Tag Archives: Chase Cunningham

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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15th Anniversary brings 800th win, playoffs for WildThings

The 2017 Frontier League season marks the 15th anniversary for the Washington Wild Things.

On Friday, the team won their 800th game in franchise history.

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On Saturday, the team clinched a playoff spot.

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All season long, I have struggled with what direction to actually take this anniversary post.

At first, this was intended to be a “Where Are They Now” post highlighting the players and coaches that have been through Washington, Pennsylvania in the last fifteen years. That may still happen, but not today.

Then, I thought I would put a more personal spin on the article… I’ve literally grown up with the Wild Things and have seen it all.

When the team relocated from Canton, Ohio to Washington, I was a 12 year old kid who looked up to the guys on the field and loved being much closer to the action than I could imagine in Pittsburgh with the Pirates.

After awhile, I was the same age as the players, forming friendships that have lasted well after the guys have left this town to begin the next chapter in their lives.

This year, I’m at veteran status. I’ve hit the Frontier League age limit of 27. I’ve been called the “Mama Bear of Indy Ball” although I’d prefer just being called the big sister or something along those lines… I’m not at Mama Bear age status yet!

But yes, I am very protective and proud of these guys on the team here in Washington.

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This year, this team has been something special, and they deserve all of the recognition in this article. On and off the field, this has been a one of a kind group that I’m honored to call “my team.”

The theme for the year has been “unfinished business”, which is really appropriate for the team (this year and over all 15 years) as well as for a lot of the players.

The Wild Things have been in the league for 15 years without ever winning a championship.  In fact, they haven’t even been in the championship series since 2007 and haven’t had a playoff appearance at all since 2014.

Last year, a lot of the pieces were there, but the team just couldn’t finish out the season successfully.

Roster turnover is very high in indy ball. Washington is no different – only five players currently on the roster were with the team last year, but those players have had a huge impact this year. Three returning players are starting pitchers (Trevor Foss, Chase Cunningham, and Brian O’Keefe), solidifying the rotation from the start, and the other two returnees are their backstops (Kyle Pollock and John Fidanza).

The rest of the players have some unfinished business of their own. At mid-season, the Wild Things had 14 players with affiliated experience on their roster (the second highest in the Frontier League).

This season has also brought a lot of records for the Wild Things. In addition to winning their 800th game in franchise history on September 1st, the team sent a record eight players to the All-Star game this July.

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The 8 players:
Pitchers – Trevor Foss, Chase Cunningham, Zack Strecker
Outfielders – Rashad Brown, Bralin Jackson (home run-derby participant)
Infielders – Mike Hill, Kane Sweeney
Catcher – Kyle Pollock
had a big impact on the All-Star game. Bralin Jackson was even named the All-Star game MVP.

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On June 30th, Foss set a franchise record of his own when he pitched his 10th career complete game (and has pitched 2 more since).

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The team also had a Frontier League pitcher and player of the week this season.

Chase Cunningham was the Pitcher of the Week for the week ending on July 2nd and Kenny Peoples-Walls was named Player of the Week for the week ending on August 20th.

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On August 31st, the Frontier League announced their postseason awards which brought four more honors to the Wild Things organization.

Rashad Brown won the Fran Riordan Award. This award is given to one player each year that exemplifies good citizenship off the field and in his respective community.

First baseman, Kane Sweeney,  was also named to the postseason All-Star team. He is currently batting .296 with 15 HR and 61 RBI.

In addition to the player awards, Chris Dugan was named Writer of the Year, and the Washington Observer-Reporter was named Newspaper of the Year.

The WildThings have accomplished a lot in this anniversary season, but as the theme goes… there is still unfinished business to take care of.

The team will begin their playoff run at home on Tuesday and Wednesday. From there, they hope to become the first team to bring a championship to Washington, PA.

And… just like every year for the last 15 years, I’ll be there in the stands.

But this time, I know it’s different. We all have some unfinished business.

To the players, managers, and coaches who have come through here in the past, thank you for bringing us to this point. For fifteen years, you guys have taken over my summer and helped me create memories and friendships that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

To the players from this year’s team, you know how much I love you boys! Thank you for being the amazing guys that you are… on and off the field! I respect and admire you all. Let’s finish this!

(All photo credit (except the Wild Things roster/autographs): Washington Wild Things Official Facebook.)