Black History Month: Five of the Top Black Players in Clearwater History
In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February, teams across Minor League Baseball are taking a look back at some of the best Black players to suit up for their club. While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great
In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February, teams across Minor League Baseball are taking a look back at some of the best Black players to suit up for their club.
While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great Minor League careers or, in some cases, just one incredible season that went down as “a year for the ages.”
Here is a look at five of the best Black baseball players ever to suit up for Clearwater.
Ron Jones (1986)
After turning down draft offers in 1982 and 1983, Ron Jones signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as a free agent in 1984.
During his 108-game stint with Clearwater in 1986, the outfielder led the team in every offensive category aside from home runs and led the Florida State League in batting average (.371), hits (153), slugging percentage (.524), on-base percentage (.423) and triples (12). His stand-out numbers led to Jones being voted FSL MVP. It would have been a unanimous decision, but since teams are not allowed to vote for their own player, Jones did not get the two votes from Clearwater representatives.
Jones was part of the first duo of players to win a Paul Owens Award, an honor given out annually since 1986 to the best position player and pitcher in the Phillies minor league system.
The left-handed hitter had thirteen game-winning RBIs for the Single-A team before skipping Double-A and being promoted straight to the Triple-A club (Portland).
Jones made his major league debut on August 26, 1988, for the Philadelphia Phillies. In just 33 games to finish out the 1988 season, Jones drove in 26 runs including eight home runs for the big-league club. However, Jones’ major league career was plagued with injuries to both knees that ultimately ended his flourishing career. After retiring from the game in 2000, Jones turned to coaching and eventually opened the Big League Batting Academy in Houston, Texas, along with former teammate Charlie Hayes.
Jimmy Rollins (1998)
Jimmy Rollins was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the second round of the 1996 June Amateur Draft out of Encinal High School (Alameda, CA).
At 18 years old, Rollins was the youngest member of the 1998 Clearwater (A+) team. The switch hitter totaled a .244 batting average with six home runs in 119 games with the Florida State League club. As a shortstop with Clearwater, Rollins carried a league-best .952 fielding percentage. His top-notch fielding earned Rollins a spot on the mid-season FSL All-Star Team.
He made his big-league debut with the Phillies on September 17, 2000. During his sixteen-year career, he led the National League in triples four times. He is a three-time All-Star (2001, 2002, 2005), was named the National League MVP in 2007, won the Gold Glove award four times (2007 - 2009, 2012), and garnered a Silver Slugger award in 2007. The shortstop played an important role in the Phillies’ 2008 World Series Championship and was honored at the end of the season with a Fielding Bible Award as the top shortstop that season. Rollins was inducted into both the Clearwater Phillies and Threshers Wall of Fame and the Florida State League Hall of Fame in 2013. He was a co-recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award in 2014.
After he retired from playing in 2017, Rollins returned to the Phillies as a special advisor for the team and acted as an on-air commentator for television broadcasts.
Ryan Howard (2003)
Ryan Howard was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in the fifth round of the 2001 MLB Draft out of Missouri State University.
Howard spent the entirety of the 2003 season with the Clearwater Phillies. He was voted Florida State League MVP, named Best Power Prospect in the FSL, and led the league in three categories: average (.304), home runs (23), and slugging percentage (.514). He was the 2003 and 2004 recipient of the Paul Owens award and played in the 2003 All-Star Futures game.
The first baseman was a September call-up for the Phillies on September 1, 2004. Howard was named National League Rookie of the Year in 2005 after leading all rookies with 22 home runs and posting a .288 average and 63 RBI in just 88 games. Nicknamed “The Big Piece”, Howard is known for being the player to reach 100 home runs and 200 home runs the quickest. He spent his entire 13-year career playing for the Phillies.
The lefty was awarded National League MVP in 2006, finishing the season with a .313 batting average 58 home runs, and 149 RBI. He was part of the 2008 Phillies World Series Championship team contributing six RBI including three home runs during the series. Howard was inducted into the Clearwater Phillies and Threshers Wall of Fame in 2016.
Greg Golson (2006)
Greg Golson was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in the first round of the 2004 MLB draft out of John B. Connally High School (Austin, TX).
Golson made his professional debut that summer with the Gulf Coast League Phillies, hitting .295 in 47 games. After continuing to show power and speed in Lakewood with a .264 average and 25 stolen bases, Golson was added to the squad in Clearwater late in 2006. He started the 2007 campaign back in Clearwater, and in 99 games with the Threshers that year, Golson hit .285 with 12 long balls and 52 RBI to land himself a spot on the Florida State League All-Star team. His 139 games with the Threshers make him the first-round pick to play in the most games with the Clearwater club.
Golson appeared in the 2008 futures game and made his major league debut the same year as a September call-up with the Philadelphia Phillies. The outfielder was traded to the Texas Rangers in 2009 and played the next two years with the New York Yankees before making his final appearance in September of 2011. Golson was later hired by the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of their pro scouting department in 2019.
Quintin Berry (2008)
Quintin Berry was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB Draft out of San Diego State University.
Berry began his career in Batavia (A) and led the club in walks. He was a Paul Owens award recipient in 2007 before joining the squad in Clearwater in 2008. The speedster had the most stolen bases (51) in the Florida State League and throughout the entire Phillies Minor League system. He was the only player to represent the Threshers on the 2008 Postseason All-Star team.
The outfielder was claimed off waivers by the San Diego Padres and played around the minor leagues with the Padres, Mets, Reds, and Tigers organizations. Berry made his major league debut with the Tigers on May 23, 2012. He set an American League record for most bases stolen without being caught stealing (21). Berry earned a World Series ring in 2013 as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement for the Boston Red Sox, swiping three postseason bases.
Berry transitioned into coaching after his retirement in 2018. In 2019, he became the Milwaukee Brewers outfield and base running coordinator and in 2021 he was promoted to the major league coaching staff as the first base coach.