A season that started so slowly, as a 12-25 start in the first half – including 10 losses by one-or-two run margins, as the Hawks limped into the second half. (But did have a big highlight, as Rock Shoulders hit a MAMMOTH homer at Salem Keizer)
But some key roster moves made immediate impacts – most look directly at Dan Vogelbach, who crushed 10 homers in a half a season with the Hawks and gave the clubhouse some much-needed life. I remember sitting on the side of I-84 in early August – Vogelbach’s first true road trip in minor league ball, and could see that this young kid has something special – charisma. He hit a game-winning home run in Spokane that I don’t think has come down, then followed by hitting six homers in four games at Everett – as the Hawks completed a string of 12 wins in 15 games.
But it wasn’t just Vogelbach – Gioskar Amaya broke the franchise record for triples with 12; Stephen Bruno just flat out hit, winning the league batting crown; Marco Hernandez hit over .300 in the second half of the year; Willson Contreras came up big with a pair of walk-off hits; Rock Shoulders went into a late season home run tear (including this grand slam in the NWL East Division Series); Trey Martin played nearly flawless defense; and Jeimer Candelario had a knack for knocking in runs.
But as much as the offense blitzed the NWL in the second half of the year, the pitching got some much needed support. Tayler Scott, Jose Arias, and Felix Pena all became dominant #1 starters in their own right, while lefty Nathan Dorris and righty Eddie Orozco became late-inning stoppers – something the Hawks desperately didn’t have in the first half of the season.
Then throw in the addition of first-round picks Albert Almora and Pierce Johnson late in the year – Almora (who hit a HR in his first game with the Hawks) giving the Hawks the best defensive outfield in the NWL and coming through with the biggest at bat of the season with his two-out triple in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the East Division series in Yakima (with the Hawks trailing 4-3), turning the series completely around. Johnson looks to be something special – a devestating cut-fastball and was outstanding in his final start against Vancouver.
A 7-4 trip on the long grind during the Western Idaho Fair locked up a postseason berth for a second-straight year (here is the final out that clinched the pennant) – including their first road sweep since the 2004 season, and a 3-2 win over Yakima in Game 3 of the East Division series sent the Hawks into their first NWL Championship series since 2006 . It was an epic series – Boise squandering a 7-1 lead in the sixth inning in Vancouver to lose 10-7, but rallying three times in Game 2 at home, ending it on a Contreras walk-off single in the ninth, to set up a winner-take all title tilt. Facing NWL Pitcher of the Year Taylor Cole, the Hawks jumped on the board on a Vogelbach three-run homer in the first and led 7-5 with two outs in the eighth inning. However an error prolonged the inning, and the C’s scored seven unearned runs and took the title with a 12-9 victory.
It didn’t take away from the job Bill Buckner did with the youngest team in the league (one night in Yakima, the Hawks oldest player on the diamond was younger than the youngest player on the Bears squad). The Hawks led the league in runs scored (410), averaging over 5.5 runs a night, hits (733), doubles (140), triples (29), home runs (64), RBI (368), slugging percentage (.426), and batting average (.278).
It was a fun ride – one that will take Mark Johnson to Kane County to try and rekindle the magic with this squad.
Of the seven, only one is a household name, as 1999 Boise Hawk and former MLB All-Star Francisco Rodriguez was named to a star-studded Venezuela team that includes Felix Hernandez, Carlos Gonzalez, and Pablo Sandoval.
2008 Hawk Ryan Searle was named to the Australian entry that is anchored by Atlanta Braves righty, Peter Moylan. Searle saw action in six games with the Hawks during the ’08 season, going 1-2 with a 1.03 ERA and had an 8-5 record between Daytona, Tennessee, and Iowa in 2012.
The Taiwanese entry in the WBC will feature a pair of former Hawks – Hung-Wen Chen and Yao-Lin Wang. Chen, who pitched in two games for the Hawks in 2007, spent most of 2012 with Campeche in the Mexican League, while the 21-year-old Wang, who spent part of 2010 and the entire 2011 season with the Hawks (going 4-4 with a 3.22 ERA), is coming off a solid year in Peoria, where he had a 4-5 record and 3.92 ERA, adding 12 saves.
Another member of the 1999 Hawks will play for Team Mexico, as Alfredo Amezaga will be one of their utility infielders. Amezaga, who won a World Series ring with the 2002 L.A. Angels, spent the 2012 season with the Iowa Cubs – but has since by signed by the L.A. Dodgers.
Closing out the group are two players who will compete for Team Italy – Alex Maestri (pictured right) and Anthony Granato. Maestri, who posted a 4-3 record and 3.60 ERA with the 2006 Hawks, will pitch for the Italian squad for the second time. After being released by the Cubs in 2010, he bounced between the independent American Association and the Australian Baseball League in 2011, before having a solid 4-3 record and 2.17 ERA with the Orix Buffaloes in the Nippon League in Japan.
Granato (pictured left) is a story in itself – as the former VCU player spent a month with the Hawks in 2004, hitting three home runs in 27 games. After being released by the Cubs in 2005 and released by the Rockies a year later, Granato spent four seasons bouncing around the independent circuit before heading to Italy, where he became a star with T&A San Marino in the Italian Baseball League. A native Canadian, Granato recently received his Italian citizenship and thus a spot on the WBC roster.
The WBC begins with games in Asia on March 2 -with all games broadcast on the MLB Network.
Throughout the summer, we were receiving anywhere from 100-200 hits per day on the site, as I try to give you, the fan, an insight within the Cubs’ short-season club.
On the same note, I would like to appologize for the past four months – starting in late August – for the lack of fresh content. My full-time job as sports information director at The College of Idaho had a major push for a new athletics website (our second web redesign in less than a year) and had to get all of the content loaded – which meant instead of having some extra time each night to post, the time was loading content (you can see my work at http://yoteathletics.com).
However, it’s time to get after it…look in the coming weeks for recaps on the 2012 season, an update as to where former Hawks have moved during the offseason, and I will also attempt to have a Hot Stove Podcast of some kind as we amp up for the 2013 season, which begins on June 14 in Eugene.
I am back fans – and it’s time to get after it, just as many former Boise Hawks are currently doing in Arizona!!!