The 2012 Orem Owlz ended their season with a bang, scoring 15 runs against the Idaho Falls Chukars. Unfortunately, the Owlz did not make the playoffs, but ending the season with a victory put a positive end to an up and down season.
Orem opened the season with a 1-8 record, but recovered to win 16 of their next 29 games in the first half. The 17-21 record left the Owlz four games back of both the Ogden Raptors and Grand Junction Rockies. In the second half, the Owlz got off to a scorching start, leading the South division for almost a full month. The last couple weeks provided to be the difference, as the Owlz finished the season losing nine of their final 11 games. It ended up being the first time that the Owlz/Provo Angels had ever missed the playoffs, and the first time in 23 years that Tom Kotchman had missed the playoffs.
Despite missing the playoffs, there were many positives on and off the field. On the field, the Owlz had the best offense in the league, leading the Pioneer League in batting average, hits, doubles, home runs, sacrifices and walks. Orem finished second in runs, averaging over 6.5 runs per game. The pitching struggled, finishing 7th in team ERA, but issued the second fewest walks and the third fewest home runs. In addition, the Owlz pitching staff put together three shutouts. The first shutout came against Missoula on July 16th, when Patrick Lowery, Garrett Baker, Michael Roth and Robert Powell allowed just six hits in nine innings. It was the first shutout by the Owlz since September 2010. The second shutout occurred on August 4th versus Idaho Falls and the third was in the Owlz only victory in Great Falls on August 24th. Individually, the Owlz were led on the mound by Gabriel Perez, who tied an Owlz record with eight wins on the year. The record tied a mark set by Jayson Miller and Will Smith in 2008. Perez received one of the five spots on the Pioneer League All-Star team pitching staff for his impressive season.
Perez was not the only Owlz player named to the Pioneer League All-Star team. Joel Capote, Wade Hinkle, Michael Snyder and Wendell Soto received the special honor, as well. Orem led all Pioneer League teams with five all-stars. Capote started the year in the Arizona League, but immediately became a force when he arrived in Orem in early July. He had at least one hit in seven of his first eight games, putting together three-plus hits in four of those eight games. The Angels 28th-round pick missed the cycle by a home run in consecutive games in his first week with Orem. He led the league in batting average for most of the season, but finished in 5th place in the race for the batting title.
One player who finished above Capote was Wade Hinkle. Hinkle had a .338 average and led the league in games played and on-base percentage. His 15 home runs left him one shy of Julian Yan for first place in that category. The former Kansas State Wildcat finished in the top five in doubles, slugging percentage, runs, total bases, walks, hits and extra-base hits. Right behind Capote in batting average was Michael Snyder. Snyder hit .332 in his first pro season and led the league in doubles with 25. The former Florida Southern Mocassin earned Topps Player of the Month honors for July, after driving in 34 runs, nine more than any other Pioneer League player. The 22-year-old from Centreville, Virginia led the league with 16 extra-base hits and 66 total bases in July. Snyder finished in the top five in games, RBIs, doubles, total bases, hits and extra-base hits.
The final player to be named an all-star was Wendell Soto. The former 2010 3rd-round selection provided the Owlz with a very steady presence up the middle on defense and he was able to hit everywhere in Tom Kotchman's lineup. Soto missed the final week of the season with a sprained ankle, but still finished 8th in the batting race. Soto and Sherman Johnson combined to be the best defensive middle infield combo in the league. Johnson provided the Owlz with a fantastic glove and a great eye at the plate, walking 49 times, which was second in the league. The former Florida State Seminole also finished 5th in the league in on-base percentage.
With all the accomplishments on the field, it was an extremely productive year off the field. 2012 turned out to be one of the best years for promotions. The Owlz handed out the first-ever Bobblelimb giveaway, which turned out to be a huge hit amongst all fans. The three-headed bobblehead had the bat of Mark Trumbo, the legs of Peter Bourjos and the arm of Jordan Walden. Multiple media sites throughout the country picked up on the phenomenal giveaway. Larry Thomas, who played the Soup Nazi on the hit show Seinfeld, showed up at the ballpark to greet fans and sign soup ladles. It was a night that all Seinfeld fans, and even non-Seinfeld fans enjoyed thoroughly.
Some other fun giveaways included a mini bat and ball giveaway, and a week filled with school supplies presented by the National Guard, which were given to kids. One of the most memorable nights of the season occurred on Nick Adenhart Memorial Fund Night. All of the Owlz jerseys were auctioned off to fans with $4,120 raised for the special charity that means the world to the Orem Owlz family. In 2012, the Owlz were happy to work with the Orem Kiwanis Club and Ancestry.com for the second consecutive season. Ancestry.com was pleased to present the Orem Kiwanis Club with $2,930 at the final home game of the season.
Next year will present a new challenge and everyone in the Owlz front office cannot thank our fans, coaches, players and staff enough for all that they did during the 2012 season!