Throwback Thursday: Dave Trembley, Fulfilling A Dream

Dave TrembleyThe following article was originally published in the 1989 Harrisburg Senators souvenir program. Many thanks to the author, Skip Hutter, who graciously allowed us the permission to reprint it here.

No doubt Dave Trembley would rather be in Buffalo. But don’t for a minute think the popular skipper of the Harrisburg Senators isn’t happy in his third season at RiverSide Stadium. The one person who is synonymous with the renaissance of baseball in Harrisburg since opening day in 1987 is Dave Trembley. Today, he is the senior manager in the Eastern League, an honor that signals extraordinary patience on the part of the holder.

To be sure, Trembley could be elsewhere doing the same thing, probably at the AAA level. However, he possesses a sense of loyalty that isn’t seen too often anymore. So when Pittsburgh Pirates manager Jim Leyland visited Trembley in Bradenton, Florida, last fall and told him to be patient, that his day would come, that sense of loyalty surfaced. Trembley understood the decision to bring Terry Collins, who enjoyed success and some fame managing at the AAA level in Albuquerque, in to handle the reins in Buffalo. Dave might not have liked it, but he understood the reason.

Why? Trembley is an organization man. There are few tutors in baseball who can do the job better. For you see, coaching and teaching, not necessarily in that order, have been Dave Trembley’s life for more than a decade. The game has been an obsession. The more he gets, the more he wants.

How did this love affair for the game start? “As a kid, I was a fanatic,” (he still is) Trembley said. “We had a shortwave radio, and I listened to games whenever I could. From the time I was eight or nine, I’d listen to Ernie Harwell in Detroit, Jack Buck on KMOX (St. Louis) and Bob Prince on KDKA (Pittsburgh). About the same time, I started to get The Sporting News. I would follow the games, cut out the box scores and keep a scrapbook on every club.”

That wasn’t the extent of Trembley’s involvement in baseball. There were days when he and his buddies played ball from morning until night. Organized play began when he was six with midget ball. As he grew older, there were teener, high school and legion seasons. During that time, all Trembley knew was being behind the plate as a catcher. It’s the only position he’s played. “I didn’t know what a summer vacation was,” he noted. “I’ve just kind of grown up from a very early age with baseball as my No. 1 priority. I grew up in a neighborhood where all we did was go to the park and play ball all day. We played some sort of organized ball all the time.”

Winter life in rural New York can be hard with freezing temperatures, chilling winds and an abundance of snow. Spring always came late. “We would shovel the snow off the driveway to play catch,” he recalled. “When spring came, it was very rare to get outside to practice before the first game. We just couldn’t wait for baseball season. We would live from one season to the next.”

Now in his late 30′s, life is much the same for Dave Trembley. It’s baseball from morning to night virtually uninterrupted from February to January. “It hasn’t changed,” he admits. “Now it’s just that the seasons are running into each other.”

Last fall after the Senators ended their season, Trembley relaxed for a few days then headed for Florida and the Instructional League at Pirate City. From there, he flew to Venezuela early in October for winter ball. That ended in mid-January and allowed him to spend some time at home in California, a respite he didn’t get to enjoy a year ago. Without a doubt, the life of a minor league manager or coach, one who aspires to better things, is difficult and lonely. Yet Trembley continues to his love affair with few complaints. Has there been any loss of enthusiasm?

“No,” he responds emphatically, “my enthusiasm, if anything has gotten stronger. When my enthusiasm for the game starts to diminish, I will find another avenue of employment. But I don’t see that happening.”

This is his chosen avocation. There is no doubt that he is in the right field (no pun intended). “Baseball as a livelihood has always been my goal,” Trembley says. “In my environment, it was all I wanted to do. As I got into high school, then on to college, I felt I could do it best by being a teacher and a coach. So, I am fortunate that I am doing what I always wanted to do.”

The coaching preparation included four years at the high school level in Los Angeles and five years at Los Angeles Community College. It also included summers presenting his clinics or helping with others. That’s how he came to know recently retired Pepperdine coach Dave Gorrie and former major leaguer Ken McMullen, who works for the Los Angeles Dodgers in community services. It eventually allowed him to enter professional ball. Both men played prominent roles along the way.

On Gorrie: “He allowed me the opportunity to work camps every summer. He and Tom Gamboa (Detroit Tigers minor league coordinator) put on a two-week camp and I would work for them.” On McMullen: “Through him I got to meet a lot of people. I met Ken when I was a college coach and had clinics at Emerald Valley. I would write Ken a letter and he just came to camp. Then he would invite me to his camps.”

They were the stepping stones that led to his eventually becoming a scout and later a coach in the Chicago Cubs organization. There were two more influential people who played major roles in his progress. One was Tom Gibbons, his high school coach, the other, Buzzy Keller, Pittsburgh’s minor league player development director, who encouraged Dave to join the Pirates’ organization.

“Tom Gibbons was my best teacher,” Trembley reflected. “He was a real big influence on my life. He was a low key kind of person. Buzzy Keller is probably the guy I respect most. He doesn’t give in. He says we have to make certain standards and don’t take anything less. With the Pirates, Buzzy is the guy who helped me the most.”

Remembering these people is extremely important to Trembley. Without them, he’s back in California teaching and coaching.

“If you’ve been successful,” he says, “it’s because you remember where you have came from. It is important for young people to remember that. Many fail to recognize that the most influential people were your parents. They taught you common courtesy, respect and the work ethic.”

To achieve his goals, Trembley, like others in the game, has had to make sacrifices. Curtailments in finances and a social life are just two areas where sacrifice strikes deepest. Managers and coaches in the minors, like players, don’t enjoy the better things of life that a nice income brings until they reach the majors. Of course, working at night, since that’s when most of the games are played, drastically reduces any social life.

“The longer you’re in it, the more reluctant you are to give into the certain pleasures of life,” Trembley says. “It’s not fun having to give up certain social endeavors. But these are the sacrifices you have to make. If we want to be recognized as sincere and genuine with dignity and class, we have to pay the price; be consistent.”

What does the future hold for Dave Trembley? “I think Dave Trembley is an organization man and a team player. I thin understanding the nature of the business; if you strive to improve, good things will happen. I see things beyond Harrisburg afforded to me. Some time I’d like to be a major league coach because the thing we do best is to try to prepare a player for the rigors of a long season.”

With patience, it can happen to a person like Dave Trembley simply because he chose America’s pastime.

“Baseball is THE game in our society,” he concludes. “It is the game where everybody’s dreams can be fulfilled.”

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Walk-Off in Extras

Photo courtesy @dgrnlf

Photo courtesy @dgrnlf

Game 11: Senators 4, Curve 3 (10) (Video Highlights)

LET OUT THE CLUTCH: No two ways about it, Matt Skole has been struggling. He knows it, manager Brian Daubach knows it, and the rest of the team knows it. But with the game in the balance, the power-hitting corner infielder delivered twice and sent the Senators to a 4-3 walk-off victory. “I think I’m finally getting more and more comfortable, but I was just frustrated. I try to not take my at-bats out in the field or let it bury the whole team. I want to be that kind of leader that the team looks up to me,” Skole said during a festive post-game, “It is a weight off my shoulders. It just feels good to get a couple of hits there and win the game.” Daubach was just as happy for the highly-rated prospect, “To see him get that hit in the eighth to tie the ballgame, then come through again in the 10th, I mean, that’s awesome. Hopefully he can relax and just go back to being the Matt Skole we know. There’s a reason he’s been hitting third every day and hasn’t left.”

TROUBLES NO MORE: Prior to facing Altoona southpaw Brandon Mann in the eighth inning, Skole was mired in a 1-for-24 skid with 14 strikeouts against left-handed pitchers. Two big hits later and no one remembers the 23 fruitless plate appearances that preceded it. When asked if he considered sitting Skole down for a breather, Daubach responded, “We all think he’s going to be a player in the big leagues, and he’s going to have to hit lefties. I know from my personal playing career, when you’re in a bad funk, the worst thing is almost a day off. You beat yourself up for nine innings, and you don’t have a chance to break out of it. You really just have to swing your way out of it, and hopefully tonight he did.”

BALK, BALK, BALK: In the tenth inning, Mann was called for a balk that advanced Sean Nicol into scoring position. However, it was a call the umpires repeatedly missed from the southpaw during the eighth inning. He comes to a set position from the stretch and picks his leg up and just hangs there for a moment before delivering the pitch. At no point can a pitcher stop his motion like that as it creates deception and can be used to pickoff baserunners. How he’s been allowed to get away with the move up until now is beyond me. And if you were listening to the game on radio, it’s entirely possible you heard me ranting about the lack of a call through the crowd noise microphone.

IT COULD HAVE WENT EITHER WAY, AND IT DID: It’s not a stretch to say that Altoona is probably not a fan of home plate umpire Jorge Teran after two close plays at the plate both went against them. In the first, Elias Diaz was called out at home trying to score from second base on a chopper fielded by Ricky Hague and thrown high to Skole at first. Diaz immediately argued the call, slammed his helmet down, and was tossed by Teran. As for the second call? Well, you can probably guess it was the final play of the game as Sean Nicol twisted and turned away from a tag. Things got so heated that the umpiring crew made their way off the field through the home dugout instead of the visitors. I can honestly say that’s the first time I’ve seen that and that it logistically makes no sense given where their locker room is located.

MAY THE SCHWARTZ BE WITH YOU: After two dismal starts, Blake Schwartz finally delivered a beauty that seemed to get stronger the deeper he went into the game. Surprising since the skipper said they weren’t even sure he was going to be able to pitch tonight because he’s been battling a flu bug that’s been going around the clubhouse. “That’s really the guy I’ve seen the last two years. He had a better feel for his curve ball, which always helps him. He mixed it up well,” Daubach said, “Hats off to him, because he was really sick coming into today. Maybe he should be sick more.”

BAD BREAK: The x-rays are back and the news is not good for outfielder Drew Vettleson as he has a broken bone in his left hand. Vettleson sustained the injury when he was beaned during an at-bat against Reading starter Jesse Biddle. Based on the location of the injury and a quick Google search, I’m going to guess it’s the pisiform bone as I’ve been reassured that it is not the notorious hamate.

FRESH MEAT: With Vettleson out at least four weeks, the Nationals are working on an agreement with veteran free agent outfielder Quincy Latimore pending a physical and the appropriate paperwork.

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April 14 – 16 Homestand: Altoona Curve

Curve button

Monday 7PM
Blake Schwartz (’14: 0-2, 11.25; ’13: 3-7, 4.61) vs. LHP Zack Dodson (’14: 0-1, 5.40; ’13: 6-9, 4.72)
Military Monday – all current and retired military and their families can receive 1/2 price reserve, box, field box, or dugout box tickets

Tuesday 7PM
Felipe Rivero (’14: 0-2, 4.50; ’13: 9-7, 3.40) vs. RHP Adrian Sampson (’14: 1-1, 2.45; ’13: 5-8, 5.14)
Karns MaxSaver Tuesday – a Karns receipt gets you 2 tickets for the price of 1

Wednesday 10:30AM
Rob Gilliam (’14: 0-0, 7.50; ’13: 3-7, 4.61) vs. RHP Nick Kingham (’14: 1-0, 0.75; ’13: 9-6, 2.89)
Education Day – education stations for all of the school kids

Photo courtesy Sean Simmers/ PennLive

Photo courtesy Sean Simmers/ PennLive

Senators Players to Watch
Destin Hood .419/.419/.452, 1 2B, 6 R, 2 RBI, 4 SB
Caleb Ramsey .387/.429/.419, 1 2B, 4 R, 6 RBI
Justin Bloxom .292/.370/.375, 2 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI

Curve Players to Watch
Gift Ngoepe .310/.444/.414, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 R, 3 RBI
Mel Rojas .323/.364/.452, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 R, 3 RBI
Jarek Cunningham .217/.379/.435, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI

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3 Up, 3 Down

Photo courtesy Mark Pynes/ PennLive

Photo courtesy Mark Pynes/ PennLive

3 Up

Destin Hood – The Mobile, Alabama native has rediscovered himself this year. Reinstilled confidence coupled with better pitch recognition and approach at the plate has made a world of difference in the first ten games this season. Hood is batting .419, good enough for fourth in the Eastern League, with six runs scored and four stolen bases.

A.J. Cole – The righthander improved to 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA on the season with Sunday’s five-inning outing against the Reading Fightin Phils. Although I was fairly confident he’d be in Harrisburg for most of the season, the recent spate of injuries and promotions to the Nationals and Syracuse Chiefs has me doubting how long we’ll see Cole pitch here.

The weather - Ignoring the Friday night rainout, one couldn’t have asked for better weather over the home opening weekend. Games in April are typically played in cold, windy, and damp conditions (kind of what they’re calling for on Tuesday). But over the four-game series, temperatures were in the 60s, 70s, and even 80s providing many in the midstate with their first opportunity to wear shorts.

3 Down

Starting Pitching (not named A.J. Cole) – The quartet of Schwartz, Gilliam, Rivero, and Purke has underperformed so far this season. Through two times through the rotation, those four starters have combined for a 8.40 ERA and .383/.430/.511 slash line. If you can find a silver lining in any of the numbers, it has to be the improvement each hurler made between starts however.

Matt Skole – The power-hitting corner infielder has struggled mightily coming out of the chute this season collecting only three hits in 36 at-bats. Although Skole has faced some tough southpaws (Eduardo Rodriguez, Jesse Biddle, Tim Berry, Sean Gilmartin, Pat Dean, Hoby Milner), he has also yet to get comfortable against righties either hitting only .133.

Defense – The Senators lead the Eastern League with 15 errors committed in the first ten games. At least they lead in something, right? But seriously, the Sennies have only played three errorless games thus far and have committed more than one in half of their games. Giving the opposition more than three outs in an inning is a surefire way to frustrate your pitchers and affect the razor thin margin between winning and losing.


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Senators Break on Through to the Other Side

Photo courtesy @lovejets6

Photo courtesy @lovejets6

Game 10: Senators 9, Fightin Phils 3 (Video Highlights)

LET’S TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT: After four batters, the Reading Fightin Phils managed to load the bases against Harrisburg starter AJ Cole. After so many bad first innings in the Senators’ first nine games, it sure seemed like deja vu all over again that was going to result in a deficit of a couple of runs. Instead, Cole only surrended one run on a sacrifice fly and stopped the early momentum in its tracks. “I thought the key to today was being able to limit the damage in the first. He hit two batters, and the way it’s been going here, that would turn into 3-4 runs,” manager Brian Daubach said, “But he was able to pitch out of that, which was really a key to the game.”

RESURGENCE: Destin Hood looks like a completely different guy at the plate and on the basepaths than he was the last two seasons here. After a 4-for-5 day, Hood raised his average to .419 on the young season. The outfielder also chipped in with one RBI, two runs scored, and three stolen bases.

BIDDLE’S BIG ADVENTURE: Top pitching prospect Jesse Biddle had a wild and wacky third inning. Leading off, speedster Michael Taylor singled up the middle. He advanced to second when Biddle committed his first error of the inning with a Johnny Damon-esque pickoff attempt. The southpaw induced a flyout from Cutter Dykstra and struck out Matt Skole, although Taylor stole third base during the at-bat. Jason Martinson tapped one back to the mound with what should have been the last out of the inning, but another Biddle throwing error plated Taylor. On the very next pitch, Martinson broke for second on Biddle’s first move and the pitcher couldn’t stop himself and ended up balking as he spiked the ball. Hood followed with an RBI single to put the Senators up 2-1. But the inning wasn’t over yet as as Hood too broke on first move and Biddle sailed one over the first baseman’s head. If the ball hadn’t gotten lodged under the tarp Hood would have advanced to third. Instead he was left stranded at second, but Biddle wasn’t the same. Seriously, if he isn’t toeing the rubber I think Biddle has some serious Mackey Sasser yips throwing the ball.

PAIN IN THE HANDS: Fightin Phils’ Kelly Dugan was in some serious pain after he was hit in his hand by an AJ Cole fastball and had to subsequently leave the game. An inning later, Harrisburg outfielder Drew Vettleson took a Biddle pitch off his hand and was removed shortly thereafter. “Right now our trainer [Eric Montague] thinks it’s just a bruise, but he’ll get an X-ray tomorrow to know for sure,” Daubach said, “We’re hoping it’s just 2-3 days.”

A PROFESSIONAL FIRST: In 106 games during his professional career pitcher Matt Grace had never faced the opposing pitcher from the viewpoint of the batter’s box. Simply put, he had never batted one single time in a game…until Sunday afternoon when he drew a four-pitch walk.

GETTING THE CALL: In Atlanta’s 10-2 win against the Nationals, outfielder Steven Souza made his major league debut when he subbed into the game to play left field. Earlier in the day, Zach Walters was promoted from Syracuse to take the roster spot of Ryan Zimmerman who broke his thumb the night before.

INSURANCE: In turn, Sean Nicol was transferred to Syracuse for today’s game to bolster the squad after the recent spate of injuries depleted the roster. Nicol is expected to return to Harrisburg for tomorrow’s game against Altoona.

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Senators Continue Downward Spiral

imageGame 8: Fightin Phils 5, Senators 4 (Video Highlights)
Game 9: Fightin Phils 5, Senators 1 (Video Highlights)

BREAKING OUT: After starting the season mired in a 0-for-18 slump, Drew Vettleson rapped out an RBI triple and two mammoth home runs in the doubleheader. “He just needed to relax a little bit. I could tell after the triple he took a deep breath and smiled,” manager Brian Daubach said, “There’s a lot of potential there. He’s new to us. It’s not easy coming to a new organization. I’m sure he’s trying to make an impression and to get off to a slow start is tough.”

RIGHTING THE SHIP: Rob Gilliam barely made it through one inning during his first start of the season last week in Bowie. After a couple of batters, it appeared that Saturday night’s outing wasn’t going to be much better for the righthander. But Gilliam settled down and retired 12 of the last 15 batters he faced. Daubach commented on his outing, “I thought Gilly threw the ball nice. The first inning has been a struggle all year. He was able to limit damage there and just gave up a solo homer in the second. I thought he came back and threw the ball well. He kept us in the game and actually allowed us to tie the game up.”

THE FIRST NINE GAMES IN A NUTSHELL: “It’s the little things that are killing us, and it stands out when we have so many close games.” – - Daubach on the mental and physical errors.

NO MORE STREAKING: Caleb Ramsey took the collar in four at-bats during the first game ending his seven-game hitting streak. After another hitless game in the nightcap, Ramsey is now batting .345 on the season.

VIEW FROM THE CELLAR: The doubleheader sweep moves the Senators to a 1-8 record and 4.5 games behind league-leading Bowie and Richmond. You have to go back to the 2000 season to find a Senators’ squad starting out so poorly in the first nine games. That being said, two recent playoff teams (2010 and 2011) weren’t setting the world on fire after the first nine games either as they went 2-7 and 3-6 respectively.

GETTING THE CALL: Earlier today, pitcher Blake Treinen and outfielder Steven Souza were promoted from Syracuse to Washington. Treinen didn’t have to wait long to make his MLB debut as he worked two scoreless innings of relief in the Nationals’ 6-3 loss to Atlanta. By my math, he became the 69th former Senator to make his major league debut since 2005.

MAKING HISTORY DURING THE HI/LO GAME: For those unfamiliar with the between innings Hi-Lo game, a man is asked a question like “Out of 25 Senators players, how many believe in aliens?” He’ll throw out a wild-ass guess and his wife/girlfriend/sidepiece will say whether she thinks the actual number is higher or lower than his guess. This was a game that was played for pretty much every home game last season and not a single time did the guy guess the right number with his guess. Well, two games into this season and we’ve already made history as the gentleman pictured above with Bob Hauer will go down in the annals of time as the greatest Hi/Lo player ever.

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April 10 – 13 Homestand: Reading Fightins

Fightin Phils button

Thursday 7PM
Felipe Rivero (’14: 0-1, 9.00; ’13: 9-7, 3.40) vs. LHP Hoby Milner (’14: 0-0, 3.60; ’13: 12-7, 3.83)
Opening Night
Rally Towel Giveaway for the first 2,500 fans
Thirsty Thursday – $2 Coors Light on the Boardwalk

Friday 7PM
Rob Gilliam (’14: 0-0, 27.00; ’13: 3-7, 4.61) vs. RHP Perci Garner (’14: 1-0, 3.00; ’13: 7-6, 4.41)
Magnet Schedule Giveaway
Post-Game Fireworks

Saturday 6PM
Matt Purke (’14: 0-1, 18.00; ’13: 6-4, 3.80) vs. RHP Luis Paulino (’14: 0-0, 0.00; ’13: 10-6, 4.34)
Car Window Sticker Giveaway for the first 2,500 fans
Magnet Schedule Giveaway
Post-Game Kids Run the Bases for all kids 12 & under

Sunday 2PM
AJ Cole (’14: 1-0, 0.00; ’13: 10-5, 3.60) vs. LHP Jesse Biddle (’14: 0-1, 6.97; ’13: 5-14, 3.64)
Magnet Schedule Giveaway
Pre-Game Catch in the Outfield
Post-Game Kids Run the Bases for all kids 12 & under

Photo courtesy Harrisburg Senators

Photo courtesy Harrisburg Senators

Senators Players to Watch
Jason Martinson .409/.417/.591, 2 2B, 1 3B, 4 R, 6 RBI
Caleb Ramsey .474/.500/.474, 2 R, 4 RBI
Sean Nicol .385/.385/.462, 1 2B, 1 R

Fightins Players to Watch
Brock Stassi .429/.529/.643, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 R, 1 RBI
Edgar Duran .500/.556/.563, 1 2B, 2 RBI
Carlos Alonso .375/.500/.563, 1 HR, 4 R, 4 RBI

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