It’s Not About the Name on the Front…

This past week has been my favorite week of the year for the last few seasons.

My two favorite visiting teams, the Southern Illinois Miners and the Florence Freedom, play back-to-back series against MY “hometown” team the Washington WildThings.

These three teams mean everything to me, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is that it’s not about the name on the front of the jersey, but the name on the back and the guys that carry that name with them.

Indy ball is full of stories. Every player has one.  That’s why I created this website in the first place… to tell their stories to the world.

Not everyone sees the personal side of independent baseball, but I do.

Here are just a few of the guys that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this past week here in Washington, Pennsylvania.

The Southern Illinois Miners

Robby Rowland –  I’ve known Robby for over 8 years through social media. He pitched in the Diamondbacks, Pirates, and Cardinals organizations (reaching as high as AA) before landing in indy ball – first with the Lincoln Saltdogs and finally with the Miners. Even though I’ve known him for 8 years, this past week was the first time our schedules have ever lined up allowing me to meet him. He’s quirky, unique, and a super awesome guy. He has his own podcast and blog, the Robby Row Show, and has begun an online coaching program for younger players who want to improve their pitching. He’s a keto athlete who is always posting tips, tricks, advice and motivation for anyone who might just need a little extra push.

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Robby Rowland and his fantastic chart day outfit

Kyle Tinius – Kyle has been with the Miners since he finished college at West Texas A & M in 2016. I’ve watched him grow from the rookie who was always getting picked on in the bullpen who was forced to carry the princess backpack to being the veteran who steps up, takes the rookies under his wing and leads the bullpen fantasy league.  During this past off season, he was also named as Southwestern College’s pitching coach in their inaugural season. The team, based out of Winfield, Kansas, finished 20-26 on the season.

John Werner – John was drafted by the Texas Rangers out of college in 2015. He spent two seasons in the Rangers organization pitching at nearly every level from Rookie ball all the way up to AAA.  After being released following the 2016 season, John signed with the Miners in 2017 and is back for his second season.  He comes in as the team’s all-time saves leader.

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Southern Illinois Miners Bullpen (plus Robby after his start)

Chris Scura – After 18 games in the Atlantic League with the Long Island Ducks after college, Chris became a standout hitter in baseball’s “wild west” the Pecos League. This off season, he went to the California Winter League with one thing in mind, get out of the Pecos forever (signing with the CWL forced that decision) and get signed to a Frontier League team. Player acquisition coordinator, Casey Dill, and manager, Mike Pinto, saw something in Chris and signed him going into the season. He was released during spring training, but was re-signed a few days later after an injury to one of the Miners’ starters.

The Florence Freedom

Austin Wobrock – Austin may be on the Florence Freedom now, but he started his professional baseball career with the WildThings in 2014. An all-star shortstop in 2015, Austin was a dependable member of the squad for three seasons until he was traded to Florence.  Austin was a fan favorite when he was a WildThing… so much so that when two young fans were asked to throw out the first pitch last week, they asked if Austin could catch their pitches even though he was on the visiting team.

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Austin with “Mini Wobrock” his bear from the 2014 WildThings team

Marty Anderson – From the Pecos, to the Frontier, to the Mets organization and back, Marty has had quite a journey over the last couple of years. Marty played with the Garden City Wind in the Pecos League in 2016 before signing and playing one game for Florence later in the year. He returned to Florence in 2017 where he was signed by the Mets in July and finished out the year in their organization.  After being released, he returned to Florence for the 2018 season. And while all of this was taking place last year, Marty was preparing to be a new dad; his son was born during this past off season!

Jameson McGrane – If you’ve read about the disasters of the Empire League in 2016 and the Thoroughbred League in 2017, you’ll understand why Jameson is so thankful to be on the Freedom this year. Two experiences with less than honest indy leagues in some terrible and rough conditions could turn anyone away from indy ball forever, but not Jameson.  He went to the 2018 Frontier League draft and was selected as Florence’s third pick. He is currently working out of the Freedom’s bullpen.

Johnathon Tripp – Johnathon was a Texas Tech Red Raider from 2013-2015 where the Raiders went all the way to the College World Series in 2014.  After completing his senior season at the University of New Mexico, he went on to play for the California City Whiptails of the Pecos League. After being highly recommended, Johnathon signed with the Florence Freedom for the 2018 season where he has held on to a back end of the bullpen spot since spring training.

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Florence Freedom Bullpen

The Washington WildThings

Austin Crutcher – Last year, “Crutch” was a rookie in the White Sox organization. After being released, some young players could become bitter; however, Austin has been the exact opposite. His social media and cheerful attitude at the park has been a breath of fresh air in the cut-throat world of indy ball. Every day, I can log onto Twitter and see encouraging and motivating tweets from @acrutch5. I’ve enjoyed his posts so much that I’ve reached out to Crutch to guest blog soon!

Chase Cunningham – After college, Chase had a short stint with the Lincoln Saltdogs in 2015. During that off season, he was traded to the WildThings and has been a mainstay in the rotation ever since. His nickname in college was “The Franchise”, and he is quickly becoming a franchise player here in Washington. The 2017 Frontier League All-Star is a work horse on the mound, a huge team first player, and one of the nicest guys I’ve met here.  His parents are also in town often, and I love getting to talk baseball with them both.  Also, his girlfriend, Ali, recently took their story to Instagram as part of the “WagsInRealLife” IG stories. Indy ball isn’t easy for the guys, but it definitely isn’t easy for the families behind them either. It’s been a pleasure getting to know everyone in Chase’s world outside of the diamond these last few years.

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Chase Cunningham

Frank Trimarco – Another Pecos League alumni (or survivor… however you want to look at it), Frank played last season with the Tucson Saguaros. There, he caught the eye of the WildThings and was added late in the season last year as they made a final push into the playoffs. From a reliable arm in the bullpen, to a starter when needed, Frank “The Tank” Trimarco has become an integral member of the WildThings pitching staff.

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Frank Trimarco and fellow Saguaro turned WildThing Jake Eaton

Reydel Medina – A native of Cuba, Reydel played on the Cuban Junior National team from 2003-2009 before ultimately defecting in 2011.  He established residency in Haiti and continued to train and play baseball, joining the Dominican Prospect League where he became in All-Star in 2012.  Reydel caught the eye of the Reds and became a top international signing for the organization when he made his professional debut in 2014. Before signing with the WildThings after his release from the Reds organization this year, he spent four seasons in affiliated ball, reaching as high as AA last year.

 

Indy ball is full of stories… those guys on the field play for much more than just the name on the front of their jersey.  I just hope that I can keep bringing that side of the game to readers for many more seasons to come!

 

 

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