Carolina Countdown: Wilmington Blue Rocks

The final preview in our “Carolina Countdown” is the Royals’ High-A affiliate, the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

Introduction: Since debuting in 1993, the Blue Rocks have been a part of the Royals’ minor league system in all but two seasons. Wilmington was the team of the 1990s in the Carolina League. The “Blue Crew” won four CL crowns (1994, 1996, 1998 and a split crown in 1999) during that decade, but they haven’t climbed the league’s mountain since ’99.

The Blue Rocks and Mr. Celery. What a great combination! (SportsLogos.Net)

Last season: Kansas City’s system has been one of the best in recent years, and the Blue Rocks took full advantage in 2009 by finishing 84-55, four games better than any other CL squad. However, they blew a 2-1 series lead in the first round of the playoffs. In each of the last two seasons, the Rocks have posted records below .500. Last season, Wilmington went 66-72.

Manager: Wilmington’s manager over the last three seasons–Brian Rupp–is now with Potomac, while the Blue Rocks move on with former big league catcher Vance Wilson. Wilson, who managed KC’s Low-A affiliate in Kane County last season, played eight years in the majors with the Mets and the Tigers. This is Wilson’s second season as a manager in the minors.

System: Kansas City’s fan base has been waiting for a return to glory, and the Royals’ minor league system has given these fans a great deal of hope. This system was lauded as one of the best of all time a couple of years ago. Kansas City’s offensive prospects have come along well, including future mashers Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. However, the pitching prospects have been a little slower. KC needs pitchers to compete with the Tigers and White Sox in the American League Central, so the hill will be the place to watch for Wilmington this season.

Quick Change is a great show, and Wilmington will be treated to it in July.

Best promotion: Wilmington’s list is solid, but I am jealous that I will miss an appearance by Quick Change July 2. It is remarkable how quickly this duo changes outfits. I know there is an explanation to every performance. I’ve seen this one a few times, and I don’t have a clue how they do it.

Fun fact: Not only is the state of Delaware hidden inside Wilmington’s “BR” logo, but they have a logo featuring Mr. Celery. Seriously. I absolutely love minor league baseball. Check it out above.

Travel to Wilmington: This is the longest trip of the season for the Dash and for many Carolina League squads. According to Google Maps, it is exactly an eight-hour trip from ballpark to ballpark. It is a 444-mile journey.

Blue Rocks in Winston-Salem: Come see the fighting celery sticks April 19-22, June 8-10 and July 31-August 2.

Thanks for following along with these previews. More to come later today from the Dash’s scrimmage at Kannapolis. Talk to you then.

- Brian

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