Exactly one player in Louisville franchise history played with a last name beginning with the letter “U.” Tom Urbani appeared in 50 games for the Louisville Redbirds between 1992 and 1996 while in the Cardinals organization. He would go on to appear in 81 Major League games (65 with St. Louis and 16 with Detroit) before calling it quits in 1998.
There was, however, another Louisville player, infielder Jose Gonzalez, who changed his name to Jose Uribe (his mother’s maiden name) sometime following his trade from St. Louis to San Francisco. Gonzalez appeared in 275 games for the Redbirds between the franchise’s first year of 1982 and 1984. He went on to a ten-year big league career appearing in 1038 games, 985 of them with the Giants. He died tragically in a car accident in 2006 at the age of 47.
Now, what is the connection between Mr. Urbani and Mr. Gonzalez/Uribe? Both share January 21 as a birthday–Urbani in 1968 (Happy 47th) and Gonzalez/Uribe in 1959. Like so many things in baseball, just another odd coincidence.
Corky Miller has been named to the coaching staff of the Cincinnati Reds’ Class A affiliate Dayton Dragons, the team announced Wednesday. Miller, 38, will join manager Jose Nieves, pitching coach Tom Browning and hitting coach Luis Bolivar on Dayton’s staff.
After spending two stints in the Reds organization from his original signing in 1998 through 2004 and from 2009 through the 2014 season, Miller became a fan favorite on both the Triple-A and Major League levels. He retired as the Bats’ all-time leader in games played with 548, besting former Louisville Redbird Bill Lyons’ mark by four games. He played in just 216 Major League games (153 with the Reds), but was invaluable to Cincinnati for handling pitchers as they made their ways to the big club.
Miller is expected to also do some roving around the system as a catching instructor during the season, Reds Director of Player Development Jeff Graupe said in the original announcement posted by the Dragons. This is not unlike what Miller did for the better part of 2014 after going inactive on May 22, spending time between Billings (Rookie) and Dayton.
Aside from the franchise’s games played record, the catcher also is the Bats’ all-time leader in doubles (99) and is third in at-bats (1,703), fifth in hits (416), fourth in home runs (50) and second in RBI (236). His No. 8 became the first number ever retired by the Louisville franchise on August 31, 2014 at the game dubbed Corky Miller Night.
Speculation for much of Miller’s latter years with the Bats was that he would eventually find his way into a coaching role before, somewhere down the line, earning a managerial job (hopefully in the big leagues). This is certainly the first step.
The news fans in Louisville were wishing to hear since the end of last season was that Miller would be added to the Bats staff (or even, perhaps rather boldly, that he would have been named manager before Delino DeShields was named to the position). Still, this is the perfect starting spot for the former catcher. It is not the most glamorous or highest paid coaching job in the world, but there is no pressure and he will have time to develop his coaching abilities in the minors much like any player develops their playing abilities. Also, fans in Louisville should not be too concerned as it is likely Miller will see time in the Derby City at some point during 2015.
Minor league coaches and managers move… a lot. Anytime there is a change to the big club’s staff, the dominoes fall and minor league staffs are also shuffled. The Reds declining to bring back third base coach Steve Smith opened the door for Jim Riggleman, the Bats manager of the past two seasons, to move up, which opened the door for DeShields to move up, etc. The ascension to a Major League managerial job (for most managers) has many stops along the way and sometimes goes through multiple organizations. This is just where it all begins.
Monday, the Reds released their 2015 Spring Training roster. The big news for fans who have followed the Bats in recent years is OF Felix Perez earning his first invite to Big League camp. Perez has spent the past three-plus seasons with the Bats hitting .278 with his sweet left-handed swing while routinely showing off a cannon arm in right field–all helping him to earn fan-favorite status in the Derby City. Also included in the non-roster invitees list are former 40-man roster members OF Ryan LaMarre and IF Neftali Soto. Both were on the 40-man roster in 2014 (Soto, in fact, started the season with the Reds), but have since been outrighted to the minors. Local product RHP Nate Adcock (North Hardin High School) signed with the Reds this offseason and also received a camp invite.
Here is the full roster (click to enlarge).
In the first bit of notable offseason news, the Reds announced last night that they had traded Chris Heisey to the Dodgers for righty pitching prospect Matt Magill. The team also announced they would not tender contracts to Logan Ondrusek or Curtis Partch, making them free agents. All three now-former Reds were drafted by the club and had spent their careers in the organization, including time with the Bats.
Drafted in 2006 out of Messiah College in Grantham, Penn., Heisey spent the second half of 2009 and the first month of 2010 with Louisville. He hit just .205 over that span with 13 homers and 50 RBI in 92 games. He was called up to Cincinnati on April 30, 2010 when Chris Dickerson went on the DL and made his Major League debut on May 3. He was one of 10 Reds to debut in 2010 (along with Ondrusek) and produced four pinch-hit homers that season. Heisey became a solid outfield option playing all three spots, but mostly left field. The outfielder also made rehab appearances with the Bats in 2011 and 2013. He finished his Reds career a .247 hitter in 543 games.
Ondrusek was drafted in 2005 out of McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas. He earned 12 saves in 13 opportunities with the 2009 Bats on the tail end of their schedule, posting a solid 1.74 ERA. He started the 2010 season with Cincinnati and debuted on April 5. The righty was optioned to Louisville in each of 2010, 2012 and 2013. He also made one rehab appearance with the Bats in 2014, tossing a scoreless inning. Ondrusek amassed a 3.89 ERA in 281 appearances (271.0 innings) in five seasons with the Reds.
The Reds drafted Partch in 2007 out of Merced Junior College in California. He made both the jump from Double-A to Triple-A and from Triple-A to the Majors in 2013. In 2014, he started the season with the Reds and was optioned to the Bats and recalled to Cincinnati five times during the campaign, though only appearing in six big league games. He was optioned to Louisville for a sixth time in mid-August and was not recalled again after rosters expanded. He finished his career with the Reds with a 4.80 ERA in 20 games. With Louisville over parts of two seasons, he recorded a 4.56 ERA with 8 saves in 65 games.
Magill spent all of 2014 with the Dodgers’ Triple-A club in Albuquerque, going 7-6 with a 5.21 ERA in 36 games (12 starts) in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. The 6’3″ 25-year-old debuted with the Dodgers in 2013, making six starts, but only pitched 28.0 innings (4-2/3 innings per start) and went 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA. Reds President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Walt Jocketty was quoted in the Reds’ news release as saying, “We are excited to be adding a player with a power arm who has a chance to help our club next season.”
Magill will certainly have a chance to make the Reds club out of spring training in 2015, but it seems likely that he could see some time under pitching coach Ted Power in Louisville before returning the the big leagues and pitching in homer-happy Great American Ball Park.
The Louisville Bats used a lot of baseball players during the 2014 season. No, really… it was ridiculous. This year, a total of 68 players appeared in a game for the Bats, with three more being on the roster and not appearing. (Those three are Bobby Keppel, Tony Cingrani and Carlos Contreras.) That’s a total of 71 players, nearly three times the size of a full 25-man roster. The team used just 51 players last season. The most players used in a season since Louisville began affiliation with the Reds in 2000 is 74 in 2003. Louisville also totaled 204 transactions in 2014, 13 shy of the club record (217 in 2007).
There are various reasons for why so many players would appear on a minor league team in a single season. These range from injuries to the big club, Major League rehabbers, doubleheaders either for the Bats or the Reds, etc. Whenever there is one move, other complimentary dominoes fall to fill out the rosters of each of the minor league clubs (usually).
Despite there being so much turnover to the team’s roster, your Bats media relations staff was able to obtain photos of 62 of these 68 players that played for the Bats this year thanks to our awesome photographer, Pat Pfister, and some help from a few others.
With the season complete, we thought it would be nice to give fans a look at the Bats players all in one place. First the position players and then the pitchers. Let’s get to it.
There were just a few guys of who escaped our collective camera lenses.
Ray Chang appeared in just one game with the Bats in the opening series on the road in Toledo before spending the rest of the season with Pensacola.
Trevor Bell made one rehab appearance for the Bats on June 6 at Lehigh Valley, but did not make another appearance for the rest of the season.
Edgar Gonzalez made two appearances with the Bats, both on the opening road trip, but spent the rest of the season on the DL with a back injury.
J.J. Hoover made four appearances with the Bats in the end of August after spending most of the first five months of the season with the Reds. He was recalled by Cincinnati on September 1.
Carlos Marmol was released by Miami on May 19 and signed a minor league deal with the Reds on May 28. He made three appearances with the Bats, all on the road, before leaving the team and being placed on the restricted list.
Fabian Williamson made one appearance with the Bats on July 11 and pitched two innings. He spent the rest of the season with Pensacola where he pitched in 50 games.
Tony Jaramillo was the Bats hitting coach for the second straight season.
Thanks for hanging in there. We can’t wait until April when we will learn the crop of fun new guys that we will get to watch for 144 games in 2015.
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.
— Daytona Cubs (@daytonacubs) September 18, 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Donald Lutz (@braunerhulk) September 15, 2014
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…
Rookie dress up day… What a blast! — Tucker Barnhart (@Tucker_Barnhart) September 14, 2014
… while others did not.
Rookie dress up
— billy hamilton (@BillyHamilton) September 14, 2014
Now if we could just figure out a way to get them all in Batman costumes….
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.
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.
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.