BY MATT LaWELL
TUCSON, Arizona | High above the field at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium, in a home radio booth that includes a bookcase pushed flush against one wall, Tim Hagerty unzips his work bag and pulls out a slim volume that might become the newest addition to the growing collection of colorful baseball books.
Hagerty is the radio voice of the Tucson Padres, 30 years old with a face even younger than that, already a radio veteran in his ninth season in the minors. He is also the author of Root for the Home Team, an informative and sometimes hilarious collection of origin stories for minor league teams from Adelanto, California (the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes) to Zebulon, North Carolina (the Carolina Mudcats) and everywhere in between, both alphabetically and geographically. Want to know about the (Colorado Springs) Millionaires and (Waycross) Blowhards and the (Iola) Gasbags? The (Pine Bluff) Judges and the (Leavenworth) Convicts and the (Nevada) Lunatics? The (Regina) Bonepilers and the (Texarkana) Casketmakers and the (Des Moines) Undertakers?
All of them are tucked inside 96 pages.
Hagerty started to turn some attention to team names in 2004, during his rookie season as the radio broadcaster for the Idaho Falls Chukars (who are somehow not included in the book). “So many people around town were asking me about the name,” Hagerty says. “It seemed to me that was a topic people loved when they thought about minor league baseball, so it became an interest of mine.”
TALKIN’ BASEBALL (BOOKS) WITH TIM HAGERTY
Tucson Padres radio broadcaster Tim Hagerty loves to read about baseball as much as he loves to talk and write about the game. Here are a few of his favorites:
— Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball’s Longest Game, by Dan Barry. “That’s what minor league baseball means to these cities, these memories people have. That book inspires me to do this, because now I’m going to the ballpark and who knows what’s going to happen? Who knows where this player will be? Who knows what this fan is going to say about this game?”
— The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran, by Dirk Hayhurst. “I’ve known Dirk long before he was a published author. He’s as interesting and deep as he appears in the book. His brain is wired a little differently than other players.”
— Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball, by George Will. “I love the line Tony La Russa isn’t against smiling, just within a one-mile radius of a baseball stadium.”
— Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis. ““The good organizations, it’s not a competition between scouting and statistical analysis. Both are very valuable.”
— Heart of the Game: Life, Death and Mercy in Minor League America, by S.L. Price. “I remember reading that in Portland in 2009 and it was heart-wrenching.”
He scoured book stores in Idaho and around the rest of the Pioneer League only to find books about umpires and uniform numbers and seemingly everything else besides team names. “Nothing like it existed,” he says. He started to peck away, an hour or so and a team at a time. By the time the Winter Meetings rolled around in late 2007, he had stories for about 50 teams researched and written and he realized he had something.
He just had no idea how all those stories would find their way from his laptop to a book.
The first step was to read one important book that had next to nothing to do with baseball — “Getting Your Book Published for Dummies.” That taught Hagerty what to send in a proposal, what to leave out and what publishers might actually find interesting from an author with little more published than a series of features in game day programs around the country. He mailed about two dozen proposals, many to publishers he found had previously worked on baseball books, before he finally received a positive response from Cider Mill Press, all the way out in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Over the next four years, Hagerty bulked up the number of team name stories to close to 200, then trimmed to the 168 that made the final cut. He added historical notes and figures, tracked down photos from teams and the Library of Congress and the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, which received a good chunk of his advance money. He learned about the (Fayetteville) Educators. He pounded out information about the (Ilion) Typewriters on his computer. He wrote about the (Waterbury) Authors as he was becoming one himself.
The book finally landed on shelves and with online booksellers on May 8, a little more than a month after opening day. The Padres team store at Kino Stadium is expected to carry it, Hagerty says, and other minor league stadiums around the country are talking with him and his publisher about ordering copies for their own stores.
Hagerty enjoyed the process of researching, writing, pitching, pruning and publishing a book. Ask him and he says there might be more of them in his future. “If an audience develops,” he says, there might even be a sequel of sorts. After all, with thousands of old teams and at least a few current teams switching names every seasons, “there will always be some new material.”
Until then, Hagerty can at least hold in his hands the fruit of years of labor.
And he can do so while reading about the Macon Peaches.
Time for minor league trivia. Before the Portland Beavers moved to Tucson prior to last season to play as the Padres, what was the last affiliated minor league team to play its home games in the state of Arizona? (Keep reading for the answer.)
The Padres opened the season with a record of 8-20, the worst in the Pacific Coast League, but managed to sweep the Sacramento River Cats in a traditional doubleheader, 10-4 and 6-4. First baseman Matt Clark batted 5-for-6, scored four runs and hit a pair of homers — his second and third of the season — in the first game. Righty Matt Palmer allowed two runs over five innings to pick up the win in the first game and fellow righty Erik Hamren pitched a scoreless inning in relief for the win in the second.
Maybe you want to look at a beautiful mountain backdrop at for an inning or two? The Santa Catalina Mountains, a part of the Coronado National Forest for more than a century, stretch for almost 20 miles beyond the outfield walls. The mountains are a notable ski destination — yes, even in Southern Arizona.
Want the answer? The Tucson Sidewinders played at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium until 2008. Tucson had Triple-A baseball for 40 straight seasons — the Toros from 1969 until 1997 and the Sidewinders from 1998 until they left the city to move to Reno, where they now play as the Aces.
And in random statistical news, our second doubleheader of the season flashed twos all over the place. There were two start times (the first game started one minute earlier than scheduled, the second game started one minute later than scheduled), two first pitches (a strike, then a ball) and two results for the first batters (a groundout to second and a groundout to short). Also, two national anthems, both before the first game — The “Star-Spangled Banner” in 1 minute and 28.2 seconds and “Himno Nacional Mexicano” in 1:32.3. We skipped hot dogs for the 18th straight day, opting instead for a couple — and yes, we mean two — Chick-fil-A sandwiches up in the press box.
Want to read stories about the other teams on our schedule? Click here and scroll to the calendar.