Tag Archives: Southern Illinois Miners

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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Mining the CWL

Casey Dill, the scouting and player acquisition coordinator for the Southern Illinois Miners, has been hard at work coaching in the California Winter League (CWL) this off season.  In addition to leading the Palm Springs Power, he is actively searching for players to sign for the Miners’ upcoming season in the Frontier League.

“Coaching in the CWL is a great resource for the Southern Illinois Miners organization,” Dill explained. “It gives me the opportunity to see how players carry themselves and prepare playing a minor league style schedule playing everyday. It gives me the opportunity to see things in players that may not show in a one or two day tryout. It also allows me to maximize the scouting report I provide to Mike Pinto (manager of the Southern Illinois Miners) when deciding which players are the best fit for the organization.”

Pinto loves that Dill knows exactly what he’s looking for while managing in the CWL.

“Finding rookies that can impact your organization is one of the keys to success in our league, but it’s also so important to find players that fit the culture of your organization. Many times we are looking at numbers, where a guy has played, against what competition and you do your best to get some reports on them as a player and person,” Pinto said.

“With Casey out there in the CWL, it gives us the opportunity to see players with multiple lenses.  We can certainly see their history through numbers, but Casey also gets to see them from a scouting perspective, and more importantly, sees what kind of fit that they would be for us.  History has shown us how critically important that is to our organization,” he explained.

 “With my position also running the business aspect of our organization and not able to be at the CWL like some managers are, Casey gives us the chance to not only see players up close in the CWL, but also run a tryout for players on the West Coast who we might not be able to see and have access, eyes and information on some potential college players following the draft.” 

So far, Dill has found three players who fit the Miners mentality:  RHP Adam Falcon, RHP Payton Lobdell, and C Brandon Oliver. 

Dill and the three newest members of the Southern Illinois Miners family recently sat down for an introduction and to discuss the CWL and their expectations for the upcoming season.

Meet the Miners

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(Adam Falcon, Casey Dill, Payton Lobdell, and Brandon Oliver)

Adam Falcon

“Adam Falcon stands out as soon as you look at him, in baseball we say ‘he passes the eye test'”, said Dill. “He has a tremendous work ethic off the field and in the weight room. He’s a big strong physical presence on the mound, he has a bull dog / no fear approach to pitching, he wants the ball with the game on the line. He is a power arm that can top has high as 94 mph with his fastball with a plus slider he can throw for strikes in any count. Depending on how he does here in the CWL and in spring training, I think he is a great power arm option out of the bullpen that will help us win games.”

Adam, how did you get to the point where you are now in your career?

A new Independent Fall league called The Desert League started up in Yuma, Arizona and held tryouts in Chandler, AZ on September 15-20, 2016. I wanted to tryout to see if I could get picked up by a professional team. I ended up making one of the teams called the Yuma Hammers, and two days later, our season started. It was my first ever experience as a professional baseball player. After about a month, our season ended and our coaches from the Hammers got a couple of my teammates and myself a tryout in Palm Springs for some Independent and International teams.

What led you to the CWL?

I had signed with the Southern Illinois Miners after the October 30 Palm Springs tryout. Southern Illinois Scouting Supervisor Casey Dill kept in touch with me and suggested I participate in the CWL to get reps in and get scouted much better. I was already familiar with the layout of the field and the area, and thought it would be a good experience for me to play here.

How are you liking it so far?

I’m enjoying myself out here in Palm Springs. I’m just happy to be out on the field competing, and I’m very pleased with the way the league in run. The coaches and staff run the show very professionally and work hard for us everyday.

What part of your game are you focusing on while you’re there?

I’m looking to develop my off-speed pitches into better put out pitches, keep walks and runs low, and build up some more velocity on my fastball.

How did it feel to sign with the Miners?

I couldn’t be more happy to sign with such a quality team and organization. In the Palm Springs tryout, it was my goal to get signed with a Frontier League team, and I was so glad to achieve that goal.

What are your expectations for your first pro season in the Frontier League?

I expect to be part of a winning ball club, I expect to develop even more as a pitcher, I expect a whole different ball game in the Frontier League, and I expect to face very tough competition. I couldn’t be more excited to get out and compete.

Payton Lobdell

“Payton Lobdell has 4 pitches he throws for strikes. His fastball tops at 92 mph and usually sits between 88-91. His best secondary pitch is his splitter that he locates down in the zone and forces consistent bad contact from hitters,” Dill explained. “Payton is very mature on the mound, plus pitch ability, he knows how to use all of his pitches to maximize his effectiveness. He doesn’t look to strike everyone out, he looks to force bad contact and trusts the defense to play behind him.”

Payton, what led you to the CWL?

Playing with for Casey Dill with the Palm Spring Power last summer really led me to trying out and showcasing myself in the CWL.

How are you liking it so far?

These last few weeks have been a blast, and I love the guys/teammates that I’m making out here.

What part of your game are you focusing on while you’re there?

I’m really focusing on getting ahead and staying ahead of batters while I’m out here, while also working on my secondary pitches.

How did it feel to sign with the Miners?

It was an experience that I’ll never forget. It was my first pro contract so it is something that I’ll always remember. I couldn’t ask for a better organization to play for to begin my professional career.

What are your expectations for your first pro season in the Frontier League?

I expect to do everything I can to help the Miners win a championship, and I expect to have a great time getting to know my teammates and coaches. I’ve heard nothing but great things that come from the frontier league and I can’t wait to find out.

Brandon Oliver

“Brandon Oliver is a plus defensive catcher that has to potential to control and shut down opposing teams running games,” Dill pointed out. “He receives and blocks the ball very well behind the dish. Perhaps most impressively, Oli knows how to manage and work with the pitching staff, his communication and leadership with our pitchers here at the CWL has been phenomenal, for a rookie he has a veteran presence, he batted .351 at Western Oregon University as a senior so he also knows how to handle the bat well.”

Brandon, what led you to the CWL? 

I had heard of a California Winter League but knew nothing about who it was for or why it was there. I met Miners Scout Casey Dill at a tryout last fall, he thought it would be a good opportunity to play in front of him and other professional coaches and scouts for an entire season. He said it was a place for guys like me to get signed.

How are you liking it so far?

It’s been awesome. I’ve met some great people out here. From the staff to the coaches to the players, I really like it.

What part of your game are you focusing on while you’re there?

I take a lot of pride in my defense I’ve work behind the plate, but my main focus will be offensive. I’ll be focusing on getting my timing and rhythm down.

How did it feel to sign with the Miners?

It felt great. I feel as if a huge weight has been lifted on my shoulders, and I can use the rest of the winter league to fine tune my game, as opposed to trying to get every scout to see me on a daily basis.

What are your expectations for your first pro season in the Frontier League?

I expect to win a championship.

Pinto is also looking forward to seeing what the newest members of his team can do. “I really like what I have heard about Adam, Payton and Brandon. Casey has seen them up close and I am looking forward to seeing them compete for important roles with us this spring.”

For more information on the Southern Illinois Miners, visit their official website HERE.