Results tagged ‘ Adrian Gonzalez ’

The Dandy Dozen: The ‘Riders Turn 12

It's shaping up to be another great summer at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

It’s shaping up to be another great summer at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

This article originally appeared in the March 21 edition of SportsPage Weekly, which is a free publication available throughout the Metroplex.  To view the article in the online edition, click here.

There are very few “sure things” in life, but when it comes to local sports and entertainment options, the Frisco RoughRiders are just about as close to a sure thing as you can get.  Year after year, Dr Pepper Ballpark hosts exciting baseball action, premium prospects and fun for the whole family.  Ask anyone who has ever been to a RoughRiders game and they’ll tell you how memorable the experience is.

It’s almost hard to believe, but the RoughRiders will soon begin their 12th season on April 3 at home against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Kansas City Royals affiliate).  In honor of a dozen years of Frisco baseball, we present the top 12 reasons to catch the RoughRiders in action this season at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

#12 – A winning tradition

Everybody loves a winner.   And over the past decade the RoughRiders have been one of the most consistent winners in Minor League Baseball.  In 2013, Frisco finished with a 70-70 record, its eighth consecutive season with a .500 or better mark on the ledger.  The last time Frisco finished with a losing record was the only time in team history: back in 2005, when the team finished 58-82.  The streak of non-losing seasons is by far the longest in the Texas League; every other team in the circuit has had at least one losing season in the last three years.  The streak is the longest in Double-A and the third-longest among all 120 full-season minor league clubs, exceeded only by the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats (11 straight non-losing seasons) and the Advanced-A San Jose Giants (ten).  Including teams that play in short-season leagues, Frisco’s streak is the sixth longest; the Elizabethton Twins (25), Brooklyn Cyclones (13) and AZL Giants (13) have the longest such streaks in stateside Minor League Baseball.

#11 – History in the making

Baseball fans appreciate the sport’s history and tradition, and the Texas League plays an important role in the lineage of the game. The RoughRiders and their fans belong to a storied Texas League pedigree that dates back to 1888 (the American League was founded in 1901). A game at Dr Pepper Ballpark is more than just a chance to contribute to baseball’s history; it affords fans the opportunity to witness history as it happens. Notable Texas League alumni span the generations and include Major League Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Dizzy Dean, Joe Morgan and Whitey Herzog. It is a legacy furthered by many stars in the game today who also enjoyed success in the Texas League. Current Rangers Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus had All-Star seasons in the Texas League in 2004 and 2008, respectively. Outside the organization, an impressive crop of recent alumni continue to cultivate the Texas League brand as their big league careers flourish. The Texas League footprint extends across the Major League map and features young stars Mike Trout, Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Lance Lynn, Jean Segura and numerous others.

#10 – Rehabbing Rangers

Matt Harrison was one of 13 rehabbers who played with the 'Riders in 2013.

Matt Harrison was one of 13 rehabbers who played with the ‘Riders in 2013.

Players, coaches and fans dislike injuries, but they remain an inevitable component of any professional game. For a major league club, the inconvenience of an in-season malady is lessened—somewhat—when an affiliate team plays in the neighborhood. No one in Frisco hopes for a rehab assignment, but when a Rangers’ regular tweaks a calf or strains a wrist, Dr Pepper Ballpark provides a two-fold benefit for both the player and the fan. Players can stay in the Metroplex to nurse an injury and play in an atmosphere that approximates a big league ballgame. On the other hand, fans receive a unique opportunity to view their favorite Rangers in a more intimate setting and at an affordable cost. A total of 13 Rangers players donned a RoughRiders’ cap for a rehab assignment in 2013, including pitcher Matt Harrison, who unfortunately started as many games for Frisco (two) as he did for Texas. Rehab assignments rarely occur with much forewarning, but thanks to Derek Holland’s dog, Wrigley, the southpaw has likely already booked a stint with the RoughRiders in 2014. Make sure you’re in the stands when the Rangers’ rehabbers visit Dr Pepper Ballpark.

#9 – A new skipper

For the first time in five years, someone other than Steve Buechele will write out Frisco’s lineup card.  With Buechele managing the Rangers’ Triple-A club this season, Jason Wood steps into the role for the RoughRiders in 2014.  Wood, a five-year major leaguer and veteran of 18 professional seasons as a player, will begin his fourth season as a manager in the Texas farm system.  The 44-year-old spent the previous three years as the skipper for Advanced-A Myrtle Beach.  He led the Pelicans to the playoffs in all three campaigns and looks to get the ’Riders back to the postseason this year.  While Wood is a fresh face in the dugout, the rest of his coaching staff will remain in place from the last two seasons.  Jeff Andrews returns as the team’s pitching coach following a season in which Frisco’s hurlers collectively set numerous team records.  This past offseason, Andrews was honored the co-recipient of the Rangers’ annual Bobby Jones Player Development Man of the Year award.  Jason Hart will begin his third season as Frisco’s hitting coach and his instruction has been lauded for helping former RoughRiders Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt, Leury Garcia, Chris McGuiness and Engel Beltre all reach the major leagues over the past two seasons.

#8 – Affordability

One of the charms of Minor League Baseball is getting a big league experience without paying a premium price.  RoughRiders games are no different because the team strives to make sure everyone can afford to watch games at Dr Pepper Ballpark.  It can be a major strain on the wallet to attend other professional sporting events.  The average cost for a family of four to attend a Major League Baseball game is approximately $208; for an NFL game that number is $444, with the NBA checking in at $442 and the NHL at $355.  That figure for a Minor League Baseball game?  Just $61.  With RoughRiders tickets starting at just $7 (less than the cost of a movie theater ticket), attending a game at Dr Pepper Ballpark is very much accessible.  But say you’re interested in getting even more value at the ballpark.  The RoughRiders offer affordable ticket plans that include all-you-can-eat food and drink, and even packages that include alcohol.  These value-based ticket plans make attending games in Frisco possible without denting your bank account.

#7 – The other guys aren’t too shabby either

Tomorrow’s stars play today in the Texas League and 2014 is no exception. The RoughRiders will welcome a host of talent from around the circuit to Dr Pepper Ballpark this season, many of whom are ranked on the MLB.com Top 100 Prospects list. The Tulsa Drillers figure to field a strong pitching rotation bolstered by top 50 prospects Jon Gray (#14) and Eddie Butler (#41). Both pitchers bring high-octane velocity to the Drillers’ staff and can touch the upper 90s on the radar gun. Catcher Austin Hedges (#24) of the San Antonio Missions is rated as the second-highest prospect at his position by MLB.com. His strong arm and good footwork behind the plate will give would-be base stealers second thoughts. Kyle Zimmer (#25), the number five overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, is expected to start the season with the Northwest Arkansas. The Royals promoted Zimmer to Double-A late last season where he held a 1.93 ERA through four starts with the Naturals. Position players to watch for elsewhere in the Texas League include speedy leadoff hitter Delino DeShields (#66) of the Corpus Christi Hooks, Jorge Bonifacio (#91) of the Naturals and gifted batter Stephen Piscotty (#98) of the Springfield Cardinals. Every mentioned player has big league potential.

#6 – You won’t be the only one cheering

The vocal and expressive fan will find a home at Dr Pepper Ballpark. For nine consecutive seasons, the RoughRiders have led all 30 Double-A teams in total and average attendance. More than half-a-million fans routinely fill Dr Pepper Ballpark every season and the team averages better than 7,000 fans per game.  Not only is that the best in Double-A, but it’s also higher than 17 Triple-A teams! On 21 occasions in 2013, the ’Riders drew crowds of more than 10,000. Frisco’s fan base is second to none and players say the crowds enhance the in-game environment more than anywhere else in the Texas League. Bring a sign, be loud and shout until your voice goes out. You won’t be cheering alone.

#5 – More than just peanuts and Cracker Jack

RoughRiders cuisine far outstrips traditional ballpark fare. Sure, fans can still fill up to the gills on foot-long hot dogs and brats from Smokie’s Sausage Shack, but Dr Pepper Ballpark serves something for any palate. The new Beer & Barbeque stand will cook in-house, smoked Texas barbeque favorites while Lone Star Pizza offers a wide range of personal style pies. Deep-fried Oreos grace the à la carte lineup for the first time this season, and for those in search of a healthy option, Greek yogurt is also available. Of course, many Frisco fan favorites will be back on the menu as well, from fresh-spun cotton candy and funnel cakes to snow cones and freshly squeezed lemonade. Of course, few things taste better on a hot Texas night than a cold serving of Dippin’ Dots. It’s never summer without great food, great drinks and RoughRiders baseball.

Luke Jackson figures to lead a very talented starting rotation this season.

Luke Jackson figures to lead a very talented starting rotation this season.

#4 – An arsenal of arms

For the best pitching this side of Yu Darvish and Arlington, Dr Pepper Ballpark is the place to be. The RoughRiders will rely on their mound men to bolster the franchise’s quest for an eighth playoff berth. Right-hander Luke Jackson is expected to lead the group in 2014. The fireballer started the previous season with Advanced-A Myrtle Beach and made his RoughRiders’ debut on August 4, 2013. He didn’t miss a beat in Double-A and finished the season with 134 combined strikeouts at both Myrtle Beach and Frisco and held the eighth-lowest ERA among all full season minor league pitchers (2.04). Those numbers were a big reason why the Rangers named Jackson the club’s 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Alex Claudio figures to take the reins from Jackson and the starters as a key piece in the RoughRiders’ bullpen in 2014. The deceptive Claudio fools batters with his changeup and was named the Rangers’ Minor League Reliever of the Year last season. Another burgeoning prospect, Alex Gonzalez, hopes to excite the Frisco faithful this year. Don’t call him Alex, though. Gonzalez prefers the nickname “Chi Chi,” given by a family member. Baseball America rates the 2013 first round draft pick as the number six prospect in the Rangers’ organization. Fans on the wild side will anticipate the return of eight-year veteran Kevin Pucetas as he unleashes his newly developed knuckleball pitch on the diamond this season. Other highly-ranked pitchers that are expected to see time in Frisco this season include Alec Asher, Nick Martinez and Jerad Eickhoff.

#3 – Rougned Odor

Top prospect Rougned Odor is expected to begin the season at second base in Frisco.

Top prospect Rougned Odor is expected to begin the season at second base in Frisco.

Because the makeup of minor league teams are up to the discretion of the parent club, you never know who will be on the Opening Day roster until very late in spring training.  That is typically the case with the RoughRiders, but one player who looks very likely to be with the team on April 3 is second baseman Rougned Odor.  The Venezuelan with the memorable name is the Rangers’ top-ranked prospect according to Baseball America and he showed why during a 30-game stint with Frisco at the end of the 2013 season.  Odor was promoted to Double-A in early August and hit .306/.354/.530 with six home runs, eight doubles, two triples and 19 RBI.  And he did all of that as just a 19-year-old, the youngest player in Double-A.  (Projecting those numbers out over a 140-game season, he would have hit 28 homers with 37 doubles, nine triples and 89 RBI.) Now 20, Odor spent the first half of spring training in big league camp and hopes to use that experience to further propel his ascension to the major leagues.  For the time being, however, the spunky infielder with the big bat is expected to ply his trade at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

#2 – Family-friendly entertainment

The RoughRiders are well-known for making trips to Dr Pepper Ballpark about more than just the game on the field.  The atmosphere on game nights is a blast, even for folks who aren’t big baseball fans.  The RoughRiders employ a full-time entertainment director whose sole job is to make sure that families have fun when visiting the ballpark.  From spectacular fireworks shows following every Friday night home game to a collection of more than 180 hilarious on-field skits and promotions that rotate throughout the season, there is something fun for everyone who comes to a game.  Dr Pepper Ballpark even features a pool in right field and two playgrounds (including one specifically designed for two-to-five-year-olds).  And for a lot of fans, their favorite RoughRiders aren’t ones you might see in Arlington someday – they are Deuce and Daisy, the team’s loveable mascots.

#1 – The home of future Rangers

With Odor and a tremendous pitching staff leading the way, there should be another impressive assortment of talent on display at Dr Pepper Ballpark this season.  This has been the norm in each of the RoughRiders’ first 11 seasons in Frisco, and with the Rangers’ relentless pursuit of building a winning organization from top-to-bottom, don’t look for that trend to change anytime soon.  Since 2003, 107 former RoughRiders have reached the major leagues, almost one-third of all Frisco players.  In 2013, ten former ’Riders made the big leagues, including Nick Tepesch, Beltre, Garcia and McGuiness.  One look at the Rangers’ 40-man roster shows that half of its members played in Frisco.  Elvis Andrus, Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Holland, Leonys Martin, Profar, Neftali Feliz, Mitch Moreland, Tanner Scheppers and Martin Perez are just a few of the Texas stalwarts who once wore a RoughRiders uniform.  Outside of the Rangers organization, All-Stars such as Ian Kinsler, Chris Davis, Adrian Gonzalez and C.J. Wilson all spent time in Frisco as well.

***

With the RoughRiders, fans get winning baseball, exciting prospects, delicious food, affordable family fun and the future of the Texas Rangers on display.  It all shows that the Frisco RoughRiders continue to be a sure thing for families and sports fans across the Metroplex.

Look who’s Riding at the World Baseball Classic

Elvis Andrus 2008 batting

Elvis Andrus, a RoughRider in 2008, will play for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.

The provisional rosters for the teams competing in the World Baseball Classic were recently announced and the RoughRiders will be well-represented in the third iteration of this relatively new showcase event.  Of course, there may be some players added on or taken off before the tournament starts on March 2, but a quick scan of each squad’s roster reveals 15 players who at one point wore a RoughRiders uniform.  Not including big league rehabbers, that number is 11.  Here’s the full list of players who once plied their trade at Dr Pepper Ballpark that will soon be seeking baseball’s greatest international achievement:

United States of America

R.A. Dickey 2004

R.A. Dickey throws something other than a knuckleball in this photo of one of his 2004 rehab appearances with Frisco.

RHP R.A. Dickey (rehabbed with the ’Riders in 2004, making four starts)

LHP Derek Holland (made four starts during 2008 season, his last as a minor leaguer)

1B Mark Teixeira (rehabbed in 2004 & 2007 for two total games)

Canada

OF Tim Smith (played 36 games in 2009)

Dominican Republic

OF Nelson Cruz (rehabbed in 2010 & 2011 for six total games)

RHP Pedro Strop (made 36 relief appearances in 2009)

RHP Edinson Volquez (started 10 games in 2005 & 11 games in 2007)

Italy

RHP Jason Grilli (made a one-inning rehab start in 2009)

Mexico

1B Adrian Gonzalez (played 45 games in 2003)

IF/OF Edgar Gonzalez (played 106 games in 2004)

RHP Luis Mendoza (pitched in 27 games – 26 starts – in 2007 & 2008)

The Netherlands

SS Jurickson Profar (played 126 games in 2012)

Spain

OF Engel Beltre (played 302 games between 2009 & 2012)

C Salomon Manriquez (played 71 games in 2007)

Venezuela

SS Elvis Andrus (played 118 games in 2008)

As a bonus entry, LHP Richard Bleier (a RoughRider from 2010 – 2012) pitched for Team Israel in last fall’s WBC qualifying tournament.  Israel lost to Spain in the Jupiter, Florida qualifier, failing to gain entry into the main event.

-          Alex

RoughRiders ABCs

Over the course of nine years, hundreds of players have donned the RoughRiders red. So, who are the best players by letter? We are going by the first letter of former RoughRiders’ last names. And yes, rehabs count.

The year(s) with the ‘Riders is/are in parentheses.

Elvis Andrus (2008): Currently with the Rangers, Andrus was second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2009. He made the All-Star team in 2010 and was an integral part of Texas’ journey to the World Series. (honorable mention: Antonio Alfonseca, Joaquin Arias)

Hank Blalock (2008): Blalock, who originally came through the Rangers system before the RoughRiders existed, stopped by in 2008 for six rehab games. Blalock hit 153 home runs in his big league career, a total that does not include his game-winning blast in the ’03 All-Star Game. (honorable mention: Kris Benson, Jason Bourgeois)

Nelson Cruz (2010, 2011): Cruz rehabbed with the ‘Riders late in the 2010 season and early this year. Not much explanation needed here. He’s a candidate to hit in the Home Run Derby this year. (honorable mention: Frank Catalanotto, Endy Chavez)

John Danks (2005-06): This one is close between Danks and Chris Davis. Danks pitched in 31 games for the RoughRiders before ascending to Triple-A and eventually the bigs. The lefty is 49-52 with a 3.99 ERA in the big leagues (honorable mention: Davis)

Cody Eppley (2010): Eppley made it to the big leagues for the first time earlier this season. There have only been seven people with a last name that starts with “E” play with Frisco. Watch out for the current one listed here. (honorable mention: Robbie Erlin)

Neftali Feliz (2008): Last year’s American League Rookie of the Year, Feliz has struggled a bit as the Rangers’ closer this year. Still, he is an exciting young arm who figures to be in the majors for a long time. (honorable mention: Scott Feldman, Frank Francisco)

Adrian Gonzalez (2003): Little did we know that the inaugural RoughRiders unit had such a good player. Gonzalez is tearing it up in his first season in Boston. This letter is loaded, by the way. (honorable mention: Eric Gagne, Armando Galarraga, Craig Gentry, Doug Glanville, Cristian Guzman)

Josh Hamilton (2009, 2011): I’m just going to say this–sorry to the honorable mentions. This rehabbing Ranger takes it, easily. After all, he did homer for Frisco last month. (honorable mention: Jerry Hairston, Jr., Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter)

Jesse Ingram (2006-2007): A right-handed reliever, Ingram is the ONLY “I” to ever play for the ‘Riders. He never made it to Triple-A, but he’s at the top of this list!

Andruw Jones (2009): Another rehabber, Jones has played with five different teams over 16 seasons. His middle name is Rudolf, so that’s cool. (honorable mention: Brian Jordan)

Ian Kinsler (2004, 2009, 2010): Kinsler climbed the organizational ladder during the early days of the RoughRiders, and he liked Frisco so much that he returned for a brief visit in ’09 and ’10. He has manned second base for the Rangers for a while. (honorable mention: Steve Karsay, Michael Kirkman)

Josh Lueke (2010): Lueke emerges out of a group with 12 players in it. The hurler was a part of the Cliff Lee deal, and he made it to the big leagues for the first time earlier this year.

Gary Matthews (2005): Matthews went 2-for-5 in his one and only game as a RoughRider. He played in 1281 games at the big league level. There are plenty of M’s in Frisco history, but not many good ones. (honorable mention: Ron Mahay, Nick Masset)

Laynce Nix (2003-2004): Nix played in 94 games with the RoughRiders in their first two seasons of existence. He has appeared for four different major league teams, including suddenly above average Washington this year. (honorable mention: Jeff Nelson)

Alexi Ogando (2010): Ogando blew through Double-A while with the ‘Riders last season. He is 7-3 and an All-Star candidate in his first season in the bigs. Only five “Os” have been in RoughRiders uniforms (honorable mention: Darren O’Day).

Martin Perez (2009-2011): OK, so this may not be totally true yet, but I’m confident Perez can have a better big league career than the three guys I mention honorably. (honorable mention: Vicente Padilla, Chan Ho Park, Herbert Perry).

Daisy Q‘RuffRider (yea right): Of course there haven’t been any Q’s in Frisco. If you know of a RoughRider fan whose last name starts with Q, comment here and we can add him/her.

Nick Regilio (2003): Not a lot of substance with “R.” Regilio made 24 career appearances with the Rangers in ’04 and ’05. He last played professional baseball with Triple-A Toledo in the Detroit organization in ’09.

Justin Smoak (2009): Smoak was the cornerstone of the Rangers’ trade for Cliff Lee last year. So far in Seattle this year, Smoak is hitting .260 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs. (honorable mention: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Pedro Strop)

Mark Teixeira (2004, 2007): He’s really, really good at baseball. My dad, a fantasy baseball player, would always call him “Mark Tex-e-air-uh.” (honorable mention: Taylor Teagarden, Chad Tracy)

U (2003-2011): All of you for being such great fans throughout nine seasons! Really, this is just a cop out because, surprisingly, there has not been a “U” in a ‘Rider uniform, but you can still enjoy it!

Edinson Volquez (2005, 2007): Volquez equaled Josh Hamilton. That’s good enough for me.

C.J. Wilson (2003, 2005, 2006): Brandon Webb has better overall numbers at this point in his career, but Wilson has more upside. (honorable mention: Webb).

X: I have nothing cute or witty about this. The letter is worth 8 points in Scrabble, though.

Chris Young (2004): There have only been three “Y’s” in RoughRiders history. This one is pretty good. His is 49-34 with a 3.74 ERA in his career in the majors.

Z: I need some Zs after this countdown. Hope you enjoyed.

- Brian

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