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The Nine 2024

Celebrating the contributions and achievements of the Black baseball community
February 16, 2024

Throughout February, MLB, MiLB and the Sacramento River Cats will celebrate the contributions and achievements of the Black baseball community, past and present, during Black History Month. While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great Minor League careers or,

Throughout February, MLB, MiLB and the Sacramento River Cats will celebrate the contributions and achievements of the Black baseball community, past and present, during Black History Month.

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.”

Jemile Weeks

A speedy switch-hitting second baseman originally drafted with the 12th overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics, Weeks first arrived in Sacramento during 2011 before later making his MLB debut that season. He had such a hot start to his career that Weeks was named the AL Rookie of the Month in June 2011, and ended that year fourth in MLB with a total of eight triples.

After playing with the River Cats for the 2011-2013 seasons, Weeks later played parts of six MLB seasons with Oakland, Baltimore, Boston, and San Diego while hitting .254 with 62 RBI and 41 stolen bases in 260 career games.

With Sacramento, Weeks hit .321 in 45 games during 2011 and hit .271 in 130 games during 2013. Weeks even holds a spot in the Sacramento record book, tying for third place all time in triples with 14. His overall hit total of 215 base knocks leaves him inside the top 30 in Sacramento franchise history.

Overall, Weeks had memorable individual performances, tallying nine total bases but falling just a single away from the cycle against the Las Vegas Aviators (formerly the Las Vegas 51s) on April 28, 2011. Weeks also produced a pair of four-hit games during the 2013 season, going 4-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and an RBI, doing so first against the El Paso Chihuahuas (formerly the Tucson Padres) on June 7, 2013. He later repeated the feat against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox on July 8, 2013.

Jermaine Mitchell

Selected with the 22nd pick in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics, Mitchell donned a River Cats uniform from 2010-2012, playing a total of 167 games while batting .268. Mitchell earned a pair of promotions in the 2010 season to ultimately make it to Sacramento, playing in three games to end the year before once again splitting time in 2011 between Double-A and Triple-A.

It was a solid campaign for Mitchell in 2011, hitting .302 with five homers and 28 RBI in 56 games. It was in August where Mitchell's bat was as hot as the weather, as he batted .330 and drove in 16 RBI, posted a 17-game hitting streak, and boasted an OPS of .971. That stretch carried into his final five games of the season, scoring in each game (seven runs total) and producing a trio of multi-hit games that resulted in him batting .429 over that stretch.

Though he never appeared in the majors, Mitchell showcased his big-league speed with the Cats by posting 11 triples during the 2012 season, a number that is tied for the most in a single Sacramento season since 2005. That also helped him to tie for third in triples in Sacramento history with 14, while he also swiped 29 bases as a River Cat.

Michael Taylor

A right-handed hitting outfielder who was originally drafted with the 19th pick in the fifth found of the 2007 MLB draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, Taylor's first season with the River Cats came in 2010, playing 127 games while batting .272 with six homers and 78 RBI. The following year Taylor made his MLB debut with the Oakland Athletics, though he continued to see time in a River Cats uniform through the 2014 campaign. His best season in Sacramento came during 2012 when he hit .287 with 12 dingers and 67 RBI.

Taylor was a five-time Player of the Week (one with Sacramento in 2012), two-time Mid-Season All-Star, a Post-Season All-Star, a Topps Double-A All-Star, and two-time Organization All-Star while with the River Cats in 2012 and 2013. Additionally, he was the River Cats’ Most Improved Player in 2010, Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, and Most Exciting Player in 2013.

Over the course of his time, Taylor set the franchise record for RBI (325) while ranking second in games played (511), runs (299), hits (521) and doubles (112), and tying for third in home runs (57). Taylor played 37 games in the Majors for the Oakland A’s and Chicago White Sox, hitting his first MLB home run off left-hander Derek Holland on Sept. 20, 2011.

Jose Ortiz

Ortiz was a middle infielder who signed with the Oakland Athletics as a free agent in 1994, and after working his way through the system, Ortiz made the move along with the rest of the Vancouver Canadians to California's capitol for the inaugural Sacramento River Cats season in 2000.

The starting shortstop on April 6, 2000 against the Fresno Grizzlies, Ortiz began to light up the Sacramento scene as he batted .351 with 107 runs, 34 doubles, 24 homers and 108 RBI in 131 games. Two of those numbers are still the top marks in Sacramento history, as his .351 average and 182 hits have yet to be topped by a River Cat. Even more, Ortiz finished the year as the first River Cat to be named the Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player, and was also tabbed as a PCL Post-Season All-Star that same year.

Ortiz made his MLB debut during that 2000 season, playing in just seven games before returning to Sacramento the following campaign in 2001 as the top prospect in the Athletics' farm system. All told, Ortiz remains tied for the fifth-highest batting average in River Cats history (.326), and went on to play in parts of three MLB seasons after being traded to Colorado during 2001.

Orlando Calixte

Calixte was a middle infielder who began his baseball career as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals. After six seasons with Royals' affiliates, including being named an Organization All-Star in 2013 and making his MLB debut in 2015, Calixte signed as a free agent with the Giants in the offseason and began his career as a River Cat in 2017.

Calixte was key in the River Cats' 2017 campaign, tallying 15 doubles, five triples, 14 homers, 43 RBI and 19 stolen bases. That included a memorable 5-for-6 contest in which Calixte scored four times and drove in four runs, doing so on May 11, 2017 against Colorado Springs. All told, he generated 23 multi-hit games including four performances of four hits or more. He returned for the 2018 campaign, batting .270 with a total of 108 hits in 125 games, posting another 15 doubles and 11 homers.

Calixte is on a short list in Sacramento history, as he is one of nine players since 2005 to record an inside-the-park home run, doing so on May 26, 2018 in a 2-0 win against the Albuquerque Isotopes.

Chris Carter

The 15th pick of the 15th round in the 2005 MLB Draft, Chris Carter made his way to the Oakland Athletics organization in 2008 and finally arrived in Sacramento in 2009. Following a short stint where he tallied four homers in 13 games, Carter came back in 2010 and produced a 31-homer season while driving in 94 runs and batting .258.

A three-time top-100 prospect on Baseball America (2009-2011), Carter earned seven Player of the Week awards, 14 All-Star nods (one with Sacramento in 2010), and played in the 2009 Futures Game.

Inside the Sacramento record books you'll often find Carter's name, as he remains the franchise's career leader in home runs with 65. Additionally, he's inside the franchise’s top-10 with 233 RBIs (third), 156 walks (tied for sixth), 68 doubles (seventh), and 202 runs (sixth).

After four years in the minors, Carter broke into the majors in 2010, bashing 158 home runs for four teams across eight MLB seasons. His best season was 2016 with Milwaukee, where he tied for the National League lead with 41 home runs, and also won the Brewers Good Guy Award.

Tyson Ross

Right-handed hurler Tyson Ross was the 12th pick of the second round in the 2008 MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics, and after just two seasons made his arrival in Sacramento with the River Cats. Ross pitched part of three seasons with Sacramento, including his best year in 2012 when he posted a 2.99 ERA in 15 games while logging a 6-2 record.

Cumulatively in his time in Sacramento, Ross was 11-5 with a 4.30 ERA, 128 strikeouts, and a 1.48 WHIP in 30 contests. It was that same season in 2010 that Ross made his MLB debut, propelling him to a solid Major League career as he played parts of 10 seasons. Among his career highlights was being named an All-Star for the San Diego Padres in 2014.

The Berkeley, Calif. native and Cal product last pitched in the Majors during 2019 with Detroit, and holds a final career ERA of 4.04 with 816 strikeouts.