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Launched To The League: From Rocket City to Los Angeles

Former Trash Pandas making their mark with Angels
Reid Detmers was the first former Rocket City player to pitch for the Angels. (Blaine Ohigashi/Los Angeles Angels)
September 16, 2021

The goal of every baseball player is to reach the Major Leagues. For a quarter of the pitchers to take the mound for the Rocket City Trash Pandas in 2021, that dream has come true. Nine former Trash Pandas have climbed the ladder to reach the Major Leagues in 2021,

The goal of every baseball player is to reach the Major Leagues.

For a quarter of the pitchers to take the mound for the Rocket City Trash Pandas in 2021, that dream has come true. Nine former Trash Pandas have climbed the ladder to reach the Major Leagues in 2021, making MLB debut for the Los Angeles Angels this season.

The first of those was star prospect Reid Detmers. The southpaw was the Opening Day starter for the Trash Pandas and quickly displayed his dominance. During his time in Rocket City, Detmers dazzled on the mound, recording both a 14-strikeout and 16-strikeouts performance in back-to-back starts in June.

Although he left Rocket City in July, Detmers still leads the Trash Pandas with 97 strikeouts. After one start for Triple-A Salt Lake on July 24, Detmers got the call to the show in August.

“It was just a matter of time for him. He’s an extremely talented guy and I’m thrilled he’s getting the opportunity,” Trash Pandas manager Jay Bell said of Detmers on August 1. “I’m excited to see him do some really cool things over the course of the next 15 years or so. I think he’s got the ability to pitch a long time at the Major League level. I think he’ll stay at the that level for a very long time.”

He made his MLB debut that day against the Oakland A’s as his former Rocket City teammates watched on the video board at Toyota Field. In his third MLB start, Detmers twirled six brilliant innings, allowing one run while striking out six to beat the first-place Houston Astros.

Three days after Detmers debuted, fellow southpaw Packy Naughton was the second former Trash Pandas pitcher to appear for Los Angeles in a relief appearance at Dodger Stadium. Naughton pitched one game for Rocket City in May.

Chris Rodriguez was next, having started the year in the Angels bullpen. He was optioned to Rocket City in June before returning to the Angels in a starting role in August after five Double-A starts.

From there, trade deadline acquisitions Jose Marte and Elvis Peguero each got the call after a handful of appearances for the Trash Pandas. Peguero’s second MLB appearance was especially memorable, as he faced the organization that traded him, the New York Yankees. That night, Marte induced a double play ground ball from Brett Gardner to help the Angels beat their foes from the Bronx.

On August 27-28, the Angels promoted two more members of the Rocket City rotation from Opening Day as Cooper Criswell and Kyle Tyler each joined the Angels. Criswell took the loss against San Diego in his MLB debut on August 27.

Tyler waited patiently in the Angels bullpen for over a week until he was finally called into action on September 5. The relief role is a different route than originally planned for Tyler, who was one of Rocket City’s steadiest starters for the majority of the season.

“The General Manager of the Angels has taken note of Kyle Tyler. He likes what he sees from him,” Bell said earlier in the season. “He also sees the opportunity to have him make it to the big leagues as a reliever. This is a guy that has a chance to be effective at the big league level. It’s exciting to hear from the General Manager of the Major League team and whenever they take note of our players at this level it’s special.”

Flame-throwing righty Oliver Ortega was the Rocket City closer early in the season featuring a fastball that routinely hit triple digits. That same fastball caught Padres infielder and former MLB All-Star Wil Myers looking for his first MLB strikeout on September 8.

Most recently, Bell had the pleasure of telling Janson Junk that he was going straight from the Trash Pandas to the Angels without a stop in Triple-A. The moment is one the Rocket City manager will remember.

“I didn’t get the call about him until I was already home. So I had to tell him over FaceTime,” Bell recalled. “That’s a little different. But nonetheless it’s still just as satisfying to give him that news. It’s a big deal to send someone to Triple-A, but it’s a huge deal to send him to Anaheim. I was really excited for him.”

Junk debuted on September 5, becoming the ninth Rocket City alum to reach the show in what looks to be an illustrious line of former Trash Pandas to make a name for themselves at baseball’s highest level.