Blue Jays announce 2017 Lugnuts coaching staff

Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler

Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler

The Lansing Lugnuts will have a new manager and a new pitching coach for the 2017 season, the Toronto Blue Jays announced Thursday.

Cesar Martin takes the helm of the Lugnuts after managing the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Blue Jays the past two seasons and serving as the rookie-level Bluefield Blue Jays’ hitting coach the year before that. He spent 11 years as a coach with Toronto’s affiliate in the Dominican Summer League after playing three years in the Blue Jays organization.

Willie Collazo is Lansing’s new pitching coach after serving in the same capacity for the short-season Vancouver Canadians last year. He pitched professionally for 13 seasons and briefly played in the majors, making six relief appearances for the New York Mets in 2007.

Donnie Murphy returns for a second season as Lugnuts hitting coach. He played parts of nine seasons in the major leagues. His minor-league career included part of the 2002 season and all of the 2003 season in the Midwest League. He batted .296 with 5 HR and 113 RBI in 165 games with the Burlington Bees.

Fourth coach Chris Schaeffer played five seasons in the Blue Jays organization. That included 41 games with the Lugnuts (28 in 2012 and 13 in 2014), for whom the former catcher batted .246 with 3 HR and 23 RBI.

Last year’s Lugnuts manager, John Schneider, is assigned to manage the High-A Dunedin Blue Jays this year. Last year’s Lugnuts pitching coach, Jeff Ware, will serve as Toronto’s minor-league pitching coordinator.

Posted in Appalachian League, Bluefield Blue Jays, Burlington Bees, Dunedin Blue Jays, Florida State League, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League | Leave a comment

Hoffman falls five votes short in HOF election

These Trevor Hoffman artifacts were on display inside the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

These Trevor Hoffman artifacts were on display inside the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, while Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero narrowly missed being able to join baseball’s newest immortals on stage July 30 in Cooperstown.

Hoffman fell just five votes short of election, and Guerrero needed only 15 more tallies to get in. Both are well-positioned to get the necessary 75 percent of votes on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballots for next year. Hoffman would be only the eighth former Midwest Leaguer enshrined in the Hall of Fame as a player, despite seven decades of MWL history dating back to the circuit’s start as the Illinois State League in 1947. (Greg Maddux was the last former Midwest League player inducted into the Hall of Fame, in 2014.)

Originally a shortstop and third baseman, Hoffman was converted to a pitcher in 1991 and assigned to the Midwest League to start that season. He made 27 relief appearances for the Cedar Rapids Reds, posting a 1.87 ERA, 12 saves and 52 strikeouts in 33.2 innings before being promoted to Double-A.

Another former Midwest League player, Edgar Martinez, saw the biggest gain among candidates who weren’t elected this year. He jumped from 43.4 to 58.6 percent, falling 73 votes shy of achieving the necessary 75 percent. He can appear two more times on the BBWAA ballot.

Martinez batted .303 with 15 HR and 66 RBI in 126 games with the 1984 Wausau Timbers. Another former Wausau player, 11-time Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop Omar Vizquel, will be on the ballot for the first time next year. He batted .213 with 4 HR, 28 RBI and 19 SB in 105 games with the 1986 Timbers. No team from a Midwest League community, past or present, has more than one Hall-of-Fame player as an alumnus. (That doesn’t count Hall-of-Famers who played for teams before they were part of the Midwest League.)

In his second year on the ballot, Billy Wagner got 10.2 percent, slightly less than the 10.5 percent he got his first time. He pitched for the Quad City River Bandits in 1994, going 8-9 with a 3.29 ERA and 204 strikeouts in 153 innings (26 starts).

Posted in Baseball Hall of Fame, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Gold Glove Awards, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment

Captains get new manager for 2017 season

Former Captains hitting coach Larry Day will manage Lake County this season. (Photo courtesy of the Lake County Captains)

Former Captains hitting coach Larry Day will manage Lake County this season. (Photo courtesy of the Lake County Captains)

The Lake County Captains will have at least two new faces on their coaching staff this year, including their manager.

Former Captains hitting coach Larry Day returns to Lake County as the team’s new skipper. He served as hitting coach for the Captains in 2015 and the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats in 2016. This will be the former New York Yankees farmhand’s first season as a manager.

Justin Toole takes over as hitting coach for the Captains after serving in the same capacity for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the Cleveland Indians’ affiliate in the short-season New York-Penn League, last year. He played seven minor-league seasons in the Indians organization, and once played all nine positions in one game for the Carolina Mudcats.

Junior Betances returns to the Captains as bench coach for a second consecutive season. His six years playing in the minor leagues included a season with the Beloit Snappers. He batted .293 with 1 HR, 52 RBI and 21 SB in 122 games with the 1995 Snappers, who were affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Indians will announce a pitching coach for the Captains at a later date.

Last year’s Captains skipper, Tony Masolino, is assigned to manage High-A Lynchburg this year.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Carolina League, Carolina Mudcats, Lake County Captains, Lynchburg Hillcats, Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Midwest League, New York-Penn League | Leave a comment

Avila to be inducted into Whitecaps Hall of Fame

alex-avila-usa-today-photo

Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila throws to first base during a 2013 game against the Texas Rangers. (Photo by Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports)

Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila will be inducted into the West Michigan Whitecaps Hall of Fame during his former Midwest League team’s winter banquet Thursday.

Avila played seven seasons with the Tigers before spending last year with the Chicago White Sox. The Tigers recently re-signed him to a one-year, $2 million deal. He has a .240 batting average, 73 HR and 293 RBI in 740 major-league games.

Avila made his professional debut with the Whitecaps in 2008. He batted .305 with 1 HR and 22 RBI in 58 games with West Michigan that year. He made his MLB debut for the Tigers in August 2009.

You can read more about the 23rd annual Whitecaps Community Foundation Winter Baseball Banquet here.

Whitecaps seek food ideas

It’s that time of year again when the Whitecaps seek fan ideas for unique food items to be sold at Fifth Third Ballpark during the upcoming season.

This is the eighth year the Whitecaps are doing this contest. Previous winning submissions include the Auger Dogger (a deep-fried hot dog on a stick, wrapped in spiral potato chips), the Baco (a taco in a bacon shell), the Declaration of Indigestion (a giant Philly cheesesteak sandwich), Chicks with Sticks (celery, carrots and hummus), Dutch Love (a combination of pot roast, cheese curds, French fries and turkey gravy), and Hot-To-Tot (Buffalo tater tots with pulled chicken topped with blue cheese).

Submissions can be made via e-mail at playball@whitecapsbaseball.com or via the Whitecaps’ Facebook page, Twitter account or Instagram account, through Friday, Jan. 27. All submissions should include a complete description and a photo, if possible.

The food ideas will be pared down by Whitecaps staff, and starting February 23, fans will be able to vote for their choice for the new 2017 concession item. Voting will take place on the Whitecaps website, www.whitecapsbaseball.com.

Posted in Midwest League, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

Angels announce Bees coaching staff for 2017

Banners representing the Bees and their MLB affiliate, the Los Angeles Angels, hang outside Burlington's Community Field. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Banners representing the Bees and their MLB affiliate, the Los Angeles Angels, hang outside Burlington’s Community Field. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Los Angeles Angels announced their minor-league coaches for the 2017 season Thursday, including those for their Midwest League affiliate, the Burlington Bees.

The Bees field staff will include two familiar faces, manager Adam Melhuse and pitching coach Jairo Cuevas, and a new hitting coach, Travis Adair.

This will be Melhuse’s second season as a manager, after leading the Bees to a 68-72 record last year. He played eight years in the major leagues, appearing in games for the Oakland Athletics, the Colorado Rockies, the Texas Rangers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was an advance scout for the Chicago Cubs before joining the Angels organization.

Cuevas also is entering his second season with the Bees. He served two years as a lower-level pitching coach before being assigned to Burlington. He pitched for seven seasons in the minor leagues — five in the Atlanta Braves system, one in the Kansas City Royals organization, and one in the independent Frontier League.

Adair joins the Bees after spending last season as the hitting coach for the Angels’ rookie-level affiliate, the Orem Owlz. Last year the Owlz collectively hit .298, the second-best team batting average in the Pioneer League. Adair played six seasons of minor-league baseball for three organizations, the Braves, the Rangers, and the Baltimore Orioles.

Posted in Burlington Bees, Frontier League, Midwest League, Orem Owlz, Pioneer League | Leave a comment