Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

A Brief Look Back At When A-Rod Played In The Midwest League

One weekend in April 1994 I was home from college for the weekend with one of my college friends. My dad took us to opening day at John O’Donnell Stadium to see the Appleton Foxes play the Quad Cities River Bandits.

Everyone even then was aware of the hype surrounding Alex Rodriguez. He made his professional debut with the Foxes that day. We watched all his at bats. We got to see his first pro hit, which I believe was a simple ground ball that found a hole.

A-Rod ended up playing 65 games for the Foxes and put up a .984 OPS before moving up. Impressive for an 18 year old in the Midwest League. In Appleton A-Rod was teammates with Raul Ibanez, who was overshadowed despite being four years older than him.

The picture above is from this article, which is a flashback article from the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (formerly the Apppleton Foxes). Go read it, it’s an excellent article. Here is a part of it:

The Appleton Foxes are taking batting practice during a chilly, overcast afternoon at Goodland Field.

Alex Rodriguez is at shortstop when a sharply hit ball glances off the top of his glove and bounces into left field.

The error delights coaches Delwyn Young and Juan Eichelberger.

“Hey, Bootsie!” Young yells.

“We got him that time!” Eichelberger adds, standing on the mound.

Rodriguez grins.

Whatever complications he finds off the field, baseball is still just a game. A game he enjoys.

“I think I am still a kid and that’s what makes it fun for me,” Rodriguez said. “Baseball’s just coming out and having a good time for three hours and at the same time having a chance to entertain people.”

But the three hours open to public view are only part of the picture of Rodriguez’s life.

He just plain stands out.

The Seattle Mariners assigned the 18-year-old Rodriguez to the Class A Foxes in his first full pro season for several reasons, according to Jim Beattie, the Mariners’ director of player development.

One of the, Beattie said, is that “Appleton is a nice, cozy town. It’s easy to get around. We think he will find it comfortable there.”

Cozy.

In other words, quiet, slow, out of the limelight.

But trying to tuck the top pick in the 1993 June free-agent draft away – in Appleton or anywhere else – is like a circus keeping the elephant in a field down the road. Everybody still knows it’s there.

Basically, a media circus has been following A-Rod everywhere he went since he was about 17 years old. I can only speculate what impact that can have on someone’s personality. Some players handle it better than others. It’s a lot to ask of such a young person.

A number of things he did over the years were disappointing, the steroids being the worst. He brought a lot of the media scrutiny on himself. At least when it came to his professional life, the place he seemed most comfortable by far was on the field.

 

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Colby Rasmus

The 2006 Midwest League All Star Game

I’m highlighting Colby Rasmus in this post because I have the best pictures of him. However, 8 future MLB players did appear in this game.
Colby played 78 games for the Swing of the Quad Cities in 2006. He hit 11 HR and 22 doubles in 341 plate apperances and had a .884 OPS. Pretty impressive numbers for a 19 year old! He’s been a productive MLB player, playing in over 800 games so far and with a career OPS over .750. He was National League Player of the Week for the week of June 6, 2010 and he hit a career best 23 HR for the Blue Jays in 2012.
Roth being interviewed after winning HR Derby

Roth being interviewed after winning HR Derby

The Swing hosted this All-Star game in 2006, and Colby represented the home team in it along with Jaime Garcia, another future Cardinals player, and a couple other players. Colby also hit in the Home Run Derby the day Randy Roth, won the home run derby. Other future MLB players who played in this game were
before the game. However, another Swing player,
Jay Bruce
Will Venable
Adam Moore
Wade Davis
Johnny Cueto
Justin Upton
Nick Adenhart

Yes, that is the same Nick Adenhart that played 4 games for the Angels and tragically died in a car accident in 2009. He was the starting pitcher in this game for the West, and he went 1 inning and allowed 1 run. Jaime Garcia took the loss in this game, giving up 3 runs in the inning he pitched.

Jay Bruce

Photo from Quad City Times

The East won the game over the West by a score of 7-1. Colby went 2 for 4, and Roth went 1 for 2. Here is a recap of the game from the Quad City Times. You can see Jay Bruce homered, and Justin Upton had a good game:

Quad City Times: Midwest League All-Star Game Scoreboard

EAST FIRST: Justin Upton (South Bend) doubled, took third on a groundout by Jay Bruce (Dayton), scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Jeff Baisley (Kane County). Cory Patton (Lansing) struck out. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 0 left. East 1-0.
WEST FIRST: Tarrence Patterson (Beloit) singled, was caught stealing. Paul Kelly (Beloit) struck out. Colby Rasmus (Quad-Cities) doubled, scored when Randy Roth (Quad-Cities) doubled to left. Ryan Norwood (Peoria) grounded out. 1 run, 3 hits, 0 errors, 1 left. Tied 1-1.
EAST THIRD: Upton struck out. Bruce singled, stole second. Baisley struck out. Patton singled, scoring Bruce. Anthony Recker (Kane County) reached on an infield single, advancing Patton. Kyle Blanks (Fort Wayne) singled to left, scoring Patton, advancing Recker. Daryl Jones (Fort Wayne) singled to left, scoring Recker, advancing Jones. Michael Hollimon (W. Michigan) struck out. 3 runs, 5 hits, 0 errors, 2 left. East 4-1.
EAST SEVENTH: Bruce doubled. Eric Eymann (Dayton) walked. Bruce stole third. Will Venable (Fort Wayne) struck out. Eymann stole second. Bruce scored on a sacrifice fly by Craig Tatum (Dayton). Eymann was thrown out attempting to take third. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 0 left. East 5-1.
EAST NINTH: Upton walked, stole second, scored when Bruce homered to right. Eymann popped out. Venable struck out. Tatum flew out. 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 0 left. East 7-1.

Box Score of the game on MiLB.com

Some additional pictures:

2006 Midwest League All Star Game

Players signing autographs before the game

Colby Rasmus 2006 Midwest League All Star Game

Colby Rasmus batting in the Home Run Derby

Ronald Garth, Adam Moore, Jeff Dominguez, Casey Craig, and Edgar Guaramato

Not sure on the order, but the Rattlers were represented by Ronald Garth, Adam Moore, Jeff Dominguez, Casey Craig, and Edgar Guaramato

Mitch Moreland Clinton Lumberkings

June 14, 2008: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers @ Clinton Lumberkings Doubleheader

The Timber Rattlers and Lumberkings played a double-header on this date. and it was near the very end of the first half of the season. Clinton needed a win in one of the games to clinch a playoff spot.

In doubleheaders the Midwest League normally only plays 7 inning games. The first game of this doubleheader ended up going 10 innings. The Lumberkings were on the board in the 4th inning, when Mitchell Moreland drove in a run with a double. The Timber Rattlers tied it in the top of the 6th when Maximo Mendez singled, stole 2nd and then 3rd. On the steal of 3rd, the catcher overthrew the base, and he scored. The score would stay like that all the way until the 10th inning. In the bottom of the 10th, Renny Osuna singled and stole 2nd base with two outs. Mitch Moreland walked and finally Jonathan Greene hit a single to win the game. This clinched a playoff spot for the Lumberkings, so they celebrated on the field:

Lumberkings Celebrate

Lumberkings celebrate 1st half clincher

And oh yeah, the Lumberkings starting pitcher in this game was Neftali Feliz. He went 5 1/3 innings. Of the 16 outs he recorded, 11 of them were strikeouts! He allowed the 1 earned run and walked 3 batters. His ERA at that time was 2.24. Here is a photo of him pitching:

Neftali Feliz Lumberkings

Neftali Feliz

The second game of this doubleheader was not as exciting, but did feature another MLB player. The Timber Rattlers won 10-0, and held the Lumberkings to only 2 hits. Michael Pineda was the starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers, and he had an excellent start. His line was: 7IP, 1H, 0ER, 6K, 0BB. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of Pineda.

Ironically, both Feliz and Pineda made it to MLB in 2011 and had to have Tommy John surgery in 2012. Both have done really well at the MLB level, both before and after surgery. Feliz recorded 13 saves last year for the Rangers and had an ERA of 1.99. Pineda had a 1.89 ERA in 13 starts last year and is off to a good start this year. He’s 3-0 for the Yankees and has a 3.73 ERA.