Welcome back to Crawdads Corner! Fans often wonder where the players come from and where they go after their time with the Crawdads. All of our players come from our major league affiliate (we'll get to more on that a little later) and the path the players take is up to the MLB team, but Hickory has been an early stop in the careers of many future big league players. In fact, Crawdads alumni have gone on to collect some impressive MLB hardware including: 2 gold gloves, 10 silver sluggers, a batting title, MVP, and 22 All-Star appearances. This week we want to give you a glimpse at some of the players that have come through Hickory and where some of them are now.
The Crawdads arrived in Hickory in 1993 and have helped to graduate 165 players to the majors over their 26 seasons. One of the most recent 'Dads to make it to the MLB is left-handed pitcher CD Pelham (2017 Crawdad), the team's primary closer in 2017. The hard-throwing reliever started his 2018 campaign in High A with the Down East Wood Ducks. Pelham was promoted mid-season to the Double A Frisco RoughRiders before earning his first big league call-up with the Texas Rangers on September 4th, 366 days after he last pitched in Hickory.
The 'Dads are currently affiliated with (and owned by) the Rangers. That hasn't always been the case, the Crawdads started out as affiliates of the Chicago White Sox in 1993 until 1998. In 1999 the Pittsburgh Pirates took over as the major league affiliate, staying in Hickory for 10 seasons until the Rangers came to town in 2009. Over Chicago's tenure with the Crawdads, 45 future big-leaguers (plus rehabbing MLB pitcher Jim Abbott) spent time in Hickory while the Pirates had 88 future MLB players stop here. The Rangers have had 82 players from the Crawdads reach the majors so far. That number will continue to grow as many of the players that were in Hickory over the last several years are still developing at various levels in the minors.
The three MLB affiliates have sent 843 players to play for the Crawdads, hailing from 18 different countries. The Crawdads have had players from the US, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Europe, and Asia. This season catcher Melvin Novoa became the first 'Dads player from Nicaragua. Craig Stansberry (2004 Crawdad) became the first player born in Saudi Arabia in major league history when he debuted with the San Diego Padres in 2007. Stansberry also participated in the first ever MLB game in China in March of 2008, which ended in a 3-3 tie.
Crawdads alumni have made their way around the league, with all 30 MLB teams, plus the now relocated Montreal Expos, each having a former 'Dads hitter and pitcher appear in a game for them. Former Crawdads have also played for previous versions of current franchises such as the California Angels, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and the Florida Marlins. The Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles are tied for the most former Crawdads on their all-time rosters with 13 each.
At the close of the 2018 season, the Rangers' active roster was made up of 18 former Crawdads. Slugger Joey Gallo led the team with 40 homeruns, which was the third best in the majors, and 92 RBIs. Gallo was a member of the 2013 'Dads team that set a South Atlantic League record by mashing 178 homeruns over the 140-game season. Also on that 2013 team was Gallo's fellow corner outfielder with the Rangers, Nomar Mazara. Mazara is only the second "Nomar" to play in the MLB, with the other being the former all-star Nomar Garciaparra. The 23-year-old Mazara is averaging 23 homeruns and 93 RBIs with a .258 average over his first three seasons in the majors.
The Crawdads are represented this year in the World Series by 2006 Crawdad Steve Pearce, who currently plays for the Red Sox. Pearce is in his twelfth MLB season and on his seventh team, but he has collected a career .257 batting average. Other Crawdads alumni to reach the postseason this year are Andrew McCutchen (2006 'Dad now with the Yankees), Neil Walker (2005 'Dad now with the Yankees) and Rajai Davis (2002 and 2003 'Dad now with the Indians).
Thank you to everyone who came out to the Trunk-Or-Treat event at the stadium last night. We had a great time and we hope you did too! We look forward to seeing you all back at the Frans on April 11th for Opening Day!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.