NORTH ADAMS, Mass. – With the 2012 NECBL season less than two weeks away, the focus in and around the 10 New England communities continues to shift toward the welcoming of new players, coaches, team personnel, staff members and all the rest who will help combine to form what is sure to be another unforgettable two months of summer baseball.
But with the focus so heavily lying on the present, it is equally important to point to the past and shine light on the many former players that once donned the black and gold SteepleCat uniforms and are continuing to pursue their dreams of one day earning a spot on a Major League Baseball team roster.
North Adams has played home to a number of truly great players in the past, and this spring and summer those young men are closer than ever before to The Show.
SteepleCats ’02 | Oregon St. | RHP | Drafted by San Diego Padres (’03)
One of the most notable SteepleCats alumni, right-hander Mike Ekstrom made his major-league debut with the San Diego Padres back in the 2008 season. The 6-0, 190-pound hurler from Portland, Ore., spent two seasons with the Padres and two more with the Tampa Bay Rays before signing a minor-league contract with the Colorado Rockies this past December.
In 2010, he posted a 3.31 ERA in 16 1/3 innings with the Rays. Eckstrom is off to a great start in 2012, dominating the Pacific Coast league with a 1.14 ERA in 23 innings pitched with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. Barring any setbacks, a call-up could be likely for Eckstrom before the end of the season.
SteepleCats ’02 | Saint Petersburg College | C/1B | Drafted by Anaheim Angels (’02)
Another member of a heavily drafted 2002 SteepleCats squad, Bobby Wilson was drafted by the Angels just prior to their 2002 World Series championship and has worked his way up to the Majors after spending the better part of seven seasons in the minors before debuting with the Angels back in 2008.
While he spent 2008 and 2009 mostly with the Salt Lake Bees, he has earned time in more than 100 big-league games with the Angels since the beginning of the 2010 season. This year, he’s appeared in 23 games and has totaled 11 hits with three runs scored for the Angels.
SteepleCats ’03 | Cal State Fullerton | SS | Drafted by Baltimore Orioles (’06)
A 2003 SteepleCats alum, Blake Davis is entering his seventh season of pro ball in 2012 after making his major league debut with the Orioles last year. In a 25-game stint with Baltimore, Davis batted .254 on 15 hits in 59 at-bats, including three doubles, a triple and a homer.
Davis has spent the entirety of his professional career in the Orioles’ organization, dating back to the 2006 season with the Delmarva Shorebirds. Back with the Norfolk Tides to start 2012, Davis has appeared in 25 games with 15 hits and seven runs scored.
SteepleCats ’05 | Central Connecticut State | RHP | Drafted by Arizona Diamondbacks (’07)
After an impressive career at little-known Central Connecticut State, Evan Scribner (North Adams ’05) broke into the Major League circuit last season with the San Diego Padres. He made 10 relief appearances for the Padres last year and struck out 10 batters over 14 innings of action.
Scribner spent a year with the Diamondbacks’ Rookie League and Single-A teams before being traded to the Padres in 2008 and moving into the High-A California League with the Lake Elsinore Storm. He then moved up the ranks before his debut last season but is back with the Sacramento River Cats (AAA) this season, where he is 1-0 with a 3.58 ERA in 18 relief outings.
SteepleCats ’05 | Wright State| RHP | Drafted by New York Mets (’06)
One of the best stories for the SteepleCats Alumni this season has been the continued success of right-handed reliever Joe Smith, who is now in his sixth season of major-league action and continues to rank among some of the league’s best options from the bullpen.
Known for his unique delivery that borders on side arm and submarine, Smith has posted more great numbers this year to the tune of a 4-1 record and 2.84 ERA as a reliever for the upstart Indians. He has finished three games while striking out 15 and yielding 13 hits over 19 innings.
SteepleCats ’05 | Oregon State | OF | Drafted by Milwaukee Brewers (’06)
Another well-known North Adams alumnus, Cole Gillespie made his major league debut with the Diamondbacks in 2010 after being acquired in a trade from the Brewers in 2009.
In his limited season with the D-Backs, Gillespie posted 24 hits – including eight doubles and two home runs – while driving in 12 runs over a span of 45 games. He has since moved back to Triple-A Reno where he spent most of 2011 and has opened up 2012. After batting an even .300 last year, Gillespie has drilled 38 hits while scoring 25 runs for the Aces this spring.
SteepleCats ’09 | Memphis | RHP | Drafted by New York Mets (’10)
A recent member of the SteepleCats, Ryan Fraser is making his way through the lower echelons of the Mets’ farm system, but has done nothing but impressed since being drafted in the 16th round of the MLB Draft.
The Cleveland, Tenn., native played his college ball at Memphis, and has dominated the New York Penn League in his rookie season in 2010 with 39 strikeouts in just 31 innings. He posted a microscopic ERA of 1.44, and yielded just 16 hits that year with the Brooklyn Cyclones, as well. After spending 2011 with the Savannah Sand Gnats (Single-A), Fraser is off to a hot start for the High-A St. Lucie Mets in 2012, posting a 2.08 ERA in 26 innings pitched in the Florida State League.
With the 2012 NECBL season right around the corner, fans are encouraged to save on admission by purchasing season tickets to save 33 percent off the price of regular admission. To inquire about ticket purchases, visit Val’s Variety in Adams; Creations or Man’s World Styling Salon in North Adams; Billmont’s Country Store in Stamford, VT; by calling 413-663-7333; or visiting shopsteeplecats.com. For more information, visit www.steeplecats.com.
The SteepleCats are seeking additional members of the community who wish to join the organization and contribute in a variety of roles. The organization also is seeking additional host families for the upcoming season. Anyone interested in helping contribute to the SteepleCats success in any capacity may contact the organization directly at email@example.com; anyone interested in serving as a host family may contact Housing Coordinator Judy McConnell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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