The cat’s out of the bag now, so I’ll go ahead and tell you about the most recent secret I was sworn to keep.
Jason Botts is no longer a Ranger. He’s going to Japan this week.
One of the great things — no, the greatest thing — about being an intense observer and amateur reporter on the Rangers minor league system over the past many years has been getting to know some of these young players and their families. Some have become good friends. Some have become family. Jason Botts and his mother Judy have become family.
So while I am thrilled for Botts on one hand because he’s going to be in a much better situation, I am also saddened to a degree.
Bottsy heads off to the Nippon Ham Fighters where their former manager Trey Hillman — who regards Botts as one of his sons — had placed on the Fighters’ watch list for the past couple of years. For the first time in a long time, Botts is going to play in an organization that isn’t ambivalent about him. They really, really want him.
For the past three years or so, I’ve compared Botts to Lee Stevens and now the comp bears more weight than ever. Stevens, whose career stalled in the Angels organization, went off to Japan for a couple of years and returned to enjoy a nice six-year run in the big leagues with Texas and Montreal.
Botts will be signed to a contract with Nippon through this year and 2009 and I expect that he’ll have opportunities to sign an MLB contract with someone in 2010 — if that’s what he wants. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Jason — who has a love of life, people and new experiences — establishes himself as a beloved icon in Nippon that virtually prevents him from ever leaving.
Either way, this is a great opportnity for an old friend and I wish him all the best. Here at the Farm Report, we honor our alumni and keep track of them. So forgive me in advance if from time to time you see a Jason Botts note pop up on this blog.