Writing to players on the Disabled List rehabbing in the minor leaguers?

Mascot, not to be confused with Randy Wehofer. The latter calls one fine game. By Scott McLeod (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Mascot, not to be confused with Randy Wehofer. The latter calls one fine game. By Scott McLeod (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Beat the crowd?

Joe Superstar needs to test his pitching arm. Is he ready to come off the DL? It’s time for a short tune-up and test in AAA first.

Why not write the in-demand signer when he’s back in the minors? Surely, the fan mail crush can’t be the same as the bigs, right?

I posed that question to Randy Wehofer, talented broadcaster and director of media relations, for the Iowa Cubs.  I’m grateful for his response:

“As a front office staff, we deliver all mail addressed to players to our clubhouse when it is received.  In the specific case of rehabbing players, I wouldn’t suggest sending things in the mail.  Typically their stay with us is very short.  By the time we announce that a player is going to join us, and someone puts a letter in the mail to Principal Park, there is a good chance that the player will be gone by the time we receive it.  We do forward mail on during the season, but that is done as time allows for our staff, so it would be impossible to predict when the player may receive it.  Any mail that we get for players after the season ends is typically marked “Return to Sender” since we have no idea what players may return the following year or access to their personal addresses.  
In my dealings with players, I know that a self-addressed stamped envelope significantly increases – but doesn’t guarantee – your chances of getting a response.  I would also never put any item in the mail to be autographed that I wasn’t willing to never see again since there are a lot of variables and steps for that item to reach the desired player and ultimately find its way back to you.  It’s also hard to guarantee the condition of that item with all the hands and machines it will pass through in the process as well.”
The “rehabbing star, c/o minor league team” is not the secret it once was. And, will teams be able to handle the mail glut? As Randy hints, gamble wisely.

Why Won’t Teams Call Up Announcers In September?

Randy Wehofer,
underrated voice
of the AAA Iowa Cubs.
Pat and Keith,
share the mike!

There’s nothing worse than a good team announcer gone bad.

I’m not advocating for firing/replacing noted baseball voices.

I’m just saying that it gets difficult watching smart men delude themselves (and us) that also-ran teams are interesting in the final weeks of the season.

Watching Friday’s televised game of the Tigers mauling the White Sox got painful. Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone tried to remain disappointed parents. They had nothing new to say about a lackluster roster. Hopeful but honest? These guys needed some mikeside inspiration.

Here’s the simple fix, one we could help with.

Redirect your letter-writing talents for a moment. Switch from autograph-seeking mode to advocacy. Broadcasters ask for e-mail comments during the game. Here’s one to share…

I’ve written about AAA broadcasters Jason Benetti and Randy Wehofer before. The last week of the season, get them in a major league booth. Instead of tired voices rehashing the could-have-been nature of the season, talk about the hopes awaiting the Nationals or Cubs in the minors for 2014.

Give them an inning!

Of course, a team battling for a pennant the last week of the season is going to have lots to discuss. Viewers and listeners will be content with the still-enthused broadcasters telling the still-suspenseful tale of a contending club.

That’s not the majority of MLB teams, however. Get these deserving minor league announcers a “cup of coffee” now. The exposure could be career-changing.

Iowa Cubs Giving Away 2,000 Autographed Baseballs At Aug. 22 Game: Signers Include…

My autographed Bob Feller ball was a gift. A gift from the Iowa Cubs. I attended their 2006 promotion, thinking it was too good to be true.

It’s true. In fact, it’s an Iowa tradition. Monday, Aug. 22, is the next autograph extravaganza. Free signed baseballs to the first 2,000 fans. This is worth a trip!

Here’s the inside story from Iowa Cubs broadcaster Randy Wehofer:

“We finally have everything prepared for the giveaway on Monday.  We’ll have 2,000 baseballs that we are giving away and it took quite a long time to put each in a bag, with a corresponding COA to identify the autograph, and seal each with a Subway sticker for our sponsor.  Below is the complete list of autographs featured in the giveaway.  Most are from players that were with us during the season.  Some have signed more than others depending on how long they were here.  Also included are some from most of the guys that did ML rehab with us including Darwin Barney, Jeff Baker, Marlon Byrd, and Reed Johnson.

I looked into when the giveaway started and was told it was 2006, so this is the sixth year.  We’ve probably given away at least 10,000 baseballs over the course of the promotion.”

The following players autographed baseballs:

Jim Adduci
Jeff Baker
Darwin Barney

Justin Berg

Austin Bibens-Dirkx
Marlon Byrd
Dave Bush
Alberto Cabrera
Matt Camp
Chris Carpenter
Esmailin Caridad
Marco Carillo
Welington Castillo
Steve Clevenger
Robert Coello
Casey Coleman
Tyler Colvin
Bill Dancy
Thomas Diamond
Ryan Flaherty
John Gaub
Marwin Gonzalez
Brett Jackson
Jay Jackson
Reed Johnson
Von Joshua
Bryan LaHair
DJ LeMahieu
Scott Maine
Mike Mason
Marcos Mateo
J.R. Mathes
Lou Montanez
Scott Moore
Jonathan Mota
Augie Ojeda
Ramon Ortiz
Blake Parker
Fernando Perez
Marty Pevey
Chris Robinson
Chris Rusin
Bobby Scales
Carlton Smith
Marquez Smith
Brad Snyder
Matt Spencer
Jeff Stevens
Nick Struck
Nate Teut
Ty Wright
Robin Roberts
Pete Rose
Tom Seaver
Steve Carlton
Bruce Sutter
Sparky Anderson
Derek Lee
Tony Perez
Orlando Cepeda
Fergie Jenkins
Luis Aparicio 

Two to-be-named Iowa Cubs will be signing free autographs near the Gate A concourse that night from 6-6:30 p.m.

Fan Mail, Autographs Matter To Iowa Cubs

WGN, are you listening? Randy is
Cubbie blue, through and through!

Randy Wehofer loves baseball.

Listen to him call just an inning of an Iowa Cubs broadcast and you’ll agree. You’ll forget he’s media relations director. Instead, you’ll think of him as one of the smartest, funniest fellow fans in the ballpark.

His signature home run call? “Get outta my yard!”

I’m grateful that Randy took time to give us an inside look at fan mail and autographs for a AAA team. Here’s our exchange:

Q: Do you see players reading fan mail? Does it make a difference to players?

A: I can’t say that I see the guys reading mail very often, but I try not to be hanging around in the clubhouse too often. I’m in and out several times a day, but I try to get what I need done in there and get out. As far as making a difference, I’m sure that all depends on the individual player and the sincerity of the note. Within any team, there is a wide variety of personalities, just like any office or a big extended family. Undoubtedly you’ll have some that love the attention and some that try to avoid it – just like your friend or cousin that tries to keep their birthday a secret every year and hopes everyone forgets.

Q: Estimates on how much mail I-Cubs receive weekly?

A: I don’t handle all the mail, but I see 5-10 envelopes a day for someone in the clubhouse.

Q: Without naming names, have you seen players ever practicing their autographs?

A: I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I’ve never seen it. I have heard guys giving teammates a hard time for how their autographs look from time to time.

Q: I understand the MLB tutors the newest minor leaguers to avoid signing
blank index cards, due to a possibility of identity theft. True?

A: I’ve not heard that, but in this day and age that sounds like it would be good advice.

Q: Well, what would you suggest that a collector send (with their SASE, of course) to be signed, if they’ve yet to find baseball cards of that I-Cub?

A: There are photos of all of these guys all over the internet. I’d say if you don’t have a card, find a photo, crop it, print it out, and make your own card.

Q: The Iowa Cubs are famous for their autographed ball giveaway. Does the tradition continue in 2011?

A. It will be on Monday, August 22 this year. It is a huge undertaking to get all of those balls signed, stored, bagged, and distributed. It is one of the most labor intensive projects that we do for one promotion all year.

To learn more about Iowa Cubs promotions and tickets, go to http://www.iowacubs.com/.

Coming Wednesday: Who’s the next nine Tom has written to?

Sharing Airtime With Royals Hall of Fame Broadcaster Denny Matthews

Iowa Cubs broadcaster Randy Wehofer found life announcing for a Royals affiliate had one major perk:

Guest shots in the Kansas City broadcast booth!

More than once, Wehofer shared airtime with the Royals broadcast team. He wrote to share his experiences broadcasting from major league venues:

“Denny Matthews, and everyone with the Kansas City Royals, was extremely nice to me. Denny offered me some nice compliments both on and off the air. But for being in broadcasting, he is a man of few words off the air. He was gracious and welcoming and that’s all I could have hoped for. Ryan Lefebvre and Fred White have served more in a mentoring role for me over the years and I appreciate their help. Most of all, I have a lot of confidence knowing I’ve sat in the booth for a real major league game next to a Hall of Fame broadcaster and he told me that I did a good job.”

Wehofer broadcast from Wrigley Field in 2009, when his I-Cubs played a PCL game there.

“The trip to Wrigley was a great experience, especially for a guy who grew up in Chicago going to games there as a kid. I always thought Wrigley Field was the biggest place in the world growing up. But going back after all these years and visiting so many other parks, my biggest impression was to realize how “small” and quaint Wrigley is and why it earns the nickname “The Friendly Confines.”

Lastly, I wanted to ask a radio broadcaster: do you get tired of being a voice without a face? Don’t you want your own baseball card?

“I was part of a staff group picture that was on a card in our team set my first year in 1999 in Burlington. It’s fairly obscure. The most recognition I’ve received comes from being invited to be the emcee for the annual awards banquet at the winter meeting twice in the last four years. Over 2,000 people from both major and minor league baseball and national media members attend that event. I’ve also made a few presentations at the minor league baseball promotional seminar. Those events have given me the chance to meet a lot of people and let many in this business get to know me. I’ve really enjoyed those opportunities.”

I wish Randy Wehofer many more seasons of opportunities. He enjoys them all.

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