When Nick Maronde took Scott Downs‘ spot on the Angels’ roster Monday, there was a neighborly vibe to the transaction. Not just because the two left-handed pitchers had lockers tucked into the same corner of the Angels’ clubhouse the last two seasons; Downs lives about five minutes away from Maronde’s parents in Lexington, Kentucky.
Maronde, 24, said the 37-year-old Downs was a mentor to him, sometimes in the off-season as well.
When he learned that Downs had been traded Monday, Maronde said, “I texted him and thanked him for all he’s done for me. I want to keep in touch. He’s a wealth of knowledge.”
The Kentucky connections run deep in the Angels’ clubhouse. According to baseball-reference.com, seven players from Lexington have appeared in a major-league game since the 2000 season. Two play for the Angels, Maronde and outfielder Collin Cowgill.
Three other Lexingtonians are still active in the game: Washington Nationals pitcher Tyler Clippard, Texas Rangers pitcher Robbie Ross and Miami Marlins outfielder Austin Kearns. Maronde attended the same high school (Lexington Catholic) as Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Ben Revere (who was born in Atlanta, Georgia). Downs is originally from Louisville, but later moved to Lexington. Maronde said Downs’ son attends the same middle school he did.
Downs and Angels pitcher Joe Blanton — who’s from Bowling Green, about three hours southwest of Lexington — both starred at the University of Kentucky. That’s a lot of baseball blood running through the Bluegrass State.
“It comes and goes in waves,” Cowgill said.
While Kentucky has some baseball talent, Cowgill said that many youth leave the state at some point because of the weather.
He recalled some particularly harsh winters that left him and his teammates shoveling snow from their high school baseball field in February. Cowgill’s alma mater, Henry Clay High School in Lexington, had an indoor batting cage, but most youth in Kentucky can’t practice in the fall and winter if they stay in-state.
So they head for the warmer climes of Georgia and Florida, and rarely attend the University of Kentucky. “It’s hard for UK to pull those kids,” Cowgill said.
A good example of that is Maronde, whom the Angels drafted out of the University of Florida in 2011.
But his parents stayed in Lexington, where Maronde said he’ll run into Downs if he goes to visit.
“We watched a couple of UK games together,” Maronde said.