Powering up

The West Virginia Power are the Brewers’ A-ball affiliate in the South Atlantic League. Professional baseball in Charleston dates back to 1910, and with the exception of a three-year gap, they have had minor-league baseball since 1971.

In 2004, they opened up a beautiful ballpark in downtown Charleston named Appalachian Power Park and changed their name from the Alley Cats to the Power. The stadium is right off the interstate and truly has an urban feel to it. With very reasonably priced tickets and ample parking, the Power have been drawing well, with more than 4,000 people attending the game last Saturday night.

Before the game, I had a chance to catch up with a few members of the front office as well as pitching coach John Curtis. I would also like to profile the Brewers’ supplemental first-round pick, Evan Frederickson.

Andy Milovich
Milovich is the executive vice president of Palisades Baseball and is taking over as the general manager for the Power. He talked about how important the new ballpark has been to keeping a team in Charleston and bringing in new fans. The expanded concessions and cleaner restrooms opened up the stadium to families with young kids and to young professionals.

Milovich got into baseball as an intern at South Bend and then in the AFL, and he has had the good fortune of helping to open three minor-league stadiums while working for different organizations. He played baseball in college and wanted to remain in baseball, and he really enjoys all of the things that are involved in running an organization. Minor-league general managers are responsible for everything from promotions to concessions to rolling out the tarp in a rain delay.

There have been rumors that the Brewers may be leaving to pursue local affiliate Appleton. Local affiliates seem to be all the rage these days, with the Cubs and the Red Sox this year even hosting minor-league games at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. West Virginia is sort of centrally located between Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Washington and Baltimore, so if the Brewers do leave, look for another regional tie-in with the Power. Those teams could certainly do a lot worse, as Charleston has a lot to offer with their new park and relatively kind climate. In any case, the Power will be looking for a team with a commitment to developing players.

John Curtis
John Curtis was a first-round pick of the Red Sox in the 1968 draft and pitched 15 years in the big leagues. After taking some time off, he got back into baseball as a pitching coach, and he has been the Power’s pitching coach for the last four years and has been with the Brewers organization for the last six years.

The Brewers really seem to value change-ups, and while I was in Huntsville talking to people there, it became clear that that pitch was at the heart of what the Brewers try to instill in their pitchers. I asked Curtis about it, and he told me that the organization believes that at least 10 percent of a pitcher’s pitches each night should be change-ups. He mentioned that they generally don’t have left-handed pitchers throwing change-ups to left-handed batters, but they don’t fear right-handed pitchers throwing change-ups to right-handed batters. That is a little unusual in the big leagues right now, as many pitchers won’t throw a change-up to a like-handed batter. He mentioned that the key was command of the pitch and the right time to throw it. He explained that the effectiveness of that pitch works off the fastball, so you must establish the fastball first. He mentioned that it didn’t really matter what type of change-up a pitcher threw and that he would work with whatever worked for the pitcher. With all the recent talk about change-ups, I found this particularly interesting.

Evan Frederickson
Fredrickson is a tall left-hander who threw in the mid-90s in college and was drafted out of San Francisco after spending the first two years of his college career at Virgina Tech. Besides his fastball, John Curtis mentioned that Frederickson also had a good slider and is working on his change-up.

In his recent series here at THT, Alex Eisenberg was forced to give Frederickson an incomplete grade because Eisenberg didn’t have any video of Frederickson throwing in the mid-90s. So I was eager to see Frederickson for myself.

When I saw Frederickson on Saturday, he came out of the bullpen, which he had been doing recently, and he did not pitch well. He threw an inning and a third and gave up three runs (two earned) on just one hit but with five walks and only one strikeout. He threw 32 pitches, only 12 for strikes, and he was all over the zone. He walked the first batter on four pitches and walked two other batters on four pitches and two on five pitches, so it wasn’t as if he was getting to 3-2 and then losing them. His fastball was in the upper 80s, and that was on the faster radar gun in the park. He threw three sliders, all of which ended up balls above the strike zone. His change-up actually looked pretty good; the couple that he threw, he was able to keep down in the zone. Overall, though, his delivery was all over the place, and his release point was visibly changing.

References & Resources
I’d like to thank the Power staff and John Curtis for taking time talking with me, especially Andy Barch who set everything up. Also, I have finally been able to finish transcripts of my interviews with Cole Gillespie and manager Don Money and some other Huntsville information. More information on the Charleston trip will be available soon and when that happens I will link to it here.

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