Whitecaps’ McCarthy named top MWL exec

Steve McCarthy, vice president of sales for the West Michigan Whitecaps, has been named the Midwest League Executive of the Year. From the Midwest League’s press release:

During the 2014 season, McCarthy led the Whitecaps to one of their most successful seasons ever in the areas of advertising revenue, total and per-game average attendance, and ticket revenue. In addition, he was intimately involved in all of the planning, relocation and construction issues the Whitecaps faced as a result of the devastating fire of January 3.

The Midwest League Executive of the Year is nominated and selected by the league’s member clubs. The award is presented to an individual who has had a successful season in the areas of leadership, attendance accomplishments, marketing initiatives, promotions, stadium projects/enhancements, game day and non-game day events, community/charity involvement and overall baseball operations.

The Midwest League also announced its nominees for Minor League Baseball’s postseason awards. More on those from the MWL press release:

The John Henry Moss Community Service Award is presented to a club that demonstrates an outstanding, ongoing commitment to charitable service, support and leadership within their local community and within the baseball industry. The Midwest League’s 2014 nominee is the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

The Larry MacPhail Promotional Award is presented to a club that demonstrated outstanding and creative marketing and promotional efforts within its community, its ballpark (including non-game day events), in media and other promotional materials. Nominee: South Bend Silver Hawks.

The John H. Johnson President’s Award honors a “complete” baseball franchise that has demonstrated franchise stability and significant contributions to its community, league, and the baseball industry. Nominee: West Michigan Whitecaps.

The Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year Award is presented to a woman who has made outstanding contributions to her club, her league, or to baseball. Nominee: Abby Naas, Director of Promotions and Community Relations, Fort Wayne TinCaps.

Congratulations to McCarthy and all the MiLB award nominees!

Posted in Fort Wayne TinCaps, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Cubs leave Kane County for South Bend

The Chicago Cubs are switching Midwest League affiliates from Kane County to South Bend.

The Cubs were affiliated with the Cougars the past two seasons, winning the Midwest League championship this year. They reportedly may change the nickname of South Bend’s team from “Silver Hawks” to “Cubs.”

South Bend was affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 1997-2014. Before that, they were affiliated with the Chicago White Sox, from their inaugural season in 1988 to 1994. The team was known as the South Bend White Sox from 1988-94.

Andrew Berlin, chairman and CEO of Berlin Packaging LLC and a limited partner in the White Sox, purchased the Silver Hawks in November 2011 and has led the team into a renaissance period. This year the Silver Hawks set a new franchise record for attendance by drawing 258,836 fans, exceeding the previous record by 412. Noticeable changes have been made at the ballpark formerly known as Coveleski Stadium (naming rights were sold and the park is now known as Four Winds Field); in addition to many superficial changes already in place, the ballpark’s facilities are currently undergoing an extensive overhaul that surely was a draw for the Cubs. The ballpark’s artificial field surface also is being replaced with real grass, with work beginning on that phase of the renovation project next week.

It is no secret that Berlin wanted the Cubs, and he landed them the first real chance he had. The Cubs left Peoria for Kane County after the 2012 season, but South Bend’s ballpark wasn’t in the shape it is now and wouldn’t have convinced a heavy hitter like the Cubs to relocate their MWL affiliate there at that time.

Now that the Cubs have announced their move to South Bend, that leaves Kane County and Beloit for the Diamondbacks and Athletics to choose from. The A’s were affiliated with Snappers the past two seasons and the Cougars from 2003-10.

Here’s the rest of the Midwest League affiliation picture: Bowling Green Hot Rods (Tampa Bay Rays), Burlington Bees (Los Angeles Angels), Cedar Rapids Kernels (Minnesota Twins), Clinton LumberKings (Seattle Mariners), Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds), Fort Wayne TinCaps (San Diego Padres), Great Lakes Loons (Los Angeles Dodgers), Lake County Captains (Cleveland Indians), Lansing Lugnuts (Toronto Blue Jays), Peoria Chiefs (St. Louis Cardinals), Quad Cities River Bandits (Houston Astros), West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit Tigers) and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee Brewers).

*UPDATES: The South Bend Tribune reports that longtime Silver Hawks manager Mark Haley will leave the Diamondbacks organization to work for Berlin, running South Bend’s new training facility. He managed South Bend from 2005-14 and was named Midwest League Manager of the Year in 2005, 2008 and 2013. The Silver Hawks won the MWL title in 2005.

Also, Kane County Chronicle sportswriter Kevin Druley reports that White Sox groundskeeper Roger Bossard, aka “The Sodfather,” will oversee South Bend’s transition from artificial surface to grass.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Dayton Dragons, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Great Lakes Loons, Kane County Cougars, Lake County Captains, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | 2 Comments

Astros name former River Bandits top minor-league players

Rio Ruiz (left) and Josh Hader were two of the heroes for the River Bandits in the game that clinched the 2013 MWL title for Quad Cities. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Josh Hader (right) and Rio Ruiz were two of the heroes for the River Bandits in the win that clinched the 2013 MWL title for Quad Cities. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Houston Astros announced today that LHP Josh Hader and OF Brett Phillips were their top minor-league players this year. Both are former Quad Cities River Bandits.

Hader earned Houston’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year award by going 10-3 with a 3.28 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 123.1 IP between High-A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi. He made five starts for the River Bandits last year, going 2-0 with a 3.22 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 22.1 IP.

Phillips was named Houston’s top offensive player in the minor leagues for hitting .310 with 17 HR, 68 RBI and 23 SB in 130 games split between Quad Cities and High-A Lancaster. He batted .302 with 13 HR, 58 RBI and 18 SB in 103 games with the River Bandits before being promoted to Lancaster for the final month of the regular season. He was a key contributor to Lancaster’s title-clinching win over Visalia on Monday, going 3-for-4 with two RBI and three runs scored.

Brett Phillips bats during the 2014 Midwest League All-Star Game. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Brett Phillips bats during the 2014 Midwest League All-Star Game. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Posted in 2013 Playoffs, 2014 All-Star Game, California League, Corpus Christi Hooks, Lancaster JetHawks, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits, Texas League, Visalia Rawhide | Leave a comment

Report: TinCaps will stay affiliated with Padres

The Fort Wayne TinCaps will sign a new two-year affiliation deal with the San Diego Padres today, according to a report by Reggie Hayes of The News-Sentinel.

This is big news, of course, because the Chicago Cubs were considering Fort Wayne as their new Midwest League affiliate. TinCaps president Mike Nutter told Hayes why the Cubs ultimately didn’t choose Fort Wayne.

Nutter said the TinCaps have always explored being affiliated with a more regionally located parent club, but the Cubs considered Fort Wayne too far away from Chicago despite the first-class stadium and facilities. The Cubs are likely to choose between Kane County and South Bend.

So will the Cubs stay with the Kane County Cougars, with whom they’ve been affiliated the past two seasons, or go with the South Bend Silver Hawks, who are located farther from Chicago than Kane County is, but not so far as to preclude the possibility of them partnering?

The Silver Hawks have been a Diamondbacks affiliate since 1997. If they don’t hook up with the Cubs, they are expected to renew their affiliation with Arizona.

The Beloit Snappers still don’t have a new player development contract (PDC) in place, but are expected to re-sign with the Oakland Athletics if the Cubs remain with Kane County. If the Cubs affiliate with South Bend, the A’s and Diamondbacks will choose between Beloit and Kane County. The Cougars were affiliated with Oakland from 2003 to 2010.

The Lugnuts still haven’t announced a new affiliation deal, but Baseball America‘s affiliation tracker indicates the Toronto Blue Jays have renewed their PDC with Lansing through the 2016 season.

The rest of the Midwest League has PDCs in place through 2016 or longer: the Bowling Green Hot Rods (Tampa Bay Rays), the Burlington Bees (Los Angeles Angels), the Cedar Rapids Kernels (Minnesota Twins), the Clinton LumberKings (Seattle Mariners), the Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds), the Great Lakes Loons (Los Angeles Dodgers), the Lake County Captains (Cleveland Indians), the Peoria Chiefs (St. Louis Cardinals), the Quad Cities River Bandits (Houston Astros), the West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit Tigers) and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee Brewers).

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Dayton Dragons, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Great Lakes Loons, Kane County Cougars, Lake County Captains, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Loons and Dodgers extend affiliation through 2016

The Great Lakes Loons announced this morning that their affiliation with the Los Angeles Dodgers has been extended through the 2016 season.

The Loons have been affiliated with the Dodgers since their inaugural season in 2007.

Besides the Loons, the Midwest League franchises that have player development contracts (PDCs) in place through 2016 or longer are the Bowling Green Hot Rods (Tampa Bay Rays), the Burlington Bees (Los Angeles Angels), the Cedar Rapids Kernels (Minnesota Twins), the Clinton LumberKings (Seattle Mariners), the Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds), the Lake County Captains (Cleveland Indians), the Peoria Chiefs (St. Louis Cardinals), the Quad Cities River Bandits (Houston Astros), the West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit Tigers) and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee Brewers).

That leaves the Beloit Snappers, the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the Kane County Cougars, the Lansing Lugnuts, and the South Bend Silver Hawks. Baseball America‘s affiliation tracker says the Lugnuts have renewed their PDC with the Toronto Blue Jays, but neither team has made an official announcement in that regard.

The status of the other four teams hinges on whether the Chicago Cubs decide to continue their affiliation with Kane County or move elsewhere (Fort Wayne or South Bend). You can read my thoughts about this situation in my last post.

Besides the Cubs, the other MLB teams currently without a Class-A affiliation are the Arizona Diamondbacks (most recently affiliated with South Bend), the Oakland Athletics (Beloit), and the San Diego Padres (Fort Wayne). The 14 MLB teams that weren’t in the Midwest League the past two seasons all have PDCs in place with South Atlantic League teams through at least 2016.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Dayton Dragons, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Great Lakes Loons, Kane County Cougars, Lake County Captains, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Atlantic League, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Status of Midwest League affiliations

Now that the Midwest League postseason is over, it’s time to shift my focus to the status of team affiliations.

I’ve written about this year’s player development contract (PDC) renewals as they’ve been announced, but now it’s time to put it all in one post. I’ll start with the Bowling Green Hot Rods and the Kane County Cougars, two teams whose PDC statuses are in the news today.

Bowling Green is the easy one to write about because the Tampa Bay Rays renewed their affiliation with the Hot Rods through the 2016 season. Tampa Bay is the only parent club Bowling Green has had, dating back to when the Hot Rods were part of the South Atlantic League during their inaugural season of 2009. (Bowling Green moved to the Midwest League in 2010.)

Kane County is more complicated. When the Cougars announced their planned ballpark renovations earlier this month, I thought it seemed practically a done deal for the Chicago Cubs to re-up with Kane County. (Read the linked post for why I believed this.) But today, the Daily Herald‘s Bruce Miles reported there’s a 50-50 chance whether the Cubs will extend their affiliation with the Cougars. He mentioned the Silver Hawks as a potential partner for the Cubs — a possible course of action being reported by South Bend media sources, too.

Both the Silver Hawks and the Cougars are going to be making major renovations to their training facilities, so I think it’s unlikely the Cubs would jolt Kane County for South Bend if they are making the same kind of upgrades. But would the Cubs leave Kane County for Fort Wayne? The TinCaps have an all-around top-notch facility in Parkview Field — arguably the best in the Midwest League — so that might be attractive to the Cubs.

Other Midwest League teams that currently don’t have a PDC agreement are the Beloit Snappers, who won’t be tempting the Cubs with their facility, and possibly the Great Lakes Loons and the Lansing Lugnuts. Baseball America and the website Ballpark Digest list the Loons and the Lugnuts as off the table (perhaps due to unannounced automatic PDC renewals by the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Toronto Blue Jays, respectively), but I personally haven’t seen any announcements saying those teams have re-upped as of when I’m writing this.

Regardless, I’ll be keeping tabs on any PDC news and share it with you here and on Twitter when I learn anything new.

Besides Bowling Green, the Midwest League franchises that definitely have PDCs in place through 2016 or longer are the Burlington Bees (Los Angeles Angels), the Cedar Rapids Kernels (Minnesota Twins), the Clinton LumberKings (Seattle Mariners), the Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds), the Lake County Captains (Cleveland Indians), the Peoria Chiefs (St. Louis Cardinals), the Quad Cities River Bandits (Houston Astros), the West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit Tigers) and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee Brewers).

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Dayton Dragons, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Great Lakes Loons, Kane County Cougars, Lake County Captains, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Atlantic League, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

2014 season ends with Cougars as MWL champs

The 2014 Midwest League champion Kane County Cougars pose with the championship trophy. (Photo by Lianna Holub/MiLB.com)

The 2014 Midwest League champion Kane County Cougars pose with the MWL championship trophy. (Photo by Lianna Holub/MiLB.com)

As you probably know by now, the Kane County Cougars beat the Lake County Captains 7-2 last night to win the 2014 Midwest League championship. You can read my post about the championship-clinching game here and scroll back from there to read my other coverage from throughout the postseason.

Additionally, you can read the Cougars’ game story from Saturday’s win here. It includes three paragraphs that I believe summarize how dominant the team was from wire-to-wire this year:

The Cougars completed an unbeaten postseason, having swept first-round opponent Wisconsin, division finalist Cedar Rapids, and East Division champion Lake County. The team’s 7-0 playoff record, combined with a franchise-best 91-49 regular season, reflect a remarkable 2014 season record of 98-49 (.666 winning percentage). Kane County also set franchise records this season with a 13-game win streak, 2.85 team ERA and 54-17 regular-season home record.

The Cougars got out of the gates quickly, putting together an 18-7 record in the month of April. Kane County clinched the Western Division first-half championship in June with a 45-25 first-half record to punch their ticket for September’s postseason. Midwest League Manager of the Year Mark Johnson saw a majority of the team’s Opening Day roster move upwards through the Cubs farm system as 11 Cougars players were promoted to Class-A Advanced Daytona during the season. The Cougars lost multiple relievers out of the bullpen, as well as their top leadoff hitter in Jake Hannemann, to promotions by mid-summer. By August, the Cougars had lost 15 of the 25 players on their April Opening Day roster. Not including Major League rehabilitation appearances, more than 50 players were on the Cougars roster at one point or another in 2014. Despite a nearly continuous turnover of personnel, the Cougars actually outpaced their first-half efforts by winning the second-half division championship with a 46-24 mark.

Individual accolades came in bunches for the team throughout the season. At least one Cougars player received a Cubs monthly organizational award as Minor League Pitcher or Player of the Month for four straight months — Will Remillard in April, Paul Blackburn in May, Juan Paniagua in June, and Jen-Ho Tseng in July. In May, a pair of Cougars pitchers, Tyler Skulina and Nathan Dorris, combined for the 8th no-hitter in franchise history. A quartet of Cougars (Remillard, Blackburn, Jose Arias and Jordan Hankins) were selected to participate in the Midwest League All-Star Game in June. Five players (Jacob Rogers, Daury Torrez, Jeimer Candelario, Duane Underwood and Kyle Schwarber) were named Midwest League Player or Pitcher of the Week this season.

This year’s Cougars team will be a fun one to keep tabs on as its players move through the Chicago Cubs system (or whichever organization they end up in).

While this is Kane County’s second Midwest League championship, it is the Cougars’ first without an asterisk of sorts. The 2001 team was named MWL champions after playing only one game of the finals that year; the rest of the series was cancelled because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

This year marked Lake County’s first trip back to the championship series since the Captains won the MWL title in 2010. They beat the Clinton LumberKings three games to two in that series; since then, three of the four championship series resulted in sweeps by the winning team (Kane County this year, Quad Cities in 2011 and 2013).

On a personal note, this completes my fourth season writing about the Midwest League on this website, and I want to thank everyone who supports my work by reading it. I do this mainly because of my love of the league and baseball in general, and will continue to write here during the offseason. I hope you’ll continue to check back here from time to time throughout the fall and winter months, but even if you don’t visit again until next spring, know that I appreciate all of you!

Posted in 2011 Playoffs, 2013 Playoffs, 2014 Playoffs, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Daytona Cubs, Florida State League, Kane County Cougars, Lake County Captains, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment