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

TinCaps groundskeeper named tops in Single-A – again

Fort Wayne TinCaps head groundskeeper Keith Winter made history Monday when he was named the Single-A Sports Turf Manager of the Year, winning the Sports Turf Managers Association award for a third consecutive year.

Winter and Brock Phipps (of the Double-A Springfield Cardinals) each won their third consecutive award this year, an achievement that hadn’t been done until now. One head groundskeeper from each level of affiliated minor-league baseball — Triple-A, Double-A, Single-A, and Short Season-A or Rookie — receives the award. Winter was selected from 60 groundskeepers in Single-A, which includes the Midwest, South Atlantic, California, Carolina, and Florida State leagues.

John Stewart of the Syracuse Chiefs (Triple-A) and David Yearout of the Spokane Indians (Short Season-A) also won in their respective categories.

A 16-member awards committee selects the winners. Each nominee is independently scored on cultural practices, game day routine, resource utilization, staff management, and the groundskeeper’s involvement and support of the sports turf industry.

Winners will receive their awards at the Baseball Winter Meetings Awards Luncheon on Monday, Dec. 7, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.

You can read more about the award, including comments from Winter and TinCaps President Mike Nutter, here.

This is the second major award for the TinCaps in the past week. The team is also this year’s recipient of the John Henry Moss Community Service Award, which you can read about here.

Posted in Fort Wayne TinCaps, International League, Midwest League, Northwest League, Spokane Indians, Springfield Cardinals, Syracuse Chiefs, Texas League | Leave a comment

Correa beats Lindor for AL Rookie of the Year Award

AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa

American League Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa makes a play at shortstop. (Photo courtesy of the Houston Astros)

Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is this year’s American League Rookie of the Year, beating out Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor and Minnesota Twins designated hitter Miguel Sano in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote.

It was a close contest between Correa and Lindor. Correa received 17 first-place votes, 13 second-place votes, and 124 overall points. Lindor got 13 first-place votes, 14 second-place votes, two third-place votes, and 109 total points. Sano’s 20 third-place votes netted him 20 points.

Toronto Blue Jays RHP Roberto Osuna got two second-place votes and two third-place votes for a total of eight points. Oakland Athletics centerfielder Billy Burns received one second-place vote and three third-place votes for a total of six points. Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario got two third-place votes, and Texas Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields received one third-place vote.

(Players received five points for a first-place vote, three points for a second-place vote, and one point for a third-place vote.)

Correa batted .279 with 22 HR, 68 RBI and 14 SB in 99 major-league games. He played for the 2013 Quad Cities River Bandits, batting .320 with 9 HR, 86 RBI and 10 SB in 117 games.

Carlos Correa at SS

Carlos Correa was the starting shortstop for the 2013 Quad Cities River Bandits. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Lindor batted .313 with 12 HR, 51 RBI and 12 SB in 99 MLB games. He played for the 2012 Lake County Captains, batting .257 with 6 HR, 42 RBI and 27 SB in 122 games.

Sano batted .269 with 18 HR and 52 RBI in 80 MLB games. He was the Midwest League Prospect of the Year in 2012, when he batted .258 with 28 HR and 100 RBI in 129 games with the Beloit Snappers.

Sano in the field

Miguel Sano played third base for the Beloit Snappers and was named the Midwest League Prospect of the Year in 2012. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

A relief pitcher, Osuna went 1-6 with a 2.58 ERA, 20 saves, 75 strikeouts and 16 walks in 69.2 innings for the Blue Jays. He pitched for the Lansing Lugnuts in 2013, going 3-5 with a 5.53 ERA, 51 strikeouts and 11 walks in 42.1 innings (10 starts).

Burns batted .294 with 5 HR, 42 RBI and 26 SB in 125 games for the A’s.

Rosario batted .267 with 13 HR, 50 RBI and 11 SB in 122 MLB games. Like Sano, he played for Beloit in 2012. Rosario batted .296 with 12 HR, 70 RBI and 11 SB in 95 Midwest League games.

DeShields batted .261 with 2 HR, 37 RBI and 25 SB in 121 MLB games.

Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was unanimously voted the National League Rookie of the Year. He batted .275 with 26 HR, 99 RBI and 13 SB in 151 MLB games.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Lake County Captains, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment

Former MWLers Newcomb & Aybar traded for Simmons

Sean Newcomb on the mound for the Burlington Bees in 2014. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Sean Newcomb on the mound for the Burlington Bees in 2014. He was traded to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Former Midwest Leaguers Sean Newcomb and Erick Aybar were part of a three-player package the Los Angeles Angels sent to the Atlanta Braves for Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons on Thursday.

Newcomb was widely considered to be the Angels’ top prospect. The lefty made 11 starts for the 2014-15 Burlington Bees — four in 2014 and seven in 2015. In 2014 he went 0-1 with a 7.15 ERA, 15 strikeouts and five walks in 11.1 innings for the Bees. In 2015 he went 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA, 45 strikeouts and 19 walks in 34.1 innings for the Bees before moving up to High-A. He ended the season in Double-A. Cumulatively he went 9-3 with 2.38 ERA, 168 strikeouts and 76 walks in 136 innings (27 starts) this year.

Aybar batted .270 with 3 HR, 44 RBI and 15 SB in 156 games for the Angels in 2015, his 10th season in the major leagues. He played for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2003, batting .308 with 6 HR, 57 RBI and 32 SB in 125 games. (Prince Fielder was the Midwest League’s MVP and Prospect of the Year that season.)

The Angels included another of their top prospects, RHP Chris Ellis, in the trade. He started the 2015 season — his first full one as a professional ballplayer — in High-A and ended it in Double-A. He cumulatively went 11-9 with a 3.90 ERA, 132 strikeouts and 63 walks in 140.2 innings (26 starts).

This was Simmons’ fourth season in the big leagues. He batted .265 with 4 HR and 44 RBI in 147 games. He is considered one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball.

Pierzynski returning to Braves

In other Braves news Thursday, veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski will return to the team for another year after agreeing to a $3 million deal for the 2016 season.

Pierzynski played 136 games for the 1995-96 Fort Wayne Wizards, cumulatively batting .280 with 9 HR and 84 RBI. As I wrote in this recent post, Pierzynski is one of only two active players left from when Fort Wayne was affiliated with the Minnesota Twins (1993-98).

Ward traded to Padres

Former Clinton LumberKings middle infielder Nelson Ward was traded Thursday to the San Diego Padres. He and fellow minor-leaguer Enyel De Los Santos, a right-handed pitcher, were swapped by the Seattle Mariners for relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit.

Ward played 64 games for the LumberKings in 2014-15, cumulatively batting .260 with 2 HR and 19 RBI. He also played in High-A this year.

De Los Santos made 13 starts for short-season teams this year, going 6-0 with a 3.47 ERA, 71 strikeouts and 18 walks in 62.1 innings. He likely will start the 2016 season with the TinCaps.

Nelson Ward bats for the Clinton LumberKings during an April 2015 game at Kane County. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Nelson Ward bats for the Clinton LumberKings during an April 2015 game at Kane County. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Hicks, Herrera traded to Yankees

The New York Yankees acquired two former Beloit Snappers in separate trades Wednesday.

They sent catcher John Ryan Murphy to the Twins for outfielder Aaron Hicks, who played for the Snappers in 2009 and 2010. Hicks batted .269 with 12 HR, 78 RBI and 31 SB in 182 Midwest League games.

The Yankees also acquired RHP Ronald Herrera from the Padres for utility infielder Jose Pirela. Herrera split the 2014 season between the Snappers and the TinCaps, cumulatively going 6-9 with a 3.93 ERA, 82 strikeouts and 25 walks in 132.2 innings (26 games/25 starts).

Palka traded to Twins

The Twins acquired power prospect Daniel Palka from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for catcher Chris Herrmann on Tuesday.

Palka batted .248 with 22 HR and 82 RBI in 118 games with the 2014 South Bend Silver Hawks. He spent the 2015 season in High-A, batting .280 with 29 HR and 90 RBI in 129 games with the Visalia Rawhide.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Burlington Bees, California League, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Gold Glove Awards, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks, Visalia Rawhide | Leave a comment

Bowling Green Hot Rods unveil new logos and uniforms

The Bowling Green Hot Rods showed off their new logos and uniforms at an unveiling event Thursday night. (Photo courtesy of the Hot Rods)

The Bowling Green Hot Rods showed off their new logos and uniforms at an unveiling event Thursday evening. (Photo courtesy of the Hot Rods)

The Bowling Green Hot Rods unveiled their new logos and uniforms Thursday evening.

This is the first rebranding for the seven-year-old franchise, which joined the Midwest League in 2010. The team’s primary colors change from red and yellow to orange and blue, which Hot Rods general manager Adam Nuse explained in an interview with

“We’re in the Bluegrass State, so I think the color blue was the main color in just about every color we were working with,” Nuse said. “The accent changed, but we wanted to be blue for Kentucky. Western Kentucky University is red, so they’ve taken claim to the color red. We wanted to opt away from that. I think blue is consistent across the board from a local tie-in. The orange is kind of a modern color — some of the sports cars are starting to use that orange. It’s more of a sleek, hot-rod color.”

Blue is also the primary color of Bowling Green’s parent club, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Hot Rods have been affiliated with the Rays since their inception as a South Atlantic League team in 2009.

The new Bowling Green Hot Rods logos unveiled Thursday evening.

The new Bowling Green Hot Rods logos unveiled Thursday evening.

Here is a description of the new logos, from the Hot Rods’ press release about them:

The new primary logo is a circle containing [the words] “Bowling Green Hot Rods” in the outer circle, while a redesigned “BG” mark is the focal point. The “BG” mark has been updated, removing the tailpipe flames from the top of the “B” as it was featured in the old logo, to where it is now featured on the bottom of the “G.” The new flames are also more arched and curved to depict the rolling hills of South Central Kentucky.

“We knew going into this project that there were characteristics from our old brand that we wanted to keep. The ‘BG’ and car logos were two that we felt were iconic enough with our brand to include in the updated version,” said Hot Rods General Manager Adam Nuse. “The new color scheme provides us with a more modern look while still embracing the team’s heritage.”

The new primary logo will be accompanied by four alternate logos and two new wordmarks used on the jerseys.  The previously described “BG” will serve as the team’s ligature mark. The iconic Hot Rods car has been revamped into a sleek new street rod.  A baseball inside a tailpipe flame will serve as the secondary logo for the team. And playing off the design of the primary logo, the new patch logo features the same outer circle design with a cross wrench and bat design in the middle. The Hot Rods’ home wordmark features sleek tailing letters and is designed in an upward motion. The new road wordmark features Bowling Green written in stylistic lettering representative of the original Corvette.

The Hot Rods are the second Midwest League team to unveil new logos and uniforms this week. The Kane County Cougars did so on Tuesday, which you can read about here.

Posted in Bowling Green Hot Rods, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, South Atlantic League | Leave a comment

First look: New Hot Rods logos and uniforms

The Bowling Green Hot Rods unveiled new logos and uniforms tonight. Here is your first look at them, via a photo shared by the team on social media a few minutes ago.

new Hot Rods uniforms

I will share more information about the team’s new look as soon as I get it, so make sure to check back here later.

Posted in Bowling Green Hot Rods, Midwest League | Leave a comment

Minor League Baseball honors TinCaps for community service

Minor League Baseball announced today that the Fort Wayne TinCaps are this year’s recipient of the John Henry Moss Community Service Award. The team will receive the award during the Baseball Winter Meetings Banquet on Sunday, Dec. 6, in Nashville, Tenn.

Here, from MiLB’s press release, is some of what the TinCaps organization did for the Fort Wayne community this year:

The Fort Wayne TinCaps engage in a wide variety of community service initiatives to provide assistance to area programs, charities and educational organizations in Fort Wayne and the surrounding counties. Participating in more than 25 community events throughout the 2015 season, TinCaps players made appearances at Little League Opening Day, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, school classrooms, senior communities and hospitals. Along with the players, every full-time staff member is expected to be involved in at least one community organization throughout the year. The TinCaps’ 28 staff members are part of more than 70 organizations, proving that the commitment to make the community a better place is not just a goal of the club, but each staff member’s as well.

The franchise donated over $500,000 to more than 600 organizations and charitable fundraisers in 2015. They raised $20,445 for local Little League teams and $17,544 for local high school athletic departments. This year, the team took the field in specialty jerseys six times to benefit community charities. In total, specialty jersey nights provided $27,512 to charitable organizations.

The club provided support to local charities and programs through their promotional efforts as well as using social media, in-game promotions and corporate/charitable tie-ins to bring attention to deserving organizations. During each home game, the team recognized a different charity with their TinCaps Community Organization of the Game program. The promotion advertised local organizations without the resources to communicate their missions to the community.

In 2015, the TinCaps focused many of their efforts on the youth in their community. On July 30, they signed Jaymason Curry, a 14- year-old from Fort Wayne who had just finished chemotherapy, to a special one-day contract. Players and staff also took the time to visit a local elementary school after one of their teachers, a TinCaps fan, passed away.

The Fort Wayne TinCaps Reading Program encourages youth in the surrounding community to become better readers and hit the “home run” level to earn tickets to a TinCaps game. During the 2015 season, 27,521 students read their way into Parkview Field. This program has become the most impactful community project the team has taken part in, involving 302 area schools and 85 local libraries engaging 117,340 students this year.

Those are just highlights of what the TinCaps do for the community. A comprehensive overview of their community service involvement can be found here.

This is the second major Minor League Baseball award announced for a Midwest League team this offseason. Earlier this month, MiLB said the South Bend Cubs will receive the prestigious John H. Johnson President’s Award. You can read about that award here.

Posted in Fort Wayne TinCaps, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks | Leave a comment