Tag Archives: Mike Pinto

Mining the CWL

Casey Dill, the scouting and player acquisition coordinator for the Southern Illinois Miners, has been hard at work coaching in the California Winter League (CWL) this off season.  In addition to leading the Palm Springs Power, he is actively searching for players to sign for the Miners’ upcoming season in the Frontier League.

“Coaching in the CWL is a great resource for the Southern Illinois Miners organization,” Dill explained. “It gives me the opportunity to see how players carry themselves and prepare playing a minor league style schedule playing everyday. It gives me the opportunity to see things in players that may not show in a one or two day tryout. It also allows me to maximize the scouting report I provide to Mike Pinto (manager of the Southern Illinois Miners) when deciding which players are the best fit for the organization.”

Pinto loves that Dill knows exactly what he’s looking for while managing in the CWL.

“Finding rookies that can impact your organization is one of the keys to success in our league, but it’s also so important to find players that fit the culture of your organization. Many times we are looking at numbers, where a guy has played, against what competition and you do your best to get some reports on them as a player and person,” Pinto said.

“With Casey out there in the CWL, it gives us the opportunity to see players with multiple lenses.  We can certainly see their history through numbers, but Casey also gets to see them from a scouting perspective, and more importantly, sees what kind of fit that they would be for us.  History has shown us how critically important that is to our organization,” he explained.

 “With my position also running the business aspect of our organization and not able to be at the CWL like some managers are, Casey gives us the chance to not only see players up close in the CWL, but also run a tryout for players on the West Coast who we might not be able to see and have access, eyes and information on some potential college players following the draft.” 

So far, Dill has found three players who fit the Miners mentality:  RHP Adam Falcon, RHP Payton Lobdell, and C Brandon Oliver. 

Dill and the three newest members of the Southern Illinois Miners family recently sat down for an introduction and to discuss the CWL and their expectations for the upcoming season.

Meet the Miners

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(Adam Falcon, Casey Dill, Payton Lobdell, and Brandon Oliver)

Adam Falcon

“Adam Falcon stands out as soon as you look at him, in baseball we say ‘he passes the eye test'”, said Dill. “He has a tremendous work ethic off the field and in the weight room. He’s a big strong physical presence on the mound, he has a bull dog / no fear approach to pitching, he wants the ball with the game on the line. He is a power arm that can top has high as 94 mph with his fastball with a plus slider he can throw for strikes in any count. Depending on how he does here in the CWL and in spring training, I think he is a great power arm option out of the bullpen that will help us win games.”

Adam, how did you get to the point where you are now in your career?

A new Independent Fall league called The Desert League started up in Yuma, Arizona and held tryouts in Chandler, AZ on September 15-20, 2016. I wanted to tryout to see if I could get picked up by a professional team. I ended up making one of the teams called the Yuma Hammers, and two days later, our season started. It was my first ever experience as a professional baseball player. After about a month, our season ended and our coaches from the Hammers got a couple of my teammates and myself a tryout in Palm Springs for some Independent and International teams.

What led you to the CWL?

I had signed with the Southern Illinois Miners after the October 30 Palm Springs tryout. Southern Illinois Scouting Supervisor Casey Dill kept in touch with me and suggested I participate in the CWL to get reps in and get scouted much better. I was already familiar with the layout of the field and the area, and thought it would be a good experience for me to play here.

How are you liking it so far?

I’m enjoying myself out here in Palm Springs. I’m just happy to be out on the field competing, and I’m very pleased with the way the league in run. The coaches and staff run the show very professionally and work hard for us everyday.

What part of your game are you focusing on while you’re there?

I’m looking to develop my off-speed pitches into better put out pitches, keep walks and runs low, and build up some more velocity on my fastball.

How did it feel to sign with the Miners?

I couldn’t be more happy to sign with such a quality team and organization. In the Palm Springs tryout, it was my goal to get signed with a Frontier League team, and I was so glad to achieve that goal.

What are your expectations for your first pro season in the Frontier League?

I expect to be part of a winning ball club, I expect to develop even more as a pitcher, I expect a whole different ball game in the Frontier League, and I expect to face very tough competition. I couldn’t be more excited to get out and compete.

Payton Lobdell

“Payton Lobdell has 4 pitches he throws for strikes. His fastball tops at 92 mph and usually sits between 88-91. His best secondary pitch is his splitter that he locates down in the zone and forces consistent bad contact from hitters,” Dill explained. “Payton is very mature on the mound, plus pitch ability, he knows how to use all of his pitches to maximize his effectiveness. He doesn’t look to strike everyone out, he looks to force bad contact and trusts the defense to play behind him.”

Payton, what led you to the CWL?

Playing with for Casey Dill with the Palm Spring Power last summer really led me to trying out and showcasing myself in the CWL.

How are you liking it so far?

These last few weeks have been a blast, and I love the guys/teammates that I’m making out here.

What part of your game are you focusing on while you’re there?

I’m really focusing on getting ahead and staying ahead of batters while I’m out here, while also working on my secondary pitches.

How did it feel to sign with the Miners?

It was an experience that I’ll never forget. It was my first pro contract so it is something that I’ll always remember. I couldn’t ask for a better organization to play for to begin my professional career.

What are your expectations for your first pro season in the Frontier League?

I expect to do everything I can to help the Miners win a championship, and I expect to have a great time getting to know my teammates and coaches. I’ve heard nothing but great things that come from the frontier league and I can’t wait to find out.

Brandon Oliver

“Brandon Oliver is a plus defensive catcher that has to potential to control and shut down opposing teams running games,” Dill pointed out. “He receives and blocks the ball very well behind the dish. Perhaps most impressively, Oli knows how to manage and work with the pitching staff, his communication and leadership with our pitchers here at the CWL has been phenomenal, for a rookie he has a veteran presence, he batted .351 at Western Oregon University as a senior so he also knows how to handle the bat well.”

Brandon, what led you to the CWL? 

I had heard of a California Winter League but knew nothing about who it was for or why it was there. I met Miners Scout Casey Dill at a tryout last fall, he thought it would be a good opportunity to play in front of him and other professional coaches and scouts for an entire season. He said it was a place for guys like me to get signed.

How are you liking it so far?

It’s been awesome. I’ve met some great people out here. From the staff to the coaches to the players, I really like it.

What part of your game are you focusing on while you’re there?

I take a lot of pride in my defense I’ve work behind the plate, but my main focus will be offensive. I’ll be focusing on getting my timing and rhythm down.

How did it feel to sign with the Miners?

It felt great. I feel as if a huge weight has been lifted on my shoulders, and I can use the rest of the winter league to fine tune my game, as opposed to trying to get every scout to see me on a daily basis.

What are your expectations for your first pro season in the Frontier League?

I expect to win a championship.

Pinto is also looking forward to seeing what the newest members of his team can do. “I really like what I have heard about Adam, Payton and Brandon. Casey has seen them up close and I am looking forward to seeing them compete for important roles with us this spring.”

For more information on the Southern Illinois Miners, visit their official website HERE.

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My Season as the “Guest”

As the regular season for the Frontier League is coming to an end… I want to take a look back on how great my summer has been.

Last year, I wrote an article, “This Season, Think Outside Your Home Stadium – Fan Perspective“, that encouraged everyone to stop being a fan of just one team and get to know other teams as the season went along.

While I did do that a little bit last year, I still felt a strong connection to my home team, the Washington Wild Things, which prevented me from taking my own advice.

However, this year… everything was different.

The Wild Things hired a new manager and coaching staff. The roster was almost entirely different, and I just didn’t click with them as I had with teams in the past. They aren’t a bad group, and there are a few players that I’ve very thankful that I have met, but it really hasn’t been the same as previous years.

All this did was open the door to spending the majority of the season as the “Guest” in my home ballpark.

I did exactly what I planned to do last year. I become friends with players, coaches, and fans of the visiting teams. If I didn’t know anyone on a specific team, I went over and introduced myself and my blog. I followed players on social media and got to know who they were as people on and off the field.

It was the best decision of my life.

The season started out like so many others: season ticket holder meet & greet with the Wild Things, an Opening Day full of possibilities, and getting to see old friends in the stands at the ballpark.

However, after a few weeks of sitting in the stands watching a team I felt little connection with, I knew I had to make a change to save my summer.

At first, my journey to the visiting side was slow. I would head over before a game and see some players that I had known previously, but then I would head back over to my seat and cheer for the Wild Things.

Being split between the home and visiting team was more difficult than I could imagine. That is when I went all in with being a fan of the visitors, described only by the word “GUEST” on the Wild Things scoreboard.

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The Wild Things even provided me with the perfect icebreaker… cheap food. Everyone knows what a struggle it is for independent league players, especially when it comes to finding and paying for a decent meal. This year, the team began giving out 20% off Denny’s coupons to fans after the game.

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As it just so happens, the Denny’s restaurant is right in front of the visitors’ hotel. Plus, what ballplayer wouldn’t want a discount on food?

Here in Washington, the visiting bullpen is easily accessible to fans by the lawn down the third base side of the stadium. During games, I have gone over to visiting bullpens and passed out coupons while explaining who I was and what this website is all about. After games, I went over to the dugout and did the same thing for the position players.

Some teams were more talkative than others, but all were very appreciative. I loved getting to talk to players and get to know guys I wouldn’t normally know about if I was sitting on the first base side and cheering for the Wild Things like every year before this one.

I saw guys who I had known for years when they were on other teams, ones who I had followed on social media but never got a chance to meet, and even some players who I met thanks to having mutual friends. It was a truly FUN experience getting to see everyone and showing them a little support while they were away from home.

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In July, I did an article about the Florence Freedom (Celebrating (the Florence) Freedom This 4th of July Weekend), the first team that took me in as their own while they were here. I hooked the guys up with coupons and a new bullpen bag complete with snacks, and I was given a team signed ball and bat in return. Also for the first time all season, I felt like I belonged with a team… That it was okay to cheer for a group of guys at the ballpark.

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A few weeks ago, the team managed to surprise me again when a complete team set of autographed cards arrived in my mailbox.

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After the All-Star break, the Southern Illinois Miners came to town and allowed me to fully join the Miners family. I have personally known their manager, Mike Pinto, for the last two years and have been friends with a few of his players for just as long if not longer in some cases – including All-Star pitcher Rick Teasley and the team captain Steve Marino.

Mike even gave me a Miners shirt to officially welcome me to the family this season. I think they have me as a fan for life now. “Once a Miner, Always a Miner.” Right, Mike? #AlwaysAMiner

I have never met a group of guys who were so dedicated and focused yet laid back and fun to be around. They are without a doubt one of the most fan friendly teams I’ve seen this year as well. While I was talking to the team after their games in Washington, they all stopped and signed for every kid that asked. It didn’t matter to them that they were the “guest” team and that those kids weren’t “their” fans.

Their bullpen (big surprise I know!) is a group I jelled with from the beginning. A few players – Chris Deboo, Adam Lopez, and Evan Mott – are guys I’ve gotten to know over the last few seasons, but even the other guys treated me as if we’d known each other for years.

Since I’ve been known to make a good bullpen bag a time or two, I decided the rookies needed a Disney Princess lunchbox to carry. I supplied them with the box and a nice tutorial on how to pack a good bullpen bag.

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As we headed into the first week of August, it had become apparent that the Miners would be making the playoffs for another season. The team was in a world of their own while running away with the West Division title for the third year in a row.

After the princess lunchbox was delivered, it was suggested that a more “manly” bag might be needed for the playoffs. Power Rangers were thrown out as a suggestion, and I knew I had to make it happen. The Miners started their three game series in Lake Erie on August 2nd. Avon, OH – home of the Lake Erie Crushers – is a little over 6 hours from me round trip. Who would go in a car for six hours just to watch a three hour baseball game? Yep… you guessed it!

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We baked cookies and brownies, bought some candy and filled the Power Rangers bag for its three hour journey to join one of my favorite bullpens in baseball. The trip was well worth the drive! We met the guys outside of their clubhouse to deliver the bag, pitcher Chris Deboo left us tickets, and the Lake Erie Crushers bat boy, Tyler, even let us check out the batting cages when we were outside the clubhouse. We got into the stadium and were allowed to sit right behind the bullpen the entire game. Huge shout out to the awesome Lake Erie Crushers ushers and staff for inviting these guests in! The night concluded with a W and a post game photo op on the field.

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As the season draws to a close, I’m happy with the fact that I can look back and honestly say that this was one of the best summers of my life. I can’t say enough how amazing all these teams have been. This experience in my baseball journey is one that I will never forget.

Huge THANK YOU to the Washington Wild Things for being a great home base and allowing me to see what I’ve been missing all along, the Southern Illinois Miners and Florence Freedom for welcoming me in with open arms in a way I could never have imagined, and the other visiting teams I connected with: the Joliet Slammers, Normal Cornbelters, Schaumburg Boomers, Gateway Grizzlies, Traverse City Beach Bums and Lake Erie Crushers.

To the individual players I connected with this year, I’m not sure if a simple “thank you” is enough, but it’s all I can say. You did more than help me salvage a disastrous season. You actually made it the best one yet. I am thankful that our paths crossed this year, and I hope to see you all again in some city or stadium in the future. If not, and knowing how this baseball world is… there’s a strong possibility, just know that I will always look back on this season and remember you all very fondly. Best of luck wherever life takes you!