Top Ten Suns Moments of 2013

Suns Radio Network

Bragan Field saw plenty of memorable moments from the Jacksonville Suns in 2013. (Roger C. Hoover / Jacksonville Suns)

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

JACKSONVILLE – The 2013 season of Jacksonville Suns baseball was certainly memorable at Bragan Field. The Suns posted a winning season, sent eight players to the major leagues with the Miami Marlins, and proved that Bragan Field is still the place to be on warm summer nights in Jacksonville.

While there were many great moments during the 2013 season, here’s a look at some of our most memorable events from the last year of Suns baseball. While these moments helped define 2013, we are now excited about April 3, 2014: Opening Night at Bragan Field against Huntsville.

Enjoy this look back at 2013 and Happy New Year from the Jacksonville Suns!

10. Henderson Alvarez Homers, Dominates in Rehab Appearances

Before Henderson Alvarez capped his 2013 season with a no-hitter for the Marlins against the Tigers in the final game of the year, he also enjoyed brilliant pitching during his two-rehab starts with the Jacksonville Suns in June. His top performance came on June 28 at Mobile, where he tossed seven and two-thirds scoreless innings against the BayBears, striking out seven while allowing only two hits and no walks. In his first rehab start on June 23 in Jacksonville, Alvarez tossed six and two-thirds scoreless innings against the Huntsville Stars. In that appearance he struck out six batters allowing just three hits. He also added a three-run homer at the plate, the first for Alvarez in his professional career. Alvarez’s dominant rehab starts would win him Southern League Pitcher of the Week honors just as he was promoted back to the Miami Marlins. In his two Suns starts he was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA (0 ER in 14.1 IP).

9. Jake Marisnick Hits Walk-Off Home Run Against Pensacola on July 2

The in-state rivalry between the Suns and the Pensacola Blue Wahoos once again saw Jacksonville claim the “Golden Skillet” for the second straight season. On July 2, Jacksonville shrunk the magic number to clinch the skillet to one in a tight game at Bragan Field that saw Jake Marisnick hit a two-run walk-off home run to beat the Wahoos 6-5.

8. Christian Yelich’s 15-Game Hitting Streak

While Christian Yelich was hot at the plate several times during his time in Jacksonville, his best stretch of hitting came early in the year. Yelich had a 15-game hitting streak that was part of a 19-game on-base streak from late April to early May, as well as six breathtaking triples and a go-ahead home run against Pensacola in the bottom of the eighth on May 8 at the Bragan Field.

7. Justin Nicolino Strikes Out 13 Birmingham Barons on August 16

The 2013 Florida State League Pitcher of the Year Justin Nicolino saved his best performance of the season for a start in the Southern League. On August 16 in a 7-inning game against the Birmingham Barons, Nicolino struck out a career-high 13 batters in just six innings on the mound. The 13 strikeouts were the most in a single game by a Suns pitcher since 2006, and the performance landed Nicolino Southern League Pitcher of the Week honors for the week of August 12-18.

6. Derek Dietrich Triples, Then Juggles Past Barons on August 13

Derek Dietrich was behind many big moments for the Suns in 2013, yet his triple-then-juggle act on August 13 was at the top. In his second stint with the Suns after nearly three months in the big leagues, Dietrich powered the Suns to a 4-1 win over the Birmingham Barons. Dietrich provided the key hit in the game, a two-run triple in the fifth inning. Following the contest, Dietrich entertained Suns fans at Bragan Field with his unique juggling act as he tossed juggle balls, bowling pins, knives, and concluded his act by tossing fire-lit torches while singing “Baseball’s Never Been Hotter.” Dietrich finished the season hitting .271 with 11 homers and 38 RBI in 63 games for the Suns, and he hit a combined 20 homers between his time in Jacksonville and Miami.

5. Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick Get the Call to the Majors in Tennessee

Every player in the minor leagues dreams of the day when their organization calls them up to the major leagues. For close friends Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick, they would receive the call together. After both players had hit well in a series against the Tennessee Smokies at Smokies Park, Monday July 22 became the most memorable game of their minor league careers. In the third inning, Yelich collected a single then was called back to the dugout, replaced by a pinch-runner. Marisnick was the next batter and he was hit by a pitch, then relieved for a pinch-runner. Both players were greeted by high-fives and hugs in the dugout, and manager Andy Barkett told the players to go back to the clubhouse for the rest of the game for further instructions. After the Suns beat the Smokies 5-4, the Marlins’ game went final in Colorado and the news became official: both players were heading to the big leagues. Yelich and Marisnick learned the news in the clubhouse with their Suns teammates, and early the next morning were on a plane bound for Colorado. Yelich collected his first big-league hit in his first at-bat, and both players finished the season in Miami.

4. Suns Win 11 Straight from July 26-August 5

Jacksonville’s longest winning streak since 2007 came from July 26 to August 5 in 2013, as the Suns won 11 straight games. The streak began with the Suns salvaging the last two games of a road series at Montgomery, before coming back to Bragan Field for one of the finest homestands in recent history. The Suns swept the Chattanooga Lookouts, outscoring them 28-12 in five games. Jacksonville then took the next four games against the Tennessee Smokies before a no-hitter thrown by Smokies’ southpaw Eric Jokisch ended the streak on August 6. The streak was the fourth longest by the Suns during the Bragan Field era (2003-present), and tied for the longest winning streak in the Southern League in 2013.

3. Unbelievable Comeback Against Chattanooga on April 24

Jacksonville’s biggest comeback win of the season came on April 24 against the Chattanooga Lookouts at Bragan Field. The Suns erased a four-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth, roaring ahead with a seven-run final frame to walk off with a 12-9 victory over the Chattanooga Lookouts. Christian Yelich, who had evened the score in the previous inning with a two-run double, struck again in the ninth with the bases loaded to tie it at 9-9, before Marcell Ozuna blasted a three-run walkoff blast to left to end the contest. Yelich and Ozuna, the first two batters in the Suns order, combined to go 5-for-10 with four runs, four extra-base hits, eight RBI and two walks. Ozuna’s walk-off homer was one of his five with the Suns in his only 10 games in Jacksonville before he was called up to the Marlins on April 30.

2. The Marisnick Game

The top game for a Suns batter at the plate was a grand game for Jake Marisnick on May 30 at Pensacola. With the Suns having scored only one run in the previous three games of the series, Marisnick helped jumpstart the Suns offense by Pensacola Bay. Marisnick gave the Suns a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI double. The game remained a 1-0 Suns lead before Jacksonville added a run in the top of the seventh. With the bases loaded and Wahoos reliever Josh Ravin being just brought into the game, Marisnick blasted a grand slam home run deep to left field to put the Suns up 6-0. An inning later, with the Suns up 7-0, Marisnick once again hit a grand slam homer off Ravin to put the Suns up 11-0. Marisnick’s 9 RBI tied a Southern League record and news of his blasts spread quickly through social media. His two grand slams even made ESPN’s SportsCenter Top Ten Plays, debuting at No. 8 for May 30.

1. Suns Host Record Crowd at Southern League All-Star Game on July 17

Hosting the Southern League All-Star Game was the biggest treat of all for the Suns in 2013, thanks to the great fans of Jacksonville. A Southern League All-Star Game record crowd of 9,373 fans saw the South Division All-Stars beat the North Division 6-0 in the Southern League’s version of the midsummer classic. 11 South Division pitchers, including six Jacksonville Suns, combined for a one-hit shutout of the North Division. The Suns had nine players in the game including Andy Barkett’s coaching staff on the South Division roster.

For the latest Suns news this offseason, fans are encouraged to visit and can keep up with the Jacksonville Suns on the club’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram social media platforms, as well as the “Tales from Bragan Field” blog:

My Season as a Sun: Derek Dietrich

My Season as a Sun

Juggling Derek Dietrich saw plenty of success in 2013. Photo Courtesy: The Florida Times-Union.

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Each week during the offseason Suns radio and television broadcaster Roger Hoover will catch up with a member of the 2013 Jacksonville Suns to get their memories of baseball at Bragan Field this past summer.

The next guest is a second baseman that made the leap from Jacksonville to Miami in 2013, and finished the year as a member of the Suns, Derek Dietrich. He proved to be one of the best power hitters for Jacksonville early in the season, and earned a call-up to the majors on May 8. Dietrich played in 57 games with the Marlins, hitting .214 with nine homers and 23 RBI, reaching base safely in 46 of his 57 games played and was second among rookies with his nine home runs. Dietrich was transferred to the Suns in late July and finished the year in Jacksonville, and in his combined time with the Suns he hit .271 with 11 homers and 38 RBI.

Dietrich also made headlines for his juggling skills and a postgame show he put on at Bragan Field in August.

Here is this week’s “My Season as a Sun” with Derek Dietrich, and you can read past installments here.

Hoover: First of all, the 2013 season really began for you in early December when you were traded from the Tampa Bay Rays to the Miami Marlins for Yunel Escobar, what was your reaction when you learned you were joining the Marlins organization?

Dietrich: It was unexpected but completely welcomed. Right away I knew that I would have an awesome opportunity with the Marlins to help out the major league club right away. When it all went down, once you stop and think about it, I felt like I was put in a great position. Everyone was excited in my family, knew it was going to be a good thing for me and my career.

Hoover: You began the year with the Suns and you had seen Southern League time a year ago with the Biscuits, and it seemed like you got off to the right kind of start in Jacksonville. You had a homer on Opening Night and also got some key hits before Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, or Jake Marisnick joined the club.

Dietrich: It’s always good to come out of the gate hot and I just really wanted to emphasize my leadership and the way I play the game to a new organization. I wasn’t going to change anything I do as a player but it was a fresh opportunity to be around the guys and show everyone what kind of player I am. Not only what I can do physically on the field, I feel like I have a lot to bring in the clubhouse, in the dugout. I play the game hard, I respect the game, and I think those things rub off on a team and coaches. I think the combination of my character and my makeup and my love for the game along with my physical abilities, I think that has a lot to do with how I play the game and the success I have in the game. Hopefully I can continue to continue to build on those strengths and weaknesses, and be even better next year.

Hoover: How did you like playing for your manager Andy Barkett? It seemed like you guys were on the same page a lot.

Dietrich: Andy is probably one of the best managers I’ve had in professional baseball. I love playing for him, he’s a player’s manager through and through. He loves the game. He’s a left-handed hitter so he has a lot of insight for me. He’s just very passionate, has a ton of energy, and he understands what it feels like when you’re going good, when you’re not going so good. He’s got perspective and he’s just a great person first and foremost. Combine that with his knowledge of the game, it’s just it that much better to play for him.

Hoover: One of your big sayings and beliefs is “Let It Fly,” and you have a tattoo reading that on your wrist, and that’s something you learned from your grandfather, former major leaguer Steve Demeter who passed away last year.

Dietrich: Yeah whenever we talked whether it was about baseball or any conversation, I just knew that I wanted to put my faith in God and “let it fly” and let it happen naturally so things will always work out. I took it to heart and in my second year in college I got the tattoo as a reminder. I’d get the batting gloves strapped on, put the glove on, and it’s there. It always reminds me to stay grounded, stay humble, and put my trust in my preparation, in my ability, and in my faith. It’s just something I use on a daily basis and at this point now it also reminds me more of my grandfather. At the time he was still living and well when I got the tattoo. When I got it he was kind of shocked, he didn’t think I would do something like that but I’m sure he liked it. Now it keeps his memory alive and all those conversations and everything he taught me. I’ll glance at it, think of something, and it’s good, good to have it.

Hoover: You got to feel the “Let It Fly” mindset through the first part of the season with the Suns and I’m sure that helped you as you made the transition to the major leagues and had early success, getting a base hit in your first game in San Diego and then your first major league home run at Dodger Stadium a couple days later.

Dietrich: I get the question a lot from friends, family, teammates, they always were like: ‘were you excited, nervous, what was it like?” The only thing I was nervous about was making it to San Diego that first day. I made it with an hour to spare, but once I got the uniform on and started stretching and warming up, it was a game. It was the same game I’ve played all my life. I felt like I fit right in and carried that through right into the game, I felt very comfortable. I got that first hit out of the way, it couldn’t have worked out any better. It all started from there. It becomes the game you’ve always played. You’ve got the ups, you’ve got the downs, you have the good moments, the bad moments, the winning and losing. That first day it was just pure enjoyment, pure excitement, very happy to have my family there. My mom and dad got up and out there to see me and my sister and her husband made it out to L.A. with my agent and everyone. That first week of games was very exciting for me, they all are, but especially those games I’ll never forget.

Hoover: In the big leagues you did a really good job getting on base, is that tough for a guy getting to the majors so soon in a career to be that patient at the plate?

Dietrich: Well it’s a combination. I’ve always been an aggressive hitter, but I feel like as my career has gone along I’ve learned to be more selective. My plate discipline is improving. I tried to do anything I could to help the team and getting on base is one of those things. Whether it was trying to move a guy over, getting a sacrifice, or try to hit the ball hard and get on base and just let things happen. You can’t control the outcome as much as you try to. But anything I could do whether it’s offensively or defensively, I really felt like I came a long way with my defense at second base, I even kind of surprised myself. Coming up, through the years, through high school and college I was always an offensive minded second baseman or shortstop. This year I really felt like my defense really caught up. I think that has to do with the help from Perry Hill, the Marlins’ infield coach. I believe that he’s one of the best infield instructors in the country, he’s a genius when it comes to defense. I’m looking forward to working more and more with him to improve my defensive game. As a young player, the biggest thing is experience. As you get more experience you get more comfortable and confident and that will help down the road. Looking forward to getting more opportunities to get more experienced and get better.

Hoover: When you were transferred from the Marlins back to Double-A in late July, you said at the time you were disappointed of course to leave the major league roster, and also you had a lot of off-the-field distractions with some stories that were out there in the media, how did you manage all of those things when you got back to Jacksonville?

Dietrich: Well of course you want to help out the major league club. I knew that I had some things to work on, and would be in the right hands again, getting Andy Barkett’s help along with all the coaches in Jacksonville. Once you get back to the game and get your mind in the right place, everything falls right back into place. I felt that once I started making the adjustments I finished strong, unfortunately I had that oblique injury that kept me out of any type of September call-up. As far as the off-the-field distractions, it’s something that I tried to put behind me fairly quickly and I think that was the best way. It was handled internally, and as far as that goes it’s old news now. Looking forward to getting back with the guys in spring training and getting closer to help win a job and start the season with the team.

Hoover: You were with Jacksonville during that pennant chase in late August and had some big hits during the last road trip in Chattanooga and Montgomery; did you like the increased intensity of pennant chase baseball?

Dietrich: Absolutely. That’s the whole goal, playing on any team, to win and make it to the playoffs and win a championship. All of the games mean something, but especially when you get down to the wire and you have that opportunity to advance and play for a championship, it makes it all that more exciting. That was awesome, and I was disappointed I didn’t have the chance to help the team more with my injury but that’s something you can’t control. Injuries happen and you just have to learn to deal with them and come back stronger.

Hoover: How have you come back from the oblique injury, it’s something that also kept you out of playing in the Arizona Fall League is that right?

Dietrich: Yes it did, it was something that we didn’t want to rush. The Arizona Fall League starts pretty quickly after the season. Like everyone knows with the oblique’s, it’s kind of a nagging injury so it’s something we didn’t want to push. The main goal is to be ready for spring training. At this point I’ve been cleared to resume all baseball activities and all my normal training. So I’m feeling great.

Hoover: When you came back to Jacksonville, we didn’t see you play at third base and also all of your games in the majors were at second base for the Marlins, is playing third base still an option for you moving forward?

Dietrich: I believe so, I know that in some of my conversations with some team representatives, I think that will definitely be an option in the future. How soon? I don’t know but it’s something that I would be very open to. I’ve played third base in the past, summers with the USA team when I was in college as well as some in the high school ranks and the college ranks. It’s something that with Perry Hill’s help, this guy could make any defender the best defender he can be. So I know if I get the time with him and the reps, I can be an excellent defender at third base. I feel like I did a pretty good job at second and I feel comfortable there as well. Really it comes down to anywhere I can help the ball club, I want to help.

Hoover: What’s the rest of your offseason look like?

Dietrich: Continuing to work out in the gym, getting stronger, and I’ve been doing that back-and-forth between my home in Cleveland and Miami, plus Orlando as well so I can get outside in the nice weather. Just continue to get the offense and defensive reps in and I’ll probably go down to spring training in late January sometime and go from there.

Hoover: Suns fans really liked seeing you juggle at Bragan Field, are you still juggling in the offseason?

Dietrich: Of course, I’ll never stop juggling. I do that all the time, I usually have some balls or clubs around and I’ll do that a couple times a week, just mess around. I really do believe that helps with your hand-eye coordination. So it’s something I do for that reason, as an athlete, and also to bring smiles to kids’ faces and entertain people and it’s pretty good you can get both of those things done through juggling.

For the latest Suns news this offseason, fans are encouraged to visit and can keep up with the Jacksonville Suns on the club’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram social media platforms, as well as the “Tales from Bragan Field” blog: