Arizona Fall League Diary: Randy Newsom

While the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League is filled with plenty of household names, one that doesn’t especially reach out and grab you is Indians sidewinding righthander Randy Newsom.

Signed as a nondrafted free agent by the Red Sox in 2004 out of Tufts (Mass.) University, Newsom was the player to be named that Boston sent to the Tribe to complete the Coco Crisp deal in 2006.

The 25-year-old pitched for four different clubs that season, finishing the year with a championship ring at high Class A Kinston, where he also was named MVP of the Mills Cup series.

Newsom began the 2007 season back with the K-Tribe, going 0-1, 1.50 in just 12 innings before being promoted to Double-A Akron. Newsom’s club again made it to the postseason, but fell in the Eastern League championship series to Trenton.

With the Aeros, the Cincinnati native went 4-1, 3.12 in 49 innings, recorded 18 saves and rolled up ground balls at a 2.94 GO/FO rate. Much better against righthanders, who batted just .208 against him in Double-A, the Indians sent Newsom to Arizona to work on his approach against lefties.

Newsom will be contributing a weekly diary to Baseball America, and this is his first entry. As you’ll see, as happy as he is to be in such a prestigious league, Newsom has larger goals in mind:

SURPRISE, Ariz.–My name is Randy Newsom, a minor league pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. Even if you’re a diehard minor league fan, you most likely have never heard my name. I’ve always been under the radar, a righthanded side-arming relief pitcher who has had to do everything to move up the minor league ladder in hopes of chasing down my major league dream. Baseball America has been nice enough to allow me to chronicle my participation this fall/winter in the Arizona Fall League.

One of things about baseball that makes it so great and so terrible sometimes is that only one team gets to go home completely happy.

Even if you lose in the finals, as we did in the Eastern League Championship, you still lose. All that build up, camaraderie, highs and lows, and then bang, it’s over. Only one team gets to jump around, spray champagne, and do stupid dances with guys they love being around and can’t wait to get away from at the same time. Every other team goes home somewhat unsatisfied. It’s kind of like the ending of The Sopranos; fitting yet strangely anti-climatic.

Unless of course you win, which is something I wish everyone could experience. I think businesses should celebrate like this when something goes right. Have people cover the walls and floor with plastic wrap, get a bunch of cheap champagne (preferably Andre because it burns the eyes the most) and put it on ice, and then jump around hugging all your co-workers while some random 90’s dance mix is on in the background. Seriously, it’s a blast, and unfortunately for the 2007 Akron Aeros we didn’t get to end our season doing that. Instead, we quietly packed up and headed for whatever town we called home.

I got back home to Cincinnati, the same night we lost. Since I only had two weeks until I had to report to Arizona, I wanted the chance to watch my Bengals on TV with my dad and brother for probably the only time all season. Once the offseason begins, players spend a couple days just trying to get acclimated to a much more normal existence then that of the minor league season.

I played with my dog, did absurd amounts of laundry, ate Skyline Chili, and then packed up again. (I am actually considering writing a book called, “How to Pack a Chevy Malibu”, it should be a big seller). I spent three days in Cincinnati then went to Boston to visit my girlfriend Taylor.

From there we went on a quick trip to West Palm Beach, Florida mostly because she puts up with me and we both wanted to relax on a beach. We had fun but it rained and I got stung by a Portuguese man-o-war. Then we returned to Boston just in time to drive to Cooperstown to meet her family for an incredible event at the Hall of Fame. I even got to meet Nolan Ryan and his lovely wife, Ruth. The next morning it was back to Boston and then I was off to Surprise, Arizona.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a 16 hours in a car, three different round trip tickets, one childhood idol met, and five actual days without traveling. The fact that I loved every minute of it either proves I am completely insane or that I’ve grown to enjoy professional baseball, or maybe a mixture of both.

Anyway, as I sit here and recap my offseason or lack thereof I am actually full of excitement in getting to participate in one of the most prestigious baseball leagues ever created. The Arizona Fall League represents what I figure is the third phase of my professional baseball career and for a player like me this is an opportunity of a lifetime.

The first phase was proving to myself I belonged. In the Cape Cod League, the Gulf Coast League and my first Red Sox spring training, I always questioned whether I had the talent to make it. I hoped, I prayed, but I had a lot of doubt. Every day in my first spring training I worried that it was the day they called me in and released me. I was scared to death that I didn’t belong and eventually they would call me out on it. It might have been luck, or divine intervention, or probably the Red Sox mental skills coach Bob Tewksbury, but after a terrible first full season where I struggled converting to a side-armer I showed up for my second spring training believing, probably ignorantly, that I was good enough and determined to show others I belonged.

That was phase two, where I went from being the worst player in the whole Red Sox System (my own account after one bad outing in the South Atlantic League), to being an average under the radar filler relief pitcher. I somehow ended up in a big league trade that sent me to the Indians, had a couple of decent seasons, and ended up here, in a nice little hotel suite in Surprise trying to adjust to a three-hour time change and the lack of foliage.

I hope Phase III is that finishing phase where I go from being a minor leaguer to a big leaguer. From a player who is helping minor league teams win to helping a major league club win a World Series. Like my dad taught me, “Aim small, miss small.”

I have high expectations but as baseball has proven to me time and time again, you really never know what’s next. This fall is the chance to start making that jump, the one that I believe will lead to the major leagues.

But I’m still an undrafted free agent that 30 teams passed on and I will remember that every step of the way, but the Indians are allowing me a great chance here to prove myself against some of the best prospects and younger players in baseball, that in itself is a blessing. I’m hoping to improve my breaking ball, throw my change-up more, and tighten up my overall command. All things I need to do if I want to be a successful big leaguer. Outside of baseball I think Arizona will allow me to enjoy a new location, meet some new people, and hang out with some good friends. All in all, I’m pretty lucky but far from satisfied. I’m just hoping this season doesn’t lead to more Sopranos endings.