Minor league notebook: Butch Hobson takes winding road back to affiliated baseball

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CEDAR RAPIDS — He’s 45 years older than some of them, but Butch Hobson believes he relates well with the players on his Kane County baseball team. That the Cougars are in first place two weeks into the Midwest League season kind of backs that up.

“They call me old man, but I like it,” the manager said with a smile. “I like it, got no problem with it. I go to the gym with them, work out with them.”

And teaches them. Hobson has had a few experiences in his extensive baseball career from which his guys can learn.

He played third base for the Boston Red Sox, California Angels and New York Yankees, managed the Red Sox in 1992, 1993 and 1994. An arrest after receiving a package of cocaine in a delivery to his hotel room cost him his job as skipper of Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 1996 and possibly another chance to manage or coach again in the big leagues.

Hobson spent the previous 16 years toiling as a manager in the independent Atlantic League but wasn’t retained by the Lancaster Barnstormers after last season. Still with the desire to stay in baseball, Hobson, 65, made a phone call to Arizona Diamondbacks farm director Mike Bell, who hired him to lead Kane County.

“I’m having fun,” Hobson said. “I’m at a point in my life where this keeps me young. I can’t walk steps anymore, and they won’t let me throw BP anymore. But I’m having fun. I’m just thankful that I’m able to still be here, in the game and a part of it.”

Hobson was a backup football quarterback in the 1970s at the University of Alabama under legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. But he quit that sport and became a baseball lifer.

It’s been quite a journey.

“When you grow up in Alabama, if you don’t play football, mama don’t feed you,” he said. “I got the chance to play for Bear Bryant, every young man’s dream in Alabama, but baseball’s been a big part of my life, and I hope I can keep doing it for a long time. I try and learn something new about the game every day. I think that’s kind of what keeps me going. I don’t think you can ever learn everything about it. You see things that can help you teach these kids the game and help them develop their talent, and that’s a lot of fun.

“I had a chance to play with a lot of great players, for a lot of great managers. Managed a lot of great players. Anything I can pass on experience wise, good or bad, is important. I got the opportunity, and I want every one of these young men to have the opportunity.”

How they're doing

Joel Booker (University of Iowa)

The outfielder had back-to-back three-hit games last week to raise his batting average to .373 in 16 games for low-A Kannapolis (White Sox). Has nine RBIs and five stolen bases.

Matt Dermody (University of Iowa)

Relief pitcher is back with Triple-A Buffalo after making one appearance for the Toronto Blue Jays, in which he allowed four hits, three home runs and five earned runs in one-third of an inning.

Jon Keller (Cedar Rapids Xavier)

Right-handed pitcher is struggling at Double-A Bowie (Orioles), where he is 0-1 with a 30.00 ERA in four relief appearances. Has allowed seven hits, walked nine and struck out none in three innings.

Mitch Keller (Cedar Rapids Xavier)

Righty starter allowed seven hits and two runs over six innings in his only start this week for high-A Bradenton (Pirates). In three starts this season, has 1-1 record and 5.02 ERA.

Derrick Loveless (Solon)

Outfielder is hitting .304 in 15 games for high-A Dunedin (Blue Jays), with nine RBIs.

A.J. Puk (Cedar Rapids Washington)

Left-hander has pitched in three games, with two starts, for high-A Stockton (Athletics) and has a 0.75 ERA. In 12 innings, he has allowed just four hits and three walks, striking out 20.

Scott Schebler (Cedar Rapids Prairie)

The Cincinnati Reds outfielder came into Saturday hitting .164 in 16 games, with three home runs and seven RBIs.

Jake Yacinich (University of Iowa)

Shortstop is 6-for-40 (.150) in 12 games for high-A Inland Empire (Angels).

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