Riordan to return as Snappers manager in 2016

Beloit Snappers manager Fran Riordan (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Beloit Snappers manager Fran Riordan (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Fran Riordan will return as manager of the Beloit Snappers in 2016, the Oakland Athletics announced Monday.

Riordan spent 14 years managing in independent leagues (mostly in the Frontier League) before he joined the A’s organization in 2014. This year was his first at the helm of the Snappers.

Riordan will have a new coaching staff in 2016 — hitting coach Juan Dilone and pitching coach Don Schulze.

Dilone previously was the hitting coach for Oakland’s Arizona Rookie League affiliate, Single-A Visalia, and Short-Season Vancouver, and also spent four years as coordinator of Dominican instruction. He played six seasons in the A’s farm system before starting his coaching career.

Schulze has been a pitching coach at several levels in the A’s organization, most recently for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. He was pitching coach of the Kane County Cougars in 2008, when they were affiliated with Oakland. He played in parts of six major-league seasons, and his minor-league career included a year in the Midwest League. (He went 8-5 with a 2.31 ERA, six complete games, 61 strikeouts and 51 walks in 105 IP for the 1981 Quad City Cubs.)

The Snappers are the second Midwest League team to announce their 2016 coaching staff, following the Quad Cities River Bandits. You can read about QC’s 2016 staff here.

Last month the Snappers named Seth Flolid their new general manager. You can read about him here.

Next year will be Beloit’s 35th season in the Midwest League. The team recently unveiled a new logo commemorating the occasion. You can see it here.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, California League, Frontier League, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Nashville Sounds, Northwest League, Pacific Coast League, Quad Cities River Bandits, Vancouver Canadians, Visalia Rawhide | Leave a comment

First snowbound stadium photos of the season!

Longtime readers of this blog (and my Twitter account) know I enjoy sharing photos of snow-covered baseball fields, especially Midwest League ones. After a snowstorm blanketed parts of the upper Midwest over the weekend, this is the perfect time for this season’s first edition of “Snowbound Stadiums of the Midwest League!”

Let’s start in Beloit, which got 14 inches of snowfall. Here is a shot of Pohlman Field from this morning, looking at the first-base side of the field. The visitors’ bullpen is located to the right of the foul pole seen in the upper left corner of the photo.

Pohlman Field 1

I really like this shot of Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, because you can see the base paths and mound area:

Parkview Field

Staying in Indiana, here is a look at Four Winds Field, home of the South Bend Cubs:

Four Winds Field

Finally, here is a nice shot of Dozer Park, home of the Peoria Chiefs:

Dozer Park

All four photos were shared by their respective teams on social media.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, snowbound stadiums, South Bend Silver Hawks | Leave a comment

Former Kernels help Scottsdale win AFL title game

Adam Brett Walker II bats for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2013. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Minnesota Twins prospect Adam Brett Walker II bats for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2013. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Several Minnesota Twins prospects who played for the Cedar Rapids Kernels helped the Scottsdale Scorpions win the Arizona Fall League championship title Saturday.

The biggest contribution came from 2013 Kernels outfielder Adam Brett Walker II, who drove in three runs in Scottsdale’s 6-4 win over the Surprise Saguaros. Walker spent the 2015 season in Double-A, batting .239 with 31 HR and 106 RBI in 133 games.

He was named the 2013 Topps Midwest League Player of the Year after batting .278 with 27 HR and 109 RBI in 129 games with the Kernels. He led the Midwest League in home runs and runs batted in, and his 83 runs scored were good for second in the league.

LHP Taylor Rogers earned the win in the AFL title game, striking out two and giving up two hits and no walks in three scoreless innings. He spent the 2015 season in Triple-A, going 11-12 with a 3.98 ERA, 126 strikeouts and 44 walks in 174 innings. He pitched two complete games.

Rogers pitched in the Midwest League in parts of two seasons. In 2012 he went 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA, 35 strikeouts and 12 walks in 33.1 IP for the Beloit Snappers. He made three starts for the Kernels in 2013, giving up 12 runs (eight earned) while striking out 10 and walking four in 10 innings.

RHP Nick Burdi got the save in the AFL title game despite giving up a solo homer to New York Yankees prospect Dustin Fowler. Burdi split the 2015 season between High-A and Double-A, cumulatively going 5-6 with a 3.82 ERA, four saves, 83 strikeouts and 35 walks in 63.2 innings.

Burdi pitched 13 innings in 13 games for the 2014 Kernels. He posted a 4.15 ERA with four saves, 26 strikeouts and eight walks.

Two other Twins prospects, RHP Trevor Hildenberger and RHP Jake Reed, each pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the Scorpions in the AFL title game.

Hildenberger started the 2015 season with the Kernels, going 2-1 with a 0.80 ERA, 14 saves, 59 strikeouts and five walks in 45 innings. He ended the season in High-A, where he went 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA, three saves, 21 strikeouts and two walks in 19 innings.

Reed appeared in 44 regular-season games in 2015 (nine in High-A and 35 in Double-A), cumulatively going 5-4 with a 5.01 ERA, two saves, 46 strikeouts and 22 walks in 59.1 innings. He pitched in 16 games for the 2014 Kernels, going 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA, five saves, 31 strikeouts and three walks in 25 innings.

Engel, Rivera win AFL awards

Chicago White Sox prospect Adam Engel was named the Arizona Fall League’s Most Valuable Player after the outfielder led the AFL in batting average (.403), on-base average (.523) and slugging percentage (.642). He spent the 2015 season in High-A, where he batted .251 with 7 HR, 43 RBI and 65 SB in 136 games.

Milwaukee Brewers prospect Yadiel Rivera was given the Arizona Fall League’s Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award, which is named in honor of a Cincinnati Reds player who was murdered while a member of the AFL’s Scottsdale Scorpions in 2003. It is presented annually to the league’s player who best exemplifies unselfishness, hard work and leadership.

Rivera, an infielder whose primary position is shortstop, played 133 games in Double-A and Triple-A this year before making his major-league debut for the Brewers in late September. He batted .253 with 2 HR, 44 RBI and 12 SB in the minor leagues this year.

Rivera played 159 games with the 2011-12 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, batting .238 with 13 HR and 54 RBI.

Incidentally, Stenson was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1996 and played in the Midwest League the following year. He batted .291 with 15 HR and 80 RBI in 131 games with the Michigan Battle Cats.

Posted in Arizona Fall League, Beloit Snappers, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Midwest League, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Ex-Midwest Leaguers get new teams late in week

Several ex-Midwest Leaguers changed teams late this week thanks to moves made on Thursday and Friday.

A’s swap Chavez for Hendriks

The Oakland Athletics traded RHP Jesse Chavez to the Toronto Blue Jays for RHP Liam Hendriks on Friday. Both pitched in the Midwest League.

Chavez went 6-10 with a 4.68 ERA, 96 strikeouts and 35 walks in 123 IP for the 2004 Clinton LumberKings. Hendriks made 17 starts for the 2009-10 Beloit Snappers, cumulatively going 5-6 with a 2.77 ERA, 101 strikeouts and 19 walks in 100.2 innings.

Maybin returns to Tigers

One-time Tigers prospect Cameron Maybin is going back to Detroit in a Friday trade involving three former Midwest Leaguers. The Atlanta Braves traded him for a pair of left-handed relievers, Ian Krol and Gabe Speier.

The Tigers drafted Maybin 10th overall in 2005 and assigned him to the Midwest League for the 2006 season. He batted .304 with 9 HR, 69 RBI and 27 SB and 101 games with the West Michigan Whitecaps.

Krol pitched for the Kane County Cougars in 2010, going 9-4 with a 2.65 ERA, 91 strikeouts and 19 walks in 118.2 innings. He also pitched an inning for the Whitecaps in 2014.

Speier pitched for the Whitecaps this year, going 4-2 with a 2.86 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 12 walks in 44 innings.

Hill signs with A’s

Although the deal was reported earlier this week, LHP Rich Hill’s one-year contract with the A’s became official Friday.

Hill pitched for the Lansing Lugnuts in 2003, going 0-1 with a 2.76 ERA, 36 strikeouts and nine walks in 29.1 innings. He also made a start for the Peoria Chiefs in 2005, earning a win in the eight-inning outing in which he struck out 12 and walked none.

Brewers trade Sneed to Astros

The Milwaukee Brewers traded RHP Cy Sneed to the Houston Astros on Thursday, getting utility player Jonathan Villar in return.

Sneed started the 2015 season with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. He went 3-7 with a 2.68 ERA, one save, 67 strikeouts and 17 walks in 77.1 IP for the Timber Rattlers before being promoted to High-A, where he finished the season.

Villar didn’t play in the Midwest League.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Clinton LumberKings, Kane County Cougars, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Ex-Chiefs catcher Donaldson wins AL MVP Award

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson won the American League Most Valuable Player Award, getting 23 of 30 first-place votes and 385 total points from Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters.

Donaldson batted .297 with 41 HR, 123 RBI and 122 runs scored in 158 games this year. He was a catcher for the 2008 Peoria Chiefs, batting .217 with 6 HR and 23 RBI in 63 games before the Chicago Cubs traded him to the Oakland Athletics midseason. The A’s traded him to the Blue Jays in November 2014.

He is the second former Chiefs player to win a MVP award. Albert Pujols, who played for Peoria in 2000, was named the National League MVP in 2005, 2008 and 2009.

This is the second major award for a former Chief this week. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon was named NL Manager of the Year on Tuesday; he managed the Chiefs in 1984, which I wrote about here.

Last year’s AL MVP, Los Angeles Angels centerfielder Mike Trout, was the runner-up for this year’s award. He received the seven first-place votes that Donaldson didn’t get, and tallied 304 total points. Trout has finished in the Top 2 of AL MVP voting in four consecutive seasons, a feat previously achieved only by Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra.

Trout batted .299 with 41 HR, 90 RBI and 104 runs scored in 159 games this year. He was the Midwest League MVP and Prospect of the Year in 2010, when he hit .362 with 6 HR, 39 RBI and 45 SB in 81 games with the Cedar Rapids Kernels. He also went 4-for-15 with four walks in 20 plate appearances for the 2009 Kernels.

Kansas City Royals centerfielder Lorenzo Cain finished in third place, getting 225 total points in the AL MVP vote. He batted .307 with 16 HR, 72 RBI, 28 SB and 101 runs scored in 140 games, and helped lead the Royals to their first World Series championship since 1985.

Cain briefly played for the 2009 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, batting .192 (10-for-52) with 3 RBI in 15 games.

Washington Nationals rightfielder Bryce Harper was the unanimous winner of this year’s NL MVP Award.

Posted in Baseball Hall of Fame, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Snappers unveil new logo commemorating 35th season

The Beloit Snappers will play their 35th season in 2016, and have unveiled a logo commemorating the occasion.

Snappers 35th season logo

Beloit joined the Midwest League in 1982 as an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, with future Chicago White Sox skipper Terry Bevington as their first manager. The team was known as the Beloit Brewers from its inception through the 1994 season, and has been known as the Snappers since then.

The Snappers were affiliated with the Minnesota Twins from 2005 to 2012, and have been an Oakland Athletics farm team since the 2013 season.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Midwest League | Leave a comment

Maddon wins NL Manager of the Year Award

Chicago Cubs skipper Joe Maddon won the 2015 National League Manager of the Year Award, getting 18 of 30 first-place tallies and 124 total points from Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters.

This is the third time Maddon has won a Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA, having gotten the honor previously as skipper of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 and 2011.

Maddon led the Cubs to a 97-65 record in the regular season — an improvement of 24 wins over Chicago’s total in 2014 — and their first postseason appearance since 2008. The Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game and defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Division Series before losing to the New York Mets in the NL Championship Series.

This was Maddon’s first season as manager of the Cubs after nine years as skipper of the Rays. He got his managerial start in the Angels organization, including a one-year stint as skipper of the Peoria Chiefs. His 1984 Chiefs team finished with a 66-73 record.

He was asked about managing in Peoria during his pregame Q&A before Game 1 of the NLDS. Here’s what he said:

Mr. Vonachen, Pete and I were really good buddies. Pete was the owner of the ball club there in Peoria. I was never treated so well in the minor leagues as I was treated by the Vonachen family. Gave me a really nice car to drive, put me in Guy Hoffman’s house. Guy Hoffman was a pitcher at that time, I think with the White Sox. I lived in Guy’s pad during the summer, but Peoria, I have nothing but warm fuzzies, about his wife, Donna. I mean Pete just passed away recently. I’ve never been treated so well.

So that really stands out about it, Pete coming into the office often, and I always compared him to Steinbrenner, which he really loved; always trying to influence my lineup. But it was about the friendliness of the people, the ballpark. Dewey was a Bradley University head coach. Phil Theobald, the sportswriter there, tremendous guy, but it’s the whole experience there. Steak ‘n Shake was my favorite, and the butterfly pork chop sandwich from Rocky’s. So there’s all these things, Vonachen’s Junction, all that stuff about Peoria, really, really very dear to my heart, but it was all based on the Vonachen family, and primarily Pete.

Vonachen died on June 10, 2013. I wrote a personal tribute to him that you can read here.

The “Dewey” referred to by Maddon is Dewey Kalmer, who was the groundskeeper at Meinen Field (where the Chiefs played at that time) and the baseball coach at nearby Bradley University.

Theobald wrote about sports for the Journal Star for three decades that included 12 years covering Peoria’s Midwest League team, which was originally called the Suns.

And Maddon was correct that Hoffman was pitching for the White Sox organization in 1984. Hoffman started his playing career in the Midwest League, making seven appearances (four starts) for the 1978 Appleton Foxes. He went 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA, collected two saves, struck out 31 and walked 15 batters in 34 innings. He made two more appearances for the Foxes in 1979, notching a save and four strikeouts in five innings.

Maddon also played in the Midwest League, as a catcher for the 1976 Quad City Angels. He batted .294 with 22 RBI in 50 games. The MWL Prospect of the Year in 1976 was current Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who hit .235 with 19 HR and 89 RBI in 127 games with the Waterloo Royals.

Posted in Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment