25-Year Anniversary Series: Hawks All-Star Team
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.