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In this episode of the Baseball Brilliance, co-host Aaron Brill and Joe Torre bring back the Path Through Pro Ball series featuring their very first guest - 25-year On-Field Manager in Professional Baseball, Greg Tagert.
Aaron opens the show up with a brief intro into Greg Tagert, mentioning he is the current Manager for the Gary SouthShore RailCats of the American Association and that Joe Torre has actually been working for the Railcats for the last 4-5 years.
It’s because of this familiarity between Torre and Tagert, Aaron decides to hand the mic over to his co-host to handle the full intro duties.
Joe proceeds to set the precedent for all future Path Through Pro Ball guests by giving Greg Tagert, what we are now calling, a Ring Intro (a la Professional Wrestling), and a professional wrestler persona - Greg’s is “Hollywood Hulk Hogan”.
After a brief visit to the world of Professional Wrestling, Joe then gives you a taste of Tagert’s impressive resume:
- Just under 1200 wins a Manager in Professional Baseball.
- Only two losing seasons since starting his Professional Baseball Managing career in 1995.
- Second most winningest manager in the history of the Frontier League (only recently passed by current manager in the Frontier League, Andy McCauley of the Evansville Otters - also where Tagert was Manager from 1997 - 2000).
- And the numerous players, coaches, and managers Greg Tagert has helped move up the ranks in Professional Baseball.
Joe then fills you in on exactly how he and Tagert first linked up in 2014, eventually leading to a healthy professional relationship that includes the Gary SouthShore Railcats signing 25 players, and counting, from the Joe’s Black Sox Pro Baseball program.
It’s at this point you finally get to here the man himself, Greg Tagert, jumps in on the conversation by letting Joe, Aaron, and listeners know how he got started in professional baseball.
Originally starting as a Scout for the Detroit Tigers for a couple of seasons, in 1995, Tagert was given an opportunity to start his managing career for a former founding team of the Frontier League (only in year three of its existence at the time) - the Ohio Valley Redcoats.
Even though The Ohio Valley Redcoats, and the rest of the founding teams of the Frontier League, no longer exist - Tagert points out you can likely trace the lineage of each current Frontier League team back to one of the original six teams. One of the many things he loves about Independent Professional Baseball.
It’s at this point in the conversation we get into the “main event,” so to speak, as Aaron kicks off our three repeating segments of the Path Through Pro Ball series - The Grind, Covering The Bases, and Inside The Clubhouse.
Aaron first gives a quick reminder about how The Grind is meant to invoke a story that characterizes the lifestyle of professional baseball, and then Tagert takes the lead…
Tagert states that he believes what best represents the life and grind of professional baseball is taking advantage of opportunities and being able to adapt.
He goes onto let the listeners know this grind doesn’t apply only to the players; it extends to the coaches, managers, and even the professional baseball organizations themselves!
But no matter how hard that grind may get at times, Tagert affirms that he will tell as many people as possible that Independent Professional Baseball is “an opportunity league.”
A chance to keep playing, a chance to manage in professional baseball, a chance to bring professional baseball to your town - a chance to keep the dream alive.
In which Aaron then confirms, in reference to Independent Professional Baseball being an opportunity league, “it’s a chance.”
Before The Grind wraps-up, Tagert takes down a quick lineage of teams in the Frontier League, and Aaron mentions a Netflix documentary on the history of Independent Professional Baseball titled ‘The Battered Bastards of Baseball.’
COVERING THE BASES
We then move onto our next segment, in which Aaron asks Tagert to give the listeners his top four actionable tips for ballplayers to survive, thrive, and handle their baseball career like a professional.
And, of course, in Baseball Brilliance style, we ask for these to rank from easiest to hardest (single, double, triple, home run).
Tagert prefaces his answer to Covering The Bases by stating he disagrees with common statements about today’s players being different or not as good as they once were. In fact, Tagert claims, “absolutely nothing has changed since I started doing this…players want to play.”
He goes on to say the one major difference is there are now more players pursuing the opportunity to play professional baseball - that’s what leads us directly into Tagert’s Covering The Bases:
Single - “You’ve got to have the want; you’ve got to have a passion to play.”
This, however, as Tagert mentions, is the easiest to do, and the growing number of players that have been apart of Joe Torre’s Black Sox Pro Baseball program over the last few years is a perfect example of that.
Double - “Are you willing to do what it takes…to pursue it in every avenue”.
How badly do you want to play professional baseball? What happens when you don’t get drafted, and it’s no longer the New York Mets calling your phone, but the Gary SouthShore RailCats?
It doesn't matter if you were released from an MLB organization, over 25 former MLB players have spent time with Tagert and his RailCats, or someone that didn’t get drafted coming out of college - Tagert asserts Independent Professional Baseball is just another direction, another avenue for you to get to where you ultimately want to be.
Triple - “Eventually, you’re going to have to swallow some pride because you’re going to get released..”.
As Tagert mentions, nobody is safe from this fact in the world of professional baseball and especially in Independent Professional Baseball.
As the long-time Manager in Independent Professional Baseball goes on to say, the reason for the constant turnover in Independent Professional Baseball is due to the fact these leagues were actually designed to be this way.
“We don’t want the same 25 guys playing here every year”, Tagert recalls being ta common objective for rules meetings in the mid-1990s when many of the current Independent Professional Baseball Leagues were getting started.
Home Run - “The hardest one for the player is the time when they say ‘That’s it.’”
Over his 25 years of managing in professional baseball, as Tagert goes on to say, there isn’t a phrase from a player he hasn’t heard when having the conversation about if said player should continue his playing career or not.
Sometimes the advice Tagert will give the player is along the lines of being time to “hang ‘em up.” But even so, Tagert states that in all his time in professional baseball, he’s never had a player regret playing one more year; while having countless players giving it up one year too soon.
Tagert’s advice for any player trying to decide if should continue his baseball career, or not, is as follows:
“When it becomes counterproductive for you somehow in your life, that effects other people, that’s the time..not because I found a good job…those things can always be there but when you somethings that effects others in your life, then I think you should know the answer”.
From here, Aaron makes sure his co-host hasn’t fallen asleep since he’s uncharacteristically quiet; however, Joe assures he’s just been locked into every word Tagert has been saying.
Joe then proves his point with a recap of Tagert’s Covering The Bases, but we’ll let you go ahead and find this around 23:40 mark in the episode, rather than trying to keep with Torre’s train of thought.
In response to something mentioned by Torre in his recap, Tagert mentions how he’s not looking for the player that wants to play in the Major Leagues - he’s looking for the player that just wants to play.
This is a fact of Independent Professional Baseball that often goes unknown by the masses, as mentioned by co-host Aaron Brill, and thus, transitions us into the final segment of the show.
INSIDE THE CLUBHOUSE
Building off the previously mentioned insight the often goes unknown to many, Aaron takes into the Inside The Clubhouse segment of the show; in which Aarons asks guests to give the listeners what they feel is the most common misconception people have about professional baseball, from the outside looking in.
Tagert answers this question without hesitation - stating the number one thing would be when he hears someone say a player needs to “go get a real job” or “get out into the real world.”
He goes onto say, “I would tell anybody, there is nothing that prepares somebody for the real world…then playing in a professional environment, keeping at a level where winning and losing is a part of the landscape, in a pressure environment, and in front of people that are paying to see you”.
Tagert doesn’t intend to compare a professional ballplayer to the likes of a doctor or first responder but does note that he’s had many former players go on to become doctors, lawyers, police officers, national security agents, etc.
And they all have one thing common, as Tagert remarks - the people interviewing them for their respective jobs were all impressed by what they did in their baseball career.
Both Joe and Aaron then spend some time talking about how much they can each relate to Tagert’s Inside The Clubhouse, as they both actively see how the lessons they’ve been afforded by baseball applies to their respective businesses and life in general.
The episode then comes to a close with Tagert giving one final word before we sign off, “there’s still a lot of room to learn about Independent [Professional] Baseball." With such, Tagert thanks Joe and Aaron for educating people about professional baseball with the Baseball Brilliance Podcast.
Joe then first makes sure to thank Greg Tagert for giving him, and the Black Sox program the chance to prove themselves in the world of professional baseball, and then both Joe and Aaron extend their gratitude for Tagert taking the time to speak with them.
With that, I hope you’ve enjoyed this inaugural Path Though Pro Ball episode featuring a guest. Be sure you catch the next episode of the Baseball Brilliance Podcast, set to air on Monday, June 6th.
This will be Season 2, Episode 3, and will again feature a current Manager in professional baseball. This time a Manager from the San Francisco Giants organization, so you’re definitely not going to want to miss out!
Until then, we’ll catch you next time!
Links From The Show (in order by mention):
- Greg Tagert on Baseball Reference
- Gary SouthShore RailCats
- American Association of Independent Professional Baseball
- Hollywood Hulk Hogan
- The Frontier League
- Andy McCauley on Baseball Reference
- Evansville Otters
- Alain Quijano on Baseball Reference
- Dennis Pelfrey on Baseball Reference
- Ohio Valley RedCoats
- ‘The Battered Bastards of Baseball’
- Joe Torre’s Black Sox Pro Baseball
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