Ex-big-leaguer Trout commits to Engel Clinics

Chattanooga Times Free Press
August 9, 2009
by Ron Bush

Chattanooga's historic minor league baseball stadium is getting some major league help.

Former big-league pitcher Steve Trout visited Engel Stadium on Saturday and agreed to head a series of fall youth clinics at the 79-year-old ballpark. He committed no other specific major leaguers for the clinics, but such former players as Jay Johnstone and Willie Wilson work with him regularly, he said, and others from the major league alumni group will come if he calls.

Another frequent clinic associate is Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, who won 10 games for the Chattanooga Lookouts in 1964, and Trout said "there's a good chance" Jenkins would come back to his old Class AA home.

Trout himself visited Engel with Knoxville in 1978 before he was called up to the Chicago White Sox, "and I'm sure my dad (Dizzy) played here in the old barnstorming tours," he said.

Most of the left-handed son's big-league career was with the two Chicago teams. With the Cubs in 1984 he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves before Albert Hall broke it up.

The Trouts hold some father-son MLB pitching records. Dizzy, a two-time All-Star, was a Detroit Tigers broadcaster after retiring as a player. Interestingly, he hosted a children-oriented radio sports show called "The Knot-Hole Gang."

Longtime Lookouts fans fondly recall the kids' "Knothole Gang" created by Joe Engel, the late team owner and master promoter for whom the old stadium is named.

Steve Trout, who splits time between Sarasota, Fla., and Chicago, wound up in Chattanooga through a connection with former CADAS executive director Terry Shapiro, who now works at a facility in Chicago but served as a Cubs scout in Colombia for a time. Shapiro called Janna Jahn, a fired-up volunteer with the new Save Engel Foundation, and said Trout could be hooked for the cause.

"I'm not Cal Ripken or the Doyle brothers. I don't do baseball camps full time," Trout said Saturday. "But I've done camps all over the country and in other places like Bogota and Panama. I was able to do this, so let's go."

After the Saturday morning gathering, where Trout agreed to clinics on Oct. 31, Nov. 21 and Dec. 12, Jahn expressed excitement.

"I feel we finally have traction around something -- a way to move forward, generating some interest and community involvement in Engel again," she said. "It's starting to come together beautifully -- the idea of kids playing on the field again. That's what Engel should be about."

Jahn contends that "the community, with a capital C" is the one entity that can create momentum for the stadium in the immediate future. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is taking over the stadium but doesn't have all the property issues finalized. Tennessee Temple has been handling field upkeep while leasing the stadium from Chattanooga and Hamilton County, and the government entities have in effect yielded control to the two schools.

Jahn said having administrators from both universities present Saturday, plus Temple baseball coach Drew Whitley, who oversees stadium access for now, was very positive.

One of those was Dr. Richard Brown, UTC vice chancellor, who noted that he played at Engel as a youth-leaguer and wants to save the stadium. While it needs considerable cleanup and fix-up work, he said it's in much better shape than a lot of people think.

"The Save the Stadium committee has started feasibility studies on its structural soundness, and right now those look promising," Brown said. "And the seating is in great shape. It just needs a little cleaning and painting. There's a lot of exciting things we can do with this stadium."

Article courtesy of Chattanooga Times Free Press: http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2009/aug/09/Bush-big-leaguer-trout-commits-to-engel-clinics/

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