The last few Mehring
Monday columns have focused on former Timber Rattlers players who made their
major league debuts and who were in the upper levels of the minor leagues during
2011. This week's column takes a
spin through the independent leagues. Thanks
to Jay Grusznski for doing the research and going through the websites of all of
the independent teams.
Since I started my baseball
broadcasting career in the Northern League, I always root for the independent
league players. Check the list below
and see if you can pick out a memory or two of each player.
Trevor Lawhorn was a Timber
Rattlers very briefly in 2007. The
thing I remember about Lawhorn is that the Mariners picked him up out of the
independent leagues and sent him to Wisconsin to play second base.
Lawhorn hit a grand slam at Kane County on June 8, 2007 and was released
later on in the month because Seattle wanted to play a prospect at second base.
Jose Duran, a Rattler in 2009,
also played for Wichita in this league. Duran
was a top ten draft pick in 2009 by the Brewers and in
his brief time with Wisconsin collected eight triples to lead the team in
Gavin Dickey ('07, '08)
appeared on the list of Alumni to reach AA this season last week.
Jon Nelson was a first baseman for the Timber Rattlers in 2003. He is still on the single season list for most homers, most RBI, and most strikeouts in a season by a Rattler.
Emiliano Fruto pitched for the
Rattlers in 2002, spent some time in quite a few organizations and the major
leagues. He will always be
remembered for the game against Fort Wayne on August 3, 2002.
He pitched 8-1/3 innings, gave up one run on 11 hits, didn't walk a
batter, and struck out 11. It was
Jose Amado was a Timber Rattler
in 2006. He spent this past season
as the hitting coach for the Wingnuts.
Craig James was the Rattlers
closer in 2005. He was perfect
through the first half, until one of the worst bad hop singles I have ever seen
let the tying and winning runs score in the bottom of the ninth in Cedar Rapids.
The ball was headed right to short and it hit...something to bounce over
Oswaldo Navarro's head into left-center and that was how the game ended.
Bryan Sabatella had a very
rough season in 2006 for the Rattlers. Baseball
America rated him as one of the top prospects in the Seattle system.
It did not work out for him with the Mariners, but he is still plugging
away in this league and in the Can-Am League where he played for New Jersey.
Speaking of the Can-Am League,
that's were Pete Fatse is. The
Massachusetts native spent part of 2009 and the start of 2010 with the Timber
Rattlers. He's back in his home
state playing the outfield.
Sebastien Boucher was a big
part of the 2005 team and also played some games for Baseball Canada during
international competitions. He is
back in his home country playing for Quebec.
Paul Fagan pitched for the
Timber Rattlers in 2006. He has
bounced around the independent leagues since being released by the Mariners.
He always seemed to be involved in weird games.
The weirdest was a day game in Kane County.
It was an official game but only in about the sixth inning with the
Cougars leading by a couple of runs. It
started to rain. The Cougars front
office convinced the umpires that the rain would continue for the next 700 hours
and they just HAD to call the game. Fagan
got a complete game loss and sunburn as he waited in the parking lot as he
waited for the rest of the team to get on the bus for a dry trip back to the
Ruben Flores had an electric
slider when he was with the Timber Rattlers in 2006.
His fastball also had wicked movement.
Those two pitches helped Flores set a Midwest League record with the
Timber Rattlers in 2006. But, not
the good kind of record. He threw
seven wild pitches in a single game over just 2-1/3 innings at Quad Cities on
June 17. I never heard him complain
about it or blame anyone else. Flores
was back in the Midwest League with Clinton and climbed a bit in organized ball
before winding up with Lake Erie.
Corey Frerichs pitched for the
Rattlers for a little bit in 2009. I
don't remember that much about him.
Blake Ochoa was a Frontier
League All-Star this past season. Ochoa
was became a Timber Rattlers player the first time in 2007 when he came over to
the Mariners in a trade with Florida for Danny Santin.
Ochoa was with Clinton last season as they made the Midwest League
finals. Blake Ochoa is one of those
players who will have to be forcibly removed from the game of baseball.
I can see him playing it and being around it for a long, long time.
John Delaney was a Rattlers
infielder in 2009. Unfortunately,
Delaney was hit in the head with a pitch during a game.
He worked to get back, but just wasn't the same player he was before
that incident. Jay's note on
Delaney was that he retired. I hope
that he is doing well.
Matt Costello pitched for the
Timber Rattlers in 2010. He was a
lefty, threw strikes, and went out and did what was asked of him.
He was released after the season and - more than any other player that
has been released over the last few seasons - people were surprised when I
told them that Costello was no longer in the organization.
Good to see he is still playing.
Josh Womack spent time in both
Windy City and Southern Illinois during 2011.
Womack spent two full seasons (2004 & 2005) with the Rattlers as an
outfielder and has the second longest hitting streak in team history.
Josh has become more well-known for his bat tricks than his baseball, but
he is another one of those guys who absolutely loves the game.
Chad Robinson pitched for the
Rattlers in 2010. He was one of the
first players to whom I spoke at spring training in 2011.
Big, hard throwing relievers can play the game a long time, too.
In 2009, Brandon Ritchie won
the first game the Rattlers played at Miller Park as the Milwaukee Brewers.
He's a big lefty reliever and it didn't work out in the Brewers
organization for him.
Liam Ohlmann wasn't just a
pitcher for the Timber Rattlers in 2009. He
was also the first Timber Rattlers player to be on twitter.
If you remember, Liam had some ups and downs during the 2009 season. This
story from 2010 may explain a bit about that. Not sure if he
still is still active on twitter, but "Lunchbox" was a good follow.
Mike Hrynio was a reliever for
the Rattlers in 2004. The converted
infielder went on to appear in 54 games that season to set a franchise record
for appearances by a reliever. Jay's
note on Hrynio is that he was a starter for Edmonton this season.
Brent Metheny was a teammate of
Hrynio on the Rattlers in 2004 and again with Edmonton in 2011.
He was a kid
Chad Ehrnsberger was -
briefly - a Rattler in 2003. He
had been picked up by Seattle out of the Northern League off the Kansas City T-Bonz.
Seattle would send him to the St. Louis organization for...something.
I've heard for $1, a bag of baseballs, and a player to be named later
that was never named. The other
story about Ehrnsberger that sticks out to me is about a day in Peoria - this
was before he would be playing for the Chiefs.
Manager Daren Brown complimented Ehrnsberger for moving a runner from
second to third with a grounder to the right side in the previous game.
This happened with other players present.
This was unusual for a couple of reasons.
The first being that Daren Brown threw compliments around like the
proverbial manhole cover. The second
being that the other players began to crack on Ehrnsberger because his approach
at the plate didn't change. He
just went up there and swung as hard as he could.
The pitch fooled him and trickled off the end of his bat to the second
baseman. One of the players (I think
it was TJ Bohn) even recreated the at bat.
Jason Mackintosh pitched for
the Timber Rattlers in 2004. He made
it pretty far in the Phillies organization, including playing for Steve Roadcap
in Reading. Roadcap was Mack's
manager with the Rattlers in '04. Mackintosh
was Roadie's type of player, scrappy, hard working, and willing to pour every
last bit of talent that he had on the field during a game.
Justin Jordan played a key role
in the Rattlers bullpen late in the 2005 season.
Jordan was the guy who held Clinton scoreless in game one of the western
division finals at Clinton. The
LumberKings had a big lead, but the Rattlers came back to tie and eventually win
the game in extra innings. Not only
did Jordan get the win, he also closed out the game with a scoreless bottom of
Edgar Trejo started the 2009
season with the Rattlers. The crowd
missed him after he got sent down because the easy "TRAAAAAYYY- oooooh"
chant went with him.
Gerardo Avila spent parts of
the 2006, 2007, and 2008 seasons with the Rattlers.
Seattle really like his power potential, but it never developed in their
Mumba Rivera was undefeated as
a Timber Rattlers pitcher during the first half of 2005.
This may sound weird, but he was promoted to the California League before
he should have been sent up there. His
promotion was based on his 7-0 record not his peripherals.
In 10 starts, Rivera pitched 58-2/3 innings, allowed 46 hits, walked 26
and struck out 30. I like to think
that if the ideas of advanced statistical analysis were in fashion back in 2005,
Rivera may have stayed at Wisconsin for a while longer than he did.
But, someone in the system saw 7-0 and thought "Move him up now!".
How does that saying go? "Measuring
the performance of a pitcher through wins is stupid."
He struggled in the hitters' paradise that is the Cal League, allowing
118 hits and walking 50 in 91-1/3 innings with just 67 strikeouts.
Robert Rohrbaugh was also a
Rattlers pitcher in 2005, but he was not a teammate of Rivera in Wisconsin.
Rohrbaugh did not pitch for the Rattlers in the regular season, but he
made two starts in the playoffs and both were very important.
He pitched game three of the best-of-three first round series with Beloit
and allowed two runs over 6-2/3 innings. The
Rattlers went on to win that game 4-2 in 10 innings.
In his next game, Rohrbaugh extended the Rattlers season in the Midwest
League Championship Series with eight scoreless innings for a 1-0 win over the
South Bend Silver Hawks.
Matt Hagen was the third
baseman for the Timber Rattlers in 2003. He
made a run at Juan Silvestre's franchise home run record with 20, but he
didn't homer in about the last six weeks of the season.
Hagen has found a home playing in Somerset for former Appleton Fox Sparky
Lyle. He even pitched a scoreless
inning, with a hit and three strikeouts, this season.