Traverse City Beach Bums Sign Josh Lavender

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – The Traverse City Beach Bums have made their first new-player signing for the 2018 in picking up utility-man, Josh Lavender.

Lavender comes to the Cherry Capital from the independent ranks of Japanese baseball, spending the last two years with the Ehime Mandarin Pirates of the Shikoku Island League Plus, where he won an Island League playoff title, and the Fukushima Hopes of the Route Inn Baseball Challenge League.

Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Josh played his collegiate ball at East Central University, an NCAA division 2 school in Ada, Oklahoma. In his senior season, he hit .262 with three home runs, ten doubles, and 33 runs batted in, accruing a .447 on base percentage, and a .460 slugging percentage, in 42 games played. In 41 starts in both the infield and outfield, he proved to be a reliable defender with a .970 fielding percentage, and only committed two errors. The numbers put up by Lavender helped him get named to the All-Great American Conference honorable mention team.

Before his time at ECU, the former business major played two seasons at Seminole State Junior College, where he hit .300 with six doubles and two triples as a sophomore. He played his high school ball at Union Grove High School in McDonough, Georgia.

Washington Wild Things Aquire INF Carter McEachern

WASHINGTON, Pa. (Jan. 12) – Today the Wild Things announced their fourth transaction of the week, and third trade, as the team has acquired infielder Carter McEachern from the Can-Am League’s Trois-Rivières Aigles (Three Rivers Eagles). Washington acquired McEachern for a player to be named.

McEachern played in 2017 for the Aigles after appearing in two games for the Winnipeg Golden Eyes of the American Association in 2016. Prior to turning pro, McEachern enjoyed success at Trinity University (NCAA Division III), where he and his teammates won the 2016 NCAA Division III National Championship.

The Thunder Bay, Ontario, native, had a career batting average of .328 at Trinity, while sporting a four-year OPS of .838. He hit six home runs and drove in 97 runs, while striking out just 40 times in 576 plate appearances (one per 14.4 plate appearances). Towards the beginning of the 2016 season, Hero Sports named McEachern the best third baseman in all of Division III baseball and is the 2nd former Trinity Tiger to play professional baseball.

Once a member of the squad in Trois-Rivières, McEachern continued to have success at the plate, boasting a .289 batting average and .350 on-base percentage in 306 plate appearances in 2017. He hit three home runs and drove in 29 runs, to go along with 10 stolen bases and 17 doubles. Defensively, the 23-year old spent most of his time at second base, where he made six errors on 161 chances, while holding a .963 fielding percentage. He also played a game in centerfield, two in right field, seven at shortstop and five at third base.

The versatility and offensive ability were attractive to the Wild Things’ front office, and the team is excited to have McEachern on board.

“Adding Carter should be quite impactful in 2018. As I have said in the past, the quality of your rookies greatly dictate your team success. Rookies who hit nearly .300 do not grow on trees,” said general manager Steven Zavacky. “We value Carter’s experience being a DIII National Champion in 2016 and believe he can contribute at a high level. On the field, we are getting a versatile bat that can hit anywhere in the lineup and create runs. He will add some versatility to our infield and do some damage on the bases as well.”

McEachern, who now has a full professional season under his belt, said he is excited to join the Wild Things, noting the year of pro ball will help, after having to adjust to the next level. He said there was a lot to learn.

“Being that Three Rivers, or as the locals call it Trois-Rivières, is located in the French-speaking province of Canada, my first professional experience was unique both from a baseball and cultural perspective,” said McEachern. “I think the biggest adjustment between college and professional would have to be the adjustments themselves, both in game and series to series. Given the length of series and the frequency of games between the same team, you have to maintain your approach while making adjustments pitch-to-pitch and at-bat to at-bat in order to consistently contribute to a winning formula.”

Of the winning formula Washington was able to find in recent years, with a playoff appearance last season, McEachern said he’s looking forward to contributing to that continuing.

“It’s always a pleasure to join an organization with a winning pedigree such as Washington’s,” he said.

As mentioned, McEachern grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and according to him, when you grow up there, you don’t have much of a choice but to like hockey. He said his background as a hockey goalie helped to shape him on the baseball diamond.

In terms of goals, McEachern mentioned that he wants to continue to develop a more selective, as well as aggressive approach in the batter’s box.

“Coming to a new team beginning a new season, it’s difficult to say what exactly my role will be,” said McEachern. “But needless to say I plan on contributing day after day to what hopes to be yet another successful season and a run for a league championship.”

The player to be named in the trade will be announced at a later date.

Normal CornBelters Announce Third Annual Legends Game

NORMAL, Illinois (January 11, 2018) – The CornBelters and the Town of Normal have announced details for the third annual Legends Game at The Corn Crib, presented by Illinois Corn Growers, in Normal.

The 2018 edition of the Legends Game will be held on Saturday, August 4th. Gates and parking will open at 5:00 p.m. CT. The game will begin at approximately 7:00 p.m.

The first 1,000 fans to purchase tickets or game packages will receive access to an exclusive 90-minute autograph session before the game from 5:30-7:00 p.m. Fans will have the opportunity to join the players on the field and gather autographs from some of their favorite players. Fans will be limited to one autographed item per celebrity.

special ticket promotion is available at the cost of $30 per person, which includes access to the autograph session. The deal consists of a Reserved Box Seat ticket to both the Legends Game and the CornBelters 2018 CEFCU Opening Night on Friday, May 11th.

Standard tickets for the Legends Game, which do not include the autograph session, are $20 for Reserved Box Seats and $15 for Reserved Bleacher Seats (with seatbacks) or General Admission Lawn.

Additional ticket packages are available for advance purchase, which also include access to the exclusive pregame autograph session:

  • Picnic Pass ($50 per person, 100 passes available) – Includes a Reserved Box Seat, entry into the picnic area with all-you-can-eat and drink (includes domestic draft beer) access from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., and one (1) parking pass (per four tickets).
  • Premium Player Package ($320 per package, 14 available) – Includes four (4) Premium Reserved Box Seats (padded seats behind home plate), your choice of one (1) authentic player jersey, four (4) mini-bats, a pregame photo at home plate with the Legend of your choice, access to the picnic area, and a parking pass.
  • Luxury Suite Night ($800 total, five suites available) – Includes sixteen (16) suite tickets, eight (8) parking passes, and a suite food package (call for details).

Legends Game participants are currently being confirmed and will be announced in the coming weeks.

CornBelters Season Ticket, Mini-Plan, and Partners currently have an advance purchased opportunity prior to the general public on sale. Tickets will go on sale to the public Monday, January 22nd at 10:00 a.m. CT. To purchase, visit the MICU Box Office at The Corn Crib at 1000 West Raab Road in Normal, call 309-454-BALL (2255), or visit www.NormalBaseball.com.

LHP Thomas Dorminy Signed By Wild Things

WASHINGTON, Pa. (Jan. 9) – The 2018 spring-training roster for the Washington Wild Things continues to take shape as the season draws more near, as today the team announced the signing of left-handed pitcher Thomas Dorminy. Dorminy comes off a four-year run within the San Diego Padres’ farm system, after he was drafted by the team in the 10th round of the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft.

“Thomas is another competitive-based pitcher. He is a product of an NAIA powerhouse, Faulkner University, and carried that winning mentality to the Padres,” said Wild Things general manager Steven Zavacky. “We greatly value his experience in a rotation and certainly believe his dominance of the Midwest League will translate over. Adding a quality lefty to our rotation will pay direct dividends versus our East Division foes, who have made conscious efforts to build lefty-heavy lineups. He focuses on keeping the ball on the ground and works efficiently as a natural inning eater. We had some pretty frank conversations with Thomas and he is well aware that his success plays a big role in our 2018 goals.”

After transferring from Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, the Florida native pitched a season at Faulkner University before being added by the Padres. In 18 appearances, 16 of which were starts, Dorminy posted an 11-3 record and a 3.22 earned run average, and, in 109 innings, gave up just one home run, walked 24 and struck out 131 batters.

Dorminy spent his time in the San Diego farm system bouncing primarily between Low-A, A-Ball and Advanced-A Ball, and was called up to the Double-A Texas League affiliate San Antonio Missions in 2017, where he threw 3.2 innings.

The 25-year old holds a career minor-league record of 18-24 and sports a 4.11 ERA. He struck out 291 batters in 366 total innings of work. Arguably his bestseason came in 2015, when Dorminy was with the Fort Wayne Tincaps in the Midwest League (Single A). That season, Dorminy went 11-7 with a 2.94 ERA in 141 innings. He had a 6.9 K/9 and a 2.25 K/BB ratio.

The southpaw will compete for a spot in the Wild Things’ rotation come spring training, and will look to aid the effort of another playoff run, after Washington made the playoffs last season, ultimately falling in the Divisional Series to the Florence Freedom

Wild Things Ink RHP Ryan Castellanos

WASHINGTON, Pa. (Jan. 8) – Today the Washington Wild Things announced the signing of right-handed pitcher Ryan Castellanos to a contract.

Castellanos, whose brother Nick plays in the big leagues with the Detroit Tigers, played his college ball at the University of Illinois for two years before transferring to Nova Southeastern University (Fla.) for his third and final collegiate season.

He was drafted in the 25th round of the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft, and played in the Tigers’ organizations for three seasons.

“Coming from a college with a championship mentality, we value Ryan’s experience throwing in big games. During his tenure with the Tigers we saw an ability to work deep into games and put his team in position to win,” said Wild Things’ general manager Steven Zavacky. “Ryan is an aggressive worker on the mound, attacking hitters and historically keeping the ball on the ground. We know he is going to pound the zone and compete.”

Ryan, a 23-year old, played in high school at Archbishop McCarthy before playing at the next level. In two seasons with the Fighting Illini, Castellanos pitched in 24 games (16 starts), and was 7-5. In 102 innings at Illinois, he surrendered 60 earned runs but just six home runs, and walked only 16 batters. After transferring to Nova Southeastern, Ryan was 9-3 with a career-best 3.23 earned run average in 15 appearances. All but one of those were starts, and he logged 97.2 innings, gave up 35 earned runs, walked 17 and struck out 61.

After being drafted by Detroit, Castellanos pitched for the Gulf Coast League Tigers (rookie-ball level), before being promoted as high as Advanced-A ball with Lakeland in 2015. He played at two levels, Low-A and Single-A, in 2016, and for Connecticut in the New York-Penn League in 2017, before his release. He walked 34 and struck out 91 hitters in his three seasons in the Detroit organization and held a record of 16-13.

Castellanos now joins the Wild Things for Spring Training in late April, and looks to make an impact on the mound for a team coming off its successful 2017 campaign

BEACH BUMS TRADE FOR PEOPLES-WALLS

The Traverse City Beach Bums have completed a trade with the Washington Wild Things for third-baseman, Kenny Peoples- Walls.

In 2017, Peoples-Walls had a batting average of .246 with two home runs, and 45 runs batted in. He added seven doubles, and was tied for sixth in the Frontier League in triples with six. Beach Bums’ manager, Dan Rohn, is “excited to add an excellent defensive presence at third while adding some power to the middle of the lineup”.

A 2011 fourth round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, Kenny started his professional career playing in the Gulf Coast League, moving on to Johnson City, the Cards’ top rookie-level affiliate, in 2013. There, he had a breakout season hitting .300 with seven homers, 11 doubles, and 35 RBI. He ranked in the Appalachian League’s top-10 in average, led the circuit in total bases, was tied for number one in hits, and was second in runs.

Reaching as high as single-A, Peoples- Walls hit .251 in five seasons in the St. Louis farm system, with 19 home runs, 35 doubles, and 111 RBI, in 283 games. In 2016, Kenny was released by the Cardinals and moved on to the American Association’s Texas Airhogs. In his first season of independent baseball, he exploded with a .349 average, three doubles, three triples, and nine RBI. In exchange for Peoples-Walls, the Beach Bums send the Wild Things their 1st round pick in the 2018 Frontier League draft plus a conditional player to be named later.

THUNDERBOLTS ANNOUNCE 2018 PREGAME CONCERT SCHEDULE

With the announcement that the Windy City ThunderBolts will now have post-game fireworks after Friday home games, as well as our traditional Saturday home games, we will have 18 weekend fireworks nights in 2018.  That is more then double from last year!  That additional fireworks nights means we will host brand new theme nights at Standard Bank Stadium this summer.  We are happy to announce our 2018 Pregame Concert Schedule with Post-game Fireworks!  The remainder of our fireworks’ theme nights, like Princess, Harry Potter, Star Wars and some exciting new themes, will be announced soon!

Executive Suites, Picnics, and #WinCity Party Patio ticket availability for ALL fireworks nights are selling fast!  Reserve your spot today!  Information on these areas can be found below.  To reserve your spot call us at 708-489-2255!

Pregame Concerts with Postgame Fireworks – 2018 Schedule

All games start at 6:05 pm

Saturday, May 12th:  SouthSide Irish Night with pregame show by “Three Men in Kilt” (4:30 – 5:45 pm)

Saturday, June 2nd:  Beatles Night with pregame show by “Kaleidoscope Eyes” (4:30 – 5:45 pm)

Saturday, June 16th:  Johnny Cash Night with pregame show by “June’s Got the Cash” (4:30 – 5:45 pm)

Saturday, July 14th:  Jimmy Buffett Night with pregame show by “Flip Flop Dave” (4:30 – 5:45 pm)

Saturday, August 4th:  Country Night!  Mechanical Bull and pregame show by “Scott Marek Band” (4:30 – 5:45 pm)

Saturday, August 18th:  Elvis Night with pregame show by John “Elvis” Lyons (4:30 – 5:45 pm)

2018 Group Ticket Information (On-Sale NOW)

Regular Box Seats with or without food (minimum of 20)

Executive Suites (15-50 people)

Party Box (10-15 people)

All-You-Can-Eat Picnics (25-300 people)

#WinCity Party Patio (10-200 people)

Birthday Package  (minimum of 20)

Opening Night of 2018 season will be on Thursday, May 10th as your ThunderBolts take on the River City Rascals.  For a printable version of our 2018 schedule please click HERE.

SLAMMERS TO HOST THREE BASEBALL TOURNAMENTS SUMMER 2018

The Joliet Slammers presented by ATI Physical Therapy will host three teen baseball tournaments in the summer of 2018, including two 15U tournaments and a 16U tournament. Each Slammers tournament will host eight teams and guarantee three games per team. The Slammers are now accepting team registrations.

The first 15U Slammers tournament will take place Friday, July 6-Sunday, July 8. The 16U tournament will run Friday, August 3-Sunday, August 5. The final 15U tournament will take placeFriday, August 10-Sunday, August 12. All three tournaments will be held at Joliet Route 66 Stadium on the newly installed artificial turf.

The cost of admission per team is $900 if a $250 dollar deposit is made by January 31.  If the deposit is made January 31, the total cost will be $1,000 per team. Final payments must be made my May 1st, 2018.

Admission includes a complimentary ticket to a Slammers game. Participants in the July 6th tournament will receive a game ticket to the July 5th Slammers game. Participants in the August 3rd tournament will receive a game ticket to the August 7th Slammers game. Participants in the August 10th tournament will receive a game ticket to the August 9th Slammers game.

Interested teams can contact Lauren Rhodes with the Joliet Slammers at (815) 651-2041 or at lrhodes@jolietslammers.com. Team registration forms can be found at www.jolietslammers.com.

About the Joliet Slammers: The Joliet Slammers presented by ATI Physical Therapy play at Joliet Route 66 Stadium downtown Joliet, IL, and are members of the professional, independent Frontier League. The Frontier League is a 12-team league entering its 26th season of play in 2018. Visit the Slammers online at www.jolietslammers.com or call the ticket office at 815-722-2287 for more information! Don’t forget to “Like” the Slammers on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jolietslammers or follow them on Twitter at @jolietslammers!

PHILLIES SIGN FORMER OTTER HURLER

Former Evansville Otter pitcher Ryan Etsell celebrated his 26th birthday Monday by signing a minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Etsell, a Philadelphia native, compiled a 2-2 record with a 2.42 ERA in five starts for Evansville in 2017 after joining the Otters in August.

Etsell pitched collegiality at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa.  He was a 16th round choice of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 2013 major league draft.

FREEDOM WELCOME BUD LIGHT TO BALLPARK; DILLY DILLY DAY ON JULY 5

Thirsty Thursdays at the Florence Freedom are about to become an even better Dilly Dilly-o!

The Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, are proud to announce new Thirsty Thursday promotional themes that will now include $3 16oz aluminum pints of Bud and Bud Light for the 2018 season.

Additionally, fans 21 and over can get their hands on an exclusive Dilly Dilly t-shirt package during the Thursday, July 5 game. The T-shirt pack includes a Dilly Dilly T-shirt, a ticket to the July 5 Freedom game and a 16oz Bud or Bud Light for $20.

This exclusive offer is limited and will sell out. Dilly Dilly t-shirts as shown in the model are on sale now and only available through FlorenceFreedom.com. When they’re gone, they’re gone so get yours now!

Thirsty Thursdays in 2018 will continue to feature dollar beer, as Hudy Delight cans will still be just $1, 16oz Hudepohl Pure Lager cans will be $2, and craft beer drafts can be enjoyed at $4 for 16oz pours or $5 for 20oz pours.

In addition to Thirsty Thursdays, Bud and Bud Light will be available at concession stands throughout the ballpark at typical concession pricing on non-Thirsty Thursdays.

The Florence Freedom open up their defense of the Frontier League West Division championship on Thursday, May 10 against the Joliet Slammers. Discounted mini-plans and group outings are on sale now. The Freedom play all home games at UC Health Stadium located at 7950 Freedom Way in Florence, Kentucky. The Freedom can be contacted by calling 859-594-4487 or online at FlorenceFreedom.com.

WILD THINGS ADD 2016 USPBL CO-MVP

The Washington Wild Things announced the latest transaction of the 2017-18 offseason with the signing of the United Shore League’s 2016 Co-Most Valuable Player, outfielder/utility man Austin Crutcher. Crutcher last played for the Chicago White Sox organization in 2017.

Following the 2016 baseball season, Baseball America named Crutcher to its rankings of independent prospects. In 2016, Crutcher had one of the most impressive seasons around the independent-ball scene, in his first year with Utica Unicorns of the USPBL.

During the Co-MVP season, the Bellarmine (Ky.) University grad posted a .301/.385/.624 slash line with 15 home runs and 19 stolen bases. Crutcher drove in 51 runs and scored 42 runs in 48 games with Utica.

His efforts didn’t go unrecognized by affiliated-ball scouts, as he was signed to a pro contract by the Chicago White Sox organization, where he played 43 games with the Arizona League White Sox (rookie-ball affiliate). He hit .244 with a .769 OPS in 145 plate appearances. Crutcher belted two home runs and drove in 19, stole five bases and walked 21 times.

For the Wild Things, the move was a no-brainer.

“We couldn’t resist adding another experienced rookie to our roster. The quality of your rookies separates you from a fringe team to a playoff team. Not too often do you get to add a Top 10 prospect as a free agent,” said general manager Steven Zavacky. “Initially, we were hesitant to pursue Austin because he was a listed outfielder and we are slated to return the best outfield group in the Frontier League. As we talked to Austin he actually expressed more interest in a utility role and redeveloping his skills as an infielder. His speed/power combination just deepens our lineup of weapons and his defensive versatility provides us more options.”

Crutcher went undrafted out of Division II Bellarmine University, where he played four seasons for the Knights. In 2015 as a senior, he was named honorable mention All-America by the NCBWA and was selected as the Great Lakes Valley Conference Player of the Year. Crutcher was a two-time All-Midwest Region selection on was awarded all-conference laurels three times.

The Lexington, Kentucky, native hit 26 home runs and drove in 107 runs in four seasons with Bellarmine. He stole more than 65 bases in the four years combined as well. From 2013-2015, he slugged 1.022.

Crutcher said both experiences in pro baseball came with lessons, as both were great experiences.

“I learned a lot from each league but most importantly I learned what works best for me and what doesn’t,” said Crutcher. “The main difference at the professional level and what I saw in college was the consistent amount of velocity.”

He said he is excited to join a team that has had recent success, and hopes to contribute to the continuation of that.

“I’m really excited. Hopefully we can pick up where [we] left off and bring home a championship,” said Crutcher.

Crutcher said some of his goals involve leading the Frontier League in several statistical categories.

The Washington Wild Things are a professional baseball team in the Frontier League that plays in Washington, PA. The Wild Things open the season May 11 at Evansville, with the 2018 home opener scheduled for Tuesday, May 15. Season ticket packages, with new benefits, are available, as well as other promotions going on throughout the off-season. Call the box office at 724-250-9555 for inquiries and purchases.

CORNBELTERS MANAGER CAREY DEPARTS FOR CAN-AM LEAGUE

The CornBelters announced today that long-time Field Manager Brooks Carey has accepted a position with the New Jersey Jackals of the independent Canadian-American Baseball League and will not return to Normal for the 2018 Frontier League season.

“We wish Brooks the best of luck as he takes a well-deserved opportunity with the Jackals,” said CornBelters Team President Steve Malliet. “On behalf of the CornBelters, the owners, and staff we want to thank Brooks for an unforgettable seven seasons with the team. It’s never easy seeing someone go, but we know it’s the best decision for him and his family.”

During Carey’s five seasons as field manager, he led the CornBelters to a 248-230 (0.518) regular season record and a West Division Championship in 2015. A total of 26 players received post-season All-Star honors during Brook’s time at the helm.

Brooks served as the Pitching Coach for the Evansville Otters in 2012 after completing two seasons in the same role with the CornBelters (2010-2011) under former Field Manager Hal Lanier.

Before his first stint with the CornBelters, Carey won the 2008 Can-Am League Championship as Pitching Coach for the Sussex Skyhawks. He was a starting pitcher in his playing days, and he reached AAA with both the Rochester Red Wings and Indianapolis Indians in 1985.

With the 2018 Frontier League season approaching in May, the team has already begun the search for Brooks replacement.

To learn more about the New Jersey Jackals of the Can-Am League, click here.

BOOMERS RESIGN 3

The Schaumburg Boomers re-signed three members of the 2017 team: INF Josh Gardiner, C James Keller, and RHP Garrett Kelly.

Gardiner, 24, batted .261 with a .342 on base percentage and 47 RBI in 86 games for the Boomers in 2017 playing SS and 3B. Gardiner spent 23 games with Schaumburg in 2016 before being picked up by the New York Yankees and batted .250 for the Pulaski Yankees. Gardiner attended Radford University and is a native of Lignum, VA.

Keller, 24, will return for his third season with the Boomers. In 2017 the catcher batted .251 with four home runs and 38 RBI in 73 appearances behind the plate. Keller attended University of Mary Washington where he earned All-South Region First by the ABCA/Rawlings and D3baseball.com. He is a native of Fredericksburg, VA.

Kelly, 23, will return for his second season in Schaumburg. The RHP posted 1-0 record with a 1.77 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 40.2 innings of relief. Kelly signed a minor-league contract with the Minnesota Twins in 2016 where he went 1-3 with a 3.67 ERA for the GCL Twins. He attended Wake Forest and is a native of Fresno, CA.

The Boomers 2018 season, presented by Wintrust Community Banks, begins May 11. The Home Opener is Tuesday, May 15 vs. Southern Illinois. Season ticket packages, groups, and hospitality offerings for the 2018 season can be reserved by calling (847) 461-3695 or emailing info@boomersbaseball.com. Single-game tickets will go on-sale Tuesday, April 2 at 10:00 AM.

BLOCKBUSTER TRADE HIGHLIGHTS LATEST WAVE OF FREEDOM ROSTER CONSTRUCTION

The Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, have begun assembling the team roster in preparation for the 2018 Frontier League season.

As the team looks to build on its 2017 success, which culminated in a trip to the Frontier League Championship Series, manager Dennis Pelfrey offered the following thoughts on returning players who have re-signed with the Freedom, as well as several new additions to the club.

TRADES

The Florence Freedom, and manager Dennis Pelfrey have announced another slew of player signings, as well as two major trades.

Traded for C Craig Lepre. In a blockbuster trade with the Freedom sending All Star OF Andrew Godbold to the Normal Cornbelters for All Star Catcher Craig Lepre.

“We hate to lose a guy like Godbold, but we feel that Craig Lepre is a guy that fits our club nicely as a guy who is going to get on base and really give guys around him a chance to drive in a lot of runs. His leadership behind the plate will be great and its going to be a great battle for our catching job this season.”

Traded for OF Connor Crane – “We traded a player to be named later to the Trois-Rivieres team in the Can-Am league. He is a very talented OF and brings a big bat with him to our lineup in 2018. We look for Connor to make a huge impact this season.”

RE-SIGNINGS:

RHP Cody Gray – Cody and fellow staff member Jordan Kraus had incredible seasons in 2017. More incredibly, their numbers were nearly identical.

RHP Jordan Kraus – “Coming off one of his best seasons, Jordan has made a statement that he is in the top tier of Frontier League pitchers. He will build off that and we are hoping a MLB club takes as much interest as we do. While he is with us, we expect him to anchor our staff and lead us to another Division Title.”

RHP Jamal Wilson – “Jamal immediately made an impact in the back end of our bullpen once we signed him mid-season. A very good player in college with electric stuff, we are excited to see him in a role for us from day. He will push to be the Freedom Closer in 2018.”

RHP Zach Kirby – “After acquiring Zach to replace a couple starting pitchers taken by MLB clubs, he had 2 quality starts for the Freedom before being injured for the remainder of the season. He will look to make our 2018 rotation.”

LHP Patrick McGrath – “Finding the right role for him as a reliever in 2016, Patrick was on the verge of being one of the best relievers in the league before getting injured in 2017. We are looking forward to a break out year for the young lefty in 2018.”

RHP Steve Hagen – “A proven starting pitcher in our league, we acquired him from Lake Erie last year to help in getting the Division Title. He was no doubt an important piece to our success last season. We expect him to be in the league leaders in pitching this year as well.”

RHP Enrique Zamora – “After a dominant college senior season, Enrique fill a number of roles for the Freedom in 2017. He had some ups and downs, but settled in nicely with his versatility. He will also push for the Closer role in 2018.”

RHP Mike Anthony – “We found Mike in a Freedom Tryout, and he was very consistent and did a very good job for us in 2017. He was used as a stopper for us and we are going to take a look at him in the starting rotation this season.”

LHP Jack Fowler – “Jack had a very productive 2017 in a short stint with us last season and had an important role in securing the 2017 West Division championship.”

OF Keivan Berges — “Keivan was originally signed as a pitcher, but after one of our starters was signed by an MLB team, he slid right into a spot in the lineup. He’s a two-time All-American hitter and shows major league power. He’s going to be fun to watch in 2018.”

1B Jordan Brower — “Coming off a stellar 2017 breakout campaign, our expectations are very high for our 2017 all-star first baseman.”

C Ryan Rinsky — “Ryan served as a very good backup catcher last year and has earned the top spot coming into our 2018 spring training. He is very good defensively, and really had a productive year last year, learning a lot.”

SS Austin Wobrock — “Austin didn’t disappoint in showing his defensive skills as arguably the best defensive shortstop in our league. His hitting approach is coming into play, and we look for Austin to have an all-star type of season in 2018.”

OF Mike Morris – “A local product from last season and has a presence on and off the field that elevates everyone’s game. Mike is the definition of hard work and will push to be in the starting lineup this season with the ability to play every position on the field.”

OF Andre Mercurio – “After a stellar 2017 campaign, Andre will come in as the favorite to be our CF again. He is a very dynamic player with the ability to do a lot of different things offensively and make spectacular plays defensively. He will contend for the Frontier League MVP this season.”

NEW SIGNINGS:

LHP Marty Anderson — “Marty comes back to us after a stint with the Mets in 2017. He was a big piece to our success early in 2017, and has the determination to get better and really be a difference-maker in 2018.”

OF Jimmy Heck — “Jimmy has been a very good player everywhere he has been. He spent most of 2017 in the American Association and put up quality numbers. Jimmy fits our club nicely with the way he plays the game and his athleticism.

OF Cutter McDowell — “We are very excited about seeing Cutter compete for a job this spring. He is very dynamic, with the ability to be a very productive piece to the 2018 Freedom.”

INF Kam Stewart — “We have been following Kam since our spring training camp in 2015. He was on the verge of being our starting shortstop that year. We are excited to have Kam in camp this year competing for a starting job at third base. He is an electric player with a very good skillset.”

OF Casey Soltis – “Former 5th round pick by the Marlins, he brings not only his baseball ability, but a leadership quality that is second to none. Casey will impress from day one and look to be our starting LF and leading off for the Freedom in 2018.”

LHP Jonny Reid – “He also had a couple starts for us in 2017. He has the ability to be a very good starting pitcher in our league and with an understanding of how good the Frontier League is, he will come back with a very good opportunity to be in our rotation in 2018.”

RHP Eric Gleese – “He had a couple starts for us last season, but with arms returning from injury we parted ways. He showed us enough to be invited to spring training to earn a job in our bull pen. He has a very high upside with a bull dog mentality.”

The Freedom will open the 2018 season at home on Thursday, May 10 against the Joliet Slammers. 

Group ticket packages and Holiday Stocking Stuffer Mini Plans are now available.

The Florence Freedom are members of the professional independent Frontier League and play all home games at UC Health Stadium, located at 7950 Freedom Way in Florence, KY. The Freedom can be reached for holiday packs, season tickets and group tickets by calling 859-594-4487.

 

PIRATES SIGN WASHINGTON OUTFIELDER BRALIN JACKSON

For the first time in franchise history, the Washington Wild Things have had a player purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization. Tuesday, the Wild Things announced the Pirates have purchased the contract of 2017 Frontier League All Star Game MVP and outfielder Bralin Jackson.

“Bralin was a driving force, on and off the field, behind a season where our explosive offense pushed us into the playoffs,” said general manager Steven Zavacky. “His impact on our roster will carry on and better prepare players for a championship run in 2018. We wish Bralin the best of luck with the Pirates and hope our fans and Pittsburgh baseball fans alike follow his journey like we will.”

Jackson becomes the fourth outfielder from the Frontier League to be purchased by a big-league organization in 2017, joining Southern Illinois’ Brandon Cummins, Schaumburg’s Daniel Hoy and River City’s Jimmy Kerigan.

From the Wild Things’ perspective, three players (all pitchers) that have played for the Wild Things have appeared on a big-league roster: Vidal Nuño, Tom Cochran and Chris Smith. Having a player’s contract purchased is nothing new for the organization, either. Jackson is the 36th player to have his contract purchased in the team’s history, which is over two per year on average. Jackson is the first since pitchers Zac Grotz and Trevor Foss were purchased by the Dodgers and Indians, respectively, in 2016.

Drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft from Raytown South High School (Raytown, Missouri), Jackson played five affiliated-ball seasons before his release from the Tampa Bay Rays organization. During his time in that farm system, Jackson made it as far as Advanced-A ball with the Charlotte Stone Crabs, and hit .254 with 10 home runs and 109 RBI collectively. He had 53 steals and 75 total extra-base hits in his time with the Rays.

In 2017 with Washington, Jackson hit .294 with 17 doubles, three triples and 16 home runs. His home run total was tied for the fifth-best in the league, while Jackson’s 76 RBI ranked second most in the league last season behind only Evansville’s Jeff Gardner.

“When we first acquired Bralin we received such positive feedback on the character of the person we were acquiring. With Tampa Bay, Bralin’s 2016 season was cut short but we undoubtedly saw upside in his game,” said Zavacky. “Bralin was one of the most complete players in the Frontier League in 2017 and deserved the MVP consideration he received.”

Jackson said his time in Washington helped to better prepare him for Spring Training with the Pirates’ organization, and that he has learned several things about what it takes to be a professional.

“My time in Washington was a big growth period for me as a baseball player. It helped me learn a lot about myself and even more about the game,” said Jackson. “I know the importance of taking care of your body and being an all-around professional.”

He’s keeping goals for himself, he said, but is also trying to stay relaxed and enjoy the game.

“[Some of my goals are] to build from my success in Washington, grow even more as a baseball player and get one step closer to reach my goal of becoming a big leaguer,” said Jackson. “[I learned to] slow the game down and enjoy the process of growing, instead of fighting against it.”

Speaking to his time in Washington, Jackson was very thankful, as well as complimentary of the help the organization gave him in getting back to affiliated ball.

“My time in Washington was great. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates and coaches,” said Jackson. “We had a great family atmosphere and it translated every night onto the field. Knowing the Pirates signed me makes my time in Washington even better, because the Pirates have such a strong impact on the city, and I can’t wait to be a part of that.”

One of the things the Frontier League prides itself on is its ability to move players back into, or to affiliated baseball. It’s no different for the Wild Things, or any team in the league. Since May of 2016, the Frontier League has had 56 players purchased by big-league organizations. Jackson is the 57th, the third in the off-season and the first since October 30.

“Our organization is in place to give players like Bralin a platform for MLB teams. A career in professional baseball is a road with many hurdles and detours,” said Zavacky. “We always look to promote our prospects to systems where they can continue to grow. It is quite remarkable that we hosted three future major leaguers, and Bralin marks the 36th player selected overall.”

He added, “We will continue to work toward our goal of winning championships, promoting players to MLB clubs and creating great baseball memories. Not all of our players will get this next level opportunity, but every year we enjoy hearing that their season playing in Washington goes down as the most fun they had in baseball.”

This is the first time the Pirates’ organization has purchased a player from the Frontier League since 2016, when the organization bought the contracts of two catchers and an infielder from the league throughout the calendar year.

The Pirates have made independent-ball purchases in the past that have paid off for the team. Most recently, right-handed pitcher John Holdzkom, who had played for two teams in the American Association among other Indy-ball organizations, was a contributor out of the bullpen for the Pirates in 2014.

Jackson offered some overall thoughts as he takes the next step in his career.

“I want to thank God; He was with me every day. [I want to thank] my family for their support. My teammates made it all worth it [and] I made lifelong friends in such a short time. My coaches, Banger [Gregg Langbehn] and Provo [Tim Provenzano], reminded us to have fun with this game and allowed us to be ourselves. Brittany Miller [the team’s trainer] kept us healthy on the field and would do anything for us so we could play the game to the best of our ability. Her efforts never went unnoticed. I’m grateful to the man behind the scenes, Tony [Buccilli], for bringing me along to the Washington family and allowing me to play the game I love so dearly.”

The Washington Wild Things are a professional baseball team in the Frontier League that plays in Washington, PA. The Wild Things open the season May 11 at Evansville, with the 2018 home opener scheduled for Tuesday, May 15. Season ticket packages, with new benefits, are available, as well as other promotions going on throughout the off-season. Call the box office at 724-250-9555 for inquiries and purchases.