Thursday’s winner is Mo Vaughn; he will move on to face the winner of today’s match.
- Chris Hoiles brought an unusual mix (for those days) of power and steady defense to the Baltimore Orioles for ten years. Scooped up in a trade from the Detroit Tigers in late 1988 while still in the minors, Hoiles made his debut for the O’s the next April. He became the starting catcher in 1991, and held the position, more or less, until 1998. He turned in his best season in 1993, when he hit .310/.416/.585 in 419 at-bats, with 28 doubles, 29 home runs, and 82 RBIs. He finished 16th in MVP voting that year. He was pretty well known for hitting two grand slams in one game- on August 14, 1998. He was the 9th player in MLB history to accomplish the feat, and only four players have done it since. He was named Player of the Week twice in 1993, and Player of the Month in September of ’93. He led the American League in fielding percentage in 1991, 1995, 1997, and 1998, and his career mark of .994 is 20th all-time. Hoiles retired after the 1998 season, and later became the inaugural manager for the York Revolution in the independent Atlantic League in 2007. He held the position until his firing in 2009.
- There is a legend (myth?) about Brett Gardner in college that sums him up pretty well, I think. The story goes like this: in 2002, Brett Michael Gardner tried to walk on to the College of Charleston baseball team. After a day, or two, supposedly, Gardner did not make the team… but no one told him, officially, that he was cut. So he kept showing up, day after day, working his butt off to improve as a player. No one told him to go away, so he kept showing up. He ended up batting 83 times as a freshman, hitting a pretty anemic .241, with a .325 slugging percentage. You would be forgiven if you thought that the young man had no chance to be a major league baseball player at that point. He won a starting job as a sophomore, though, and showed an ability to get on base (he had a .370 OBP that season), and then steal a base, too, finishing with 28. He improved even more as a junior, and then exploded as a senior, hitting .447/.506/.571 in 273 at-bats, with 85 runs scored (in 63 games), 18 doubles, five triples, two home runs, 38 stolen bases (and he only got caught five times), and a silly 29/18 BB/K ratio. The Yankees drafted him in the 3rd round in 2005, and Gardner began working his way up the minor league chain, step by step, improvement by improvement. He reached the major leagues in late June, 2008, and eventually worked his way into a starting position in the outfield, showing the same patience/speed combo, with superb defense. His best season to date was probably the last one, 2019, in his age-35 season. In 141 games and 491 at-bats, Gardner hit .251/.325/.503, with 86 runs scored, 26 doubles, seven triples, 28 home runs, 74 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases. For his major league career, now spanning 12 seasons and 5,220 at-bats, he’s hit .260/.342/.401, with 68 triples, 124 home runs, 524 RBIs, and 267 stolen bases. He was named an All-Star in 2015, won a Gold Glove in 2016, led the American League in triples in 2013 and stolen bases in 2011, and won a World Series with the Yanks in 2009.
Vote by going to twitter.com/JohnATVL to vote! (Closes Saturday morning)
And by the way, if you want to read much, much more about the 2019 VBL season, be sure to check out the 2019 Valley League Annual! (Or 2015, too, for that matter.)