NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — As the SteepleCats set to begin their 10th season in the NECBL and welcome another roster of aspiring professional baseball players to the northern Berkshires, many former playerswho have roamed Joe Wolfe Field are continuing to earn a paycheck to play baseball.
2005 SteepleCats pitcher Evan Scribner, who made his Major League Baseball debut on April 25, has since returned to the minors and is now with the San Diego Padres Triple-A affiliate in Tuscon, Ariz. The move was necessitated because second baseman Orlando Hudson was returning from the 15-day disabled list. In 11 innings across six appearances with the big club, Scribner had a 2.45 ERA, giving up 10 hits with a pair of walks and seven strikeouts while opposing hitters amassed a .233 average against him.
Before his call up, Scribner was 0-1 for Triple-A Tucson, converting three saves in four opportunities with a 5.63 ERA. He was 4-5 with a 2.59 ERA in 57 appearances with Double-A San Antonio last season.
Scribner played for the SteepleCats in 2005 after going 6-3 with a 2.79 ERA and five complete games during his sophomore year as the staff ace for the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils. In eight starts for the SteepleCats, Scribner was 2-3 with a 3.62 ERA and led all pitchers with 54.2 innings pitched. He finished second on the team with 48 strikeouts and a meager .221 opponents’ batting average while allowing an astonishingly low eight walks during the whole season. His 6.83 innings pitched per appearance was one of the highest totals in the NECBL. Scribner was a key component of the pitching staff that helped the SteepleCats win their first playoff series in franchise history, taking two out of three from the Manchester Silkworms.
Scribner is the fifth former SteepleCat to get called up to the major leagues.
Overall, 74 former SteepleCats have gone on to play professional baseball since the organization’s inception in 2002. Of those 74, 63 have been selected in the draft. Last year alone, a record number thirteen alumni that played for North Adams since 2007 were drafted or signed professional contracts. The list includes (in draft order): INF, Joe Leonard (University of Pittsburgh); C, Cody Stanley (University of North Carolina Wilmington); RHP, Justin LaTempa (University of Oregon); RHP, Dayton Marze (University of Louisiana at Lafayette); RHP, Ryan Fraser (University of Memphis); INF, Daniel Lopez (University of Pittsburgh); INF, Nick Shaw (Barry University); RHP, Greg Robinson (Wright State University); LHP, Nick Serino (University of Massachusetts); RHP, Tim Boyce (University of Rhode Island); 1B, Paul Hoilman (East Tennessee State University); Kevin Carby (Tennessee Wesleyan College) and Kevin Mort (University of Mississippi).
Currently, there are two other SteepleCats’ alum in addition to Gillespie who are playing in Triple-A. Perhaps one of the most pleasant surprises is 2009 catcher John Murrian, who was selected by the Tigers in the 9th round of that year’s draft. Murrian has made a rapid rise through the organization in just two seasons and is now a member of the International League’s Toldeo Mud Hens. Finally, there’s 2003 shortstop Blake Davis, who’s played in nearly 500 games in the Orioles’ system since being drafted in the 4th round of the 2006 Amateur Draft. Davis has spent parts of the last three seasons with the O’s Triple-A club in Norfolk, Va. In 29 games with the Tides so far in 2011, he’s batting .277 with 3 home runs and 11 RBIs with 14 runs scored.
At the Double-A level, the SteepleCats are well-represented with four alums on active rosters throughout the country. 2008 infielder Kevin Carby has found success with the Sioux Falls Pheasants of the International League and had one of the best all-around rookie seasons throughout the league last year. 2005 catcher Kris Watts is still at it in his third season with the Altoona Curve of the Eastern League and has seen his production steadily increase each year. Anthony Seratelli went undrafted after spending the summer of 2004 with the SteepleCats, but has climbed from the Independent circuit to his second straight season with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals of the Texas League. To date, he is a career .270 hitter in just over 500 professional games. Seratelli’s teammate from both Seton Hall University and North Adams is first baseman Tim Pahuta, who was drafted in the 18th round by the Nationals in 2005 and is now in his second year with the Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League.
Finally, there are many former SteepleCats’ scattered around amongst the A-levels, the Independent Leagues, and rookie ball. In high-A ball, fan favorite pitcher Tim Boyce (2008-2009) made his presence felt in rookie ball last season and was quickly promoted to the High Desert Mavericks. The Atlanta Braves were high on 2008 third baseman Joe Leonard and selected him in the third round of last year’s draft. In 35 games in 2011 with the Lynchburg Hillcats, Leonard’s batting .250 with two home runs, 17 RBIs, adding eight doubles and 14 runs scored. 2008 southpaw pitcher Mitchell Clegg is 2-2 in seven starts for the Potomac Nationals of the Carolina League. 2007 right-handed pitcher Greg Wilborn has already made six starts this season for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the California League.
At the A-level, 2009 right-handed pitcher Ryan Fraser has found success in the Mets’ farm system after being taken in the 16th round of last year’s draft. He’s 2-3 with a 3.21 ERA in eight starts for the Savannah Sand Gnats so far this season. Dayton Marze is part of a trio of ex-SteepleCats that includes Tim Boyce from the 2008 and 2009 squads that is now playing professionally. In 2011, the 22-year-old righty has made 13 relief appearances for the Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League. 2008 ‘Cats Nick Shaw (SS) and Cody Stanley (C) are respectively playing with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and the Quad Cities River Bandits. Additionally, 2007 alums Kevin Mort (SS) and Justin LaTempa (RHP) are respectively playing for the West Virginia Power and the Cedar Rapids Kernals.
On the independent circuit, 2008 outfielder and LaSalle University product John Malloy signed with the Florence Freedom of the Frontier League this past off-season. And in another feel-good story right-hander Scott Kelly (2004-2005) persevered amidst not being drafted and found a home pitching for the Edmonton Capitals.
Smith and Wilson still in 'The Show'
Bobby Wilson was one of the first former SteepleCats to get a shot at the major league level when the Angels selected him in the 48th round of the 2002 draft. He made his major league debut with the Angels on April 28, 2008 in a game against the Oakland Athletics, singling off Dallas Braden in his first career at-bat. So far in 2011, Wilson’s appeared in ten games with four hits in 16 at-bats. He has played in 69 games in his major league career thus far.
The right-handed hitting catcher played for North Adams during the inaugural 2002 season while playing for St. Petersburg Community College in Florida. That year, he was the only ‘Cat to start in all 42 regular season games and one of four team representatives that was sent to the All-Star Game. Wilson still holds the SteepleCats’ team record with 165 career at-bats and is tied for second with 30 runs batted in.
Joe Smith has made a nice transition to the American League’s central division as a relief pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. The right-handed side-armer has spent the last two-plus seasons in the Indians’ bullpen and has totaled 104 appearances. His record with the Tribe stands at 4-3 with an ERA of 3.15, and his hard sinker has produced less than a hit and almost a strikeout per inning. So far in 2011, Smith is 2-1 with a 2.19 ERA in 14 games. In 12.1 innings on the hill, he’s allowed 11 hits while walking just four batters and striking out 10. Smith pitched in three games for the SteepleCats in 2005, the same year they won their first playoff series against the Manchester Silkworms. In 2006, he was drafted by the New York Mets in the third round of the amateur draft and made his major league debut the following year at the age of 23.
Other SteepleCats Around the Minor Leagues
Right-handed pitcher Mike Ekstrom was also part of the inaugural SteepleCats’ squad in 2002, setting the team record for opponents’ batting average against with a mark of .158. To date, that is the sixth-best mark for a ‘Cats pitcher in the history of the franchise. For the second straight year, he is pitching well for Triple-A Durham (Rays), posting a 3-2 record with a 3.33 ERA in 15 appearances including one start. Ekstrom was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 12th round of the 2004 draft and was named the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2006 before making his Major League debut in 2008 against the Dodgers. From 08-09, he made 20 appearances out of the San Diego bullpen until he was claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Rays in February 2010.
Cole Gillespie joined Joe Smith as another SteepleCat from the 2005 team that went on to play in the majors when he collected a pinch-hit double in his first big league at-bat for the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 21, 2010, in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. In 42 games with Triple-A Reno so far in 2011, he’s hitting .327 with 2 home runs and 30 RBIs, padding his stats with 36 runs scored, 12 triples, and a dazzling .997 OPS. The right-handed hitting outfielder was the Milwaukee Brewers 3rd round choice in 2006 after he was named the Pac-10 Conference’s Player of the Year while helping Oregon State win the national championship. In 45 games with Arizona last season, Gillespie batted .231 with two home runs, 12 runs batted in, and 11 runs scored.
This is the SteepleCats' 10th season, and to thank their fans for their loyalty and support through the years, the SteepleCats are having a fireworks show following the game on opening night, Friday, June 10. In addition, the first 250 adult fans in attendance will receive a free commemorative 10th Season t-shirt compliments of the SteepleCats Presenting Sponsor, Hoosac Bank. Opening night begins at 6:30 when the defending West Division Champion SteepleCats take on division rival Vermont Mountaineers.
Don’t forget to save-save-save by purchasing your Season Ticket at Val’s Variety in Adams; Creations or Man’s World Styling Salon in North Adams; Billmont’s Country Store in Stamford, Vt.; or by calling 413-663-7333. For more information, visit the team’s redesigned website at www.steeplecats.com.
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