Round Rock, Texas - As the 2017 season opener at Dell Diamond rapidly approaches, the Round Rock Express announced the trio of nominees eligible to be enshrined in the Express Hall of Fame this July. Fans can vote for infielder Keith Ginter, outfielder Jason Lane or infielder Dave Matranga via an online poll on the homepage at RoundRockExpress.com today through Friday, February 10.
Ginter was a mainstay in the lineup for the 2000 E-Train squad that captured the Texas League Championship. Appearing in 125 of the team's 140 games, Ginter finished the season with a .333 batting average (154-462), by far the highest of any player on the team with at least 20 at-bats. He finished second on the team in home runs with 26, just two shy of current Express Hall of Famer Morgan Ensberg.
In addition, Ginter led the team in runs scored (108) and steals (24) while finishing second in hits (154) and RBI (92). He was promoted to the Houston Astros following the conclusion of the 2000 AA season. The infielder went on to spend parts of six seasons in the majors with the Astros, Milwaukee Brewers and Oakland A's.
Lane had two stints in Round Rock, first in 2001 then again in 2006 and 2007. The outfielder wreaked havoc on the Texas League in 2001, posting a .316 batting average (166-526) while also leading the team in games played (137), hits (166), runs scored (103), doubles (36), home runs (38) and RBI (124). Lane's 124 RBI led the Texas League while his 38 home runs finished second behind Wichita Wranglers slugger Brandon Berger (40).
He was promoted to the Astros in 2002, where he spent parts of the next four years. After appearing in just 12 games for the E-Train in 2006, Lane returned to form in 2007, finishing the year with a .319 batting average (59-185), belting nine homers and 15 doubles while driving in 41 runs. He returned to the big leagues later that season, starting 68 games with the Astros before a trade to the San Diego Padres. Following one final stint with the Padres in 2014, Lane retired at the conclusion of the 2015 season, capping off a 17-year professional career.
Like Lane, Matranga spent parts of three seasons in an E-Train uniform, first from 2000-2001, then again in 2004. The utility infielder played second base, third base and shortstop during his time in Round Rock. Matranga's most successful season came in 2001, where the righty posted a .302 batting average (117-387) that included 10 home runs and 60 RBIs as well as 78 runs scored. The year before, Matranga teamed up with fellow Hall of Fame nominee Keith Ginter to lead the Express to the 2000 Texas League Championship. He finished the year with a .233 average (87-373), driving in 44 runs in the process.
In his return to the team in 2004, Matranga hit .242 (95-392) with 48 RBI and seven homers. Despite just six plate appearances at the Major League level, Matranga left his name in the history books. During a fifth inning pinch-hit appearance on June 27, 2003, he became just the second player in Astros history to hit a home run in his first MLB at-bat. He finished his minor league career following the 2009 season, posting a lifetime .254 batting average in more than 1,100 total games played.
The winner will be decided between the fan vote and a panel of Express front office staff and current Hall of Fame members. He will be enshrined into the Hall during a special pregame ceremony scheduled for Saturday, July 29 as Round Rock is set to take on the El Paso Chihuahuas.
The Express open the 2017 season on Thursday, April 6 against the Nashville Sounds (Oakland Athletics affiliate). Season memberships, Flex Plans and Kids Club packages are on sale now. For more information on the Express, visit www.RoundRockExpress.com or call (512) 255-2255. Keep up with the Express on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter!