25-Year Anniversary Series: The 25-Man All-NWL Roster for Memorial Stadium
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.