Rodger’s Diary – Asheville Tourists – 2008 – More June 8- 9th

In an earlier article, “Look Homeward Angel,” I told you how great I thought the city of Asheville and surrounding mountains were. If I had my druthers, I would have been content to stay and shoot
photograph of the Low A – Rockies Asheville Tourists and other SALLY teams visiting Asheville all summer.

Tourists General Manager Larry Hawkins and the front office staff, team manager Joe Mikulik (although he didn’t like my Oklahoma cap very much because he‘s a diehard Texas fan), pitching coach Doug Linton, hitting coach Houston Jimenez, and all the Tourist players were great to me during my three day stay.
I want to say, “thank you,” to you all for a good time. You’re good people!

JhoulysDarin
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Very near to clinching the Southern Division SALLY League first half championship with a 46-24 W-L record, yet unbelievably only a game in front of the Yankees’ Charleston River Dogs, the Tourists are pitching and playing almost flawless baseball offensively and defensively.

Seven Tourists were named to the league’s Southern Division All Star team: pitchers Jhoulys Chacin, Joey Williamson and Randall Taylor, infielders Darin Holcomb and Everth Cabrera, and outfielders Brian Rike and Michael Mitchell. Joe Mikulik will serve as manager, and Doug Linton, pitching coach. In recognition of his 10-1 W-L record, 2.10 ERA in 98.2 IP, RHP Chacin was named Southern Division starting pitcher.

The Tourists are also blessed with Baseball America Colorado Rockies’ top prospects: #14 OF Brian
Rike, #18 RHP Jhoulys Chacin, #23 SS Helder Velaquez, #26 C Lars Davis, #29 RHP Connor Graham, and #30 RHP Cory Riordan.

I think overlooked for prospect status and playing good ball are position players, 3B Darin Holcomb, who is hitting 332 BA, 9 HR, and 53 RBI in 265 AB, CF Michael Mitchell, who is hitting 325 BA, 3 HR, 27 RBI in 246 AB, Kevin Clark, 309 BA in 188 AB, 8 HR, 33 RBI, and 1B Jeffrey Cunningham, who is hitting 260 BA, with 12 HR and 54 RBI in 242 AB. RHP Sheng-An Kuo (8-4, 3.82 ERA), Joey Williamson (2-0, 1.90 ERA), and Randall Taylor (1-1, 2.57 ERA) are also deserving some recognition.

On Saturday, I saw Asheville Mayor Terry M. Bellamy, and Tourists’ GM Larry Hawkins present retired Tourists’ #50 jersey to former SALLY President, John Henry Moss in recognition of his 50 years – service as league president.

Rodger’s Diary – Ogden Raptors 2008

You wouldn’t believe the fun I had with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Rookie A Pioneer League Ogden Raptors the two days I was at Lindquist Field in July.

President/Chairman Dave Baggott, GM Joey Stein, and Marketing Adam Turner greeted me cordially at the door, manager Mike Brumley, batting coach Michael Boughton, and pitching coach Craig Bjornson gave me the right away to take my photos, and the Raptors treated me like a member of the family, joking around before games, inviting me to sit in their dugout to shoot pictures during the game, showing me how they could raise their caps with hot air coming out of their ears, and generally making me feel at home. I hated to leave Lindquist Field for Salt Lake City, Orem, and Boise when it was time to go.

While 19-19 W-L and 500 the first half, I think the Raptors will come back strong the second half. Mike Brumley and his staff will develop these youngsters into strong contenders.

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They have a pair of strong starters in RHP Geison Aquasviva, (3-2 W-L 3.35 ERA) and RHP Michael Watt (4-3, 3.46 ERA).

They’re strong up the middle with catcher Matt Wallach (293 BA, 3 HR, and 20 RBI), shortstop Devaris Gordon (304 BA, 1 HR, 16 RBI), outfielder Kyle Russell (306 BA, 7 HR, and 34 RBI) and at the hot corner with Dodgers’ #10 BA prospect, Pedro Baez (276 BA, 6 HR, and 33 RBI).

And they are stacked with lots of high 2008 draft picks – #3 Kyle Russell out of Texas, #5 RHP Jon Michael Redding, out of Florida CC, #8 OF Nick Buss from USC, #9 Steven Casceres from James Madison, #12 3B Austin Yount, who you can look at and tell immediately is a Yount, from Stanford, #14 Clay Calfee, OF from Angelo State (Texas), and #23 Brian Ruggiano 2B out of Texas A&M, all of whom could find themselves again before the end of the season.

Rodger’s Diary – You Gotta Like The Billings Mustangs This Year!

I love rookie ball! If I had my druthers, I would stay out west all summer to photograph young Pioneer League ball players at Ogden and Orem every day. They are new to professional baseball, enthusiastic, and anxious to do well. They put out 120 % effort but still make little league mistakes, which make the games more exciting.
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Playing with lots of heart and talent, college kids who Reds brass filled the roster of their Pioneer League Rookie A Billings Mustangs up with this season are making them look good.

Led by experienced savvy veteran manager Julio Garcia, pitching coach Tom Browning, who’s been to the show a few times, and batting coach Tony Jaramillo, these youngsters are playing heads up ball and won the first half Pioneer League Northern Division title.

Their every day lineup is packed with some hitting punch and sound defense.

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View the 2008 Billings Mustangs galleries.

#6 draft pick, Alex Buchholz out of Delaware University, is showing a good glove at 2B and hitting a ton (366 BA, 3 HR, and 20 RBI in 82 AB).

Pioneer League player of the week, OF Tony Brown is the team slugger with 10 HR, 35 RBI, and a respectable 270 BA.

Catcher Kyle Day, drafted out 12th of Michigan State, is strong behind the plate and hitting 324 BA, 1 HR, 7 RBI in 74 AB in 20 games played.

Outfielders, #9 David Sappelt, from Coastal Carolina, is playing flawless defense and hitting 318, 4 HR, and 23 RBI, while OF Tyler Stovall , out of Central Michigan, is holding his own, hitting 349 BA, 1 HR, 13 RBI in 106 AB

A grandson of one of my favorite pitchers in the 50s who was also the ace of the 1950 Philadelphia Whiz Kids, 1B Mike Konstanty, #19 from Albany U, is showing power at the plate, hitting 314 BA with 5 HR, and 24 RBI.

The key to Billings’ strength is steady pitching, which Coach Browning has patiently nurtured along this season. RHP Jamie Arneson (4-1, 4.43), RHP Leonardo Astorga (3-1, 2.45 ERA in 40.1 IP), RHP Dan Zeffiro (2-0, 2.84 ERA in 25.1 IP), RHP Lance Janke (3-1, 4.31 ERA in 39.2 IP) and RHP Randall Linebraugh RHP 1-2, 3.14 ERA in 14.1 IP) are bearing the fruit of his labor.

Rodger’s Diary – 2008 Tri-Cities Dust Devils

Although I saw a couple high 2008 Rockies draft picks, #1 LHP Christian Friedrich and #2 draft pick OF Charles Blackmon play with the Tri Cities Dust Devils at Boise last month, I was also impressed with a couple low round Rockies draft picks, #36th Patrick Rose and #45 Brad McAtee.

36th round pick Patrick Rose, a speedy outfielder drafted out of UC, Santa Barbara, and no relation to Pete Rose, is hitting 275 BA, 1 HR, and 14 RBI in 33 GP.

Christian Friedrich
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#45 Round, RHP Brad McAtee, drafted out of UC Davis, is 3-3 W-L, 2.79 ERA in 29.0 IP.

The high picks are doing well too. Eastern Kentucky LHP Christian Friedrich is 1-0 W-L, 5.03 ERA, in 19.2 IP .

Overqualified I think for rookie ball, Georgia Tech OF Charles Blackmon is hitting 327 BA, 0 HR, and 19 RBI in 39 GP.

Patrick Rose

There were other young Rockies there worth noting. Bo Bowman, who since has been promoted to Low A – Asheville, was hitting 338 BA, 5 HR, and 13 RBI in 21 GP at Tri Cities, and pitchers, RHP Parker Frazier, a hard throwing right hander, is 3-2 W-L, with a 3.36 ERA, in 48 IP. Juan Nicasio, who threw the night I was at Boise, is 2-3, 4.55 ERA in 31.2 IP but typically is not provided it seems with much defensive support.

It was great to see some more old friends again, Dust Devils’ manager Fred Ocasio, batting coach Anthony Sanders, and pitching coach Dave Schuler. I have known Dave Schuler since he was a young pitching coach at Prince William, VA teaching future Yankees lefthander, Andy Pettite, how to pitch and Anthony Sanders since he was a quiet young outfielder coming up through the Blue Jays minor league system at Hagerstown in 1995.