Stuck between Iowa and Wrigley Field

Stuck between Iowa and Wrigley Field
September 23, 2010, 1:55 am
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Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010
8:56 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Once the Cubs promoted Bobby Scales from Triple-A Iowa on Sept. 7, general manager Jim Hendry mentioned a running joke that he has with Oneri Fleita, the vice president of player personnel: Whenever Scales is done playing, lets try to make him an employee.

Scales, who will be 33 next month, attended the University of Michigan. Hes bright, articulate and doesnt want this to be taken the wrong way. But hes not interested at least not yet in being an asset to the front office.

The main reason I havent really thought about it is because I still feel like I can play, Scales said.

As Hendry interviews Ryne Sandberg this week in Arizona and Mike Quade continues with his 37-game audition as manager the Cubs are focusing on their in-house options. Whoever gets the job will need a strong background in player development, because this figures to be a younger roster in the years ahead.

Brad Snyder, another September call-up, hit 25 homers and drove in 106 runs this season for Sandberg in Des Moines, and described his style as subtle.

He didnt blow you up, Snyder said. As long as everythings fine (in) the clubhouse, (then) he wont say much. But if something needs to be addressed, hell nip it in the bud right away. We had a great team he didnt have to say much.

Managing Triple-A players is different because theyre not all kids. Quade said the constant roster changes help you adapt quickly and learn to deal with different personalities. The experience has surely helped Sandberg, wherever he manages next.

The Cleveland Indians chose Snyder in the first round of the 2003 draft out of Ball State University. There were injuries that slowed his development a broken thumb in 2007 and a sprained wrist two years later and he found himself listening to too many voices.

It seemed everyone in the Indians system had an opinion on what he should do with his swing. This marked his fourth consecutive season at the Triple-A level and he posted a .949 OPS. At the age of 28, he made his big-league debut on Sept. 7.

Its like, (Expletive), if I dont start doing something, Im going to be out of this game sooner than I want to be, Snyder said. I dont want to say I turned the switch on. But I basically focused a lot more on what I was doing and how I went out about preparing myself.

It took Scales more than 1,000 games and 11 seasons in the minors before he made it to the majors last year. He appeared in 51 games with the Cubs and then signed another minor-league contract, because he didnt want to bounce around to a fifth organization at this stage of his career.

Im not on a long-term deal and Im not a prospect, Scales said, so thats kind of the life that we lead, (the) guys who are kind of in the middle. (Its) a lot of uncertainty and its a lot tougher on our families.

You just roll with it. Sure, I would have liked to have been here all year. Who wouldnt have? But I was in the minor leagues and my job was to go there and play hard.

Beyond the thrill of putting on the uniform and running onto Wrigley Field, there are more tangible benefits. A September call-up can make a prorated portion of the major-league minimum approximately 60,000 and earn service time.

It can be addictive, which makes Sandbergs apprenticeship even more impressive. It makes you wonder how much longer hell want to do it and realize how difficult it would be for Quade to give it all up now.

Its even cooler than I thought, man, all the way around, Snyder said. The lifestyle, everything about the game its like I got a little taste of it now and I dont want to ever go back.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.