I am so psyched. Today’s exhibition game with the Milwaukee Brewers will bring the Biloxi Shuckers’ 194 day off-season finally to an end. After playing a game with the first Major League team to appear on the Coast in 78 years, and another exhibition game against Jackson State University on Monday, the Shuckers can turn their attention to their Opening Day rematch against the Chattanooga Lookouts.
After last September’s heart-breaking, Cinderella-story-destroying series loss to the Lookouts for the Southern League championship, the off-season seemed awfully, awfully long. And I still maintain that with the League’s best overall record, we should have had home-field advantage for that series, and who knows if maybe that would have led to a different outcome? The Southern League Championship was the only thing missing from a season already worthy of Cooperstown.
There were several very noteworthy things that we Shuckers fans learned during this long off-season. Here are the Top Ten:
10. Immediately after our season came to an end, the Brewers called up six, count ’em six, Shuckers to play the last couple of weeks with the parent club. Pitchers Yhonathan Barrios, Adrian Houser, Jorge Lopez, & Tyler Wagner, outfielder Michael Reed and infielder Yadiel Rivera were extended the honor, and Rivera was the first to get a hit.
9. The Biloxi Shuckers were recognized as the Minor League Team of the Year by Baseball America, and their thrilling 14-inning home opening victory on June 6, after two endless months on the road, was recognized by MiLB.com as the Minor League Game of the Year.
8. We had to say goodbye to manager Carlos Suberos and GM Buck Rogers, but said hello to new GM Chuck Arnold and manager Mike Guerrero. Suberos was promoted by the parent club, and we’ll actually get to see him today as an infield coach for the Brewers. Buck took his talents to the West Coast. We will miss both, as they were an integral part of the Shuckers’ unforgettable first season. Arnold’s last stint was as Vice President of Sales for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. Here’s hoping a Sales guy is what the Shuckers need for their second season in a new market.
7. Our Jorge Lopez was declared the Milwaukee Brewers’ top pitching prospect, but his 2 1/2 year old son has unfortunately spent most of his life in hospitals fighting an autoimmune disorder. His will obviously be a special story this year.
6. MGM Park was number 21 on Southern Living magazine’s list of 50 Best Places in the South Now.
5. The Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks completed a 5-player trade that had major impacts on several Biloxi Shuckers. The Brewers’ veteran Jean Segura was sent to the D-backs, and this seemingly cleared the path for our Orlando Arcia to become Milwaukee’s shortstop of the future. Another Shucker, Yadiel Rivera, appears to be slated to hold down the shortstop position for the Brewers until Arcia is ready for The Show. The Shuckers’ pitcher Tyler Wagner was also sent to the Diamondbacks. From the D-backs the Brewers organization got another “highly regarded” shortstop, 19 year old Isan Diaz, who was MVP of the Pioneer League last year, so maybe we can look forward to seeing him here in Biloxi in the next few years.
4. Baseball America ranked the Milwaukee Brewers’ farm system as 9th best in baseball, up from 21st last year, and 29th two years ago. Biloxi Shuckers fans are extremely lucky to land a team just at the moment of that organization’s ascendancy. I hope for the long term viability of the franchise in this market that we don’t get spoiled!
3. Tim Bennett, co-owner of the Biloxi Shuckers, is a Libertarian. Now, this blog is about baseball, not politics, and I usually couldn’t care less about the political views of players or management. However, since libertarians are self-declared no-joke proponents of very limited government, and since government played a large role in providing the Shuckers a stadium in which to play their games, I would be very interested to hear how Mr. Bennett reconciles the two. He was already fascinating to me, for being an African-American part owner of a Mississippi professional sports team, and for being buds with ex-NBA star and Biloxi Shuckers investor Tracy McGrady (“T-Mac”).
2. We landed Jacob Nottingham in a trade with the A’s. MLBpipeline.com called him “one of the best caching prospects in the minor leagues.”
And the most noteworthy thing we learned this off-season? Well, of course it was the fact that
1. Brett Phillips has the best laugh in baseball.
I can’t wait. My open-heart surgery last year is a distant memory now. This year I have the energy and desire to really follow this team and keep up this blog. Let’s play ball!