Two months of the 2013 season are in the books, and currently 148 former Boise Hawks players or staff are still currently active in professional baseball (including 18 in the nine independent leagues).
The final installment of our three-part series on the history of Memorial Stadium focuses on strictly Boise Hawks players – the best of the best. There have been some outstanding players who have rolled through town since 1989 and played on the Memorial Stadium diamond, some who went on to star in the Major Leagues, some who starred in either the Angels or Cubs system, or some, for just one summer, had the time of their lives in Boise.
During this stretch, 101 players made it to the Major Leagues (52 from the Cubs system, 47 from the Angels system, and two from the independent 1989 season) – including two Rookie of the Year selections and six players who participated in the MLB All-Star Game.
My All-Star Boise Hawks Team
C – Jason Dewey, 1997
1B – Brad Bouras, 2001
2B – Josh Harrison, 2008
SS – Jason Huisman, 1998
3B – Robb Quinlan, 1999
OF – Keto Anderson, 2001
OF – Mike O’Keefe, 1999
OF – Todd Greene, 1993
Starting Pitchers – Hilly Hathaway, 1990, Phil Leftwich, 1990
Relief Pitcher – John Pricher, 1992
This wasn’t an easy decision and as you can see, wasn’t based on whether or not a player went on to Major League stardom. In fact, of the group, only Harrison, Quinlan, Greene, Hathaway, and Leftwich experienced life in the Big Leagues.
Breaking down the choices by position:
Catcher – Dewey led the Hawks to a 51-25 record and a North Division title, losing to Portland in five games in the NWL Championship Series. The Florida native was named to the All-NWL Team after hitting .324 with 13 home runs and 64 RBI, adding 17 doubles on the season. He would advance as high as AAA in 2002, before finishing his career by playing three years in Independent Baseball. One other catcher was in the mix (though he is no longer a catcher) – as Josh Donaldson had a monster 2007 season, hitting .346 with nine homers and 35 RBI.
First Base – Bouras (pictured left) was a key cog in the 2001 Hawks line-up that breezed to an East Division title and a 52-23 record, losing to Salem-Keizer in the NWL Championship Series. The 21st round pick out of Columbus State hit .349 with six home runs, 25 doubles, and 60 RBI, earning All-NWL honors. He would go on to play two more seasons in the Cubs system before ending his career in 2004. Other first-basemen of note would be John Donati, who hit .318 with 11 homers and 57 RBI in 1994; along with the top-two prolific home run hitters in franchise history – Russ Canzler (.264 16 HR 61 RBI in 2006) and Paul Hoilman (.252 17 HR 44 RBI in 2011).
Second Base – Honestly the weakest pool of players was at the second base position, but Harrison’s numbers over just under a half a season in Boise were staggering. The 2008 pick out of Cincinnati hit .351 with 11 doubles, a home run, and 25 RBI – all in 33 games with the Hawks, good enough to earn All-NWL honors from the league coaches. After a trade to the Pirates organization, Harrison has spent parts of the last three seasons in Pittsburgh. Others considered were Tony Thomas (.308 5 HR 33 RBI in 2007), Pierre LePage (.331 1 HR 38 RBI in 2010), and Gioskar Amaya (.298 8 HR 33 RBI, 12 3B in 2012).
Third Base – One of the tougher decisions came at the hot corner, but the amazing season by Quinlan (pictured right) had to take the prize. The former Minnesota Golden Gopher earned All-NWL honors in 1999, hitting .322 with nine home runs and a franchise record 77 RBI, helping Boise finish with a 43-33 record in a highly-competitive North Division race, losing the pennant by one game to Spokane. Quinlan would advance to the AAA ranks by 2002 and eventually spent eight years with the Angels, playing in 458 career Major League games, ending with a .276 career MLB batting average. Others considered included Matt Curtis, who hit .305 with 12 homers and 62 RBI in 2006, and Josh Vitters, who hit .322 with 25 doubles, five homers, and 37 RBI – setting a Boise record with a 25-game hit streak in 2008.
Shortstop – Another interesting decision, but went with Huisman, who put up big numbers during the 1998 season – but was beat out for NWL honors by Chone Figgins. The draft pick out of Ole Miss hit .325 with five homers, 20 doubles, and 59 RBI, helping Boise to a 47-29 record and a North Division title, but lost to Portland in three games in the NWL Championship Series. Huisman would play three seasons at the AA level before leaving baseball. One other was considered, as Hak-Ju Lee had an outstanding 2009 season with the Hawks, hitting .330 with two homers, 33 RBI, and 25 stolen bases.
Outfield – Some pretty good outfielders have come through Boise, and it was tough to just pick the three. Anderson split time between left field and DH during the successful 2001 season, setting a franchise record with a .376 batting average, adding 14 doubles, six homers, 44 RBI, and 29 stolen bases, earning All-NWL honors. The 13th round pick never replicated the season and was out of the minor leagues by 2003. O’Keefe joined Quinlan in the middle of that potent 1999 line-up, hitting .326 with nine home runs and 70 RBI, earning All-NWL honors. The product of Providence would hit 51 home runs over four seasons at AA, reaching AAA Richmond in the Braves system in 2005, before leaving baseball. Greene (pictured left) was the reason the 1993 Hawks won their second NWL title in three seasons, rolling through the year with a .269 batting average, recording 15 doubles, 15 home runs, and 71 RBI, earning NWL All-Star honors. A year later, the Georgia native hit 35 homers at Lake Elsinore in the California League (and was converted to become a catcher) and by 1996, was in the Major Leagues – where he spent 11 years (with six different teams), hitting 71 home runs and driving in 217 runs. Others considered included a pair of two-season Hawks – Casey Child (19 HR 93 RBI in 1997-98) and Kyler Burke (17 HR 90 RBI in 2007-08); Tyler Colvin, who hit 11 homers and drove in 53 runs in 2006; and Ryan Harvey, who slugged 14 homers in 2004, but clubbed four long balls in the NWL Championship Series vs. Vancouver, helping the Hawks to their last league title.
Starting Pitchers – Here is one that can be debated, but I went the one-two punch from Tom Kotchman’s very first Angels affiliate in Boise. Hathaway (pictured right) and Leftwich were dominant that season, helping the Hawks to a franchise-best 53-23 record and their first-ever postseason – losing to Spokane in three games for the NWL title. Hathaway, a southpaw selected in the 35th round of the 1989 draft, earned NWL All-Star honors (only one starting pitcher was selected up until 1990), going 8-2 with a 1.47 ERA in 15 starts, striking out 113 batters. He would cruise through the Angels system before making his MLB debut with the California Angels in 1992 (going 4-3 with a 5.02 ERA in 13 games). Leftwich was equally dominant from the right-side, also going 8-2 with a 1.86 ERA in 15 starts, striking out 81 batters. The second-round pick out of Radford spent his entire seven-year career in the Angels system, including parts of three seasons at the MLB level, where he had a 9-17 record and 4.99 ERA in 34 games. Other starting pitchers in the mix had to include five MLB players: three from the 2001 season – future NL Rookie of the Year Dontrelle Willis (8-2, 2.98 ERA), Sergio Mitre (8-4, 3.07 ERA), and Angel Guzman (9-1, 2.23 ERA), along with 2002 standouts Andy Sisco (7-2, 2.43 ERA) and Ricky Nolasco (7-2, 2.48 ERA).
Relief Pitcher – Talk about a loaded bunch of pitchers, but the numbers put up by Pricher during the 1992 season were staggering. The NWL All-Star out of the University of Florida recorded a 2-1 record and a miniscule 1.05 ERA, recording a franchise record 23 saves – striking out 65 men in just 43 innings of work. He would go on to save 26 games the following year in Palm Springs, but never got above AA ball before leaving the game in 1995. Many others were in the mix, including MLB All-Star closer Troy Percival (2-0, 1.41 ERA, 12 saves in 1991), Mike Holtz (0-0, 0.51 ERA, 11 saves in 1993), Bo Donaldson (3-1, 1.21 ERA, 15 saves in 1994), Grant Vermillion (12-3, 1.96 ERA, six saves in 1996 – setting the club record for wins), and Jerry Blevins (6-1, 1.62 ERA, six saves in 2004).
With the 2013 NWL season less than three weeks away, it will be exciting to see who might be able to work their way onto this elite list. Only time, and 76 games will tell.
Just some quick news and notes today – first from the transaction wire, as 2008 Boise Hawks 2B Josh Harrison played musical chairs for the Pirates. Harrison was called up for one day – as an insurance policy for Jose Tabata, getting a pinch hit at bat (and flying out to center). A day later, he was back to the International League and rejoining the Indianapolis Indians.
Same cannot be said for the Cubs 2010 2nd Round draft pick Micah Gibbs, who was released by the organization today (according to the Florida State League). Gibbs hit just .203 with seven homers and 60 RBI in 208 career games – advancing as high as Advanced-A Daytona.
On the flip side – former catcher Carlos Escobar, who injured his ankle on a slide late in the season against Everett and has been in rehab for the injury since, finally escaped the Mesa Complex, and is headed to Kane County. Same can be said for former middle infielder, Wes Darvill, who was promoted to Daytona.
Some NWL Notes – When the Hawks head to Vancouver this summer, we’ll see a couple great giveaways, including a C’s Beach Towel, while they’ll also have one of their “SuperStars” head to B.C. while we are there, as Tim Raines (former Montreal Expos star) will be at the Nat. Salem-Keizer has unveiled their promotions – nothing exciting to report (they have the typical Family Feast Night, their Dollar Beer Night, and a Fireworks Show on a getaway day). Excited to see what Tri-City and Hillsboro will have for us this season (though, the Hawks themselves haven’t unveiled their promos – I have seen them, they are a bit different, but definitely SOLID!!!)
FanFest #10 is tomorrow night, the Baseball Factory comes to the stadium on Saturday, and the 5A State Tournament is at the yard next week.
My good friend and the Voice of the Idaho Steelheads, Will Hoenike, coined the phrase – the Big House on Glenwood, talking about 25-year-old Memorial Stadium. It fits perfectly – though since then, Walmart, the new Revolution Concert House, and a refurbished Les Bois Park have sprouted up in Garden City.
During that time, a total of 192 different Northwest League teams played on what is now called Bill Campbell Field (though I’ve never used that term on air) – with players have amazing seasons in the NWL and never getting above “A” Ball. Others made quick stops and had long and productive Big League careers.
I thought it would be fun to create a 25-man roster for the Best of the Best NWL team to commemorate Memorial Stadium’s anniversary. Some players had remarkable seasons (Daniel Robertson in Eugene, Conor Jackson in Yakima, Steve Hacker in Eugene, Jesse Foppert in Salem-Keizer – just to name a few), others, such as Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, played on the diamond before moving on to bigger and better things. However, instead of digging through every statistical category since 1989, I decided to go the easy route and stay with the more well-known names – players who have gone on to thrive at the MLB level.
So, here goes – as my imaginary 25-man roster includes two catchers, seven infielders, four outfielders, a DH, and 11 pitchers
C Mike Piazza 1989 Salem Dodgers
C Buster Posey 2008 Salem-Keizer Volcanoes
Piazza played for former Boise Hawks manager Tom Beyers in Salem during the 1989 season, hitting .268 with eight homers and 25 RBI, earning All-NWL honors. He went on to play 18 seasons in MLB, hitting 427 home runs and driving in 1,335 runs, while being named an all-star 12 times. Posey, the fifth-overall pick in the 2008 draft, played three games at Salem-Keizer at the end of the 2008 season, going 3-for-11 at the plate. He helped the Giants to World Series titles in 2010 and 2012, winning NL MVP honors in 2012 after leading the NL with a .336 batting average, with 24 homers and 103 RBI.
1B Jason Giambi 1992 Southern Oregon A’s
1B Paul Konerko 1994 Yakima Bears
Giambi played in 13 games for the Southern Oregon A’s in 1992, hitting .317 with three home runs and 13 RBI, before making his MLB debut in 1995. The five-time All-Star and 2000 AL MVP has hit 431 career home runs and drove in 1,411 runs. Konerko spent the entire 1994 season with the Yakima Bears, hitting .288 with six homers and 48 RBI – earning All-NWL DH honors. After being traded to the White Sox in 1998, he has been a mainstay in their line-up, earning six AL All-Star nods, hitting 426 home runs and adding 1,351 RBI.
2B Ian Kinsler 2003 Spokane Indians
2B Dan Uggla 2001 Yakima Bears
Kinsler spent the entire 2003 season with the Spokane Indians, hitting .277 with a homer and 15 RBI, but a year later hit .345 in three stops in the Rangers system and make his MLB debut in 2006 – earning All-Star honors in 2008, 2010, and 2012, hitting 149 homers with 486 RBI. Uggla had an outstanding rookie season with the Yakima Bears in 2001, hitting .277 with five homers, 21 doubles, and 40 RBI, earning All-NWL honors. Since his MLB debut with the Marlins in 2006, he has recorded at least 19 home runs in seven-straight seasons, earning All-Star honors in 2006, 2008, and 2012 – hitting 214 home runs with 634 RBI.
SS Miguel Tejada 1995 Southern Oregon A’s
Tejada earned All-NWL honors with the Southern Oregon A’s in 1995, hitting .245 with eight homers, 15 doubles, and 44 RBI – stealing 19 bases. The 2002 AL MVP has earned six trips to the All-Star Game, hitting .285 with 304 home runs and 1,284 RBI with seven different clubs.
3B Pablo Sandoval 2005 Salem-Keizer Volcanoes
3B Chase Headley 2005 Eugene Emeralds
Sandoval earned All-NWL honors in 2005 with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, hitting .330 with three home runs and 50 RBI, adding 15 doubles. He has been the starting third-baseman for the Giants since 2008, hitting .304 with 80 homers and 334 RBI, earning two All-Star honors, and was the MVP of the 2012 World Series. Headley spent most of the 2005 with the Eugene Emeralds, hitting .268 with six home runs and 33 RBI. He has been the starting third-baseman for the Padres since 2009, having a breakout 2012 season where he led the NL with 115 RBI, earning Gold Glove and Silver Slugger honors.
OF Garret Anderson 1990 Boise Hawks
OF Carlos Beltran 1996 Spokane Indians
OF Adam Jones 2003 Everett Aquasox
OF Carlos Gonzalez 2004 Yakima Bears
Anderson is the only former Boise position player on the list, playing 25 games for the Hawks in 1990, hitting .253 with a homer and eight RBI. He went on to play 17 years in the Big Leagues – mostly with the Angels, earning three All-Star nods, hitting a career .293 with 287 home runs and 1,365 RBI, leading the AL in doubles in 2002 and 2003. Beltran spent most of 1996 with the Spokane Indians, hitting .270 with seven home runs and 29 RBI, before making his MLB debut with the Royals two years later. The 1999 AL Rookie of the Year has earned seven All-Star honors and is a three-time Gold Glove selection, having hit 342 home runs and driving in 1,262 runs in 16 MLB seasons. Jones made a short stay with the Everett Aquasox in 2003, going 6-for-13 with four RBI for the Frogs, before a trade in 2008 sent him to the Orioles. The two-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove selection has had at least 19 home runs each of the last four years. Gonzalez spent the entire 2004 season with the Yakima Bears, hitting .273 with nine home runs and 44 RBI. After a 2009 trade sent him to the Rockies, he has been a favorite in Denver, earning two Gold Gloves and an a Silver Slugger award, winning the 2010 NL batting title – averaging 25 homers and 95 RBI each of the last three years.
Ibanez spent half of the 1993 season with the Bellingham Mariners, hitting .284 with 15 RBI. In 18 MLB seasons, he has driven in 100 runs four times, hitting a career .277 with 273 home runs and 1,121 RBI – earning All-Star honors in 2009 with the Phillies.
SP Derek Lowe 1992 Bellingham Mariners
SP Ted Lilly 1996 Yakima Bears
SP Tim Hudson 1997 Southern Oregon Timberjacks
SP Zach Greinke 2002 Spokane Indians
SP Felix Hernandez 2003 Everett Aquasox
SP Tim Lincecum 2006 Salem-Keizer Volcanoes
Lowe spent the entire 1992 season with the Bellingham Mariners, going 7-3 with a 2.42 ERA, helping the M’s to the NWL title. He has spent the past 17 seasons in the Big Leagues, including leading the AL with 42 saves in 2000 and posting 21 wins in 2002. The two-time All-Star has won 176 games in his MLB career. Lilly helped the Yakima Bears to the 2006 NWL title, going 4-0 with a 0.86 ERA in 13 appearances. The lefty has pitched for six MLB teams over the past 15 years, earning all-star2004 and 2009 – including seven years with 12-or-more wins. He has recorded 130 career wins and 1,672 strikeouts. Hudson made his professional debut in Medford for the 1997 Southern Oregon Timberjacks, going 3-1 with a 2.51 ERA in eight appearances. Two years later, he was pitching for the A’s – starting a string of 10-straight years with 11-or-more wins. The three-time All-Star has a career record of 200-105 with a 3.42, logging 1,825 strikeouts between Oakland and Atlanta. Greinke made a short stay with the Spokane Indians in 2002, striking out five men in four-plus innings. Two years later, he was pitching in Kansas City – where he won the 2004 Cy Young Award with a 16-8 record and an AL-best 2.16 ERA. He has won10-or-more game each of the last five seasons, while recording a career 3.75 ERA. Hernandez had a banner 2003 season with the Everett Aquasox, earning All-NWL honors as a 17-year-old, going 7-2 with a 2.22 ERA and 91 strikeouts. He made his MLB debut two years later and is one of the most dominant pitchers in the Big Leagues – earning All-Star honors in 2008, 2010, and 2011, winning the 2010 Cy Young Award, while posting a career 102-78 record and a 3.17 ERA. Lincecum made two appearances with Salem-Keizer in 2006, striking out 10 batters in just four innings of work. A year later, he made his MLB debut – winning back-to-back NL Cy-Young Award honors in 2008 and 2009. The four-time NL All-Star has a career 81-57 record and a 3.34 ERA.
RP Joe Nathan 1995 Bellingham Giants
RP Francisco Rodriguez 1999 Boise Hawks
RP Sergio Romo 2005 S-K Volcanoes
RP Neftali Feliz 2007 Spokane Indians
Percival began his career as a catcher for the Boise Hawks in 1990 at a catcher, hitting just .203, before returning a year later as a converted closer, earning All-NWL honors with a 2-0 record, a 1.42 ERA, and 12 saves, helping Boise to their first league title. By 1996, he was the closer for the California Angels – earning four All-Star nods, nine straight seasons with 27 or more saves, recording a career 3.17 ERA and 358 saves. Nathan took a similar route, playing one season for the Bellingham Giants as a shortstop (.232 3 HR 20 RBI), before returning to the league at Salem-Keizer as a pitcher, going 2-1 with a 2.47 ERA. After four years with the Giants, a trade with the Twins turned his fortunes – recording six-straight seasons with 36 or more saves, earning five AL All-Star honors. The righty has a career 2.85 ERA and 306 saves. Rodriguez made a token NWL appearance in Boise in 1999, starting one game, going five innings and striking out four. Three years later as an MLB rookie, “K-Rod” helped the Angels win the World Series – inheriting the closer role in 2005, leading the league in saves three times, including a MLB record 62 saves in 2008. He has a career 2.70 ERA and 294 saves in his 11 seasons. Romo made his pro debut in 2005 with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, going 7-1 with a 2.75 ERA – walking just nine men in 68 innings. By 2008, he was a set-up man for the Giants, taking over the closer role last season – having posted a career 2.18 ERA in 293 appearances. Feliz made eight appearances with the Spokane Indians in 2007, going 0-2 with a 3.60 ERA – striking out 27 in just 15 innings. Two years later, he was working in the Rangers bullpen and in 2010 earned AL Rookie of the Year honors, recording 40 saves. Despite injury issues, he has a career 2.67 ERA and 74 saves.
To think how tough this was for me – here are some of the “AAA” players who could fill up the imaginary 40-man roster:
C Kurt Suzuki 2004 Vancouver Canadians
1B Mark Reynolds 2004 Yakima Bears
2B Craig Counsell 1992 Bend Rockies
3B Chone Figgins 1998 Portland Rockies
OF Tim Salmon 1989 Bend Bucks
OF Shane Victorino 2000 Yakima Bears
OF Nick Swisher 2002 Vancouver Canadians
DH Mike Sweeney 1992 Eugene Emeralds
SP Jake Westbrook 1996 Portland Rockies
SP John Lackey 1999 Boise Hawks
SP Dontrelle Willis 2001 Boise Hawks
SP Doug Fister 2006 Everett Aquasox
SP Mat Latos 2007 Eugene Emeralds
RP J.J. Putz 1999 Everett Aquasox
RP Rafael Soriano 1999 Everett Aquasox
I know there are probably players who should be on this list, others who should have been left off – but that is a fun discussion piece to have.
I have identified 129 former Boise Hawks players who are currently playing in affiliated baseball – including 19 on Major League rosters (though LHP Donnie Veal was optioned to AAA late last night – after I finished the Big League section).
An interesting part of the Alumni Report are the coaches with Boise ties – as 11 former Hawks – either players or coaches, are still active in baseball.