January 2013

Spring Training Preparation

Pitchers and catchers may not report for a couple of weeks, and the spring training opener follows toward the end of February. However, tomorrow is the true beginning of spring training.

Tomorrow afternoon, the White Sox equipment truck departs for Glendale, Ariz.

Sure, this event is not quite the same as team workouts or exhibition games, but this 1,800-mile journey signals that baseball is not just a distant memory. It is on the horizon.

However, baseball is a 12-month responsibility for the players, and many Dash alums have been preparing since the fall. Here are some spring training-related tweets from the last few weeks.

The players have been gearing up to use the equipment that will begin the trip to spring training tomorrow. It’s a bit of a stretch, but baseball fans are happy about any signs that our national pastime is almost here. We’ll take it!

- Brian

Rising White Sox Prospects

Marcus Semien and 15 other Dash alums were on another Top 25 countdown (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Marcus Semien and 15 other Dash alums were on another Top 25 countdown (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

The talented folks at FutureSox.com released their preseason Top 25 White Sox prospect list, and 16 of these prospects have played for Winston-Salem at some point.

Among the 16 Winston-Salem alums, 10 of them played with the Dash last season. The notable trend within this group is a significant improvement between the 2012 midseason list and the 2013 preseason ranking.

Here’s why: eight of the 10 Dash alums on this list either remained in the same spot or climbed the rankings since the midway point of last season. Take a look at the list:

#1 – OF Courtney Hawkins (Midseason: 1)
#2 – OF Trayce Thompson (Midseason: 7)
#4 –  RHP Erik Johnson (Midseason: 18)
#5 – INF Carlos Sanchez (Midseason: 10)
#7 – RHP Andre Rienzo (Midseason: 15)
#8 – OF Keenyn Walker (Midseason: 8)
#9 – LHP Scott Snodgress (Midseason: 38)
#16 – INF Marcus Semien (Midseason: 34)
#22 – RHP Jake Petricka (Midseason: 16)
#25 – C Kevan Smith (Midseason: 24)

Improvement is the goal, and the Dash saw plenty of it from the 2012 crop of players who dominated the Carolina League en route to full-season Minor League Baseball’s best record.

Congratulations to all of the players on this list. Standing out in the minors is not easy, but these players have done just that.

- Brian

30 Days…

Camelback Ranch is almost open for business (Photo via TCPalm.com).

Camelback Ranch is almost open for business (Photo via TCPalm.com).

The Dash’s home opener countdown, which is available on Twitter and Instagram, has reached 78 days. If you want a smaller number for your baseball waiting game, try 30.

The White Sox first spring training game is in 30 days. Robin Ventura’s crew will suit up for the first time Saturday, February 23, at 3:05 p.m. EST against the Dodgers, their stadium-mates at Camelback Ranch.

As Winston-Salem prepares for another winter storm tomorrow, it is nice to know that baseball is within grasp, even if the first true taste will be more than 2,000 miles away from the Triad.

Here are a few more notes to appease your baseball craving:

  • BB&T Ballpark is the home of Winston-Salem State University baseball in 2013, so the first game at the stadium this season will be February 8. The Rams will play all 26 home games at BB&T Ballpark.
  • Winston-Salem will not have a chance to watch a former five-star football recruit play for the Dash in 2013. Mitch Mustain, who played college football for Arkansas and USC before trying out pitching, was released by the White Sox, that according to Baseball America. Mustain climbed as high as Low-A Kannapolis after Chicago inked him to a deal last February. Between his time with the Intimidators and rookie-level Bristol, the righty was 2-2 with a 4.63 earned run average in 19 relief appearances.
  • We all saw speedster Billy Hamilton in last year’s All-Star Game at BB&T Ballpark. Hamilton, who set the single-season stolen base record in minor league baseball, will start 2013 with Triple-A Louisville. If he is still in the International League, Hamilton will be in Charlotte to take on the White Sox Triple-A affiliate May 14-17.
  • The Braves traded for Arizona outfielder Justin Upton earlier today, and the Diamondbacks received 2012 Lynchburg shortstop Nick Ahmed. A midseason All-Star, Ahmed paced the Carolina League with 40 stolen bases.
  • Finally, some CL flavor is officially reaching the NBA. New Orleans will unveil its new Pelicans nickname, along with the logo and color scheme, at a press conference later today. How will Myrtle Beach respond?

The home opener is getting closer and closer! Can’t wait for baseball.

- Brian

Weaver’s Ties To Winston-Salem

Earl Weaver while with the Winston-Salem Cardinals in 1950 (Bob Lemke).

Earl Weaver while with the Winston-Salem Cardinals in 1950 (Bob Lemke).

It is a somber Saturday morning in the baseball world. Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver has passed away at the age of 82. According to the New York Daily News, Weaver died of an apparent heart attack early this morning on an Orioles fantasy cruise.

Weaver’s claim to fame is his tremendous success as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Weaver was 1480-1060 (.583) in 17 seasons, and he led the O’s to four American League pennants. The Hall of Famer led Baltimore to the 1970 World Series title.

A man who Tim Kurkjian called “one of the three greatest managers of all time” on ESPN’s SportsCenter this morning, Weaver contributed to the greatest season in Winston-Salem history.

In 1950, the Winston-Salem Cardinals posted a Carolina League-record 106-47 (.693) mark and won the league’s title. Weaver was the club’s second baseman and hit .276 during the season.

Weaver never reached the big leagues as a player, so he began his managerial career in the minor leagues in 1956. The St. Louis native reached Baltimore as the skipper in the middle of the 1968 season, and he led the O’s to the Fall Classic in each of his first three full seasons.

We send our condolences to the Weaver family. Earl has a special place in baseball history and in Winston-Salem history.

- Brian

Snow at BB&T Ballpark

This is not an original idea, but it is a great one: pictures of snowfall inside baseball stadiums! After last night’s snowstorm, BB&T Ballpark looked very different than it does during the season.

Before the pictures, though, I want to congratulate one of my best friends, Aaron Goldsmith, on becoming the new radio broadcaster for the Seattle Mariners. Aaron and I worked together with the Frisco RoughRiders in 2011, and we have developed a tremendous friendship. He is one of baseball’s nicest people, and I couldn’t be happier for him.

He was with the Pawtucket Red Sox last season, and he did a similar blog post a few days ago when snow moved through Rhode Island. So, congratulate him by giving his blog a few more clicks before he turns it over to a new broadcast team in Pawtucket.

Without further ado, here are some pictures of snow at BB&T Ballpark:

FromClub

The view from the Womble Carlyle Club.

1Bline

The warning track around the ballpark looked ready for a game…a hockey game.

Seats

Seats in the shade this morning still had plenty of snow on them.

LF

The berm looks a bit different.

DugoutSuit

There was plenty of ice around the park, too.

viewin

Only 84 days until the home opener, even if it doesn’t look like it.

Drive safely today, and enjoy the rare chance to see snow!

- Brian

Counting Down To The Home Opener

If you follow our social media accounts (especially our new Instagram feed), you have probably noticed that we have begun a countdown in advance of the Dash’s home opener Friday, April 12. We are now 86 days away from the first game at BB&T Ballpark in 2013.

We have spun each day in the countdown to something in Winston-Salem baseball history. Occasionally on the blog, we will rehash the recent numbers, and here is our first look back at the countdown.

100 – Instead of a stat, we provided the picture below (and here on Instagram).

100

99 – After missing the 2011 campaign due to injury, Kyle Bellamy returned to Winston-Salem at the beginning of 2012. Opponents hit just .182 against Bellamy in 99 at bats.

98 – Scott Snodgress dominated the Carolina League after a July promotion from Low-A Kannapolis. He posted a 4-0 record and a 1.50 ERA to go along with a 0.98 WHIP.

97 – Carlos Lee is one of two Winston-Salem alums who is both currently in the big leagues and has made an All-Star Game (Chris Sale is the other). Lee played with the Warthogs in 1997.

96 – In his MVP season of 2011, Ian Gac drove in 96 runs for the Dash.

The Spirits won the CL crown in 1993.

The Spirits won the CL crown in 1993.

95 – In 1995, the Winston-Salem franchise became the “Warthogs,” a nickname that stuck until the team became the Dash in 2009.

94 – All-Star Brady Shoemaker notched 94 hits in Winston-Salem before his midseason promotion to Double-A Birmingham.

93 – The Winston-Salem Spirits won the Carolina League title in 1993.

92 – From last season’s team, the only player who was born in 1992 was Carlos Sanchez, who proved to be one of the CL’s top prospects.

91 – The Carolina League rolled the Carolina California League 9-1 in the 2012 Midsummer Classic at BB&T Ballpark.

90 – Speaking of scores, the Dash took the deciding Game 3 of the Southern Division Championship Series 9-0 against Myrtle Beach.

89 – Brent Morel, who returned to Winston-Salem for a rehab assignment this season, wore number 8 while with the Dash in 2009.

88 – The CL’s MVP this season, Dash first baseman Dan Black, drove in 88 runs.

87 – Winston-Salem posted the best record in full-season minor league baseball last year (87-51).

86 – Cyle Hankerd mustered 86 hits in just 71 games with the Dash this past season.

Those are 15 of our Dash-themed numbers. Do you have any ideas for numbers 85 to 1? Let us know in the comments or via Twitter. Baseball will be back before you know it!

- Brian

Can A 2012 Alum Start 2013 In Chicago?

Carlos Sanchez has the best chance of any 2012 alum to crack the Opening Day roster (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

Carlos Sanchez has the best chance of any 2012 alum to begin the season with the White Sox (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

The White Sox announced their non-roster invitees to spring training yesterday, and 13 of the 20 players heading to Glendale are former Dash players.

Of those 13 players, nine contributed to the Dash’s 2012 run to full-season minor league baseball’s best record and a Mills Cup Championship Series appearance.

It is an honor for these players to receive an invitation to spring training, and the goal is to impress while with the “big boys.” However, it is important to note that highly-touted prospects who go to spring training are not normally true contenders to make a roster unless they have significant experience in Double-A or Triple-A.

The flurry of invitations still bring about a question: can any of these 2012 Dash alums wow the Sox enough to break camp with the big league squad?

First off, any player who ended the season with the Dash would need to make a three-level jump in order to crack the roster, which means C Mike Blanke, RHP Erik Johnson, SS Marcus Semien, C Kevan Smith, LHP Scott Snodgress and OF Keenyn Walker will be long shots.

This leaves three other 2012 Dash alums: RHP Jake Petricka, INF Carlos Sanchez and OF Trayce Thompson.

Petricka has been a highly-ranked prospect in the White Sox system for the last few years, but he did struggle a bit with both Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. The Minnesota native has plenty of potential, but additional minor league seasoning is almost certainly necessary.

Trayce Thompson still may need some more time in the minors before heading to The Show (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

Trayce Thompson still may need some more time in the minors before heading to The Show (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

Thompson has all the tools, but he has taken some time to adjust to every level. In 2011, the former second-round pick started crushing Low-A pitching, and his ascension to the top of the home run and RBI totem poles in the Carolina League this season stemmed from his surge after the All-Star break.

While Thompson reached Triple-A for the postseason, he still likely needs some time in the International League to figure out how to hit at that level. Thompson will be in the big leagues at some point, but Opening Day 2013 seems a bit too early.

This leaves Sanchez, who jumped up prospect rankings with a tremendous 2012 showing. The 20-year-old led the CL in batting average among qualifiers before going to Birmingham, where he hit .370 in 30 games. This prompted a late-season bump to Charlotte.

In 18 games with the Knights (regular season and playoffs), Sanchez hit .237 (14-for-59) with seven runs scored. These numbers are not eye-popping, but the Venezuelan most certainly held his own at the minors’ highest level.

Sanchez’s name even came up in Scott Merkin’s story about the non-roster invitees on whitesox.com yesterday.

“Carlos Sanchez also could be a long shot in consideration for that utility infield job. But with the 20-year-old phenom having just two years of professional experience and 991 Minor League at-bats to his credit, the White Sox goal is to get Sanchez a full season of at-bats at Triple-A Charlotte during the 2013 campaign. He topped all White Sox Minor Leaguers with a .323 average and 169 hits in 2012.”

A “goal” can always be changed, and Sanchez certainly has plenty of momentum from last season. He is an underdog in the race for one of the elusive 25 spots on Robin Ventura’s Opening Day roster, but he appears to be in the running.

You never know. A great spring could open the door for a 2012 Dash alum to reach The Show in 2013. Good luck to Carlos and the rest of the former Dash players heading to Arizona next month.

- Brian

Local Sportswriter Honored

Photo courtesy of the Winston-Salem Journal.

Photo courtesy of the Winston-Salem Journal.

The Winston-Salem Journal has always been very loyal to the Dash. The Journal brings a writer to every Dash home game, and it is a pleasure working with all of their staff writers. The publication produces fair, unbiased coverage of the Dash and distributes it to the masses in our area.

Before his recent retirement, Lenox Rawlings was one of the Journal’s sports stars. While Lenox did not cover many Dash games this season, he visited BB&T Ballpark for a few special features. His All-Star Game column remains my favorite written piece from this year’s Midsummer Classic in Winston-Salem. Lenox’s simple-yet-effective lede from this playoff story gives any baseball fan goosebumps.

Yesterday, the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association announced that Lenox earned the “Sportswriter of the Year” award for North Carolina. Not a bad retirement present.

I have had the chance to speak with Lenox briefly, and he has been nothing but kind to me. I wish him a happy retirement. It’s great to have such a great writer here in the Winston-Salem area.

Congratulations, Lenox!

By the way, the NSSA also announces a “Sportscaster of the Year” for each state, and David Jackson, the Voice of Appalachian State athletics, earned the award. He is a former intern with us from 1999. Congrats to David, too!

- Brian

Dash Players Break Down Title Game

Alabama won the BCS National Championship Game last night in Miami, and many Dash alums had strong opinions about the game. A pair of 2012 All-Stars–Michael Earley and Brady Shoemaker–are diehard Notre Dame fans, while other Dash players wanted the Tide to roll. Here is some game analysis (and some jokes) from Winston-Salem’s boys of summer.

Thanks to these players and the rest of Twitter for making last night’s game more entertaining. Congrats to Alabama on the big win.

- Brian

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