Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March 19- Quad City River Bandits

It’s been a while since I’ve written about a Minor League hat, but I can’t say I know too much about the Quad Cities River Bandits other than the fact that they have a sweet collection of New Era Caps. I’m totally kidding. I do know quite a bit about this team.

Baseball in the Quad Cities area (Davenport, Moline, Bettendorf and Rock Island) of Iowa is one of the oldest traditions in the history of professional baseball. The first incarnation was founded in 1879 as the Davenport Brown Stockings; and yes, I’m still trying to track that hat down. Throughout their history they’ve taken on many names, moved locations within a decent proximity and won a healthy amount of League Championships. The one cool thing about this team, which I suppose is a cool thing about other teams as well, is that it’s an A-Class squad, which in turn means that it has been a starting point for a hot bed of talent to pass through on their way to the Major Leagues. But, I’ll get to that toward the end.

Since 1960 the River Bandits, as they’re known now, began their current stint in what is now known as the Midwest League. This particular hat is an updated version of the original 2008 hat and logo, and it currently serves as the team’s alternate cap. The original version looked like this (it’s on my “to get” list)

From 2005 through the end of the 2012 season the River Bandits served as an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, winning only one League title during their tenure in 2011. Today, the team has changed hands to the Houston Astros, their former affiliate from 1993-1998. One of the coolest things about the River Bandits is the location of where they play their home games, Modern Woodmen Park. It was constructed on the banks of the Mississippi River in 1931 and has served as the host of eight Midwest League All-Star games, the most recent of which came in 2011. It also served as a concert venue for such acts as Johnny Cash (1974), the Beach Boys (1984) and as the location for an International Boxing Federation Middleweight Championship fight between James Toney and Davenport native Michael Nunn. It’s most recent renovation came in 2004 and has been listed as a five star stadium by Baseball America and has been continuously voted as the best baseball stadium in the Midwest League. Another interesting aspect of the stadium is a corn field beside left field in which the players are introduced much like the players of yesteryear who took the field in “Field of Dreams.”

In keeping with the theme of the 2008-present style I rolled with players who suited up for the River Bandits during the team’s time with the Cardinals.

#5- Brett Wallace was originally a 42nd round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2005, but opted to go to college and play ball at Arizona State University where he won back-to-back PAC-10 Player of the Year honors in 2007 and 2008 in which he won the Triple Crown as well. From there he re-entered the draft in 2008 and was selected 13th overall by the Cardinals. His time in Quad Cities only lasted 41 games, but during this stretch he went .327/5/25 before being promoted to AA Springfield in Missouri (have to be specific). In July 2009 he was dealt to the Oakland Athletics as part of the Matt Holliday deal, and by December he was dealt to the team who originally drafted him, the Blue Jays, for Michael Taylor as part of a three team deal which landed Roy Halladay in Philadelphia. Wallace was then deal again in 2010 to the Astros and made his MLB debut on July 31 against the Milwaukee Brewers. The irony of all of this? The River Bandits, as I mentioned above, are now the top level affiliate of the Astros.

#7- Pete Kozma was selected 18th overall by the Cardinals in the 2007 draft out of a high school in Oklahoma. After shuffling around various Rookie League teams in 2007 he was promoted to Quad Cities in 2008 where he played 99 games and went .284/5/40 before moving on to Palm Beach to play with the Cardinals advanced-A squad with the same name though the following season. Kozma made his MLB debut on May 18, 2011 and played 16 games for the Cards that season as well as 26 games in 2012 where he served as a pivotal player in the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals.

#31- This guy is one of the three players I had predicted to throw a no-hitter last season, the other two being Doug Fister and Felix Hernandez. Based on baseball numbers, going .333 on a prediction like that is certainly Hall of Fame worthy. Michael Lance Lynn was taken in the sixth round by the Seattle Mariners, but, like Wallace, opted to go to college at the University of Mississippi in Oxford where set the single season (146) strikeout record in 2007 as well as the career (332) strikeout record for the university. In 2008 he re-entered the draft and was selected 39th overall by the Cardinals. Lynn played two games in Quad Cities toward the end of the 2008 season, going 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA and seven strikeouts. He made his MLB debut on June 2, 2011 in a losing effort against the San Francisco Giants. While many saw his potential, very few expected him be a major contributing factor in 2012; however, a key injury to Chris Carpenter threw him into the rotation. In 2012 Lynn went 18-7 in 35 games, posted a 3.78 ERA and struck out 180 batters. While he didn’t prove entirely useful in the 2012 postseason, he did however win a World Series ring with the Cardinals in 2011; winning one of the five games that he pitched in throughout the series.

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