I have a lot to write about today, so here goes …
The biggest story in the Midwest League today probably is Houston Astros prospect Mark Appel’s second start for the Quad Cities River Bandits. The No. 1 overall draft pick did well in his first start, giving up only two hits and a walk while striking out three batters in four innings. (Read my post about Appel’s first start here.)
Tonight Appel pitches in Fort Wayne’s Parkview Field, which means in his limited time in the Midwest League, he’s gotten to pitch in two great parks. Parkview Field is one of the best venues in Minor League Baseball — I’ll be writing a post about the newest improvements to the home of the TinCaps in the near future — and, of course, Modern Woodmen Park has the best sightline in the Midwest League with the Centennial Bridge over the Mississippi River just past the rightfield side of the ballpark.
Incidentally, Modern Woodmen Park is one of 20 stadiums in the running for USA Today Travel’s 10 Best Minor League Ballparks. Because it is the only Midwest League ballpark you can choose, I can wholeheartedly endorse voting for MWP here.
There’s another online contest for which I won’t make an endorsement — MiLB.com’s Mascot Mania! You can vote for your favorite Midwest League mascot here. The winners from each league will face off against each other as fans determine who is Minor League Baseball’s best mascot.
LeFlore returns to Clinton tonight
Former big-league outfielder Ron LeFlore will be the guest of honor tonight in Clinton, where his professional career in baseball began 40 years ago this summer.
According to this Quad-City Times article, it will be the first time LeFlore is back at the ballpark where he played home games for the 1973 Clinton Pilots. The LumberKings will wear jerseys that are throwbacks to the Pilots era.
LeFlore batted .277 in 32 games with the Pilots. He was managed by Jim Leyland, who was skipper of the Clinton club in 1972, 1973 and 1975.
LeFlore played six seasons with the Detroit Tigers, two seasons with the Chicago White Sox, and one season with Montreal Expos.
Unrelated side note: If you go to Sunday’s game in Clinton, you’ll get to see 16-year-old Julio Urias start for the Great Lakes Loons. He is 2-0 with a 2.80 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 35.1 IP this season.
Urias turns 17 on August 12. You can read more about him in this post I wrote after his pro debut on May 26.
Baker continues rehab with Cougars
Chicago Cubs pitcher Scott Baker continues his rehab with the Kane County Cougars tonight. He is scheduled to pitch five innings before being relieved by LHP Michael Heesch.
This will be Baker’s second start for the Cougars. In his first start, on Sunday, he gave up four runs on six hits and a walk while striking out two batters in three innings.
Baker began his baseball career in the Midwest League, pitching for the 2003 Quad City River Bandits. he went 3-1 with a 2.49 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 50.2 IP (11 starts).
In other Cougars news, the team is on the verge of entering new territory for a Class-A club. The organization anticipates its 10 millionth fan will pass through the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark gates Saturday evening. According to Minor League Baseball, the Cougars will be the first Class-A team ever to reach that milestone.
The 10 millionth fan will receive numerous gifts from the organization, including a Cougars game-issued No. 10 jersey, a ceremonial first pitch before the game, an autographed team bat, and a 10-game customized ticket package for the 2014 season. The winning fan will also be recognized on the field following the game.
This is Kane County’s 23rd season.
Cubs call up Junior Lake
Junior Lake, ranked No. 15 among Cubs prospects by Baseball America, was promoted to the big-league team and is in tonight’s starting lineup against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
Lake batted .248 with 7 HR, 42 RBI and 10 SB in 131 games with the 2009 Peoria Chiefs. He will be the 12th non-rehabbing member of that Chiefs team to later play in the major leagues.
I don’t have a solo photo of Lake, but he’s in the background of this shot I took of then-Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly during his 2009 rehab start in Peoria:
Finally, if you haven’t already, make sure to read Ben Hill’s feature story about longtime Midwest League president George Spelius. This is Spelius’ 27th year at the helm of the MWL; he plans to retire after his current two-year term ends in 2014.