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Cardiff’s Barry Axelrod, center, a longtime baseball agent, is seen with two of his former clients, Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell, left, and Craig Biggio. Axelrod is part of the Major League Beginnings podcast, which recently made its debut. Courtesy photo
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Sports Talk: Ex-agent Axelrod pitches in to make baseball podcast a hit

America’s pastime should borrow the podcast name of an endeavor featuring two North County baseball insiders: Major League Beginnings.

The fussin’ and fightin’ between team owners and players has paused with baseball set to return in July.

In June, Major League Beginnings had its debut and that tells its tale as well.

“It is the individual story about the person,” said Mark Sweeney, the former Padre and a Carmel Valley resident. “There’s not a lot of numbers, not a lot of stats. Instead it’s the person talking about themselves and how they got started.”

It’s a three-person project that peeks into baseball’s three-ring circus. Cardiff’s Barry Axelrod, a legendary agent, and Mike Pomeranz, a colleague of Sweeney’s at Fox Sports San Diego, complete the lineup.

“It’s very unique to have someone like Barry and his ability to be a contributor is huge,” Sweeney said.

Alxerod represented Sweeney for the majority of his 14-year career, which ended with Sweeney collecting the second-most pinch-hits in history. Alxerod’s stories collected over his long run provide a perfect side dish on podcasts that feature Cardiff’s Dave Roberts and Del Mar’s Trevor Hoffman.

Major League Beginnings reveals the winding path players took to reach their dream.

“I’m always fascinated about the stories of when the player gets the call to come to the majors,” Axelrod said. “And the different ways their managers told them.”

Former big-leaguer Mark Grace, who played at San Diego State and resided for years in North County, had  his hotel phone ring at 2 a.m. Prior to his manager’s call, Grace had heard last call at a watering hole.

“Grace didn’t believe him and hung up on him,” said Axelrod, who was the first baseman’s agent.

The Astros’ Craig Biggio was also in Axelrod’s Rolodex. Before becoming a Hall of Famer, Biggio was in Triple-A earning his stripes.

“He’s in Tuscon in the middle of the summer when the manager told him,” Axelrod said. “His mother was with him, but they had trouble getting a hold of his father — there were no cellphones.

“His father was driving from New York to Tucson. When he finally calls he’s in New Mexico and tells Craig that it’s 500 degrees in his car.”

Biggio had flipped its seat warmers on during the offseason and pops was clueless on how to switch them off. That was offset by him changing destinations.

Axelrod’s players loved having him at the wheel.

While Axelrod was a strong advocate, they knew of his love for the game and its stewards.

“When I signed my final contract it was for two years with the Giants,” Sweeney said. “A player in my position didn’t get too many two-year deals but that’s what Barry got me. After the negotiations, the Giants told me how much they respected Barry.”

Axelrod stopped representing players in 2011 after Kevin Towers, the ex-Padres general manager then living in Leucadia, became the GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Axelrod shed his agent’s skin to join someone who was once on the opposite side of bargaining table.

“I was tired of it anyway,” said Axelrod, who remains an agent for entertainers such as TV’s Mark Harmon. “I never recruited players; I just relied on word of mouth. The competition to be an agent was getting pretty heavy, so it was a good time to get out.”

Fortunately for Major League Beginnings and its listeners, Axelrod didn’t leave his countless stories behind.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] Follow him @jparis_sports.

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