Top 100 Baseball Blog

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Minor League Baseball Launches Hispanic-Focused Initiative Es Divertido Ser Un Fan

MiLB News Release
Multi-cultural fan engagement program includes new team identities, specialty uniforms and Hispanic-friendly ballpark experiences 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Minor League Baseball® (MiLB™) today launched Es Divertido Ser Un Fan, a new multicultural fan engagement platform aimed at specifically connecting with Hispanic/Latino baseball fans in 160 markets throughout the U.S. and Canada. The program will debut this August in select MiLB markets, including Las Vegas, Charlotte, North Carolina; Kane County, Illinois; and Visalia, California, with a national expansion planned for 2018. 

The Es Divertido Ser Un Fan initiative expands MiLB’s fan-centric marketing campaign It’s Fun to be a Fan, unveiled in March. The Spanish-translated campaign provides teams with an additional option to better connect with and engage fans in culturally-relevant ways. 

The most recent ESPN Sports Poll report found that more than 18.2 million U.S. Hispanic/Latino individuals identify themselves as MiLB fans, or 17.2 percent of MiLB’s overall self-designated fan base. 

“One of the pillars of Minor League Baseball is to create an environment where all individuals feel welcome and included in our ballparks,” said Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner. “It is important to us that our teams are reflective of the communities in which they reside, offering a memorable entertainment experience for all members of those communities.”

With years of research and quantifiable filters helping guide the strategic plan, MiLB targeted the four aforementioned communities as ideal markets to launch the initiative in 2017. Each participating team depicts a unique subset of the U.S. Hispanic/Latino population, with the four markets serving as a representative cross-section of the total U.S. Hispanic/Latino populace. 

To reflect the unique characteristics of their respective fan bases, participating teams have the option to showcase their communities’ distinctive personas through logos on caps and jerseys. 

The Las Vegas 51s will take the field as the Las Vegas Reyes de Plata (“Silver Kings”), celebrating the city and state’s pioneering history at the forefront of the precious metal mining business that continues to define the Silver State today. 

“The Reyes de Plata name plays off the fact that Nevada is the Silver State and embraces the impact and history that the Hispanic/Latino community had early in the precious metals mining industry that ultimately made Nevada state-worthy during the final months of the Civil War. The Tuesday re-branding that will occur during August games is something that is unique in professional sports and goes beyond one-off heritage nights,” said Las Vegas 51s General Manager Chuck Johnson. 

Per Nielsen and Pew Research, in the past 15 years, the 10 U.S. states with the fastest-growing U.S. Hispanic/Latino populations were home to 45 MiLB teams. One of those states is North Carolina, and Charlotte is one of the fastest growing emerging Hispanic markets in the country. 

“We look forward to introducing the Charlotte Caballeros, and fans will notice the Caballeros’ name and associated themes integrated in their experiences at BB&T Ballpark and in the community,” said Charlotte Knights’ General Manager Rob Egan. “We will feature special concession items, public address announcements in Spanish, player features on the video board and a festival with live music during our introductory weekend of August 18-20. Additionally, we will be strengthening our bond with the Latin American Chamber of Commerce Charlotte and the Puerto Rican Cultural Society of Charlotte, as well as volunteering and raising funds for Circle de Luz, a group whose mission is to empower Hispanic girls and young women through mentoring, programming and educational scholarships.” 

 Of the five counties surrounding Chicago’s Cook County, Kane County, Illinois, has the largest population of U.S. Hispanic residents. “Our goal has always been to provide affordable, family fun for all area residents,” said Kane County Cougars Vice President and General Manager Curtis Haug. 

“Our Spanish-language outreach will encourage even more families to enjoy Kane County Cougars baseball.” 

As the 14-largest U.S. Hispanic/Latino DMA, Visalia, California, boasts a prominent Mexican-American farming community, and a long-standing position as one of the premier dairy-producing regions of the world. The Visalia Rawhide, who will become the Visalia Toros (“Bulls”), saw this program as an opportunity to further engage their Hispanic/Latino fan base. 

“The team’s rebranding pays homage to California's Central Valley agricultural empire and the people who make it a wonderful place to call home,” said Jennifer Reynolds, General Manager of the Visalia Rawhide. “To kick off this year-long celebration, we will host Taquiza y Toros so that everyone can enjoy great family-friendly entertainment at our ballpark, no matter what language he or she speaks.” 

Fans can join the Es Divertido Ser Un Fan conversation, share their experiences and exchange stories using the hashtags #MiLBEsDivertido and #MiLBIsFun. 

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How a Gun Shot Impacted the Career of New York Yankees Pitcher Marshall Bridges

Hard-throwing left-handed pitcher Marshall Bridges toiled for six seasons in the minor leagues before earning a call-up to the major leagues at the age of 28 in 1959. He hung around for several years as a journeyman reliever before finding stardom as the closer for the 1962 New York Yankees. Unfortunately, a gunshot wound suffered at a bar during spring training the following year put a damper on what had been a late developing but promising career.

Known as the Sheriff or Fox, Bridges was a veteran of the Negro Leagues before signing with the New York Giants in 1953. He pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds prior to joining the Yankees in 1962. He immediately grabbed the closer role for the eventual World Series Champions, going 8-4 with a 3.14 ERA and 18 saves in 52 relief appearances (spanning 71.2 innings). He permitted opposing hitters just a .194 batting average, including a .169 mark for lefties. New York manager Ralph Houk called him his “lifeline reliever.” “Some pitchers go all to pieces,” explained the skipper. “He just seems to growl and get tougher and madder.”

On February 14, 1963, Bridges was shot in the leg by 21 year-old Carrie Lee Raysor at a Ft. Lauderdale Elks Lodge bar. Accounts differed as to what led to the shooting. She claimed that the married 31-year-old father of three tried to “pick her up” and “put his arm around me and tried to pull me over and I didn’t like this kind of mugging.” She further claimed that he repeatedly offered to drive her home and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Bridges indicated he was nursing a solitary drink while waiting for a friend to pick him up for dinner when he was shot. Regardless of which side was telling the truth, she pulled out a handgun and fired a shot. A bullet lodged in the fleshy part of his left leg, broke a small bone and caused some muscle damage. He elected to leave the bullet in his leg, as this alternative to surgery shrunk his recovery time from the entire season to a matter of weeks.

Although the initial prognosis was that he would miss at least four weeks, Bridges downplayed the injury, stating it “feels good and I can walk now if they let me.”

 Houk even made light of the situation, telling his pitcher, “I’m going to have to get you a holster. You’re too slow on the draw.”

Raysor was arrested on charges of aggravated assault. While Bridges was interviewed he was ultimately not detained. He was not disciplined for his part in the incident and returned to action before the season was over, earning nicknames from his teammates like Bang Bang and Lead Leg. He was 2-0 with a 3.82 ERA in 23 games while striking out more than a batter per inning. He was replaced as the closer by Hal Reniff, who matched his 18 saves from the year before.

Despite it all, the Yankees were not happy. As the preeminent franchise in all of baseball, they were not fans of their players having brushes with the law. It also did not help that he was black at a time when non-white players were supposed to be seen and not heard. He was sold that offseason to the Washington Senators, for whom he pitched for two more nondescript seasons and two more for their Triple-A team) before retiring following after the 1967 season.

Bridges finished with a major league record of 23-15 with a 3.75 ERA and 25 saves in 206 games (five starts) over seven seasons.

(Perhaps for good reason) Bridges elected to not press charges against Raysor. What happened to her was not able to be found. Following baseball, Bridges worked as a handyman for the State Capitol building in Jackson, Mississippi. He passed away in 1990 at the age of 59. While fruitlessly speculative, it’s nevertheless interesting to wonder how his career might have ended if he had not been in that bar on that night and found himself on the wrong end of the barrel of a gun. 

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Minor League Baseball Announces its June Players of the Month

For Immediate Release                                                                                    July 6, 2017 
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Minor League Baseball today announced the Player of the Month Award winners for each of the 10 full season leagues for the month of June. Each winner will receive an award from Minor League Baseball in recognition of the honor. 

Rochester Red Wings (Twins) outfielder Zack Granite led the International League in average (.470), hits (55), extra-base hits (16), runs scored (23), total bases (78) and on-base percentage (.527). Granite recorded a base hit in 28 of his 29 games in June and posted 20 multi-hit games to go along with a 17-game hitting streak to start the month. Granite, 24, was selected by Minnesota in the 14th round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Seton Hall University. 

In his first month at the Triple-A level, Albuquerque Isotopes (Rockies) third baseman Ryan McMahon led the Pacific Coast League in hits (50), extra-base hits (21) and total bases (85). He was second in the league in average (.427) and RBI (28). McMahon posted 15 multi-hit games in June, including a pair of five-hit games and a pair of four-hit games. McMahon, 22, was selected in the second round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California. 

Reading Fightin Phils (Phillies) third baseman Mitch Walding led the Eastern League in home runs (13), RBIs (27), runs scored (21), total bases (78), slugging percentage (.848) and OPS (1.246) during the month of June, and tied for the league lead in extra-base hits (19). Walding recorded nine multi-hit games in June and ended the month on an 11-game hitting streak. Walding, 24, was selected by Philadelphia in the fifth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of the St. Mary’s High School in Stockton, California. 

Jackson Generals (Diamondbacks) infielder Kevin Medrano led the Southern League in average (.371), hits (36) and total bases (51) in June. Medrano recorded a 16-game hitting streak and posted 11 multi-hit games during the month. Medrano, 27, was selected by Arizona in the 18th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Missouri State University. 

Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros) third baseman J.D. Davis led the Texas League in home runs (seven), extra-base hits (15), total bases (64) and OPS (1.031), and was second in hits (35), RBI (23) and slugging percentage (.627). Davis batted .343 for the month and recorded 10 multi-hit games and a 13-game hitting streak from June 15-30. Davis, 24, was selected by Houston in the third round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Cal State Fullerton. 

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Dodgers) center fielder Yusniel Diaz led the California League in hits (40), extra-base hits (16), total bases (68), doubles (nine) and on-base percentage (.438) and was second in home runs (five) and OPS (1.111). Diaz posted 13 multi-hit games in June, including two four-hit games and four three-hit games. Diaz, 20, was signed by the Dodgers in November 2015 out of Havana, Cuba. 

Buies Creek Astros left fielder Myles Straw was a tough out for Carolina League pitching in June, as he led the league in hits (36), walks (20), stolen bases (12), on-base percentage (.479) and runs scored (21), while batting .375 in 24 games. Straw posted 13 multi-hit games in June, including a stretch of seven straight from June 8-15. Straw, 22, was selected by Houston in the 12th round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of St. Johns River State College. 

Lakeland Flying Tigers (Tigers) left-hander Matt Hall did not allow an earned run in 25.2 innings in June, as he held opponents to a .169 average and walked just six while striking out 31. Hall was 3-0 in June and allowed only 15 hits during his four outings, with just three of the hits going for extra bases (two doubles and a homer). Hall, 23, was selected by Detroit in the sixth round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of Missouri State University. 

Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays) shortstop Bo Bichette destroyed Midwest League pitching in June, leading the league in average (.421), hits (40), extra-base hits (16), total bases (63) and doubles (12). His 1.198 OPS was good for third in the league. For the year, his .383 average and 32 doubles lead all of professional baseball (including Major League Baseball). Bichette, 19, was selected by Toronto in the second round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, Florida. 

Lakewood Blue Claws (Phillies) first baseman Darick Hall led the South Atlantic League in home runs (eight), RBI (27), extra-base hits (18), total bases (64) and slugging percentage (.653) and was second in the league in doubles (10) and OPS (1.042). Hall had separate hitting streaks of five, seven and eight games in June and tallied five consecutive multi-hit games from June 23-27. Hall, 21, was selected by the Phillies in the 14th round of the 2016 First Year Player Draft out of Dallas Baptist University. 

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Minor League Baseball Attendance Tops One Million Again Over July 3-4 Holiday

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Minor League Baseball (MiLB) today announced that 1,059,975 fans attended the 159 games played July 3-4, marking the second time in the last three years MiLB drew more than one million fans over that two-day span (also 2015). Additionally, 10 percent of MiLB teams set franchise records for single-game
attendance during the holiday.

The 14 U.S.-based leagues and 160 clubs that charge admission averaged 6,667 fans per game over the holiday period, drawing 521,020 fans for 79 games on July 3, and 538,955 fans for 80 games on July 4. Each MiLB team hosted a game in its respective community over those two days.

“Our ballparks provide fun, memory-making experiences for our fans all year long,” said Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner. “The fact that more than one million fans spent their Fourth of July holiday in Minor League Baseball ballparks solidifies our teams’ prominence in their respective communities.”

Thirteen clubs set new franchise single-game attendance records on July 3 or July 4: Connecticut Tigers, Fort Myers Miracle, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Durham Bulls, Hartford Yard Goats, Johnson City Cardinals, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Missoula Osprey, Nashville Sounds, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Portland Sea Dogs, Richmond Flying Squirrels and Winston-Salem Dash. Additionally, three teams set new marks in renovated ballparks, including the Akron RubberDucks, Memphis Redbirds and Oklahoma City Dodgers.

The Buffalo Bisons drew the largest crowd among Triple-A teams, with 16,647 fans on July 3; the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp recorded the highest figure at the Double-A level (11,398 on July 3); while the Lansing Lugnuts posted the largest total at the Class-A level (11,449 on July 4) and the Spokane Indians drew the biggest crowd among Short Season level clubs (7,029 on July 4).

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Pete Smith: Triple Play Maestro of The Boston Red Sox

Anyone whose time in the major leagues exceeds for than a season or two should consider themselves very lucky given the number of people who fail to even get a call up. For those who do make it but their time ends up being relatively short, packing in as many memorable experiences is exceedingly important. Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Pete Smith may have only had a brief cup of coffee as a big leaguer but created memories that could be envied by even the most grizzled veterans.

Born in Natick, Massachusetts, Smith must have been over the moon to sign in 1961 with his home team, the Red Sox, following his career at Colgate University. The right-hander progressed through the minor leagues quickly, earning a spot with Boston in September, 1962. In his lone appearance that year, he didn’t last past the fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers; yielding eight runs and three home runs in a resounding loss.

Smith won 12 games in the minors in 1963 and earned another promotion to the Hub late in the year. Making a total of six appearances (one start), he posted an 0-1 record and 3.60 ERA across 15 innings.

He had no way of knowing it at the time but his final outing was the last time he would toe a big league rubber. Incredibly, the last time he officially touched a ball as a fielder during a major league game produced an incredibly rare feat. On September 28th, pitching in relief of an eventual 4-3 victory against the Los Angeles Angels, he came on in the seventh inning to protect a slim 3-2 lead. He promptly allowed a double to Charlie Dees and a walk to Lee Thomas. Looking down the barrel of possibly coughing up the lead, Smith instead grabbed a ball bunted off the bat of the next hitter, Felix Torres, and turned it into a triple play. The Sox went on to win the game and the hurler had his moment of a lifetime.

 "I purposely misplayed a bunt attempt by the Angels’ Felix Torres with runners on first and second,” explained Smith years later.

"Instead of catching the bunt [on a fly] I let it drop to the playing field, quickly fielded it and turned it into a triple play — bang-bang-bang."

Smith missed the entirety of 1964 and pitched in just two minor league games in 1965 because of injury. Unfortunately, he was not able to go forward any further and ended his playing career. Although his big league career consisted of a less than modest 6.75 ERA across seven appearances, he left with memories and stories worthy of a player with much more experience.

Pete Smith Interview:

What was the strangest baseball play you ever saw?: When Felix Torres of the Los Angeles Angels stood at home plate as he was trying to sacrifice runners on first and second. His pop-up bunt was turned into a 1-6-5-4 triple play.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: I had two favorites; Johnny Pesky and Mel Parnell.

Who was your toughest out?: My toughest out was Jose Cardenal. He probably hit .800 off me and I was probably the reason he got to the big leagues.

If you could do anything about your career differently, what would that be?: I wouldn’t have thrown curve balls so soon in January of 1964. I threw my arm out then.

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