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MINOR LEAGUES / SEAN WATERS : Versatile Catcher Believes He Deserves the Royal Treatment

Theoretically, a minor league player stands an equal chance of being promoted to the major leagues whether he was selected in the first or last round of the free-agent draft. If his statistics are good enough and there is an opening, he should get promoted.

The caste system, however, is still in place in baseball’s major leagues.

Consider the case of Jorge Pedre, who has been in the Kansas City Royals’ organization for five years.

Last season, Pedre, 24, split playing time with Brent Mayne at the Royals’ double-A team in Memphis, Tenn. When one caught, the other was the Chicks’ designated hitter.

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Pedre, a Harbor College standout, was selected in the 33rd round of the June, 1987, free-agent draft. Mayne, who attended Cal State Fullerton, was selected in the first round (13th overall) of the 1989 draft.

Both players are good-hitting catchers, although Pedre is a better power hitter. He had a .258 batting average with nine home runs, 54 runs batted in and six stolen bases. Mayne had a .267 average with two home runs, 61 RBIs and five stolen bases.

Mayne, 23, is a left-handed hitter and Pedre is right-handed.

Defensively, Mayne has a slight edge. He threw out 34% (39 of 116) of baserunners attempting to steal, and Pedre threw out 30% (21 of 70).

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Pedre also was hurt part of the 1990 season. He strained ligaments in his right wrist and twice was placed on the disabled list. But he was activated each time after missing only eight days.

However, Pedre is more versatile. In addition to catching, he can play first and third.

But when the Royals needed a catcher to replace the injured Bob Boone, they called up the less-experienced Mayne. Pedre remained in Memphis.

“It’s not like he’s a favorite son,” Pedre said. “But first-round picks do get more opportunities. I’m happy for him. He deserved to get called up. But I deserve a chance too.”

Mayne currently is the starting catcher for the Royals, replacing the injured Mike Macfarlane. Pedre was promoted to triple-A Omaha last week after beginning the season in Memphis. He led the Southern League in doubles (28) and was third in RBIs (59) before being promoted.

“I’ve been pretty consistent at the plate,” Pedre said. “I also had a chance to prove at Memphis that I could catch on a full-time basis. Now I’m waiting for a break. Hopefully it will be this year.”

The Royals have received inquiries about the availability of Pedre, who has been protected the past two seasons on the team’s 40-man roster. Unless he gets promoted, Pedre will be a six-year free agent after next season and could sign with any major league team.

“I’m kind of in the driver’s seat,” Pedre said. “Someone obviously wants me, otherwise the Royals wouldn’t bother to put me on the roster two years in a row.”

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Mann with a golden gun--Kelly Mann hasn’t quite lived up to his billing as the top catching prospect in the Atlanta Braves farm system.

Mann, who grew up in Redondo Beach before graduating from Santa Monica High, had a batting average of .203 with three home runs and 11 RBIs before being placed on the disabled list June 2. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to remove cartilage damage in his right knee.

While Mann was out, the triple-A Richmond Braves used longtime minor leaguers Jerry Willard and Joe Szekely, who combined to bat more than .300. Both players are over 30.

Mann, 23, has since returned from the disabled list and discovered he had to fight for a position. But he still remains the organization’s top prospect at the position.

Back to work--Former Cal State Dominguez Hills pitcher Chris Haslock did not remain out of work very long.

Haslock, who played 3 1/2 years in the San Diego Padres organization, found employment with the independent Miami Miracle of the Florida State League.

Haslock, a right-handed pitcher, was 0-0 with a 7.13 earned-run average in 10 games for Wichita, Kan., of the double-A Texas League when he was given his unconditional release.

Haslock, who was drafted by the Padres out of Dominguez Hills in 1988, also played three seasons in Class-A before being promoted to Wichita earlier this season.

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He will join former Loyola Marymount catcher Miah Bradbury to form an all-South Bay battery.

The team is owned by comedian Bill Murray and singer Jimmy Buffett.

All the right moves--While brothers Ken and George earned their fame on a playing field, Bobby Brett is gaining notoriety for helping build one.

Brett, the owner of a California League baseball team, knew a good business deal and moved his financially struggling Class-A team from Riverside to the desert community of Adelanto.

Known as the High Desert Mavericks, Brett’s team recently set a California League attendance record for first-year teams. The Mavericks have drawn 164,099, eclipsing the previous mark of 161,511 held by the San Bernardino Spirit in 1987 and more than doubling last year’s attendance at Riverside.

The main reason the Mavericks are attracting more fans is the configuration of the ballpark. Modeled after Boston’s Fenway Park and Kansas City’s Royals Stadium, Mavericks Stadium is not symmetrical and there are no foul grounds. Each seat is a molded box seat that is 22 inches wide, three inches wider than a standard seat at a major league park.

“We wanted a miniature major league ballpark and we wanted the fans to feel like they were part of the game,” said Brett, an El Segundo High graduate. “You can’t get any closer to the field. You’re as close to the field as the rules allow you to be.”

Acting on behalf the California League, Brett went to Adelanto to advise the community on how to attract an expansion franchise. Two years later, the $4-million stadium was completed at the same time Brett was looking for a place to move.

“I couldn’t get a beer license in Riverside and it was becoming more difficult to make money there,” Brett said. “I advised the developers in Adelanto about what steps to take to attract a team. They built a perfect ballpark and the team they got ended up being us.”


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