Photo by Kimberly Contreras

Arizona A's Notebook: Professional debuts

MESA, AZ - Kimberly Contreras checks in with an in-depth update on the Oakland A's Arizona Rookie League affiliate.

The clubhouse at the Lew Wolff Training Center is filled with young men from all over the United States and South America who, until a couple of weeks ago, didn’t know each other. Today, whether by selection in the 2016 MLB Draft, or a free agent signing (undrafted or international) they are teammates, in the heat of the Arizona summer, on the Arizona Summer Rookie League (AZL) Athletics. 

The AZL, often referred to as “the fire league” because games are played in triple digit heat, at 7 o’clock at night, is not an easy start to a career. The heat, of course, but the other conditions like no fan fare – or fans, for that matter; and the games have more of a feeling of a scrimmage because they’re usually on the backfields of the spring training facilities of the parent clubs, in a non-revenue generating league. Not the start they imagine when they sign their contract. Many, including early round college picks, will start a game or two and then move up to the Short Season New York Penn League or even Class A Midwest League affiliate. Others will move up later in the season, others are here for the duration. Moves are also contingent upon availability / need. After spending several years with the Arizona-based Athletics, watching intently I’ve decided it’s best to trust the experts who make these decisions.

During that time, there have been few who’ve passed by AZ all together, including 2015 first round pick Richie Martin, who signed after his Florida Gators were beaten by the Virginia Cavaliers in the College World Series and went straight to Vermont. Most will at least make their debuts here, in the auspices of parent club controls. It’s my favorite thing to witness; the culmination of dreams and hard work in order to take the field for the very first time. It only happens once; and I consider it a privilege to witness so many. While all are important, I have to be honest and say there’s a little “something extra” about the debuts of UDFAs. Who doesn’t love an underdog? 

Speaking of debuts…here’s a look at those who donned a uniform for the green and gold, in the first step of thousands en route to living their dream, so far:

June 20: Opening Night at the AZL Angels – Tempe Diablo Stadium


Luke (Giancarlo) Persico, OF, UCLA, 12th round pick – 1st batter of the season

Robert Bennie, OF, East Stroudsberg State, 26th round 

Tyler Ramirez, OF, North Carolina, 7th round

Eli White, SS, Clemson University, 11th round

Casey Thomas, 2B, Texas A&M, 34th round  1st career hit

Sean Murphy, Catcher, Wright State, 3rd round – 1st Team Run Scored

Skyler Weber, Catcher, University of Georgia, 18th round

Kyle Nowlin, OF, Eastern Kentucky, 21st round – 1st Team Hit (Double)

JaVon Shelby, 3B, Kentucky, 5th round – 1st career hit

Anthony Churlin, OF, Island Coast, 16th round   

Cole Gruber, OF, Nebraska-Omaha, 27th round

Charles Gould, 1B, College of William and Mary, 26th round

Nate Mondou, 2B, Wake Forest, 13th round

Josh Vidales, 2B, Houston, 28th round

Seth Martinez, RHP, Arizona State University, 17th round

Ivan Andueza – Opening Day Starter

Box Score

June 22: Home Opener vs AZL Giants


Jeramiah McCray, CF, King High School, Riverside, CA, 25th round 

Jarrett Costa, Catcher, Westmont, 33rd round 

Christopher Quintin, (“Kin-TEEN”), MINF, 17 year old, Int’l FA, Bani, Dominican Republic

Brett Bittiger, SS, Pace U, 40th round

Sam Sheehan, RHP, Westmont, 31st round

Joseph Camacho, RHP, Alabama State, UDFA   

Nick Highberger, RHP, Creighton, 30th round

Box Score

June 23: at the AZL Giants – Scottsdale Stadium


Jesus Lage, (“LAH-hay”) SS, 18 year old Int’l FA, Valencia, Valenzuela  (AZL debut; made 2016 debut in NYPL)

Javier Godard, 2B, 20 year old Int’l FA, Baruta, Venezuela  (AZL debut; made 2016 debut in NYPL)

Mitchell Jordan, RHP, Stetson, 10th round 

Wandisson Charles, RHP, 19 year old Int’l FA, Bani, Dominican Republic - 1st Team Winning Pitcher / 1st AZL Win

Yeudy Minaya, RHP, 20 year old Int’l FA, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Box Score

June 24th: Home vs AZL Mariners


Frederick De La Cruz, RHP, 19 year old Int’l FA, San Cristobal, Dominican Republic – earned 1st AZL Win

Seth Martinez  - 1st Team Save / 1st Career Save

Box Score

June 25: at the AZL Mariners – Mariners Field 2 - Peoria


Matt Millburn, RHP,  Wofford, 29th round 

Box Score 

June 27: Home vs AZL Diamondbacks


Brandon Bailey, RHP, Gonzaga, 6th round  

Career firsts

Yeudy Minaya -1st Career Win

Robert Mullen - 1st AZL Home Run (Grand Slam); 1st Home Run of the Team  

Box Score

June 28: at the AZL Diamondbacks – Dbacks Field 1


Kevin Duchene - 1st 2016 Win

Box Score

June 29: Home vs AZL Brewers


Skylar Szynski, RHP, Penn High School, Indiana, 4th round 

This game will be remembered for the 15 runs scored in the top of the 1st inning – almost 50 minutes long. Szynski’s limited pitch count (19) was reached after his first career strike out. After that, there were eight consecutive walks, and so on. Thankfully, the monsoons arrived with such a force that the game was called after five complete innings of regulation baseball. 

Box Score

June 30: at the AZL Brewers – Maryvale Stadium


Brandon Mann, LHP, Journeyman pitcher, signed as a free agent - 1st Athletics Win


Kyle Nowlin  -  1st Career Home Run AZL Home Run (Grand Slam)

Robert Bennie  -  1st Career Triple

SIX STOLEN BASES - 1ST in the league with 20

Webby likes his team to run!

Box score

Team Notes

Webster Garrison’s team enters the OFF day with a record of 5-4 which puts them in the middle of the pack along with most other offensive categories except for walks (40 = tied for 2nd with Reds), strike outs (89 = 2nd ) and stolen bases (20 = 1st ). As a pitching staff, the Athletics also sit somewhere in the middle of each category.

Thursday is an OFF day for the team, then head to the Cubs on Saturday; home against the Cubs on Sunday; at the Angels (Tempe Diablo Stadium) on the 4th of July; and then back at Fitch to host the Angels on Tuesday before the next OFF day.

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