The Chicago White Sox can only hope they acquired the superstar prospect they bargained for last December when trading ace left-hander Chris Sales to the Boston Red Sox for Yoan Moncada, and three other young minor league players.
Why would the Red Sox give up on the 21-year old, switch hitting Cuban exile they reportedly paid $31.5 millions dollars to sign less than two years ago.
His future is still touted. At Low A – Greenville in 2015, he hit 278 BA, 8 HR and 38 RBIs in 306 AB in 81 GP, at Fast A – Salem in 2016, 307 BA, 4 HR, 34 RBI in 228 AB in 61 GP, and second half 2016, at AA- Portland, 277 BA, 11 HR, 28 RBI in177 AB in 45 GP.
Baseball soothsayers still report Moncada is the next best thing since sliced bread. He is rated BA 2nd best of its top 100 2017 major-league prospects, the White Sox’s BA #1 prospect and a five tool player ready to explode onto the major league scene. He is also on display on the cover of Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
Did the Red Sox sour on the young prospect during his 8 GP trial with the parent club last September, when tried at 3B, he hit only a double and three singles in 19 AB in 8 GP, and did not show the power aptitude for 3B play or as Dustin Pedroia’s replacement at 2B.
Maybe Red Sox development folks thought Moncada expendable after watching 20-year old 2017 BA Red Sox #2 prospect, 3B Rafael Devers’ rapid development at Fast A- Salem in 2016. I was told by a major league scout at Frederick last season that Devers was the best player on the field, both teams considered.
Did it hurt Moncada striking out 12 of 19 AB at Boston, or 207 of 711 minor league AB and struggling with a low learning curve when given instruction by Red Sox hitting gurus trying to help him shorten his long swing to reach his power potential consistently against older, savvy Fast A and AA pitchers.
Did it hurt him showing a “me now” attitude in the minors, coming out for infield practice, a couple minutes after the 3B, SS, and 1B had already started the grounder warmups or struggling to accept coaching tips on how to play the Red Sox way.
Did it hurt the young prospect ignoring young kids (and adults) requests for autographs and a few minutes conversation at every park in the SALLY, Carolina, and Eastern League he played the past two seasons.
Will it hurt him at Chicago having to beat out hard hitting Todd Frazier or BA #13 White Sox prospect Trey Michalczewski at 3B or Bret Laurie at 2B.
An old baseball philosopher, Mark Twain, once spoke an adage which is applicable to young Moncada, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” You can measure how fast Moncada runs, how far he throws, how many fly balls he catches, and how many hr, and base hits he hits, but you cannot measure the size of his desire to win, or his effort to develop his unlimited skills by listening to folks who know.
As Carlos Beltran warned the world baseball when asked last July about the prospects the Yankees received in return in trade for Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and himself, “A prospect is a prospect. It doesn’t mean they’re going to become a player.”
The question about this young prospect’s future is still out there, Will Yoan Moncada knuckle down to be a bonafide major league star or be content to be just another also ran.
Just turned 19 years old on July 3rd, Dominican outfielder Yoan Aybar is just now starting to grow into his 5-tool talent at Boston Red Sox Rookie A – NY Penn League Lowell Spinners.
He swings hard, and shows potential for lots of home run and extra base power. He runs like a gazelle in the outfield and has the speed to steal bases. Possessing a strong arm, he can gun down runners from deep cf or rf corners, and if not an outfielder, he could conceivably be developed into a pitcher. The southpaw can play any outfield position but would excel in tough to handle rf, where the hard hit balls sometimes curve away from his left handed outfielders” gloves.
At Lowell this season, the still growing 6-2, 185 youngster is still struggling to cut his long swing down, while at the same time hitting 198 BA, 2 2B, 2 3B, a HR and driving in 7 rbi in 96 AB in 26 GP.
As a 16 and 17 year old in 2014 and 2015 seasons, he played with the Red Sox DSL affiliate hitting 271 BA, 0 HR, 26 RBI in 56 GP in 2014, and 268 BA, 0 HR, 16 RBI in 157 AB in 45 GP.
In February, 2016, Baseball America rated Yoan the Boston Red Sox 22nd highest prospect.
He is also working on the rudiments of playing the outfield at Lowell, where he has caught up with 60 fly balls in 215 IP, but because he can catch up to lots of balls that others cannot, missed 4 tough chances.With his strong arm, he has thrown out 2 runners trying to stretch hits into another base or score from second.
Yoan is the type of young man you want to see succeed. He has not mastered English yet but with a happy, smiling face, he communicates understanding and lots of good feelings to fans, teammates, coaches, and friends. He tries hard, catches on quickly and is eager to please. Although having to model my gyrations, he excelled in his photo shoot, doing as well as Jacoby Ellsbury and many other soon to be major leaguers did in the past, With a conscientious attitude, combined with talent, once he’ grasps the nuances of major league baseball, this youngsters’s way to the majors will be accelerated, someday, I hope to be one of the best right fielders in Fenway history..
I decided to pick up on my "Rodger’s Pick" article on this my second road trip of the 2016 season.
i have seen all of the Red Sox top pitching prospects Baseball America, ESPN, and other journals have touted this season, LHP Brian Johnson, and RHP Henry Owens at AAA Pawtucket, RHP Ty Buttrey and Teddy Stankiewicz and LHP William Jerez and Luis Ysla at AA Portland, LHP Trey Ball and RHP Michael Kopec at Salem and Lowell, RHP Anderson Espinoza at Low A -Greenville. While all of them have major league talent,they are struggling and are not ready for the bigs. There is an untouted 23-year RHP at AAA Pawtucket, however, who is showing signs he is nearly ready for Fenway Park..
Chandler Shepherd is the complete package. Red Sox fans will love him. He is a pit bull on the mound, capable of filling any hole on the Red Sox pitching staff. has a three pitch repertoire, low 90 FB, above average breaking ball, and effective change up. While Craig Kimbel isn’t abdicating his stopper role very soon or Junichi Tarawa his set up role, Shepherd would be great insurance for the 9th inning stopper and 8th inning set up man or any other role in the bull pen.
Off the mound he is a polite young man, who jells well with the fans, signing autographs by the droves,and appreciative of the opportunity baseball has given him to succeed. He gives 100% on every pitch. He hustles to cover the 1B bag on balls hit to his right, or plays at the plate.
After achieving 6 saves, 39K, 10 BB, 1.80 ERA in 30 IP in 22 appearances at AA – Portland this season, Shepherd was promoted to AAA Pawtucket where in 6 appearances, 9.2 IP, he proceeded to get a save, 5K, 2 BB.
The 6’3" RHP has been groomed to put out the fires in the late innings at the University of Kentucky in 2012 – 2014, where he started only 10 games in three seasons, and professional career with the Red Sox at NY/Penn League Rookie A – Lowell (2014), SALLY Low A Greenville, Fast A – Salem and Arizona Fall League Scottsdale in 2015 where he started one game in 83 GP.
He may be ready by the minor league callup deadline for going up to a 40-player roster September 1st, just in time to help the home team win their division and go strong into the playoffs.
By Rodger M. Wood
I hated to see the 2015 baseball season, my 32nd as a professional sports photographer, come to an end.
Getting an earlier start on my photography and being able to see 61 ball games, 37 different teams and shoot and edit over 45,000 photos in 12 different venues, ranging from down south in Kodak, Tennessee and Zebulon N.C. , northeast to Erie Pa, Syracuse, NY, and Burlington VT, and nearby in Frederick, Bowie, Aberdeen and Hagerstown, MD, Potomac, VA, Harrisburg, PA, and Washington, DC, in mostly nice bright day light, made it a glorious season.
I also felt extremely responsible, more animated with energy, and good about my photography shooting all those photos for Baseball America, Boston Baseball, Sporting News, Orioles Kids Magazine, Vine Line, Reds Report, and Leaf Baseball Cards.
At a Nationals game in May, I enjoyed meeting up with some old friends (but younger than me) Matt LeCroy, Randy Knorr, Steve McCatty, Michael Taylor and several other National players whom I saw grow up in the minors, including 2015 MVP Bryce Harper who feasted on Miami Marlins’ pitchers that day with three homers.
At the NY/PA League All Star Game at Aberdeen, MD in August, probably because I was the oldest photographer there and representing “Baseball America,” I loved being treated with the upmost respect and consideration by the many other press corp members and team representatives there. I enjoyed running the four young Lowell Spinner Boston Red Sox all stars, Josh Ockimey, Chad DeLaGuerra, Luis Alexander Basabe, and Victor Acosta, New York Yankees outfielder Jhalen Jackson, and Orioles shortstop Ricardo Andujar through my photography antics well before the game and later taking low light shots of other players during the game just like the good old days when I did that a lot.
Lowell 2015 NY PA League All Stars (l-r) Nick Faciana, Iggy Suarez, Josh Ockimey, Chad De La Guerra, Luke Murton, Lance Carter, Joe Oliver, Luis Alexander Basabe, Victor Acosta.
I enjoyed taking action photos of the AAA – Pawtucket Red Sox for “Boston Baseball” at Syracuse NY, action and posed of the Rookie A Lowell Spinners at Burlington, VT, and Aberdeen MD, Low A Greenville Drive at Hagerstown MD, and Fast A Salem Red Sox at Zebulon, NC, Frederick MD, and Potomac VA . I go way back to 1992, with the BB Managing Editor and Publisher, Michael Rutstein and always get hyped up when working for him and that Sports Illustrated quality magazine, which seems to get better and better every season.
I also enjoyed taking action shots of the young Cubs prospects at AA Tennessee Smokies at Kodak TN, and Fast A- Myrtle Beach Pelicans for the Chicago Cubs archives, Steve Green, Cubs team photographer, and Vine Line, the Cubs team magazine.
I enjoyed taking photos of young Orioles prospects, Trey Mancini, Parker Bridwell, and Mike Yastrzemski at Fast A- Frederick, Low A-Delmarva, AA Bowie, and Rookie A Aberdeen for editor Joe Cooney and the “Orioles Kids” Magazine.”
I enjoyed shooting my Bradley Zimmer prospect photos at Harrisburg PA and Lynchburg VA for my friends, Scott Smith, managing editor and Scott Greig, my photography editor at Sporting News Baseball Annal.,
I enjoyed seeing and taking photos of the young Washington Nationals prospects at AAA Syracuse NY, AA Harrisburg PA, Fast A Potomac, Low A Hagerstown MD, and Rookie A Aberdeen for possible use by the Washington Nationals in their “Minor League Report” which was shown on the big tele screen every home game at Nationals Stadium.
I enjoyed spending time with lots of old friends including Billy Gardner, AAA Syracuse manager, Mark Harris, AA Harrisburg hitting coach, Franklin Bravo, pitching coach at Fast A – Potomac, Keenie Steenstra pitching coach at Frederick Keys, Blaine Beatty, pitching coach at Low A – Delmarva, Alan Mills at AA Bowie Bay Sox, Ryan Minor manager at Low A Delmarva, Charles Poe, hitting coach and JR Perdue pitching coach at Fast A Winston Salem, Steve Luebber pitching coach at Fast A –Wilmington. Paco Figueroa, Fast A Frederick hitting coach, Carlos Febles manager, Jon Nunnally hitting coach Paul Abbot pitching coach, and Mickey Jiang, coach with the Salem Red Sox, and lots of other good friends it would take pages to list.
And most of all, I enjoyed talking with, teasing, and watching the young ball players, some of whom are designated below as “Rodger’s Picks,” develop their skills, die a million deaths with each bounce of the ball, and grow up playing the sometimes very cruel business and game of professional baseball at an early stage in their young lives. Not many of these young men will make the majors and it is sad to see most of them drop off the prospect radar but at least they can say they tried and enjoyed the opportunity of playing professional baseball at a level far in excess of most other folks playing the game, and stuck it out to the end.
I am going to list my top twelve (12) 2015 Season Rodger’s Picks below, who were my selections based on some valid and invalid criteria: talent, performance, likeability, hustle, hard play, and sportsmanship.
2015 Top Twelve (12) Rodger’s Picks
1. Trey Michalczewski, 3B, Fast A, Winston Salem Dash, Chicago White Sox
Trey first got my attention one day in July at Frederick MD when I saw the 20 year old dive to the ground to field a shot hit to his right, just inside the 3B bag, get up in a flash and throw the runner out at first. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a fantastic play, the best defensive play I had seen all season. He also hit for average (259 BA) and showed signs of power (35 2B 4 3B 7 HR) last season in 127 games played at Winston Salem against older, more savvy Fast A Carolina League pitchers. I think this youngster will be heir apparent to the Chicago White Sox hot corner in a couple seasons, even though they just traded for Reds 3B and home run and rbi leader Todd Frazier.
2. 2. Keon Bynum, 1B, Fast A Winston Salem Dash, Chicago White Sox
Twenty-two year, White Sox 1B and DH prospect Keon Bynum was the only hitter I photographed last season who was smiling when he ripped a double down the first base line for extra bases. Tested by tough Fast A Carolina League pitchers, he hit 24 2B, 9 HR, and drove 67 RBI in 105 games played at Winston Salem in 2015. In a season or two, after he shortens his swing and cuts down on strike outs, he will win a job with the parent White Sox. He has the power to be both a home run hitting first baseman or designated hitter.
3. Bradley Zimmer, CF, Fast A- Lynchburg Hill Cats, and AA Akron Aeroes, Cleveland Indians
You will to hear the name, “Bradley Zimmer” a zillion times in the near future. This twenty -three year old, 2014 Indians #1 draft pick has 5-tool talent. He runs like a gazelle, he throws accurately for distance, is a ball hawk in CF, and hits for average and power.
In only his first full professional season, he sped through Fast A Lynchburg and AA Akron and will probably start the 2016 season at AAA Columbus before getting a call up to the Cleveland Indians. He could be a franchise player.
4. Trey Mancini, 1B, Fast A Frederick Keys and AA- Bowie Bay Sox, Baltimore Orioles
T Eastern League MVP, 1B Trey Mancini helped his Bowie teammates win their first ever AA Eastern League championship in 2015. He is a proverbial 1B, clutch hitting for power and fielding all grounders hit his way. The 23 year old, Notre Dame alumna hit 359 BA, 13 HR, and drove in 57 RBI in 84 games played his first exposure to AA ball. In 52 games played at Fast A Frederick, he hit 314 BA, 8 HR, and 32 RBI. He’ll start the 2016 season at AAA Norfolk and make Orioles’ fans forget Chris Davis by mid season.
5. Raudy Read, Catcher, Low A Hagerstown Suns, Fast A Potomac Nationals, Washington Nationals
Raudy Read is a Washington Nationals’ “diamond in the rough.” After making his debut at Low A Hagerstown in mid May, hitting 244 BA, 5 HR, and 36 RBI in 82 games played, he kept adding glimmer to his play, until the 22-year catcher was making making throws to nail runners at 1B, 2B, 3B, handling pitchers like a vet, and hitting the ball with extra base authority. He finished the 2015 season at Fast A Potomac dazzling the fans there too with his increasing brilliance.
6. Wendell Rios, 2B, Fast A Salem Red Sox, Boston Red Sox
This 20-year old 2B bubbles with enthusiasm every time he steps onto a baseball field. At Fast A Salem in 2015, he 27 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, and drove in 47 RBI and was hitting #3 in the lineup by the end of the season. You can’t help liking the way he plays the game day in and day out. He hustles, is quick to get balls hit wide to his left, executes the double play well, and hits a heavy ball hard to all parts of the field. He is fast enough to be a base stealing threat as well as strong enough to punch balls over the fence.. Almost ready to blossom on the Boston Red Sox’ horizon, Wendell could become a fan favorite of Fenway Park partisans someday soon.
7. Dale Carey, Low A-Hagerstown Suns, Washington Nationals
D You can’t help but hope this young Washington Nationals outfielder succeeds at the game. He hit 18 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, and drove in 52 RBI at Low A Hagerstown and he hustled on every play, learned from every mistake, and got better at the plate and in the outfield every game he played last season. The parent club will let Dale develop in the minors at his own pace but he has all of the tools to be a good center or right fielder. When he gets better plate discipline and lays off the hard to hit pitches he could develop into an ideal lead off hitter and accelerate through Fast A Potomac, AA Harrisburg, and AAA Syracuse to fill the needs of the parent club..
8. Mitch Horacek, Fast A Frederick Keys, Baltimore Orioles
B A south paw myself, I’m bias about Orioles left hander Mitch Horacek Plus, he likes my pictures. But dismissing those invalid reasons for judgment of his baseball skills, I have to say Mitch pitches with a lot of heart and soul. He has the potential to be a major league starter with the parent club once he is fine tunes his pitch command and location. He threw 154 innings last year at Fast A- Frederick, striking out almost an average of one hitter per inning (146 K) while walking only 52 batters. Under the capable tutelage of Orioles minor league pitching coaches, Blaine Beattie, Kennie Steenstra and Alan Mills, Mitch will learn the pitching trade and succeed at AA Bowie, AAA Norfolk, to find himself pitching off the mound at Camden Yards.
9. Drew Ward, 3B, Fast A Potomac Nationals , Washington Nationals
A Drew is a big raw boned 21 -year old Oklahoman 3B with an unlimited potential to be an outstanding major league ball player. In 111 games last season at Fast A – Potomac, he showed a good glove and strong arm at the hot corner and hitting 6 HR and driving in 47 RBI, flashes of power at the plate. Like most young ball players, he has to learn how to out think opposing pitchers, who in the Carolina League were typically more mature and savvy than the pitchers he faced at lower levels.
10. Drew Dosch, 3B Frederick Keys and Bowie Bay Sox, Baltimore Orioles
Twenty three old Drew Dosch is another hard nosed young 3B who can make it big in the majors guarding the hot corner at Camden Yards..He is quick enough to field hot shots to his right or left, on his feet, or on the ground. No slouch in power at the plate, he drove in 34 RBI in 55 games at Fast A Frederick and 1 HR and 21 RBIs in 68 games after advancing to AA Bowie. After more seasoning at Bowie and AAA Norfolk next season, he may be ready to assume Orioles Hall of Fame 3B Brooks Robinson’s hot corner legacy at Camden Yards.
11. Tony Renda, 2B, AA Harrisburg Senators and AA Trenton Thunder, New York Yankees
Tony Renda is a pleasure to watch on a baseball field. He hustles, plays hard, puts out 100 percent effort, and shows respect for the game of baseball every play he makes on the field. He started off last season with Nationals AA Harrisburg, by mid season was traded to the Yankees where he played at AA Trention, and in December, was one of five prospects the Yankees traded to Cincinnati for reliever Arodis Chapman. His BA hovered around 270 in 127 games played in 2015, Mark my words, down the road, this twenty -four year old 2B may prove to be a steal for the Reds and be the best of all the 2015 Rodger’s Picks listed, as he has the sheer will power to work hard, be the best and get ahead
12. Cole Tucker, SS Low A West Virginia Power, Pittsburgh Pirates
Less than a year out of Phoenix AZ Mountain Pointe HS, 19-year old SS Cole Tucker has demonstrated that he is a bonafide
candidate for major league shortstop. Mature beyond his years, the Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 #1 hit 283 BA in his first full professional season with Low A West Virginia Power. He has quick hands and is fast enough to play the shortstop position as well as steal some bases. He will be an ideal candidate for lead off or #2 hitter in the batting order, will be comfortable on the big league stage and will soon become a fan favorite in Pittsburgh or wherever else he may play.
The Latin teacher whom I was subbing for nearly the past two school years did me and my baseball photography a hugh favor when she returned to her classroom April 7th with a clean bill of health.
Unlike the past two seasons when I couldn’t get started shooting my photos, except on weekends until mid-June, I immediately drove off on a Zebulon, NC junket to see the young Salem Avalanche and Carolina Mud Cats play a weekend series of day baseball.
Blessed with the likes of Boston Red Sox 21-year 5-tool outfielder Manny Margot, hard hitting 1B Sam Travis, 2013 1st Round pick LHP Trey Ball, RHP Teddy Stankiewicz, and 2B Wendell Rijo, Salem is loaded with top prospects, who are making baseball fun again in the Shenadoah Valley.
(Manny Margot Swinging a Bat at Carolina)
Carolina, a Fast A- Atlanta Braves affiliation, had 2012 #1 Round draft pick, RHP Lucas Sims, BA #8 Braves prospect Johan Camargo, and BA #14 Braves RHP prospect Maurico Cabrera on their roster. I also singled out Carolina quick outfielder Sean Godfrey for some attention from my camera. And even better yet, Derrick Lewis is their pitching coach, and Carlos Mendez., their hitting coach, both of whom were subjects themselves of my camera during their playing days at AAA Richmond in 2002 and Fast A Wilmington. In 1990.
(Johan Camargo, BA Braves #8 Prospect)
I followed up Zebulon with trips to Frederick MD for a Carolina League doubleheader between Cleveland Fast A Lynchburg Hill Cats and Orioles’ Frederick Keys, and to AA-Bowie, MD where I saw the the San Francisco Giants Flying Squirrels play the Baltimore Orioles AA- affiliate Bowie Bay Sox.
Frederick is blessed with the talent galore, namely BA #2 Orioles prospect, Hunter Harvey, BA #4 prospect catcher Chance Sisco, RHP Jon Keller, Brooks Robinson 3B look alike, 22-year Drew Dosch, RHP David Hess, SS Adrian Marin, CF Josh Hart, and 1B Trey Mancini. I always shoot many of my best shots in the comfort of Keys Stadium, and kept my camera busily focused on these future Camden Yards stars all afternoon.
(Drew Dosch Goes After a Bunt)
Lynchburg is blessed considerably with a pair of fast, hard-hitting, impressive young outfielders, Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier.
At Bowie, while I didn’t see Orioles’ BA #1 Dylan Bundy, I did see his older brother, Bobby Bundy pitch a shutdown 9th inning. Bobby has been out a couple seasons while he recuperated from injuries.
(Bobby Bundy Mows Down The Side in the 9th)
I also saw San Fran BA #12 Chris Stratton pitch 7 innings for Richmond. SF BA#3 Kyle Crick didn’t pitch.
The following day, April 22nd I traveled to Hagerstown, MD for the first tiime this season to see the young, Low-A SALLY League,Washington Nationals Hagerstown Suns play their Orioles’ counterpart Delmarva Shore Birds.
Hagerstown has some young pitchers to look at but Delmarva has a something else 3b Jomar Reyes, to whom I paid lots of attention .
(Jomar Reyes Guards the Corner)
The Sunday following, April 26th I saw Lynchburg again, this time at Potomac, VA where I started shooting photos back in 1985 when young outfielder Barry Bonds starred there, I once saw him make two errors in one game out there in rightfield, where the lights were dim. At the same time I saw him hit lots of rocket shots out of the ball park too.
Wilmer Difo was the hottest Washington Nationals prospect playing there at that time, and as a shortstop may give them insurance for free agent Ian Desmond moving on next season.
Wlmer Difo has since moved on to AA-Harrisburg, where I saw him play Sunday May 10th against the Pittsburgh Pirates AA-Altoona Curve.
(Wilmer Difo Steals 3B)
At Harrisburg that day, it was nostalgic time for me there as I saw two of my old favorites there, Altoona manager Tom Prince and hitting coach, Miquel Perez. Tommy taught me a new vocabulary in the 1980s when he played for Prince William (Potomac), Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh.
I first saw Miquel catch in the Pioneer League for the Cincinnati Reds – rookie league affiliate Billings Mustangs –at Ogden Utah in 2003 on an August day so scorching hot that you couldn’t sit comfortably or rest your camera equipment on a cast iron picnic table.
I was particularly happy to be able to see a 3-game Red Sox Low A – Greenville Drive/Hagerstown Suns series in early May to culminate the first month of the season, I’ve been a photographer since 1993 for not only Baseball America but also a super Red Sox fan must magazine, which is sold outside of Fenway Park, “Boston Baseball.” Unlike the past two seasons when I could only travel to the ball parks on the weekends until mid-June, this season I could travel up to Hagerstown MD Friday, May 1st, Sunday, May 3rd, and Monday, May 4th for two beautiful day and one early evening ball games.
The Greenville Drive has the likes of 3B Rafael Devers on their team, who clobbered two homeruns in one game, balls which are still probably in flight over Hagerstown now as they were blasts and a half.
(Rafael Devers Hits the 1st of Two HR at Hagerstown)
I was in my glory getting great posed and action shots of Rafael, as well as the other Red Sox prospects 3B/SS Michael Chavis, SS Javier Guerra, RHP Michael Kopech, SS Maurico Dubon, 1B/OF Nick Longhi, and a young outfielder, Carlos Mesa, whose numbers and demeanor also impressed me a great deal..
Wednesday, May 6th, I topped everything off by getting the opportunity from Baseball America to shoot the major league Miami Marlins/Washington Nationals game at Nats Park, in Washington, DC I thought for a moment when I saw the ball hit high towards right field again, that I was going to shoot a record setting four homeruns by Bryce Harper that day but unfortunately the ball dried midway and he was stopped at three.
(Bryce Harper Hits 3rd HR of the game)
It was great seeing my old friends from the minors, my old body guard, Nats bullpen coach, Matt Lecroy, who protected me once when the going got tough one time in Ft. Myers, FL, Nats bullpen coach, bench coach Randy Knorr, young outfielder, Michael Taylor, pitcher Jordan Zimmerman, 2B Danny Espinosa, 1B Ryan Zimmerman, RF Jayson Werth and other players I got to know in the minors.
Yes! The Latin teacher truly did me a favor – I have seen eighteen ball games already as of May 14th , sixteen day and only two early evening ball games, fifteen different teams, including two major league teams, at least half of the games ones, which I wouldn’t have been able to see if I was teaching Monday – Friday. While I miss the high school students, who kept me younger with their high energy levels, I enjoy getting to the ballgames earlier, to mingle, and feed off of the dreams of the young minor league ball players.
My photography is already at mid season form, I have improved my hitting and action shots by following a more self disciplined “see the shot first, then shoot” approach, and believe my pictures are more worthy of a major magazine cover or two because of their improved quality.
The sun has been shining bright for me – I am getting my second wind when most aging folks are putting down their cudgels, and all of a sudden, my dear wife is saying my photography is again the driving force in my life.
With ducks on the pond in he bottom of the 8th inning, Loudoun County/Heritage JV game tied 7-7, RF Kooper Howerter stepped up to the plate, worked himself to a full 3-2 count, and rifled a walk off game winning double up the left/center field gap to win the last game of the season for his Loudoun County Raider teammates, 8-7.
The Sterling boys who thrilled Sterling, Loudoun County and the Washington Metropolitan Area with their winning exploits the Summer of 1974 are coming home to roost in their laurels.
Friends, fans, supporters, coaches, and players are all invited to remininse with them at a 40th year reunion, 8 -12 PM, Friday, April 25th at O’Malley’s Pub, Sterling Holiday Inn, 45425 Holiday Drive, Sterling VA 20166.
The next day, the team will be honored at a special opening day ceremony at the Little League Field at the Sterling Golf and Tennis Course, 8:30 AM, Saturday, April 26th and all are invited to attend that gala affair too.
Starting in early July, 1974 and lasting to late August, these fifteen, then 14 and 15 year old Sterling VA Lower Loudoun Little League Senior Division baseball players, won 6 straight ball games against long odds and established senior division little league teams from the Shenadoah Valley, Norfolk, Richmond, and North Springfield to win district and State of Virginia championships.
Not ending their winning streak there, they traveled on by airplane to Louisville, KY to beat the odds again by defeating strong State of West Virginia and Kentucky State Champions in a 3-game series to win a Division title.
With no time to lose because of rainouts, they flew out of Louisville after the last game to Atlanta GA, then rode an old rickoty school bus to a little hamlet 20 miles northwest of Athens GA, called Elberton GA where they beat a mighty state of Texas champion but lost twice to a strong Florida team out of Tampa that went on to the National World Series in Gary IND.
Newspaper headlines and articles in the Loudoun Times Mirror, Washington Post, and Evening Star touted the feats of these boys.
Crowds heralded them at “ticker tape” parades and ceremonies twice at Bill Allen Field upon their return from the state and regional tournaments.
The Loudoun Board of Supervisors recognized their outstanding sportsmanship in a proclamation they presented to them at a special session in Leesburg.
These boys who were special in many ways on and off the diamond are coming back home after forty years to enjoy their fields of dreams. The Sterling Community would do well to celebrate their return and special goodness all over again.
1974 Lower Loudoun Little League, Senior Division Roster
Manager: Ben Anch
Bench Coach: Rodger M. Wood
Coach: Hubert Goode
Pitching Coach: Dan Fritz
Coach: Tommy Thompson
Danny Fritz (dec.)
Curt Sieber (dec.)