Having most of the members of that club and their coaching staff together in St. Louis Cardinals minor league spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida provided a great opportunity. The organization held a ring ceremony to honor them in Roger Dean Stadium on Sunday afternoon prior to the major league game between the visiting Washington Nationals and the Cardinals.
Thanks to photographer Lisa Fegley and Juan Dorado of the Palm Beach Cardinals, you can sample the proceedings here at The Cardinal Nation.
2011 Appalachian League champion Johnson City Cardinals
The 2011 JCC staff included manager Mike Shildt, pitching coach Doug White, hitting coach Ramon Ortiz, trainer Scott Ensell and equipment manager Pat Cramer. 39 players donned the Johnson City uniform last season, including 17 members of the 2011 draft class and nine players from earlier drafts. 11 were players from Latin America and two became Cardinals as undrafted free agents. Click here to see the final roster.
The Cardinals had originally considering holding the ceremony for both 2011 league champions, Johnson City and the Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League, together when the Houston Astros visited RDS this Wednesday. That would have allowed former Cardinals vice president Jeff Luhnow, now Houston general manager, to attend. However, a more family-friendly plan was chosen.
"We had heard from several players that their parents and family would like to see them receive their rings," said Farm Director John Vuch. "From a logistical standpoint it worked out better to do it on a weekend rather than midweek."
Cardinals executives presiding over the ceremony were Vice President/General Manager John Mozeliak, Senior Special Assistant to the General Manager Gary LaRocque and Vuch.
Roberto Canache receives his ring from Vuch
Among the many individual standouts on the 2011 club were two Appy League All-Stars, second baseman Tyler Rahmatulla and pitcher Kyle Hald. They were also The Cardinal Nation Player and Pitcher of the Year for Johnson City. Shortstop Matt Williams was Baseball America's Rookie League All-Star at his position. We named Logan Billbrough as the club's top reliever.
Other leading position players on the club included outfielders Anthony Garcia, Gary Apelian and Steven Ramos, third baseman Roberto De La Cruz and first baseman David Washington. Johnson City's standout hurlers included Tyrell Jenkins, Jose Pasen, Ryan Sherriff, Ben Freeman, Josh Lucas, Eduardo Hiraldo, Heath Wyatt and Nick Gillung.
Johnson City (45-23, .662 win percentage) first won the regular season title in the five-team Western Division and with the best record in the Appalachian League, earned the top seed in the playoffs in the for the second consecutive year. It was their best winning percentage finish since 1986 (.667) and their most wins since 1976 (50-20).
Johnson City dropped its first playoff game before winning the next four. They defeated the Danville Braves in Games 2 and 3 of the first-round, best-of-three before eliminating the Bluefield Blue Jays in the finals. The Cardinals pitching was superb as they limited the Jays to just three hits in the two-game final sweep.
Shildt receives congratulations from LaRocque
Many of the 2011 Johnson City players will graduate to full season ball this year. So has manager Shildt, named skipper of the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. Coaches White and Ortiz will reprise their roles under new manager Oliver Marmol in 2012 as the Cardinals aim for a three-peat.
Updated with bonus photos
After the original article was posted, I received several more photos.
Shildt thanks pitching coach Doug White
Jesus Montero (far right) receives his ring
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