Reds move High-A affiliation to Daytona

Untitled 1 copy 580x358 Reds move High A affiliation to Daytona

Daytona Beach, Fla. You can see Jackie Robinson Ballpark, the home of the Reds’ new Advanced A affiliate, sitting on City Island on the left side of the picture in the middle of the frame.

Following the expiration of the four-year player development contract between the Cincinnati Reds and Bakersfield Blaze at the end of the 2014 season, the Daytona Cubs announced Thursday they would now be the Advanced A affiliate of the Reds.

And more from the release:

“One of our initiatives during the re-affiliation process was to work our way back east,” [Reds Director of Player Development Jeff] Graupe said. “We took the time to gather as much information on our potential partners as possible, and quickly identified Daytona as our top priority. We were impressed by Andy Rayburn, Josh Lawther and their staff, and couldn’t be happier to affiliate with such a first-class organization.”

Daytona joins AAA-Louisville, AA-Pensacola, A-Dayton, and A-Billings as Reds Minor League affiliates. Radiology Associates Field at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, formerly Daytona City Island Ballpark, has housed baseball since 1914, and Daytona General Manager Josh Lawther is excited to both continue and further the tradition of Minor League Baseball in Daytona Beach.

“We’re ecstatic to have the Reds now call Daytona home,” Lawther said. “They continually spoke very highly of our community, ballpark and fans, and we look forward to a highly successful relationship both on and off the field.”

With the move to Daytona, all of the Reds’ affiliates are back east of the Mississippi River again, save the Billings Mustangs (Rookie) who have been with the Reds since way back in 1974. (In fact, the Reds’ and Mustangs’ affiliation is the fifth-longest active relationship between any MiLB club and its parent club.) The move makes sense just for the travel benefits. It’s over 2,000 miles from Bakersfield to Pensacola where the Reds’ Double-A affiliate, the Blue Wahoos, play at Bayfront Stadium. It is just a mere 447 miles from Daytona to Pensacola.

As mentioned in the release, the [soon-to-be-renamed] Cubs play their home games at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, which lies on beautiful City Island in the Halifax River. The stadium has the namesake of Jackie Robinson as it held the first racially integrated game in baseball history. You can read more about the ballpark on the Cubs’ website here.

jackie robinson ballpark Reds move High A affiliation to Daytona

Jackie Robinson Ballpark

The Reds and Blaze began their partnership in 2011 after Cincinnati was briefly affiliated with the Lynchburg Hillcats in 2010. Previously, from 2005 through 2009, Cincinnati’s Advanced A team was the Sarasota Reds. The Sarasota franchise has since been purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates and moved to Bradenton where they became the Marauders. Both Bradenton and Daytona compete in the 12-team Florida State League.

samlynn 580x319 Reds move High A affiliation to Daytona

Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield, Calif. (via Ben’s Biz Blog)

Reds minor leaguers will be leaving behind Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield which, for all intents and purposes, is a good thing. The yard opened in 1941 and has received only very minor (pun) upgrades since. The facilities are not quite up to MiLB standards and there have been talks about moving the team. The field itself is quite unique. The center-field wall stands only 354 feet away (the shortest in all of MiLB) and the diamond and is the only one in MiLB facing due west, meaning that the sun sets in the batters’ line of vision to the pitcher. The ballpark has a massive batters eye to minimize the effect on the hitters, but even still Bakersfield games often start at 7:30 or 8 p.m. local time. The Blaze deem themselves “the last game of the night” because of the late starts. Another quirk lies in the location of the dugouts… nearly halfway down each foul line. Because of this, the on-deck circles are a bit of a walk from the dugout and you can usually see two or three on-deck hitters.

The move from Bakersfield to Daytona doesn’t mean a whole lot for the Louisville Bats. In the four years that Cincinnati’s Advanced A affiliate was in Bakersfield, exactly two players were transferred directly from there to here, those being catcher Yovan Gonzalez in 2013 and RHP Mikey O’Brien in 2014. With the move, though, it will make it easier for the Reds to adjust their minor league rosters when one team needs more pitching to help for a doubleheader or a taxed bullpen.

Like the Bats, Daytona’s club will open their 2015 season at home on April 9.

Former Bats participate in rookie dress-up

One of the best things about Major League Baseball’s expanded rosters in September is the plethora of rookies that become available for veterans to haze. The result of this abundance of youth usually involves rookies dressing up in ridiculous outfits/costumes and parading through busy airports and bustling downtown areas. Yesterday, there was a show in downtown Chicago and thankfully social media was there to capture it.

Always a good sport and never shying away from the opportunity to take a selfie is Donald Lutz.

Todd Frazier enjoys the costume selection.

Brandon Phillips takes some individual photos for our viewing pleasure(?).

Clockwise from the top left, that’s Jumbo Diaz, Tucker Barnhart, Pedro Villarreal, Billy Hamilton, Ryan Dennick, Yorman Rodriguez, David Holmberg, Donald Lutz and Kristopher Negron in the middle.

Some guys enjoyed the experience…

… while others did not.

 

Now if we could just figure out a way to get them all in Batman costumes….

Chris and George’s last word: Farewell, Louisville Bats

LSF 2 580x385 Chris and Georges last word: Farewell, Louisville Bats

One hundred and forty-three games up, one hundred and forty-three games down; the Louisville Bats 2014 season has come and gone, and although the team struggled to its third consecutive losing campaign, there was much to take away from the season, nonetheless.

We’ve covered the news surrounding the team to the best of our abilities throughout the season and have had a good time with it, but Chris and I wanted to take this time express our appreciation not only to the front office and organization, but also to the Louisville Bats fan base.

Chris: It’s been an awesome two summers. Growing up, I knew I loved baseball and wanted to be a part of it when I became an adult. I carried that with me to college when I came to the University of Louisville in 2010 after being born and raised in Northeast Ohio, and when I got the opportunity to be a game day media relations intern in 2013, I jumped at it. In short, it turned out to be pretty much as cool as I thought it would be.

Here’s the long version if you’re interested:

Over the past two years as an intern (2013) and media relations assistant (this past season), I’ve gotten to be a part of a lot of great things and have gotten to work with a lot of great people. Everyone who works in baseball works a ton of hours, and it’s been a privilege to get to work with and learn from everyone in the Bats organization. Being around people you like makes the 12+ hour days enjoyable, which can be hard sometimes.

From being a part of starting the Bats Weekly Podcast last year to working on game notes every day this year, these past two seasons have been an experience that I’ll take a lot from. For all of the “this is way too fun to be a job” moments that come with working for a professional baseball team, there were certainly plenty of days in the middle of long home stands where it just felt like work, too. But it always came down to the basic fact that my office was at a baseball stadium, and there’s really nothing to complain about when you think of it that way.

I’m extremely grateful for the chance to have had a job over the past couple of years that is so unique and so much fun. One of the best ways to describe it is that when I’ve told people what I do, the answer is always along the lines of, “wow, working in baseball must be pretty cool”. They’re right. Not everyone can say that their job includes grabbing Mat Latos for a press conference or sitting down with Kristopher Negron and Tucker Barnhart to talk baseball. I’ve been lucky to be able to claim that as “work” over the past few seasons as an employee of the Louisville Bats.

The best way to sum it up is by saying thanks to everyone who’s let me have this opportunity, most notably Chad Fischer (my boss) and Matt Andrews (the voice of the Bats), who were the ones who first interviewed me almost two years ago and have helped me learn a lot since that day. After four years as a UofL student and a couple of seasons at Louisville Slugger Field, it will be weird to leave the Derby City. But I know Louisville will always be a second home, and I can’t wait to see what’s next after all that I’ve learned while I’ve been here.

George: Today marks my last day with the club, and I want to say how much I enjoyed my first season in the front office. Sure, taking care of the same tasks on a daily basis for a 143-game season can get repetitive, but I didn’t take it for granted because I appreciated the opportunity to work in sports. To quote the young Billy Heywood from my favorite childhood movie, Little Big League, “What could be better?” It’s what I want to do as a career and I believe this was a great first step in breaking into the industry.

I want to particularly thank James Breeding and Chad Fischer for bringing me in as a media relations intern and allowing me to remain in the front office as an assistant following my graduation in May. I want to thank Matt Andrews and Nick Curran for helping out in our daily tasks and, along with Chad, collectively using their years of experience to show us the ins and outs of the industry. I also want to thank Gary Ulmer for getting my resume in front of the right people from the beginning.

I tried to take something new away from each day and feel as if I succeeded on that front for the most part. There’s always something new to learn and something to get better at, and my experience with the Bats was a big first step in helping me to understand that.

Lastly, I want to thank the fan base for sticking with us through the season via all of our media outlets. Without you, there would be no one to share our news with and it would become irrelevant. I hope you enjoyed our podcasts, because we certainly did, and I hope you come back out to the ballpark next season.

The next step of my young career is still in limbo at this point, but I look forward to the challenges that come with breaking into such a competitive industry and have faith that my experience with the Louisville Bats will play a big role in getting me to where I want to be.

All the best, Louisville Bats. It’s been fun.

Reds complete Broxton trade: How it could impact the Bats

Astin Shackelford copy 580x326 Reds complete Broxton trade: How it could impact the Bats

Barrett Astin (left) and Kevin Shackelford (right) were announced as the players-to-be-named that will join the Reds in the Jonathan Broxton trade.

The Cincinnati Reds announced Wednesday evening that they have acquired more pitching from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for reliever Jonathan Broxton. The trade was first announced on August 31, but only that the Reds would receive a player to be named later.

As it turns out, they received two players, both of whom are pitchers. Right-handers Kevin Shackelford and Barrett Astin are headed to Cincinnati, though it isn’t likely they’ll be on a Reds active roster in the immediate future.

Shackelford, a 25-year-old Marshall University product, started 2014 strong with Class-A Brevard County, posting a 0.87 ERA in 12 games with the Manatees before reaching Double-A Huntsville. He then appeared in relief in 40 games with the Stars, compiling a 2-4 record and a 4.86 ERA with a 25-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Shackelford was originally a 21st-round draft pick of the Brewers in 2010.

The younger of the two new Reds, Astin comes to the organization having reached the Class-A level in his short career to date. Only 22 years old, Astin went 8-7 with a 4.96 ERA in 27 appearances (18 starts) with Class-A Wisconsin in 2014. He also converted four of his five save opportunities with the Timber Rattlers in just his second year of professional baseball. Astin first came to the Brewers in the third round of the 2013 draft from the University of Arkansas.

Both Shackelford and Astin will come to the Reds familiar with the organization, at least from afar, as the duo saw Reds affiliates with their former clubs this past season. Milwaukee’s Class-A (Wisconsin) and Double-A (Huntsville) affiliates play in the Midwest and Southern Leagues, respectively. The Reds’ Dayton Dragons (Class-A) and Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Double-A) also call those leagues home.

Judging from the development of the newest Reds so far, it certainly appears that Shackelford would likely be the first of the two to arrive in Louisville. While it seems like the minor league calendar is just coming to a close, there are still wheels churning. After all, Spring Training for pitchers and catchers is only about five months away.

Checking in with the Bats in The Bigs

Bourgois Reds 580x326 Checking in with the Bats in The Bigs

Jason Bourgeois, the Louisville Bats’ 2014 MVP, is back in the bigs along with a host of other September call-ups.

It’s an annual ritual for Triple-A (and occasionally Double-A) franchises to send their top players and 40-man roster members up to their parent clubs at the beginning of September. Sometimes, it’s big prospects making their first trip to The Show (the Bats’ Billy Hamilton in 2013, for example). Other times, Major League clubs send September call-ups to players who have impressed at the minor league level all season.

While there wasn’t a top-ranked prospect in this year’s group of Louisville Bats that joined the Cincinnati Reds, there were plenty of names that fans will recognize from this summer at Louisville Slugger Field. Let’s take a look at who got the call and how they’ve fared up North so far this month.

RHP Dylan Axelrod – After being optioned to Louisville following his Reds debut on August 17 in Colorado (6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K), Axelrod was recalled by Cincinnati on August 28th. In three starts with the Reds this season, he’s 1-1 with a 3.12 ERA and an impressive 19-4 strikeout-walk ratio, though he left his Monday start against St. Louis with an injury after only recording one out.

RHP Carlos Contreras – He never appeared for the Bats this season, but Contreras was on the roster for a brief time in August. On June 21, he made his Major League debut against Toronto. Contreras has made 16 appearances with the Reds this year.

RHP Daniel Corcino – Like Axelrod, Corcino made an appearance in August with the Reds as well. A promotion from Double-A Pensacola on August 22 set the stage for the young righty’s Major League debut on August 26 against the Cubs in which he tossed a perfect frame with a pair of strikeouts. Corcino was a September call up after making one appearance with Louisville this season, and he’s since appeared once for Cincinnati this month.

LHP Ryan Dennick – Not a 40-man roster member until his first big league promotion on September 2, Dennick was impressive all season for the Bats. He posted a 2.36 ERA in a career-high 57 appearances this season in Louisville and certainly earned a call-up that was a long time coming. The 27-year old made his Major League debut on the day of his promotion, pitching a perfect inning in Baltimore. Dennick was roughed up in his second appearance, allowing three earned runs, but bounced back last night to strand a pair in relief, not allowing a run.

LHP David Holmberg – Since joining the Reds organization this past offseason via a trade with Arizona, Holmberg has produced some mixed results statistically. Still, there’s no question that he can be an effective pitcher at a high level. Despite a rough start to the season in Louisville, he put together a solid season that earned him a couple of calls to Cincinnati prior to September. Most notable were his numbers in the month of June, when he posted a 1.99 ERA over four starts. Holmberg’s first appearance since he was recalled on September 2 came the next day, when he threw an inning of scoreless relief at Baltimore. On Monday, he tossed 5.2 innings of scoreless relief, posting five strikeouts.

RHP J.J. Hoover – A former Louisville Bats MVP, Hoover was with the Reds for virtually the whole season, save for a couple of weeks with Louisville late in August. He made four appearances for the Bats, not allowing an earned run and striking out seven. In four appearances in September with the Reds, he’s only allowed one earned run.

C Tucker Barnhart – There has been little question as to whether or not Barnhart is ready for the Major League game as a catcher, and that held true all season in Louisville. He’s consistently been rated as the Cincinnati chain’s best defensive catcher, and that’s a big part of his game that the Reds love. After traveling back and forth from Cincinnati to Louisville for much of this season, he’s back with the Reds for the month of September, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him stick with the big club next season. Barnhart is hitting .150 (6-for-40) with Cincinnati this year.

OF Jason Bourgeois – Fresh off of his Mary E. Barney Team MVP Award in Louisville, Bourgeois is seemingly back where he belongs in the big leagues. Bourgeois led the Bats in a host of categories this season and is a seasoned Major League veteran already. Since his September 2 call up, he’s hit .364 (4-for-11) in five games.

IF Jake Elmore – Originally claimed by the Reds after being waived by the Oakland Athletics, Elmore was productive in his short stint in Louisville. He hit .279 in the month of August, stealing three bases and getting on base at a .379 clip. Elmore has only appeared in a couple of games with Cincinnati, and is 1-for-5 at the plate since his call up.

OF Donald Lutz – Much like Barnhart, Lutz has been a favorite recall for the Reds this season. He’s made multiple trips between Louisville and Cincinnati, and as a 40-man roster member his September call-up was nearly inevitable. The slugger hasn’t hit a homer with the Reds yet this year, but he’s gotten some consistent time with the big club, appearing in five games since the beginning of the month.

That concludes our round-up of September call-ups, but we’d be remiss in excluding a couple of former Bats that have become fan favorites over the years who have been in Cincinnati for a while now. IF/OF Kristopher Negron has proven himself to be a worthy super-utility man, and RHP Jumbo Diaz has made his case to be a bullpen mainstay when the Reds head to Spring Training next year.

It’s been a whirlwind season of transactions between the Bats and the Reds, but seeing former Bats in The Bigs is always the cherry on top of a long Triple-A season. Congratulations are certainly in order for all of them, and in a year’s time, we’ll have a new crop of Louisville “graduates” to celebrate.

The Bats Weekly Podcast: September 4

Bats Weekly Podcasts logo 580x290 The Bats Weekly Podcast: September 4

Chris and George sit down for one last time to recap the season that was for the 2014 Louisville Bats. Be sure to check out our conversations with both longtime Louisville catcher Corky Miller and your 2014 Mary E. Barney MVP, Jason Bourgeois. (Recorded Thursday, Sept. 4)

Heading down the home stretch of 2014

PLP0837 580x385 Heading down the home stretch of 2014

Louisville will have to win the remaining five games to avoid another losing season. (Pat Pfister)

The Louisville Bats’ 2014 season has been similar to that of a roller coaster; up and down and up and down until it eventually comes to a screeching halt.

Yes, that screeching halt may have come sooner than hoped or expected as the Bats were eliminated from playoff contention with Monday’s 5-0 loss at Toledo, but there’s still plenty for the team to play for in the remaining five games of the season – pride being at the forefront.

“I know what it’s like to see players not have a job and I don’t take it for granted,” said Louisville outfielder Jason Bourgeois. “I come here ready to work every day and I enjoy the guys in the clubhouse and the challenge of going out and competing every day. We want to win. We all play this game to win.”

It’s obvious that making it to the Major Leagues is the ultimate goal of every minor leaguer – if that’s not the case, then they’re probably wasting their time – but the competitive drive, no matter the level, undoubtedly exists in more ballplayers than not.

Although this particular team won’t celebrate an IL Championship or even a playoff appearance for that matter, it could still play a large role in rinsing a bad taste out of the collective mouth of the organization.

Finish with a flurry and this team could avoid setting a franchise record with three consecutive losing seasons.

Finish with a flurry and this team could record two winning months in the same season for the first time since 2010.

Finish with a flurry and this team could defend its home park and finish with a winning record at Louisville Slugger Field for the first time in three years.

The Louisville Bats return to Louisville Slugger Field at 7:05 tonight and play host to the Toledo Mud Hens for the first of three games. The Indianapolis Indians then come to town on Sunday for the final two games of the season. Click here to purchase or get information regarding tickets.

 

The Bats Weekly Podcast: August 21

Bats Weekly Podcasts logo 580x290 The Bats Weekly Podcast: August 21

Only 12 games stand between the Louisville Bats and the end of the 2014 season. Are you wondering what the club will make of it? Be sure to listen up as Chris and George bring you all of the relevant information surrounding the organization as we head down the home stretch. (Recorded Thursday, August 21)

Bats head east to traverse the IL North

Rey Navarro 1 by Pat Pfister 580x326 Bats head east to traverse the IL North

It’s a Thursday afternoon, and you’re craving trivial knowledge about the final two cities that the Bats are visiting during their eight-game home. You’ll get it eventually, but first we need to take a brief look at what this road trip means to the Bats now that the final month of the season is upon us and the playoff hunt is still very real.

Here are the basics:

Louisville heads to IL North territory for their final games outside of the IL West this season. They’ll play four in Syracuse starting tonight before heading to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for another set of four games. The Bats are a combined 2-6 against the two teams on the season after both walked away from Louisville Slugger Field with 3-1 series advantages earlier this year.

Syracuse is currently leading the North with a 65-51 record – good for best in the IL – and brings a formidable mix to the table. Brandon Laird leads the offense with a .314 average to go with 13 homers and 66 RBIs. The rotation features a two-headed monster at the top, with IL All-Star starter Taylor Hill (10-5, 2.52) and Aaron Laffey (11-4, 3.20) leading the way. Despite being without a pair of offensive leaders in Steven Souza Jr. (called up to Washington) and Zach Walters (traded to Cleveland), they’ll be a potent offense and difficult staff to face this weekend in New York.

The second half of the trip will take place in Moosic, Pennsylvania, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. While the RailRiders took three of four from the Bats in May, they have struggled to keep up in the tough North. At 57-60 on the year, they sit in fourth place in the division. The Yankees aren’t known for having a particularly fertile farm system, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some players worth watching in Scranton/WB this season.

Infielder Jose Pirela and outfielder Adonis Garcia are the two best all-around talents in the RailRider lineup, and played big roles when the Bats saw them in May. Garcia is currently carrying a team-best .322 batting average with nine dingers and 44 RBI. Pirela is right behind him with a .312 average, eight homers and 48 RBI. While he doesn’t hit for as good of an average, the power bat of Zoilo Almonte – who holds team highs in homers (17 ) and RBI (61) can’t be slept on.

Rotation-wise, the RailRiders don’t have a pitcher on the staff with more than five wins. Furthermore, the best ERA from a Scranton/WB pitcher who has ten or more starts on the year is Joel De La Cruz’ 4.52 mark. This is certainly an area that the Bats, who have proven their ability to produce runs in bunches this season, should look to exploit before they head home.

A final note before we get to the fun (albeit relatively unimportant) stuff, the Bats currently sit just four games back from the top of the IL West despite being in last place in the division. This late in the season, every game counts.

Alas, it’s time for the fun facts about the final two cities to host the Bats in 2014. Here we go.

Syracuse

Located in the heart of New York (it’s literally right in the middle), The ‘Cuse is the fifth-most populous in the state. It was names after the Italian city, Siracusa, which is on the Eastern coast of the island of Sicily. Top employers in the city include Wegman’s Food Markets, Lockheed Martin Corporation and, you guessed it, Syracuse University.

The Orange may be the biggest sports show in town, but the Chiefs and fellow minor league franchise Crunch (AHL Hockey) round out the sports entertainment options in the city. Famous Syracusans include actor Tom Cruise,  basketball player Andray Blatche, ABC News anchor David Muir and Olympic gold medal swimmer Kim Black.

Scranton

The sixth largest city in Pennsylvania and county seat of Lackawanna County, Scranton is a city that boomed in the mid-1930′s thanks to the coal mining industry. Today, it may be most recognizable as the home and setting of the NBC sitcom The Office. Scranton is also home to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins, the AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Notable people from Scranton include Vice President Joe Biden, NBA coach and broadcaster P.J. Carlesimo, Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin and famous television host Bill O’Reilly.

That’ll do it for our authoritative preview of the upcoming road trip for the Bats. Listen in to Matt Andrews on 790 KRD for the action and make sure to check out the Bats Weekly Podcast to hear more about the road ahead for the Bats.

The Bats Weekly Podcast: August 7

Bats Weekly Podcasts logo 580x290 The Bats Weekly Podcast: August 7

The Bats are coming off a split four-game series with Rochester and diving into the last 26 games of the season. Listen up for all of the relevant news and notes surrounding the organization as we head into the home stretch. Also, Chris sits down to chat with Bats infielder Rey Navarro. (Recorded Wednesday, August 6)