Phillips wrangles opossum, Blooper MiLBY

Cave's monster blast garners Top Homer; Bote slides to grab Top Play

(Jason Wise/MLB.com)

By Kelsie Heneghan / MiLB.com | November 3, 2016 10:15 AM

So many times each season, the stands at Minor League games get filled with a symphony of excited fans.

"Did you see that play?!"

"What a moonshot!"

"Haha wow, what is happening?"

And with the addition of the internet and its propensity for videos to go viral, fans all over the world can share those moments that make the game so special. MiLB.com gathered the best plays, home runs and bloopers of the 2016 season. Take a deeper look into the three videos the fans voted as the crème of the crop.

Best Blooper: Phillips reunites with opossum

It had been 639 days since an opossum attempted to meet Brett Phillips in Quad Cities.

"He didn't have an opportunity," the Brewers' No. 7 prospect said. "He actually got caught by one of our grounds crew and obviously he escaped captivity a couple years later to find himself in Biloxi. And that's where he tried to make his revenge on me."

In that time, Phillips thinks the opossum bulked up on garbage as he plotted his revenge. And while the estimated four-year-old became less skittish, he remained immature when he strolled onto MGM Field on the fateful day of April 29.

Throughout the top of the ninth inning, Phillips -- who plays center field when he's not opossum wrangling -- sensed the animal lurking behind him.

"I just kept peeking back at him, giving him a little, 'Boy you better get out of here. I'm going to get you off this field,'" Phillips recalled. "And he was just being sneaky -- he didn't want to leave the field. So after the inning was over, I had to put an end to it because I didn't want him to eat the other center fielder."

Feeling responsibility to save the day because he was on the home team and because of his opossum experience, Phillips began shooing the creature toward the left-field gate. The crowd cheered him on for what felt like the longest jog around the warning track ever.

And just when it seemed like everything was fine, the opossum turned around and hissed at his nemesis.

"The emotions were running high and I was very scared of the opossum," Phillips remembered.

But he held the fear in and continued to honor his duty until the marsupial was at the gate, securing Blooper of the Year MiLBY for his efforts.

"I'm very thankful to be alive, and I'm very thankful for the opossum who has given me this opportunity to win this award," the 22-year-old said.

While Phillips -- whose middle name is Maverick -- has caught more opossums than pitches in his Minor League career, he's not sure what it is that attracts the furry vengeance. The left-handed hitter thinks it could be his garbage-like fast-food diet or his long hair. But whatever it is, Phillips is certain the opossum will be back, no matter what level the Florida native is playing at.

"He's going to be back for revenge and when he is, I'm going to be ready for him because offseason training -- I'm going to get after it in the weight room. I just have to make sure I'm as healthy as he is when we meet again," MLB.com's No. 62 overall prospect said. "I might have to sit down with him and actually have a conversation with him, see what his intentions are because this is really getting out of control."

Phillips is prepared to face any other animal that has tried to be in the Minor Leagues -- such as a sheep, skunk, cat and alligator -- to "protect your team at all costs." And with that, he has a message for any creature thinking of crossing him.

"Just be prepared if you come onto my field, you're going to be escorted off the field, and if you don't get off my field, I'm going to have to take care of you," Phillips said before breaking from his serious tone into his signature laugh. "I can't. Oh my gosh, this is out of control."

Unlike the opossum when Brett Maverick Phillips is around.

Top home run: Cave parties on the roof

In his first at-bat against Triple-A Toledo on June 15, Jake Cave thought he hit the ball pretty well.

"I thought it was maybe a double, maybe even had a chance [to go out]," he recalled. "I felt like it was a good swing. I felt like I was on the ball."

While that ball would just result in a fly out, it set the table for the No. 23 Yankees prospect's most memorable home run of his career.

After an eventful six months, Cave was finally settling in with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 23-year-old was selected by the Reds in the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 10, but less than four months later, they would return him to the Yankees. Cave also returned to Double-A Trenton, but it wasn't long before he got promoted to the International League.

"I got off to a hot start in Triple-A, and around the time we were going to Toledo, I was in a little bit of a rough patch, but I was still trying to drive the ball," he said. "I tried to change my mentality this year to drive the ball a little more than I had in recent years."

While he was hitting .250 over his previous two weeks, Cave took that second-inning flyout as a good sign of things to come, feeling comfortable in the box against Mud Hens starter Dustin Molleken.

So when Cave came up in the fourth with Tyler Austin, who had walked to start the inning, on first in a 0-0 game, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with a 2-0 elevated, hard fastball.

"I wasn't really looking to hit a single or anything right there, I was looking to drive the ball in the gap and score Tyler from first base," he said. "I got a hold of it better, I got the pitch I was looking for and everything just added up perfectly.… It was one of those perfect situations that every hitter strives to happen all the time, it just rarely ever happens."

Cave crushed the ball on top of the roof of the adjacent Fricker's building to give his team the lead and himself a MiLBY.

"I knew I got it [but] I didn't know I hit it that far. It was kind of, I hit it and I think that's a home run for sure," he said. "And then I started running around first base and I kind of glanced up and it's tough to see, but I didn't see it bouncing around any fans and then I heard my dugout going crazy, so was like, 'Oh man, I think I just hit it on top of that building.'"

When Cave returned to the dugout, power hitters Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge were stunned by the big blast.

"'What the heck has got into you?'" Cave said, describing the expressions on his teammates' faces.

For Cave, it was the 17th time in 238 career games he got to experience the trot around the bases, and this one was especially thrilling.

"I don't know if there's a better feeling in the world, maybe a walk-off or something like that," he said. "But in any sport I've played -- basketball, football, baseball -- rounding the bases after a home run is one of the most gratifying feelings there is."

And while the left fielder knows this award honors just a single home run, he hopes it speaks to more than just one swing of the bat.

"I think it's pretty cool because I've always tried to prove to scouts and teams that I do have some power in there that I'm trying to tap into," he said. "So I think if more people see this, I think it's cool that people will know that you can hit it and you don't always have to be the biggest and strongest guy.

"That's what's beautiful about baseball -- if everything works out perfectly, some people can do some pretty crazy things."

Top Play: Bote slides into winner's circle

David Bote came a long way to make the catch for Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach.

The Cubs prospect spent a month on the disabled list, then filled holes in Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa when others were injured before returning to the Carolina League, all the while relocating with his wife, Rachel, and infant daughter, Shayli.

Finally getting to settle in with the Pelicans, Bote took the field for his seventh game of the year at Winston-Salem on July 17. But before he could make the award-winning play, the first baseman had to overcome a third-inning error in which he didn't make the catch on a pickoff attempt.

"In baseball, you got to be able to forget things quickly," he said. "So being able to realize that one thing that happens earlier in the game can, not necessarily be erased, but you can make up for it or there's still eight innings left to go in the game to help your team win."

As the game went on, the Dash took a 7-2 lead into the eighth. With two outs and Gerson Montilla on first after a one-out single, Nick Basto came to the plate.

"Basto had been hurting us all year," Bote said. "I remember every time he would come up, he'd do some damage against us."

But on the first pitch from Tyler Pearson, the White Sox prospect popped up to foul territory.

"I saw the pop-up go up and I ran toward it. I knew where the mound was -- we as infielders kind of walk through it before the series and we played there a couple times, so I knew where the mound was," he said. "That was my only thing, 'Just don't trip on the mound.' It's so easy to trip on the mound running up if you're not looking."

Running at a full sprint, Bote kept switching his focus from the ball to the mound. Ball. Mound. Ball. Mound. But knowing he was out of time, the 23-year-old realized he just had to slide on top of the mound.

As Bote glided just before the Dash's bullpen bench, he held on for the catch and eventually the MiLBY for Play of the Year.

"I was shocked. I was like, man, that was crazy," he said. "I was like, wow, did that really just happen? And then I was able to see the replay later that night."

Pretty quickly after Bote dusted himself off, he was back to thinking about the score of the game, but his teammates were eager to greet him back at the dugout with a special thanks coming from Pearson. Even Basto had something to say about it the following day.

"[Basto] said 'Man, you owe me one,' and I was like 'Nah man,'" Bote recalled with a laugh. "It was just kind of tongue and cheek and he was like, 'That was a nice play.'"

And while the box score will read it as just a catch on a foul ball in a Pelicans loss the year they won the Mills Cup Finals, Bote said he is humbled by the recognition for his hard work.

"Effort is something you can control on the field," he said. "You can't necessarily control results, but I like to go out there and try to give my best every night, day in and day out."

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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