Tuesday’s winner is Denny Walling; he moves on to face the winner of today’s match.
Today we have former Haymarket Senator Tommy La Stella (2009) vs former Harrisonburg Turk Juan Pierre (1997).
- La Stella got here by defeating Johnny Grubb in the opening round. His writeup: “Tommy La Stella was picked in the 8th round of the 2011 draft by the Atlanta Braves out of Coastal Carolina. He made his major league debut with Atlanta in 2014, and spent his first five seasons in the majors (the last four with the Chicago Cubs) mostly as a pinch hitter. Before 2019, he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels, won the club’s second base starting job, and proceeded to hit with power that he had not shown before. Prior to his season-ending injury (well, he came back for two games at the end of the season), La Stella hit .295/.346/.486 with 16 home runs in 292 at-bats. He had hit 10 home runs in his career (over roughly 800 at-bats) up to that point. Much to Joe Deck’s chagrin, he was named an All-Star… but to be fair, Joe didn’t know that La Stella had played in the Valley until I set him straight.”
- The 1998 Sun Belt Player of the Year for South Alabama, Juan Pierre was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 13th round that June. He made quick work of the minor leagues, being named an All-Star in 1998 in Low-A, in 1999 in High-A, and in 2000 in Double-A. He made his major league debut on August 7, 2000, and hit .310/.353/.320 in 200 at-bats, finishing 6th in Rookie of the Year voting. He started a stretch of seven straight seasons in which he played at least 152 games in 2001, and hit .327/.378/.415, with 26 doubles, 11 triples, and leading the league with 46 stolen bases. He was traded to the Florida Marlins in November, 2002, and helped lead the Fish to a World Series title in 2003. He spent a year in Chicago with the Cubs in 2006, then spent three years with the Dodgers in LA, two back in Chicago with the White Sox, and then single years with the Phillies in 2012 and back in Miami to finish his career in 2013. In 7,525 career at-bats, Pierre hit .295/.343/.361, with 255 doubles, 94 triples, 614 stolen bases, and an almost-even 464/479 BB/K ratio. He lead the league in stolen bases three times, in hits twice, triples once, singles six times, and received MVP votes twice. He also set a record for the best fielding percentage in a full season, after not committing a single error in 162 games in the outfield in 2006. Pierre was the minor league outfield coordinator for the Marlins in 2019, and was named to the Valley League Hall of Fame that same year.
Vote by going to twitter.com/JohnATVL! (Closes Thursday 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!