Wednesday, September 24, 2014



A hastily-called press conference in the dead of night, in a filled press room, began with a stunning announcement that brought the room to a hush.

"Let's begin with the toughest nut in this piece," said Kevin Towers, special assistant to the St. Francis Kansans.  "We are trading Shin Soo-Choo.   He's a fan favorite who has always given his all. He was in this club's founding draft.   He's probably the best player from South Korea to ever appear in the big leagues...but, for a variety of reasons, some financial, some about this year, some about the next....we see an opportunity...and that means trading away this special player, when we are a month away from a possible post-season berth."

A reporter cleared his throat and leaned forward, question in hand.

"The actual trade," Towers continued with a rush, "is as follows:  St. Francis trades OF Shin Shoo Choo, RHP Brad Ziegler, OF Ryan Sweeney and a player to be named to the Brownsville  Cutters. In return, the Kansans receive OF Adam Dunn and reliever Matt Thornton.   Thanks for coming...and no more questions at this time."

Towers literally bolted behind a curtain and the press room roared its disapproval.  "Kevin!" one shouted, "Dunn has talked about retirement!   Can you comment on that?"   Another scribe simply screeched, in disbelief, "THORNTON?!?!"   Bedlam ensued, but it was no use:  Towers was gone, and the full story was obviously not going to be told any time soon.

Choo was unavailable for comment, but probably has to feel abandoned to be cut loose with a month to go in the regular season, after being a tremendous contributor in the first half to the club's success.

Team owner Scott Hatfield seemed sad, but defended the abrupt termination of Choo's time with the big league club.  "Nothing lasts forever," said the Head Kansan.  "We understand what Kevin is trying to do and we wish 'Big League' Choo the very best."

Friday, September 12, 2014




We haven't spoken before, but you may be aware of the fact that I have been engaged as a special assistant to the St. Francis Kansans in player acquisition, and I am authorized to conduct TRADES on behalf of the organization, effective August 20th of this year, following our stockholder's weekend conclave.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


The Monastery---In 2013, the St. Francis Friars overcame long odds to reach their first-ever BARB World Series a year after finishing in the second division.  Now, in 2014, they are almost unrecognizable from the 2012 club in terms of makeup...and outlook.

Having never won as many as 90 games, last year's club needed a big final push from veteran OF Carlos Beltran in the final week to pass the Casselton Horned Toads. They drew the Worcester Eliminators in the 2013 playoffs, a club which led all of BARB in runs scored and posted a league record 111 wins, but somehow managed to turn it into a short series when their Koji Uehara-led bullpen outperformed the loop’s best relief corps. And, while they fell in six games in the 2013 Series, helping Frostbite Falls to its sixth title, they flexed impressive muscle at the plate in part due to the clutch hitting of new 1B Chris Davis.

Now, in the off-season, they have put another controversy behind them after charges of impiety and anti-Catholic bigotry was laid against the ball club in light of the franchise’s name and its past association with a renegade monastic order that thought Vatican II was a liberal mistake. Rechristened the Kansans and with its controlling interests no longer dominated by theological disputes, the St. Francis club has emerged in recent weeks as the club to watch in 2014, both in terms of player development and on the field.

2014 DRAFT:

 No club ended up exercising more picks in this year’s Draft or moving more big-name talent in the off-season than St. Francis. The Kansans were concerned that they had emptied their cupboard somewhat in order to reach the post-season, a concern that grew in some quarters as off-season deals saw the ballclub trade promising young SS Xander Bogaerts to New England.

 But, thanks in part to packaging away a potential future ace in Michael Wacha to Worcester, St. Francis accumulated plenty of extra picks in this year’s Draft. As a result, they pulled off an absolute haul that easily rivaled this year’s amateur draft in MLB:

LHP Brady Aiken (1st overall selection) 
C Kyle Schwarber (4th overall, first college bat taken) 
SS Nick Gordon (5th overall, first high school player taken) 
RHP Aaron Nola (7th overall, first college RHP taken) 
SS Trea Turner (13th overall, first college SS taken) 
RHP Touki Toussaint (16th overall) 
LHP Brandon Finnegan (17th overall) 
RHP Nick Burdi (46th overall)

The club also added veteran OF Coco Crisp and Jayson Werth, backup C Dionner Navarro, veteran 3B Aramis Ramirez and a potential ace, RHP Steven Strasburg, to go with the club’s core: C Salvador Perez, 1B Davis, 3B Pedro Alvarez. OF Shin-Soo Choo and Jose Bautista.


While the draft harvest was rich, most of it was unlikely to have any impact on this year’s campaign. But, as the previous list of core players shows, the 2014 edition of the St. Francis franchise is a veteran-laden club that is truly built to ‘win now’. Thus, a wave of early injuries or slow starts in the regular lineup could be psychologically damaging to the entire organization. But, for the first time in many seasons, St. Francis has avoided any serious injuries in the first two months of the season, and in the last few weeks, they finally hit their stride.

Already leading all of BARB with 76 round-trippers, the club began a torrid road trip through the Eastern Division. Widely-considered the most challenging of BARB’s pennant races, the ‘Division of Death’ has produced eight championships and represented the first real test of whether or not the 2014 Kansans could hang with the league’s top clubs.

The road trip began with St. Francis scoring 18 runs in Brooklyn, sweeping three games from the Mother Of All Ballclubs in their own park. The Kansans then held the newly-rechristened NorCal Pirates to only four runs in three games for their second straight series sweep. A great beginning---but now came the real challenge: two games against the defending world champion Squirrels, in their own home park of Rocky Top.

The last time they had met, Frostbite Falls had ridden the hot bat of Austin Jackson and exploited some shaky left-handed relief from, among others, Craig Breslow. In the 2013 World Series, St. Francis had been unable to counter with much in the way of right-handed pop, with both Jose Bautista and the (since-released) Carlos Quentin out with injuries.

What a difference a new year makes! Strasburg (5-2, 2.93) fanned six (including Jackson) in outlasting Cole Hamels (1-3, 4.54) as the visitors rallied to bat around in the seventh after trailing 1-0 through six, winning the opener, 4-1. In the second game, Davis and Alvarez both homered off Joulys Chacin (2-1, 2.71) to chase the Squirrels starter in the third, giving R.A. Dickey (5-3, 5.43) all the runs he would need early, in a 9-2 triumph! Eight straight on the road against Eastern Division clubs, eight wins! As this went to press, St. Francis had extended that winning streak to ten games by taking two more at home from Brooklyn, bringing their mark to a BARB-best 36-10. “It’s a thrill to see the pieces falling together in some ways,” said club owner Scott Hatfield. “Now we just need to keep our bullpen fresh and our veterans in one piece. No one wins a pennant in May, but we are going to try to build off this run and return to the post-season.”

Saturday, April 5, 2014


After losing 4-2 in the 2013 BARB World Series, you might think the only controversy for the St. Francis Friars would be how to get back to the Series, and win it all.   

But, in a surprising development, the club is ending its long-time arrangement with the increasingly-unorthodox Tridentine monastic order which originally founded the franchise with seed money from a lucrative Belgian beer brewing business.

"For a variety of reasons," admitted acting CEO Scott Hatfield, "the business of baseball, while compatible with the business of beer, became less compatible with the business...or perhaps I should say, the organization of belief.  For some time, operating out of the great Midwest, our fans showed a friendly appreciation for the connection with the priests.   Even non-believers seemed to enjoy our lovable Friars mascot, and we have certainly not had any protests about the nature of the majority owners."

But, as Hatfield admitted under questioning from the press, the truth was that the Head Friar (the rather stern Brother Gregor) has a lot of problems with baseball players, who aren't always angels.  And the Head Friar had hinted during the club's most recent pennant race that they were concerned about the club's financial prospects.

The new Pope, Francis.  No word
yet on whether he follows BARB.
A further problem, and probably the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back:  the election of Cardinal Bergoglio from Argentina to the Papacy.

This event has, to put it mildly, had unintended consequences.   Despite a reputation as a traditional Jesuit with conservative views, the new Pope has (to the surprise of many) adopted attitudes toward those outside the Faith that have alienated many conservative Catholics, including the monks of Brother Gregor's order.   As a result, the order has liquidated some of its stock in the enterprise, and the majority ownership has reverted to acting CEO Hatfield and a group of other investors.

That isn't so earth-shaking.  Corporate holdings change from time to time.  But Cardinal Bergoglio's unprecedented decision to adopt the name Francis had the uncomfortable effect of making the name "St. Francis Friars" come across as an impious way to refer to the reigning Pope.  "We haven't been in conversation with anyone higher than the local Bishop," a weary Hatfield said, "but if we're not getting it from the conservatives who don't appreciate the Holy Father's friendly disposition towards non-Catholics, we are receiving angry emails from liberal members of the Church who think Francis can do no wrong, and who think we are mocking him."

"Let's get this straight," Hatfield concluded the press conference. "This club has gone by the name St. Francis Friars for a long time, and it never was seen as a problem before.   But, rather than create a controversy within the church, our new Executive Board has petitioned the BARB Commissioner, and we have been granted permission to change the club's name from 'St. Francis Friars' to 'St. Francis Kansans.'   This will affirm our host city, and embed our identity solidly in the Quad-State region of northwest Kansas.  At the same time, however, we will continue to use the emblem and mascot of the St. Francis Friar to maintain continuity.  We hope this change will be seen as an affectionate, but not necessarily religious commitment to our club's tradition.   And now, if you'll excuse me, I have a Series to win."