Jose Morales

Nelson Cruz Kane County Cougars

Kane County Cougars vs Quad City River Bandits May 30th and 31st, 2003

I saw these two teams play each other on back to back days in 2003, May 30th and 31st. They split these two games with the Bandits winning the first one 4-3, and then the Cougars winning the next day 5-4.

There were several notable players that appeared in these games. The one that jumps off the page today is Nelson Cruz. He hit a HR in the first game, which was his only hit in 4 at bats. It was his 13th HR of the season. The next day he went 2 for 4 with a run scored and a double. Cruz ended up with 20 HR and 85 RBI in 119 games that season for the Cougars. In case you forgot, Cruz led the AL in home runs last year with 40 and is leading again at the time I’m writing this.

Pat Neshek Quad City River Bandits

Neshek’s Short Bio in the 2003 River Bandits Program

The other name that stood out was Pat Neshek. He earned the save in the first game by pitching a scoreless 9th inning and striking out 2 batters. Neshek was an All-Star for the Cardinals in 2014 when he had a 1.87 ERA in 67 1/3 innings. He’s currently pitching for the Astros in 2015 and is 3-0 at the time I’m writing this.

Bill Murphy started the May 31 game for the Cougars. He had a great start, going 7 2/3 innings allowing 8 hits, 1ER with 5K’s. Murphy appeared in 18 MLB games in 2007 and 2009, compiling a 4.08 ERA in 17 2/3 innings. He also appeared in 48 games in the Japan League in 2010 and 2011, going 14-11 with a 3.81 ERA.

Another lesser-known MLB player for the Cougars was John Baker. He went 1 for 4 in the first game and 2 for 3 in the second game. Baker had an .871 OPS in 82 games for the Cougars. He ended up catching 359 games in the majors, for the Marlins, Padres and Cubs. It looks like last year was his last year.

Other future MLB players that played in these games:

Marcus McBeth – Reds relief pitcher in 2007

Trent Oeltjen – Backup outfielder for the D-backs and Dodger from 2009 to 2011

Alex Romero – 144 games in 2008 and 2009

Jose Morales – Backup catcher for the Twins and Rockies over 4 seasons

Joe Blanton also played for that 2003 Kane County team but unfortunately I never saw him pitch.