(The following is what I hope will be a series of articles about each of the 27 seasons of Hickory baseball. As I crank out more entries, the layout may get tweaked, but the idea was to give a sense of some of the names that came to L.P. Frans Stadium, as well as their stories. For this article about the 1993, I reached out to as many players and personnel through social media. My thanks to Ted Rich, Chris Gay, Dre Levias, Chris Mader, JuJu Phillips, Bill Proctor, Bob Mumma and John Quirk for responding with their memories and, in some cases, their photos. Many thanks also to Ashley Salinas of the Hickory Crawdads for scrapbook photos, which will be a part of this story.)
As the Hickory Crawdads wait to play their 28th season at L.P. Frans Stadium, it is hard to imagine the area without minor league baseball. However, Catawba County was without a professional team for 30 years after the Newton-Conover Twins of the Class D Western Carolina League folded up shop after the 1962 season.
To break the drought of pro baseball, the wheels went into motion to bring a team back to Hickory. The city’s last minor league was a one-season return of the Hickory Rebels in 1960, also in the Western Carolina League. (The Rebels also played in 1939-1940, 1942 and 1945-54).
After six seasons at Sims Legion Park off I-85 in Gastonia, Don Beaver led a group that purchased the Gastonia Rangers from then-Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn. On land donated by the Winkler Family, L.P. Frans Stadium – named after Pepsi bottler Lee Polk Frans, who financed construction – took shape amid the surrounding forest to begin play in the South Atlantic League in 1993.
While games were played and future major leaguers came to town, the story of those early days were the people of Hickory, who embraced the idea of pro baseball playing in their town.
“I first remember the overwhelming support for the grassroots campaign of politicians and business leaders, who led the fundraising efforts for a new ballpark,” said JuJu Phillips, who was on the steering committee that helped to make the dream of professional baseball come true and later served as one of the team’s public address announcers. “The excitement of bringing back professional sports was over the moon. It was Hickory’s ‘Age of Innocence’ about pro sports and baseball, an idea that became reality in a few short years. It was a definite ‘can do’ spirit that existed back then.”
With the biennial change of minor league affiliations due, the Crawdads ditched the Texas Rangers as the parent club and brought on the Chicago White Sox, which had made shifts of their own. The White Sox dropped its short-season affiliate in Utica, N.Y. in favor of two class Low-A teams. South Bend (Ind.) and now Hickory.
The town welcome its first players:
With the area hungry for pro baseball, the reception of the players by the locals was overwhelming.
“The team was considered rock stars,” Phillips said. “Limousines brought them from the Charlotte Airport for a “Meet the Crawdads” event at Frans Stadium before the season opener.”
Chris Mader, who played third for the Crawdads in the inaugural season, said the players got caught up in the excitement of the fans for the new team. “The people were truly jazzed to have a professional sports team in Hickory and the city was on fire. No matter where we went, the people were so welcoming and wanted to ask questions, get autographs, and ensure the players enjoyed living there.”
The excitement translated into box office success for the Crawdads, which drew 283,727 fans for the season, still a club record. However, the first year was not without its hiccups.
First-year growing pains:
A few weeks before the season began, the so-called “Storm of the Century” dumped nearly a foot of snow in Hickory on March 13. That put further pressure on construction workers to get the stadium ready for a mid-April opener.
When the time came to play ball, L.P. Frans was still being put together. From the unfinished canopy to unpaved parking lots, there was still work to be done. Most notably, the clubhouse was not finished.
“(My) favorite memory was on opening day,” recalled pitcher Chris Gay. “They still hadn’t finished the clubhouse because of a big snow off season. So, we were dressing in motor homes and had to hang our clothes on a piece of rope!”
Mader remembered the trailer-home clubhouses more vividly. “So, we only had access to a trailer (no showers, no training room, weight room, etc.) And not showering after an eight-hour day in a baseball uniform made that trailer nice and ripe after games!”
The parking lot took a while to get paved, as well. Pitcher Bill Proctor, who came to the Crawdads for the second half of the season after the White Sox took him in the 1993 draft, said the scene took him back to his home in Oregon.
“Every night,” Proctor recalled, “I just remember all the cars coming and going and all the dust that would be flying everywhere. It reminded me of being home on the farm by how dusty it was.”
Along with the stadium complex, the new field still had its share of issues. Outfield Dre Levias remembered how it affected him on a particular play.
“The outfield grass was laid in patches; therefore, the baseball would bounce from left to right making it hard to field ground balls. One game, a hard ground ball was hit to center field. I bent down to field it and when I looked up, the ball was nowhere in sight. It had went straight through my legs, not touching any of my glove – all the way to the outfield wall, Man, that was the longest run of my life going to get that baseball.”
As a team goes through its first season of doing things, lessons are learned. Such as it was on a fireworks night. Phillips had this memory:
“The night the hillside caught on fire during fireworks, which the team seemed to have about once a homestand, or every Friday and Saturday nights. Anyway, it was before the Hickory Fire Department came and watered down everything. We finished our interviews, walked back to the press conference to witness a major fire, that was near the gas reservoir also on the hillside.”
The Games Begin:
The team opened on the road and went 2-6 (the Crawdads as a franchise did not get above .500 until the 2014 season) before playing their first home game against Fayetteville (NC) on April 16. David Elsbernd threw the first pitch, Eddie Pearson had the first hit and scored the first run, and 6-foot-5, 240 lb. Juan Thomas blasted the first home run for Hickory. The Crawdads went on to win the first game 5-3 in front of 5,026 fans that squeezed into the ballpark.
The intensity of the fan base lasted throughout the season, and according to the Phillips, it was a crowd that stayed into every pitch.
“Fans often waited several hours to get tickets,” said Phillips of the buzz during the game, which lasted until the last out. “(They) cheered at everything. Groundouts to short, mostly though after good plays, and even the walk-up music that we played on cassette tapes. We usually tried to have something that had a person’s name in the song, even the opposition. It was a different time, more innocent. Except I used to have fans bring me beer especially on Thirsty Thursday.”
First baseman Ted Rich said the energy was felt on the field, as well.
“When (catcher) Bob Mumma would step into the batter’s box,” recounted Rich. “The announcer would say ‘Bob Moooooooooma’. And the whole crowd would yell ‘Mooooooooma’. It was fantastic.
Rich added, “The atmosphere was electric every night. Packed stadium (4500 fans I think), great announcers and between innings entertainment, and of course the Crawdad speeding around the field on the ATV. We were not a good baseball team, but the fans packed the stadium and supported us all season.”
Hickory went 52-88 in 1993, however, the love affair the fans had with the team did not wane.
“Since I didn’t get to Hickory until after the 1993 draft (14th round), I missed the first couple months there,” Proctor remembered. “The fans were crazy for baseball and I just remember the atmosphere was so energized.”
Ben Boulware, who was a seventh-round pick out of Cal Poly in 1993, was more direct. “You train your entire life,” said Boulware, “and to come to Hickory with a first-year stadium and crowd going nuts, (it) was super special and something I will never forget.”
By all accounts, Chris Mader was the most popular player on the team that first season. A 53rd-round pick of the White Sox in 1991, he was the team’s only representative to the South Atlantic All-Star Game that season. He still has the club’s eighth highest on-base pct. in a season (.398), which was aided by 81 walks, the third most in a season.
The legend of Mader perhaps began on what would be an otherwise mundane night in April. The local Domino’s Pizza had a promotion that when the Crawdads scored ten or more runs, everyone in attendance would receive a small cheese pizza the next day.
The Crawdads had reached nine runs after seven innings with one more shot at pizza glory.
“As I recall,” Phillips said, “the chant went up for “Pizza, pizza, pizza” from the crowd of 3400.” Mader delivered with a two-run double that sent the fans into a frenzy – “it was like we had won the World Series,” said Mader – and the Domino’s franchise into a frenzy the next day to make good on the short-lived promotion.
Mader also had the honor of a ballpark item named after him.
“We had a lot of great promotions,” said Mader. “But I have to say, the day I found out they named a sandwich after me in the right field grille was something I will never forget! The ‘Toe- Mater’ sandwich.”
As teams often do, famous figures from sports are brought in for meet-and-greets with fans. One such guest had a special memory for Ted Rich.
“There was a night when Warren Spahn threw out the first pitch,” said Rich. “He was one of my Dad’s heroes, and he autographed a ball for me that night that my father still has today.”
Future Major League Players:
Seven Crawdads from the 1993 team went on to achieve major league status. Arguably, the most successful major leaguer to have played at Hickory was Magglio Ordonez. Six times an American League all-star, and the first former Crawdad to start in the Mid-Summer Classic (2007). Ordonez is the only former Hickory player to reach 2,000 hits and he finished his career with a .309/.369/.502 slash line.
“I had some great teammates,” Mader recounted. “But the guy with the most tools was Magglio Ordonez. He was a 5-tool guy (batting, hitting for power, fielding, throwing & running). He was rough around the edges and Hickory, but I knew he would make it all the way to the big leagues.”
However, as a skinny 19-year-old in his first full season, the Venezuelan hit .216 in 84 games with a .330 slugging pct.
“Magglio Ordonez was on that team,” said Phillips. “But, who could have seen a 165-pound skinny outfielder who hit under .200 that first year would ever make it to the big leagues as a slugger.”
Two other players that had major league impacts were Frank Menechino and Greg Norton. Menechino parlayed a 45th-round pick out of Alabama into a seven-year career with Oakland and Toronto. He is currently the hitting coach for the White Sox.
“At the time,” remembered Proctor, “I always thought that Frankie Menechino was the best player on that team. He showed up a couple weeks after me. The way he played the game and went about his business impressed me. The first time I shook his hand and he had this vice grip of a handshake; I knew the kid was tough as nails. He was a great teammate, leader and was fun to have in club house.”
Norton was the White Sox’s second-round pick out of Oklahoma. He joined the Crawdads just after his selection by Chicago. Although he hit just .244 that summer with Hickory, he made an impression on several of his Crawdads teammates.
“Greg could play multiple positions and had a sweet left-handed swing,” said Ted Rich of Norton, who spent 13 seasons in the majors, often as a key bench player.
Pitcher John Quirk, another 1993 White Sox draftee added to the Crawdads in the second half was enamored of both Menechino and Norton. Selected in the 23rd round, Quirk immediately saw those two were above anything he had seen at Westchester CC in New York.
“We had Magglio,” said Quirk. “But he wasn’t developed yet. Frankie just played with an edge and no fear and Norton was just as smooth as they come. Great bat and a great glove. You’ve got to understand, I played at a small JUCO and these guys played at Alabama and Oklahoma. So, I was in awe in the beginning.”
The Crawdads had two catchers go on to the majors. Catcher Chris Tremie was the first former Crawdad to make it to the majors, when the White Sox called him up on July 1, 1995. He spent brief tenures with four different teams before giving it up after the 2004 season.
Nerio Rodriguez had 13 errors and 12 passed balls in 72 games behind the plate for Hickory. The Baltimore Orioles turned him into a pitcher in 1995 at high-A ball and Rodriguez shot up the latter to the majors the next year. While he did not catch on long term in the big leagues, he became a force in the Mexican League, where he was named that circuits pitcher of the year twice.
Pitchers Mike Bertotti and Tom Fordham each had brief bit-parts with the White Sox in the mid-90s.
Magglio Ordonez and the Waffle House:
Mader was Ordonez’ roommate on the road, and, as such, Crawdads’ manager Fred Kendall gave him the assignment of watching over the future major league star.
“Our manager wanted to make sure I took care of him,” said Mader. “So, I would make sure that he was working out, getting to meetings on time, etc. When we would go on the road, one of my favorite stops was always the Waffle House, because we do not have those restaurants back in the Northeast.
“So, I would take Magglio with me, and as he was learning English, he would just read the sign and would pronounce it “waffly-hoo.” Keep in mind, we were not making a bunch of money, so the price point at the Waffle House is also quite attractive to us at that time! But the way he would pronounce it would just crack me up. So, whenever we would go on the road, our favorite restaurant was always the “waffly-hoo”.
A tough season:
Overall, the 1993 Crawdads were not a particularly good team, as the offense often sputtered. As a group, the offense set several lows that still stand. The Crawdads hit just .224, nearly 20 points lower than the next worst team in the South Atlantic League. The 1993 team still holds marks for the fewest hits (1028 in 140 games), doubles (166), homers (48), total bases and slugging (.307). On the mound, they had just one shutout, 22 saves and walked 566 hitters, all club worsts.
As the losses mounted, the frustration of manager Fred Kendall increased, according to Phillips, who often covered post-game pressers outside the team’s double wide.
“The fiery skipper often times would blow off steam after the losses mounted,” Phillips shared. “He was very creative with his use of the F-bomb as a noun, verb, adjective, and adverb. He reminded me of a cross between Jim Leyland, and Jim Mora.”
Along with “Pizza Night” and the L.P. Frans opener, the 1993 season had a few memorable moments. Perhaps the biggest of them all came on May 15th when Wayne Lindemann pitched the only nine-inning, complete-game, no-hitter in team history in a game at Albany, Ga.
Bill Proctor remembered his initiation into low-A in a game he pitched against Greensboro, then a Yankees affiliate.
“At the time,” said Proctor, “I had no clue how good this player would be or who he would become. All the Crawdads players were hyping this guy up before I faced him. Derek Jeter was the first professional player I pitched to in a game. I remember that moment like yesterday. Derek Jeter, Nick Delvecchio and Matt Luke, in that order in Greensboro.
For Quirk, a diehard Yankees fan, it was his second start against a hated rival.
“My favorite moment on the field was beating Capital City (Columbia, SC) in my second start 2-1. I lost to Fayetteville in my first start, so I was super excited that I won. It was great because they were a Met affiliate and I was always a Met hater. They had Ron Washington as their manager and Brian Daubauch (Major Leaguer) and Tim Timmons (MLB Umpire) was supposed do the plate, but he got sick.”
Away from the Park:
According to several players, Yesterday’s was the favorite spot to hang out after a game. However, it nearly got one player in trouble.
“My favorite off-the-field memory,” said Quirk, “Was when Fred (Kendall) said if we got caught out after curfew we were going home. We went to, I believe, Yesterday’s and Fred walked in and I crawled out the door. “Fred seemed mean, but he was really good to me my whole career.”
However, the biggest off-the-field pastime was provided by a local, Ron Goans, referred to affectionately as “Captain Ron.”
“Myself and a few players met a man we called Capt. Ron,” said Bob Mumma. “He would take us out on the lake after some games and on our off days. I loved the lake at night. Did some fishing and some drinking and just relaxed to get away from baseball for a while.”
Quirk stated that Ron and his wife Kathy were “very generous to all of us and treated us like family…I still keep contact with them. Beautiful people.”
Mader said that the Goans helped players fill in the inevitable gaps that came with making about $850 a month.
“Not only would he let us borrow necessary home goods like plates, silverware, etc.,” Mader said. “But he would occasionally take us out on fishing trips on his boat and those were some of the fondest memories that me and many of my teammates had while in Hickory. He also introduced us to “double cupping” on the boat. Which I soon learned was having two red solo cups, and mixing bourbon with Sun Drop, and switching the cups back-and-forth to mix the drink. Genius!”
1993 HICKORY CRAWDADS Win/Loss: 52-88 Attendance: 283,727
ROSTER (Post-Crawdads baseball career):
MANAGER: Fred Kendall: The native of Torrance, CA spent 12 seasons as a catcher in the major leagues, much of them with the San Diego Padres with whom he was on the original team in 1969. He played one season each with Cleveland and Boston before capping his career with a return to San Diego for the 1979 and 1980 seasons. His minor league managerial career started in 1992 at Utica (NY) before he moved up in the affiliation to Hickory for two years. Kendall had several tenures as a major league bullpen coach with Detroit, Colorado and Kansas City. He retired after the 2007 season.
PITCHING COACH: Curt Hasler: He has been in the White Sox system since playing with the rookie affiliate in the Gulf Coast League in 1987. Hasler became a coach when he joined the Crawdads for their first two seasons. His first major league tenure as a coach came in 2017, when the White Sox named him their bullpen coach. Hasler is now the team’s assistant pitching coach.
HITTING COACH: Mark Salas: He played eight seasons in the major leagues with six different clubs before leaving as an active player in 1991. Two seasons later, he joined the White Sox as a coach at Hickory and has remained with the organization since. Salas has been the team’s bullpen catcher since 2007.
Ricky Bennett: Spent one more season in the White Sox organization before he started a front office career as an area scout with the Detroit Tigers. Was Director of Player Development with the Houston Astros from 2005 to 2010. Has been a pro scout with the Pittsburgh Pirates since 2013.
Mike Bertotti: Spent just nine games with Hickory (11.61 Ks per 9 IP). Had a quick ascent with the White Sox and debuted with the team in July 1995. Was up and down with Chicago through 1997, then bounced around minor league baseball with Oakland, Seattle and the Yankees. Last pitched in 2002 with New Jersey of the Northern League (indy ball). Is currently a baseball instructor at Frozen Ropes in New York.
Mark Brincks: Pitched the 1994 season in the White Sox organization before his release. Had two seasons with Moose Jaw in the independent Prairie League.
Don Culberson: Was released by the White Sox in 1993. Pitched two seasons for the Cubs organization, making it to High-A Daytona before leaving the game.
David Elsbernd: Returned to make six more appearances for Hickory before his release.
Dave Fitzpatrick: Made six relief outings for Hickory in 1993, then pitched in ten games at Low-A South Bend in 1994 before his release.
Tom Fordham: Returned to make 17 starts for Hickory in 1994. He made it to Chicago in 1997 and had a short stay over two seasons with the big-league club. Played in the Milwaukee (2000-01) and Pittsburgh (2003) organizations before leaving the game.
Chris Gay: Was released by the White Sox in 1993. Last pitched for Rochester of the Northern League. Currently owns Cover All Bases baseball training center in Arlington, Tex.
Toby Lehman: Stayed in the White Sox chain one more season before spending two seasons in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Reached the AA level at Bowie in 1995.
Wayne Lindemann: The only player to throw a 9-inning no-hitter for the Crawdads. Was in the White Sox system through 1995, but did not advance past high-A.
Johnny Malaver: Released after nine games with Hickory in 1993.
Andy McCormack: Did not advance past Low-A with the White Sox through 1995 but enjoyed a stint at AA Akron-Canton with the Cleveland organization in 1996.
Doug McGraw: Had just five games (1 start) with Hickory before his release. Pitched in 1994 at Osceola (High-A/ Houston) before leaving baseball.
Mickey McKinion: Returned to Hickory in 1994 for 28 games before his release.
Jason Odgen: Spent one more season with the White Sox in 1994, making it to High-A before his release.
Richard Pratt: A 1993 draftee out of South Carolina, he returned to have one of the best seasons in Crawdads history the following year (11-6 in 29 games/ 23 starts, 2.02 ERA). Still holds the club record for lowest ERA by a qualifying pitcher (112 IP) in a season and is third in WHIP (1.01). Made it to AAA Calgary in 1998 before parting ways with the White Sox. Pitched more season at Bridgeport in the Atlantic League (indy) in 1999.
Bill Proctor: Played one more season in the White Sox chain in 1994 before his release.
John Quirk: Stayed in the White Sox system through 1996 but did not advance past high-A. Played independent ball in the Northern League at Bangor in 1997 and New Jersey in 1998. Later went on to coach college ball. Was the pitching coach at Fairleigh Dickinson in 2006 before a three-year stint as the head coach at Lehman College (NY) from 2007 to 2009.
Juan Soto: Released after three starts for Hickory.
Fred Starks: Released by the White Sox while at Hickory in 1993.
Robert Theodile: Drafted by Chicago in 1992, the right-hander made 41 starts (2nd in club history) for Hickory over three seasons. He eventually moved up to high-A to stay in 1996 and made it all the way to AAA Calgary in 1998 before he shifting to the Milwaukee Brewers chain in 1999. Theodile last pitched in 2001 for Saltillo in the Mexican League.
Brian Woods: Drafted by the White Sox in 1993, the Northeastern Conference pitcher of the year moved up to South Bend after ten starts. Woods stayed with the White Sox through 1998 and made it as far as AAA Nashville. He had a brief stint at AA New Haven (Colorado) before calling it a career.
|Games Pitched||Ricky Bennett||41|
|Games Started||David Elsbernd||19|
|Complete Games||Wayne Lindemann, David Elsbernd 2|
|Innings Pitched||Ricky Bennett||112|
|Hits Allowed||Ricky Bennett||112|
|Runs Allowed||David Elsbernd||74|
|Earned Runs Allowed||David Elsbernd||51|
|Home Runs Allowed||Mickey McKinion||12|
|Hit Batters||Toby Lehman||12|
|Walks Allowed||Toby Lehman||57|
|Walks per 9 IP||Ricky Bennett||1,85|
|Ks per 9 IP||Mike Bertotti||11.61|
|Wild Pitches||Fred Starks||10|
Wayne Faircloth: Stayed in the White Sox chain through 1994 before his release.
Bob Mumma: Had parts of two seasons with the Crawdads and they moved up to South Bend before his release. He returned to his alma mater at Maryland-Baltimore County in 1996 to become an assistant. Mumma took over the program as the head coach in 2012 before resigning from the position after the 2019 season.
Nerio Rodriguez: After struggling at and behind the plate, the Baltimore Orioles took him on as a pitcher and it was with the Orioles that Rodriguez made his major league debut in 1996. He bounced to the Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals through 2002 and last pitched for an affiliated team with the Pirates chain in 2006. It was with Monclova of the Mexican League that Rodriguez made his mark, with three all-star game selections. He was named the circuit’s pitcher of the year in 2007 and 2008. Rodriguez was a pitching coach for the Los Angeles Angels system in the Dominican Summer League until 2016.
Chris Tremie: The first Crawdads to get to the majors, Tremie had brief stints with the White Sox, Rangers, Pirates and Astros, with whom he wrapped up his career in 2005. Tremie moved into coaching the next year with the Cleveland Indians and stayed in the system through 2018, the last six seasons as the manager at AAA Columbus. He is now in his second year as the minor league field coordinator for Cincinnati.
Ben Boulware: Hit just .193 in 18 games for Hickory after the White Sox took his as the 7th round pick out of Clemson but returned the next year to win the South Atlantic League batting title (.332). Played his entire career in the White Sox chain, last in 1997 at High-A Winston-Salem. Currently the owner of Baum Bats.
Jason Evans: Played his entire career in the White Sox chain, making it to AAA in 1997 with Calgary. His final season was at AAA Nashville a year later. Currently works in Hickory as a mortgage broker.
Dan Fraraccio: Had a brief stint at AAA Nashville in 1995 but played mostly at high-A with the White Sox before his release in 1996. Bounced back to AAA to stay with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and San Diego Padres chains before ending his career at Las Vegas in 2000.
Scot Hollrah: Released while with the Crawdads in 1993.
Chris Mader: Arguably the most popular player in the first season, Mader returned to the team for a second season before his release. The Cleveland Indians picked him up and he finished his baseball career in 1995 with high-A Kinston.
Frank Menechino: Drafted in the 45th round out of Alabama, he thrived during the season’s second half at Hickory, posting a .281/.403/.416 slash. Menechino was a key player for Oakland, as the Athletics went to the playoffs three times during his six seasons there. His major league career capped with Toronto in 2004-2005, but Menechino stayed in the game as a player through 2008 in the Italian League. He started his coaching career in 2009 with the New York Yankees system and got his first major league coaching job with Miami in 2014. He is currently the hitting coach for the White Sox.
Geovanny Miranda: The Panamanian had one more season with the White Sox, that including a turn at AAA Nashville before his release. Miranda coached for two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, including a South Atlantic league turn at Low-A Charleston (WV) in 2001.
Greg Norton: The second-round pick of the White Sox played in 71 games for Hickory before a quick climb up the chain. His big-league debut came with the White Sox in August 1996. Norton spent 13 seasons in the majors with six team, the last coming in 2009 with Atlanta. A year later, Norton was the hitting coach at AAA New Orleans, then became the manager of the club for two seasons. After serving as the hitting coach at Auburn, Norton returned to coaching in pro ball as the minor league hitting coordinator for the Boston Red Sox, where he remains in his fifth season.
Eddie Pearson: The White Sox first-round pick in 1992 stayed in the chain through 1998 but could not get past AAA before he signed to play in Korea in 1999. From then, Pearson spent the remainder of his career bouncing between the Mexican League and independent ball, where he received several all-star nods. Pearson was the 2003 Northern League player of the year, while at St. Paul, but he was unable to receive another shot with an affiliated team. His last season came in 2006 with Kansas City in the Northern League.
Wil Polidor: He played just 15 games with Hickory and topped out at AA with the White Sox in 1998 before they cut him loose. Polidor got one more shot in the Philadelphia Phillies chain before they, too, released him in 1999. He went on to become a player agent and is now with the Octagon Agency, with which he has represented several players, including Felix Hernandez.
Mike Randle: He went 0-for-6 in three games with Hickory before his release.
Jimmy Reyes: The middle infielder lasted just one more season with the White Sox at South Bend and high-A Sarasota before his release.
Ted Rich: The University of Florida alum played in 16 games at Hickory before the White Sox let him go.
Juan Thomas: The slugging 1B stayed in the White Sox chain through 1997, but it was with the Seattle Mariners organization that Thomas reached his peak in 2001 at AAA Tacoma. Cincinnati also gave him a shot at the same level in 2003 before Thomas left affiliated ball for good. He bounced around several indy league teams before his career ended in the Golden League at Calgary. Thomas was a volunteer assistant coach with Augustana (SD) College from 2012 to 2015.
Geronimo Aquino: Went 0-for-10 with 8 Ks in four games before the White Sox released him.
Marc Harris: Played in 79 games for Hickory but hit just .188 before he was released by the White Sox.
Dre Levias: Returned for the 1994 season before he bounced around the White Sox system at three levels in 1995-1996. Hit his ceiling at High-A Winston-Salem before his release.
Sandy McKinnon: Remained with the White Sox through 1998, reaching the AA level his final two seasons. The Arizona Diamondbacks picked him up for the 1999 season and his final games came with AA El Paso.
Magglio Ordonez: Named to the initial class of the Crawdads’ hall of fame in 2014. Played 15 seasons in the major leagues with Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. Hit a walk-off home run for Detroit to clinch the 2006 American League Championship Series and a World Series berth. Won the AL batting title in 2007 (.363). Had a 200-hit season in 2007. Posted seven seasons of 100+ RBI, four seasons of 100+ runs scored and four consecutive 30+ HR seasons (1999-2002). Won three Silver Slugger Awards. Named to the All-Star Game six time and became the first former Crawdad to start in the game in 2007. Was second in the AL MVP voting in 2007.
Scott Patton: Returned to the Crawdads in 1994 before the White Sox let him go. Went back home to college to play football at Saddleback College (CA) and then Nevada-Las Vegas. Was an NJCAA All-American in 1995.
Eric Richardson: Led the team with 42 steals in 1993, which is still the 10th highest total for a season in club history. Returned to Hickory for part of the 1994 before a bump-up to South Bend. He made it to high-A before his release. Richardson coached a couple of seasons (2004-05) in the Phillies system. He returned as a coach in the White Sox chain in 2018 at rookie affiliate Great Falls.
|GAMES PLAYED||Chris Mader||120|
|BATTING AVG||Frank Menechino||.281|
|AT BATS||Eric Richardson||412|
|HOME RUNS||Juan Thomas||12|
|TOTAL BASES||Chris Mader||155|
|INTENTIONAL WALKS||Jason Evans||2|
|STOLEN BASES||Eric Richardson||42|
|Caught Stolen||Eric Richardson||15|
|On Base PCT||Frank Menechino||.403|
|Slugging Pct||Juan Thomas||.418|
|Sacrifice Flies||Chris Mader, Greg Norton, Jimmy Reyes 4|
|Sacrifice Hits||Jimmy Reyes||8|
|Hit By Pitch||Juan Thomas||7|
The 178 former Hickory Crawdads to play in the major leagues have combined to play for all 30 MLB teams, plus a couple with the former Montreal Expos.
The top-three teams are the current and former affiliates (Rangers, Pirates and White Sox) with a couple of teams only seeing as few as five former ‘Dads. See which ones have played for your favorite team.
Here is the list:
CRAWDADS WITH MAJOR LEAGUE TEAMS (Still Active with team):
Baltimore Orioles: (15) Hanser Alberto, Jairo Asencio, Jose Bautista, Richard Bleier, Chad Bradford, Luis Garcia, JR House, Nate McLouth, Luis Ortiz, Ronny Paulino, Steve Pearce, Nerio Rodriguez, Luis Sardinas, Dillon Tate, Walter Young.
Boston Red Sox: (11) Daniel Bard, Chad Bradford, Carlos Castillo, Rajai Davis, Adam LaRoche, Brent Lillibridge, Josias Mansanillo, Roman Mendez, Steven Pearce, Jesus Pena, Robbie Ross
Chicago White Sox: (34) Jim Abbott, Jeff Abbott, Kevin Beirne, Jason Bere, Mike Bertotti, Rocky Biddle, Chad Bradford, DJ Carrasco, Carlos Castillo, McKay Christensen, Chris Clemons, Joe Crede, Nelson Cruz, Pat Daneker, Zach Duke, Tom Fordham, Leury Garcia, Jon Garland, Mark Johnson, Jeff Keppinger, Adam LaRoche, Carlos Lee, Brent Lillibridge, Dave Lundquist, Aaron Myette, Greg Norton, Magglio Ordonez, Josh Paul, Jesus Pena, Liu Rodriguez, Aaron Rowand, Brian Simmons, Chris Tremie, Mario Valdez
Cleveland Indians: (9) Jairo Asencio, Bryan Bullington, Rajai Davis, Tom Gorzelanny, Brent Lillibridge, Nyjer Morgan, Aaron Myette, Neil Ramirez, Nerio Rodriguez
Detroit Tigers: (14) Chad Bell, Nelson Cruz, Rajai Davis, Travis Demeritte, Reed Garrett, Brad Eldred, Jordy Mercer, Dustin Molleken, Greg Norton, Roberto Novoa, Magglio Ordonez, Alex Presley, Brian Schmack, Chris Shelton.
Houston Astros (AL team): (1) Alex Presley
Kansas City Royals: (9) Jose Bautista, Bryan Bullington, DJ Carrasco, Chris Demaria, Justin Grimm, Jeff Keppinger, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Nick Tepesch, Chris Young.
Los Angeles Angels: (5) Jim Abbott, Sean Burnett, Cody Ege, John Garland, Josh Paul.
Minnesota Twins: (10) Joe Beimel, Matt Capps, Joe Crede, Ryan Doumit, Zach Duke, Chris Heintz, Martin Perez, Alex Presley, Neil Ramirez, Nick Tepesch
New York Yankees: (9) Jim Abbott, Jonathan Albaladejo, Richard Bleier, Cody Eppley, Brent Lillibridge, Josias Manzanillo, Steve Pearce, Romulo Sanchez, Neil Walker.
Oakland A’s: (7) Chad Bradford, Rajai Davis, Wilmer Font, Mark Johnson, Frank Menechino, Jurickson Profar, Mario Valdez.
Seattle Mariners: (15) Joe Beimel, Zach Duke, Justin Grimm, James Jones, Josh Lueke, Josias Manzanillo, Dylan Moore, Greg Norton, Connor Sadzeck, Luis Sardinas, Chris Shelton, Ian Snell, Erik Swanson, Joe Wieland, Chris Young
Tampa Bay Rays: (12) Jose Bautista, Joe Beimel, Jeff Bennett, Chad Bradford, Peter Fairbanks, Wilmer Font, Jeff Keppinger, Josh Lueke, Greg Norton, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Josh Paul, Steve Pearce
Texas Rangers: (49) Hanser Alberto, Brock Burke, Alexander Claudio, Cody Eppley, Peter Fairbanks, Andrew Faulkner, Wilmer Font, Joey Gallo, Leury Garcia, Nick Gardewine, Justin Grimm, Ronald Guzman, Mark Hamburger, Jonathan Hernandez, Luke Jackson, Ariel Jurado, Keone Kela, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Phil Klein, Jose Leclerc, Carlos Lee, Brett Martin, Nick Martinez, Nomar Mazara, Roman Mendez, Yohander Mendez, Aaron Myette, Rougned Odor, Joseph Ortiz, Joseph Palumbo, Ronny Paulino, Pedro Payano, CD Pelham, Martin Perez, Jurickson Profar, Drew Robinson, Ricardo Rodriguez, Ben Rowen, Ryan Rua, Connor Sadzeck, Luis Sardinas, Chris Shelton, Jeffrey Springs, Nick Tepesch, Tomas Telis, Chris Tremie, Jose Trevino, Matt West, Chris Young.
Toronto Blue Jays: (15) Jose Bautista, Kevin Beirne, Bryan Bullington, Rajai Davis, Wilmer Font, Matt Hague, Brad Lincoln, Frank Menechino, Steve Pearce, Neil Ramirez, Todd Redmond, Nerio Rodriguez, Brian Simmons, Nick Tepesch, Matt West.
Arizona Diamondbacks: (6) Jonathan Albaladejo, DJ Carrasco, Zach Duke, Jon Garland, Adam LaRoche, Jamie Romak
Atlanta Braves: (12) Jairo Asencio, Jose Bautista, Jeff Bennett, Jake Brigham, Ryan Doumit, Luke Jackson, Adam LaRoche, Brent Lillibridge, Paul Maholm, Nate McLouth, Greg Norton, Todd Redmond.
Chicago Cubs: (12) Jairo Asencio, Jason Bere, CJ Edwards, Tom Gorzelanny, John Grabow, Justin Grimm, Brent Lillibridge, Paul Maholm, Roberto Novoa, Josh Paul, Neil Ramirez, Ben Rowen
Cincinnati Reds: (11) Jason Bere, Abel De Los Santos, Zach Duke, Josh Fogg, Jared Hughes, Jeff Keppinger, Josias Manzanillo, Aaron Myette, Todd Redmond, Pete Rose Jr., Dave Williams.
Colorado Rockies: (5) Joe Beimel, Nelson Cruz, Brad Eldred, Josh Fogg, Greg Norton.
Houston Astros (NL Team): (8) Brian Bixler, Jose Castillo, Nelson Cruz, JR House, Jeff Keppinger, Carlos Lee, Steve Pearce, Chris Tremie.
Los Angeles Dodgers: (12) Joe Beimel, Kevin Beirne, Fabio Castillo, McKay Christensen, Wilmer Font, Jon Garland, Paul Maholm, Jamie Romak, Nick Tepesch, Tony Watson, Matt West, Joe Wieland.
Miami Marlins: (14) Jeff Abbott, Jorge Alfaro, Lewis Brinson, Dave Davidson, Cody Ege, Hansel Izquierdo, Carlos Lee, Josias Manzanillo, Bryan Morris, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Henry Owens, Ronny Paulino, Tomas Telis, Neil Walker
Milwaukee Brewers: (18) Jim Abbott, Jeff Bennett, Jason Bere, Lewis Brinson, Alex Claudio, Chris Demaria, Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny, Jared Hughes, Mark Johnson, Carlos Lee, Josias Manzanillo, Nyger Morgan, Alex Presley, Neil Ramirez, Ben Rowen, Luis Sardinas, Neil Walker
Montreal Expos: (2) Rocky Biddle, Bob Henley.
New York Mets: (14) Jose Bautista, Chad Bradford, McKay Christensen, DJ Carrasco, Rajai Davis, Wilmer Font, Jeff Keppinger, Josias Manzanillo, Henry Owens, Ronny Paulino, Neil Ramirez, Neil Walker, Dave Williams, Chris Young.
Philadelphia Phillies: (12) Jorge Alfaro, Jose Bautista, Jerad Eickhoff, Odubel Herrera, Jared Hughes, Phil Klein, Steve Lerud, Brad Lincoln, Andrew McCutchen, Aaron Rowand, Danny Sandoval, Nick Williams
Pittsburgh Pirates: (53) Tony Alvarez, Jose Bautista, Joe Beimel, Brian Bixler, Wilfredo Boscan, Bryan Bullington, Sean Burnett, Matt Capps, DJ Carrasco, Jose Castillo, Humberto Cota, Mike Crotta, Dave Davidson, JJ Davis, Rajai Davis, Yurendell DeCaster, Ryan Doumit, Zach Duke, Brad Eldred, Josh Fogg, Tom Gorzelanny, John Grabow, Matt Hague, JR House, Jared Hughes, Mike Johnston, Keone Kela, Adam LaRoche, Brad Lincoln, Paul Maholm, Josias Manzanillo, Javier Martinez, Andrew McCutchen, Nate McLouth, Jordy Mercer, Nyjer Morgan, Bryan Morris, Luis Munoz, Ronny Paulino, Steve Pearce, Alex Presley, Carlos Rivera, Romulo Sanchez, Josh Sharpless, Ian Snell, Steve Sparks, Chris Tremie, John Van Benschoten, Neil Walker, Tony Watson, Duke Welker, Dave Williams, Shane Youman.
San Diego Padres: (9) Carl Edwards, Jr., Robbie Erlin, Jon Garland, Dave Lundquist, Luis Sardinas, Craig Stansberry, Christian Villanueva, Joe Wieland, Chris Young.
San Francisco Giants: (8) Jose Castillo, Rajai Davis, Jeff Keppinger, Andrew McCutchen, Bryan Morris, Neil Ramirez, Aaron Rowand, Tony Watson
St Louis Cardinals: (6) Zach Duke, Mark Johnson, Drew Robinson, Nerio Rodriguez, Jason Simontacchi, Rico Washington.
Washington Nationals: (13) Jonathan Albaladejo, Joe Beimel, Brian Bixler, Sean Burnett, Matt Capps, JJ Davis, Abel De Los Santos, Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny, Adam LaRoche, Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan, Jason Simontacchi.
Overall, 178 players have donned a Hickory Crawdads uniform and played in the major leagues. Yesterday, I posted a list of the names in order of their debut dates. Today, the list is in alphabetical order along with years they played for Hickory, the debut dates, and what team(s) each played for.
CRAWDADS IN THE MAJORS (Bold indicates player was active as of March 13, 2020)
Jeff Abbott (’94, debut 6/10/97) Chicago White Sox 1997-2000, Florida Marlins 2001
Jim Abbott (’97, debut 4/8/89) California Angels 1989-1992, New York Yankees 1993-1994, Chicago White Sox 1995, California Angels 1995-1996, Chicago White Sox 1998, Milwaukee Brewers 1999
Jonathan Albaladejo (’03, debut 9/5/07) Washington Nationals 2007, New York Yankees 2008-2010, Arizona Diamondbacks 2012
Hanser Alberto (’12, debut 5/29/15) Texas Rangers 2015-2018, Baltimore Orioles 2019-2020
Jorge Alfaro (’12-’13, debut 9/12/16) Philadelphia Phillies 2016-2018, Miami Marlins 2019-2020
Tony Alvarez (’00, debut 9/04/02) Pittsburgh Pirates 2002, 2004
Jairo Asencio (formerly known as Luis Valdez) (’05-’06, debut 7/12/09) Atlanta Braves 2009, 2011, Cleveland Indians 2012, Chicago Cubs 2012, Baltimore Orioles 2013
Daniel Bard (’14, debut 5/13/09) Boston Red Sox 2009-2013
Jose Bautista (’02, debut 4/4/04) Baltimore Orioles 2004, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2004, Kansas City Royals 2004, Pittsburgh Pirates 2004-2008, Toronto Blue Jays 2008-2017, Atlanta Braves 2018, New York Mets 2018, Philadephia Phillies 2018
Joe Beimel (’99, debut 4/8/01) Pittsburgh Pirates 2001-2003, Minnesota Twins 2004, Tampa Bay Rays 2005, Los Angeles Dodgers 2006-2008, Washington Nationals 2009, Colorado Rockies 2009-2010, Pittsburgh Pirates 2011, Seattle Mariners 2014-2015
Kevin Beirne (’95, debut 5/17/00) Chicago White Sox 2000, Toronto Blue Jays 2001, Los Angeles Dodgers 2002
Chad Bell (’10, ’14, debut 5/10/17) Detroit Tigers 2017-2018
Jeff Bennett (’00, debut 4/6/04) Milwaukee Brewers 2004, Atlanta Braves 2007-2009, Tampa Bay Rays 2009
Jason Bere (’96, debut 5/27/93) Chicago White Sox 1993-1998, Cincinnati Reds 1998-1999, Milwaukee Brewers 1999-2000, Cleveland Indians 2000, Chicago Cubs 2001-2002, Cleveland Indians 2003
Mike Bertotti (’93, debut 7/29/95) Chicago White Sox 1995-1997
Rocky Biddle (’97, debut 8/10/00) Chicago White Sox 2000-2002, Montreal Expos 2003-2004
Brian Bixler (’05, debut 4/6/08) Pittsburgh Pirates 2008-2009, Washington Nationals 2011, Houston Astros 2012
Richard Bleier (’09, debut 5/30/16) New York Yankees 2016, Baltimore Orioles 2017-2020
Wilfredo Boscan (’09, 5/19/16) Pittsburgh Pirates 2015-2016
Chad Bradford (’96, debut 8/1/98) Chicago White Sox 1998-2000, Oakland A’s 2001-2004, Boston Red Sox 2005, New York Mets 2006, Baltimore Orioles 2007-2008, Tampa Bay Rays 2008-2009
Jake Brigham (’09-’10, debut 6/30/15) Atlanta Braves 2015
Lewis Brinson (’13-’14, debut 6/11/17) Milwaukee Brewers 2017, Miami Marlins 2018-2020
Bryan Bullington (’03 debut 9/18/05) Pittsburgh Pirates 2005, 2007-2008, Cleveland Indians 2008, Toronto Blue Jays 2009, Kansas City Royals 2010
Brock Burke (’19, debut 8/20/19) Texas Rangers 2019-2020
Sean Burnett (’01, debut 5/30/04) Pittsburgh Pirates 2004, 2008-2009, Washington Nationals 2009-2012, Los Angeles Angels 2013-2014, Washington Nationals 2016
Matt Capps (’04-’05, debut 9/15/05) Pittsburgh Pirates 2005-2009, Washington Nationals 2010, Minnesota Twins 2010-2012
DJ Carrasco (’00, debut 4/2/03) Kansas City Royals 2003-2005, Chicago White Sox 2008-2009, Pittsburgh Pirates 2010, Arizona Diamondbacks 2010, New York Mets 2011-2012
Carlos Castillo (’94-’95, debut 7/22/01) Chicago White Sox 1997-1999, Boston Red Sox 2001
Fabio Castillo (’09, debut 9/2/17) Los Angeles Dodgers 2017
Jose Castillo (’00, debut 4/7/04) Pittsburgh Pirates 2004-2007, San Francisco 2008, Houston Astros 2008
McKay Christensen (’96-’97, debut 4/6/99) Chicago White Sox 1999-2001, Los Angeles Dodgers 2001, New York Mets 2002
Alexander Claudio (’13, debut 8/13/14) Texas Rangers 2014-2018, Milwaukee Brewers 2019-2020
Chris Clemons (’94 debut 7/23/97) Chicago White Sox 1997
Humberto Cota (’99, debut 9/9/01) Pittsburgh Pirates 2001-2007
Joe Crede (’97, debut 9/12/00) Chicago White Sox 2000-2008, Minnesota Twins 2009
Mike Crotta (’06-’07, debut 4/3/11) Pittsburgh Pirates 2011
Nelson Cruz (’95, debut 8/1/97) Chicago White Sox 1997, Detroit Tigers 1999-2000, Houston Astros 2001-2002, Colorado Rockies 2003
Pat Danekar (’98, debut 7/2/99) Chicago White Sox 1999
Dave Davidson (’05-’06, debut 9/6/07) Pittsburgh Pirates 2007, Florida Marlins 2009
JJ Davis (’99, debut 9/4/02) Pittsburgh Pirates 2002-2004, Washington Nationals 2005
Rajai Davis (’02-’03, debut 8/14/06) Pittsburgh Pirates 2006-2007, San Francisco 2007-2008, Oakland A’s 2008-2010, Toronto Blue Jays 2011-2013, Detroit Tigers 2014-2015, Cleveland Indians 2016, Oakland A’s 2017, Boston Red Sox 2017, Cleveland Indians 2018, New York Mets 2019
Yurendell DeCaster (’01, debut 5/21/06) Pittsburgh Pirates 2006
Abel De Los Santos (’14, debut 7/21/15) Washington Nationals 2015, Cincinnati Reds 2016
Jason Dellaero (’97, debut 9/7/99) Chicago White Sox 1999
Chris Demaria (’04, debut 9/9/05) Kansas City Royals 2005-2006
Travis Demeritte (’14-’15, debut 8/2/19) Detroit Tigers 2019-2020
Ryan Doumit (’01-’02 debut 6/5/05) Pittsburgh Pirates 2005-2011, Minnesota Twins 2012-2013, Atlanta Braves 2014
Zach Duke (’03, debut 7/2/05) Pittsburgh Pirates 2005-2010, Arizona Diamondbacks 2011, Washington Nationals 2012-2013, Cincinnati Reds 2013, Milwaukee Brewers 2014, Chicago White Sox 2015-2016, St. Louis Cardinals 2016-2017, Minnesota Twins 2018, Seattle Mariners 2018, Cincinnati Reds 2019
Carl Edwards (’13, debut 9/7/15) Chicago Cubs 2015-2019, San Diego Padres 2019, Seattle Mariners 2020
Cody Ege (’13, debut 4/23/16) Miami Marlins 2016, Los Angeles Angels 2016
Jerad Eickhoff (’12, debut 8/21/15) Philadelphia Phillies 2015-2019, San Diego Padres 2020
Brad Eldred (’03, debut 7/22/05) Pittsburgh Pirates 2005, 2007, Colorado Rockies 2010, Detroit Tigers 2012
Cody Eppley (’09, debut 4/23/11) Texas Rangers 2011, New York Yankees 2012-2013
Robbie Erlin (’10) San Diego Padres 2013-2019, Pittsburgh Pirates 2020
Peter Fairbanks (’16, debut 6/9/19) Texas Rangers 2019, Tampa Bay Rays 2019-2020
Andrew Faulkner (’12-’13, debut 8/31/15) Texas Rangers 2015-2016
Josh Fogg (’98, debut 9/2/01) Chicago White Sox 2001, Pittsburgh Pirates 2002-2005, Colorado Rockies 2006-2007, Cincinnati Reds 2008, Colorado Rockies 2009
Wilmer Font (’09-’10, debut 9/18/12) Texas Rangers 2012-2013, Los Angeles Dodgers 2017-2018, Oakland A’s 2018, Tampa Bay Rays 2018-2019, New York Mets 2019, Toronto Blue Jays 2019-2020
Tom Fordham (’93-’94, debut 8/19/97) Chicago White Sox 1997-1998
Joey Gallo (’13, debut 6/2/15) Texas Rangers 2015-2020
Leury Garcia (’09-’10, debut 4/6/13) Texas Rangers 2013, Chicago White Sox 2013-2020
Luis Garcia (’96, debut 4/10/02) Baltimore Orioles 2002
Nick Gardewine (’15, debut 8/22/17) Texas Rangers 2017-2018
Jon Garland (’98, debut 7/4/00) Chicago White Sox 2000-2007, Los Angeles Angels 2008, Arizona Diamondbacks 2009, Los Angeles Dodgers 2009, San Diego Padres 2010, Los Angeles Dodgers 2011, Colorado Rockies 2013
Reed Garrett (’15, debut 3/29/19) Detroit Tigers 2019
Tom Gorzelanny (’04, debut 9/20/05) Pittsburgh Pirates 2005-2009, Chicago Cubs 2009-2010, Washington Nationals 2011-2012, Milwaukee Brewers 2013-2014, Detroit Tigers 2015, Cleveland Indians 2016
John Grabow (’99, debut 9/14/03) Pittsburgh Pirates 2003-2009, Chicago Cubs 2009-2011
Justin Grimm (’11, debut 6/16/12) Texas Rangers 2012-2013, Chicago Cubs 2013-2017, Kansas City Royals 2018, Seattle Mariners 2018
Ronald Guzman (’13, ’14, ’15, debut 4/13/18) Texas Rangers 2018-2019
Matt Hague (’08, debut 4/7/12) Pittsburgh Pirates 2012, 2014, Toronto Blue Jays 2015
Mark Hamburger (’09, debut 8/31/11) Texas Rangers 2011
Chris Heintz (’97, debut 9/10/05) Minnesota Twins 2005-2007
Bob Henley (’02, debut 7/19/98) Montreal Expos 1998
Jonathan Hernandez (’16-’17, debut 8/21/19) Texas Rangers 2019-2020
Odubel Herrera (’11, debut 4/6/15) Philadelphia Phillies 2015-2020
JR House (’99-’00, debut 9/27/03) Pittsburgh Pirates 2003-2004, Houston Astros 2006, Baltimore Orioles 2007, Houston Astros 2008
Jared Hughes (’06-’07, debut 9/7/11) Pittsburgh Pirates 2011-2016, Milwaukee Brewers 2017, Cincinnati Reds 2018-2019, Philadelphia Phillies 2019, Houston Astros 2020
Hansel Izquierdo (’98, debut 4/21/02) Florida Marlins 2002
Luke Jackson (debut 9/4/15) Texas Rangers 2015-2016, Atlanta Braves 2017-2020
Mark Johnson (’95, debut 9/14/98) Chicago White Sox 1998-2002, Oakland A’s 2003, Milwaukee Brewers 2004, St Louis Cardinals 2008\
Mike Johnston (’00-01, debut 4/7/04) Pittsburgh Pirates 2004-2005
James Jones (’16, debut 4/18/14) Seattle Mariners 2014-2015
Ariel Jurado (’15, debut 5/19/18) Texas Rangers 2018-2020
Keone Kela (’13, debut 4/7/15) Texas Rangers 2015-2018, Pittsburgh Pirates 2018-2020
Jeff Keppinger (’02, debut 8/20/04) New York Mets 2004, Kansas City Royals 2006, Cincinnati Reds 2007-2008, Houston Astros 2009-2011, San Francisco Giants 2011, Tampa Bay Rays 2012, Chicago White Sox 2013
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (’14-’15, debut 4/10/18) Texas Rangers 2018-2020
Phil Klein (’12 debut 8/1/14) Texas Rangers 2014-2016, Philadelphia Phillies 2016
Adam LaRoche (’08, debut 4/7/04) Atlanta Braves 2004-2006, Pittsburgh Pirates 2007-2009, Boston Red Sox 2009, Atlanta Braves 2009, Arizona Diamondbacks 2010, Washington Nationals 2011-2014, Chicago White Sox 2015.
Jose LeClerc (’13, debut 7/6/16) Texas Rangers 2016-2020
Carlos Lee (’95-’96, debut 5/7/99) Chicago White Sox 1999-2004, Milwaukee Brewers 2005-2006, Texas Rangers 2006, Houston Astros 2007-2012, Miami Marlins 2012
Steve Lerud (’05-’06) Philadelphia Phillies 2012-2013
Brent Lillibridge (’06, debut 4/26/08) Atlanta Braves 2008, Chicago White Sox 2009-2012, Boston Red Sox 2012, Cleveland Indians 2012, Chicago Cubs 2013, New York Yankees 2013
Brad Lincoln (’06, ’08, debut 6/9/10) Pittsburgh Pirates 2010-2012, Toronto Blue Jays 2012-2013, Philadelphia Phillies 2014
Josh Lueke (’10, debut 4/3/11) Seattle Mariners 2011, Tampa Bay Rays 2012-2014
Dave Lundquist (’94, ’04, debut 4/6/99) Chicago White Sox 1999, San Diego 2001-2002
Paul Maholm (’04, debut 8/20/05) Pittsburgh Pirates 2005-2011, Chicago Cubs 2012, Atlanta Braves 2012-2013, Los Angeles Dodgers 2014
Josias Manzanillo (’02, debut 10/5/91) Boston Red Sox 1991, Milwaukee Brewers 1993, New York Mets 1993-1995, New York Yankees 1995, Seattle Mariners 1997, New York Mets 1999, Pittsburgh Pirates 2000-2002, Cincinnati Reds 2003, Florida Marlins 2004
Brett Martin (’15-’16, debut 4/19/19) Texas Rangers 2019-2020
Javier Martinez (’99, debut 4/2/98) Pittsburgh Pirates 1998
Nick Martinez (’12, debut 4/5/14) Texas Rangers 2014-2017
Nomar Mazara (’13-’14, debut 4/10/16) Texas Rangers 2016-2019, Chicago White Sox 2020
Andrew McCutchen (’06, debut 6/4/09) Pittsburgh Pirates 2009-2017, San Francisco Giants 2018, Philadephia Phillies 2019-2020
Nate McLouth (’01, debut 6/29/05) Pittsburgh Pirates 2005-2009, Atlanta Braves 2009-2011, Pittsburgh Pirates 2012, Baltimore Orioles 2012-2013, Washington Nationals 2014-2015
Roman Mendez (’11, debut 7/8/14) Texas Rangers 2014-2015, Boston Red Sox 2015
Yohander Mendez (’14-’15, debut 9/5/16) Texas Rangers 2016-2020
Frank Menechino (’93, debut 9/6/99) Oakland A’s 1999-2004, Toronto Blue Jays 2004-2005
Jordy Mercer (’08, debut 5/29/12) Pittsburgh Pirates 2012-2018, Detroit Tigers 2019-2020
Dustin Molleken (’07-’08, debut 7/4/16) Detroit Tigers 2016
Dylan Moore (’15-’16, debut 3/20/19) Seattle Mariners 2019
Nyjer Morgan (’04, debut 9/1/07) Pittsburgh Pirates 2007-2009, Washington Nationals 2009-2010, Milwaukee Brewers 2011-2012, Cleveland Indians 2014
Bryan Morris (’08, debut 9/14/12) Pittsburgh Pirates 2012-2014, Miami Marlins 2014-2016, San Francisco Giants 2017
Luis Munoz (’05-’06, did not appear) Pittsburgh Pirates 2008
Aaron Myette (’97-’98, debut 9/7/99) Chicago White Sox 1999-2000, Texas Rangers 2001-2002, Cleveland 2003, Cincinnati Reds 2004
Greg Norton (’93, debut 8/18/96) Chicago White Sox 1996-2000, Colorado Rockies 2001-2003, Detroit Tigers 2004, Tampa Bay Rays 2006-2007, Seattle Mariners 2008, Atlanta Braves 2008-2009
Roberto Novoa (’02, debut 7/29/04) Detroit Tigers 2004, Chicago Cubs 2005-2006
Rougned Odor (’14, debut 5/8/14) Texas Rangers 2014-2020
Magglio Ordonez (’93-’94, debut 8/29/97) Chicago White Sox 1997-2004 Detroit Tigers 2005-2011
Joseph Ortiz (’09-’10, debut 3/31/13) Texas Rangers 2013
Luis Ortiz (’14-’15, debut 9/7/18) Baltimore Orioles 2018-2019
Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly known as Leo Nunez) (’02-’04, debut 5/9/05) Kansas City Royals 2005-2008, Florida Marlins 2009-2011, Tampa Bay Rays 2014
Henry Owens (’03, debut 7/7/06) New York Mets 2006, Florida Marlins 2007
Joe Palumbo (’15-’16, debut 6/8/19) Texas Rangers 2019-2020
Josh Paul (’96, debut 9/7/99) Chicago White Sox 1999-2003, Chicago Cubs 2003, Los Angeles Angels 2004-2005, Tampa Bay Rays 2006-2007
Ronny Paulino (’00, debut 9/25/05) Pittsburgh Pirates 2005-2008, Florida Marlins 2009-2010, New York Mets 2011, Baltimore Orioles 2012
Pedro Payano (’15-’16, debut 7/6/19) Texas Rangers 2019
Steve Pearce (’08, debut 9/1/07) Pittsburgh Pirates 2007-2011, Houston Astros 2012, New York Yankees 2012, Baltimore Orioles 2012-2015, Tampa Bay Rays 2016, Baltimore Orioles 2016, Toronto Blue Jays 2017-2018, Boston Red Sox 2018-2019
C.D. Pelham (’17, debut 9/5/18) Texas Rangers 2018
Jesus Pena (’97, debut 8/7/99) Chicago White Sox 1999-2000, Boston Red Sox 2000
Martin Perez (’09, debut 6/27/12) Texas Rangers 2012-2018, Minnesota Twins 2019, Boston Red Sox 2020
Alex Presley (’07, debut 9/8/10) Pittsburgh Pirates 2010 -2013, Minnesota Twins 2013, Houston Astros 2014-2015, Milwaukee Brewers 2016, Detroit Tigers 2016-2017
Jurickson Profar (’11, debut 9/2/12) Texas Rangers 2012-2018, Oakland A’s 2019, San Diego Padres 2020
Neil Ramirez (’09-’10, debut 4/26/14) Chicago Cubs 2014-2016, Milwaukee Brewers 2016, Minnesota Twins 2016, Sam Francisco Giants 2017, Toronto Blue Jays 2017, New York Mets 2017, Cleveland Indians 2018-2019, Toronto Blue Jays 2019-2020
Todd Redmond (’06, debut 8/18/12) Atlanta Braves 2012, Cincinnati Reds 2012, Toronto Blue Jays 2013-2015
Carlos Rivera (’99, debut 6/22/03) Pittsburgh Pirates 2003-2004
Drew Robinson (’12, debut 4/5/17) Texas Rangers 2017-2018, St. Louis Cardinals 2019
Liu Rodriguez (’96-’97, debut 6/9/99) Chicago White Sox 1999
Nerio Rodriguez (’93, debut 8/18/96) Baltimore 1996-1998, Toronto Blue Jays 1998-1999, Cleveland Indians 2002, St Louis Cardinals 2002
Ricardo Rodriguez (’14-’15, debut 8/14/17) Texas Rangers 2017-2018
Jamie Romak (’07, debut 5/28/14) Los Angeles Dodgers 2014, Arizona Diamondbacks 2015
Pete Rose, Jr (’94, debut 9/1/97) Cincinnati Reds 1997
Robbie Ross (’10, debut 4/8/12) Texas Rangers 2012-2014, Boston Red Sox 2015-2017
Aaron Rowand (’98, debut 6/16/01) Chicago White Sox 2001-2005, Philadelphia Phillies 2006-2007, San Francisco 2008-2011
Ben Rowen (’11, debut 6/15/14) Texas Rangers 2014, Chicago Cubs 2015, Milwaukee Brewers 2016
Ryan Rua (’13, debut 8/29/14) Texas Rangers 2014-2018
Connor Sadzeck (’13, debut 9/1/18) Texas Rangers 2018, Seattle Mariners 2019
Romulo Sanchez (’05-’06, debut 8/26/07) Pittsburgh Pirates 2007-2008, New York Yankees 2010
Danny Sandoval (’98, debut 7/17/05) Philadelphia Phillies 2005-2006
Luis Sardinas (’12, debut 4/20/14) Texas Rangers 2014, Milwaukee Brewers 2015, Seattle Mariners 2016, San Diego Padres 2016-2017, Baltimore Orioles 2018
Brian Schmack (’96, debut 8/24/03) Detroit Tigers 2003
Josh Sharpless (’04, debut 8/1/06) Pittsburgh Pirates 2006-2007
Chris Shelton (’02, debut 4/15/04) Detroit Tigers 2004-2006, Texas Rangers 2008, Seattle Mariners 2009
Brian Simmons (’95, debut 9/21/98) Chicago White Sox 1998-1999, Toronto Blue Jays 2001
Jason Simontacchi (’99, debut 5/4/02) St Louis Cardinals 2002-2004, Washington Nationals 2007
Ian Snell (’02, debut 8/4/04) Pittsburgh Pirates 2004-2009, Seattle Mariners 2009-2010
Steve Sparks (’99, debut 7/19/00) Pittsburgh Pirates 2000
Jeffrey Springs (’15-’16, debut 7/31/18) Texas Rangers 2018-2019, Boston Red Sox 2020
Craig Stansberry (’04, debut 8/25/07) San Diego Padres 2007-2009
Erik Swanson (’15-’16, debut 4/11/19) Seattle Mariners 2019-2020
Dillon Tate (’15-’16, debut 7/29/19) Baltimore Orioles 2019-2020
Tomas Telis (’11, debut 8/25/14) Texas Rangers 2014-2015, Miami Marlins 2015-2018
Nick Tepesch (’11, debut 4/9/13) Texas Rangers 2013-2014, Los Angeles Dodgers 2016, Kansas City Royals 2016, Minnesota Twins 2017, Toronto Blue Jays 2017
Chris Tremie (’93, debut 7/1/95) Chicago White Sox 1995, Texas Rangers 1998, Pittsburgh Pirates 1999, Houston Astros 2004
Jose Trevino (’15, debut 6/15/18) Texas Rangers 2018-2020
Mario Valdez (’95, debut 6/15/97) Chicago White Sox 1997, Oakland A’s 2000-2001
John Van Benschoten (’02, debut 8/18/04) Pittsburgh Pirates 2004, 2007-2008
Christian Villanueva (’11, debut 9/18/17) San Diego Padres 2017-2018
Neil Walker (’05, debut 9/1/09) Pittsburgh Pirates 2009-2015, New York Mets 2016-2017, Milwaukee Brewers 2017, New York Yankees 2018, Miami Marlins 2019, Philadelphia Phillies 2020
Rico Washington (’99, debut 4/1/08) St Louis Cardinals 2008
Tony Watson (’07, debut 6/8/11) Pittsburgh Pirates 2011-2017, Los Angeles Dodgers 2017, San Francisco Giants 2019-2020
Duke Welker (’08, 6/23/13) Pittsburgh Pirates 2013
Matt West (’09-’10, debut 7/10/14) Texas Rangers 2014, Los Angeles Dodgers 2015
Joe Wieland (’09-’10, debut 4/14/12) San Diego Padres 2012, 2014, Los Angeles Dodgers 2015, Seattle Mariners 2016
Dave Williams (’99-’00, debut 6/6/01) Pittsburgh Pirates 2001-2005, Cincinnati Reds 2006, New York Mets 2006-2007
Nick Williams (’13, debut 6/30/17) Philadelphia Phillies 2017-2020
Shane Youman (’03, debut 9/10/06) Pittsburgh Pirates 2006-2007
Chris Young (’01-’02, debut 8/24/04) Texas Rangers 2004-2005, San Diego Padres 2006-2010, New York Mets 2011-12, Seattle Mariners 2014, Kansas City Royals 2015-2017
Walter Young (’02, debut 9/6/05) Baltimore Orioles 2005
With the winter sports season for area high schools concluding this week, I was beginning to get the itch for baseball. I began updating things and setting up Crawdads coverage. And then Coronavirus hit. The likelihood of no baseball for a while bites but there is not much one can do.
So, I decided to make put some things on here related to Crawdads history, and perhaps jog some memories for Hickory fans.
Today, it’s a list of all 178 former players that have received a callup to the majors, or who played here in a rehab assignment. This will include one poor soul that got a promotion to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but never saw major league action before going back to AAA. His name was Luis Munoz, a pitcher that played until 2016 with Ottawa in the independent Can-Am League. His moment in a big league uniform came in 2008.
From Chris Tremie to Jonathan Hernandez, here is the list:
CRAWDADS IN THE MAJORS (Listed by Debut Date) Still Active in majors
- Jim Abbott (debut 4/8/89) rehab player 1998
- Josias Manzanillo (debut 10/5/91) rehab 2002
- Jason Bere (debut 5/27/93) rehab player 1996
- Chris Tremie (debut 7/1/95) 1st Crawdads player to appear in major leagues.
- Mike Bertotti (debut 7/29/95)
- Nerio Rodriguez (debut 8/18/96)
- Greg Norton (debut 8/18/96)
- Jeff Abbott (debut 6/10/97)
- Mario Valdez (debut 6/15/97)
- Chris Clemons (debut 7/23/97)
- Nelson Cruz (debut 8/1/97)
- Magglio Ordonez (debut 8/29/97)
- Tom Fordham (debut 8/19/97)
- Pete Rose, Jr (debut 9/1/97)
- Javier Martinez (debut 4/2/98)
- Bob Henley (debut 7/19/98) played in Hickory in 2002.
- Chad Bradford (debut 8/1/98)
- Mark Johnson (debut 9/14/98)
- Brian Simmons (debut 9/21/98)
- McKay Christensen (debut 4/6/99)
- Dave Lundquist (debut 4/6/99)
- Carlos Lee (debut 5/7/99)
- Liu Rodriguez (debut 6/9/99)
- Pat Danekar (debut 7/2/99)
- Jesus Pena (debut 8/7/99)
- Frank Menechino (debut 9/6/99)
- Jason Dellaero (debut 9/7/99)
- Aaron Myette (debut 9/7/99)
- Josh Paul (debut 9/7/99)
- Kevin Beirne (debut 5/17/00)
- Jon Garland (debut 7/4/00)
- Steve Sparks (debut 7/19/00) 1st player as Pirate affiliate in majors
- Rocky Biddle (debut 8/10/00)
- Joe Crede (debut 9/12/00)
- Joe Beimel (debut 4/8/01)
- Dave Williams (debut 6/6/01)
- Aaron Rowand (debut 6/16/01)
- Carlos Castillo (debut 7/22/01)
- Josh Fogg (debut 9/2/01)
- Humberto Cota (debut 9/9/01)
- Luis Garcia (debut 4/10/02)
- Hansel Izquierdo (debut 4/21/02)
- Jason Simontacchi (debut 5/4/02)
- JJ Davis (debut 9/4/02)
- Tony Alvarez (debut 9/4/02)
- DJ Carrasco (debut 4/2/03)
- Carlos Rivera (debut 6/22/03)
- Brian Schmack (debut 8/24/03)
- John Grabow (debut 9/14/03)
- JR House (debut 9/27/03)
- Jose Bautista (debut 4/4/04)
- Jeff Bennett (debut 4/6/04)
- Adam LaRoche (debut 4/7/04) rehab player in 2008
- Mike Johnston (debut 4/7/04)
- Jose Castillo (debut 4/7/04)
- Chris Shelton (debut 4/15/04)
- Sean Burnett (debut 5/30/04)
- Roberto Novoa (debut 7/29/04)
- Ian Snell (debut 8/4/04)
- John Van Benschoten (debut 8/18/04)
- Jeff Keppinger (debut 8/20/04)
- Chris Young (debut 8/24/04)
- Juan Carlos Oviedo (debut 5/9/05)
- Ryan Doumit (debut 6/5/05)
- Nate McLouth (debut 6/29/05)
- Zach Duke (debut 7/2/05)
- Danny Sandoval (debut 7/17/05)
- Brad Eldred (debut 7/22/05)
- Paul Maholm (debut 8/20/05)
- Walter Young (debut 9/6/05)
- Chris Demaria (debut 9/9/05)
- Chris Heintz (debut 9/10/05)
- Matt Capps (debut 9/15/05)
- Bryan Bullington (debut 9/18/05)
- Tom Gorzelanny (debut 9/20/05)
- Ronny Paulino (debut 9/25/05)
- Yurendell DeCaster (debut 5/21/06)
- Henry Owens (debut 7/7/06)
- Josh Sharpless (debut 8/1/06)
- Rajai Davis (debut 8/14/06)
- Shane Youman (debut 9/10/06)
- Craig Stansberry (debut 8/25/07)
- Romulo Sanchez (debut 8/26/07)
- Steve Pearce (debut 9/1/07)
- Nyjer Morgan (debut 9/1/07)\
- Jonathan Albaladejo (debut 9/5/07)
- Dave Davidson (debut 9/6/07)
- Rico Washington (debut 4/1/08)
- Brian Bixler (debut 4/6/08)
- Brent Lillibridge (debut 4/26/08)
- Luis Munoz (did not appear, called up 7/10/08)
- Andrew McCutchen (debut 6/4/09)
- Jairo Asencio (debut 7/12/09)
- Neil Walker (debut 9/1/09)
- Brad Lincoln (debut 6/9/10)
- Alex Presley (debut 9/8/10)
- Mike Crotta (debut 4/3/11)
- Josh Lueke (debut 4/3/11) 1st player as Rangers affiliate in majors
- Cody Eppley (debut 4/23/11)
- Tony Watson (debut 6/8/11)
- Mark Hamburger (debut 8/31/11)
- Jared Hughes (debut 9/7/11)
- Matt Hague (debut 4/7/12)
- Robbie Ross (debut 4/8/12)
- Joe Wieland (debut 4/14/12)
- Jordy Mercer (debut 5/29/12)
- Justin Grimm (debut 6/16/12)
- Martin Perez (debut 6/27/12)
- Todd Redmond (debut 8/18/12)
- Steve Lerud (debut 8/30/12)
- Jurickson Profar (debut 9/2/12)
- Bryan Morris (debut 9/14/12)
- Wilmer Font (debut 9/18/12)
- Joseph Ortiz (debut 3/31/13)
- Leury Garcia (debut 4/6/13)
- Nick Tepesch (debut 4/9/13)
- Robbie Erlin (debut 4/30/13)
- Duke Welker (debut 6/23/13)
- Nick Martinez (debut 4/5/14)
- Luis Sardinas (debut 4/21/14)
- Neil Ramirez (debut 4/26/14)
- Rougned Odor (debut 5/8/14)
- Jamie Romak (debut 5/18/14)
- Daniel Bard (debut 5/15/09) rehab 2014
- Ben Rowen (debut 6/15/14)
- Roman Mendez (debut 7/8/14)
- Matt West (debut 7/10/14)
- Phil Klein (debut 8/1/14)
- Alexander Claudio (debut 8/13/14)
- Tomas Telis (debut 8/25/14)
- Ryan Rua (debut 8/29/14)
- Odubel Herrera (debut 4/6/15)
- Keone Kela (debut 4/7/15)
- Wilfredo Boscan (5/19/16)
- Hanser Alberto (debut 5/29/15)
- Joey Gallo (debut 6/2/15)
- Jake Brigham (debut 6/30/15)
- Abel De Los Santos (debut 7/21/15)
- Luke Jackson (debut 9/4/15)
- Jerad Eickhoff (debut 8/21/15)
- Andrew Faulkner (debut 8/31/15)
- CJ Edwards (debut 9/7/15)
- Nomar Mazara (debut 4/10/16)
- Cody Ege (debut 4/23/16)
- Richard Bleier (debut 5/30/16)
- Dustin Molleken (debut 7/4/16)
- Jose Leclerc (debut 7/6/16)
- James Jones (debut 4/18/14)
- Jorge Alfaro (debut 9/12/16)
- Yohander Mendez (debut 9/5/16)
- Drew Robinson (debut 4/5/17)
- Chad Bell (debut 5/10/17)
- Lewis Brinson (debut 6/11/17)
- Nick Williams (debut 6/30/17)
- Ricardo Rodriguez (debut 8/8/17)
- Nick Gardewine (debut 8/22/17)
- Fabio Castillo (debut 9/2/17)
- Christian Villanueva (debut 9/18/17)
- Isiah Kiner-Falefa (debut 4/10/18)
- Ronald Guzman (debut 4/13/18)
- Ariel Jurado (debut 5/19/18)
- Jose Trevino (debut 6/15/18)
- Jeffrey Springs (debut 7/31/18)
- Connor Sadzeck (debut 9/1/18)
- Ryan Cordell (debut 9/3/18)
- CD Pelham (debut 9/5/18
- Luis Ortiz (debut 9/7/18)
- Dylan Moore (debut 3/20/19)
- Reed Garrett (debut 3/29/19)
- Erik Swanson (debut 4/11/19)
- Brett Martin (debut 4/19/19)
- Joe Palumbo (debut 6/8/19)
- Peter Fairbanks (debut 6/9/19)
- Pedro Payano (debut 7/6/19)
- Dillon Tate (debut 7/29/19)
- Travis Demeritte (debut 8/2/19)
- Brock Burke (debut 8/20/19)
- Jonathan Hernandez (debut 8/21/19)
Today is the unofficial start of the baseball season. I know it’s a cold January day, but with the Hickory Crawdads hosting the Texas Rangers Winter Caravan today, the occasion is a reminder that games begin in a few short months.
For the past three years, the caravan has been an occasion for the Rangers to bring back some of the former players to Hickory. This year, Jose Trevino and Jeffrey Springs return to the city where they helped win the 2015 South Atlantic League title.
The event is especially meaningful for Springs. Here is a 30th-round pick as a senior out of Appalachian State and, before that, South Point High in Belmont, about an hour drive from Hickory. Not many 30th rounders get to the major leagues. Not many senior signees get to the major leagues. Not many alums of App State get to the major leagues – in fact, only seven have. Yet, the left-hander defied the odds and last July he made his MLB debut on July 31 with the Texas Rangers in Arlington.
My memory of Springs was a guy that really was too good for this league. A sharp-cutting slider – I’d swear it was a curveball at times – accentuated his low 90s fastball and made it seem even faster. In parts of two seasons with the Crawdads, Springs posted a 1.05 ERA in 34.1 innings pitched (20 games) with 46 strikeouts and nine strikeouts.
With his arsenal, the Rangers had Springs return to the starting role he had at Appalachian State. With mixed results, he jumped back to bullpen work and showed enough at AA Frisco and AAA Round Rock to get a look-see with the Rangers over the final two months of the season.
So, when Springs comes back to Hickory today it will be as a big leaguer. In itself, that is something the left-hander had little imagination for this time last year when he was working for the YMCA in Charlotte, trying to supplement his minor-league income. The whole idea of Springs coming home this fall as a major leaguer was surreal to him. But now, he is in a position to make that surreal dream an annual reality.
It is that mindset that this interview with Springs begins.
What was it like going home this fall, after the season, being a big leaguer?
Springs: It was kind of surreal thinking back on the season. You kind of reflect a little bit when you get home, because you’ve been going at it since February. Kind of looking back, it was unbelievable how quickly it happened. I was just taking it one step at a time. I was hoping it would go well at AA and, obviously, trying to end the year there. Before I knew it, I was in AAA and then the next thing I knew, I was getting called up to the big leagues. I mean, it was everything you could think about. It’s crazy to think about.
The first couple of months at home, it was kind of hard to think that I could call myself a big leaguer.
Do you have a different mindset this winter than when you went home last year from Kinston, or when you went home from Hickory, etc.?
Springs: I was hungrier, I guess, looking at it in the sense of I got there. Now, it’s a matter of really establishing myself and staying around and making a career of it. It’s one goal to get there, but then once you get there, you only want to play there. It kind of opens your eyes to the competition, to the lifestyle, and the teammates. It motivates me more that I want to stay there. Like I said, I want to be a part of the team. I had a little bit of success and I feel like I can compete at that level. That was a big takeaway that I had from those two months, that I can pitch at that level and I can have success.
How did you find out you were going to Texas?
Springs: I was actually sitting at my apartment in Round Rock on an off day doing laundry. I knew the trade deadline was coming up, or whatever, but I didn’t look too much into it.
I was on the phone with my mom, calling her and touching base. I saw Paul Kruger’s (Texas Rangers assistant director of player development) name popped up on my phone. So I told her that I’ve got to go real quick. He answered the phone and he was like, “Hey, hold on just a second, you’ve got the Triple-A manager on the phone.”
He asked, “what are you doing?” I was like, ‘I’m doing laundry.’ He said, ‘Stop doing that and get to the field and get to the airport. You’re meeting the team in Arizona. You just got called up. Congratulations.’
After he said that, I blacked out almost, because I really didn’t know what to say back to him other than thank you. He was like, “You’ve got about an hour-and-a-half to get to the field and get to the airport. So hurry up.”
I was running through the airport trying to make the flight because I was scared I was going to miss it. On the whole plane ride, it was, “is this really happening?” I showed up to the park at about 5:45, six o’clock. I played catch with the pitching coach and the next thing that I knew I was in the game that night. It was a hectic day, but I would do it over and over again if I had to.
Did you fly with wet clothes?
Springs: No (laughing). I had some clothes, but he was like, ‘just wear whatever you wear to the ballpark because you’re going to turn around and fly right back home that night.’ I was only there that night, because it was their last game in Arizona.
So, I flew in with the team and then I caught a flight back to Austin and drove my car back to Arlington because it was an off day the next day. It was pretty crazy; it really was. Like I said, I was nervous that I was going to miss the flight, because if I missed the flight, I wasn’t going to be at the game. It all worked out, that’s for sure. Like I said, I would do it over and over again if I had to for that experience.
What was your first moment in the big leagues where you said, “okay, this is for real”?
Springs: I feel like the first outing, it was so surreal that I didn’t really register what was going on the first inning. Once I got that out of the way, I felt like I got back to pitching. Once I was able to strike out the first guy of my career, I felt like it was, “Hey, it’s just baseball. You’ve just got to make pitches.” and things like that. They’re just a little bit better hitters. I guess, after that, it was three or four outings into it that I realized, “Ok, I can do this.” It’s a matter of doing what I do and executing pitches.
Who was the first hitter you faced where you really got a sense that this was a surreal moment? You see them on TV and you hear about them and read about them, and there you are.
Springs: Probably with Arizona. They had A.J. Pollock, and Paul Goldschmidt and John Jay – I remember facing him when he was rehabbing at Lake Elsinore (High-A San Diego) out in the California. These are guys you see on TV all the time. Paul Goldschmidt is unbelievable. Pollock was on the All-star team. All these guys that you watch. Probably the first couple of hitters with Arizona. Facing guys like Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen and people like that, it’s pretty crazy.
The last time you and I talked was two years ago just after you were selected for the South Atlantic League All-Star game. What clicked for you from your time at Hickory until your callup? What was the period of time where you began to think, maybe I can get there?
Springs: I think, maybe, throughout the year in Kinston. I had some ups and downs as a starter, but I think I realized how to read swings a little bit better, and really what I did well and what I didn’t do so well, so I could pitch to my strengths. I really focused in on that. This is where I can go to get hitters out. This is where I can go to get ground balls or popups. It was really understanding what I could do and sticking to that and always pitching to my strengths, unless the situation calls for something different. Understanding that if you’re going to get beat, you’ve got to get beat with your best pitch with a hundred percent conviction.
So, once I kind of understood, hey, this is what I’m good at and this is how I pitch, this is what I need to do to have success, and really focusing in on my reading swings. Kind of watching how other guys attack hitters and thinking to myself, “what would I do in that situation?”
As a starter, you would have to sit up in the stands and chart the game. I think that really helped me a lot understanding the swings. It’s something that I never really focused on. I was just out there trying to make my pitch. Once I kind of realized why you’re trying to make that pitch, I think that helped me out tremendously.
Obviously, there’s a lot of room to improve, but I think I have a pretty good understanding of what I do well, and I just continue to work on it as I move forward.
I looked back and remembered that you had pitched for South Point in the state 3A title series. If I remember reading this right, you were a hitter. How did you decide to go to App to be a pitcher instead of a hitter? You had quite a series in the championship.
Springs: My first year, my coaches didn’t like the young guys to hit, he wanted them to focus on pitching. So, I hit a little bit then – obviously, I hit in my career before that. But, the days I pitched, I didn’t get to hit. So, I played first base.
I had committed to college – I think, my sophomore or junior year. I had committed early as a pitcher. I was a decent hitter my junior year, but I was already committed to be a pitcher. So, my senior year, since I knew it was going to be my last year hitting, I really worked on it in the offseason. I just kind of clicked, because I knew there wasn’t any pressure in it. I knew I was going as a pitcher and I probably wouldn’t get to swing the bat very much. I was just having fun and enjoying that last year in high school.
Do you go back to South Point very much?
Springs: Every once in a while. I went back and signed autographs at one of the football games. They asked me to come out and do that for a little recognition thing. But, I’ll go back to the high school a couple of times. They’ll do their winter workouts and stuff. I don’t want to impose, so I’ll throw on my own and stuff like that, because they have a limited amount of time that they can do their workouts and stuff, so I don’t want to bother them too much. I kind of follow them and stuff and my parents still live in Belmont.
You had the chance in the last year to be an opener, which is a new thing going on in the major leagues. How have you embraced that role and how has that been different from what you’ve done in the minor league as a traditional reliever?
Springs: Honestly, I treated it the exact same. I went out there, obviously, a little earlier. As a bullpen guy, you don’t have to get out there quite as early. The first one I did in Arlington, I went out to the bullpen before people were even out there. I just kind of sat down there and did my normal routine. I sat there by myself a little bit and then I got up and started stretching. By that time that catcher and the pitching coaches were coming out because the game was about to start in 15-20 minutes, as opposed to a traditional starter, who gets out there 30-40 minutes early.
I went through my stuff. I had played catch earlier that day with the relievers, so I was going to treat it like a normal day. I’m just coming into the game earlier. Basically, I’m starting it. I just got up on the mound and went through the routine and then went into the dugout. I treated it as close to my normal routine as possible, because I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it by overthinking. I treated it the exact same. I had a little success with it, so I did that the next time in Oakland and it worked out okay. I think it went pretty well.
Do you have a sense of doing something different and unique that is on the ground level of this sort of thinking with the opener? Not many people have the opportunity to do something that is different and outside of the box?
Definitely, I was very fortunate they allowed me to do that, the few times that they did. I kind of just embraced it with an open arm and open mind. For me, whether I’m pitching in the first inning as an opener, or the ninth inning as a closer, I’m focusing on three outs, one inning at a time and putting up zeros.
I try not to look too much into it. I like to keep it as simple as possible, but it’s just I have to go out there and do my job whether it’s as an opener or facing one hitter. I just try to treat it the same as possible. It is pretty cool and I’m pretty fortunate to be a part of that, if that’s what they continue to do. It’s pretty neat.
What were you doing this time last year?
Springs: This time last year, working part time jobs and kind of getting back into shape and try to get ready to go to spring training.
Where did you work?
Springs: The YMCA in Charlotte.
So now, you’re doing Winter Caravan with a major league team?
Springs: Yeah (laughter). It’s a little different, because, you know, this the time I always come home and try to work part time, because money is not great. It is what it is, so it’s a little different this year for sure.
No part-time jobs this offseason?
Springs: No, part-time jobs. I’m pretty booked up with the wedding and all that. Other than I teach a lesson to a young kid and stuff like that. That’s not really for money, it’s just to help him out and try to teach him some things that I wish I had have learned younger.
Being a 30th-round pick and you were a senior sign to the major leagues, how surreal is that whole journey, where most of you guys don’t make it?
It’s pretty crazy; I mean, really thinking about that, like you said. From that first year in Spokane, just thinking about the guys that I played with that were very good and were much higher draft picks, and things like that, it didn’t necessarily work out for them, even after that year, to where I am now, it’s pretty crazy. It’s definitely really crazy to hear. I don’t really think too much about it except for when people bring it up. It’s very humbling and an amazing experience, that’s for sure.
As the 2017 season begins, 29 former Hickory Crawdads will dot major league rosters. That is up from 25 to start the 2016 campaign.
Ten of those are on the Crawdads parent club, the Texas Rangers. Among American League clubs, only Toronto has two former Hickory players. Thirteen former Crawdads are on National League teams, including three on the Pittsburgh Pirates, left over from the days of their affiliation with Hickory. The Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres each have two.
Three players on MLB rosters will start the year on the disabled list: Hanser Alberto (Texas), Robbie Erlin (San Diego) and Zach Duke (St. Louis).
Here is a synopsis of each player in the majors:
Hanser Alberto (’12): The infielder will begin the season on the disabled. He has played the last two seasons with Texas, posting a .194/ .204 /.226 slash over 76 combined games.
Jose Bautista (’02): The right-handed hitter will be in his 14th major league season, the ninth with the Toronto Blue Jays. Battling injuries in 2016, Bautista hit 22 homers in 116 and posted a .234/.366/.452 slash. He signed a one-year contract with Toronto during the off-season to remain with the club.
Alex Claudio (’13): The soft-tossing, lefty reliever will be in his fourth major league season with the Texas Rangers. In 39 games in 2016, he put up a 2.79 ERA over 51.2 innings with 34 Ks and 10 walks.
Rajai Davis (’02-’03): The speedy outfielder will be in his 12th major league season, his first with the Oakland A’s after signing a free agent contract in the off-season. The right-handed hitter posted a .249/.306/.388 slash with Cleveland in 2016 and led the American League with 43 stolen bases. He is expected to start in centerfield for the Athletics, with whom he played for from 2008-2010.
Joey Gallo (’13): The left-handed hitter will be in his third major league season with the Texas Rangers. He has played in 53 games the previous two years, putting up a .173/ .281/.368 slash. Gallo will start at third in place of the injured Adrian Beltre.
Leury Garcia (’09-’10): The switch-hitter will be in his fifth major league season, most of those with the Chicago Cubs. Out of minor-league options, Garcia was kept on the big league club and will fill a utility role. He spent much of last year at AAA Charlotte.
Jose Leclerc (’13): The right-handed reliever will be on his first opening-day roster after he made 12 relief appearances for the Texas Rangers in his debut season last year. He put up a 1.80 ERA in 15 innings with 15 Ks and 13 BBs. He split last year at AA Frisco and AAA Round Rock.
Nomar Mazara (’13-’14): The left-handed hitting outfielder will be in his second major league season with the Texas Rangers after playing in 145 games during his debut season. He posted a .266/.320/.419 slash with 20 homers and 64 RBI. Mazara will start the season in right.
Rougned Odor (’12): The left-handed second baseman will be in his fourth season with the Texas Rangers and recently signed a six-year extension with the club. Last year, Odor hit 33 homers and collected 88 RBI in 150 games. His posted a .271/.296 /.502 slash.
Steve Pearce (’07): The right-handed hitter will be in his 11th major league season, the first with the Toronto Blue Jays after signing a two-year deal during the off-season. Pearce split last year between Tampa Bay and Baltimore, posting a .288/.374/.492 slash over 110 games. He his expected to start in left.
Martin Perez (’09): The left-handed pitcher will be in his sixth major league season with the Texas Rangers. Perez went 10-11 with a 4.39 ERA over 33 starts in 2016. He is expected to be the No. 3 starter for the Rangers.
Jurickson Profar (’12, ’15): The switch-hitter will be in his fourth major league season with the Texas Rangers, but is on his first opening-day roster. Profar had a .239/.321/.338 slash over 90 games in 2016. He is expected to play a utility role for the Rangers this year.
Drew Robinson (’12): The left-handed hitter will make his major league debut with the Texas Rangers this season after spending last year at AAA Round Rock. Robinson will play a utility role with Texas.
Robbie Ross (’10): The left-handed reliever will be in his sixth major league season, the third with the Boston Red Sox. Ross posted a 3.25 ERA in 2016 and fanned 56 over 55.1 innings.
Ryan Rua (’13): The right-handed hitter will be in his fourth major league season with the Texas Rangers. Rua posted a .258//331/.400 slash over 99 games last year. He is expected to split time in left and at first.
Chris Young (’01-’02): The right-handed pitcher will be in his 13th major league season, the third with the Kansas City Royals. Young went 3-9 in 34 games (13 starts) in 2016 with a 6.19 ERA. He lost out in a battle for the No. 5 spot in the rotation and will be a long-man out of the bullpen.
Zach Duke (’03): The left-handed reliever will miss the 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He is currently with the St. Louis Cardinals after the team acquired him from the Chicago White Sox in a 2016 trade.
Carl Edwards, Jr. (’13): The right-handed reliever will be in his third major league season with the Chicago Cubs. This will be his first opening-day in the majors. In 36 games last year, Edwards posted a 3.75 ERA with 52 Ks and 14 BBs over 36 innings. The National League hit just .123 against Edwards.
Jerad Eickhoff (’12): The right-handed starting pitcher will be in his third major league season with the Philadelphia Phillies after he completed his first full year with the club in 2016. He went 11-14 with a 3.65 ERA over 33 starts, striking out 167 and walking 42 over 197.1 innings. Eickhoff will be the No. 2 starter for the Phillies.
Robbie Erlin (’10): The left-handed pitcher will begin this season on the disabled list with the San Diego Padres while he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2016. He hopes to return to the club this midseason for what would be his fifth major league season.
Justin Grimm (’11): The right-handed reliever will be in his sixth major league season, the fifth with the Chicago Cubs. In 68 appearances in 2016, Grimm went 2-1 with a 4.10 ERA and fanned 65 to just 23 walks over 52.2 IP. Grimm will pitch in middle relief.
Odubel Herrera (’11): The left-handed hitter will be in his third major league season with the Philadelphia Phillies after he took a big step as one of the National League’s best young centerfielders in 2016. During a season in which he represented the Phillies on the National League All-Star Team, Herrera posted a .286/.361/.420 slash and stole 25 bases in 159 games.
Jared Hughes (’07-’08): The right-handed reliever will be in his seventh major league season and recently just signed with the Milwaukee Brewers after the Pittsburgh Pirates released him last week. Hughes went 1-1 with a 3.03 ERA over 67 appearances in 2016. He will pitch in middle relief for the Brewers.
Andrew McCutchen (’06): The right-handed hitter will be in his ninth major league season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. McCutchen struggled over 153 games last year and posted his career-worst slash (.256/.336/.430). He hit 24 homers, but stole just six bases in 13 attempts. After manning center his entire career, McCutchen will shift to right this year.
Jordy Mercer (’08): The right-handed shortstop will be in his sixth major league season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He played in 149 games last year and posted a .256/.313/.377 with 11 homers and 59 RBI.
Neil Ramirez (’09-’10): The right-handed pitcher will be in his fourth major league season, the first with the San Francisco Giants. Ramirez signed a minor-league contract with the club during the offseason and made the club out of spring training. Ramirez made 18 relief appearances with three clubs (Cubs, Milwaukee, Minnesota) and struggled to a 6.00 ERA over 24 innings. He did strike out 24, but walked 18 and had a 1.67 WHIP. He will come out of the bullpen for the Giants.
Luis Sardinas (’12): The switch-hitter will be in his fourth major league season, the second with the San Diego Padres after the team acquired him from Seattle during the 2016 season. Sardinas played in 66 combined games last year with a .244/.295/.356 slash. He will play some shortstop, but will start the season in a utility role.
Neil Walker (’05): The switch-hitting second baseman will be in his ninth major league season, the second with the New York Mets after resigning in the offseason. Despite battling a back injury, Walker still posted a .282/.347/.476 over 113 games with the Mets and blasted 23 homers.
Tony Watson (’07): The left-handed reliever will be in his seventh major league season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After the midseason trade of Mark Melancon, Watson took on the job of the Pirates closer in 2016 and will serve in the same role this year. He went 2-5 with 15 saves last year over 70 games with a 3.06 ERA. Watson struck out 58 and walked 20 over 67.2 IP.
It’s always fun for me – and for most minor league observers, those who are paid to do this and those who are not – to try and figure out which players from a Low-A roster will get to the major leagues. Looking at the 2012 Hickory Crawdads roster and trying to guess who from that squad would make is a fascinating exercise in hindsight
The 2012 Hickory Crawdads roster featured FOUR first-round selections and only one – Luke Jackson – made it past AA. Nick Martinez, who threw 26 innings at Fordham University, a program which hadn’t had a former pitcher in the majors since 2001, started the 2012 season in the Crawdads bullpen. He went on to make the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, then put together a strong 2013 season that catapulted him to a major league debut with the Rangers at the start of the 2014 season.
Martinez, now looking to his fourth MLB season, has a key stretch coming up during which he is trying to make the team either as a fifth starter or a bullpen arm.
The first full season for Martinez was somewhat average for the then-21-year-old. He posted a 4.83 ERA over 117 2/ 3 innings, though he did strike out 109 batters to just 37 walks. The native of Miami, FL admitted that 2012 was one in which he was learning to become a professional.
In the interview below – done during last week’s Texas Rangers Winter Caravan held at Rock Barn Golf & Spa in Conover, N.C., Martinez talks his rise to the major leagues with Texas and what helped him along the way.
When you were here in 2012, did you ever think that you’d be coming back here in 2017 as a major league pitcher?
Martinez: No, I couldn’t look that far ahead down the road. It is good to be back. The memories are coming to me. I used to play many golf rounds out here at Rock Barn and I had a lot of great memories playing for Hickory.
What is the biggest memory you can recall from that season?
Martinez: Baseball wise, it’s an interesting year because it’s your first full season. You get to learn a lot about yourself mentally and physically. Obviously, that’s one of the milestones of playing a full season. Off the field, though, it’s a chance to really bond with your teammates. We had a lot of great memories playing here at Rock Barn.
You had come out of college, and if I remember right, you had thrown something like 26 innings in college. Who or what circumstance gave you the confidence that you could pitch at a professional level?
Martinez: My father, since high school, kind of prepared me just in case I ever became a pitcher. He had me go to some pitching lessons, so it wasn’t completely bazaar for me to make that transition. I was okay with making that transition before it even happened. In college, I just wanted to play professional baseball. Once the Rangers gave me that chance as a pitcher, I was all in and eager to learn and get better. I still am.
You had pretty much a quick rise when you left here and debuted in 2014. What flipped the switch and gave you the confidence that you could do this on a major league level?
Martinez: 2013 was probably my best minor league season. I was more consistent. I knew what I needed to do to keep that consistency. I was clear mentally and I knew what I needed to do. Obviously, when you transfer up to the major league level, it doesn’t exactly equal the same amount of mental pressure and mental consistency. I went through my ups and downs in 2014, but once you get over that hump, it makes things a lot easier. Again, once you know what you need to do, you kind of establish a work ethic and things to help you maintain that.
Who is somebody that had a big influence for you to get to that level, that you could do this at the major league level?
Martinez: Every pitching coach I came across in the minor league system, as well as the pitching coordinator. I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with coaches that have made me better at every level and taken my game to the next step and prepare myself mentally and physically.
What was it like to step on a major league mound for the first time?
Martinez: Surreal. It’s crazy. Obviously, you’re anxious and nervous and stuff like that, but it’s kind of an anxiousness and nervousness that you can work with, because I felt prepared. I felt like I was ready for this. Obviously, it’s something you train for your whole life. It’s something you dream of and I felt like I belonged on the mound and I was ready to go. I was very fortunate, also, to be pitching in my home state, so my family was able to drive up and watch my debut.
Who was the first hitter that gave you the reality check that you were in the major leagues?
Martinez: Evan Longoria. The reality check that said, “this is the show; this is the big leagues.” In my debut.
Did he hit you hard or something?
Martinez: He smoked a ball. I got him out, but he smoked a ball somewhere. I think it was right at someone. Thank God, he got a good handle on it. (Note: In the second inning of Martinez’s debut, Longoria grounded sharply off Martinez for a 1-4-3 putout.)
Who was the first hitter you faced that was a dream hitter. Maybe somebody, when you were in high school, that you said, “I’d like to face this guy.”
Martinez: 2014, Derek Jeter’s last year in the major leagues. I got to face him at Yankee Stadium and once again at home in Arlington. It’s just something I’ll never forget, obviously. He does his whole pre-pitch routine in the box. It’s something that you see on TV and on video games, and now he’s doing it to you and letting you know he’s ready. It was a dream come true. It was wild.
Looking ahead to this year, I know the Rangers are looking to solidify the number-five spot. What are you looking for, as far as getting your foot in that door and keeping that spot?
Martinez: Competing. I’m going to go into spring training competing for that fifth spot in the rotation. I’m still in the part of my career where being in the major leagues at all is a goal. I’m going to be competing for the fifth spot, but if a bullpen spot opens up, I’m also going to be eager to land that spot. My main goal, first, is to be in the major leagues, but, obviously, I set my goals a little higher. I know I can help this team at the start.
I meant to ask this earlier, what did (pitching coach) Storm Davis mean to you for that 2012 in Hickory?
Martinez: Storm played a huge part in that mental game of baseball and what to expect in your first full season, mentally and how your body is going to feel physically – how tired you’re going to get and ways to grind through it. He helped me out a lot with different sequences and what to look for in hitters.
I’m not going to pretend that I knew Walter Young. I never met him. However, from the people I talked with and heard from that did know him, I wish I had. Simply put, Young was described as a giant of a man with an even bigger heart.
I did get to see Young play at the end of the 2002 season. I was in Hickory preparing to move my family here from Columbus, GA. I saw the big powerful man – listed in 2002 at 6-foot-5, 258 pounds – approach the plate and saw the numbers that went with it. From what little I knew about the Crawdads at the time, I knew that this was the powerhouse in the lineup that likely had a lot to do with the Hickory Crawdads making the playoffs – a run that ended with the Crawdads first South Atlantic League (SAL) title.
What I do remember about seeing Young play in 2002 – oddly enough – was the intentional walk. It was in such a situation that I taught my then eight-year-old son about intentional walks, and it happened simply because the other team didn’t want to get beat by the big man.
Young was certainly feared by SAL pitchers in 2002. At a level where intentional walks are rarely issued, Young received six that season – more than the Crawdads team has received in six entire individual seasons since 2008.
The numbers Young put up that season were among the best ever by a Crawdads hitter. His 34 doubles were a single-season record until 2011. He led the SAL that season in doubles, home runs (25), hits (164) and total bases (277). For his efforts, Young received the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
His power was certainly legendary among players in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
“I had a chance to spend instructional league with Walter in ’02,” said 2003 Crawdads outfielder and SAL batting title winner Chaz Lytle. “He was what we called a ‘gentle giant’, but let me tell you he could hit the furthest home runs I have ever seen. The word ‘Tower Power’ doesn’t even describe his power. I watched this guy hit a golf cart behind our Spring Training complex in a game against the Reds.”
While the tales of his Paul Bunyan-type power were recalled by players and fans alike, they paled in comparison to stories of Young the person – a man who enjoyed what he did on and off the field, often with lots of laughter.
“He was a great guy,” said pitcher 2001 Crawdads pitcher Kenny Henderson. “I remember nothing but him hitting a laser off me in spring training and hearing him laugh rounding first base.”
He was described by several players as a mentor who took them, in some cases, literally under his care.
“One memory I have of Walter is him inviting me to stay at his place when I got called up to Low A in which we won the championship that year,” said Rajai Davis, now an outfielder with the Detroit Tigers. “It was at the end of the year so was really beneficial for me. The next year the Crawdads made a bobblehead of him of which I still have now.”
The combination of power and personality of the man were such that the Crawdads held a Walter Young Bobblehead Night the next season. He’s the only Crawdads player I can recall that had a bobblehead night the following season after playing with Hickory.
The friendships that Young made were not just for the moment, but in many cases turned into lifelong friendships. Former teammate Vic Buttler (’01-’02, ’05) told of his first meeting with Young at the Pirates complex in Bradenton, Fla.
“I still vividly remember until this very day, after getting drafted and being shipped to Bradenton, Florida. Walter Young was the very first person that greeted me as I exited that white van. He asked me my name and told me his. From that day forward, Walt and I developed a strong bond and were roommates during our playing seasons together. Although Walt stood amongst the giants, he was the friendliest and most courteous peer I’ve ever played with!”
Young was certainly revered by fans and the Crawdads front office staff that got to see Walter Young play. When I began working with the team’s front office in 2005, occasionally you’d here talk of “Big Walter” with big smiles and occasional laughter. It was simply a reflection of what they had received from Young himself.
“Walter Young always had a big smile and was very kind to everyone that he met,” recalled former long-time Crawdads employee Barbara Beatty.
When Young received what turned out to be his lone major league call-up in September 2005, those who knew him were genuinely glad to see Big Walter get his chance with the Baltimore Orioles.
Perhaps the best story from those who worked for the Crawdads comes from former Crawdads bat boy, Eric Davidson, who celebrated his 18th birthday on the night the Crawdads won the decisive game five of the SAL Championship Series at L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory.
“I was working as the batboy for the series and right after the final out was recorded,” Davidson recalls. “We were all out on the field celebrating and Walter walks up to me with a bottle of champagne and dumps it over my head while singing, Happy Birthday.”
Young played through the 2009 season before returning home to his native Purvis, MS, where he worked as a deputy sheriff.
“He was always kind, funny, and reached out to everybody,” Lytle said. “I am sure he is making someone laugh now. You will be missed JR.”
#2. Walters walkout song was “It’s getting Hot in Here” by Nelly.
#3. Mike Maulding at Peak Motors down the street got Walter to sign a bat for him, I remember him and Walter chatting after the championship game about how much fun the season was and how Walter was a man playing with boys during the year. Walter literally lead almost every offensive category that year.
#4 Walter made the 2002 SAL All-Star team with Keppinger, Vic Buttler, Jeremy Harts, Chris Shelton and Manager Tony Beasley. I believe Bautista was too. Walter was named the Most Outstanding Prospect and MVP of the game. That same year Robinson Cano, Angel Pagan, David Wright and Ryan Howard all made the All-Star team with the Crawdads boys.
#5 Our last series before the All-Star game we were playing in Hagerstown. I was on the road doing radio with Canio. Before we left the plan was for me to drive our All-Stars to Lakewood from Hagerstown. We rented a van from enterprise and I drove Walter Young, (Jeff) Keppinger and (Jeremy) Harts while Chris Young drove (Chris) Shelton. It was a fun and interesting ride from Hagerstown as Harts and Keppinger and Walter just shot the breeze about the season and the goal to win the championship. It was like being that fan who had the chance to sit in the clubhouse and shoot the breeze about the game and the season. Walter was never an outgoing guy so that was a special moment.
#6 Walter lived with Harts across from our Brad and I inside Northside Apt. We routinely picked up these guys for player appearances and all these guys wanted to do was sleep. Can’t blame them, I would too.
Walter Young, a first baseman for the Hickory Crawdads during their first South Atlantic League (SAL) championship in 2002, passed away on Saturday, September 19 in his hometown of Purvis, MS, where he served as a deputy sheriff. He was 35.
The first baseman came to Hickory three seasons after the Pittsburgh Pirates took him in the 31st round of the 1999 draft out of Purvis High.
Young was named the SAL Most Valuable Player for his dominant work in the Crawdads lineup. In 132 games that season, Young posted a .333/.390/.563 slash with 34 doubles, 25 homers and 103 RBI. His doubles mark at the time set the club’s single-season mark. He led the SAL in hits (164), homers and total bases (277).
Other top-10 Crawdads marks still held by Young: second in total bases, third in hits and RBI, sixth in batting avg. and slugging, seventh in HBP (15) and eighth in games played.
Along with his MVP honors in 2002, Young was named to Baseball America’s Low-A all-star team. He went on to all-star honors in the Carolina League at High-A Lynchburg in 2003 and in the Eastern League at AA Bowie of the Baltimore Orioles chain in 2004.
Young played much of 2005 with the Orioles’ AAA farm team at Ottawa before he got his lone big league callup to Baltimore on September 6.He went 10-for-33 in 14 games with a double, a homer and three RBI.
His lone homer in the majors came on 9/13/05 for the Orioles at Texas – a solo shot in the seventh inning against R.A. Dickey.
Young’s affiliated career lasted one more season in 2006 with the Astros and Padres. From there, he played for various independent league teams, the last coming in 2009 at Edmonton of the Golden League.