LA Angels News

The California League is a true family affair.

By David Rice
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA - AUGUST 18: A general view of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes during a minor league game at Rancho Cucamonga Epicenter on August 8, 1994 in Rancho Cucamonga, California. (Photo by J.D. Cuban/Getty Images)
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA - AUGUST 18: A general view of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes during a minor league game at Rancho Cucamonga Epicenter on August 8, 1994 in Rancho Cucamonga, California. (Photo by J.D. Cuban/Getty Images) /
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The California League has been around for 78 years since its inception in 1941.  According to league president Charlie Blaney 2,867 players who have played in the Cal League have made it to the majors.

For Charlie Blaney being president of the California League is more than a job, it is a labor of love and a true family affair for him.

“This job is the culmination of everything I have done in my career. I’m a minor league guy,” said Blaney of his role as league president. “This is the perfect crowning of the 32 years of experience I had with the Dodgers working with their minor leagues. I love it.”

Blaney has a long history in baseball mostly in Dodgers organization as he worked for the them from 1966 to 1998. Blaney worked in their minor league system from 1966-1974 as general manager of Dodger minor league teams from Single-A all the way to Triple-A.  He then took over as the director of Dodgertown from 1974-1987, before assuming a role as the Vice President of Minor League Operations for the Dodgers from 1987 until 1998.

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During that time Blaney was in that role the Dodgers had five straight Rookie of the Year Awards.  He knows so many players who have come through the Dodgers organization through the years. Names like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Mike Scioscia, Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, and later on Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, and Eric Karros.

In addition he worked with Tommy Lasorda and personally knows Vin Scully.  Blaney also helped the Angels by giving former Angel manager Mike Scioscia his first coaching job as a roving catching instructor for the Dodgers and he later hired Scioscia to be a minor league manager for the Dodgers.

“I always had my eye on him and thought he (Mike Scioscia) would make a great manager one day, ” Blaney said. “So when he retired as a player I called him up and asked him if he would like to be the roving catching instructor for the Dodgers.  He took it and the rest was history.”

Blaney’s time with the Dodgers ended in 1998, as did many Dodgers executives, when Rupert Murdoch and Fox bought the Dodgers and cleaned house of most of Peter O’Malley’s staff including Blaney.

“It was tough. When you work with any organization for 32 years it is difficult to leave, but it’s part of the game,” said Blaney of his dismissal. “When new ownership comes in they have the right to do what they want to so you move on.”

Blaney then went into semi-retirement for the next 11 years helping different minor leagues by putting together their schedules for the season.  His other job was being a crew member on whale watching tour boats a few times a week upon his relocation to Oxnard.

Then in 2009 the California League came calling as the then-president Joe Gagliardi was stepping down after 28 years at the helm. Blaney jumped at the opportunity.

“I was very blessed that the California League decided to hire me. It was a perfect fit for me at this point of my career,” Blaney said. “This is the perfect crowning for my career in baseball as I have always been a minor league. If you truly love what you are doing, then you never work a day in your life.  That’s how I feel now.”

In total Blaney, now 81 years old, has worked in minor league baseball for 52 years. He was honored a couple of years ago for 50 years of minor league service as seen here in this picture, thanks to Josh Jackson of Milb.com

When you talk to Blaney you can truly see the love he has for his job. He always goes that extra mile to make sure all the Cal League players are taken care of and appreciated. He even writes a personal note to every player from the league that makes it to the majors. Blaney said he wrote 87 of those notes last season alone to players who made it to “The Show” on 2018.

“This is the big reason why I like doing this job because I love helping the players reach the major league level. The opportunity is here to make it to the big leagues,” Blaney said. “We have had 31 Cal League players that were major league Rookies of the Year, 21 have won MVP, 19 Cy Young Award winners, and 19 have made the baseball Hall of Fame including Rollie Fingers who was honored tonight.”

Blaney talks about his role as league president.

“The owners hired me to oversee the league and make sure that everyone is doing what they should be doing. Both players, coaches, and managers on the field, and the front office staff,” Blaney said. “Our goal is to provide good clean, wholesome family entertainment for our fans. I am the ‘Top Cop’. I make sure everyone behaves themselves. I am the disciplinarian. I have been fortunate and blessed to have six kids and I treat them the same way I treat the ball players.”

What is even more special to Blaney is that his right-hand man is his own son Matt Blaney, who is the director of operations for the Cal League.

“He (Matt Blaney) is ‘Mr. Inside’. He runs the office and does the payroll and all the finances. He works with the general managers making sure alll their needs are taken care of,” said Blaney of his son Matt’s role with the league. “I’m ‘Mr. Outside’. I visit all the clubs and work with all the owners. I take care of everything that goes on, on the field. We really work well together with those two roles.”

It is the dream of most fathers to have their son take an interest in what they do and follow in their footsteps. For Blaney it is that and more.

“He (Matt) grew up with the game going with me to Spring Training and working out on the field players growing up it is in his blood,” Blaney said. “Baseball has been his whole life just like it has been mine and that is very special to me that he shares the love of the game with me.”

Both Blaney and his son Matt were on hand at the California League All-Star Game on Tuesday mostly as observers to make sure things were running smoothly. From the Home Run Derby, Hall of Fame Ceremony, and the post-game awards presentation both father and son were there to make sure things went off without a hitch.

A picture I took with Blaney the night of the Cal League All-Star Game.

Blaney said he was very impressed with the event that the Inland Empire 66ers put together as hosts. “They did a great job and I’m glad that it came back here this year,” Blaney said.

The younger Blaney, Charlie’s son Matt was very pleased with this year’s all-star festivities as well.

“Events like this are great for our league. They do such a good job here at making it great experience for the fans,” Matt Blaney said.

Matt Blaney has always been around baseball because of his dad and his love for the game was fostered at young age by traveling with his dad around the minor leagues.

“I am one of six kids, and am the only one who really got into baseball, so my dad would take me with him on the road to all these stadiums.  I would shag balls and take batting practice,” Matt Blaney said. “It was intimidating some times. When I was a little kid I remember vividly going out on the field In Bakersfield with guys like Mike Piazza, Eric Karros, and Pedro Martinez and they were fist pumping me.  I would take batting practice with them and Eric Karros gave me batting tips. It is a very intimidating for a 10-year to go through, but I loved every minute of it..”

Matt Blaney continued with his love for baseball playing in high school and then college as a pitcher. In 2001 after he graduated college Blaney played in the minor leagues from 2001-2004 for both the Dodgers and Angels.

Then following in his dad’s footsteps he got a job as a scout for the Reds for a year, before getting an internship with the Dodgers. That position would lead to a job in baseball operations for them which Blaney held until 2007 when he became scout for the Montreal Expos just before they became the Washington Nationals for two seasons.

In 2009 just after his dad was hired as the California League president, Matt Blaney received a call from his father asking him if he wanted a job as the Director of Operations of the California League. This was music the younger Blaney’s ears as he had wanted to come back to California. Working with his dad was the icing on the cake.

“It was a dream come true when my dad called me about working with him.  He had always been such a great role model to me and to have a chance to work with him was very special,” said the younger Blaney. “Being able to drive places with him around the league and just talk baseball is a true blessing.  His love of the game is contagious. He truly loves his job and so do I. It’s been really great to work with him.”

Matt Blaney’s role as Director of Operations for the Cal League has many facets.  Blaney has held the position for 10 years just like his father has held the president’s role.

“One of my biggest responsibilities is to handle the umpires making sure they get what they need. I also am in charge of the 45 players in the all-star game making sure they get here, contacting the farm directors of each time to clear them and talk to the team’s to make sure they are healthy enough to play,” Matt Blaney said. “I am also the liaison between the teams and minor league baseball. There are certain rules that have to be followed and I make sure they do that.”

Working with his father has made it a true family affair in the California League which is the mentality that both he and his dad have in mind as they run the league.

“We have such a great atmosphere in the California League. We try to make it somewhere you can take your family that is relatively affordable,” Matt Blaney said. “It is basically like a fair with a baseball game in the middle of it. They have a lot of contests and promotions that our teams come up with that make things interesting.

“In minor league baseball you can do so many things that you can’t do in the major leagues. You also get a chance to see a lot of major league players who are rehabbing here that makes it even better. When you come here to a game your family will always remember going to a game in the Cal League.”

So who was the player Matt Blaney remembers the most? One of our favorite Halos.

“When I was in my first year here Mike Trout came through the Cal League as an 18-year old kid. He was only here a month or two months, but I remember everything he hit, he hit hard,” said Blaney of Trout. “If he got out I’m surprised he didn’t burn a hole in someone’s glove. He was someone special, he was fun to watch. When he hit the ball you would watch it and all the sudden he would be on second base. That’s something I still remember 10 years later.”

“Mike Trout is also a class act which makes it even better. A lot of guys when they reach the big leagues their egos can go with it to that big league level, but that hasn’t happened with Mike Trout and that truly makes him even more special.”

As for his future in the Cal League Matt Blaney said he plans to be here for awhile.

“It’s been 10 years and I don’t have any plans on leaving. I love it, my office is right on the water in Oxnard, I get to come out here and watch baseball, go down on the field and meet players. I love it here,” Blaney said. “I love working for my dad. We get to talk a lot and work closely together and I can’t imagine anything being better than working side-by-side with your dad.”

The California League is a true family affair. If you’re looking for something to do on a Friday night or any day for that matter bring your friends, or your family out to the Cal League. You will not regret it, just ask the Blaney’s.

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