Defending champion Wingate tops DII baseball preseason Power 10 rankings

The 2022 DII baseball season is right around the corner. With teams preparing to take the field the first week of February, now is an opportune time to jump into the first DII baseball Power 10 rankings of the year.

2021 RANKINGS: The final DII baseball Power 10 from last season

The 2021 season ended with a first-time champion as the Wingate Bulldogs took down Central Missouri — one of the winningest programs in DII baseball — to take home the title. While the Bulldogs did lose some key pieces, they will return nearly their entire lineup in their quest to be the first repeat champion since Tampa in 2006 and 2007. That very same Spartans program may be the team that stands in their way in 2022.

The rankings below are mine, and mine alone. This Power 10 is a result of deep roster dives, conversations with coaches, SIDs and insiders, and recent history of the programs. As the season progresses, the criteria the NCAA DII baseball tournament selection committee uses come May — strength of schedule, RPI, in-region wins and metrics of that nature — will come into play.

DRAFT MEMORIES: 2021 draftees | 2019: Getting drafted WHILE PLAYING

Keep in mind, DII baseball is a different beast. With the colder weather up in the northern parts of the country, it is more of a rolling start to the season lacking a true “DII baseball opening day.” While many teams will begin the first week of February, there are a slew of conferences that don’t start until later. Because of this, the first DII baseball Power 10 rankings of the regular season will not launch until sometime in March at which point, they will come out on a weekly basis.

The 2022 DII baseball preseason Power 10

No. 1 Wingate

Typically, winning the DII baseball national championship doesn’t secure a team the No. 1 spot the following preseason. This gets a bit trickier in 2022, when you can argue that the Bulldogs may not have been the best team in Cary, N.C. last year, but a very talented team that played the best at the right time. All this said, with coach Jeff Gregory getting the experience he has returning, Wingate gets to enter the season in the No. 1 spot.

RECAP: How Wingate won the 2021 DII baseball championship

Offensively, Wingate loses big pieces in McCann Mellett — who led the team in home runs and on-base percentage — and Hunter Dula — who split time in the lineup and on the mound — but returns eight of the nine hitters that were in the lineup of the national championship game last June. That doesn’t include Ricky Clark, who missed last season with injury after finishing second on the team in RBIs and third in home runs in 2020. Brody McCullough and Sam Brodersen return to lead an experienced rotation and bullpen. Last time we saw Brodersen, he went five no-hit innings against Central Missouri’s ridiculous lineup to clinch Wingate’s title.

No. 2 Tampa

Tampa was so close to having a chance to repeat as national champions (again) last year but fell to Central Missouri in a memorable two-game semifinals showdown. Eight starting position players and all three weekend starters from that team return and you can be sure they all remember just how close they were. That includes E.J. Cumbo, who led the team in batting average and home runs, and Friday-night starter Michael Paul. Replacing All-American closer Jordan Leasure is coach Joe Urso’s toughest challenge, but it shouldn’t take him long to find the right person. This team is loaded once again and a national championship contender.

No. 3 Colorado Mesa

The Mavericks didn’t make it to Cary last year, but still deserve to be this high. Haydn McGeary, NCAA.com’s first-ever DII baseball player of the year in 2021, is back in the lineup yet again. McGeary hit .481 with 26 doubles, 20 home runs and just 20 strikeouts in 183 at-bats as one of the most lethal weapons in the division. Five starters from the 2019 DII baseball championship game against Tampa are also back as is Matthew Turner who belted 23 home runs last season. The pitching staff will have a different look with ace Andrew Morris now at Texas Tech, but they believe they have more depth on the mound now. Keep an eye on freshman pitcher Cole Seward who could be the difference maker.

No. 4 Angelo State

The Rams made it to Cary last season behind the fourth-best hitting and third-best scoring offense in DII baseball. While they do lose perennial player-of-the-year candidate Josh Elvir, Aaron Walters — who I expect to put up player-of-the-year numbers himself after hitting .410 with 26 extra-base hits and 67 RBIs last season — returns with five others from that potent lineup. Coach Kevin Brooks will also have to replace ace Trent Baker, who was one of the best DII had to offer, but four of the top arms are back, including Lone Star Conference preseason pitcher of the year Carson Childers who could return to the starting rotation full time in 2022.

No. 5 Minnesota State

Northern Sun baseball is always fun, and the Mavericks could be the best of the bunch in 2022. That’s impressive when you have consistent programs like Augustana (SD) and St. Cloud State chasing you. The Mavericks lose their top three hitters from a 39-win team but return enough experience to make this team scary at the plate. Newcomer Ryan Wickman, son of former MLB pitcher Bob Wickman, should make an impact defensively in the outfield after winning a gold glove on the JUCO circuit last year. Minnesota State is strong on the mound with Collin Denk (10-0, 2.22 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 69 innings) and Nick Altermatt (5-2, 1.90 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 53 innings. Altermatt is so gifted — he was the 2019 NSIC freshman of the year as a shortstop and will be pivotal to the Mavericks’ success in 2022.

No. 6 Southern New Hampshire

Heading into 2021, head coach Scott Loiseau told me it was one of his best squads he ever had. That’s quite a statement considering the history of this program, including trips to Cary in two of the past three championship seasons. Seven hitters from the lineup that reached the DII baseball championship last year are back. The pitching staff is where there will be some learning curves, but Loiseau feels it is deeper than last year. Joshua Roberge is a hard-throwing transfer pitcher that could be in the rotation and Taylor Lepard made a big jump this fall with his three-pitch mix highlighted by a 90s fastball.

No. 7 Northwest Nazarene

What a story the Nighthawks were last year. They not only made it to their first NCAA DII baseball tournament — they rode the wave all the way to Cary where they even won a game before being eliminated by Tampa. Here’s the thing: That may have been just the first chapter of the story. The Nighthawks lose some pop, but the top three hitters in batting average return to the lineup, including All-American Grant Kerry. The top four in ERA return to the bump, highlighted by All-Region pitcher Kyle Ethridge. Add Duke Pahukoa to the mix, who transferred from UNLV, and this team is deep once again. This time around, the Nighthawks are also experienced.

No. 8 Millersville

Bloomsburg was the 2021 PSAC tournament champion, and it was Seton Hill that escaped the Atlantic Region to represent the PSAC in Cary. You may expect Seton Hill to be ranked higher due to that playoff push, and understandably so, but the Griffins lost 18 players to graduation. Millersville has Jeff Taylor — the 2021 PSAC East pitcher of the year — returning as the ace, along with Conor Cook — the 2021 PSAC East freshman of the year — for a tough 1-2 punch atop the rotation. Bren Taylor — the 2021 PSAC East player of the year — leads an offense that finished second in the conference in hitting and runs scored, and six of those bats are returning. The PSAC will always be a grind with five legitimate contenders in Bloomsburg, Seton Hill, Mercyhurst, Millersville and West Chester, but this seems like it may be the Marauders’ year.

No. 9 Augustana (SD)

The Vikings are always a tough team, and this year they return a ton of talent. The top three hitters — Carter Howell, Will Olson and Jordan Barth — are back and they are all studs: each hit over .340 with at least 10 home runs and 46 RBI. Plenty of firepower returns on the mound as well where Ryan Jares will lead the rotation. Jares is a smart pitcher, able to use four pitches to attack hitters. Keep your eyes on redshirt-freshman Kai Taylor who could push for a rotation spot with his stuff.

No. 10 Illinois Springfield

This team has the potential to be a juggernaut in 2022 and I am going to be much higher than most. Expect Zion Pettigrew to contend for national player of the year. The third baseman hit .440 last year with 20 doubles, 17 home runs and an absurd 1.454 OPS, but isn’t alone. First baseman Kal Youngquist hit .420 with 34 extra-base hits and a team-high 58 RBI. They are just two of seven returning hitters in a lineup that finished No. 2 in batting average and No. 4 in both slugging percentage and runs scored. When you add in all four weekend starters and 93 percent of last year’s innings pitched returning from a 37-win team, you have a real threat on your hands. Keep an eye on transfer Quinn Gudaitis. The pitcher is huge — 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds — and throws in the 90s.

First five out (in alphabetical order)

  • Ashland: If the Eagles get to Perry Bewley with the lead, they will win a lot of ball games as he is arguably the best closer in the land. This is a senior laden team and Austin Eifrid should lead a balanced lineup.
  • Azusa Pacific: New head coach Kirk Nieuwenhuis has a lot of big names to replace, but with the likes of Casey Dykstra and Omar Lopez back in the lineup and AJ Woodall on the mound, he has enough. We will know a lot quickly: The Cougars’ first 12 games are against teams on this list (Northwest Nazarene, Colorado Mesa and Cal State Monterey Bay).
  • Davenport: Nolan Anspaugh is on my short list of player-of-the-year candidates, but the Panthers have a monster lineup with four hitters back that hit better than .350 last season.
  • Southern Arkansas: Catcher Brett McGee and starting pitcher Jacob Womack were two of the best players in the GAC last year. Both are back to make the Muleriders strong favorites for the conference crown.
  • Trevecca Nazarene: The Trojans made program history last season, making it all the way to Cary for the first time. A bevy of returners will keep this team solid, but keep an eye on transfer pitchers Caleb Bly and Justin Campbell.

Also considered (in alphabetical order): Bloomsburg, Cal State Monterey Bay, Central Missouri, Columbus State, Goldey-Beacom, Lee, Mercyhurst, North Greenville, Seton Hill, West Florida, West Texas A&M

Five teams that will fly under the radar: Charleston (WV), Delta State, Northwood, Quincy, Wheeling

Here are the former DII baseball stars in the 2021 MLB playoffs

The 2021 MLB postseason begins Tuesday, Oct. 5, pitting the New York Yankees vs. the Boston Red Sox in the first wild card game. We will have to wait until the N.L. Wild Card game on Oct. 6 for the first former DII baseball players to take the field. That’s when St. Louis Cardinals’ teammates Miles Mikolas and Kodi Whitley take on the Los Angeles Dodgers.  

DRAFT MEMORIES: 2021 draftees | 2019: Getting drafted WHILE PLAYING

They are just a few DII baseball alums heading to this year’s MLB playoffs. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.

These are active rosters as of Oct. 4, 2021, per MLB.com. Some players — like J.D. Martinez (Nova Southeastern, Boston Red Sox), DJ Johnson (Western Oregon, Tampa Bay Rays), Tommy Kahnle (Lynn, Los Angeles Dodgers) and Scott Alexander (Sonoma State, Los Angeles Dodgers) — who are on the IL were not considered for this list. Some teams have not confirmed their playoff rosters and any updates will be made accordingly. Rosters can change before each round due to injury.

FINAL RANKINGS: The final DII baseball Power 10 of the 2021 season

Miles Mikolas, St. Louis Cardinals — Nova Southeastern

Nova Southeastern Athletics Miles Mikolas was an ace for Nova Southeastern in 2009.

Mikolas has had an interesting journey to this season’s MLB playoffs. He was actually the highest selection of the three teammates (Mike Fiers and J.D. Martinez), taken by the San Diego Padres in the seventh round after that 2009 season. His career has included early ups and downs, some play across seas, a 2018 rebirth in St. Louis and an injury-plagued 2020 and 2021 season. In between was a 2019 All-Star appearance in a season that he led the league with 18 wins.

Mikolas was superb during his Sharks’ career finishing with a 2.06 ERA and 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His former head baseball coach — and current Athletic Director — Michael Mominey told us: “He showed remarkable growth as an athlete and pitcher in three years’ time. He came into the program as somewhat of a ‘project’ given his size and abilities as a freshman, but as a junior became one of the most dominant pitchers in program history. Physically dominant, great teammate, fun and a free spirit.”

Chas McCormick, Houston Astros — Millersville

MIllersville Athletics Millersville's Chas McCormick ended his DII baseball career as the PSAC's all-time hits leader. Millersville’s Chas McCormick ended his DII baseball career as the PSAC’s all-time hits leader.

McCormick had a special career in Millersville, Pennsylvania. He ended his career as the only Marauder to earn All-PSAC East honors in each of his four seasons and was named the PSAC Eastern Division athlete of the year in 2017. Before the Astros chose him in the 21st round that year, McCormick became the PSAC’s all-time hit leader and was second all-time in runs scored.

McCormick’s 2021 rookie season was a solid one. He was a jack-of-all-trades for the Astros this season, playing 51 games in left field, 33 games in center and 22 games in right. He hit 14 home runs with a .766 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) and had some big, memorable hits. His former Millersville coach Jon Shehan told me: “Chas is an incredible competitor. I think I read that he was 14-for-18 driving a man in with a man on third and less than two outs this season. He drives in runs selflessly because he absolutely hates to lose. I think that’s why he fits so well in a historically competitive big-league clubhouse. I’m hoping he gets a shot to play in the postseason because I think you’re going to see a guy that has poise under pressure and loves to play when the game is on the line.”

Kodi Whitley, St. Louis Cardinals — Mount Olive

Mount Olive Athletics Kodi Whitley was 2014 Conference Carolinas freshman of the year. Kodi Whitley was 2014 Conference Carolinas freshman of the year.

Whitley had a sensational start to his Trojans’ career, earning Conference Carolinas freshman of the year honors in 2014 and making the All-Region Gold Glove team that same season. He had a stellar follow-up season with Mount Olive but would pitch sparingly over his final two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery prior to the 2016 campaign.

Whitley is a terrific story of perseverance. He fought back from Tommy John surgery and became a key cog in the Cardinals’ minor-league bullpens. After a strong showing in the 2019 Arizona Fall League — which is a launching pad that puts the best of the best prospects together on one field following the regular MiLB season — Whitley earned a spot on the 2020 40-man roster for the Cardinals. This season, he’s posted a 2.49 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 25 big-league appearances.

Whitley’s former head coach Rob Watt told me: “Outside of being extremely talented, Kodi checks every box for the intangibles. He’s an incredible person and teammate, he is a fierce competitor that attacks everything in a calm calculated manner, and he will always choose to do what is right and not necessarily what is easy. He has worked so hard to get where he is at but he never forgets where he came from and he would never assume that he is entitled to anything because of what he has accomplished on the baseball field. He is one of the finest people I know.”

Alex Vesia, Los Angeles Dodgers — Cal State East Bay

Cal State East Bay Athletics Alex Vesia was the top pitcher for Cal State East Bay in 2018. Alex Vesia was the top pitcher for Cal State East Bay in 2018.

Vesia was drafted by the Miami Marlins in 2018 and traded to the Dodgers prior to this season. After making his MLB debut last year with the Marlins, he’s now pitched for two different MLB-postseason teams. Not a bad start to a career, don’t you think?

“It was such an amazing feeling to hear my named get called,” Vesia recalled to Cal State East Bay on his draft day experience. “I was just looking for an opportunity to continue playing baseball. It didn’t matter what pick I was. It had been a huge goal of mine since my sophomore year and to achieve such a major goal was very emotional for me and my family. Truthfully, it wasn’t an easy process and it was a long three days waiting to see where I would go. But one thing I knew was that I was ready to challenge myself on the next level.”

The left-hander split time in the rotation and bullpen in his final 2018 season with the Pioneers. He pitched to a stunning 1.94 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 78.2 innings, striking out 82 and walking 28. He went in the 17th round following that season and while his 2020 MLB debut was not a memorable one, he’s put it together this season. Vesia has a 2.25 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 40 appearances out of the Dodgers’ bullpen.

Joey Wendle, Tampa Bay Rays  — West Chester

West Chester Athletics Joey Wendle was an All-PSAC East player at West Chester. Joey Wendle was an All-PSAC East player at West Chester.

Wendle was another PSAC superstar who earned All-PSAC East honors in his time with the Golden Rams. His final season with West Chester was a big one as the Golden Rams won the DII baseball championship. He slashed .399/.479/.768 with 19 doubles and 12 home runs. That all added up to a sixth-round selection by the Cleveland Indians in the 2012 MLB draft.

Wendle has a smooth, left-handed swing that finds the gaps well. It was nice to see him set a career high with 11 home runs in 2021 in earning his first MLB All-Star appearance. Wendle is versatile as well, playing all over the infield for the Rays. 

Gillum Celebrates Championship Summer with the Savannah Bananas

PHOENIX —

Baseball is a game with well-defined traditions. Straying from the norm is frowned upon and the status quo tends to rule over the sport like a judge waiting to slam his gavel. Except there is change in the air, and it’s strongest breeze emanates from a coastal city in Georgia where a different type of baseball is being championed with each passing day. And this year, that new spirit of the game delivered a title. 

Tyler Gillum, a South Mountain Community College baseball assistant coach and the school’s health and wellness program director, led the Savannah Bananas to the Coastal Plain League 2021 Petitt Cup Championship after defeating the Morehead City Marlins 13-3 in game three of a best-of-three-game series. The Bananas finished with a 40-10 overall record en route to the CPL title.

“This was an unforgettable summer with a special group of players who were tough, gritty and resilient. They played through all the adversity and they played for each other,” said Gillum. “In our first team meeting, we talked about our vision of what we wanted to accomplish, we talked about dogpiling and these men found a way to get it done.”

The Bananas jumped out to an 11-0 record to start the campaign, an early indication for Gillum about the group’s potential. The team featured a nice balance of hitting, pitching and defense, and they rolled to the first-half league title. With a spot in the championship series solidified in early July, Gillum and his coaching staff created challenges to keep the players engaged.

“In one three-game series, we told the guys that if they accomplished one of three goals (scoring 25 runs, throw two shutouts or post a run-rule victory), we would reward them. They went out and accomplished all three goals, and they got personalized Banana tanktops, gloves, headbands and other gear,” Gillum said. “They would go above and beyond for any challenge we presented them, whether it was on social media, dancing with the fans during our in-game promotions.”

The team had great chemistry, and the squad featured multiple players who returned to Savannah to spend their summer in a Banana uniform. Bill Leroy, a catcher from the University of North Georgia, and Kyle Luigs, a pitcher from Jacksonville State University, spent their fourth summer with the squad. Additionally, Dan Oberst, a first baseman from the University of West Georgia, and Ryan Kennedy, a pitcher from Kennesaw State University, participated in their third summer. Several players also returned for their second year: Bill Knight, an outfielder from Mercer University, Drew Yniesta, an outfielder from Erskine University, Nick Clarno, a 3rd baseman from Lenoir-Rhyne University, Nolan Daniel, a RHP from Purdue, and Jesse Sherrill, a shortstop from Georgia Southern University.

“The coaches built the team on older, experienced players who were tough, gritty and selfless. One of our pitchers, Joe Miller from the University of Pennsylvania, started as a temp player for us, posted a 1.50 ERA in 42 innings of work and finished 6-0 with a save,” Gillum added. “Ty Jackson, an outfielder from East Georgia State University, brought the energy all season and made Tik Tok videos with over a million views. He was an energy giver all summer and helped us create havoc on the basepaths.”

That camaraderie showed itself on the field. In 44 games, the Bananas batted .291 with 322 runs, 65 doubles, 28 home runs, 280 RBIs and a .806 OPS. The pitching staff compiled a 2.54 ERA in 378.2 innings and recorded 512 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .217 batting average.

“More than anything, I hope our players learned how important team chemistry, sacrifice and having fun is in baseball,” Gillum said. “I had several players tell me that this summer was the most fun they had playing baseball or that playing in Bananaland made them love the game again. We had two players, Luigs and Oberst, who were offered professional contracts by independent baseball teams and passed on those opportunities to finish what we started and get that dogpile at the end of the summer.”

Having fun is a priority for the Bananas, who engage in many promotions and social media events that are anything but traditional. Gillum rode a horse onto the field before one game, starred in a re-enactment of the “no crying in baseball” scene from the film “A League of Their Own,” and watched his players come to the plate with a full band on the field to perform their walk-up music. One unique non-baseball highlight came from one of the team’s most colorful characters and provided a mouthful of memories for his teammates.

“Clarno, who co-starred with me in the ‘no crying in baseball promotion, ate a live cockroach in the clubhouse before a game to fire up the team,” Gillum said. “The rumor got spread around town, and a few weeks later, a local pest control company called him to do a television commercial. That was a memorable one.”

But when it came time for baseball, Gillum and the Bananas were all business. They faced the Morehead City City Marlins in the CPL Championship series and won the first game of the best-of-three series 5-4 in Morehead City. Coming back to Savannah for games two and three, the Marlins evened the series with a 5-3 win in game two before the Bananas clinched the title with a 13-3 victory in the decisive game three.

The championship game provided a lifetime of memories for Gillum, but one moment, in particular, stood out to the head coach.

“When Yniesta hit a three-run home run in the second inning of the championship game, it was one of my favorite baseball memories ever,” Gillum admitted. “Drew had played well for us in 2020, but he couldn’t quite get it going this summer. Still, Drew worked hard and was a great teammate. He never missed a gym workout and was a true Banana. When the playoffs started, we mixed-and-matched our line-ups, and when the Marlins told us they were starting a left-handed pitcher in the championship game, I just knew we needed to start him. He waited for his opportunity and never complained. Before the game, I told the Bananas’ owner that we were starting Drew, and he predicted a home run. We had runners on 1st and 2nd, and in his first swing of the playoffs he hit a home run down the left-field line. I was so proud of him, he earned that moment. I had tears in my eyes in the third-bas box.”

Another layer of memories that added to Gillum’s summer was that his wife, Danielle, and son, Camden, were there to experience it.

“It was special having them with me. Camden crawled for the first time while we were in Savannah, and I have loved watching him become mobile, ” Gillum. “We stayed with a host family within walking distance of the Grayson Stadium, and that allowed them to come to the games and leave when they needed. Most importantly, my wife is a rockstar who does all the work and is the main head coach of the family. She deserves the world after all the traveling and taking care of Camden and our two dogs.”

Gillum recently completed his 11th season as an assistant coach at SMCC in 2021. The Cougars finished 32-16 overall and 25-13 in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference to finish fourth in the Division I standings. SMCC had 11 four-year transfers after the season, including eight headed to an NCAA Division I institution and two former Cougars selected in the 2021 Major League Baseball draft.

“I am excited to get back to SMCC to share some stories about this team’s toughness and sacrifice for each other,” Gillum said. “Guys played with fractured hands and hurt knees and played throughout the summer with toughness and tenacity. We want to create a vision of excellence for our new team at SMCC and toughness is a key characteristic for winning a championship next spring.”

Photos courtesy of The Savannah Bananas 

Thirty-Seven Cougars Named to 2021 NJCAA All-Academic Teams

PHOENIX —

Thirty-seven South Mountain Community College student-athletes received 2021 NJCAA All-Academic Team honors for their performance in the classroom during the 2020-21 academic year. Additionally, four SMCC programs received 2021 NJCAA Academic Team of the Year awards for their team GPA and the four programs tied for the lead or outright led all schools in the NJCAA Region I.

To earn an individual spot on the 2021 NJCAA All-Academic Team, a student-athlete must post a minimum GPA of 3.6, and First Team honors are for those student-athletes who posted a perfect 4.0 GPA. Second Team recipients have a GPA between 3.8 and 3.99, and Third Team honorees finish with a GPA between 3.6 and 3.79.

The SMCC beach volleyball team posted a school-best 3.61 team GPA to finish second in the nation and first in the Region. The Cougar baseball (3.46) and softball (3.55) programs also led Region I and finished among the top in the nation. Finally, the men’s golf team tied for the Region lead with a team GPA of 3.30 with Glendale CC.

Baseball (17)

Trent Adams               First Team

Noah Bachman           First Team

McKay Barney            First Team

Braden Campbell        First Team

Derek Decolati            First Team

Trey Goodrich             First Team

Brodie Marino             First Team

Ryan Figueroa            Second Team

Esteban Hernandez     Second Team

Michael Quinones       Second Team

Alec Stanfield             Second Team

Drew Woody              Second Team

Holden Breeze            Third Team

T.J. Czyz                    Third Team

Charlie Deeds             Third Team

Andrew Lucas             Third Team

Brice Martinez            Third Team

Softball (9)

Jaudrey Ah Quin          First Team

Tatumn Ellis                First Team

Marissa Grijalva          First Team

Tara Lorona                First Team

Tori Van Arsdale          First Team

Christian Smith           Second Team

Alexa Key                   Third Team

Mia Stankiewicz          Third Team

Natalie Torres             Third Team

Beach Volleyball (7)

Marlayna Stapleton    First Team

Madison Wampler      First Team

Mikaila Williams         First Team

Mckenna Androsky     Second Team

Gracie Henderson       Second Team

Lizzie Hall                  Third Team

Alyssa McDowell         Third Team

Men’s Golf (4)

Damon Vilkauskas      First Team

Carson Haley              Second Team

Ryan Vickers              Third Team

RJ Wright                   Third Team

Pair of Former Cougars Selected in 2021 MLB Draft

PHOENIX —

The South Mountain Community College baseball team had a pair of former Cougars selected in the 2021 Major League Baseball Draft, which was held July 11-13. The Minnesota Twins selected Cade Povich, a left-handed pitcher who played for SMCC in 2019, in the third round with the 98th overall pick, and the Los Angeles Dodgers selected Ronan Kopp, a left-handed pitcher who played for SMCC in 2021, in the 12th round with the 372nd pick. 

In his one season with the Cougars, Povich finished 10-1 with a 1.58 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 79.2 innings of work. He then transferred to the University of Nebraska, where he finished with a 6-1 record and a 3.11 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 15 starts and 81 innings of work in the 2021 campaign. He earned First Team All-Big Ten honors after the season and helped lead the Cornhuskers at the Fayetteville regional in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Povich also made four starts in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season for Nebraska. 

Kopp, a 6-7 freshman from Scottsdale, made six starts and appeared in 10 games in 2021, posting a save, 38 strikeouts and a 2.84 ERA in 25.1 innings of work. He tossed the final three innings of a 4-2 win over Mesa CC and posted 4 K’s to earn the save. He fanned eight batters in four innings of work in a road win at Glendale CC and had two games with seven strikeouts. As a prep at Scottsdale Christian Academy, Kopp was named the Arizona Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year and earned 2019 first team all-region and 2A Player of the Year honors. 

In 2021, SMCC finished 32-16 overall and 25-13 in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference to finish fourth in the Division I standings.

SMCC opened the season with 27-straight games on the road, finishing 19-8 overall and 13-7 in conference games during the stretch. Once at home, the Cougars defended their field successfully and went 12-4 against conference foes. SMCC posted a season-best six-game winning streak in February and early March and also had a pair of five-game winning streaks. The Cougars finished 11-4 in one-run games, including a doubleheader sweep of Pima CC (3-2, 10-9) in the home finale on May 1. They were also 5-0 in games decided by two runs.

Did you know? Eastern League edition

When it comes to size, scope and longevity, few, if any, sporting bodies can rival Minor League Baseball. With 160 teams in nearly as many markets, there are innumerable nooks and crannies to explore. This marks the third installment in a series dedicated to such explorations, providing one unique, weird,

When it comes to size, scope and longevity, few, if any, sporting bodies can rival Minor League Baseball. With 160 teams in nearly as many markets, there are innumerable nooks and crannies to explore. This marks the third installment in a series dedicated to such explorations, providing one unique, weird, poignant or otherwise memorable fact about each team or city in each of Minor League Baseball’s 14 admission-charging leagues. Remember — it’s about the journey, not the destination. To share your own favorite team or city facts, please reach out via email ([email protected]) or Twitter (@bensbiz). Previous installments: International League, Pacific Coast League.

Baseball’s first Eastern League appeared in 1884, but that 19th-century circuit has no connection to the Eastern League of today. Today’s Eastern League began life in 1923 as the New York-Pennsylvania League, which should not — of course — be confused with today’s New York-Penn League. Today’s Eastern League, a Double-A circuit, features 12 teams. The dozen squads play in two divisions, the Eastern League Eastern and the paradoxically named Eastern League Western.  
Minor League Baseball can be confusing. That’s all the more reason to love it. So let’s get to some Eastern League facts, lest the facts get to us. 

Akron RubberDucks
Before the RubberDucks became the RubberDucks, they were the Akron Aeros. The Akron Aeros, who went by that moniker from 1997 through 2013, were the only Double-A Eastern League team to sport “double-A” initials. The only other “double-A Double-A” team this writer can identify is the Alexandria Aces, who played in the Texas League from 1972-’75. At any rate, Akron experienced a lot of success during the Aeros era, winning four championships (2003, ’05, ’09, ’12) over a 10-season span. 
Altoona Curve
Peoples Natural Gas Field, the memorably named home of the Curve, features a memorable backdrop. The Skyliner roller coaster, located at adjacent Lakemont Park, looms just beyond right field. The Skyliner debuted at New York’s Roseland Park in 1960 and was relocated to Lakemont Park in 1985. It’s a veritable spring chicken when compared to Lakemont Park’s Leap-the-Dips coaster, which debuted in 1902 and is considered to be the oldest roller coaster in the country. 

Binghamton Rumble Ponies
Rod Serling grew up in Binghamton, and a memorial plaque in the city’s downtown honors him as an “award-winning dramatist, playwright and lecturer” as well as, of course, “creator of The Twilight Zone.” Over the years, Binghamton’s baseball team has paid tribute to Serling with a variety of promotions. In 2017, the Rumble Ponies took the field in The Twilight Zone theme jerseys, paying homage to a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity.

Bowie Baysox
The longtime Baysox home of Prince George’s Stadium was not ready in time for their inaugural 1993 campaign. The team instead played the entire season at the Baltimore Orioles’ former home of Memorial Stadium. Prince George’s Stadium still was not ready in time for the start of the 1994 season, so the Baysox played home games at the U.S. Naval Academy, the University of Maryland and the Frederick Keys’ home of Harry Grove Stadium. Prince George’s Stadium finally opened on June 16, 1994, giving the Baysox their fifth and final home to date. Its dimensions are the same as those at Memorial Stadium. 
Erie SeaWolves
In 2016, the Erie SeaWolves went 62-79 and finished in fourth place in the Western Division. Or did they? The following season, on Alternative Facts Night, the SeaWolves gave away 2016 championship replica rings in celebration of their undefeated campaign. They reported that over 1.2 million fans were in attendance on this special evening, during which the SeaWolves unapologetically celebrated “facts that the team knows to be true.”  

Harrisburg Senators
Many Minor League teams maintain a franchise-specific Hall of Fame. But only one team maintains a Life-Size Bobblehead Hall of Fame. That team — of course is the Senators. Vlad Guerrero was the first player inducted in 2016. Since then, Cliff Floyd, Bryce Harper, Matt Stairs, Brandon Phillips, Stephen Strasburg and Jamey Carroll have been similarly honored. 

Hartford Yard Goats
The 2016 arrival of the Yard Goats marked the return of Eastern League baseball to Hartford after a 54-year absence. The city was a charter member of the Eastern League, fielding a team from 1938 through 1952 in the form of the Bees, Laurels and Chiefs. 1938 wasn’t the first year that Hartford became a circuit’s charter member, however. The Hartford Dark Blues of 1876 were one of the original eight teams in the National League. The Dark Blues went 47-21, finishing second in the league behind the Chicago White Stockings. 
New Hampshire Fisher Cats
These days, Minor League teams court controversy when they rebrand. But the early years of the 21st century were a different, far more skittish time. On Nov. 6, 2003, it was announced that Manchester’s new Eastern League team (formerly the New Haven Ravens) would be renamed the New Hampshire Primaries. This, of course, was a reference to New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary election voting status. After an uproar, the team reneged on the Primaries moniker and held a “Name the Team” contest. In a popular vote, the Fisher Cats triumphed over the Manchester Millers, the Granite State Mountain Men, the New Hampshire Granite, and coming in last, the New Hampshire Primaries.  

Portland Sea Dogs
Portland’s Eastern League team debuted in 1994, and in that time, it’s always had the same name and logo. The logo was courtesy of cartoonist Gary Gilchrist, perhaps best known for his 22-year-run as the author-illustrator of the comic strip Nancy. Prior to that inaugural 1994 Sea Dogs season, Gilchrist was approached by team president Charlie Eshbach and a collaboration began. “Gilchrist did a real nice drawing of a puffin,” Eshbach told _News Center Maine _in 2017. “The Portland Puffins. The more we thought about it. …It didn’t have that pizzazz.” That puffin morphed into the Sea Dog still in use today. Gilchrist went on to create logos for two defunct Eastern League teams, the Norwich Navigators and the New Britain Rock Cats.

Reading Fightin Phils
Ryan Howard hit 37 home runs for the Reading Phillies in 2004, establishing what was then a Reading franchise record. Two years later, Howard blasted 58 long balls as a member of the parent Philadelphia Phillies. Howard’s total in 2006 wasn’t the most Major League homers hit in a season by a Reading alumnus, however. That honor belongs to Roger Maris, who played for the 1955 Reading Indians. Six years later, Maris achieved baseball immortality by belting 61 home runs as a member of the New York Yankees.
*Richmond Flying Squirrels *
The Richmond Flying Squirrels are the only Eastern League team — and perhaps the only team, period — to have thrown a retirement party for a pig. The esteemed swine in question was Parker, who spent five seasons (2011-’15) as the Flying Squirrels’ “Rally Pig.” During this time, the team posted a home record of 206-148. Parker retired in 2016, and three years later, wishing to say a proper goodbye, the Flying Squirrels brought Parker back to the ballpark for a retirement party. Fans signed his retirement card and surely reminisced about his most memorable moment.

Trenton Thunder
Trenton’s Arm & Hammer Park is located on the banks of the Delaware River, which separates New Jersey from Pennsylvania. Therefore, it just may be possible to hit a home run into the next state. The first player to hit a “river shot” for the Thunder was Tony Clark, who did so during the Thunder’s inaugural season of 1994. According to NJ.com’s Paul Franklin, Clark’s shot “went over a sidewalk and then the river bank before plopping into the water and presumably freaking out a school of unsuspecting shad.” 

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben’s Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.

Toolshed: 2016 Draft retrospective

The 2020 First-Year Player Draft is coming, and without regular-season baseball being played yet due to the coronavirus pandemic, it could be the first big Major League Baseball event of the summer. The 2020 edition is likely to be held on June 10 and be as little as five rounds,

The 2020 First-Year Player Draft is coming, and without regular-season baseball being played yet due to the coronavirus pandemic, it could be the first big Major League Baseball event of the summer. The 2020 edition is likely to be held on June 10 and be as little as five rounds, but it still will mark the beginning of the professional careers for several of the game’s future top prospects. To get fans prepared for the big day on the baseball calendar, Toolshed will spend the coming weeks looking at Drafts of the recent past. The 2015 retrospective can be found here. This edition covers the 2016 Draft.

Biggest storyline at the time — All over the board: Before it even began, the 2016 Draft was known for its unpredictability. There was far from a consensus top talent, and no one was seen as a guaranteed superstar in the mode of a Bryce Harper earlier in the decade. MLB.com had New Jersey left-hander Jay Groome at the top of its Draft rankings. Baseball America preferred University of Florida southpaw A.J. Puk. Over at ESPN.com, Keith Law favored University of Louisville outfielder Corey Ray. Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis, California outfielder Mickey Moniak and Kansas right-hander Riley Pint consistently appeared in top fives as well. The Phillies went with Moniak first overall, in part to use some of the nearly $3 million his signing bonus would save them on later picks, and the Reds went for safety at No. 2 with Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel, who had arguably the highest floor of any player in the Draft. The Braves’ decision to take New York right-hander Ian Anderson at No. 3 for potential signing-space reasons as well and the Rockies’ move for Pint at No. 4 meant someone’s top overall talent wasn’t taken until the Brewers nabbed Ray at No. 5. Puk went to the A’s at No. 6, and Groome dropped to the Red Sox at No. 12 due to signing and makeup concerns. It made for a first round full of different strategies — some aiming for smaller signs in hopes of nabbing bigger classes, some taking the best player available and some aiming for what seemed like pure safety — and that only added to the intrigue in the days before and weeks, months and years after this class was selected.
Biggest storyline since — Better luck later: Some of the top picks have panned out just fine. Senzel already has arrived in Cincinnati, which is never a sure thing no matter what is said on Draft Day. Anderson and Puk remain top-60 overall prospects, and fellow top-15 picks Matt Manning and Alex Kirilloff look like they’re on the verge of long careers in the AL Central with the Tigers and Twins respectively. But with the advantage of hindsight, some of the later picks have aged much more gracefully than their earlier counterparts. Gavin Lux dropped to No. 20, partly because he hailed from a cold-weather state in Wisconsin, and the Dodgers infielder is now the No. 2 overall prospect in baseball. Ten of MLB.com’s current batch of Top-100 prospects came outside the top 20 picks, including five (Sean Murphy, Jesus Luzardo, Dustin May, Jordan Balazovic, Sam Huff) who went in the third round or later. That list doesn’t include Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette (taken 66th overall), but only because he graduated from prospectdom during an impressive rookie season north of the border. For all the hubbub around the likes of Groome, Ray and Pint in the early picks, some of the best talents came much later on Day 1 or even lasted until Day 2.
One other note on this Draft’s lasting impact: It might be the last Draft in which the qualifying offer caused a major impact. Eleven players turned down qualifying offers and signed with new clubs as free agents, and as a result, the first round proper of the 2016 Draft featured only 23 picks, the fewest since 1968. There were 11 picks tacked on in the compensation round — the Nationals, Padres and Cardinals each got two picks after losing multiple free agents. But the damage was done — the D-backs, Orioles, Nationals, Giants, Rangers, Royals and Cubs went without the proper first-round picks originally allotted to them. It didn’t take long for things to change. The number of compensation picks changed from 11 in 2016 to three in 2017 to five in 2018 to only two last year. Tying free-agent signings to Draft picks, thus limiting the former in favor of the latter, could change in the future, but that’s unlikely until the current collective bargaining agreement is up after the 2021 season.
How the first overall pick aged — Mickey Moniak, outfielder, Phillies: Moniak jumped into the top overall slot discussion because he had shown the potential to be an above-average hitter from the left side who could earn plus grades for his run and fielding tools in center field. Up-the-middle prospects always have value, and the Phillies, who were coming off a 63-win season, hoped they could build a system around the teenager along with second-rounder/right-hander Kevin Gowdy and third-rounder shortstop Cole Stobbe — all of whom were signed for well above slot thanks to the savings from the Moniak pick. It hasn’t exactly gone according to that plan. Moniak’s bat has never hit its stride in the Minors with a career average of .252 and OPS of .692 over four seasons. Power especially has been an issue with the Golden State native failing to get the ball off the ground much, at least early in his career. There were promising signs on that front in 2019 with a career-high 11 homers, 52 total extra-base hits and a .439 slugging percentage for Double-A Reading, and even his splits weren’t as out of whack as many sluggers who have called that park home in the past. But Moniak, who turned 22 on May 13, hasn’t been a huge menace on the basepaths either to make up for his previous lack of pop, and he now sits at just No. 11 in the Phillies system. He was likely to spend 2020 at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, just one quick call from Philly, and under potential new rules, he could be a candidate to crack an expanded Major League roster since his Rule 5 Draft eligibility is coming up next winter. But his role looks much closer to a fourth outfielder now than a potential franchise-building star.
Biggest dropoff — Riley Pint, first round, fourth overallThere were plenty of good reasons for the Rockies to take Pint when they did. He was MLB.com’s No. 2 Draft prospect. His fastball received plus-plus grades and reportedly touched as high as 102 mph. His curveball and changeup were considered plus weapons. Colorado typically finds it tough to sign Major League free-agent pitchers, so it can use all the internal help it gets on the mound. But the riskiest picks are usually high-school pitchers, particularly ones who throw hard and have some histories of control issues. Four years later, Pint still hasn’t reached above Class A Asheville in the Rox system. Part of that is due to an injury history that has included forearm stiffness, oblique issues and shoulder tendinitis. The other part is just general ineffectiveness. Pint has walked 124 over 156 innings during his pro career and 42 over 26 frames in the past two seasons alone. Last year, he even moved to the Asheville bullpen, but the control issues didn’t subside. The stuff is still relatively there. He still can touch triple-digits. The curveball can be plus-plus at times. But Pint — now the Rockies’ No. 29 prospect — isn’t close to the future ace Colorado hoped it was getting four years ago, and it must sting to see later top-10 picks Puk and Manning flourish on their way to the Majors.
Biggest early-round steal — Shane Bieber, fourth round, 122nd overall: Bieber is the ultimate late bloomer. He was a solid three-year starter at UC Santa Barbara, but his stuff was generally seen as average across the board going into the 2016 Draft. His fastball typically sat around 90-91 mph, and his slider and changeup gave him a starter’s mix albeit not an exciting one. His best asset was his control as he’d walked only 16 over 134 2/3 innings in his junior season. Ranked as the No. 151 Draft prospect, Bieber was scooped up by Cleveland a little earlier than expected and signed for $420,000, just below the $482,500 assigned to his slot. As predicted by his scouting profile and college pedigree, the 6-foot-3 right-hander moved quickly through the ranks toward northeast Ohio and made his Major League debut on May 31, 2018, just under two years since his Draft date. His control continued to be stellar, featuring only 10 free passes over 173 1/3 innings in his first full season in 2017, but Bieber cracked MLB.com’s Top-100 list for the first time only three days before his big league debut, fueled by an uptick in velocity. The Tribe right-hander now averages 93.4 mph on his heater, and the improved stuff has made him one of the game’s top starting pitchers. Bieber was an American League All-Star for the first time in 2019 and finished with a 3.28 ERA, 259 strikeouts and 40 walks over 214 1/3 innings last season. His 5.6 fWAR was fifth-best among AL starters, and he finished fourth in the circuit’s Cy Young voting. He’s officially the Cleveland club’s ace, a far cry from the back-end starter many projected in 2016. In fact, his career 5.5 bWAR is the highest among any 2016 pick to this point.
This category wouldn’t be complete if Mets first baseman Pete Alonso didn’t receive some sort of shoutout. The University of Florida slugger stood out for his power coming out of college, but fell to the second round (64th overall) because he was a right-handed-hitting first baseman who would be stuck at the position. He needed to hit a ton to be valuable. You likely know the rest. Alonso set a Major League rookie record with 53 homers last season for New York and should be a Big Apple mainstay for years to come. His higher Draft status and lower value at the cold corner keep him from jumping over Bieber in this category, but there’s every reason to believe Alonso could be the standout hitter from the Class of 2016 decades from now.
Best pick, rounds 6-40 — Tommy Edman, sixth round, 196th overall: The Cardinals had a Draft that was all over the place in 2016. They swung and missed with Delvin Perez with their first pick then snagged Dylan Carlson, Dakota Hudson, Zac Gallen, Edman and Andrew Knizner with five of their next eight selections. As of now, Edman looks like the biggest steal. St. Louis actually reached pretty significantly to take the Stanford infielder where it did. MLB.com didn’t have Edman ranked among its top 200 Draft prospects, and Baseball America placed the switch-hitter all the way back at 475. With only six homers in three years on campus, Edman had little power to speak and got his highest marks for his ability to make lots of contact and play a solid shortstop. As one may expect, the power has grown over the past four years, and Edman has turned into a solid overall hitter. He produced a .304/.350/.500 line with 11 homers over 92 Major League games last season, and he only helped his big league cause by playing third, second and all three outfield spots. Edman was worth 3.2 fWAR in a little over half a season — fourth-most among rookie position players in 2019 — ensuring St. Louis keeps his bat and glove in the lineup somehow. The 25-year-old isn’t exactly at star level, but he has set himself up to provide the Cards with more value than anyone typically expects from a sixth-rounder.
Best picks by organization — Dodgers: Wonder how Los Angeles can keep building contenders and keep one of the game’s most impressive farm systems? Look no further than this Draft. The Dodgers took Lux 20th overall, then watched him blossom into one of the game’s best young infielders. They used the 32nd overall pick — acquired for the free-agent loss of Zack Greinke — on Louisville catcher Will Smith, and four years later, Smith has become the club’s starting catcher, jumping over fellow top prospect Keibert Ruiz to reach that station. Los Angeles grabbed No. 23 overall prospect Dustin May in the third round (101st overall), and he should crack the Los Angeles rotation in short order after debuting in 2019. Add in Tony Gonsolin and Devin Smeltzer, and five members of the Dodgers’ 2016 class have already cracked the Majors. DJ Peters, Mitchell White, Cody Thomas and Jordan Sheffield aren’t very far off themselves, and others like Luke Raley and Dean Kremer are closing in after being used as trade chips in the four years since they joined the L.A. system. It’s already a group that’s helped build contending clubs in Chavez Ravine one way or another, and with Lux and May in particular, the group should have a long-lasting impact for years to come.

What to watch next from Class of 2016: We’re going to know a lot more about this group shortly after baseball resumes play. Those like Bieber, Alonso and Bichette will hope to solidify their places among the Majors’ elite. Lux, Luzardo, Puk, Murphy, May and Carter Kieboom have already reached the Majors and should be on the verge of prospect graduation. Others like Anderson, Carlson, Manning, Kirilloff, Forrest Whitley, Taylor Trammell, Brandon Marsh and Nolan Jones are closing in on The Show and looked on the verge of a 2020 debut. They could be helped by expanded rosters and taxi squads. Finally, players like Groome and Pint could be facing make-or-break moments in their careers if they can’t show health or production while Lewis, Ray, Senzel, Zack Collins and Cal Quantrill have to demonstrate they’re capable of grabbing significant Major League spots for good. Check in with this whole group in another 12 months.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.

Emeralds create ‘Eugene United’ to help community

It began with one person. One person became two. Two became more and more until suddenly, an entire community was united by one desire: to make a difference.With the Minor League Baseball season on pause as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, teams across the country have been hard at

It began with one person. One person became two. Two became more and more until suddenly, an entire community was united by one desire: to make a difference.
With the Minor League Baseball season on pause as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, teams across the country have been hard at work finding ways to help their communities. The Northwest League’s Eugene Emeralds are one such team, and what started as a small sewing project became a larger initiative to make an impact in the lives of the many Eugene residents who have been coming to Emeralds games for decades. For their efforts with “Eugene United,” the Emeralds have been named the winners of Minor League Baseball’s April Promotion of the Month.

“We ask the community to support us during our season, so if there’s any way we can support the community we’re on it,” Eugene’s Director of Community Relations Anne Culhane said. “Our big thing is finding out the needs in the community and being there for the people that are there for us every summer, day in and day out.”
The Emeralds have always been involved in the Eugene community, but saw an opportunity to step up when they learned that Megan Dompe, the wife of Emeralds Assistant General Manager Matt Dompe, was sewing masks for those in need of them. Culhane got involved and started delivering the masks Dompe made, but it wasn’t long before the rest of the Emeralds front office was brainstorming ways to contribute to the newly formed Mask Project of Lane County. After the Emeralds posted about the project on their Facebook page, fans in the area instantly offered to assist with the process.
“Everyone just wants to be able to help somehow, so we just wanted to give fans a way to feel like they’re helping and be able to do something good,” Culhane said.
Dompe assembles kits of supplies to create between 10-50 masks, which are then distributed by the Emeralds to volunteers all over the community. Once the masks are made, the Emeralds pick them up and return them to Dompe, who assesses the needs of local organizations and distributes them accordingly.
By the end of April, the team had over 100 volunteers, had sent out over 4,000 mask kits and had delivered over 2,100 completed masks to local hospitals. In addition, the team had donated masks to over 20 local groups, including health care providers, assisted living facilities, women’s care centers, police and fire departments, health centers and school personnel.
“From the start, we collectively said we need to be out there as much as possible,” said General Manager Allan Benavides. “We weren’t just going to wait things out. We knew we had some responsibility to make sure the Ems were out trying to help the community as much as we can. We’re still here.”
As the project grew and the team’s community sponsors and partners showed interest in getting involved, the Emeralds saw an opportunity to expand their scope. They partnered with Kendall Auto of Eugene and the local Heritage Distillery on a PPE Drive, collecting N95 masks, gloves and cleaning supplies for local hospitals. The three organizations also partnered on ‘Stuff the Truck’ drives to collect food and diapers for families in need. The second ‘Stuff the Truck’ drive was a huge success, with two full-size box trucks stuffed with supplies, in addition to thousands of dollars in cash and gift cards, donated. The team also received an anonymous $10,000 donation.

“That’s the coolest part is seeing how it’s trickled down through the community,” said Director of Social Media & Team Store Manager Shelby Holteen. “We’re seeing how people we don’t necessarily work with a lot or see all the time come together and do their part. Some of these drives we walk away with a ton of supplies and others are smaller, but no matter what we’re walking away with something.”
The Emeralds have held food drives for Food for Lane County, a local food bank where the staff spends a few hours volunteering every Thursday. The Emeralds held a ‘Cards from the Heart’ drive, collecting thank you cards for first responders, doctors and others on the front lines of the pandemic. The team worked with Kendall Auto and the University of Oregon, with whom the Emeralds share facilities, to hold blood drives for the American Red Cross, the first of which resulted in enough blood collected and donated to save over 250 lives.
“Our community has always stepped up when we get involved, whether it’s something at the ballpark or something we support, so I had no doubt in my mind that our fans would step up,” Culhane said. “Just being at some of these events and hearing people thank us for being that intermediate is something that makes you realize how important it is in times like this for everyone to stand together and help.”
The work continues, as the Emeralds remain committed to giving back to the Eugene community that has supported them over the years. Recent diaper drives, blood drives and even a superhero-themed birthday parade demonstrate the team’s continued commitment to its fans. There may not be baseball right now, but there’s plenty of hope in Eugene.