Mehring Monday: Independent

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | October 17, 2011 2:10 PM ET

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The last few Mehring Monday columns have focused on former Timber Rattlers players who made their major league debuts and who were in the upper levels of the minor leagues during 2011.  This week's column takes a spin through the independent leagues.  Thanks to Jay Grusznski for doing the research and going through the websites of all of the independent teams.

Since I started my baseball broadcasting career in the Northern League, I always root for the independent league players.  Check the list below and see if you can pick out a memory or two of each player.

American Association

Sioux Falls:

Trevor Lawhorn was a Timber Rattlers very briefly in 2007.  The thing I remember about Lawhorn is that the Mariners picked him up out of the independent leagues and sent him to Wisconsin to play second base.  Lawhorn hit a grand slam at Kane County on June 8, 2007 and was released later on in the month because Seattle wanted to play a prospect at second base.

Kansas City:

Jose Duran, a Rattler in 2009, also played for Wichita in this league.  Duran was a top ten draft pick in 2009 by the Brewers and in  his brief time with Wisconsin collected eight triples to lead the team in that category.


Gavin Dickey ('07, '08) appeared on the list of Alumni to reach AA this season last week.

Lindsay Gulin pitched in Wisconsin in 1998 and spent 2007-2009 in the Brewers organization.

Jon Nelson was a first baseman for the Timber Rattlers in 2003.  He is still on the single season list for most homers, most RBI, and most strikeouts in a season by a Rattler.

Sioux City:

Emiliano Fruto pitched for the Rattlers in 2002, spent some time in quite a few organizations and the major leagues.  He will always be remembered for the game against Fort Wayne on August 3, 2002.  He pitched 8-1/3 innings, gave up one run on 11 hits, didn't walk a batter, and struck out 11.  It was amazing.

TJ Bohn was a teammate of Nelson in 2003.  I always wonder if they meet before a game and go, "Hey, remember that one bus trip to Battle Creek..."


Jose Amado was a Timber Rattler in 2006.  He spent this past season as the hitting coach for the Wingnuts.

Grand Prairie:

Craig James was the Rattlers closer in 2005.  He was perfect through the first half, until one of the worst bad hop singles I have ever seen let the tying and winning runs score in the bottom of the ninth in Cedar Rapids.  The ball was headed right to short and it hit...something to bounce over Oswaldo Navarro's head into left-center and that was how the game ended.


Bryan Sabatella had a very rough season in 2006 for the Rattlers.  Baseball America rated him as one of the top prospects in the Seattle system.  It did not work out for him with the Mariners, but he is still plugging away in this league and in the Can-Am League where he played for New Jersey.

Can-Am League


Speaking of the Can-Am League, that's were Pete Fatse is.  The Massachusetts native spent part of 2009 and the start of 2010 with the Timber Rattlers.  He's back in his home state playing the outfield.


Sebastien Boucher was a big part of the 2005 team and also played some games for Baseball Canada during international competitions.  He is back in his home country playing for Quebec.

Frontier League

Lake Erie:

Paul Fagan pitched for the Timber Rattlers in 2006.  He has bounced around the independent leagues since being released by the Mariners.  He always seemed to be involved in weird games.  The weirdest was a day game in Kane County.  It was an official game but only in about the sixth inning with the Cougars leading by a couple of runs.  It started to rain.  The Cougars front office convinced the umpires that the rain would continue for the next 700 hours and they just HAD to call the game.  Fagan got a complete game loss and sunburn as he waited in the parking lot as he waited for the rest of the team to get on the bus for a dry trip back to the hotel.

Ruben Flores had an electric slider when he was with the Timber Rattlers in 2006.  His fastball also had wicked movement.  Those two pitches helped Flores set a Midwest League record with the Timber Rattlers in 2006.  But, not the good kind of record.  He threw seven wild pitches in a single game over just 2-1/3 innings at Quad Cities on June 17.  I never heard him complain about it or blame anyone else.  Flores was back in the Midwest League with Clinton and climbed a bit in organized ball before winding up with Lake Erie.  


Corey Frerichs pitched for the Rattlers for a little bit in 2009.  I don't remember that much about him.


Blake Ochoa was a Frontier League All-Star this past season.  Ochoa was became a Timber Rattlers player the first time in 2007 when he came over to the Mariners in a trade with Florida for Danny Santin.  Ochoa was with Clinton last season as they made the Midwest League finals.  Blake Ochoa is one of those players who will have to be forcibly removed from the game of baseball.  I can see him playing it and being around it for a long, long time.

John Delaney was a Rattlers infielder in 2009.  Unfortunately, Delaney was hit in the head with a pitch during a game.  He worked to get back, but just wasn't the same player he was before that incident.  Jay's note on Delaney was that he retired.  I hope that he is doing well.

Windy City

Matt Costello pitched for the Timber Rattlers in 2010.  He was a lefty, threw strikes, and went out and did what was asked of him.  He was released after the season and - more than any other player that has been released over the last few seasons - people were surprised when I told them that Costello was no longer in the organization.  Good to see he is still playing.

Josh Womack spent time in both Windy City and Southern Illinois during 2011.  Womack spent two full seasons (2004 & 2005) with the Rattlers as an outfielder and has the second longest hitting streak in team history.  Josh has become more well-known for his bat tricks than his baseball, but he is another one of those guys who absolutely loves the game.


Chad Robinson pitched for the Rattlers in 2010.  He was one of the first players to whom I spoke at spring training in 2011.  Big, hard throwing relievers can play the game a long time, too.


In 2009, Brandon Ritchie won the first game the Rattlers played at Miller Park as the Milwaukee Brewers.  He's a big lefty reliever and it didn't work out in the Brewers organization for him.


Liam Ohlmann wasn't just a pitcher for the Timber Rattlers in 2009.  He was also the first Timber Rattlers player to be on twitter.  If you remember, Liam had some ups and downs during the 2009 season.  This story from 2010 may explain a bit about thatNot sure if he still is still active on twitter, but "Lunchbox" was a good follow.

North American League


Mike Hrynio was a reliever for the Rattlers in 2004.  The converted infielder went on to appear in 54 games that season to set a franchise record for appearances by a reliever.  Jay's note on Hrynio is that he was a starter for Edmonton this season.

Brent Metheny was a teammate of Hrynio on the Rattlers in 2004 and again with Edmonton in 2011.  He was a kid


Chad Ehrnsberger was - briefly - a Rattler in 2003.  He had been picked up by Seattle out of the Northern League off the Kansas City T-Bonz.  Seattle would send him to the St. Louis organization for...something.  I've heard for $1, a bag of baseballs, and a player to be named later that was never named.  The other story about Ehrnsberger that sticks out to me is about a day in Peoria - this was before he would be playing for the Chiefs.  Manager Daren Brown complimented Ehrnsberger for moving a runner from second to third with a grounder to the right side in the previous game.  This happened with other players present.  This was unusual for a couple of reasons.  The first being that Daren Brown threw compliments around like the proverbial manhole cover.  The second being that the other players began to crack on Ehrnsberger because his approach at the plate didn't change.  He just went up there and swung as hard as he could.  The pitch fooled him and trickled off the end of his bat to the second baseman.  One of the players (I think it was TJ Bohn) even recreated the at bat.


Jason Mackintosh pitched for the Timber Rattlers in 2004.  He made it pretty far in the Phillies organization, including playing for Steve Roadcap in Reading.  Roadcap was Mack's manager with the Rattlers in '04.  Mackintosh was Roadie's type of player, scrappy, hard working, and willing to pour every last bit of talent that he had on the field during a game.


Justin Jordan played a key role in the Rattlers bullpen late in the 2005 season.  Jordan was the guy who held Clinton scoreless in game one of the western division finals at Clinton.  The LumberKings had a big lead, but the Rattlers came back to tie and eventually win the game in extra innings.  Not only did Jordan get the win, he also closed out the game with a scoreless bottom of the tenth.

Rio Grande

Edgar Trejo started the 2009 season with the Rattlers.  The crowd missed him after he got sent down because the easy "TRAAAAAYYY- oooooh" chant went with him.


Gerardo Avila spent parts of the 2006, 2007, and 2008 seasons with the Rattlers.  Seattle really like his power potential, but it never developed in their system.

Atlantic League


Mumba Rivera was undefeated as a Timber Rattlers pitcher during the first half of 2005.  This may sound weird, but he was promoted to the California League before he should have been sent up there.  His promotion was based on his 7-0 record not his peripherals.  In 10 starts, Rivera pitched 58-2/3 innings, allowed 46 hits, walked 26 and struck out 30.  I like to think that if the ideas of advanced statistical analysis were in fashion back in 2005, Rivera may have stayed at Wisconsin for a while longer than he did.  But, someone in the system saw 7-0 and thought "Move him up now!".  How does that saying go?  "Measuring the performance of a pitcher through wins is stupid."  He struggled in the hitters' paradise that is the Cal League, allowing 118 hits and walking 50 in 91-1/3 innings with just 67 strikeouts.

Robert Rohrbaugh was also a Rattlers pitcher in 2005, but he was not a teammate of Rivera in Wisconsin.  Rohrbaugh did not pitch for the Rattlers in the regular season, but he made two starts in the playoffs and both were very important.  He pitched game three of the best-of-three first round series with Beloit and allowed two runs over 6-2/3 innings.  The Rattlers went on to win that game 4-2 in 10 innings.  In his next game, Rohrbaugh extended the Rattlers season in the Midwest League Championship Series with eight scoreless innings for a 1-0 win over the South Bend Silver Hawks.


Matt Hagen was the third baseman for the Timber Rattlers in 2003.  He made a run at Juan Silvestre's franchise home run record with 20, but he didn't homer in about the last six weeks of the season.  Hagen has found a home playing in Somerset for former Appleton Fox Sparky Lyle.  He even pitched a scoreless inning, with a hit and three strikeouts, this season.

Road Warriors

Miguel Martinez filled a few roles for the Rattlers in 2003.  He made three starts and picked up two saves in 24 games that season.  Martinez has bounced around the independent leagues for the last few seasons, but may have found a home with the Road Warriors.  Jay passed along a note that Martinez was the April/May Pitcher of the Month in the Atlantic League.

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

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