.
Dustin Martin spent just 10 days with the ball club last year before being called up to the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, He is excited to possibly lead off in the batting order, and will likely play both left and center field.
Last, I had the opportunity to speak to KPRC Sports Director Randy McIlvoy about the Skeeters coverage, and the biggest stories that they have covered in Sugar Land the past 4 years.
I would like to send thanks to the Skeeters staff, Molly Onyett, the Marketing Communications Manager of the club, and to Chris Jones, General Manager of the club for setting this day up. We will have Chris on our morning show this coming Monday. Skeeters regular season begins April 23rd at Constellation Field in Sugar Land against last years championship winner the Lancaster Barnstormers.
I talked to Ben Simiskey on the Sugar Land Skeeters Oping Day 2014.
I did an interview with Vivianna Velazquez of The Fish Pen blog on this season in the Atlantic League and her Bridgeport BlueFish.