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About Jon
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The View From Vero Beach
2004-07-16 08:39
by Jon Weisman

Following Thursday's look at the top three tiers of the Dodger minor league system, here is an interview with Trevor Gooby, the 28-year-old general manager (yes, Paul DePodesta is an old man to him) of the Class A Vero Beach Dodgers.

About Gooby
What are your current duties? I oversee the VBDs as well as the Gulf Coast Dodgers, Extended Spring Training, June Rookie Camp, Instructional League and the equipment for the minor league affiliates. I handle day to day off-field business. I report to the VP of Spring Training/Minor League Facilities, Craig Callan, who is in charge of all operations at Dodgertown. I have a great staff that does an outstanding job. I also do stadium operations for Holman Stadium and many things for Spring Training (major and Minor ST). Itís an awesome opportunity.

How long have you held this position? This is my second season as the GM, but I have been with the Dodgers since 1998.

What was your career track to get to this point? I am a graduate of Emerson College in Boston. My college has a program in L.A. for internships during your second semester of your senior year. I went to L.A. to work for the Dodgers in PR. Derrick Hall was the director at the time. After the 1998 season, which was a very learning season for an intern in the PR office, Derrick told me of a program that the Dodgers had in Vero Beach. It was an internship program that the team had which many baseball executives had gone through to learn the overall baseball operations side of things. Derrick began there, as well as Peter OíMalleyís son, Kevin. I was up for learning about the business, so I took the job with hopes of returning to L.A. after the 1999 season. I moved to Vero Beach and became very involved with the minor league side of things. I enjoyed the work and watching the developing of players (plus I love living in a small town), so I moved up the ladder here. I am able to keep in touch with L.A. for we are L.A. employees and also get to work with minor league guys on a daily basis. I became GM here after the 2002 season after working as the assistant GM.

About the team
How is Reggie Abercrombie doing? Does he still seem to be recovering from his surgery? How is he physically and how is he mentally? As you know, Reggie recently returned to the Vero Beach Dodgers. He began the 2004 season here at Dodgertown as a rehab player. We run the organizationís rehab program here as well. He is quite an athlete. When his rehab was over, he joined the VBDs for a few games and then moved up to Jacksonville. With his lack of a real Spring Training, he had a tough time there and came back to Vero to polish a few things. He has been nothing but outstanding here. He is fully healthy and is a true stud. He is currently batting .308 with three home runs and 12 stolen bases in 20 games. It is amazing to watch him in the field and one the basepaths.

I have had the privilege of watching Reggie since he was first signed and he has come a long way. What people donít see by reading box scores is how hard he works. Last year for instance, he would take BP with our Extended Spring Training team, work all morning on pitch recognition and then play in the VBD game at night. He is always trying to learn more and trying to develop into a complete player. There are times watching him when your jaw just drops. One time in 2001, he hit a three-run home run, stole third, made a diving catch in the outfield, and threw a player out at home. It was like, what canít this guy do? He is a team leader for us and an all-around good kid. If he keeps working hard, then sky's the limit for him.

Joel Guzman made his national TV debut, so to speak, with his Futures Game appearance. Astonishing how tall he is for a shortstop. Is he still growing? What are his strengths and weaknesses, and do you think he will still be a shortstop as he reaches the majors? I have also gotten the chance to see Joel (pronounced Jo-el) since he first came to Vero Beach during the 2001 season. We watched his first BP and I was impressed at the size and intelligence of a kid that was only 16. He has really matured on and off the field and is still growing. He began the season with us and struggled, but since May has arguably been the best hitter in the FSL. We all knew he could hit and for power, but what has impressed me is his play in the field. He has made some unreal plays in the field and has shown great arm strength.

As for being a shortstop in the majors, thatís up to our field staff, but for the time being he has been impressive. Joel is also the type of guy that is great off the field; he has helped us numerous times with community events and has been great with the fans. Lots of things that I believe donít show up in a scouting report.

Talk about some of the bigger-name prospects - strengths and weaknesses - like Delwyn Young, Chad Billingsley, Jonathon Broxton, Andy La Roche. Who's beating or meeting expectations? Who's behind where you thought they'd be? We started the season in April and fell behind quick; we fought back thanks to great pitching from our starters and a great bullpen. Billingsley, Broxton, (Mike) Megrew and (Jarod) Plummer have been unhittable at times. Itís tough to find four better pitchers in the league.

Then look at our bullpen. Steve Schmoll and Jose Diaz are lights out. Diaz has been clocked in the mid to upper 90s and Schmoll, a sidearm pitcher, has a ball that moves all over the place. He currently has a 1.98 ERA and doesnít get enough attention. He only gave up 1 earned run in the month of May.

The second half of the season, we have been dominant. Our lineup top to bottom is tough. With Reggie and Guz we are good, but add in LaRoche, Delwyn Young, Russell Martin and Jesse Hoorelbeke, and we can score some runs. DY has gotten better defensively at second base after working with our minor league rovers, John Shoemaker and Jerry Royster. Martin is one of the top defensive catchers in the league and leads the league is runners caught stealing. The team is looking very strong to contend for the second-half title.

Who else should we know about that's making an impression? Mike Megrew has been pretty impressive and should jump on the radar any minute now. Our pitching coach, Kenny Howell, has turned many guys into pure prospects. His track record speaks for itself - 2002 (Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Brown), 2003 (Greg Miller, Brian Pilkington, Jason Frasor) and now 2004 with Billingsley, Broxton and Megrew. Another guy that has turned it on is Brian Sprout; he is a former independent guy, signed by Maury Wills. He has really developed into a clutch hitter and a guy that can play anywhere you stick him. He plays hard and has showed some power. I also really like Casey Hoorelbeke. He is a 6-9 righty power pitcher that can move the ball around and do some things on the hill.

At what positions does Vero Beach show the most depth? Our pitching rotation is as solid as I have seen.

What have been the in-game highlights of the year so far? Most memorable moments? The most memorable moment this season has been watching Guzman in the field. He has made some plays that he never made before. Throws from the ground and in the hole that looked impossible. His bat has been just as memorable.

My most memorable moment at Dodgertown, however, was in 2001, when Edwin Jackson first took the mound. He was drafted as an outfielder, and we were trying him out as a pitcher. He took the hill and his first pitch went about 56 feet. His next 11 pitches were all balls as well. I was scoring the game and thought to myself that he should go back to the outfield. Thatís why I donít get paid to scout. That 2001 GCL team was unreal. We had Jackson, Victor Diaz, Joselo Diaz, Kole Strayhorn, Travis Ezi and Franklin Gutierrez. All those guys could end up playing in the majors. (Editor's note: The Diazes and Strayhorn went to the Mets for Jeromy Burnitz; Ezi went to the Marlins for Juan Encarnacion.)

Any other highlights from your other areas of supervision - Gulf Coast League, etc. - that it'd be good to know about? The Gulf Coast team has been playing well. The team has had some growing pains, but has improved. Jamie Hoffman, Juan Rivera and James Peterson have played very well for the team. Also, our rehab players are getting healthy. (Masao) Kida and Alfredo Gonzalez have pitched in some GCL games and looked good. Our rehab coordinator, Jason Steere, has done an outstanding job getting guys healthy.

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