Former CY Young winner Eric Gagné takes the bump for Aigles

08/29/2015 10:20 AM - Devo

Last night, 2003 National League CY Young winner, Eric Gagné took the hill for the Can-AM League's Trois-Riviéres Aigles. This was the first time he's toed the rubber since 2009 when he was a member of Les Capitales de Quebec. Gagne, part-owner of the Aigles, is best known for his stellar years as closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. His best season came in 2003 when he recorded 55 saves (NL record), posted a 1.20 ERA, and held opponents to a .133 batting average.

In front of 6,022 fans, Gagné didn't disappoint. The Montreal native went four and one-third and gave up one run on two hits. He struck out two while walking five. The Montreal Gazette reports that he topped out at 93 mph. Not too bad for someone pushing 40. Gagné confirmed after the game that this would be his last appearance.

Odds on this being Gagné's last appearance appear to be quite strong. His MLB career, fraught with accolades, has been mired in controversy after admittedly "taking human growth hormone over five cycles in a three-year period toward the end of his career", and claiming that 80 percent of his Dodger teammates were on some sort of performance enhancers. This might have been his swan song, one final appearance to end his career on a good note.

Gagné, being one of Canada's greatest ballplayers is also a big advocate of bringing the Montreal Expos back to the forefront. There is nothing concrete or in writing, but journaldemontreal.com said he's been in talks with potential investors.

"I would be very interested to invest in the project if ever Montreal was offered the chance to get back one day, a major league baseball franchise, said Gagné. I'll definitely get involved if the case continues to move forward. We can form a good group of Quebec investors, possibly supported by an American, would be able to provide the funding necessary to obtain a concession and build a stadium"

With the way the Toronto Blue Jays have ignited interest into thousands upon thousands of dormant Jays fans, this could be the start of something special. The Blue Jays back on top and Les Expos back in the mix. We could only be so lucky.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

Indy Ball Weekly Perspective: Toronto Blue Jays scout Indy League for arms

08/23/2015 11:27 PM - Devo

The Sugar Land Skeeters announced early last week that the Toronto Blue Jays have signed 6'0 right-handed pitcher, Derek Blacksher to a minor league contract. Blacksher, the eighth Sugar Land Skeeter to be signed by a Major League club this season, has joined the Jays' Single-A affiliate in Dunedin, Florida. 

Originally drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 33rd round of the 2007 MLB June Amateur Draft, Blacksher has spent the majority of his nine-year career in the Independent Leagues. His brief stint in the Marlins organization lasted less than 30 innings. Eight years in Indy ball and four years in Foreign Winter Leagues has prepared him for this opportunity with the Blue Jays.

Statistically, 2015 was not Blacksher's best year on the books. He's topped double-digit wins multiple times in his career, but this season was one when he put everything together. In 70 innings, he went 5-3 with a 2.45 ERA, good for number one amongst Skeeter starters. The 2.1 BB9 was the second lowest of any of his Indy years and his SO9 (8.1) was the second highest in his career.

Blacksher is another example of how Independent baseball is not a career killer. It's the exact opposite. And he's no spring chicken. At 30 years old he could have easily packed it in. Toiling through various leagues all over the world, he continued to attempt to get better each and ever year. No team can ignore that.

August 19 marked his first start with the Dunedin Blue Jays. He did not disappoint. Despite getting saddled with the loss, he went a solid five innings, struck out six, walked one and surrendered only two runs.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

Indy Ball Weekly Perspective: Braves sign reigning Frontier League Pitcher of the Year

08/17/2015 5:01 AM - Devo

The 2014 Frontier League Pitcher of the Year is back in affiliated baseball after signing a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves, according to a recent press release on the Miners website this past Thursday.

Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 7th round of the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft from Pepperdine University, Matt Bywater has seen his fair share of pro ball. 

Five seasons in to his career and 89 starts deep, Bywater's numbers are very impressive. In just over 400 innings, he sports a 2.94 ERA and has struck out 401 hitters. His career WHIP stands at 1.181.

Speaking of 2015, his third in independent baseball, Bywater leveraged himself back into the eyes of MLB scouts everywhere. In 2013 he pitched for the Lincoln Saltdogs going 2-3 with a 4.46 ERA in 40 innings. The following season was his coming out party when he dominated the Frontier League. His record stood at 8-4 with a 2.37 ERA (third in the league) and struckout 114, also good for third in the league and only the third time a Miner's pitcher has ever recorded more than 100 strikeouts in a season.

This season was no different. It may actually be better. Bywater has an identical 8-4 won/loss record and a near identical ERA at 2.37. His 123 strikeouts came in only 107 innings and he even dropped his eye-popping WHIP to from 1.129 to 1.047. These past two seasons have been dominant.  On top of that, when Bywater took the mound on June 12, he tossed the first nine-inning no-hitter in Miners history.

The Braves are getting a player who has worked hard for this opportunity.

“Matt has been the premier pitcher in this league for the last two seasons, so this was long deserved,” Miners manager Mike Pinto said. “He has worked long and hard for this opportunity and we are thrilled for him that this chance came up. The Braves have had a lot of success with Miners filling needed spots in their organization the last couple of years. His numbers speak for themselves with their dominance. I know I speak for the coaching staff and all our players in wishing Matt the best as he finishes up his season with the Braves organization.”

At 26 years old, the career of this ex-Oriole turned Brave has only just begun. 

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

 

From the NHL to business owner: Darius Kasparaitis and life after hockey

08/11/2015 4:46 AM - Devo

Darius Kasparaitis was drafted as the fifth overall pick in the first round of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders. He played a total of 16 years in the NHL for the Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, Colorado Avalanche and the New York Rangers. Previous to that, Kasparaitis played five seasons for Dynamo Moscow.

In over 20 years of hockey, he played in over 1000 games and saw great success professionally and on the International level where he won three Olympic medals, including gold in Albertville in 1992. He also won three Junior medals including gold in 1992.

Known for his time as a hockey player, this veteran of the rink had dreams after hockey, the dream to build something from the ground up. The competitive spirit has not been lost even though Kasparaitis is no longer on the ice. With his partners, they created the Verzasca Group, a Florida based real estate development company where the former first-round pick holds the title as president. 

I was fortunate enough to speak to Kasparaitis about his days in the NHL as well as his new venture as a businessman. 

The GM’s Perspective: Tell us about your new venture and what Verzasca Group is all about.

Darius Kasparaitis: Even though I retired from professional hockey back in 2009, up until a little more than a year ago I was still playing the game, while my friends in Miami were involved in real estate. My partners and I decided to open the Verzasca Group, a real estate development group based in South Florida. We realized the market was already hot at that time and had a great opportunity.

In the business world I was a nobody but in the hockey world I had a name. My partners, however, were well versed in the business world, so we figured, why not try to start a business in South Florida. If we don’t try, we’ll never know if we could succeed. Slowly we started to build our company and realized that we could actually fulfill our dream and compete with the big guys in the real estate space down in South Florida. Basically, this all started when we were all sitting at a hockey game and watching the Panthers play; after that game and the conversation that we had, we began to put the plan down on paper and Verzasca was born.

GMs: Is real estate something you’ve always been interested in?

DK: Since I came to the US, I always liked real estate and the market. I always imagined helping people and helping them build, especially in the sports market. Even when I go back to Lithuania, I think about what people would think if I created something and built a building here or there. I never thought about the business aspect though. I was always a dreamer. I did buy a lot of real estate while I was playing, and most of the time I made money on it.

GMs: Having played professionally for 20 years, what did you find was the key to success for your hockey career and how does that translate into the business world?

DK: I wish I used the knowledge I have right now for when I was playing. When I was playing I was quite a bit younger and I was probably more stubborn and cockier.

With athletes, sometimes you get close-minded. You don’t really listen to the message. You have your own beliefs. You’re part of a team, but sometimes you treat the coach as an enemy. I realized that when I retired, that if I had all the wisdom I had today with running a business, things could have been different. Why didn’t I think like this when I was younger? Not on the business end, but during my hockey career.

It’s very important to have a good team and good teammates. Just as in real estate, you have to have people who do the paperwork, a good construction company etc…It’s a long process, but you always have to believe in the people on your team. So far, I’ve been more than happy. We have a great team. We’re moving slowly, but in the right direction, same thing in sports and in hockey. A good team doesn’t just happen over night. From the young players to the old players, development and chemistry takes time. Just like me, I’m a young businessman. I’m affiliated with people who’ve done this before me. I’m not afraid to ask questions. In hockey it was different. I would never ask my defense partner anything; my pride wouldn’t let me do that. I wish I had the opened-mindedness I have now, when I played so I would learn more about the game. Sometimes you feel like you have to play the same way for the rest of your life.

The business world is different. You are always learning, always evolving.

GMs: It takes a special person to do what you’ve done. You had immense success in the NHL, and multiple medals at the Olympic and amateur level. Do you look for the same leadership traits that you possess in the people that you work with?

DK: I'm a perfectionist. I really love people who are honest. Sometimes that’s hard to find in real estate. It’s all about having good people around you. You can tell right away if the chemistry is there. You learn as you go. Verzasca’s name came from a very clear river in Switzerland. It’s very important to have an honest and transparent company.

GMs: I totally agree. In sports it all comes down to chemistry and people working together. Like you said, you have to have the right people and the right pieces in place to ensure success. You’ve been involved in athletics for quite some time and not directly, but, in business to an extent. Because of this you can read people and that is a telltale sign of being a leader. People look up to someone who can determine what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s very honourable.

DK: Having connections from the past doesn’t hurt either. Because of my experience in sports, it’s easier for me to call up someone (as long as they remember me, time flies), and use my name to my advantage. I meet a lot of people who are very big fans of mine and supported me when I was a hockey player. Some didn’t like me when I played, but they still appreciated the style I was playing. It helps me a lot continuing to be a leader. I want people to be able to rely on me. That’s why the “teamwork” from my past carries over today. You can never let your teammates down.

It’s also not classifying people in jobs saying, you do this and you do that. There’s not just one leader. We have a lot of leaders in Verzasca right now. We want this to feel like a family run business.

GMs: What advice would you give other entrepreneurs or business owners as they strive to better their businesses?

DK: I truly believe that if you have a dream and want to follow your dream, you should put in a lot of heart and a lot of effort. You do that and you can achieve anything you want.

A lot us, even I sit on the couch dreaming about what we could accomplish. It used to be that I would never get up and do it because I was afraid of failure. But you can’t be afraid to fall. If you don’t even try, you'll never be successful. You always experience a loss or pain so that you can learn and grow in whatever profession you may happen to be in.

I’m still scared. There are a lot of things in this business that I don’t know. We start building two buildings, in Bay Harbor Island, in a month. Scary, yes, but I am also very excited. Even though I am not building it, per se, I can still go and touch that wall. It’s something that we created. It’s like winning the Stanley Cup, something that unfortunately I never did, or winning an Olympic gold medal. When you start a company and you build something where other people can move in to live, that’s the WOW moment.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

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