A daily feature of Indians Baseball Insider, Around the Farm, obviously won’t be able to be produced until there are minor league games played. In its place, for the time being, a fun feature we are going to try out is This Day in Indians Minor League History. We will do some research and try to find some interesting or random box scores or information that happened in the Indians minor leagues on this particular day. We will try to make this a daily feature as long as we can find something to post other than just repeating items from the last few years to avoid too much repetitiveness. Hope you enjoy, stay well and hope we can get baseball back soon!
April 14, 2011
It was a cold night in Eastlake as the 4-3 Captains sought a series win in their opening homestand versus the in-state rival Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds). However many of the 1,475 ticketholders braved the 47-degree weather had no idea what they were soon in for. Those who got to the ballpark late (not as much of an issue back then as spring games still started at 7:00 – the practice of starting early-season tilts at 6:30 having not been adopted yet) would rue their tardiness.
The bottom of the first started with SS Nick Bartolone walking for his first of three times on base that evening. CF Carlos Moncrief and 3B Tyler Cannon did the same to load the bags with no one out. The fuse was lit for an offensive explosion. Cleanup hitter Jesus Aguilar, who would go on to hit 23 homers and drive in 82 runs in 126 games between Lake County and Kinston that season, seemed like a likely candidate to provide the ignition. He only drove in one run, however, as his fly ball to center landed in the glove of Dragon CF Yorman Rodriguez’s glove for a sac fly. DH Alex Monsalve would drive in another run on the Captains’ first hit of the game before the inning’s potential was finally realized by a three-run blast off the bat of RF Jason Smit, who would retire from baseball only 36 days later.
Dragons starter Tanner Robles was mercifully pulled from the game at this point, but the damage was done. His line: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 5 R (all earned), 3 BB, 1 HR allowed. While the Dayton Nine outscored the Tribe farmhands 3-2 the rest of the way, the Caps’ hot start was too much to overcome.
Why does this story matter? MLB’s planned reduction of the minor leagues. That’s why. While the first names anyone would notice in a boxscore from this game (linked below) are those of Aguilar and fellow future major leaguers Billy Hamilton and Tucker of the Dragons, the hero of that night was Smit, who only made it to full season ball after a trio of seasons in short-season ball (two in the Gulf Coast League and one in Mahoning Valley). While the draft reduction wouldn’t have affected Jason as the Aussie was signed as an international free agent, without the short-season leagues, would an MLB organization take a chance on a kid out of Perth, especially with the current restrictions on international spending? While Jason didn’t turn out to be a major leaguer, under the proposed system, he wouldn’t have had a chance to prove himself, nor would many others who have made it to The Show, nor would he have had his moment in the sun (or, more accurately, the floodlights).