RUMBLINGS CIRCULATED ABOUT JACOB NOTTINGHAM’S CALL-UP TO BREWERS

Rumblings on onetime Redlands High catcher Jacob Nottingham began on Sunday night. Milwaukee Brewers’ catcher Manny Pina was headed for the 10-day disabled list, among a flurry of other moves.

Those rumblings were Redlands’ baseball observers — parents, coaches, former players, ex-teammates, observers from all corners of the city, you name it — that included social media attention.

On July 8, Nottingham was recalled to the Milwaukee Brewers. He was expected to share catching duties with Erik Kratz over the next week.

Nottingham may be the Brewers_ catcher of the future (Sean Flynn, Houston Chronicle).
Redlands’ Jacob Nottingham returned to the major leagues, called by the Milwaukee Brewers on July 8. He started one day later, getting a double and single for his first two MLB hits.

Sure enough, Nottingham was placed in the lineup — batting eighth, in fact — in Milwaukee’s game at Miami. He would be facing Marlins’ pitcher Jose Urena while catching Brewers’ pitcher Chase Anderson.

Nottingham, a catcher who spent a few days with the Brewers earlier in the season over a similar situation, had been recalled again. He was hitting .303 with 10 HRs at Class AAA Colorado Springs.

He’s the Brewers’ No. 25 prospect, according the MLB Pipeline.

This could be no ordinary Redlands Connection. Perhaps, it’s just the latest.

Nottingham singled off Urena, who fed him an 89-mph off-speed, hitting it to left field off the end of the bat. Next time up, against Javy Guerra, Nottingham drilled a double to left field.

In the end, Miami beat the Brewers, 4-3.

Milwaukee, which held a two-game lead over 2016 World Series champion Chicago in a rough-and-tumble National League Central Division race, could be the surprise force in 2018.

Nottingham, along with a bevy of other Milwaukee youths, might be a vital cog in the expected summer duel with the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.

Nottingham-to-the-big-leagues is big news.

Redlands has produced previous major leaguers, including undrafted second baseman Julio Cruz (Mariners, White Sox, Dodgers), Seattle’s 1980 13th round pick southpaw pitcher Ed Vande Berg (Mariners, Dodgers, Indians and Rangers), plus Angels-Blue Jays catcher Dan Whitmer (a 1978 Angels’ draft pick), who worked Detroit’s bullpen when the Tigers won the 1984 World Series.

When the Houston Astros drafted Nottingham at No. 167 overall in the sixth round in 2013, it didn’t take long for Nottingham to sign on June 14.

After a couple seasons in the Astros’ chain, Houston needed pitching at the major league level. On July 23, 2015, they traded Nottingham to the Oakland A’s in exchange for southpaw pitcher Scott Kazmir, who was 108-96 with a 4.00 ERA over a dozen MLB seasons.

Traded for by A’s legendary Billy Bean, who authored Money Ball in the early 2000s.

But it was hardly the end of Bean’s transaction activity surrounding the Redlands prospect. Between 2015 and 2016, Nottingham was shipped to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Brewers’ General Manager David Stearns dealt outfielder Khris Davis (166 home runs, .248 average over 5 MLB seasons) to Oakland. Davis, who would go on to smoke over 40 home runs in the next two seasons for the A’s, has 21 bombs so far this season.

That’s how highly Milwaukee must’ve viewed Nottingham’s potential.

On Nov. 20, 2017 Nottingham’s minor league contract was purchased. The Brewers placed him on the 40-man roster, the ultimate payoff for any off-season transaction.

Nottingham was one of five catchers – by far, the youngest on Milwaukee’s roster.

Over a five-year span with a handful of teams ranging from Rookie Ball to Low Class A to High Class A to Class AA, Nottingham had blasted 43 home runs and hit .238 (.325 OBP) in 424 professional games.

Upon his call-up to the Brewers in April, Nottingham received the full treatment. His father, Greg, was spotted being interviewed on the Brewers’ TV network.

Brewers’ history is traced back to the 1969 season when the American League expanded to two teams, the Seattle Pilots and Kansas City Royals. When the Pilots’ support floundered prior to the 1970 season, the were sold to a group in Milwaukee, which included eventual baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

When baseball needed to even up its 30-team alignment in 1998 — there were, at one point, 16 N.L. teams and 14 A.L. teams — the Brewers were shifted to the National League to evenly align the leagues.

Other than a playoff season in 2008 (wild card) and 2011 (N.L. Central Division title), the Brewers’ post-season appearances have been limited.

As for Nottingham, he had one final swing in the Brewers’ loss in Miami. That he struck out against Marlins’ closer Kyle Barraclough is only part of the story.

Against Barraclough’s 95-mph fastballs, Nottingham unloaded back-to-back swings that were hard-core, all-out powerful, home run-conscious hacks that would’ve tied the score if only he’d connected.

He’s a true Big Leaguer.

Nottingham’s call-up, most likely attracting attention from all corners of his hometown, got the rumblings rolling.

Next stop is an N.L. Central Division showdown between the second place Cubs and first place Brewers. That showdown would have true Redlands Connections if Tyler Chatwood, a Redlands East Valley prospect, were pitching for Chicago with Nottingham catching for the Brewers.

IT WAS TOUGH FOR DAVIDSMEIER TRYING TO GET INTO MILWAUKEE

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Danny Davidsmeier joked about a pair of Redlands East Valley High School area products, Tyler Chatwood and Matt Andriese, who are current major league players.

Chatwood, who now pitches for the Chicago Cubs, had been drafted by the Angels and traded to Colorado.

Andriese was an original draft pick by the San Diego Padres, eventually traded to the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I’m a hitting coach,” said Davidsmeier, “and they made it to the majors as pitchers.”

If he could list the entire roster of youth-level players that he’s instructed,  that entire collection might be able to fill a full high school league of all-star level talent.

Matt Davidson also comes to mind. A current major league slugger, who was a high school MVP as a freshman at Yucaipa, got drafted by Arizona and traded to the White Sox. Davidsmeier started coaching Davidson at age 11.

It’s Davidsmeier, perhaps, who bridges the gap with a growing number of ballplayers who have taken paid hitting instruction from him for nearly two decades. And why not?

His background is insanely interesting.

Imagine being an All-State player at San Bernardino Valley College in the mid-1970s. It came just before his days as an All-American shortstop at USC.

ddavidsmeier
Danny Davidsmeier, a highly popular batting instructor around Redlands, Yucaipa, Highland, San Bernardino, Colton and beyond, displays his USC medallion. Davidsmeier, a career baseball player for 22 years, was an All-American shortstop for legendary Trojans’ coach Rod Dedeaux (photo by USC).

The Yucaipa High product, who came out of the Thunderbirds’ program one year before Jeff Stout began an unprecedented 42-year run as their coach, was taken in the draft by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Sounds promising, doesn’t it?

Mention names like Robin Yount and Paul Molitor to Davidsmeier. He laughs.

It wouldn’t be surprising to hear him say it. “Those guys,” he might say, “kept me out of the major leagues.”

Both Yount, a shortstop, and Molitor, a second baseman who later moved to third base, are Hall of Famers. In the early 1980s, the two — along with second baseman Jim Gantner — all but blocked Davidsmeier’s promising pathway to the major leagues.

In those days, they were known as Harvey’s Wall Bangers, a reference to Brewers’ manager Harvey Kuenn, who was quite a hitter in his day.

Imagine hitting .371 with 16 HRs as a USC senior in 1981. It was there Davidsmeier played for legendary coach Rod Dedeaux, a former shortstop in his own playing days.

USC? All-American? That got Milwaukee’s attention — third round selection in 1981, No. 72 overall. That’s the same draft, incidentally, in which first-rounders like Joe Carter, Matt Williams and Ron Darling were selected.

Tony Gwynn was taken in that same third round, too, just 14 picks before Davidsmeier.

As for Davidsmeier, he spent his best years playing minor league baseball, rising to Triple A Vancouver just two years after being drafted.

CRACKING THE BREWERS’ LINEUP

While Yount-Molitor-Gantner were thriving in Milwaukee, Davidsmeier’s hopes might’ve been curtailed by their all-star level play.

Davidsmeier’s most productive season might’ve been in 1982 when he hit .272 with 10 HR as a 22-year-old shortstop.

Led by the MVP season of Yount, the Brewers reached the 1982 World Series, losing in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Even playing behind such a talented crop of major leaguers might’ve inspired other organizations to seek out Milwaukee’s prized minor leaguers — like Davidsmeier.

Milwaukee, in those years, was loaded. Besides Molitor and Yount, there were players like first baseman Cecil Cooper (.298, 241 career HR), Gorman Thomas (268 HR), Ben Oglivie (.275, 235 HR), plus catcher Ted Simmons (.285, 245 HR) while Gantner (.274) was as sure-handed an infielder as anyone.

Throw in Hall of Fame numbers from Yount (3,142 hits, 583 doubles, 126 triples, 251 HR, .285) and Molitor (3,319 hits, 605 doubles, 234 HR, 504 stolen bases, .306).

That’s the lineup Davidsmeier was trying to crack.

Doug DeCinces had a hard time becoming Baltimore’s third baseman with Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson playing ahead of him in the early 1970s.

In that same era, center fielder Garry Maddox would’ve rotted away in San Francisco if the Giants hadn’t traded Willie Mays to the Mets.

Thank goodness Wally Pipp had a headache one day in New York. Lou Gehrig might’ve never gotten a chance.

Yes, Davidsmeier spent plenty of Arizona-based spring training sessions with the Gantner-Young-Molitor trio ahead of him on the Brewers’ depth chart.

Gantner was considered good enough to drive Molitor from second base to third base.

Davidsmeier, too, had played all three spots.

In 1982, he was hitting .272 with 10 HR with Class AA El Paso.

By age 28, Davidsmeier was ready to head elsewhere — Italy, Mexico, Taiwan, Canada, Czechoslavakia, Korea, Japan and Columbia, to name a few stops.

ROAD TRIP COMES TO AN END

Twenty-two years on the international road led Davidsmeier back home — Yucaipa, Loma Linda, Redlands, Highland, the entire area. He became a growingly popular private hitting instructor.

Main base for Davidsmeier these days is Loma Linda. The batting cages there went from Hitter’s Choice Batting Cages to its new name, IE Performance Center & Batting Cages. The re-opening was scheduled for June 2-3.

Davidsmeier says he likes the new layout. The husband-wife ownership of Dr. Alan Herford and Kirilina Herford liked the atmosphere. They took over the place, signing a 14-month lease. It wouldn’t be a stretch to believe that Davidsmeier’s part of that atmosphere.

If you’re in the cage with Davidsmeier, it’ll be a productive moment.

Name a productive hitter from the area. Chances are decent that Davidsmeier has worked with them in the practice cages.

Current major leaguers Davidson, Chatwood and Andriese come quickly to mind.

Cracked Davidsmeier: “Matt and Tyler lived down the street from each other in Yucaipa. They got a lot of experience just working out with each other.”

 

REDLANDS CATCHER PLAYED ROLE IN MONEY BALL

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Jacob Nottingham, a four-year Varsity catcher-designated hitter, might’ve been in the rarest of positions for a Redlands High School athlete in 2013. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder had apparent legitimate scholarship offers to play football at Arizona or Oklahoma.

What an opportunity!

Ranked No. 2 in Redlands’ citywide football – trailing that of highly successful city rival Redlands East Valley, especially considering that donning a Sooners’ uniform might’ve been right there with the Wildcats’ football supremacy over Nottingham’s Terriers.

REV had sent guys to football juggernauts like UCLA, Oregon, Utah and Washington, at least among the major universities. It might seem like Oklahoma football would’ve trumped all of that.

Sooner football lore stands firmly ahead of the Bruins, Ducks, Utes and Huskies.

Nottingham may be the Brewers_ catcher of the future (Sean Flynn, Houston Chronicle).
Redlands’ Jacob Nottingham may be the Brewers’ catcher of the future (Photo by Sean Flynn, Houston Chronicle).

Nottingham, though, who played on a couple of the same Terrier baseball teams as my son, Chet, also loved catching. Batting. Ninety feet instead of 100 yards. Every day instead of once a week. He chose to chase the pro diamond dream over the college gridiron.

Redlands has produced other major leaguers.

Included on that list is undrafted second baseman Julio Cruz (Mariners, White Sox, Dodgers), plus Seattle’s 1980 13th round pick southpaw pitcher Ed Vande Berg (Mariners, Dodgers, Indians and Rangers), not to mention Angels-Blue Jays catcher Dan Whitmer (a 1978 Angels’ draft pick), who worked Detroit’s bullpen when the Tigers won the 1984 World Series.

Who knows? If Nottingham had chosen football, he’d have likely been college teammates at some point with future Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.

But when the Houston Astros drafted him 167th overall in the sixth round in 2013, it didn’t take long for Nottingham to sign on June 14.

Even as a minor leaguer, Nottingham turned some heads. He was front and center in a couple of Money Ball transactions.

Money Ball definition: One of baseball’s newest and most notorious activities away from the diamond. It’s the art of dangling a major league product to a pennant-chasing franchise, but for the right cache of minor league prospects.

Nottingham was, apparently, just such a prospect.

NOTTINGHAM NETS KAZMIR FOR ASTROS

After a couple seasons in the Astros’ chain, Houston needed pitching at the major league level. They were in a heated pennant race. So they traded Nottingham to the Oakland A’s in exchange for southpaw pitcher Scott Kazmir, who was 108-96 with a 4.00 ERA over a dozen MLB seasons.

Scott Kazmir
Scott Kazmir, a veteran southpaw with a dozen years in major league baseball, landed at another team in a Money Ball exchange for Redlands product Jacob Nottingham (Photo byline unknown).

That July 23, 2015 move came when Houston’s Class A Lancaster team was hosting the Stockton Ports, the California League Class A affiliate of the A.s

All Nottingham had to do was switch locker rooms at the JetHawks’ stadium. Instead of heading to his Lancaster digs, he took the Stockton bus.

Traded for by A’s legendary Billy Bean, who authored Money Ball in the early 2000s, Nottingham was in a new stratosphere.

Billy_Beane_-_General_Manager_Oakland_As_(5964095428)
Billy Beane, the legendary “Money Ball” general manager of the Oakland A’s, was responsible for both trading for and trading away Redlands catcher Jacob Nottingham in notable deals. Photo by Oakland A’s

That wasn’t the end of his Beane’s transaction activity surrounding the Redlands prospect, either. Perhaps regarded as a future Oakland payoff at the MLB level, forget it. During the off-season between 2015 and 2016, Nottingham was shipped to the Milwaukee Brewers.

NOTTINGHAM NETS DAVIS FOR A’S

In return from the Brewers, Oakland received outfielder Khris Davis (145 home runs, .248 average over 5 MLB seasons), who would go on to smoke over 40 home runs in the next two seasons for the A’s.

Oakland Athletics
Oakland’s Khris_Davis, who has struck over 80 home runs in two seasons for Oakland, came to the A’s from Milwaukee by way of a trade … for Redlands’ Jacob Nottingham. Photo by Keith Allison

That Nottingham could fetch such nice prizes seems amazing.

Money Ball was certainly hot & heavy surrounding the Redlands prospect.

On Nov. 20, Nottingham kept smoking it to the top. The Brewers purchased his minor league contract, thus placing him on the 40-man roster – the ultimate for any prospect. He was one of five catchers – by far, the youngest on Milwaukee’s roster.

Over a five-year span with a handful of teams ranging from Rookie Ball to Low Class A to High Class A to Class AA, Nottingham had blasted 43 home runs and hit .238 (.325 OBP) in 424 professional games.

Think about this: Nottingham was a 2015 Quad Cities River Bandits (Midwest League) teammate of Alex Bregman, who played a part in the 2017 Houston Astros’ World Series championship.

Another Quad Cities teammate, Derek Fisher, slugged five HRs for the 2017 Astros.

Pitchers Joe Musgrove (7-8, 4.77 ERA), Frances Martes (5-2, 5.80), David Paulino (2-0, 6.52) and Raymin Guduan (0-0, 7.56) also logged MLB time with the series champs … off that River Bandits’ squad.

Another hurler, Daniel Mengden was one of those shipped to Oakland from Houston in the July 2015 Nottingham-Kazmir deal. Mengden finished 2017 with the A’s – 3-2, 3.17 ERA – while looking squarely into Oakland’s 2018 future as a starting pitcher.

By the time Houston had slipped past the Dodgers in the World Series, Nottingham was on a Brewers’ team looking to climb into contention. Heading into spring training, he was on the Brewers’ 40-man roster, claiming the organization’s 17th best prospect.

Beane. Kazmir. Davis. Mengden. Money Ball. Nottingham. A Redlands Connection.