The Stockton Ports: A Team That Plays Together – And Stays Together

drobertson-Oak3This year’s Stockton Ports are a pretty special team. Not only is the roster loaded with many of the A’s best young prospects, but the team finished the regular season with the best record in the California League at 85-55 and will begin play in a best-of-three California League playoff series starting Wednesday in Visalia.

In July, A’s Farm spoke with a number of the Ports’ top players about how their seasons have been going on the field – which you can see here – so this time around, we thought we’d take a look at how things have been going off the field. In particular, we spoke with four Ports players who’ve been living together all season – shortstop Daniel Robertson, first baseman Matt Olson, second baseman Chad Pinder and pitcher Austin House. Outfielder Billy McKinney began the season with them but, with his trade to Chicago, has since been replaced by pitcher Dylan Covey.

All four of the house regulars have had solid seasons for Stockton. Robertson finished the year as the California League hits leader, while Olson won the league’s home run title. Despite missing about a month’s worth of time due to injuries, Pinder was still second on the team in doubles and batting average, and House tied for the second most saves in the league.

While most people know the kind of money that major league ballplayers make, most fans don’t really appreciate what life is like in the minor leagues and would probably be a bit surprised to find five of the A’s top prospects all spending the season together in one two-bedroom apartment. But that’s the way it often works below the major league level, where cramped quarters and long bus rides are a way of life. But when you’re busy chasing the dream, it’s all a part of the adventure – and can also help to foster the kind of camaraderie that’s needed to succeed in a game that truly is a team sport.

We talked to Robertson, Olson, Pinder and House last week, just a day after they’d clinched the California League Northern Division second-half title and with less than a week left in the regular season…

 

(DR=Daniel Roberston, MO=Matt Olson, CP=Chad Pinder, AH=Austin House, AF=A’s Farm)

 

AF:  So we’ve got the four of you roommates together here the final week of the regular season. You’ve been living together all season long, and I know Billy McKinney was living with you before he was traded, but has anyone else taken his place since the trade?

ALL:  Dylan Covey.

AF:  So then Dylan took over Billy’s spot when he got here from Beloit.

ALL:  Right.

AF:  Well how’s this living arrangement been working out so far this year?

DR:  Honestly, I get so sick of these guys sometimes. No, I’m just kidding. It’s worked out great. We drove up here after spring training and found an apartment. We’ve got two to a room. [Austin] House lives in the living room.

AF:  So you’ve got your own room?

AH:  Yeah, I have my own room!

DR:  The only thing he’s missing is a door. But it’s worked out great. We’re there to sleep most of the time. If you get more people in, it kind of helps out with the money situation – it just makes it a little cheaper. And these guys are awesome to live with. So I’ve had a blast all year.

AF:  So who’s rooming with who?

DR:  Me and Olson, Pinder and Covey.

Daniel Robertson

Daniel Robertson

AH:  And then they all hang out in my room.

AF:  And you and Olson were roommates in spring training too, right?

DR:  Yeah.

AF:  So what’s your average daily schedule look like?

MO:  I’m always up first…no later than 10:00 most days.

DR:  He [Pinder] is the last.

AF:  So when are you usually getting up?

CP:  11:30.

AH:  And I wake up whenever they come out in my room.

AF:  So when do you normally leave for the park?

DR:  I’m normally driving every day. So whenever the crew is ready, we’ll take off. We normally get here around 1:00-1:30 after we go grab some food, either Subway or The Habit.

AF:  What’s The Habit?

AH:  It’s like a burger joint.

DR:  And they’ve got awesome salads and quality food. We basically have the same routine every single day. We’ve done it for five months straight, eating the same food every day. Then we show up here around 1:00-1:30 and start getting on it. And then afterwards, we’re fortunate enough to eat here. And then we just head home and hang out for an hour or two and call it a night.

AF:  So when do you guys usually crash at night?

ALL: 12:30 or 1:00.

AF:  So not too many late-night video game sessions then?

AH:  We do movie night every once in a while.

DR:  He [Pinder] will pick out a great movie. He’s really into those scary movies. He picks out great movies.

AF:  So what was the best movie of the year?

Chad Pinder

Chad Pinder

CP:  What did you think the best one I picked was?

DR:  Maybe The Devil Inside. That one was awesome.

ALL:  Yeah!

MO:  Great ending!

AF:  Well that’s sounds pretty unanimous! So who’s the most responsible member of the household?

AH:  Probably Danny.

ALL:  Yeah.

AF:  So he’s the adult?

DR:  I’m a clean freak. My area and the kitchen always have to be clean or it bugs me. I’m not going to lie.

AF:  So you’re the OCD one?

DR:  I’m the OCD one, I’ll admit it. There’s got to be that guy in the house who keeps everything neat because if there’s not then it just turns into a pig sty.

AF:  Who’s the messiest person in the house?

AH:  I’m going to go ahead and nominate you [Pinder]…He just leaves food, shoes or there’s always a pair of shorts or something…

MO:  I’m not too far behind him though.

AF:  Who’s the craziest or most random person where you never know what to expect from them?

ALL:  Billy [McKinney]!

DR:  When he was with us, you never knew his next move…I think, living there now, it’s probably House.

AH:  I usually ride pretty solo…I usually go by myself. I’m a pitcher.

AF:  Not only are you a pitcher, you’re a closer! So you’re really on your own wavelength.

AH:  Yeah, I usually kind of do my own thing.

AF:  So if you all end up in Midland next year by any chance, would you consider reconstituting this arrangement?

DR:  No, probably not. I’ve lived with Olson for three years now. It’s kind of getting old.

AH:  I might go back to hanging out with pitchers.

DR:  No, I’m just kidding. I would live with these guys for sure.

ALL:  Yeah.

AH:  Honestly, we get along pretty well. We have fun together and enjoy hanging out with each other.

AF:  So there could be chapter two in Midland?

Austin House

Austin House

AH:  There probably is going to be chapter two…but we’ve got to get to Midland first!

AF:  Of course. Now you’re just wrapping up your season here and you’re going to the playoffs. Looking back, you’ve accomplished a lot as a team this year, but what do you take out of your time here this season?

AH:  We kind of expected to be a winning team. We’ve got a lot of good players. Not saying that we expected to get to the playoffs or anything, but we expected to win.

DR:  I think last year we had a winning tradition in Beloit, and it’s most of the same guys here, with a couple of major additions like Chad Pinder and some of the other guys. We had the same coaching staff and most of the same crew here, and we won last year and we expected to carry it on again this year.

AH:  I think we kind of had a chip on our shoulder too because I think we could have won the Midwest League. And coming into this league, we had the same kind of squad, so we want to win it.

AF:  So you feel like you’ve got a little something to prove this year.

AH:  Exactly.

AF:  So I guess you’re looking forward to getting into the postseason and trying to go all the way then.

DR:  Yeah, I feel like if you get there, you want to make the most out of it and win it all, and not get bounced in the first round or something.

AF:  Now it looks like three of you [Robertson, Olson, House] are going to be together out in the Arizona Fall League this year.

AH:  He [Pinder] is responsible. He’s going to school.

AF:  Where are you going to school?

CP:  Virginia Tech.

AF:  So back home – what’s your major?

CP:  Communication studies – so not really a major. [Laughter]

AF:  How much do you have left to do?

CP:  35 credits, so I’m going to do 15 this fall and then knock out the rest periodically.

AF:  So are the rest of you looking forward to going to the AFL?

DR:  Yes, definitely. It’s an honor for sure. I think it’ll be fun. It’s just the next step of the process.

Matt Olson

Matt Olson

MO:  Seeing the competition, we probably haven’t faced half of those teams just because they’re on the east coast, so it’ll be good to see what all’s out there. And like he said, it’s an honor to be included.

AF:  Yeah, you’ll definitely be seeing a lot of talent out there you haven’t seen before. And you’ll also be seeing your old friend Addison Russell since he’ll actually be on the same team with you guys. I guess you must be looking forward to that.

DR:  Of course.

AF:  You’ve still got your place out in Arizona, right?

DR:  Yeah, it’s up to him if he wants to stay with us again or not.

AF:  Individually, you’ve each had really strong seasons this year. Starting with you Chad, you got off to a great start. You’ve had a few injuries, but you’ve still been out there most of the year and have had a really solid season while learning a new position at second base. What do you feel you’ve been able to accomplish this year?

CP:  I think the big thing was defense at second base. When I was first over there, I was like a fish out of water. I was really uncomfortable and making a lot of errors. And then I worked hard and it started to get better throughout the season. So I feel like that’s the main thing that I’ve gotten out of this year.

AF:  Austin, you’ve really been coming on strong in the second half, and your strikeout numbers have really been on the rise. Is there anything that’s been clicking here for you later in the season?

AH:  Just trying to be consistent every outing. I think in the first half, I was throwing well. Some of the results just weren’t where I wanted them to be, but that’s a part of the game.

AF:  Well, eventually it all evens out!

AH:  Yeah, it’s a full season.

AF:  Matt, you’ve had a great season, but you’ve really had an exceptional second half, hitting lots of home runs and walking a lot. Is there anything in particular you’ve learned or adapted to over the course of the season?

MO:  Yeah, I think just the experience of getting more at-bats under your belt, and just sticking to a plan up there. And obviously as the season goes on, you get more at-bats and you become more comfortable up there. I wouldn’t say there’s been any specific adjustments.

AF:  And what about you, Daniel? It’s late in the season, you’ve been out there grinding every day, and still you’re hitting as well as you have all season right now, so something must be clicking for you.

DR:  I just think it’s preparation and staying with the routine, getting the work in and just trying to stay within myself at the plate and trying to control the zone. Getting down to later in the season, you’ve got to stay mentally strong, and how you prepare is what will help you finish strong. Like Olson said, there’s no major adjustment that I’ve made. It’s just staying with the routine, and the more at-bats you get, the better you’re going to get. And it’s been a fun year.

AF:  As you look back on the season, were there any particularly memorable moments or highlights that stand out in your mind?

DR:  Last night, clinching the second half, especially beating a team that won the first half and dominated us in the first half. So to do it against them was pretty fun. You get into the playoffs and it’s a fresh start and anything can happen…One thing that sticks out in my mind, we didn’t win this game, but we were down 11-3 against San Jose a couple of weeks ago and scored seven runs in the bottom of the ninth, and that was probably one of the most exciting games I’ve been a part of in a while. We didn’t come out on top in that game, but we sure felt like we won with the display we put on in the bottom on the ninth – and those are games you like to play.

AF:  So did that help infuse you with a little extra confidence coming down the stretch, like you could come back in any situation?

AH:  Yeah, we’ve done it like five or six times.

MO:  We did at Visalia two weeks ago!

DR:  The other day in Rancho Cucamonga, we were down 2-0 in the top of the ninth and we put a couple of runs together and Ryan Gorton comes up with a big hit and the next thing you know we’re on top 3-2.

MO:  And Josh Reddick hitting that game-tying bomb for us!

AH:  It happens all the time! In the eighth inning, we’ll be down by four or something, and I know somehow we’ll pull it off. Who knows how? But we always do! We just battle until the very end.

AF:  So how did you guys celebrate when you clinched your playoff berth?

AH:  Just hung out with the teammates and enjoyed their company. That’s what’s good about our team. We have a real good clubhouse. It makes it easy to come to work when you enjoy your teammates, so we always have fun.

AF:  Well, I guess for you, it’s just like being at home!

ALL:  Yeah!

 

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Monday, September 1st: Michael Soto’s HR Helps Snappers Go Out with a Win while Sacramento’s Season Ends with a Big Loss and Hounds & Ports Prepare for Playoffs

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers First Baseman Michael Soto (2 for 3 / Home Run / 2 RBIs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers First Baseman Michael Soto (2 for 3 / Home Run / 2 RBIs)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers  5

Beloit Snappers               11

WP – Bragg 4-0 / 3.23

HR – Soto (7), Pohl (6), Ludy (3)

Farmhand Of The Game:

First Baseman Michael Soto

(2 for 3 / Home Run / 2 RBIs)

With Beloit down by a run in the bottom of the 3rd, first baseman Michael Soto slugged a 2-run homer to put the Snappers up for good on Monday. Soto also singled and walked in the game, while catcher Philip Pohl hit a 2-run homer of his own, and designated hitter Josh Ludy launched a 3-run shot. Starter Joe Michaud allowed 5 runs, 3 earned, on 6 hits over just 3 innings of work, while RHP Sam Bragg tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief to pick up his 4th win for Beloit. And with the victory, the Snappers end their season with a 55-84 record. In other news, Beloit’s Kyle Finnegan and Matt Chapman were both promoted to the Double-A Midland RockHounds, who are headed to the Texas League playoffs.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Stockton & Vermont…

Sunday, August 31st: Pitching Prospect Nolan Sanburn Dealt in Adam Dunn Deal while Stockton Wins Behind Matt Olson’s Big Bat and Sacramento Loss Forces Dramatic Finale on Monday

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports First Baseman Matt Olson (2 for 4 / Home Run / 4 RBIs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports First Baseman Matt Olson (2 for 4 / Home Run / 4 RBIs)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports  6

Modesto Nuts     2

WP – Joseph 7-3 / 3.58

HR – Olson (37)

Farmhand Of The Game:

First Baseman Matt Olson

(2 for 4 / Home Run / 4 RBIs)

First baseman Matt Olson hit his league-leading 37th home run, a 3-run shot, and also singled in a run to help Stockton win its sixth straight on Sunday. Shortstop Daniel Robertson singled, doubled and scored twice, while designated hitter Renato Nunez had a pair of hits and drove in a run, and center fielder Boog Powell went 2 for 5 and scored a run in his second game for Stockton since returning from his suspension. Starter Jake Sanchez returned to the mound after spending two weeks on the disabled list and allowed just 1 run and struck out 5 over 4 innings of work, while RHP Jonathan Joseph followed up by tossing 4 scoreless frames to earn his 7th win for the Ports. Meanwhile, Stockton’s bullpen lost RHP Nolan Sanburn to the White Sox as a result of the Adam Dunn deal. Sanburn struck out 73 in 71 1/3 innings while posting a 3.28 ERA in 42 relief appearances this season for Stockton. The Ports also lost RHPs Tim Atherton and Blake Hassebrock when the two were promoted to Sacramento. Jake Sanchez was activated from the disabled list to make Sunday’s start and RHP Brendan McCurry was promoted from Beloit to bolster Stockton’s bullpen.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Beloit & Vermont…

Saturday, August 30th: Ryon Healy Hits Game-Winning HR in 11th for Ports while Daric Barton Drives in 3 to Help Cats Win and Nate Freiman Homers in Beloit Victory

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Designated Hitter Ryon Healy (Home Run / Double / GWRBI)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Designated Hitter Ryon Healy (Home Run / Double / GWRBI)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports  5

Modesto Nuts     4

WP – House 3-4 / 3.46

HR – Healy (16)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Designated Hitter Ryon Healy

(Home Run / Double / GWRBI)

With the game tied in the top of the 11th, designated hitter Ryon Healy led off the inning by belting his 16th home run to provide the Ports with the winning run and give Stockton its fifth straight win on Saturday. Shortstop Daniel Robertson singled in a pair of runs with two outs in the top of the 9th to tie things up and send the game to extra innings. First baseman Matt Olson singled, doubled and scored, while second baseman Chad Pinder singled in a run and stole his 12th base. Catcher Beau Taylor had a pair of hits and scored a run, and center fielder Boog Powell went 0 for 4 but walked twice, once with the bases loaded, in his first game back in action since returning from his 50-game suspension. Starter Chris Lamb allowed 3 runs in 5 innings of work, while RHP Michael Ynoa pitched 2 perfect innings in relief, and RHP Austin House tossed a scoreless 10th and 11th to pick up his 3rd win for the Ports. To make room for Powell’s return to the roster, outfielder Zeke DeVoss was reassigned to the River Cats.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Beloit & Vermont…

Friday, August 29th: Wade Kirkland Slugs Grand Slam in Stockton Win while Sacramento Slips into Second Place after Loss

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Second Baseman Wade Kirkland (Grand Slam)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Second Baseman Wade Kirkland (Grand Slam)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports  17

Modesto Nuts       5

WP – Bowman 8-7 / 5.03

HR – Kirkland (4)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Second Baseman Wade Kirkland

(Grand Slam)

After scoring 11 runs in Thursday’s game, Stockton came back to put 17 runs on the board on Friday. Second baseman Wade Kirkland slugged a grand slam in the 6th inning to help put the game out of reach, while third baseman Ryon Healy collected 3 hits, including a pair of doubles, and drove in 3, and catcher Beau Taylor doubled, had a pair of singles and a pair of walks and drove in 4. Starter Josh Bowman allowed 5 runs over 5 innings of work to pick up his 8th win, while RHPs Andres Avila and Bobby Wahl each tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief for the Ports.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Beloit & Vermont…

Thursday, August 28th: Luke Montz Hits 3 HRs as AZL A’s Win Finale while Daric Barton & Tyler Marincov Both Homer Twice for Cats & Ports

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: AZL A’s Catcher Luke Montz (3 Home Runs / 5 RBIs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: AZL A’s Catcher Luke Montz (3 Home Runs / 5 RBIs)

 

ARIZONA LEAGUE  (Rookie Short-Season)

AZL Cubs  3

AZL A’s    6

WP – Navas 6-5 / 3.30

HR – Montz 3 (5)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Catcher Luke Montz

(3 Home Runs / 5 RBIs)

After missing most of the season, catcher Luke Montz appears to be raring to go down in the desert. Montz smashed 3 home runs – a 3-run shot in the 1st inning followed by a solo shot in the 3rd and another in the 8th – and ended up driving in 5 of his team’s 6 runs to help the A’s win their Arizona League finale on Thursday night. Starter Carlos Navas allowed 2 runs and struck out 5 over 6 innings of work to earn his 6th win, while RHP Tyler Willman gave up 1 run in 2 innings of relief, and RHP Jesus Rivas pitched a perfect 9th to post his 7th save for the A’s.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Stockton, Beloit & Vermont…

Wednesday, August 27th: Dylan Covey Tosses 7 Shutout Innings in Ports Victory while Nate Long Notches League-Leading 13th Win for RockHounds

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Dylan Covey (7 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 2 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Dylan Covey (7 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 2 K / Win)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Bakersfield Blaze  2

Stockton Ports    5

WP – Covey 3-4 / 6.00

HR – Healy (15)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Dylan Covey

(7 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 2 K / Win)

Stockton starter Dylan Covey had a no-hitter going through 6 2/3 innings on Wednesday until giving up a single with 2 outs in the top of the 7th inning. It was the only hit that Covey would allow over 7 shutout innings as he earned his 3rd win for the Ports. RHP Michael Ynoa came on to strike out the side in a spotless 8th, but RHP Bobby Wahl surrendered 2 solo home runs before retiring the side in the 9th. Designated hitter Ryon Healy hit his 15th home run, while first baseman Matt Olson had a pair of doubles, and catcher Beau Taylor and outfielder Tyler Marincov drove in a pair of runs apiece for the Ports.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Tuesday, August 26th: Matt Buschmann Notches 3-Hit Shutout Victory for Sacramento while Stockton Wins to Clinch Second Half Division Title

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Pitcher Matt Buschmann (9 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 10 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Pitcher Matt Buschmann (9 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 10 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Sacramento River Cats  2

Nashville Sounds                0

WP – Buschmann 9-6 / 4.24

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Matt Buschmann

(9 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 10 K / Win)

Sacramento starter Matt Buschmann tossed a 3-hit shutout to earn his 9th win for the River Cats on Tuesday. The 30-year-old right-hander walked none and struck out 10 en route to his first career complete-game shutout. Shortstop Tyler Ladendorf singled in the River Cats’ only 2 runs of the night, while catcher Ryan Ortiz and outfielder Billy Burns both singled and scored for Sacramento. With a slim 1-game lead over the Reno Aces in the PCL’s Pacific Northern Division, the River Cats will face off against Nashville again on Wednesday before returning home to Raley Field to host a season-ending 5-game series against rival Reno, which will determine the division winner.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Monday, August 25th: Shawn Haviland Pitches Hounds into Playoffs while Zach Neal Wins as Sacramento Scores 20

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Shawn Haviland (8 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 4 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Shawn Haviland (8 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 4 K / Win)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Frisco RoughRiders        1

Midland RockHounds  5

WP – Haviland 7-7 / 3.75

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Shawn Haviland

(8 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 4 K / Win)

RockHounds starter Shawn Haviland delivered an impressive outing on Monday to help Midland clinch a Texas League playoff berth in the Hounds’ last home game of the regular season. Haviland allowed just 3 hits over 8 shutout innings to earn his 7th win this season. And Midland will now face Frisco in a first-round playoff series next week in the team’s first playoff appearance since 2010. Shortstop Dusty Coleman doubled in 2 runs and scored twice, while second baseman Conner Crumbliss had 2 hits and drove in a pair. Outfielder Jeremy Barfield singled, doubled, walked and scored a run, and designated hitter D’Arby Myers had a pair of hits and drove in a run for the RockHounds.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Sunday, August 24th: Chris Lamb K’s 17 in Stockton Loss while A’s Recall Dan Otero from Sacramento and Jack White Pays a Visit to the Coliseum

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Chris Lamb (7 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 17 K)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Chris Lamb (7 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 17 K)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports                       0

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes  3

LP – Lamb 4-5 / 3.10

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Chris Lamb

(7 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 17 K)

Stockton starter Chris Lamb tied a California League record by striking out 10 straight batters on Sunday, but he still ended up taking the loss. Lamb surrendered a home run in the 1st inning and allowed just 3 hits the rest of the way while striking out a career-high 17 in 7 innings of work. In addition to striking out 10 straight, the left-hander also recorded his final 14 outs on strikeouts. RHP Nolan Sanburn gave up 2 runs in 1 inning of relief for the Ports. Shortstop Daniel Robertson singled, doubled and walked, while designated hitter Bobby Crocker doubled for Stockton’s only other extra-base hit of the game.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Beloit & Vermont…