Mike Sherry's Sports Buzz: Timber Rattlers launching pad for big-league dreams

9:12 AM, Apr. 2, 2013  |  Comments
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Of all the great things we have going for us here in our neck of the woods, having a minor league baseball team to call our own has to be near the top of the lineup card.

Don't think so? Just ask the folks in Madison or Wausau or Kenosha or anywhere else that has loved, and then lost, minor league baseball.

But let's face it, simply having a bunch of fresh-faced kids with big league dreams to cheer for isn't enough.

For true baseball fans, the cycle isn't complete until we can ease back in the recliner, turn on the TV and watch one of those players who once roamed the outfield, graced the infield or owned the pitcher's mound at Fox Cities Stadium reaching the ultimate and playing in the major leagues.

In that way, we have been blessed to have some of baseball's all-time greats do their baseball apprenticeship in Appleton and, since 1995, in Grand Chute.

From Goose Gossage to Alex Rodriguez to Felix Hernandez, some of the biggest names in baseball have done their undergraduate baseball studies here.

Heck, even Braun was here in 2009. OK, it was Ryan's younger brother, Steve, and he batted .265 in only 34 at-bats with the Rattlers before he broke his ankle, but we can dream.

"That's really worked very well for us," Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said of having the Timber Rattlers as their low Class-A affiliate, an agreement that started in 2009.

"(The players) all talk about what a great experience it is. Our people, our evaluators, people who work in the front office, they love to go there and watch the games. It gives the players an opportunity because they follow our ballclub a lot closer probably than the other teams. They can hop in the car and come to Miller Park."

Since 1995, when the Appleton Foxes were reborn in a new stadium with a new mascot, 84 Timber Rattlers players have reached the major leagues, according to Rattlers media relations director Chris Mehring.

Most of them came up as members of the Seattle Mariners, who called Wisconsin their Class-A home from 1993 to 2008.

Some of the biggest names to call Fox Cities Stadium home before graduating to the majors include David Ortiz, who played for the Rattlers in 1996, Gil Meche (1997), Joel Pineiro (1998), J.J. Putz (2000), Shin-soo Choo (2001), Hernandez (2003) and Adam Jones (2004).

Eight former Timber Rattlers made their major league debuts in 2012: Phillippe Aumont (Phillies), Juan Diaz (Indians), Carlos Triunfel (Mariners), Erik Komatsu (Cardinals), Jake Odorizzi (Royals), Jim Henderson (Brewers), Tyler Thornburg (Brewers) and Wily Peralta (Brewers).

Aumont, Diaz and Triunfel played for the Timber Rattlers in 2007, when they were still a Mariners affiliate, while the others were part of the Brewers organization.

With Khris Davis, a 2010 member of the Timber Rattlers, graduating to the majors this season and making his MLB debut on Monday, it gives this year's Brewers team five former Timber Rattlers graduates: Davis (2010), Henderson (2009), Peralta (2009), Mike Fiers (2009) and Martin Maldonado (2009).

As history plays out, we should be able to look back at those five, plus Thornburg, as the first wave of Timber Rattlers to make it to the big leagues with the Brewers.

The next wave should include Hunter Morris (2010), Jimmy Nelson (2011) and Scooter Gennett (2010), who are ranked fourth, fifth and eighth, respectively, by Baseball America among the Brewers' top 10 prospects.

And the pipeline doesn't end there.

When the Timber Rattlers open their season on Thursday at Peoria, the lineup is expected to include Clint Coulter at catcher and Mitch Haniger and Tyrone Taylor in the outfield.

Coulter, the Brewers' No. 1 draft pick last June, is ranked the team's ninth-best prospect by Baseball America. Haniger, a compensatory pick after the first round last year, is ranked as the 10th-best prospect, and Taylor, the team's second-round pick last year, is rated as the best athlete in the Brewers' system.

You never know when a big-league career will be born.

Hagen gets look

Former Appleton North and UW-Milwaukee soccer star Sarah Hagen is scheduled to train with the United States women's national team in Offenbach, Germany, this week. The U.S. squad is playing Germany on Friday in an international friendly.

Hagen, a striker for the Bayern Munich team in Germany, was invited to work out with the U.S. team along with club teammate Amber Brooks and Turbine Potsdam goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. They are not on the roster for the match against Germany or the Netherlands on April 9.

Hagen has 14 goals in 19 matches for Bayern Munich and is tied for seventh in the Frauen-Bundesliga with eight goals in 15 league games. She has 23 goals in 32 appearances overall since joining the German club in January 2012.

The 23-year-old scored nine goals in 14 international appearances for the U.S. Under-23 team, but this will be her first time training with the full national team.

Cyclones honored

Jon Braeger of Wrightstown, a first-year player on the UW-Fox Valley men's basketball team, was named the player of the year in the East Division of the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference this year.

Braeger was joined on the all-conference first team by teammate Trevor Krizenesky of Brillion. Both players were also named to the WCC all-tournament team. Trevor Smith of Appleton North earned honorable-mention all-conference honors for the Cyclones.

Coach Lee Rabas was named the WCC-East coach of the year for the fourth consecutive year after leading the Cyclones to a 23-3 record in the regular season. The Cyclones won their third straight WCC-East championship and also won the WCC tournament.



Jon Braeger, UW-Fox Valley; Xavier Fletcher, UW-Manitowoc; Trevor Krizenesky, UW-Fox Valley; Brandon Waldschmidt, UW-Fond du Lac; Jamale Taylor-Robinson, UW-Waukesha.


Tevin Taylor, UW-Manitowoc; Josh Corry, UW-Marinette; Jamie Bonczkowski, UW-Waukesha; Weston Meinen, UW-Sheboygan; Aaron Pettit, UW-Marinette.


Jonte Wells, UW-Marinette; Nick Holzman, UW-Washington; Jim Marose, UW-Waukesha; Mitch Hendrix, UW-Fond du Lac; Trevor Smith, UW-Fox Valley.

Wells gets mark

Jamison Wells stole the 72nd base of his career to break Northern Illinois' career record in a 2-1 victory over Akron on Saturday in Avon, Ohio.

Wells, a former Kimberly High School standout, broke the record set by Alvin Maynard during the 1979 and 1980 seasons. It was the eighth steal of the season for Wells.

"Jamison is a great kid," Huskies head coach Ed Mathey said. "He's worked hard to get better and when he's on base, he can be that guy. If he continues to get on base he can put that record out of reach for the next guy that comes along. The thing that Jamison appreciates the most is that it came after an RBI single which helped his team win today."

- Mike Sherry: 920-993-1000, ext. 289, or msherry@postcrescent.com

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