Missions call on Adrian Martinez to start in Game 2

San Antonio Missions shortstop CJ Abrams playing against the Corpus Christi Hooks in the season opener on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. - photo by Joe Alexander

Shortstop CJ Abrams went 2 for 5 with two doubles and an RBI in his Missions debut Tuesday night. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The Missions have been blessed with standout play at shortstop over the past several years. In 2018, it was Fernando Tatis, Jr. In 2019, Mauricio Dubon. This year, they’ll have CJ Abrams, the No. 2 prospect in the San Diego Padres organization.

Abrams slapped a couple of doubles in his Double-A debut as the Missions opened the new season by beating the Corpus Christi Hooks 8-3 on the road Tuesday night.

The Missions and Hooks will continue with the season-opening, six-game series Wednesday night at Whataburger Field. Right-hander Adrian Martinez is scheduled to start for San Antonio against righty J.P. France for Corpus Christi, a Houston Astros affiliate.

In Game 1, the Missions backed starting pitcher Reiss Knehr with 13 hits, including four by Robbie Podorsky and three by Juan Fernandez. Knehr limited the Hooks to two runs on three hits in five innings.

Notes

Among the Missions standouts in the opener, Podorsky (Baton Rouge, La.) is the oldest at 26. Knehr (Glen Head, N.Y.) is 24. Fernandez (Valencia, Venezuela) is 22 and Abrams (Roswell, Ga.) 20.

A reason cheer for the River Bandits, the Shorebirds and the Cannon Ballers

All around the country, umpires on Tuesday night will tug at their face masks and cry out, ‘play ball,’ as the minor leagues start the new season. Play ball, indeed. Fans in minor-league towns have been dying to see their teams play for almost two years.

Last summer, minor league baseball at all levels was canceled by the pandemic. Not only did it hurt the fans, but the players were left with scant few opportunities to play — until now.

Poring over some rosters this evening, I found some former local players who have a chance to renew the chase for their dreams in some pretty far-flung locales.

Here are a few:

Asa Lacy, pitcher — Quad Cities River Bandits, Kansas City Royals affiliate, Davenport Iowa, High A Central. Lacy pitched in high school at Kerrville Tivy and in college at Texas A&M. Drafted out of Teas A&M in 2020 by the Royals with the fourth pick.

Jordan Westburg, infielder — Delmarva Shorebirds, Baltimore Orioles affiliate, Salisbury, Md., Low A East. Westburg played in high school for the New Braunfels Unicorns and in college for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Drafted out of Mississippi State in 2020 by the Orioles with a competitive balance round selection, the 30th overall pick.

Jared Kelley, pitcher — Kaanapolis Cannon Ballers, Chicago White Sox affliate, Kaanapolis, N.C., Low A East. Kelley played in high school at Refugio. Drafted out of high school in 2020 by the White Sox on the second round, with the 47th pick

Hudson Head, outfielder — Bradenton Marauders, Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate, Bradenton, Fla., Low A Southeast. Head played in high school for the Churchill Chargers. Drafted out of Churchill in 2019 by the San Diego Padres, in the third round, with the 84th pick. Traded by the Padres to the Pirates Jan. 19 in the Joe Musgrove deal.

The destination is in question for another high-profile local standout. Texas Rangers prospect Josh Jung, formerly of MacArthur and Texas Tech, suffered a stress fracture in his left foot around the first of March.

Reports indicated that it might take a couple of months to heal. If he comes out of it OK, it’s possible that Jung, the eighth pick on the first round of the 2019 draft, could start his season at Triple-A Round Rock.

Forrest Whitley‘s story is another, altogether. And it’s potentially a heartbreaker. Drafted in 2016 by the Astros out of Alamo Heights High School in the first round, with the 17th overall selection, Whitley has pitched only as high as the Triple-A level.

Earlier this year, in spring training, it was determined that he had a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, which would require reconstructive surgery. So, Whitley is likely looking at a comeback in 2022 at the earliest.

Elsewhere

Ralph Garza Jr., pitcher — Sugar Land Skeeters, Houston Astros affiliate, Sugar Land, Tex., Triple-A West. Garza played in high school at New Braunfels. He is starting his sixth minor league season in the Astros’ organization. In five previous seasons, he is 25-12, with a 3.79 ERA. Drafted out of the University of Oklahoma 2015, he was selected in the 26th round with the 769th pick.

CJ Abrams headlines Missions’ opening-day roster

Shortstop CJ Abrams, the sixth overall pick in the 2019 baseball draft, will begin the season with the San Antonio Missions.

In announcing their initial roster, the Missions say they will start the season Tuesday in Corpus Christi with five of the parent-club San Diego Padres’ top 30 prospects.

The 20-year-old Abrams is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the second-best Padres prospect and No. 8 in all of minor league baseball. A 6-foot-2 shortstop, he was selected sixth overall by San Diego in the 2019 draft out of Blessed Trinity Catholic High in Roswell, Ga.

He appeared in 25 games in Padres’ major league spring training in Arizona, batting .240 with two home runs, 11 RBI and three stolen bases.

On March 17, when the Padres made their first roster cut, Abrams and Tucupita Marcano remained with the major league club. Explaining the decision to allow the two young ball players to remain, Padres manager Jayce Tingler told AJ Cassavell of MLB.com that it was a reward for their play to that point.

“Marcano has got the ability to play seven different positions out there, and I think he’s performed really well,” Tingler said. “He stays for that reason, and CJ has performed and played extremely well, also. We’ll see where we’re at in a couple weeks, but we definitely wanted to keep those guys around.”

The Missions are preparing to play their first game in 20 months following the pandemic-related cancellation of last season. They’ll play six games in Corpus Christi through May 9. They’ll play six more on the road starting May 11 at Midland. After that, the Missions will return for the home opener May 18 against Frisco.

Other Missions players ranked among the top 30 in the Padres’ organization include:

–(13th) Reiss Knehr, 24 years old, a right-handed pitcher from Glen Head, N.Y.
–(18th) Eguy Rosario, 21, an infielder from Juan Baron, in the Dominican Republic.
–(22nd) Mason Fox, 24, a right-handed pitcher from Canton, N.C.
–(29th) Osvaldo Hernandez, 22, a left-handed pitcher from Havana, Cuba.

Phillip Wellman returns as Missions’ manager. The Madison High School graduate managed the Missions for three years from 2016-18, leading the team to the playoffs in both ’17 and ’18.

Roster breakdown

Pitchers (15): RHP Pedro Avila, RHP Carlos Belen, RHP Caleb Boushley, LHP Tom Cosgrove, RHP Mason Fox, RHP Henry Henry, LHP Osvaldo Hernandez, LHP Jerry Keel, RHP Reiss Knehr, LHP Aaron Leasher, RHP Adrian Martinez, RHP Jose Quezada, LHP James Reeves, LHP Fred Schlichtholz, LHP Sam Williams

Catchers (3): Juan Fernandez, Kyle Overstreet, Chandler Seagle

Infielders (6): CJ Abrams, Matt Batten, Chris Givin, Taylor Kohlwey, Eguy Rosario, Brad Zunica

Outfielders (4): Jose Azocar, Robbie Podorsky, Esteury Ruiz, Jack Suwinski

Missions notebook

Kyle Overstreet and Matt Batten both played for the Missions in 2018. Overstreet hit .272 with nine home runs and 46 RBI. Batten hit .260 and filled in at shortstop when Fernando Tatis, Jr., was injured late in the season … Robbie Podorsky is a career .327 hitter in the minor leagues … Undrafted out of Northern Kentucky, pitcher Sam Williams is in Double-A for the second straight season after spending 2019 at Amarillo … Dominican Republic-born Henry Henry has made all-star teams in his last three seasons, starting in 2017 and 2018 at (short-season, A) Tri-Cities and in ’19 at (full-season, A) Fort Wayne.

Former S.A. Dodger Dave Stewart discusses his MLB ownership dream

Acereros de Monclova pitching coach Dave Stewart returned to San Antonio on Thursday night. The Acereros defeated the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos 4-3 in an exhibition at Wolff Stadium. Stewart pitched for the San Antonio Dodgers in 1978 and went on to become one of the best right-handers in major league baseball. — Photo, by Jerry Briggs

If you think about the most accomplished pitchers ever to have toed the rubber for a San Antonio minor league ball club, a short list comes to mind, including Pedro Martinez, Orel Hershiser and Fernando Valenzuela.

I had a chance to talk to another guy on that list, Dave Stewart, on the eve of tonight’s exhibition between the Acereros de Monclova and the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos.

Stewart is the pitching coach for the Acereros, who play the Tecolotes in exhibitions tonight and Friday night at Wolff Stadium.

I caught up with the former World Series MVP in a telephone interview Wednesday.

A few newsworthy nuggets came up in our 20-minute conversation. Stewart, now 64, says he remains a principle in the effort to bring a major league baseball franchise to Nashville, Tenn.

After working for two seasons through 2016 as general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, he’s involved with a group lobbying MLB on behalf of Music City.

Stewart says he’s ready to get back into the game at the highest level.

“We’re still doing everything we have to do from our position to make that dream come true for the Nashville community,” he said.

I first met Stewart in 1978 when I was a 23-year-old, first-year reporter for the San Antonio Light, the local Hearst newspaper affiliate.

At the time, Stewart was a strong, 21-year-old kid from Oakland who stood out among some great athletes who had convened that summer to play for the San Antonio Dodgers.

At the time, Stewart was still trying to find his footing in the game, playing at the Double-A level for manager Don “Ducky” LeJohn.

The team was based at V.J. Keefe Field, at St. Mary’s University. Mike Scioscia, who went on to play and manage in the majors, was his catcher.

With the Mexican League games in San Antonio looming, Stewart said he has been thinking about that time of his life over the past few days.

“We were talking about that last night,” Stewart said in a telephone interview. “You popped out two names that we were talking about. Ducky LeJohn and Mike Scioscia.”

Stewart was the ace of the San Antonio ball club’s pitching staff that year, posting a 14-12 record with a 3.68 earned run average.

I remember him as an athletic wonder, a guy who could seemingly pitch all night.

The records bear that out. According to the player register at baseball-reference.com, Stewart started 28 games and pitched 193 innings in San Antonio.

He pitched five complete games and two shutouts.

“Coming into San Antonio that year, I had just come off an 18-4 season,” Stewart said. “I was of the mind that I was getting closer to the big leagues. In San Antonio, I got off to a good start and ended up having a good year, a good year personally, as I got my first call-up to the big leagues.”

In September of 1978, Stewart made it to Los Angeles for one game. It would not be his last. In a 16-year playing career, he posted a 168-129 record with a 3.95 ERA.

He won 20 games four straight years.

In the playoffs, Stewart was a master, fashioning a 10-6 record. He won title rings with the Dodgers, the A’s and the Toronto Blue Jays. He was MVP of two playoff series, including the 1989 World Series and the 1990 AL Championship Series, both with the A’s.

Those are the kind of games that defined his playing career, but I still remember him throwing fast balls from the mound at V.J. Keefe, when he was just a young guy out of Oakland with a dream.

Age changes all of us, but in many ways, Stewart hasn’t changed a bit. He still stays awake at night thinking about new challenges. One challenge is to try and become the first African-American with a majority ownership stake in the major leagues.

Initially, I asked him about his level of optimism that something good could happen for Nashville.

“What I do know is that Major League Baseball has two agendas,” he said. “One is to get a new stadium for Tampa and two, to get a new stadium for the Oakland Athletics. Once those things are off the agenda, then Major League Baseball has told us they will look at expansion for their next project.

“So, I’m very optimistic that it will happen. But what I can’t tell you is when it’s going to happen.”

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred suggested only a few days ago that expansion franchise fees could be in the range of $2.2 billion.

“If in fact these assets are worth an average $2.2 billion, I think that’s kind of a lodestar in terms of where you would start in terms of evaluating expansion opportunity,” Manfred said in an Associated Press story.

“A lot of cheddar,” Stewart said.

Asked if he thought that figure would scare off any prospective owners, he said it doesn’t scare the Nashville group.

“We were expecting it would be in the upper one billions (of dollars),” he said. “And so we were prepared, that if it was going to be in the upper one billions, that it could possibly sneak into the two billions. To me, when that time comes and the process happens, we’ll be prepared.

“We’ll be funded and ready to go.”

On a personal level, Stewart said it’s important to have an ownership group emerge that would include persons of color.

“Basketball, baseball, football — it’s important to all of us,” said Stewart, who is African-American. “We could talk about Derek Jeter’s ownership in the Marlins. Now, LeBron James has bought ownership in the Boston Red Sox. Magic Johnson has ownership in the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not one franchise is majority owned by a minority. When that happens, it will be ground breaking.

“It’ll break the glass ceiling, and in baseball, particularly, which is predominantly white, both on the field and in the (front) office, I think that would be trend-setting and ground-breaking.”

So, is there an African-American that could be the majority owner in Nashville?

“You’re talking to him,” Stewart replied, laughing.

Big dreams, indeed, for the former young star for the San Antonio Dodgers, who grew up without much material wealth in Oakland as the son of a man who worked on the docks.

“My dad was a longshoreman and my mom worked for the United Postal Service,” Stewart said. “To say we didn’t have a lot, I wouldn’t say that is correct. I’d just say, we had what we needed.

“We had a large family. Eight siblings. The values I had from my mother and father were that hard work (pays) and to always believe that you could accomplish the dream.”

After all these years, such dreams still drive Dave Stewart.

“I’ve been in baseball all my life,” he said “The next step in the evolution, for me, would be ownership. So, yes, I’d love to be in a position to own a baseball franchise.”

The Acereros rallied to down the Tecos 4-3 Thursday night. The teams will play at Wolff again on Friday night, with former Cy Young award winner Bartolo Colon scheduled to start for the Acereros.

Monclova’s president proud to bring his team to San Antonio

Nearly two full years have passed since the Acereros de Monclova won the 2019 title in the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol, and they remain as the defending champs of Mexico after Covid-19 wiped out sports leagues all around the world in 2020.

Led by a team president who grew up in South Texas and got his start in sports administration in San Antonio, the Acereros will christen the return of pro baseball in the Alamo City in the post-pandemic era when they take the field in exhibition contests Thursday and Friday against the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos.

Former San Antonio resident Jose Melendez is the team president of the Acereros de Monclova baseball club. — Courtesy photo

First pitch both nights is set for 7:05 p.m. at Wolff Stadium. It’s a two-night production sponsored by the San Antonio Missions, who will open their new season next week.

“We’re still in the spring training phase (of our camp), so tomorrow is the first time we’ll have most of our real lineup (on the field), to get ready for our season opener on May 20,” Monclova team president Jose Melendez said. “It’s a great trip for our players, to go into different cities. We’ve never played in San Antonio before. To play in front of a crowd in San Antonio will be very good for them. It’s a very exciting thing for us, for our players, to make this kind of trip.”

The trip is also special for Melendez, who grew up in Laredo, attended college in San Antonio and once worked in the front office for the Missions.

“It’s one of those things in life where you come full circle,” said Melendez, who went to school at both Incarnate Word and UTSA. “You have fond memories of starting your career with the Missions, and to come in with another international team, the defending champions, and to play at (Wolff) Stadium, it’s kind of a full circle thing for me. It’s something we always strive to do in our organization, and that’s to break boundaries.

“To me, it’s a very exciting thing. Not only because of my personal affection for the San Antonio Missions, but also to have our club play in front of a great crowd, in a different market — in a major league market, in San Antonio. People (in San Antonio) can experience our kind of baseball, our kind of players, so it’s very exciting. I’ve been looking forward to this for the longest time.

“I can’t believe it’s here.”

Starters named

Thursday: Greg Mahle for the Tecos vs. David Richardson for the Acereros.
Friday: Richelson Peña for the Tecos vs. Bartolo Colon for the Acereros.

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Missions president revels in ‘special time of year’ for baseball

Wolff Stadium, the home of the San Antonio Missions. — Photo by Jerry Briggs

The return of professional baseball to San Antonio looms in only a few days, and Missions president Burl Yarbrough on Tuesday admitted to feeling some extra adrenaline after having the entire 2020 season canceled because of the pandemic.

Last summer, Yarbrough and his staff kept the turnstiles at Wolff Stadium spinning by fielding a team in the Texas Collegiate League. But for the first time in San Antonio since the 1960s, there were no pro games to watch.

The game’s return, for the faithful, will be like a three-course meal at a favorite eatery.

Fans will get an appetizer on Thursday and Friday night at Wolff Stadium, with a pair of exhibitions between teams from the Mexican League. The Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos will play the Acereros de Monclova each night.

Next up will be a main course, so to speak, when the Missions open their season on May 4 on the road against the Corpus Christi Hooks. Finally, dessert will be served on May 18 when the Missions open at home against the Frisco RoughRiders.

Yarbrough is ready for it all to start.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time and still get very excited … probably a little moreso this time because of the fact that we missed last year,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s a special time of year, knowing that our season starts a week from today. After missing a year, it makes it that much more special.”

Schedule at a glance

Home games at Wolff Stadium

Mexican League exhibitions — Two games, Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos vs. Acereros de Monclova, Thursday and Friday (both at 7:05 p.m.)

Missions’ season — 120 games, 60 at home, 60 on the road, May 4 through Sept. 19

Texas Collegiate League season — 44 games, 22 at home, 22 on the road, May 28 – Aug. 1

Mexican League flair

The Tecos and the Acereros will be playing exhibitions as part of their preseason schedules, a pair of games set up between Yarbrough and one of his former employees, Acereros president Jose Melendez.

Initially, Yarbrough tried to work out a deal to bring Monclova to San Antonio to play the Missions. But it couldn’t be done because of health-related protocols, and so the Tecos and Acereros games were booked.

It should be an interesting show with Monclova featuring players such as Bartolo Colon, Addison Russell, Erick Aybar and Chris Carter.

“They do things the right way,” Yarbrough said of the 2019 Mexican League champions.

It’s the first time a pro team from south of the border will play in San Antonio since 1994, when Wolff Stadium opened and hosted an all-star game between the Mexican and Texas leagues.

Colon is expected to start on Friday night.

Franchise in transition

The Missions are a franchise in transition, having linked up in 2019 with the Milwaukee Brewers, with a move from Double-A to the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. As it turned out, the team played only one season in the PCL.

A cascading series of unfortunate events started in March of 2020 with a suspension of spring training and later a delay on the start of the season because of the virus.

By mid-summer, officials decided to scrap the minor league season at all levels.

In the fall, Major League Baseball started a reorganization of the minors, which ultimately resulted in the Missions being placed back in Double-A. Given the age of Wolff Stadium, the move was expected, but it was still painful.

Earlier this year, the Padres became the Missions’ parent-club once again.

The Tatis factor

Yarbrough said he thinks that the Missions’ history with former Padres prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr., now regarded as perhaps the most exciting young player in the game, could help his ball club this summer in terms of fan recognition.

“He had a pretty good weekend last weekend, didn’t he?” Yarbrough said.

Tatis, who played for the Missions in 2017 and 2018, electrified the fans by leading the Padres to three victories in four road games against the defending world champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

“For us, we went off and played Triple-A for one year,” Yarbrough said. “With the new arrangement with major league baseball, and us going back to Double-A, it’s very exciting to re-affiliate with the Padres. Because, we had 12 great years with them (from 2007-18). They always treated us like partners from Day One. Just (had) good relationships (with) good people who worked for ’em.

“When anybody says, ‘Oh, you’re back in Double-A.’ I can say, ‘Fernando Tatis.’ “That’s who we had on our team when we were in Double-A in our last year. (Also) Chris Paddack on that team. Let me tell you. Fernando Tatis is the most exciting player in baseball right now, and he was on this field just a few years ago, and he probably has as much in front of him as anyone in the big leagues right now.

“So for us to re-affiliate with them and for him to be a part of our team, I mean, he was here in ’18 when the Flying Chanclas were born, and he loved wearing that uniform. The way he played for us, you see it now in the big leagues … It’ll be very easy for our fans to root and follow him in the years to come.”

Missions’ roster update

The makeup of this year’s Missions’ roster is still something of a mystery, as the Padres haven’t released any information on players yet.

Regardless, a solid team led by manager Phillip Wellman is expected to arrive later this week. The Padres’ minor league system is ranked among the top ten in baseball despite a number of moves over the past few years to acquire veterans in exchange for prospects.

“The system’s got very good players still,” Yarbrough said.

The organization’s top prospects include pitcher MacKenzie Gore, infielder CJ Abrams, catcher Luis Campusano and outfielder Robert Hassell III.

Regardless of who is on the team, Yarbrough will look forward to May 18 when he can invite fans to come out and watch the first Missions home game in 20 months.

“So excited to see people in the ball park again,” Yarbrough said.

Two Mexican League games are set for Wolff Stadium

The Missions have announced that Wolff Stadium will host two Liga Mexicana de Beisbol exhibition games between the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos and the Acereros de Monclova on April 29 and 30.

The Acereros team will feature former Major League All-Stars and World Series winners including Bartolo Colon, Addison Russell and Erick Aybar.

Moncolva is managed by Pat Listach, a 1992 Rookie of the Year with the Milwaukee Brewers. Joining him is three-time All-Star Juan Samuel and World Series champions Dave Stewart and Ozzie Guillen.

Stewart, a three-time World Series champion, played Double-A baseball in San Antonio in 1978 as a hard-throwing, right-handed pitcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ system.

The Missions’ regular season starts on May 4 with a series opener at Corpus Christi. Managed by Phillip Wellman, the San Diego Padres’ affiliated team will open at home on May 18 against Frisco.

The season marks the return of minor league baseball to the city after last season was canceled because of the pandemic.

From Kluber to Tatis, former Missions continue to chase the dream

Minor league baseball fans in San Antonio are ready to see some games again.

Last year, the season was canceled because of the pandemic. This summer, the Missions will return for their 119th season in San Antonio. The Missions begin their new era affiliated with the San Diego Padres, playing as a member of the Double-A Central League. For the season opener, they’ll take on the Houston Astros-affiliated Corpus Christi Hooks on May 4 in Corpus Christi .

The Missions’ home opener at Wolff Stadium is set for Tuesday, May 18, against the Frisco RoughRiders. We won’t see a roster for another two or three weeks.

But, history suggests that we’ll have a good time this summer sorting out and identifying the major league prospects.

As a Padres affiliate from 2007 through 2018, the Missions won three Texas League championships and made seven playoff appearances. During the affiliation, fans in San Antonio were able to see the likes of Corey Kluber, Trea Turner and Fernando Tatis Jr. In one season as the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, the Missions in 2019 played host to fan favorites such as Keston Hiura and Mauricio Dubon.

Keston Hiura played for the San Antonio Missions for part of the 2019 season before being called up by the Milwaukee Brewers. - photo by Joe Alexander

The Milwaukee Brewers have moved power-hitting Keston Hiura to first base this season. Hiura played second in San Antonio in 2019. – photo by Joe Alexander

The Major League Baseball season kicked off on April 1. Kluber, a two-time Cy Young Award winner with the Indians, pitched his first game for the Yankees on April 3.

So, we’ll take a minute to identify teams you can follow to keep track of your former Missions’ favorites. One note of caution. This is a working list, not likely inclusive of all active major leaguers who have played in San Antonio. But, it’s as many as we could find, and we promise to add more names as they come to our attention.

(Years with the Missions are in parentheses).

Boston Red Sox — Franchy Cordero (2016), Hunter Renfroe (2014-15), Matt Andriese (2013).

Washington Nationals — Joe Ross (2014), Trea Turner (2015), Hernan Perez (2019).

San Diego Padres — Fernando Tatis, Jr. (2017-18), Trent Grisham (2019), Dinelson Lamet (2016), Chris Paddack (2018), Taylor Williams (2019), x-Trey Wingenter (2017).

Oakland A’s — Burch Smith (2013, 2019).

New York Yankees — Corey Kluber (2009-10).

Milwaukee Brewers — Corbin Burnes, Keston Hiura, Adrian Houser, Brent Suter, Devin Williams, Travis Shaw (all 2019), Luis Urias (2017).

Trent Grisham played for the San Antonio Missions for part of the 2019 season before being called up by the Milwaukee Brewers. - photo by Joe Alexander

Trent Grisham won a Gold Glove for his play in the outfield with the San Diego Padres last year. Grisham was a Brewers organization player at Triple-A San Antonio in 2019. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Miami Marlins — Anthony Bass (2011), Adam Cimber (2015-16-17).

San Francisco Giants — Mauricio Dubon (2019), Matt Wisler (2013-14).

Seattle Mariners — Ty France (2017-18), Nick Margevicius (2018).

Chicago Cubs — Eric Sogard (2009).

Atlanta Braves — Drew Smiley (2019).

Los Angeles Dodgers — Jimmy Nelson (2019).

Cleveland Indians — Franmil Reyes (2017), Josh Naylor (2017-18), Austin Hedges (2013-14), Logan Allen (2018), Cal Quantrill (2017-18), Ben Gamel (2019).

St. Louis Cardinals — Miles Mikolas (2011).

New York Mets — Jacob Barnes (2019).

x-injured list

Pirates’ Ke’Bryan Hayes is first from Texas to homer in 2021

Ke’Bryan Hayes of the Pittsburgh Pirates is the first former Texas high school baseball player to hit a home run in the new season. The 24-year-old Hayes homered in the top of the first inning Thursday at Wrigley Field. His blow off Kyle Hendricks gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead.

Hayes was a first-round draft pick in 2015 by the Pirates out of Concordia Lutheran High School in Tomball. He hit .376 in 24 games for the Pirates last year, his first in the big leagues.

Hayes is the son of Charlie Hayes, who played 14 seasons in the majors. Charlie Hayes played for the Giants, the Phillies, the Yankees, the Rockies, the Pirates, the Brewers and the Astros. His career spanned from 1988 through 2001.

Not the only young star

Hayes isn’t the only 25-and-under player from Texas to keep an eye on this season. How about Dodgers pitcher Dustin May (23), Padres outfielder Trent Grisham (24) and Blue Jays utility man Cavan Biggio (25)?

May is from Northwest High School in Justin, in the DFW MetroPlex. Also a MetroPlex-area talent, Grisham hails from Burleson and played at North Richland Hills. Biggio, the son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, played at Houston St. Thomas.

Alamo City connections

San Antonio native Brooks Raley, who played in high school at Uvalde, is on the opening-day roster for the Houston Astros. Last season, Raley pitched in 17 games in the regular season and six in the playoffs for Astros manager Dusty Baker.

Another San Antonio native, Burch Smith, made the Oakland A’s as a reliever. Smith was born in San Antonio and grew up in Tyler, where he attended Tyler Lee. Both Grisham and Smith played for the San Antonio Missions in 2019 as members of the Brewers’ organization.

Shaine Casas, a Texas A&M junior from McAllen, wins national swimmer of the year

One of the most under-reported sports stories in the state unfolded last week when McAllen-native Shaine Casas won gold medals in three individual events for the Texas A&M Aggies at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.

Former Olympic champion and current television analyst Rowdy Gaines, who witnessed the performance, marveled at the way Casas has emerged from prospect status to U.S. Olympic-team contender in two years.

“He’s obviously really good,” Gaines said in a telephone interview. “That he’s been able to explode on the scene in the last couple of years, it’s incredible. And, yeah, he’s just going to get better.

“He’s still young. He’s just going to continue to improve. That’s what’s so scary about it. He’s just a junior. He’s still got his senior year. He’s still got the summer.”

Gaines made his comments Tuesday morning. Later in the afternoon, Casas was named as the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Division-I Men’s Swimmer of the Year.

The award came on the heels of his performance last week at the NCAA meet in Greensboro, N.C., where he won the 100- and 200-yard backstroke and 200 individual medley.

As a freshman, in 2019, Casas scored points at the NCAA meet in the 200 IM and the 200 butterfly but didn’t reach the finals in either one.

Later that year, he opened eyes when he won the 100-meter backstroke and finished second in the 200 back and 200 IM at U.S. nationals. He seemed poised to have a big season in 2020 until the pandemic forced cancellation of the NCAA meet and the Olympic Trials.

Now, with his recent gold-medal binge, many eyes in the sport will be on him, with the Trials scheduled for June at Omaha and the Olympic Games, postponed for a year, set for July and August in Tokyo.

Swimmers make a name for themselves in Olympic years, so this is a big one for Casas.

“He has the long-course capability just as much, or even more so, than the short-course capabilities,” Gaines said. “So, he’s going to have a fantastic summer and certainly has a bright future. Probably won’t start peaking until 2024.”

With the 200- and 100-backstroke dominated by 2016 Olympian Ryan Murphy and several others who are among the fastest in the world, Casas faces a challenge at the Trials. Only two athletes will make the U.S. Olympic team in what are considered his strongest events.

But Gaines seems to think he has a good chance.

“If I was a betting man, I definitely would not bet against Shaine Casas,” Gaines said. “There’s just no way I’d bet against that. I think he’s going to make it in one or two events.”

In Greensboro, Casas highlighted his week by winning the 200 backstroke on the final night in 1 minute, 35.75 seconds — two one hundredths off the NCAA, meet and American records held by Murphy, swimming for Cal, in 2014.