Baseball : Canyons Product Backs No-Pay-No-Play vote
Keith Smith figured that he had been paying the price for 10 years, so he didn’t think it was too much to ask that he get paid on time.
Smith, 27, joined his teammates on the Vancouver Canadians--the Chicago White Sox triple-A affiliate--in boycotting Thursday night’s Pacific Coast League game in Albuquerque because the White Sox were repeatedly late delivering players’ paychecks.
“Four out of the last six checks have been late,” Smith said by phone from Albuquerque on Friday. “It causes a lot of problems, especially for the guys, like me, who are married.
“My wife and daughter live in Denver and there are bills that have to be paid.
“We knew it wasn’t a little thing we did, but as far as I’m concerned we did the right thing.”
Smith, a shortstop, signed with the New York Yankees in 1979 after being drafted in the 15th round out of Canyon High. He spent a total of 35 days in the major leagues with the Yankees during the 1984 and ’85 seasons, played two seasons in the Milwaukee Brewers organization and joined the White Sox as a free agent before this season.
Players are supposed to be paid on the first and 15th day of the month. Smith said that Canadians players often have had to wait as long as four days for their paychecks to arrive.
“The longest delay I’ve ever had (receiving a paycheck) with other organizations was a day or two,” said Smith, who is batting .240 with one home run and 14 runs batted in. “It’s irritating if it’s any longer.”
Canadians players had not received their checks Thursday. They met before batting practice Thursday and voted not to play the game, which was a promotional night in Albuquerque that featured Bob Feller.
“We went into the locker room yesterday and there were a lot of upset people,” Smith said. “We decided we were going to have a vote and the first thing we decided was that we would stick together as a team.”
On Friday, the Canadians’ general manager flew to Phoenix and delivered players’ paychecks.
Smith said he hopes the issue is settled so that the players can get back to concentrating on baseball.
“I have Ozzie Guillen playing in front of me making $800,000, so there’s not much I can do except continue to play hard,” Smith said. “When you’re at this level and playing every day, you’ve got a chance.”
The long road: Steve Wapnick’s pitching career hit a major roadblock earlier this week.
Wapnick, a 23-year old right-handed reliever who played at Monroe High and Moorpark College, was scheduled to make his first start of the season Tuesday for the Dunedin (Fla.) Blue Jays, Toronto’s affiliate in the Class-A Florida State League.
However, what began as a normal two-hour commute from Dunedin to Osceola for the game against the Houston Astros’ affiliate turned into a nightmare; the bus carrying the Dunedin players got ensnared in a Fourth of July traffic jam that resulted in a three-hour standstill.
“Once I found out I was starting, I kind of dwelled on it,” said Wapnick, who was selected by Toronto in the 30th round of the 1987 draft out of Fresno State. “The longer I waited on the bus the more I thought about it.”
The bus driver finally traversed through motorists who had taken to playing football on the highway, then drove across the grass-and-gravel center divider and began a circuitous journey to the stadium.
Dunedin arrived five minutes before the scheduled game time so the start was delayed 30 minutes.
Wapnick, who was 4-0 with a 2.05 earned-run average and seven saves in 24 appearances, finally was able to relax once he took the mound. He was pulled with a 2-1 lead after striking out the side in the fifth inning.
“I knew I was only going to go five so I felt OK,” Wapnick said.
He felt even better immediately after he entered the dugout when the coaching staff informed him that he was being promoted to Knoxville in the double-A Southern League.
“It started out as a rough day,” Wapnick said, “but I guess it was worth it.”
Starting over: After making a school-record 38 appearances at USC last season, primarily as a reliever, Darrin Beer is off to a sparkling start in his professional career.
Beer, 21, is pitching for the Geneva (N. Y.) Cubs, the Chicago Cubs’ affiliate in the Class-A New York-Penn League, and is 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA. Beer, a right-hander from La Crescenta, has struck out 17 and allowed just one walk in 20 2/3 innings.
“He knows how to pitch and he doesn’t give into the hitters,” said Ken Reynolds, Geneva’s pitching coach. “He can throw his breaking pitch over any time he wants to.
“He’s a polished college player coming out of a good program. He isn’t fazed too much.”
Beer signed with the Cubs as a free agent after going 3-3 with a 5.48 ERA last season for the Trojans.
He began the season at Geneva in a relief role but moved into the starting rotation after pitching impressively in the second game of a doubleheader.
“The thing I liked about (relief pitching) was it gave me a chance to get in a lot of games,” said Beer, who had been a starter at College of the Canyons and for his first two seasons at USC. “But starting is what I like best.”
Orel advice: Travis Willis says he might have turned his season around, thanks to Orel Hershiser.
Willis, the Chicago Cubs’ eighth-round draft pick out of Cal, has pitched well but received no decisions in his past two outings for Geneva after beginning the season 0-3.
“I was just doing horrible and thinking, ‘Shoot, can I make it here?’ ” said Willis, a 20-year-old right-hander who played at Camarillo High. “Then I started reading Orel Hershiser’s book.
“I’ve learned the main thing is to take things pitch by pitch instead of game by game. I’ve been doing that and it’s helped.”
Last season, Willis got off to a 6-0 start for Cal before he injured his finger while wrestling with his father.
“We were just screwing around the night before a game against Arizona,” Willis said. “We always play a little rough.”
Willis finished his junior season 7-5 and with a 3.33 ERA.
“I feel like I’m getting back to where I was before I messed up my finger,” said Willis, who makes his next start Monday against the Auburn Astros. “It’s just a matter of concentration.”