Hot Rods announce stadium improvement plans

The Bowling Green Hot Rods announced a plan Wednesday to make more than $2 million in improvements to Bowling Green Ballpark, to be completed by Opening Day next year.

Perhaps the most visible change will be a new high-definition scoreboard and LED board measuring 35 feet tall and 56 feet wide — almost triple the size of the current videoboard in place. Atlanta-based Foremetco Sports will install the videoboard, which will feature the latest technology offered in outdoor boards, including the highest resolution of any videoboard in Minor League Baseball, and other enhancements that allow the team to have an in-house game feed and to broadcast their home games on MiLB.tv for the first time in franchise history.

Also notable will be completion of the 360-degree walkway around the ballpark — a feature included in the stadium’s original design, but cut during construction phase due to budget concerns. Additional signage structures will be added behind the walkway.

A new “Splash Zone” for children will be installed behind the centerfield wall. The 1,500-square-foot zone will feature a 10-foot-tall water fountain shaped like a baseball bat and ball. It also will have 30 ground-to-air water fountains. Two new restrooms and two changing rooms will be installed behind the batters’ eye.

“Finishing the 360 walkway and the splash zone are two of the ideas that our staff have been dreaming about adding for the past five years,” Hot Rods general manager Eric Leach said in a press release. “We feel that both of these additions will allow us to utilize the entire ballpark space and continue to bring quality family entertainment to South Central Kentucky.”

A new Splash Zone for children will be installed behind the centerfield wall at Bowling Green Ballpark. (Artist’s rendering courtesy of the Bowling Green Hot Rods)

Another major part of the project will be on the suite level, where the Reinhart Club will be completely reconfigured, expanding its usable space by over 35 percent. The club’s bar will be relocated to help maximize the space.

“The enhancement with the Reinhart Club will allow the space to be used year-round instead of just during the season,” Leach said. “It will allow for a more functionable space for business meetings, formal dinners, banquets, and holiday parties.”

The entire suite level will get new glass as part of the renovation. The current glass provides a three-foot opening to view games, but the new glass will be 10 feet from floor to ceiling to allow for bigger views and a more open feel, something new Hot Rods owner Jack Blackstock said he wanted to include after noticing at other ballparks how impactful such an enhanced feature can have on the fan experience.

Other, smaller changes that will be made include new signage at the front entry, new entrance gates, and new tables and chairs in the leftfield picnic area.

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Former hitting coach to manage Snappers in 2019

A former hitting coach will return to Beloit next season as the new manager of the Snappers.

It is the first managerial assignment for Lloyd Turner, who was Beloit’s hitting coach in 2014 and 2015. He also served in that same capacity for the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters the past three seasons and in 2013. The former utility player was an Oakland Athletics minor-leaguer from 2002 to 2007, and he played five seasons in the independent Atlantic League after that. He went 4-for-12 in the four games he played in the Midwest League, for the 2003 Kane County Cougars.

Last year’s Beloit skipper, Webster Garrison, will manage the Stockton Ports, Oakland’s High-A affiliate in the California League.

Juan Dilone will return for a fourth season as Beloit’s hitting coach, and Don Schultze also will return as the team’s pitching coach. Schultze served as Beloit’s pitching coach in 2016 and 2018, and in the same capacity for Kane County in 2008.

Beloit’s fourth coach will be Anthony Phillips, who played 11 seasons of minor-league baseball from 2007 to 2018. The South Africa native played for his country in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The former infielder also played in the Midwest League, for the Clinton LumberKings in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, he batted .199 with 4 HR, 25 RBI and 23 SB in 100 games; in 2012, he hit .214 with 5 HR, 24 RBI and 11 SB in 118 games.

Chapman named defensive player of year

A’s third baseman Matt Chapman was named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday. He had a .959 fielding percentage for Oakland, committing only 20 errors in 484 chances at the hot corner this year. At the plate, he batted .278 with 24 homers, 42 doubles and 68 RBI in 145 games with the A’s.

Chapman played 50 games for the Snappers in 2014, batting .237 with 16 extra-base hits and 20 RBI. He played 38 games at third base, posting a .914 fielding percentage (11 errors in 128 chances) in the Midwest League.

Posted in Atlantic League, Beloit Snappers, California League, Clinton LumberKings, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, New York-Penn League, Stockton Ports, Vermont Lake Monsters, World Baseball Classic | Leave a comment

McCullers undergoes elbow surgery, will miss 2019 season

Lance McCullers Jr. pitches for the Houston Astros during a game in 2015. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Houston Astros RHP Lance McCullers Jr. — a former Quad Cities hurler — underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Tuesday and is expected to miss the entire 2019 season as he recovers.

He went 10-6 with a 3.86 ERA, 142 strikeouts and 50 walks in 128.1 innings (25 games/22 starts) for the Astros this season, mostly before his stint on the disabled list from August 5 to September 24. He also made five relief appearances in the postseason this year, giving up one run in five innings.

McCullers spent the 2013 season in the Midwest League. He went 6-5 with a 3.18 ERA, 117 strikeouts and 49 walks in 104.2 innings (25 games/19 starts) for the River Bandits during the regular season. Quad Cities won the MWL Championship Series that year.

Posted in 2013 Playoffs, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment

Several ex-MWLers on HOF’s Today’s Game Era ballot

Four of the 10 people being considered for enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame via the HOF’s Today’s Game Era ballot are former Midwest League players, and one of them also managed in the MWL.

The Today’s Game Era (TGA) is one of four Eras Committees that provide an avenue for HOF consideration to managers, umpires and executives, as well as players retired for more than 15 seasons. The TGA ballot will be voted upon by a 16-member committee on December 9 at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. Any candidate who receives votes on 75 percent of the ballots (12) will earn election to the Hall of Fame.

The candidates are Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella, Lee Smith and George Steinbrenner. Baines, Belle, Carter, Clark, Hershiser and Smith are being considered for their contributions as players. Johnson, Manuel and Piniella are included for their contributions as managers, and Steinbrenner for his work as owner of the New York Yankees.

Baines, Belle, Hershiser and Manuel are former MWL players. Manuel also managed in the MWL.

Baines was a rare No. 1 overall draft pick who began his playing career in the Midwest League. He batted .261 with 18 extra-base hits and 29 RBI in 69 games with the 1977 Appleton Foxes, who were a Chicago White Sox affiliate.

Belle briefly played for the 1988 Waterloo Indians, batting .250 (7-for-28) with one homer, one double and two RBI in nine games.

Hershiser pitched for the 1979 Clinton Dodgers, going 4-0 with a 2.09 ERA, 33 strikeouts, 17 walks, two saves and one complete game in 43 innings (15 games/four starts).

Manuel was an outfielder and a manager for the Wisconsin Rapids Twins, in 1967 and 1983, respectively. He batted .313 with 15 homers, 29 doubles and 70 RBI in 111 games for ’67 squad. That was almost good enough to win the MWL triple crown, as he finished first in batting average, second in home runs, and tied for first in RBI. The ’67 team went to the MWL Championship Series, which they lost to the Appleton Foxes. As a manager, Manuel led the ’83 team to a 71-67 record, which was pretty good considering the team started 9-27!

Posted in Baseball Hall of Fame, Clinton LumberKings, Midwest League, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Cubs extend PDC with South Bend through 2022 season

Four Winds Field, home of the South Bend Cubs. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Chicago Cubs announced Wednesday that they have extended their player development contracts with all of their minor-league affiliates — including the South Bend Cubs in the Midwest League — through the 2022 season.

South Bend became the Cubs’ MWL affiliate beginning with the 2015 season, after a four-year deal was reached between the clubs in September 2014. The Cubs extended the deal in June 2016, putting it into effect through the 2020 season. Now, again, the Cubs have extended their PDC with South Bend well before it expired.

Clearly, and not surprisingly, the Cubs are pleased with the affiliation.

“We couldn’t be happier to extend our relationship with South Bend through at least 2022,” Jason McLeod, Cubs Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development, said in a press release. “Andrew Berlin and Joe Hart, along with their talented front office group, have gone above and beyond to give our young players an environment in which they can mature both on and off the field.”

Next year is a big one for the South Bend Cubs, who will host the Midwest League All-Star Game on Tuesday, June 18 — South Bend’s first Class-A midseason classic since 1989.

Posted in 2019 All-Star Game, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks | Leave a comment