When the 2018 season begins, the Washington Wild Things will now have two players beginning their third seasons with the team: RHP Chase Cunningham and catcher Kyle Pollock. The latter re-signed with the team on Tuesday. Pollock is also the first position player to re-up with the Wild Things.
Pollock was drafted in the 20th round of the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft by the Kansas City Royals out of the University of Evansville. He spent two seasons with the Royals’ organization, before being released and finding a home in Washington, Pennsylvania, with the Wild Things.
Pollock was a big part of the last two teams, as the starting catcher, and earned his way on to the 2017 Frontier League All-Star team last season. After hitting .214 with a .308 OBP in 2016, and throwing out 15 of 55 potential base-stealers that season, Pollock turned it up a notch, and hit .255 with a .362 OBP and .827 OPS in 2017. The Westerville Central High School grad launched 11 home runs and drove in 41 runs offensively, and added 16 doubles and a triple. Behind the dish, Pollock remained one of the better defensive catchers in the league, and threw out 29% of runners attempting to steal.
“Quality catching is very hard to find and we believe we have best in the Frontier League here in Washington. Kyle greatly deserved the honor of being an All-Star in 2017, pairing his defensive abilities to limit the running game with the offensive fireworks we expected when we signed him,” said Wild Things’ general manager Steven Zavacky. “He takes a lot of pride in developing young pitchers and he has a great relationship with our manager Gregg Langbehn. We are excited to announce Kyle’s return for 2018 and look forward to seeing his family at the ballpark throughout the summer.”
The returning catcher said he didn’t really have second thoughts about coming back to the team for a third season.
“I’m stoked. I love the staff, the team and the front office crew,” said Pollock. “I had a blast the last two seasons… Personally I am looking forward to making another run at a playoff berth. I know a lot of guys are coming back as well and I think that will be a tremendous positive for the team atmosphere because it was the best group of guys I have ever played with in my professional career.”
As for what his role may change to being in his third year with the team and in the Frontier League, Pollock is looking forward to a few things.
“I think as a player gets older their role evolves into more of a [role of being a] mentor and [setting an] example to the new guys,” said Pollock. “There are some bittersweet feelings, based on my experience, from being released from an affiliated program, which I think I can help some players deal with. All of the guys who were there to talk to when I arrived in Washington are no longer here, so I feel as though it is a good role to inherit.”
He continued, “After being in the league for a couple of seasons there are a few strategies that differ from affiliated ball along with the freedom you don’t have in the MiLB system as well, which I think I could articulate to new players.”
From a goals standpoint, Pollock isn’t satisfied with the team’s success in 2017. He wants more.
“I’ll keep this short and sweet; I want to win the whole think next year,” said Pollock. “We had a great run last year and fell short, but since most of the guys are returning it will be a huge plus considering we all know how to overcome those shortfalls. Personally, I want to help the pitching staff more this season with some of the things I learned from the past season regarding approach and mentality on the mound.”
He thinks the tools for success are already present, saying this opportunity is one he’s “truly blessed to have stumbled into.”
“I know the manager has a very effective way of managing that most players do not get to see in affiliated and college programs,” said Pollock. “Our director of team operations does a phenomenal job of recruiting quality baseball players who do a great job both on and off the field.”
“Banger [manager Gregg Langbehn] gives us freedom as baseball players, that I can safely say, no other organization gives their players, which allows us to play loose and free.”
Along with Pollock, left-handed pitcher Jake Eaton was officially re-signed to a contract for the 2018 campaign.
Eaton, originally acquired in late July in a trade with the Salina Stockade of the American Association (a Pecos League team traveling and playing an AA schedule in 2017), made 12 appearances for the Wild Things in 2017, spanning 20.1 innings.
“Jake was one of the best finds for us during the 2017 season. Being on the travel team in the American Association took a toll on him physically,” said Wild Things general manager Steven Zavacky. “We were happy to see how he embraced his role in Washington and how he responded to the pressure of our heated playoff race. Jake will be a vital piece of our success in 2018, working inning situations, and we look forward to seeing his continual growth.”
Eaton will be looking to build off a successful start to his Wild Thing career. In the aforementioned 20.1 innings, the LaPorte, Indiana, native allowed just 16 hits and nine runs (five earned) with seven walks and 23 strikeouts. He was 1-0 with a save and a 2.21 earned run average.
The Anderson University grad said he’s looking to do even more good things with the team in 2018.
“Personally, I hope to just continue improving as a pitcher and contributing to the success of the team,” said Eaton. “Last year I was very comfortable in my role out of the bullpen, and I felt like I was pretty flexible for us We’ve talked about the possibility of starting, but during spring training I’ll be willing to try out any role Banger [Field Manager Gregg Langbehn] asks of me.”
Eaton said he enjoyed his first taste of Washington, citing some differences and a “different atmosphere” than what he was accustomed to with the Stockade prior to his arrival in Washington.
“Everyone associated with the team was excited for pushing into the postseason, and it was great being a part of a successful team [in 2017],” said Eaton. “The biggest difference personally was having a training room and a great trainer in Brittany Miller. I was able to receive crucial treatment that I hadn’t had on my prior teams, helping me feel like I was at my absolute best in my outings with Washington.”
He said he’s also excited, not only to be back, but to push for even more as a team than the playoff berth in 2017.
“I expect a couple team expectations to be taking the top seed in the regular season and winning the Frontier League Championship,” said Eaton.
Pollock and Eaton join right-handed pitcher Chase Cunningham and left-handed pitcher Frank Trimarco as players from the 2017 team to re-up their deals, and more will be coming in and released over the next few weeks, as the 2018 roster starts to take shape. For all of the news on roster moves, check out the “news” tab on www.washingtonwildthings.com and all of our social media platforms.