Whether it’s rookie ball or Double-A, East Texas players are succeeding in professional baseball across the country.
With the calendar now officially turned to summer, baseball is in full swing, not only in the Texas Collegiate League, but in the minor leagues as well.
The Pump Jacks have had many players drafted over their illustrious five-year history in the TCL, and East Texas alumni dot the professional baseball landscape all across the nation this summer.
Matt Curry (2008) has had the most successful season of all former Pump Jacks hitters so far, playing first base for the Altoona Curve, the Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate in the Double-A Eastern League. A strong lefty bat, Curry is hitting .289 for the Curve with 19 doubles and 29 RBI. He ranks first on the team in doubles and third in RBI. He is also hitting .352 in 105 at-bats at People’s Natural Gas Field, the Curve’s home ballpark.
Brett Nicholas (2009) is also hitting well for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the High Class-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers in the Carolina League. Thanks to a month of June where he’s hitting .318 with 15 RBI, Nicholas has raised his average to .277 on the season, good for third on the team. The primary catcher for the Pelicans, Nicholas has also racked up 33 RBI and 22 doubles, which leads Myrtle Beach by a wide margin.
Miguel Pena (2010) is making his living pitching for the Greenville Drive, the Class-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The lefty Pena has been impressive, checking in at 4-4 with a 2.71 ERA as a starting pitcher. He has also struck out 64 batters in 66.1 innings while walking just 11.
Another former Pump Jack hurler in the pros is David Rollins (2009), who has had a very good season for the Lansing Lugnuts, the Class-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. The left-hander is 5-1 this summer with 63 strikeouts compared to only 28 walks in 64.2 innings pitched.
Scott Copeland (2010) is currently pitching for the Frederick Keys, the Baltimore Orioles’ High Class-A affiliate. A mainstay in the rotation this summer, the right-hander Copeland has made 13 starts spanning 64.2 innings, ranking second on the team, along with 50 strikeouts.
Matt Shelton (2008) has been phenomenal out of the bullpen this summer for the Great Lakes Loons, the Class-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 23 appearances already for the Loons, the righty Shelton has 34 strikeouts in 34 innings against just 11 walks. He’s registered one save along with a 2.12 ERA.
Stephen Tromblee (2009) has also been dominant out of the bullpen. Pitching for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the Los Angeles Angels’ Class-A affiliate, the southpaw has a 3-0 record and a 1.57 ERA with three saves in 34.1 innings pitched. He has 25 strikeouts and only eight walks this season.
Twins Jared and Jason West (2009) are also seeing time in the ‘pen for their respective ballclubs. Jared is 1-1 with a 4.59 ERA in 22 appearances for the Savannah Sand Gnats, the Class-A affiliate of the New York Mets. He also has one save on the season. Jason pitches alongside Shelton on the roster for the Loons, with a 2.22 ERA in 14 appearances spanning 24.1 innings. Like his brother, he also has one save.
Lee Orr (2010-11), the 2010 TCL Player of the Year, has shown off his power this summer for the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the San Diego Padres affiliate in the Class-A Midwest League. Orr is hitting .228 on the season, but he leads the team with eight home runs – in fact, no other teammate has more than five. He is also among the team leaders with 21 RBI. Orr’s .535 slugging percentage also leads the team.
Kilgore, Texas, native Logan Chitwood just began his season for the Vermont Lake Monsters, the Class-A Short-Season affiliate of the Oakland Athletics in the New York-Penn League. He has pitched 4.2 innings with a 3.86 ERA, picking up the victory in each of his two appearances.
Also in the New York-Penn League is Alex Fuselier (2010). Fuselier, who plays for the State College Spikes, an affiliate of the Pirates, has seen action in three games so far, stealing one base.
In addition to the Pump Jacks drafted in previous years, most of the former Jacks who were selected by major league clubs in the 2012 draft have also begun their first seasons in professional baseball.
Matt Jeungel (2009) was assigned to the Jamestown Jammers, the Class-A Short-Season affiliate of the Miami Marlins in the New York-Penn League. So far, so good for Juengel, who is batting .304 in six games for the Jammers with two multi-hit games.
Blake Brown (2010) began his pro career for the Danville Braves, the rookie ball affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. Brown has also seen action in six games and already has a home run and four RBI. The home run came in his professional debut for the Braves on June 19.
Daniel Minor (2011) made his first pro appearance a start for the Greeneville Astros, the rookie ball affiliate of the Houston Astros in the Appalachian League. Minor threw three strong innings in his debut, allowing one hit while striking out three batters and not allowing any walks or runs.
Beau Maggi (2011) and John Walter (2010) are both currently playing for the Burlington Royals, the rookie ball affiliate of the Kansas City Royals in the Appalachian League. Maggi has shown a patient eye at the plate so far, drawing six walks in six games with a triple for the Royals. Walter continues to be a dominant strikeout pitcher for Burlington, fanning seven hitters without a single walk in his first four professional innings.
2010 TCL Freshman of the Year Zac Fisher was assigned to the Great Falls Voyagers, the rookie ball affiliate of the Chicago White Sox in the Pioneer League. Like Maggi, Fisher has drawn a walk per game while finding his rhythm in the pros.
A trio of arms who pitched for the Pump Jacks in 2011 round out the list of 2012 draft picks who have signed contracts. Jaden Dillon has seen action in one game out of the bullpen for the GCL Braves, the Braves entry in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Dillon pitched three innings, striking out three with no walks.
James Hudelson has struck out six batters in 3.2 innings spanning two appearances for the Bristol White Sox, the Chicago White Sox affiliate in the Appalachian League. The tall right-hander most recently pitched two shutout innings while fanning four on June 24 against the Danville Braves.
Jordan Hershiser made his professional debut on June 23 for the AZL Dodgers, the Dodgers’ rookie-level Arizona League affiliate. He struck out one batter in the lone inning he pitched against the AZL Reds.
Matt Reckling (2009) was assigned to the Ogden Raptors, the Dodgers’ rookie ball affiliate in the Pioneer League. The 2012 Collegiate Baseball All-American and Conference-USA Pitcher of the Year has not seen action yet for the Raptors.
The Jacks enjoy a day off on Tuesday before returning to historic Driller Park Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday will be the first Western Wednesday of the summer, when fans can enjoy barbecue nachos along with Ziegnebock beer. The Jacks take on the Alexandria Aces, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
East Texas welcomes the Woodlands Strykers on Thursday for another installment of the popular Thirsty Thursday promotion. Fans can beat the heat with 50-cent soft drinks, one dollar draft beers and frozen margaritas for just three dollars.
Keep up with the Pump Jacks’ fifth anniversary season on www.pumpjacksbaseball.com. Join the conversation and interact with other members of Pump Jacks Nation by visiting the Jacks on Facebook and Twitter.