Saturday, June 28, 2008

PTown's Pros

An introduction to each of the Petaluma Area's professional baseball players... their connection to PTown, career highlights, a season YTD recap (updated around the first of each month)...

And a bit of chatter.

JOEY GOMES (OF, Joliet Jackhammers, Northern League IND):
PTown Connection: Joey grew up in Petaluma, played Little League for Petaluma American and Petaluma Valley, and was an All League Selection at Casa Grande High School. He provides hitting and fielding instruction to dozens of local players each off-season.

Career Highlights: Joey played college ball at College of Marin and Santa Clara University, earning First Team All-American honors in 2002 before being selected as an 8th Round Draft Pick by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Joey was named the Hudson Valley “Player of the Year”. He was promoted to the AA Montgomery Biscuits in 2004 where he hit .270 with two HRs and 8 RBIs. Joey ended his 2005 season with the Visalia Oaks (A). Joey was traded to the San Diego Padres organization where he played AA ball during 2006. He then settled into independent League ball having an outstanding 2007 season with the Atlantic League Newark Bears. As an outfielder and DH for the Newark Bears, he batted .320 during the regular season... 5th in the League. He had 11 HR, 20 extra base hits and an .872 OPS. His season included a 17 game hitting streak and three multi home run games. Joey was the hero of the final game of the Atlantic League Championship Series, hitting a 2 out two RBI double to break a tie and give the Bears the lead.

Season recap: Joey got off to a great start hitting well over .300 for the first month of the season. A retaliatory plunking in the left elbow, a sore calf, and strained groin cut into his ABs in early June and he's trying to string together multiple hits over several games to get back in the groove.

Chatter: The Bears were anxious to have Joey back in 2008, but Joey decided to explore America's Heartland as Joliet Jackhammer (Northern League). Joliet is an hour southwest of Chicago on the legendary Route 66 and the League stretches from Indiana to Winnepeg, Canada. Delightfully diverse scenery I'm sure. Frickin' flat probably. The Jackhammer's Manager, Wally Bachman, is a colorful character for sure. Joey's having a good ole time playing for him. In a related bit of PTown Trivia, one of the Northern League Schaumburg Flyers' coaches is "Diamond Jim" Gentile, long lost cousin of Casa Grande's own Ralph "F.E." Gentile. Diamond Jim got caught up in the hoopla of a bench clearing brawl on May 29th. Later in the game, Joey got hit on the elbow. He shot a whole lotta stinkeye at the pitcher, but kept his cool instead of adding himself to the list of ejected, suspended, and fined players and coaches. With spending money intact, he recouperated on a 14 hour busride to Winnipeg the next day.
Joliet Jackhammers All Star Break Recap: Winnipeg is atop the Northern League standings at the halfway point with a 26 and 21 record. Gary is a half game off the pace and Joliet follows 1.5 games behind the Goldeyes. Only Schaumburg seems out of it at 9 games back with the 5th place team in the 6 team league back only 2.5 games. Should be an exciting sedond half where every game will count.

CHAD FILLINGER - P, Joliet Jackhammers, Northern League - IND:
PTown Connection: Chad grew up in Petaluma, playing Little League for Valley Little League before becoming a standout pitcher for Casa Grande High School. Chad provides pitching instruction to local ballplayers during the off season.
Career Highlights: He was a key part of the Santa Clara University Broncos squad. After graduating, Chad was selected by Seattle in the 16th round of the 2004 draft. He was named to the Midwest League All-Star team in 2005 while playing with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Promoted to AA San Antonio in 2006, Chad was honored as a Texas League Pitcher of the Week. Chad pitched for the AA West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx during 2007 but his season with a groin injury in mid-August. Chad signed as a relief pitcher with the Joliet Jackhammers on Tuesday, June 17, 2008.

Season Recap: Chad is pitching one or two innings every few days as a middle reliever. Seems to me he's been doing pretty well, but have to admit that pitching stats are the weak link for PTownFan. If anyone else is following Chad and has some insight to offer, please do!
Joliet Jackhammers All Star Break Recap: Winnipeg is atop the Northern League standings at the halfway point with a 26 and 21 record. Gary is a half game off the pace and Joliet follows 1.5 games behind the Goldeyes. Only Schaumburg seems out of it at 9 games back with the 5th place team in the 6 team league back only 2.5 games. Should be an exciting sedond half where every game will count. The Hammer's pen was inconsistent the first half so Chad is going to be key to their playoff drive.

LOUIS OTT (DH/INF Detroit Tigers Organization - Lakeland Tigers, A):
PTown Connection: Louis grew up in Petaluma, played Little League for Petaluma American, and was a 4 year Varsity starter at Casa Grande. I'm pretty sure he's the ONLY 4 year Varsity Starter in the school's history as well as the Most Decorated.
Career Highlights: Louis played for Sac City College made the All State Team in 2003. He was awarded a full scholarship to Oklahoma University, but opted for a more scenic tour of the Mid-West as a 2005 13th round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers.
Season Recap: Lou is playing for the Class A Lakeland Tigers. Lou's role was primarily DH earlier this season but he's had a pretty steady diet of 3B and 2B lately.
Chatter: Gary Sheffield is on a rehab assignment in Lakeland and took Lou for a spin in his Lambourgini a while back. Not quite a Cup o' Coffee, but definitely a high octane Cup o' Tea. Dontrelle Willis is also in Lakeland hoping to get his career back on track. The Tigers sent him down after he walked 21 batters in 11 1/3 innings at the end of a nightmare stretch. Detroit signed Willis to a $29 million, three-year deal after getting him in a trade last winter with the Florida Marlins. Let's hope Lakeland is the first stop on the road back.
All Star Break Recap: Lakeland (43-41) is in 3rd place in the 6 team FSL West Division 9.5 games back of Fort Myers and 4.5 games behind Dunedin. Palm Beach (50-35) is the toughest team in the FSL East with other clubs hovering around Lakeland's win loss record.

TOMMY EVERIDGE (1B, Oakland A's Organization - Midland Rockhounds, AA):
PTown Connection: Tommy grew up in Sonoma and attended Sonoma High School and graduated from Sonoma State. He provides instruction at Petaluma's Athletic Edge Batting Cages.
Career Highlights: Selected by the Oakland Athletics in the 10th round (307th overall) of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft out of Sonoma State University. Was fifth in the California League in runs (89) in 2006. During 2007, Everidge led the California League with 26 home runs and 90 RBIS (a career highs) playing 1B for the Class A Advanced Stockton Ports. Tommy's bat was on fire at the end of the season. He finished 2007 by going 8-for-13 with three home runs and eight RBIs in a three-game series against Lancaster on Aug. 24-26. He was briefly promoted to Double-A Midland before a call up to the AAA Sacramento River Cats as an extra bat on the bench during the the Triple A playoffs.

Season recap: Earlier this season, Tommy hit 10 RBIs as the AA Midland Rockhounds pulverized the Tulsa Drillers 17-6 on Memorial Day, earning him Texas Player of the Week honors. He was selected to the Texas Mid-Season All Star Team.
Chatter: This article recaps his season prior to Tommy's appearance in the League All Star Game: Be sure to read the reader comment at the end. A whole lotta people feel this way about Tommy here in Sonoma County.
All Star Break Recap: Tommy was the only PTown Pro to appear in his league's All Star Game. He was the starting DH and scored a run to help the Southern Division win it in the 10th. 17 games into the second half, Midland (7-10) is in third place in the Texas League South trailing Frisco by 6 games and San Antonio by 3. In the Texas League North, Tulsa leads with a 10-6 record. Springfield and NW Arkansas are nipping at Tulsa's heels. Midland is currently third in Texas League Team Batting.

KONRAD SCHMIDT (C, Arizona Diamondbacks Organization - Visalia Oaks, A):
PTown Connection: Konrad, a PHS grad, began the year catching for the SouthBend Silverhawks. He was promoted mid-season to the High A Visalia Oaks. 
Career Recap: Signed as a free agent in March, 2007. Played for the University of Nevada at Reno and I believe, SRJC. Played the 2007 season at Yakima. He hit .250 with 10 doubles, six homers and 24 runs driven in.
Season Highlights: .260 avg with 10 extra base hits including 2 HR and 16 RBIs, 3 SB and a .660 OBPS as of 7-1-08.
Chatter: PTownFan would love to hear from anyone that keeps in touch with Konrad and can add some insight as to how his season is going.
All Star Break Recap: South Bend is leading the league with a 13-6 second half record. They are one game up on Lansing. Beloit, Cedar Rapids, and Peoria are all at 12-6 in the Western Division.

BRANDON BURGESS (OF, Arizona Diamonbacks Organization):
PTown Connection: Brandon provides instruction at Athletic Edge, the local batting cages in Petaluma and is usually quick to jump in on a game of "21" when the kids want to give it a go with a Pro. He is also a regular on Chad Fillinger's Big League Camp Coaching Staff. 

Career Recap:  Signed as Arizona's 6th round selection in the 2004 June free agent draft after attending Sonoma State University.  In 2006, Brandon led the California League in homers with 26 while batting .265 with 84 RBIs in 123 games with Class A Lancaster.

Season Highlights: .260 avg with 10 extra base hits including 2 HR and 16 RBIs, 3 SB and a .660 OBPS as of 7-1-08.

Chatter: PTownFan

Analy High School

* Sonoma State University

* 6th round by Arizona Diamondbacks (2004 - current)
JONNY GOMES (DH, Tampa Bay Rays):
PTown Connection: Jonny grew up in Petaluma and played Little League for Petaluma American and Petaluma Valley. He made the Casa Grande High School Varsity squad as a sophomore.

Career Highlights: Jonny's first All Star Season was as a Junior Leaguer for Valley Little League. He hit 3 home runs in two days. Jonny then played high school ball at Casa Grande High School where he was a member of the 1998 Championship team that began the Gaucho's dominance of high school baseball in the Redwood Empire. He was a strong player that got better every year earning the Most Improved Player Award each of his years at Casa. He capped his high school career with a First Team All Empire Selection as a senior. Jonny then played for Santa Rosa Junior College where he struggled a bit. In a game at the end of his sophomore season, Jonny caught the attention of a Major League Scout named Hank King... Not with a home run or a diving catch, but with two pop flies that hung in the air for 7 seconds. Jonny was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 18th round of the 2001 Amateur Draft . He won Appalachian League MVP his first season. He had a cup o' coffee on September 12, 2003 at Yankee Stadium hitting 2 for 3 as DH for the Rays. He was called up for good in June of 2005 and sparked a struggling Rays team to an amazing second half turnaround. Gomes belted three homeruns in one game, a walk off home run later in the season, and became a fan favorite with his diving catches and head first slides. He ended his rookie season with a .282 batting average, 21 home runs, 54 RBIs and 9 stolen bases, earning second or third place in all of the major American League Rookie of the Year polls. On February 11, 2006, Petaluma recognized his accomplishments at Petaluma American Little League’s Ballpark with "Jonny Gomes Day". Gomes blazed onto the scene again in 2006, leading the American League in home runs through the end of April when a shoulder injury began to hamper his swing. In August 2006, he had season ending surgery to repair the damage. Still a fan favorite, he has been a spot starter at DH and occasionally RF against left handed pitching during 2007 and 2008.

2008 Season Recap: Jonny's had limited playing time during 2008. He got off to a blistering start after a tepid Spring Training but clearly, the Rays have other plans for their starting RF and DH spots. Jonny has been trying to make the most of his limited opportunities, but is not a guy that plays hot off the bench. Barring a costly injury to one (more likely two) of the Tampa Bay starters, he's not going to see much action.

Chatter: From time to time, Jonny is rumored to be trade bait near the July deadline as other teams shop for power and the Rays look to improve offensive production in RF to bolster their playoff run. It remains to be seen whether his recent headline grabbing suspension will affect other teams' interest. Jonny got himself in a heap of hot water during the second game of the Red Sox Series on June 5th. Coco Crisp rewrote the unwritten rules of baseball and took exception to Rays Shortstop Jason Barlett's defensive play at 2nd. In his next AB, Crisp slid spikes high into Rays 2B Aki Iwamura and promised more theatrics the next day. He didn't disappoint his own massive ego after being mildly plunked in the fat of his thigh by starting pitcher James Shields. Crisp charged the mound and touched off a brawl. The ensuing battle resulted in a ejections, suspensions and fines for 8 players. Jonny Gomes, the DH that day, entered the fracas and threw several highly controversial punches to Coco Crisp who was at the bottom of the dogpile. Jonny served an uncontested 5 game suspension.
At the half way point of the season: on 7-8-08, the Rays own the best record in baseball with a 55-33 record. This is uncharted territory for Tampa Bay who have never been above .500, much less .600 this late in the season. They are 1.5 games up on the Angels, while the Cubs are 2.5 back. The Red Sox at 4 back are the closest AL East competitor. What's behind this dramatic turnaround? Some key acquisitions for the bullpen, Matt Garza as a starter, Jason Barlett at short, and the meteoric rise of Evan Longoria. A college grad just 12 months ago, he is now perhaps the leading contender for AL Rookie of the Year. Catcher Dioner Navarro has matured in his role and completely turned around his offensive production since the 2007 All Star break earning him, along with pitcher Scott Kazmir, a trip to the 2008 All Star game at Yankee Stadium next week. Off the bench, the Rays have enjoyed key contributions from Willie Aybar, Shawn Riggans, Gabe Gross and even Ben Zobrist. All that while enduring DL stints by Scott Kazmir, Carlos Pena (whose bat may just be starting to warm up), current closer Troy Percival, and 2007 closer Al Reyes. The Rays second half schedule is more challenging and the baseball braintrust is divided on their ability to keep their edge and remain competitive down the stretch. Count on regular, and occasionally obnoxious, doses of "rah rah" from PTownFan who has been following the team for half of their ten year history. The Rays in October? You gotta believe.

BRANDON MORROW (P, Seattle Mariners):
PTown Connection: Grew up in Rohnert Park and played for Rancho Cotate High School. Volunteered as a coach at Petaluma's Camp For A Cure.
Career Highlights: More to follow.
Season Recap: Brandon's .77 ERA on 7-1-08 is second only to Mariano Rivera for Major League Pitchers with more than 20 innings pitched. Brandon has earned 4 saves since JJ Putz was sidelined.

At the halfway point of the season: The 2008 Mariners (35-54) threatened to become the Devil Rays of 2008. But, they're showing signs after the mid-June ousting of both the GM and Manager. Under Interim Manager Jim Riggleman, the team has rebounded and overtaken the Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres in the MLB cellar.