Suns face Barons in 2015 Rickwood Classic

Breaking News

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By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

One of the Southern League’s great traditions will feature the Jacksonville Suns this season, as the Suns will play the Birmingham Barons in the 20th annual Rickwood Classic at historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama on Wednesday May 27 at 12:30 p.m. CT.

This will be Jacksonville’s third appearance in the classic, losing 3-2 in 2007 before picking up a 4-2 win the next season in 2008. The Suns and Barons are 1-1 in Rickwood Classic meetings.

Former Rookie of the Year, eight-time Major League Baseball All-Star, and four-time World Series champion Darryl Strawberry headlines the game as the Guest of Honor and is available for autographs during the game.

Strawberry spent 17 seasons in the Majors, was elected to eight consecutive All-Star games from 1984-90 and was named National League Rookie of the Year in 1983. During his career, Strawberry suited up for the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees. The slugger won his first World Series title in 1986 with the Mets before winning three with the Yankees (1996, 1998, 1999). The outfielder led the league with 39 home runs and a .545 slugging percentage in 1988 to claim his first of two Silver Slugger awards. Currently, the former big leaguer and his wife, Tracy, are pastors and the founders of Strawberry Ministries.

While the Barons will wear replicas of their 1948 flannels, the Suns will wear their all-yellow uniforms that debuted last season for Sunday throwback games.

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The Rickwood Classic was named Minor League Baseball’s Promotion of the Year in 2010, deemed the most desirable Minor League Baseball game to attend in a poll on MiLB.com in 2009, and was included in the “101 Things All Sports Fans Must Experience Before They Die” column written by ESPN.com’s Jim Caple. Over 120,000 people have attended the Rickwood Classic since its inception in 1996 and has been covered by dozens of local and national media outlets – including HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

Rickwood Field is America’s oldest ballpark, opening in 1910. The historic field was the longtime home of the Barons until the 1987 season, but the Barons have returned to Rickwood each year since 1996 for the Rickwood Classic.

Tickets for the Suns and Barons in the Rickwood Classic are available through the Barons ticket office by calling (205) 988-3200 or visiting www.barons.com.

#MarlinsMonday – January 26, 2015

Marlins Monday

New baseballs for the 2015 season with the signature of commissioner Rob Manfred.

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

Late last week the Miami Marlins made it official, signing Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year deal. Ichiro will be a fourth outfielder for the Marlins, taking over the roll that we saw Reed Johnson fill last season.

While Ichiro will not be playing every day, he is another good veteran presence for the Marlins to have in the clubhouse with the young players, especially his fellow outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna.

There continues to be some James Shields to the Marlins chatter, but most of it now is that a deal is unlikely given how much Shields is asking for.

The baseball world lost an icon on Friday, when we learned that Hall of Famer and Cubs legend Ernie Banks passed away. I grew up a Cubs fan, so the news hit home for me, and I wrote about what he meant to the game and my family here.

Here are today’s #MarlinsMonday links:

Marlins.com: Finding at-bats for Ichiro a good problem for Marlins
Marlins.com: Realmuto No. 8 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 10 C Prospects list
Miami Herald: Greg Cote: Marlins can narrow gap on Nats by adding James Shields
Sun Sentinel: Marlins in running for hosting 2017 All-Star Game
Fish Stripes: Juan Pierre impressed by Marlins’ offseason
Yahoo! Big League Stew: New commissioner Rob Manfred open to defensive-shift ban
MLB.com: Presenting the official 2015 MLB baseball
Chicago Sun Times: Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, leaves this world to play two, if not more
Chicago Tribune: For ebullient Ernie Banks, day at the ballpark was a day in paradise
The New York Times: New Commissioner With a Long-Term Mission

Marlins Announce 2015 Spring Training Non-Roster Invitees

Breaking News

Viosergy Rosa is one of several former Suns that are non-roster invitees to Marlins spring training. Photo Courtesy: Roger C. Hoover.

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

The Miami Marlins announced the list of non-roster invitees to spring training on Wednesday afternoon. In the list are 15 minor league free agents along with 10 players from the organization, and in the group are six former Jacksonville Suns.

The minor league free agent pitchers included right-handers: Ryan Chaffee, Nick Masset, Vin Mazzaro, and Ryan Reid. Left-handed pitchers are Pat Misch, Chris Narveson, and Pat Urckfitz. Former Sun Vinny Rottino earned an invitation as a catcher along with Jhonathan Solano. The list of minor free agents includes infielders Reid Brignac, Don Kelly, and Scott Sizemore, along with outfielders Tyler Colvin, Cole Gillespie, and Kenny Wilson.

Among players from the organization invited to spring training are former Suns: right-handed pitchers Nick Wittgren and Trevor Williams, catcher Sharif Othman, and infielders Austin Nola and 2014 Southern League Championship Series Most Valuable Player Viosergy Rosa. They are joined by right-handed pitcher Brian Ellington, infielders Justin Bohn, Avery Romero, and Jordany Valdespin, and outfielder Austin Wates.

These players will join members of the Marlins 40-man roster for spring training, which begins on February 20 with pitchers and catchers reporting to Jupiter, Florida.

Former Jacksonville Suns (19) on the Miami 40-man roster: pitchers Henderson Alvarez, Arquimedes Caminero, Steve Cishek, Adam Conley, Grant Dayton, Sam Dyson, Brad Hand, Tom Koehler, Justin Nicolino, A.J. Ramos, Matt Ramsey, and Jose Urena. Catchers are J.T. Realmuto and Jeff Mathis, along with infielder Derek Dietrich, and outfielders Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton, and Christian Yelich.

The 19 former Suns on the 40-man roster along with six of the invitees puts 25 former Suns in spring training with the Marlins.

The first full squad workout is on Feb. 24, with the first exhibition game on March 2 against Florida International University. The final exhibition game will be in Jacksonville on Saturday April 4 at Bragan Field against the Suns, ticket information is available at http://www.jaxsuns.com.

#MarlinsMonday – January 19, 2015

Marlins Monday

Could Ichiro Suzuki be headed to Miami?

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

As we are another week closer to pitchers and catchers reporting, the Miami Marlins continue to fine tune their roster. Speculation continues that the Marlins could bring in Ichiro Suzuki or James Shields to add a veteran presence the club that will need veterans to compete in a rapidly improving National League Eastern Division.

The Washington Nationals have solidified their rotation with the signing of former Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, adding to a talented stable of starting pitching along with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez.

There has also been some broadcasting news in the Southern League, as one broadcaster will have a new home in 2015. Chris Harris, who has been with the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx/Jackson Generals since 2009, will be the inaugural radio voice of the Biloxi Shuckers for this upcoming season. Chris is one of the hardest workers in this league and we look forward to seeing him in Jacksonville once again!

Here are today’s #MarlinsMonday links:

Marlins.com: Marlins open to two-year deal with Ichiro
Marlins.com: Focused on ’15, Cishek excited about Marlins’ direction
Miami Herald: Marlins avoid arbitration with four players, including Steve Cishek
Sun Sentinel: Report: Don Kelly signs minor league deal with Miami Marlins
Fish Stripes:Marlins ‘still in’ on James Shields
Ballpark Digest: Shuckers sell out luxury suites for opening season
The Jackson Sun: Chris Harris leaving Jackson Generals
Yahoo! Big League Stew: Cubs upgrade outfield by acquiring Dexter Fowler from Astros
Yahoo! Big League Stew: Max Scherzer makes the Nationals favorites to win World Series
ESPN Chicago: Wrigley minus bleachers until at least May 11
The New York Times: Nationals Place Early Bet That Aces Will Bring October Success

 

#MarlinsMonday – January 12, 2015

Marlins Monday

Remember former Sun Vinny Rottino? He’s signed a minor league deal with the Marlins and will report to spring training. Here he is with Jacksonville in Tennessee during the 2010 season. Photo Courtesy: Knoxville News Sentinel

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

With the eyes of the sporting world on the NFL Playoffs and tonight’s College Football National Championship Game, the baseball season continues to get closer and closer to beginning.

The action of course begins with Spring Training, and right now it appears that pitcher Dan Haren will be with the Marlins come late February, however a deal could still be in the works. Haren was acquired in the trade that brought Dee Gordon to Miami and saw the Marlins part with talented players including former Suns Austin Barnes, Andrew Heaney, and Chris Hatcher.

Haren is considering retirement, but that looks to be going by the wayside as he gets ready for the season. Now one of the biggest question marks for the Marlins will be to trade the right-hander to where he wants to be, with a West Coast club, or keep him in hopes that he will suit up for Miami.

The Haren news headlines today’s #MarlinsMonday links, enjoy Oregon vs. Ohio State tonight!

Marlins.com: Haren reportedly to attend camp, but status unclear
Marlins.com: Fernandez measuring up to Hall of Fame arms
Sun Sentinel:Report: Vinny Rottino signs minor league deal with Miami Marlins
Fish Stripes: Marlins interested in Will Venable, Andy Dirks
Fish Stripes: Marlins doing everything to sell fans on product
Yahoo! Big League Stew: MLB Network to launch new documentary series on January 13
NBC Sports Hardball Talk: Report: Yankees to hire Jeff Pentland and Alan Cockrell as hitting coaches
Ballpark Digest: Improvements pitched for Hank Aaron Stadium

Former Jaxpo Randy Johnson Elected to Hall of Fame

Breaking News

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By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

Former Jacksonville Expos pitcher Randy Johnson was one of four players elected on Tuesday to the 2015 Hall of Fame class for induction to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Johnson is part of a talented 2015 Hall of Fame class that includes pitchers John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, and second baseman Craig Biggio.

Johnson was originally drafted by the Montreal Expos from the University of Southern California in the second round of the 1985 draft. Two years later, Johnson made his Southern League debut pitching with the Jaxpos in 1987.

During his time in Jacksonville, Johnson went 11-8 with a 3.73 ERA in 24 starts. Johnson worked 140 innings with the Expos where he walked 128 batters compared to 163 strikeouts.

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The 1987 Jacksonville Expos, led by manager Tommy Thompson, were one of the most memorable teams in Suns’ franchise history, going 85-59 in the regular season and winning the Second Half Eastern Division title. The Suns fell one game short of the Southern League Championship Series, falling to the Charlotte O’s in a hard-fought five-game Eastern Division Championship Series.

12 1987 Jacksonville Expos went on to play in the major leagues, with eight of those players pitchers led by Johnson. The 1987 club also included future All-Star Larry Walker who would go on to be the 1997 National League Most Valuable Player.

Johnson never returned to Jacksonville after 1987, and did see his first major league time with the Expos in 1988. He would go on to pitch in 22 major league seasons, going 303-166 with a 3.29 ERA. His long major league tenure where he was a 10-time All-Star included pitching for the: Expos (1988-89), Seattle Mariners (1989-1998), Houston Astros (1998), Arizona Diamondbacks (1999-2004, 2007-08), New York Yankees (2005-06), and San Francisco Giants (2009).

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He won the Cy Young Award five times (1995, 1999-2002), and was shared the World Series Most Valuable Player Award with rotation mate Curt Schilling as their pitching helped the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in the seven-game 2001 World Series.

Johnson ended his career with 4,875 strikeouts which is second-most all-time behind Nolan Ryan, and his 303 wins are the fifth-most by a left-handed pitcher.

Johnson and the Class of 2015 will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on July 26.