(Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium - Vancouver, B.C.) - For fans of Minor League Baseball, few things are sweeter than seeing a former player slip on a Major League jersey. That moment alone conjures up memories of 'remember when' and 'I saw him before the world did'.
It's a few steps for our beloved C's to get from Vancouver up and onto a Major League roster, but its happening - and more often than perhaps you know.
From RHP A.J. Griffin and 1B Dan Johnson through to OF Corey Brown and RHP Pedro Figueroa, our boys are quickly turning into the men that little boys hope to be when they grow up.
Here at www.canadiansbaseball.com, we look at four more former Vancouver Canadians who have either had a small taste of the Big Leagues or who might be knocking on that door a little louder than in years past.
When Anthony Aliotti arrived in Vancouver, I didn't know what to make of him. Strong, but a little soft, not short, not tall - just your prototypical college kid that really didn't have any one thing that stood out to me. But the Athletics have worked with him, and he has been one of those players that can just make the adjustment each and every year.
This spring, his second with Double-A Midland of the Texas League, Aliotti is having a breakout campaign for the RockHounds pounding the baseball, hitting .348 (31-for-89) with a pair of home runs and 13 RBI which leads the team.
Aliotti has the numbers, but maybe not the eye of parent club Oakland just yet as Daric Barton continues to make a case for a call-up hitting .306 with 18 RBI for Triple-A Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League. Both Aliotti and Barton are hitting well above .300 over the past ten games, so Aliotti, as hot as he has been thus far might have to play out another full season in the heat of Texas.
A little brash, but man, the upside remains.
Former Vancouver Canadians outfielder Jeremy Barfield continues to hit the ball hard with Double-A Midland of the Texas League (.261-5-12) and has worked to cut down his strikeout totals which almost come with the territory when speaking of power bats. Barfield has just 13 strikeouts through his first 80 plate appearances and currently has the highest on-base percentage of his career (.350).
It might just be a numbers game for Barfield as he tries to inch closer to Oakland's Coliseum as both Michael Taylor (.333-5-16) and former Vancouver Canadians standout Michael Choice (.277-4-22) are excelling offensively with Sacramento. Barfield is still just 24, but the time is now for the son of former Blue Jays outfielder Jesse Barfield to make his move and stay healthy in the process.
Dubbed 'The Pocketknife' for his ability to pull any tool out of his ability belt on the diamond, former Vancouver Canadians outfielder Conner Crumbliss has exceeded what many projected the 5'9", 165 pound prospect out of Emporia State University would ever be capable of. Those baseball assessors might have forgotten one key piece of business when sifting through the stat lines - heart and perseverance.
Crumbliss is currently taking his swings in Triple-A Sacramento this season and although hitting just .167, continues to find his way on-base through a keen eye at the plate. In the past three seasons including his rookie season (2009) with the C's, Crumbliss has walked an astonishing 410 times for a career on-base percentage of .413 which should make Oakland General Manager Billy Beane and his calculator froth at the mouth with excitement.
Conner faces the stigma of being too small in stature to grind out 162 games in the Big Leagues, but since his time with the Canadians, he has added 35 pounds to his frame and always managed at least 24 stolen bases since 2010, a good plan-B should the A's need a player who can generate a few extra runs.
'Disco' Dan Straily was another one of those 'late blooming' players that at first blush, had no business planning on a trip to the Major Leagues. However, the former Marshall University standout has proven more than just a few people wrong catching his stride in 2012 when between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento, he had amassed 190 strikeouts and was suddenly the 'hot commodity' in the Oakland A's system. He had averaged more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings which ended up being the best rate in the Minor Leagues.
A late season call-up to Oakland gave Straily his first taste of the Big Leagues and he didn't disappoint helping the A's top the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 in 15 innings.
This season, Straily has fluttered between Oakland and Sacramento making a few spot starts for the A's picking up the win in his 2013 debut going 5 2/3 innings against the Houston Astros striking out 11 and not walking a hitter.