From a team perspective, 1989 was a disappointing season for the Edmonton Trappers.
The Trap finished last in the Northern Division of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) with a 65-76 record and a negative run differential of 72.
Despite the Triple-A club’s poor on-field performance, there were several bright lights on the squad, many of whom advanced to Major League Baseball (MLB) either as players or in other roles.
One problem with this particular set of cards, though? You won’t find the club’s stolen base leader, and MLB veteran Mark McLemore in this blue-bordered collection from ProCards. The second baseman played 114 games for the Trappers that year, swiped 26 bags and registered 60 runs for the top affiliate of the California Angels.
Dante Bichette, who clubbed 11 homers in 61 games for Edmonton, also doesn’t appear in this 25-card team set.
Even staff ace Mike Fetters, who logged a team high 168 innings and made 26 starts, is absent. Now the bullpen coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Fetters went 12-8 with 144 Ks and six complete games for the Trappers in 1989. (Baseball card collectors can, however, spot Fetters in this
1990 team set).
Omissions aside, this team had a bumper crop of future MLB coaches in its midst.
Let’s take a deeper dive into this bunch of cardboard collectibles:
Don’t let the glasses and the mild-mannered appearance of Sherm Corbett (top row, middle card) fool you. He was a bullpen boss for Edmonton. Corbett, who played parts of three seasons for the Trappers, led the Alberta team in game appearances (52) and saves (9) in 1989. During his 63.1 innings of work, he also collected a 6-7 record, 43 strikeouts and a 4.41 earned run average (ERA). The lefty reliever played in 42 games for the California Angels between 1988 and 1990, where he picked up a pair of wins and a save in his 56 MLB innings. Corbett went on to work as the head coach of the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) baseball program before taking a role as an associate athletics director with the school.
A feature story on Tom Kotchman (middle row, left) by described him as “the hardest working man in baseball.” That work ethic seemed to pay off for Kotchman, who continues to draw a paycheque from the Boston Red Sox organization. Born in North Dakota, Kotchman played third base in the minors in the Cincinnati Reds system. He took to coaching at an early age, landing his first managerial gig in the New York-Penn League when he was just 24 years old. From there, he climbed the ranks and was promoted to the PCL’s northernmost outpost in 1987. He managed the Trappers for three seasons, guiding his Triple-A teams to losing records each time. Nonetheless, the Angels saw something in him. He added the title of scout to his resume in 1991 and remained with the Halos through 2012. The Red Sox came calling next and he has since skippered for them at the Rookie level. Kotchman has won 10 league championships as a manager and he is a member of the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame. In 2017, he was named the Sports Illustrated Tony Gwynn Award winner by Baseball America for “lasting contributions to baseball.” His son, Casey Kotchman, played first base at the MLB level for 10 seasons.
Max Venable (top row, middle) was a two-sport athlete, who easily could’ve pursued a path toward the National Football League (NFL). Instead, the star high school running back passed on football scholarships to chase the baseball dream. It was a wise decision. The Los Angeles Dodgers third-round pick in the 1976 MLB Draft played 727 MLB games with the San Francisco Giants, Montreal Expos, Cincinnati Reds and California Angels. It was his time in the Angels system that brought him to Edmonton. The outfielder sat out the 1988 season and took a construction job when he was released by the Baltimore Orioles after spring training. When Venable decided he still had the fire in his belly to keep playing and the Angels inked the California product, the organization sent him to the Trappers to get his game back on track. He was solid in 95 PCL games for Edmonton, contributing 45 RBI, 52 runs, 13 stolen bases and a .271 batting average. The Angels rewarded his efforts with 195 games in The Show from 1989 to 1991. Venable then played two seasons in Japan and took several jobs as a manager and hitting coach in the minor leagues. Max’s son, Will Venable, followed in his father’s footsteps. When he wrapped up a nine-year MLB career in 2016, Will was hired by the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox for various coaching positions …. Meanwhile, outfielder Mike Brown (middle row, left) became the first repeat winner of the Trapper of the Year award. After first claiming the honour in 1983, the Californian did it again in 1989, his final season playing pro baseball in North America. In between his first and last stop in Edmonton, Brown played 315 MLB games for the Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates. He added a season in Japan to his baseball resume in 1990, when he took the field for the Yomiuri Giants.
Southpaw pitcher Cliff Young (top row, right side) became a familiar face to baseball fans in Alberta. His professional baseball journey started in 1983 with the Calgary Expos of the Pioneer League. The 6-foot-4 Texan made 13 starts, going 7-1 with four complete games and 72 Ks in 79.1 innings that year. His 5.11 ERA needed some work, but Young showed promise. He rose through the minor-league ranks with the Expos and the Toronto Blue Jays over the next five years, until the Jays traded him to the California Angels for Dewayne Buice. As a member of the Trappers between 1989 and 1992, Young served as both a starting pitcher and a reliever. He appeared in 28 games for the Halos during that period but the bulk of his workload occurred at the Triple-A level. Young pitched in 123 total games for the Trappers – 49 of those were starts. He won 29 games, lost 29 games, recorded nine saves, and struck out 262 batters during his 406 innings pitched for Edmonton. In 1993, Cleveland signed him and he did well in his 60-plus innings, registering a 3-3 record, 31 Ks and a save. Cleveland was looking to re-sign him for another year, but tragedy struck in November when Young died in a traffic collision in his hometown of Willis, Texas.
Baseball has proven to be both a prosperous career and a way of life for Carl Willis (bottom right), who was with the Trappers for just one season, but remains involved in the game to this day. The Virginia-born righthander brought a veteran presence to Edmonton in 1989. He had already played for three MLB clubs – the Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago White Sox – as well as the PCL rival Vancouver Canadians when he took a locker-room stall at John Ducey Park. As a swingman for the Trappers, Willis took the mound in 36 contests, including 10 starts. He logged 112.1 innings, a 5-7 record, five saves and 47 strikeouts in that time. The 23rd-round draft pick played one more Triple-A season (with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox) before the Minnesota Twins made room for him on the big club. Willis was a member of the 1991 Twins squad that won the World Series and he pitched for Minnesota through 1995. Following his playing days, Willis went into coaching. He has served as a pitching coach at the MLB level in Cleveland, Seattle and Boston. He enters the 2022 season as the pitching coach of the Cleveland Guardians. “He’s a pro’s pro. He is an absolute gem of a human being and a pitching coach. I’ve learned a lot from him not just about pitching but about life and the big leagues and how to go about things day by day,” said Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber of Willis in a 2020 interview.
Pitcher Rich Monteleone (top left) got a healthy dose of the Battle of Alberta, Pacific Coast League style. And he got a look at it from both sides, having pitched three seasons for the Calgary Cannons and parts of another two campaigns with the Edmonton Trappers. The Tampa, Florida product was a first-round pick of the Detroit Tigers in 1982. He joined the Seattle Mariners organization when he was dealt for Darnell Coles (who played for the Cannons in their inaugural season in 1985). Monteleone took the bump for Calgary in 1986 and – with the exception of a three-game look from the Mariners the following season – he called Foothills Stadium home until 1988. With the Cannons, the righthander pitched in 120 games as a starter, reliever and closer. Monteleone had an 18-32 record, 20 saves, and he struck out 236 opposing hitters in 346 frames. Seattle’s management had seen all that they needed to in the pitcher and decided to release him. That’s when the California Angels took interest and signed Monteleone to a deal. He split time between the Angels and Trappers in 1989, serving Edmonton well. In 13 games and 57 innings, he went 3-6, with a 3.47 ERA and 47 Ks. He was similarly effective with the Angels that season. Monteleone didn’t stay put very long, however. He was traded in 1990, along with Claudell Washington, to the New York Yankees for Luis Polonia. His most successful stretch came in Yankee pinstripes as a bullpen weapon in the early 1990s. A season with the San Francisco Giants also produced decent results (39 games, 45.1 innings, 4-3 record, 3.18 ERA). One last hurrah with the Angels occurred in 1995-96. And then? You guessed it – he got into coaching. The Bronx Bombers hired him as a minor-league pitching coach, he served as the big-league club’s bullpen coach, and Monteleone also spent a few years as a special pitching instructor with the team.
Jeff Manto, right, came to Edmonton after he was named the Double-A Texas League’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1988. In his first PCL season, the third baseman was an offensive catalyst for the Trappers. Manto led the team in homers (23), runs (89), walks (91), and on-base percentage (.416). He also finished third in doubles (25) and RBI (67) during his 127 games with Edmonton. The Pennsylvania product put together a 16-year playing career in professional baseball. He played for eight different MLB squads and was a part of three World Series teams with Cleveland, the Phillies and the Yankees. Like so many other members of this team, the journeyman experienced success as a coach after he stopped playing. Manto became a hitting coach with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago White Sox, and later took a role as the minor league hitting coordinator of the Baltimore Orioles. He had a keen eye for talent and predicted Jose Bautista’s home run potential well before it was realized with the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2021, Manto was named the manager of the Trenton Thunder of the MLB Draft League. In addition, Manto is a member of no less than eight Hall of Fames, including Temple University HOF, Pennsylvania Sports HOF, Buffalo Bison HOF, and the International League HOF.
Jamie Nelson must have really been paying attention to what was going on in that Trapper clubhouse, because he, too, would join the ranks of the MLB coaching fraternity. Listed as a first baseman here, Nelson could more often be found framing pitches behind the plate. The Oklahoman spent 12 years in the minors and 40 games with the Seattle Mariners in 1983 (he hit his lone big-league home run with the M’s). His 44-game tour with the Trappers came near the end of his playing days. Edmonton used four catchers in 1989, while Lee Stevens and Jim Eppard split the bulk of the time at first base. That made playing time scarce for Nelson. But he wasn’t done with baseball. He hosted a sports talk show while he was the manager of the Mobile Baysharks of the Texas-Louisiana League in 1994. At that point, he had aspirations of coaching Division 1 college baseball. In 2000, the former New York Mets draft pick took a hitting coach job with the Princeton Devil Rays of the Appalachian League. He went on to manage the Devil Rays for five seasons. The Tampa Bay Rays came calling in 2013. Nelson held several roles with the MLB club, including assistant hitting coach and assistant coach. He continues to work for the organization as a hitting coach at the minor-league level.
Thanks for checking out our latest series of Alberta baseball cards. Let us know what you think about the players and cards in the comments below or on social media.
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