Silver Anniversary Team: Willie Harris, Second Base

Leader of 2000 SAL champs played 12 MLB seasons

By Will DeBoer / Delmarva Shorebirds | January 23, 2020 9:20 AM

Onto week three of our Shorebirds Silver Anniversary Team reveal. Last week we unveiled our first base pick, one of the cornerstones of Delmarva's first South Atlantic League pennant winner. As we make the turn to second base, our esteemed panel voted for the lynchpin of another championship club who parlayed his outstanding numbers at Perdue Stadium into one of the longest major league careers a Shorebird alumnus has yet to enjoy.

 

Second Base: Willie Harris, 1999-2000

199 games, .271/.368/.391, 148 R, 40 2B, 13 3B, 8 HR, 92 RBI, 55 SB, .759 OPS

 

 

Sometimes all a prospect needs is a second chance to prove himself at one level. Willie Harris arrived on the Eastern Shore as an eager rookie in 1999, fresh off a 24th round selection by the Orioles (his third time being drafted). He put up a respectable stat line over 66 games with the Shorebirds, but the O's brass thought one more season in Class-A would do the Kennesaw State product well.

 

What a difference a year makes. In 2000 Harris returned to Perdue Stadium a new man, turning in a remarkable season as part of the Shorebirds' second South Atlantic League pennant winner. While his batting average (.274) stayed relatively the same as in his previous year (.265), Harris upped his plate discipline and raised his on-base percentage from .313 to .396. He tabbed into his extra-base power as well, smashing 27 doubles, 10 triples, and six home runs while driving in 60 runs and stealing 38 bases.

 

Most impressively, Harris became the top table-setter in Delmarva history. His 106 runs scored obliterated Calvin Pickering's 1997 team mark of 88; in the 19 seasons since, nobody has even sniffed Harris' record, the closest challenge coming from B.J. Littleton's 84 runs the next year.

 

Harris made himself a memorable figure as the Shorebirds' everyday second baseman, once pranking teammate Gary Cates by putting Icy Hot in the latter's socks. On July 24 that year he had a rare day off against the Piedmont Boll Weevils, but pinch-hit for Cates in the 10th inning…and still played nine innings as Delmarva lost in the 19th. Cates remembered Harris musing after the marathon game, "Well…so much for my off day. Thanks guys!"

 

Harris and his teammates got their revenge on Piedmont in that year's SAL postseason, knocking off the 90-win Boll Weevils as a wild card team in the best-of-three first round. After slaying that giant, there was no doubt the Shorebirds would go all the way as they swept the Columbus RedStixx in three games to win their second crown in four seasons.

 

The championship season was just the beginning for Harris. He jumped straight to Double-A Bowie in 2001, hitting .305 with 54 stolen bases in a full season with the Baysox. The O's rewarded him with a September callup, and he played nine games with Baltimore to close out the season. His time at Camden Yards was brief, though; the Orioles flipped him to the White Sox that offseason for outfielder Chris Singleton.

 

 

Harris became a key contributor for the Southsiders, playing in 313 games for Chicago over the next four seasons. His best moment came at the most important time: Game 4 of the 2005 World Series in Houston. With the Sox and Astros still scoreless in the top of the eighth, Harris notched a pinch-hit single and eventually scored the tiebreaking run on a two-out single by Jermaine Dye. Six outs later Harris and his White Sox teammates celebrated a four-game sweep and their first world championship in 88 years.

 

The next season Harris joined the Red Sox as a free agent and bounced around between the Braves, Nationals, Mets, and Reds before calling it quits in 2012 at age 34. He played in 1046 games over his 12 major league seasons, batting .238 with 39 home runs and 212 RBIs and 365 runs scored. While he makes the Shorebirds Silver Anniversary team as a second baseman, Harris became a true journeyman in the field, playing every position except for first base and catcher.

 

That knowledge of the entire diamond allowed him to shift seamlessly into coaching: after a 10-year reunion of the '05 White Sox, Harris debuted as hitting coach for Rookie-level Great Falls in 2016. He managed Chicago's Advanced-A Winston-Salem affiliate in 2017 and then skippered Double-A Richmond (Giants) for the next two seasons. This offseason he joined the Cincinnati Reds as their outfield and baserunning coordinator, an appropriate role for one of the best baserunners the Shorebirds have ever seen.

 

 

Best of the Rest

Gary Cates (2000-05) - As much of a fan favorite as anyone who's ever donned a Shorebird uniform, Cates played in a franchise-record 372 games over five seasons, batting .278 with 187 runs scored and 122 RBIs. He was a mere 18-year-old on the 2000 SAL champions and was part of two more Delmarva teams ('02, '05) that made it to the postseason. Cates reached as high as Double-A with the Orioles and also played in the Cubs, Rockies, and Phillies systems, plus half a season with Camden in the Atlantic League, before retiring after 2008 as a 10-year minor league vet.

 

Ryan Adams (2008) - Adams led the 2008 Shorebirds with a .308 average, 11 home runs, 57 RBIs, and an .829 OPS. Three years later he made his major league debut, playing in 29 games for the 2011 Orioles. He never got back to the majors but played another season in the Baltimore system before moving onto the Dodgers and retiring in 2015 after a brief stint in independent ball.

 

Stevie Wilkerson (2015) - Now known for his highlight reel catches in the outfield, Wilkerson made the SAL All-Star team as the Shorebirds' second baseman in 2015, hitting .287 with a .747 OPS over 92 games. He was an organizational All-Star for the O's that season and in 2017, when he hit .305 between Frederick and Bowie and made the Arizona Fall League. Wilkerson cracked The Show in 2018 and became Baltimore's regular center fielder the next year; in a season to forget, he gave O's fans a series of plays to remember, including a remarkable home run robbery during Game 162 at Fenway Park.

 

Adam Hall (2019) - A second-round pick for the O's in 2017, Hall earned midseason and postseason (utility infielder) All-Star nods in the SAL, batting .298 (one hit shy of .300) with 31 extra-base hits, 78 runs, and 33 stolen bases for a Shorebirds team that won a minor league-best 90 games. Playing most of the season with his mind on his father Tyler, who was battling multiple myeloma, Adam got to throw out the first pitch to his dad on Strike Out Cancer Night on July 27, scoring the run that iced a shutout win for Delmarva over Charleston.

 

Delmarva Shorebirds Silver Anniversary Team

Catcher: Chance Sisco (2014)

First Base: Calvin Pickering (1997)

Second Base: Willie Harris (1999-2000)

Third Base: January 30

Shortstop: February 6

Left Field: February 13

Center Field: February 20

Right Field: February 27

Designated Hitter: March 5

Starting Pitchers: March 12

Relief Pitchers: March 19

 

The Delmarva Shorebirds Silver Anniversary Team was voted on by a panel of experts who have deep, longstanding ties to the Shorebirds organization. The panel considered several factors to make well-rounded decisions on who best represents the history of the Delmarva franchise as both a competitive team in its own right and as a step on the road to major league glory. Members of the panel include: Chris Bitters, Shorebirds general manager; Will DeBoer, Director of Broadcasting & Communications; Gil Dunn, Delmarva Shorebirds Fan Club president; Dr. Richard A. Passwater, a.k.a. "Doc Shorebird," team historian; Ricky Pollitt, The Daily Times sportswriter; Bryan Records, longtime Shorebirds clubhouse assistant; Randy Scott, Froggy 99.9 FM radio personality and former Shorebirds broadcaster; and Jimmy Sweet, Shorebirds assistant general manager.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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Silver Anniversary Team: Calvin Pickering, First Base

Delmarva's home run king led '97 team to SAL title

By Will DeBoer / Delmarva Shorebirds | January 16, 2020 10:30 AM

We're off and running with our Shorebirds Silver Anniversary Team. After opening our roster last week with one half of the team's battery, we now turn our attention to the infield, starting with the corner position that perennially serves as Delmarva's power plant.

 

First base: sluggers are attracted to this infield corner like a seagull to Thrashers fries. Some of the Shorebirds' most prolific home run hitters have been housed at first base over their first 24 seasons. While Perdue Stadium has seen more than its fair share of major league talent at first, our expert panel* congregated around a former Sally League champion whose historic campaign still serves as the benchmark for Delmarva's big boppers.

 

First Base: Calvin Pickering, 1997

122 games, .311/.394/.554, 88 R, 31 2B, 25 HR, 79 RBI, .949 OPS

 

 

In an era when home run records seemingly fall like dominos, the Delmarva Shorebirds' has stood untouched for nearly a quarter century. Calvin Pickering set a power-hitting standard in the franchise's second season that has rarely been approached since.

 

"I didn't even know it was still standing, to be honest," said Pickering over the phone of his 25 home runs during the 1997 season, plus four more in a magical postseason run that reeled in Delmarva's first South Atlantic League championship. "I'm surprised it's still up with all the good players that have come through there."

 

Indeed, the most serious threat to Pickering's reign came from one of his teammates. That summer, the St. Thomas-born first baseman had the perfect counterpart on the other corner of the infield, third baseman Ryan Minor. With Pickering from the left side of the plate and Minor from the right, the Shorebirds' Bash Brothers kept Sally League pitchers up at night all season.

 

"It started back when we were together [with Bluefield] in the Appalachian League," said Pickering of his foil, who finished the regular season one dinger behind his teammate. "They made it a point that we were the top prospects in the system, and they kept us together all the way up. We always tried to push each other and be the best on the field. We challenged each other, and we were definitely the best one-two punch coming up at that time."

 

For their first season in the Baltimore system, Delmarva featured not just that one-two punch but most of a lineup that propelled the Bluefield Orioles to the Appy League title the year before. Under manager Tommy Shields, the Shorebirds won 77 games in the regular season and made it to an eight-team SAL postseason, the first of just three seasons the league used that playoff format. After dispatching Hickory and Charleston (WV), Delmarva swept Greensboro in the championship series, with Pickering homering in the ninth of the clincher.

 

"We were like brothers, we did everything together on that team," said Pickering, whose summer in Salisbury including a team whitewater rafting session. "We knew what we had, and the other teams out there realized that we were that good. [In spring training] we said, 'We're gonna win another one, especially if they keep this team together.' And they kept us together, that whole team for that whole season."

 

 

The ring was just the cherry on top of a monster offensive season for Pickering. He still ranks top-five in franchise history in batting average, slugging, extra-base hits, total bases, and runs scored. Only once since '97 has any Shorebird besides Minor seriously challenged Pickering's 25 home runs; Jason Fransz fell three short in 2005, and nobody else has ever hit more than 20.

 

Pickering kept up the pace the next year, winning Eastern League MVP with Bowie and making his debut with the Orioles that September. He played 95 major league games for four teams across five seasons, including cracking an Opening Day home run for the Royals in 2005, before retiring from the game in 2008 after brief stints in Korea and independent ball.

 

Always interested in "spreading the knowledge," Pickering spent one season as hitting coach for the Aberdeen IronBirds in 2015. He now works as a corrections officer in Riverside, Calif., and has passed on a love of the game to his 14-year-old son Jacob. Perhaps it will take a second-generation Pickering to finally top this storied Shorebirds record.

 

 

Best of the Rest

Ryan Finan (2005-06) - After a brief cameo with the Shorebirds in 2005, Finan came into his own in 2006, pounding 50 extra base hits - including 17 home runs - with 78 RBIs and an impressive .855 OPS. He kept the ball rolling in Frederick the next season, earning a Carolina League Postseason All-Star bid, but played just one more season with Bowie and retired at the end of 2008.

 

Brandon Snyder (2006-07) - Snyder hit 14 home runs over 156 games between two campaigns with the Shorebirds. A breakthrough 2008 season with Frederick sent him to the Arizona Fall League, and two years later he made his major league debut with the Orioles. Snyder has played parts of six seasons in the majors for six different teams and is still plugging away at age 33, smashing 31 home runs for Triple-A Fresno (Nationals) in 2019.

 

Nicky Delmonico (2012) - As a 19-year-old rookie Delmonico put up SAL All-Star caliber numbers, hitting 11 home runs and driving in 54 while missing most of the second half with injuries. The next summer the Orioles traded him straight up to the Brewers for All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez. Delmonico eventually caught on with the White Sox, making his major league debut in 2017 -the 100th former Shorebird to crack the bigs - and playing 152 games with the South Siders before being released last June.

 

Trey Mancini (2014) - Shorebirds fans weren't surprised when Mancini became an Orioles fan-favorite. He won over Delmarva hearts with an SAL All-Star mentality, hitting .317 in 68 games before a midseason promotion to Frederick. Mancini reached The Show with a bang in 2016 and finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2017. Last season he hit 35 home runs with 97 RBIs, and despite an egregious All-Star snub, Boom Boom has become the face of the franchise and will serve as a cornerstone in Baltimore's rebuilding project.

 

Seamus Curran (2018-19) - A Sally League All-Star two times over, Curran started the league's midsummer classic as first baseman in his first season and designated hitter in his second. He slugged 30 home runs, plating 112 runs and scoring 101 himself, over his two seasons playing most of his games in a pitcher-friendly Perdue Stadium.

 

Delmarva Shorebirds Silver Anniversary Team

Catcher: Chance Sisco (2014)

First Base: Calvin Pickering (1997)

Second Base: January 23

Third Base: January 30

Shortstop: February 6

Left Field: February 13

Center Field: February 20

Right Field: February 27

Designated Hitter: March 5

Starting Pitchers: March 12

Relief Pitchers: March 19

 

*The Delmarva Shorebirds Silver Anniversary Team was voted on by a panel of experts who have deep, longstanding ties to the Shorebirds organization. The panel considered several factors to make well-rounded decisions on who best represents the history of the Delmarva franchise as both a competitive team in its own right and as a step on the road to major league glory. Members of the panel include: Chris Bitters, Shorebirds general manager; Will DeBoer, Director of Broadcasting & Communications; Gil Dunn, Delmarva Shorebirds Fan Club president; Dr. Richard A. Passwater, a.k.a. "Doc Shorebird," team historian; Ricky Pollitt, The Daily Times sportswriter; Bryan Records, longtime Shorebirds clubhouse assistant; Randy Scott, Froggy 99.9 FM radio personality and former Shorebirds broadcaster; and Jimmy Sweet, Shorebirds assistant general manager.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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Silver Anniversary Team: Chance Sisco, Catcher

Sisco won Delmarva's first batting title in 2014

By Will DeBoer / Delmarva Shorebirds | January 9, 2020 9:00 AM

Casey Stengel once opined, "You have to have a catcher, because if you don't, you're likely to have a lot of passed balls." Imprudent of us to doubt the Old Perfesser, the backstop position is where we begin unveiling the Shorebirds' Silver Anniversary team for Delmarva's 25th season in the South Atlantic League.

 

The most grueling position of any in the everyday lineup, the Shorebirds have been fortunate to see so many elite prospects behind the catcher's mask. From 12-year major league veteran Michael Barrett on the inaugural 1996 club to No. 1 overall pick Adley Rutschman on last season's 90-win squad, elite backstops have been the foundation of any of Delmarva's championship-caliber teams. To serve as the foundation of the Silver Team, our esteemed panel voted for a man who turned in one of the finest hitting seasons in franchise history and brought first-of-its-kind hardware back to Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.

 

Catcher: Chance Sisco, 2014

114 games, .340/.406/.448, 56 R, 27 2B, 5 HR, 63 RBI, .854 OPS

 

 

Through the first month of the 2014 season, Chance Sisco looked like he bit off more than he could chew. The 19-year-old catcher, drafted in the second round the previous summer, was hitting just .245 in April before suffering a left elbow strain that sidelined him for two weeks. By the time he returned to action, though, Sisco was ready for primetime.

 

"[That season] was big for developmental reasons," said Sisco via text earlier this month. "It was my first full season as a professional, so it was about learning the ups and downs and how to keep my body healthy for so long. There were plenty of learning curves that year, on and off the field."

 

The biggest curve upward, of course, was his batting average. From Sisco's return on May 8 through the end of the year, Sisco hit .353, a mark astounding for any Class-A player but almost unheard of for a primary catcher. At season's end Sisco stood above all with a .340 average, beating out only one serious challenger to take home the first SAL batting title in Delmarva Shorebirds history.

 

"It was a pretty cool moment to end the year," said Sisco. "I had to learn how to get out of that slow start I had and not let it affect the whole year, so it was nice at the end to be able to see how big of a change my season took. There were plenty of teammates and coaches that played roles that whole season for me."

 

A natural hitter who could spray to the gaps all over the field, Sisco saved one of his best performances for one of the season's biggest stages. He set the tone for the Shorebirds' 17-5 Fourth of July shellacking of Lakewood with a two-run home run in the bottom of the first, finishing the game with three hits, three runs, and four RBIs to thrill the sellout home crowd of 7,685.

 

"The fans were always so supportive of us," said Sisco. "The players for sure appreciate that!"

 

While his pedestrian start kept him from joining seven of his teammates at the All-Star Game, Sisco got his due and then some by the end of the year. He made the Sally League Postseason All-Star Team and picked up minor league All-Star nods from MiLB.com and Baseball America.

 

 

Sisco built on his Delmarva success and became one of Baltimore's most decorated prospects of the 2010s, earning slew of All-Star selections and playing in two Futures Games. In 2016 with Bowie, Sisco earned the Brooks Robinson Award as the Orioles' top minor league hitter after batting .320 with an .828 OPS. He made his major league debut the next September and bounced between Triple-A and the bigs before establishing himself as the O's primary backstop in June of 2019.

 

Still young for an established major leaguer - he turns 25 in February - Chance Sisco is still writing his post-Shorebirds story. But for the franchise's first batting champion, his legacy in Delmarva is assured.

 

 

Best of the Rest

Michael Barrett (1996) - Barrett provided steady backing for the inaugural Shorebirds, who won 83 games and made it to the SAL Championship Series. One of 10 original 'Birds to make it to The Show, Barrett spent 12 seasons in the major leagues (1998-2009), winning a Silver Slugger with the Cubs in 2005.

 

Jayson Werth (1998) - A catcher when he donned the Shorebird orange and black, Werth helped Delmarva win 81 games and reach the SAL postseason for the third straight season. After transitioning to outfield and cracking the bigs with the Blue Jays in 2002, Werth helped the Phillies win the World Series in 2008 and made the NL All-Star team the next year. He capped his 15-year big-league career as a fan favorite with the Nationals in 2017.

 

Mike Ohlman (2010-12) - After moonlighting with Delmarva in 2010, Ohlman became an All-Star for the 2011 Shorebirds, who hosted the event, and hit .304 over the final two months of an injury-shortened 2012. The O's sold him to St. Louis before the 2015 season, and he eventually got a cup of coffee in the majors with Toronto in 2017. Last season Ohlman played in the independent Atlantic League, where he became an All-Star for the Somerset Patriots.

 

Yermin Mercedes (2015-16) - Author of the highest single-season average in franchise history, Mercedes won the SAL batting title in 2016, hitting .353 with 25 doubles, 14 home runs, and 60 RBIs in 91 games before an August promotion to Frederick. The White Sox took him in the Rule 5 Draft after the 2017 season and he put up solid numbers in Double- and Triple-A over two seasons, earning a spot on Chicago's 40-Man Roster in November.

 

Delmarva Shorebirds Silver Anniversary Team

Catcher: Chance Sisco (2014)

First Base: January 16

Second Base: January 23

Third Base: January 30

Shortstop: February 6

Left Field: February 13

Center Field: February 20

Right Field: February 27

Designated Hitter: March 5

Starting Pitchers: March 12

Relief Pitchers: March 19

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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Coming Next Week: Shorebirds Silver Anniversary Team

Weekly reveals to begin with catcher on January 9

By Will DeBoer / Delmarva Shorebirds | January 3, 2020 11:44 AM

The new year is officially upon us, and with it the countdown to the 25th season of Delmarva Shorebirds baseball begins in earnest. With this important milestone comes a chance to recognize the best of the best to ever don the orange and black at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.

 

Beginning next week right here on Around the Roost, the Shorebirds will recognize their Silver Anniversary Team. The team was selected by a panel of experts who have longstanding relations with the Shorebirds organization. In selecting team members, the panel considered several factors to make well-rounded decisions on who best represents the history of the Delmarva franchise, dating back to its inaugural season in 1996, as both a competitive team in its own right and as a step on the road to greater glory.  

 

Every Thursday through the end of March we will announce team members position by position, starting with catcher on January 9. Positional order is as follows:

 

Catcher: January 9

First Base: January 16

Second Base: January 23

Third Base: January 30

Shortstop: February 6

Left Field: February 13

Center Field: February 20

Right Field: February 27

Designated Hitter: March 5

Starting Pitchers: March 12

Relief Pitchers: March 19

 

We look forward to revealing the Shorebirds Silver Anniversary Team as we count down to the franchise's 25th Opening Day on Thursday, April 9, against the Asheville Tourists at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium. Visit this link in order to reserve your tickets for that game and others in 2020!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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The Twelve Days of Shoremas, Part II: Birdy Boogaloo

Celebrate the holidays with more of our Shorebirds-themed song!

(Delmarva Shorebirds)

By Will DeBoer / Delmarva Shorebirds | December 19, 2019 10:25 AM

Last week we introduced the Shorebirds' take on a beloved Christmas classic, and a sensation was born. "The Twelve Days of Shoremas" shot to the top of the (totally not-made-up) Billboard MiLB Holiday Standards chart, becoming the envy of minor league markets coast-to-coast and warming the hearts of literally dozens. Several teams tried emulating the Shorebirds with their own holiday rewrites, resulting in hundreds of hours in lost productivity and even two arrests. The less said about "Rockin' Around the Sod Poodle Tree," the better.

 

Now, after collecting our royalty checks and freshening up our voices with Sherman's Special Singing Elixir and Egg Nog Substitute (patent pending), it's time to present the second half of our 2019 Shorebirds Christmas homage.

 

On the 6th Day of Shoremas, the Shorebirds gave to me…

 

Six straight G-Rod dubs

From the first time he stepped on the mound at Lexington's Whitaker Bank Ballpark on April 5, Shorebirds fans knew they had a bonafide ace in 19-year-old Grayson Rodriguez. He won his team debut in convincing fashion, fanning 10 Legends over five scoreless innings, the first of four scoreless 10-strikeout starts during a magical summer. Rodriguez, the Orioles' first-round pick in 2018, won his first six decisions from April 5 through May 27, notching a 1.47 ERA and striking out 12.78 batters per nine innings. G-Rod became a sensation, starting the South Atlantic League All-Star Game in June and becoming the first Shorebird to make the MLB Futures Game since Hunter Harvey in 2014. At one point the big Texan became the top prospect in the Baltimore system (currently No. 2 behind Adley Rutschman) and finished the year as the SAL's Top MLB Prospect and the Orioles' Jim Palmer Co-Pitcher of the Year. There's a freight train coming to Charm City, and his first depot was Perdue Stadium.

 

Video: Rodriguez dazzles with 10 Ks again

 

Five Hundred-Ks!

Grayson Rodriguez may have grabbed the headlines, but the Shorebirds had plenty of power pitching to go around. Five Delmarva pitchers hit 100 strikeouts for the season: Rodriguez (129), Gray Fenter (123), Drew Rom (122), Ryan Wilson (105), and Nick Vespi (100). Fenter saved his best stuff for last, punching out a career-high 13 over 6.1 scoreless innings in Game 2 of the NDCS against Hickory. Most impressive of all might have been Wilson, who didn't even join the team until May 18 but struck out at least seven in half his starts. On the backs of these five aces, plus four others who fanned at least 70, the Shorebirds annihilated the South Atlantic League team record with 1,389 strikeouts.

 

Video: Fenter punches out 13th batter

 

Four Winning Streaks

The Shorebirds went on a white-hot 24-4 start on the back of several impressive winning streaks. Delmarva strung together its longest run in eight years with a 10-game streak from April 9-18, including sweeps of Lakewood and Kannapolis for a perfect seven-game homestand. That streak came to an end on the 19th, but the Shorebirds bounced back and immediately won five more in a row from the 20th through 27th. The next month the team took its winning ways on the road, besting Columbia and Asheville in seven straight to get to 24-4. A six-gamer came shortly after the All-Star Break from June 23-28, giving the Shorebirds four separate winning streaks of five or more in 2019.

 

Three Shore-to-Shows

In its 24 seasons in Salisbury, Delmarva has seen over 100 prospects make it to the major leagues, including 2019 all-stars John Means and Josh Hader. Three more members of the Shorebirds flock made it to The Show in 2019. Frederick native Branden Kline (2013) made his debut with the Orioles on April 20 against Minnesota, eventually pitching in 34 games and picking up his first major league win on May 1 at the Chicago White Sox. Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski (2014) fulfilled his familial destiny when he took his first at-bats with the Giants on May 25; he batted .272 with 21 home runs and an impressive .852 in 107 games for San Francisco. Finally, in a long-awaited outing several Shorebirds watched on their phones on the bus in Lakewood on August 17, Hunter Harvey (2014, 2017) struck out two in a scoreless inning at Fenway Park. A former first-round pick, Harvey posted a 1.42 ERA with 11 whiffs across 6.1 innings, setting himself up as perhaps the Orioles' shutdown reliever of the future.

 

Two Gate-Crashing Nights

The Big Chicken Wing was rocking all summer, but on two nights especially the Delmarva faithful gave it their all. Twice the Shorebirds drew over 6,000 fans at Perdue Stadium, winning on both occasions. In front of a Fourth of July crowd of 7,576, Robert Neustrom doubled home a pair of runs in the second inning that proved to be the difference in a 3-2 win over in-state rival Hagerstown, celebrated at the end with patriotic fireworks galore. Then on August 10 - Mountaire Farms Family Night - 6,987 fans to got to witness the latest and greatest episode of The G-Rod Show. Grayson Rodriguez punched out 10 batters over five scoreless (stop us if you've heard that one before), and Seamus Curran and Adam Hall backed him with home runs as the Shorebirds bounced Kannapolis 5-1. The two big-ticket nights were the high-water mark of a slate that saw Delmarva go 46-24 at home.

 

And the Minor League Team of the Year!

The best record in the minors (90-48). The most wins in the Sally League since 2006, and the major-league equivalent of winning 106 games. Eight midseason All-Stars, two postseason All-Stars. The SAL's top manager (Kyle Moore), coach (Justin Ramsey), and major-league prospect (Grayson Rodriguez). A comeback for the ages, an emotional family reunion, the highest-profile prospect in a generation, and the end of a 14-year playoff drought. Need we say more?

 

And there you have it, a Christmas classic five months in the making, a song and season that will live on in Delmarva lure for years to come. Next year we'll adapt it as a Hallmark Christmas movie - anybody have Kristen Chenoweth on speed dial? - but for now, we bid all Shorebirds fans a safe and happy holiday season. Here's to flying together in 2020!

 

Video: Garcia closes Shorebirds' 90th win

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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The Twelve Days of Shoremas, Part I

Celebrate the holidays with a Shorebirds-themed song!

(Delmarva Shorebirds)

By Will DeBoer / Delmarva Shorebirds | December 12, 2019 9:30 AM

One of the most inescapable parts of the holiday season is annual unboxing of every Christmas song you've ever heard. From the parades to the malls to every other radio station, our Decembers are soundtracked by Bing and Mariah and 15 new versions of that Wham song whose lyrics still don't make sense (isn't giving your heart to someone special where the problem started last Christmas, George Michael?).

 

We here at the Delmarva Shorebirds decided to get in on the fun this year and put out our own Christmas song that would pay final homage to the historic 2019 season at Perdue Stadium. A few days ago we sent some team representatives to the famous Brill Building in New York to solicit the very best songwriters. Once security had thrown us out, we realized we needed a different approach. So in the spirit of Bob & Doug McKenzie before us, we decided our way forward was retooling a beloved holiday standard to fit our own ends. The Bill Nighy character from Love Actually would approve.

 

So here it is, the song you'll be hearing on Q105 every 43 minutes through December 25…presenting "The Twelve Days of Shoremas!"

 

On the 12th Day of Shoremas, the Shorebirds gave to me…

 

Twelve Pitching Feats

Pitching was the name of the game in 2019. The Shorebirds had a stable full of aces at Arthur W., finishing the year ranked in the top 10 across all of full-season Minor League Baseball in 12 different pitching categories. Delmarva led the minors in wins (90), saves (53), shutouts (20), fewest hits (898), and batting average against (.205), and made impressive leaderboard appearances in stats like ERA (3.00), WHIP (1.18), and strikeouts (1,389). The Shorebirds' arms set the South Atlantic League record for strikeouts in a season and helped earn first-year pitching coach Justin Ramsey both SAL Coach of the Year and Orioles' Cal Ripken, Sr. Player Development Award.

 

Eleven-Inning Games

A far cry from the 21-inning games of yesteryear, the Shorebirds took the Spinal Tap route and only went 11. Delmarva's longest games this season were a pair of 11-inning affairs, both of which came with happy endings. Andrew Fregia's walkoff single in the bottom of the 11th lifted the Shorebirds to a 2-1 win over Kannapolis on April 17; Cowboy's heroics came in the midst of a 10-game winning streak and capped a perfect season-opening seven-game homestand. Flash forward three months to Delmarva's 100th game of the year, a Sunday afternoon showdown at West Virginia on July 21. Jaylen Ferguson tagged a go-ahead RBI single into center to score Alexis Torres, and Ruben Garcia locked it down in the bottom of the 11th to preserve a 3-2 win over the Power. That win was the Shorebirds' 69th of the season, surpassing their 2018 total with a month and a half to spare.

 

Video: Fregia wins it in 11th

 

Ten-Run Innings

At no time did Delmarva flex its offensive muscle more than on April 24 against Asheville. With one run home already in the bottom of the third, J.C. Encarnacion came up and slashed a two-run double to flip a 3-2 hole into a 4-3 lead. A few minutes and half a dozen runs later, Encarnacion came up again, this time pegging a sharp grounder that bounced off the second base bag and into center for another RBI single. That brought home the Shorebirds' 10th run of the inning, all but assuring the W in a 15-7 laugher. The win was Delmarva's 10th straight at home to begin the year, a number they'd stretch to 12 in a row with a pair of wins over Augusta later in the week.

 

Video: Encarnacion puts stamp on 10-run 3rd

 

Nine-Run Comebacks

After clinching the first half Northern Division title with ease, the Shorebirds seemed destined for a second-half hangover in their post-break debut at Greensboro on June 20, falling behind 11-2 after six. But oh how the tables turned: a four-run seventh bled into a four-run eighth, cutting the deficit to one run. In the top of the ninth, Cadyn Grenier led off with a walk and took second on a passed ball. Cody Roberts came up next and pounded a flyball deep to left center. Center fielder Fabricio Macias fell down making the catch, and Grenier turned on the jets to score all the way from second on the sac fly and tie it at 11-11. Edison Lantigua played the extra-inning hero in his team debut, singling home the winning run in the 10th as the Shorebirds stunned the Grasshoppers 12-11. The victory set the tone for another stellar half-season that saw Delmarva go 42-27 and tie Hickory atop the North.

 

Eight All-Stars

"Here's the story…of some pleasant players…" (Sorry, mixing up our parodies.) The 'Birds sent a Bunch of eight to the 60th Annual SAL All-Star Game in Charleston, West Virginia. Pitchers Grayson Rodriguez, Zach Matson, Ofelky Peralta, and Drew Rom joined catcher Daniel Fajardo, shortstop Adam Hall, outfielder Doran Turchin, and DH Seamus Curran at Appalachian Power Park, by far the largest team contingent in the league. Rodriguez was voted the game's starting pitcher for the Northern Division, while Turchin picked up game MVP honors with a bases-clearing double in the bottom of the eighth to power the North to a 5-2 win. Florence Henderson would've been proud.

 

 

Seven Wild Parties

 

*in our best Bill Hader voice* This club has everything: diamonds, bats, flying buckets of Gatorade, even a giant orange bird! Perdue Stadium became the Peninsula's hottest party seven times in 2019 thanks to game-winning, game-ending hits. The first became the stuff of legend: J.C. Encarnacion's grand slam to beat Lakewood 7-3 on April 13 in a game where the Shorebirds had been no-hit with one out in the ninth. Each night a different hero arose: Encarnacion was soon joined by Daniel Fajardo, Andrew Fregia, Alexis Torres, Ben Breazeale, and Cadyn Grenier. Jaylen Ferguson made it Lucky No. 7 on June 13 with a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth to beat Hickory 5-4. Club Walk-Off was the focal point in a year that saw Delmarva pick up 20 wins in the team's final at-bat. Your move, Seacrets!

 

We'll share the second half of our holiday ditty next week on Around the Roost. For now, time to rest up the singing voices and fend off a few cease and desist orders from Tin Pan Alley.

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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Mountcastle Blasts Way to IL MVP

Former Shorebird added to 40-man roster after mammoth '19

By Will DeBoer / Delmarva Shorebirds | December 5, 2019 8:56 AM

In 2019, a fresh-faced first baseman took the National League by storm, smashing home runs at a record pace and ultimately cakewalking to Rookie of the Year. The baseball world sat up and noticed as the Mets' Pete Alonso obliterated the rookie home run record and led the majors with 53 round-trippers. While Alonso made headlines in the Senior Circuit, the Orioles hope that their own soon-to-be major-league first baseman will do the same in the Junior Circuit in 2020.

 

Baltimore is right to have high hopes for Ryan Mountcastle, who has come into his own three years after a summer with the Delmarva Shorebirds. The former first-round pick truly tapped into his power with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, slashing .312/.344/.527 with a career-best 25 home runs and 83 RBIs. Mountcastle added 35 doubles and scored 81 runs while leading the International League with 162 hits. After an illustrious season in a Triple-A League not known for top offense, it came as no surprise that Mountcastle was named IL Most Valuable Player, becoming the first Tide to win it in the Orioles era and the franchise's first since Roberto Petagine in 1997.

 

Birdland faithful who followed Mountcastle from the beginning knew he would eventually blossom into such a power threat. Drafted 36th overall out of Paul J. Hagerty High School in Florida, he spent his rookie summer of 2015 between the Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen, earning a spot on the Shorebirds' Opening Day roster in 2016. The 19-year-old made an instant impact, slugging a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to help Delmarva shut out intrastate rivals Hagerstown 4-0 in the season opener on April 7.

 

It would be some time before Mountcastle would leave the yard again, though. He went the rest of April without a home run, then the whole month of May. The winds finally shifted Mountcastle's way on June 6 in West Virginia, where he drilled a solo shot early in the Shorebirds' 13-inning win over the Power. With newfound confidence, Mountcastle locked in and belted three more homers before the All-Star Break, including two at the pitchers' paradise that is Perdue Stadium.

 

While his averaged dipped in the second half, Mountcastle still managed impressive numbers for a teenager in the South Atlantic League, hitting .281 with 28 doubles, four triples, 10 homers, 51 RBIs, and 53 runs scored while playing in 115 games for the Shorebirds, who missed a playoff berth by half a game in that year's first half standings.

 

 

After his summer in Salisbury, Mountcastle kept the ball rolling as he climbed the Oriole ladder. He went on a tear at the start of the 2017 campaign in High-A Frederick, hitting .318 with 13 extra-base hits over his first 28 games and earning a mid-season promotion to Double-A Bowie. He finished the full year with 18 homers and an .802 OPS over the two levels and earned an invite to the Arizona Fall League, where he played for the Salt River Rafters.

 

A repeat 2018 season with Bowie gave Mountcastle the finishing touches he needed to burst onto the Triple-A scene this year. While it took him 12 games to hit a home run, his first opened up a spurt of four longballs in five days. He belted a walk-off homer to beat Louisville on June 1 and followed it up the next day with three dingers in an onslaught of the Bats. After one of the more stellar campaigns by an Oriole farmhand in recent memory, Mountcastle was the organization's runaway pick for Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year.

 

Like another former Shorebird in Ryan McKenna , Mountcastle joined the Orioles' 40-man roster in recent weeks. While it remains to be seen if he'll get an Alonso-esque ticket to the majors in time for Opening Day, Mountcastle is as good a candidate as any to catch that rookie lightning in a bottle all over again.

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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McKenna Takes Final Strides to Show

Center fielder first 2017 Shorebird on Orioles' 40-man

(Joey Gardner)

By Will DeBoer / Delmarva Shorebirds | November 21, 2019 11:17 AM

While nobody from the 2017 Delmarva Shorebirds has made it to the major leagues as of the end of 2019, one of that team's youngest members has taken perhaps his most important step yet in making it all the way to Baltimore. And in the relative calm of the offseason, no less.

 

On Wednesday the Orioles announced that outfield prospect Ryan McKenna had been named to the team's 40-man roster, along with three of his fellow high-prized minor leaguers. Born in 1997, the 22-year-old is the youngest member of Baltimore's 40-man. In addition to being signed to a major league contract, McKenna's new status protects him from being cherrypicked away by another club in next month's MLB Rule 5 Draft.

 

In short, the Orioles are confident enough that McKenna will be an asset in the big leagues to put him on the organization's most coveted shortlist. He stands a very real chance of making it to The Show next year.

 

A rare high-prized high school outfielder to hail from New England, McKenna became Baltimore's fourth-round pick in 2015 out of St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover, N.H. After a summer in Sarasota and another in Aberdeen, he made the Shorebirds' Opening Day roster in 2017 as a 20-year-old. Things started slow for McKenna but he eventually settled in, rising up on June 12 with a walk-off single to beat Kannapolis in the bottom of the 13th. The heroics sparked something in McKenna, who batted .280 after the All-Star Break and finished third in the South Atlantic League with 33 doubles.

 

The 2017-18 offseason may have come at a bad time for a hitter who was just settling into his groove, but McKenna took his resurgence to new heights with Frederick in 2018. He put up blistering first half numbers, slashing .377/.467/.556 with 28 extra-base hits and 60 runs scored over 67 games. One man who played a big role in McKenna's breakthrough was then-Keys hitting coach Kyle Moore, who managed the Shorebirds to a franchise record 90 wins the next year.

 

"Moore tries to keep it simple and tries to find what he thinks will allow us to perform to the best of our ability," said McKenna in an interview for the Shorebirds' PlayBall! magazine in June 2018. "We've got a good environment here; it's all positive, and I'm just trying to get together some good at-bats."

 

 

Had he stuck around Frederick he would've likely been named Carolina League MVP. But the Orioles had greater plans for McKenna, who was promoted to Bowie at the All-Star Break. As it is for so many prospects, the young outfielder's first foray into Double-A was trying; he hit just .239 over 60 initial games with the Baysox. But the body of work across both levels was enough to earn McKenna a roster spot in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. It was the Frederick version of McKenna who reemerged with the Glendale Desert Dogs: he hit .344 (fifth in the AFL) with a 1.064 OPS (second) against some of the best prospects in baseball.

 

While Double-A pitching remained a mystery for most of 2019, McKenna was an everyday piece in Buck Britton's lineup, playing 135 out of 140 games and batting .232. This year his 2017 Shorebird teammates began trickling into the Bowie clubhouse: ex-Delmarva standouts like Alex Wells, Preston Palmeiro, and Steven Klimek joined McKenna at Prince George's Stadium and helped the Baysox turn a 7-23 start into a berth in the Eastern League Championship Series.

 

As McKenna closes the books on 2019 his stock in Birdland is higher than ever. MLB Pipeline tabs him as the Orioles' 13th-best prospect with the ceiling of an everyday major league center fielder. A strong start with Triple-A Norfolk next season could fast-track him to the majors, where he could become the first Shorebird from the 2017 team, excluding rehabbers, to don the orange and black at Camden Yards. For the youngest member of the O's 40-man roster, the future may be the brightest.

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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Newlywed Means Celebrates Milestone Year

Top Orioles rookie threw no-hitter with Shorebirds in 2015

John Means twirls the most recent individual Shorebirds no-hitter on July 31, 2015 (Delmarva Shorebirds)

By Will DeBoer / Delmarva Shorebirds | November 14, 2019 8:46 AM

John Means may not have won American League Rookie of the Year on Monday, but after the week he had he likely doesn't mind. Three days before the announcement, the Orioles' left-hander married longtime girlfriend Caroline Stanley in Kansas City. A top athlete in her own right, the new Mrs. Means was a goalkeeper on several U.S. junior national teams and played professionally in the National Women's Soccer League for three seasons. Their kids will probably take up the cello.

 

The nuptials mark the end of a banner 2019 for Means, who went from also-ran in the Baltimore farm system to reliable major league starter. In his first full season with the Orioles, the native Kansan went 12-11 with a 3.60 ERA, 1.135 WHIP, and 121 strikeouts over 155 innings. He was named the Orioles' representative at the All-Star Game in Cleveland and finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting earlier this week, the highest finish for an Oriole first-year since pitcher Rodrigo Lopez finished runner-up in 2002.

 

Means may have been one of the Junior Circuit's breakthrough players this season, but to Delmarva Shorebirds fans who saw the southpaw at work in 2015, this was no revelation.

 

An 11th-round pick out of West Virginia in 2014, Means primarily spent his first pro summer in short-season Aberdeen before breaking 2015 with Delmarva. Named the team's Opening Day starter, Means scattered three hits across six scoreless innings, earning the win in a 10-0 shutout over Greensboro. Five times in the first half Means went six innings in a start, winning each time.

 

 

A model of consistency for most of the summer, Means took it up a notch in a July 31 doubleheader against Charleston, spinning one of the finest individual pitching performances in Shorebirds history. Through six innings he had kept the RiverDogs at bay, and with each out every set of eyes of Perdue Stadium hovered toward the goose egg in the visitors' hits column. The seventh inning came - a first out, a second. Then, a strikeout of Charleston's Austin Aune for the game's final out. A pump of the fist from Means, a no-hitter secured. His teammates spilling out to the mound to mob him as 3,600-plus Delmarva cheered in delight. No individual Shorebird pitcher has equaled Means' feat in four-plus seasons since.

 

Two weeks later Means was promoted to High-A Frederick, finishing his Delmarva tenure with a 9-8 record and 3.50 ERA over 23 starts. He rolled through Frederick to begin 2016, earning a midseason promotion to Bowie, and made it to Norfolk midway through 2018. He finished that campaign with a September callup to Baltimore, setting himself up for his marvelous 2019.

 

It was soon after his Delmarva breakthrough that Means met his future wife. Earlier this summer their romantic journey got a full write-up from The Athletic's Dan Connolly. First meeting at a New Year's Eve party at the end of 2015, the two competitors eventually dove head-first into a courtship. After three years - and more than a few times getting kicked out of couples' game nights - John and Caroline got engaged in January. In between the engagement and the alter, Caroline went to work as Goalkeeper Coach for the University of Tulsa women's soccer program, while Means retroactively financed his fiancé's engagement ring with a full season's major league salary.

 

Indeed, it seems earning top rookie billing in the AL was the only thing John Means didn't accomplish in 2019. He may not be a major league rookie anymore, but he and Caroline will enter 2020 as a rookie husband and wife. And while there may not be a Most Valuable Newlyweds award, rest assured Mr. and Mrs. Means would have the inside track.

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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