There were basically two stories over the last couple of weeks that stood out the most to me. Well, three if you count the two-part Gap Shots and Whiffs series about the change in the wind for the area conferences.
The first one was writing the "meet the new coach" story at Minooka Community High School with Jeff Charlebois taking over for Paige Schoolman one year after Schoolman replaced Bernie Ruettiger. Charlebois is not "new" to the Indians staff by any means as he was instrumental in the rise of Minooka as a state wrestling power before leaving for Oswego to become the head coach of the Panthers a couple of years ago.
The one constant there is the fact that Ruettiger never did retire or anything. He just stepped down to become an assistant, first to Schoolman and now to Charlebois. A lot was made by everyone, including Schoolman, about what it means to have Charlebois back in the program.
That's what the story was about — meeting the new coach. One quote that I just couldn't find a fit for, however, was one Ruettiger gave me about what Schoolman has meant to Minooka.
"I don't think Paige understands what he has meant to this program. He meant everything in the world," Ruettiger said. "He's one of the reasons we were state champions at one time and two-time runners up. Paige had every bit as much to do with that as Jeff does."
Another "new" person in the area that has a familiar face is new Joliet Slammers general manager Chris Franklin. Franklin is a 1999 Morris graduate, and this will be his fourth year as a general manager in the Frontier League. The previous three years, he was a GM with the River City Rascals. In fact, he won a championship in 2010 at the helm of the Rascals.
Anyway, Chris was very gracious to talk to me on media day up at Silver Cross Field in Joliet. We spoke at length about a number of topics but the one I held back was evaluating talent in the Frontier League. He said that he will rely a lot on his new coaching staff to give him separate analysis.
"Our coaches will have a network. In both professional baseball and in college baseball. Through that network, you scout players and find players who fit your model," Franklin said. "They're looking at video, they're looking at stats, they are looking at recommendations the same way anyone else would do. Some managers look for certain guys."
He was also asked how hard it is to get someone from, say, Nebraska as opposed to someone locally to come pitch in Joliet.
"It's case by case. It depends. The relationships really have a lot to do with it. If a guy played college ball with an old friend and any chance to play professional ball is considered an opportunity," Franklin said. "So, guys are willing to travel to play. As far as local guys are concerned, it's not a good fit. They may not fit with what you're trying to do. But if all is equal, we like to bring in local guys."
No matter what, though, Franklin said that he is confident in what he already knows about the Frontier League that will help in his transition with the Slammers.
"I have a history with the league and I know other coaches in the league. It's like any other manager. You try to see what's out there and available and if it's not available, how can you make it available."