EDITOR’S NOTE: The Huntington Cubs minor league baseball team began play at St. Cloud Commons 30 years ago this month.
The club was popular in its five years in the city, drawing crowds among the leaders in the Appalachian League. A lack of suitable facilities and the Chicago Cubs’ desire to consolidate minor league operations, however, led to the franchise’s demise.
HD Media is looking back at the history of the franchise.
HUNTINGTON — As a manager in Huntington, Steve Roadcap helped minor league baseball players reach the Chicago Cubs.
Now, as a professional scout, he helps them become Cincinnati Reds.
Roadcap, who lives with wife Connie in Elkview, was the first manager of the Huntington Cubs, guiding the club in 1990 and 1991. His squads went 40-29 and 25-42 before Chicago moved him to its Class A affiliate in Peoria, Illinois. Roadcap said he cherishes him time in Huntington.
“I have great memories of being there,” Roadcap said on Monday. “Moving from Wytheville, Virginia, to Huntington was two different scenarios. We had 4,000 people for our first game in Huntington. I’m not sure we drew 4,000 in a month in Wytheville. The enthusiasm and an environment was tremendous.”
Roadcap mentioned several people — general manager Ed Poppiti , assistant GM Bud Bickel, radio play-by-play men Kurt Pickering and Matt Vasgersian, front office employee Lisa Piepenbrink and others. He fondly recalled the support fans gave the team and interacting with them during the team’s more than 100-yard walk from the clubhouse to the ballpark.
“Everybody was great to me,” Roadcap said. “There were a lot of positive people there.”
Roadcap, 59, recalled many of the players he managed in Huntington, from star third baseman Jose Viera to opening-day starter Dave Stevens, whom Roadcap removed in the sixth inning of the first game, even though the future big-leaguer was throwing a no-hitter.
“Fans didn’t understand that even though we want to win, the fans want to win and the front office wants to win, in the minor leagues it’s about development,” Roadcap said. “Fans will question you, but they don’t know that there are some guys [because of directives from the major league team’s front office] you can’t pinch-hit for. Maybe you leave a guy in against left-handers because they want to see if he can get left-handers out.”
Roadcap, pitching coach and former major leaguer the late Ray Sadecki and coach Gil Kubski were popular with players and fans.
After spending time managing in the Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies organizations, Roadcap accepted a job as a pro scout with the Reds. He scouts the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals big league teams, as well as various minor league affiliates. When the Reds consider a trade with one of those clubs, Roadcap has a say in it.
The job involves much more than just putting eyeballs on players and writing saying “yea” or “nay.” Roadcap does extensive behind-the-scenes work on the player’s makeup and often is given a list of multiple players to evaluate before a trade is consummated.
Reds general manager Nick Krall hired Roadcap.
“He told me being a pro scout is the second-best job in baseball,” Roadcap said. “If you can’t be in the big leagues, it’s the next-best job.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a crimp in that job, but with the season slated to begin in less than one month, Roadcap figures to be on the road again.
“Is this what retirement is going to be like?” Roadcap asked, rhetorically. “This is the longest I’ve been home in years.”
Working for the Reds, though, allowed Roadcap the freedom to watch his son Seth play at Capital High School. The Reds drafted the Cougars star catcher in 2014, but he opted to attend college rather than sign.
Roadcap said he hopes to see Marshall University build a baseball stadium soon and would love to see minor league baseball return to Huntington, although with proposed cuts to farm systems that’s less likely than it might have been at this time last year.
“It’s a shame Huntington doesn’t have minor league baseball, especially when you look at some of the places that do,” Roadcap said. “The team went so quickly for whatever reasons that it was a shock.”