'Tis the season for making those ridiculous year in review lists, like the "Top 10 Breakfast Cereals of 2008" or "32 Loudest Polka Songs of the Year." Of course, we here at the (Rail)Cats Meow would never subject you to such drivel.
So without further adieu, here are the ...
Top 10 RailCats Moments of 2008
10. Tony Cogan, Strikeout Machine (June 1) - Not a prolific strikeout pitcher, the veteran southpaw mowed down a career-high 10 RedHawks at the Steel Yard as the RailCats swept a regular season series against the men of Fargo for the first time in team history. Despite an serious back injury, Cogan would post the lowest ERA in team history in 2008 (2.08) and will appear again later in this list.
9. Plexico Sizzles T-Bones (July 13) - The eventual Northern League Pitcher of the Year had a perfect game going into the sixth and ended up allowing only four baserunners in a magnificent complete game shutout of the eventual league champions. The 28-year-old South Carolina native turned in one of the best seasons in RailCats history despite never being a full-time starter in his professional career before 2008.
8. McNamee Homers Twice, Trust Me (May 12, Sept. 5) - Eric McNamee is not a home run hitter. At least he wasn't, until the 5'10" Tennessean launched a home run in an exhibition game May 12 in O'Fallon, Mo. and then hit another in the decisive third game of the Northern League Semifinals. Of course, if you look at his career statistics there's still a zero in that 'HR' column, but E-Mac's bomb in Winnipeg was his most memorable swing during a red-hot postseason.
7. RailCats Sweep Postseason Awards - The RailCats' success under Greg Tagert has been predicated on a team-first mentality. And so, despite winning two championships in three years the RailCats had only Willie Glen's 2007 Pitcher of the Year award to show for their success. That changed in 2008, when Tanner Townsend became the first RailCat to be named Northern League Player of the Year, Plexico made it back-to-back Pitcher of the Year winners and Mike Rohde earned Rookie of the Year honors.
6. Pat Salvi Arrives, Roger Wexelberg Returns - It's not brown-nosing, really. The RailCats for the first time enjoyed the personal touch of their affable new owner (Salvi bought the team in April 2008) and Wexelberg, the man who knows more than anyone but Rusty about the RailCats, is back where he belongs as general manager. Check, please.
5. Cogan Guts Out a Gem (September 5) - Behind McNamee's offensive fireworks, the RailCats took an early 4-0 lead in Game Three in Winnipeg, and Cogan did the rest. In one of the most heroic outings of the year, Cogan went the distance in a 5-2 win, retiring seven straight to end the game and keep the bullpen at bay despite throwing 121 pitches. It's the signature performance so far in Cogan's memorable two-year 'Cats career.
4. Blakeley Squashes Schaumburg (June 27) - There were a lot of last at bat wins for the RailCats in 2008, but perhaps none was more dramatic than this road victory. Tanner Townsend doubled in the eighth with the Flyers up 3-2, but pulled up injured on the play and was replaced by Eric Blakeley, who was promptly doubled off second on a line-drive double play. The now retired Blakeley would atone one inning later, however, fouling off three straight two strike pitches with two on, two outs and the RailCats down one, before crushing a game-winning home run to straightaway center.
3. Tanner Townsend Departs (December 2) - It's a bittersweet moment for sure, but Townsend's sale to the Florida Marlins gives one of the greatest 'Cats in history the chance he deserves in 2009. Townsend's leadership, attitude and passion will certainly be missed, not to mention his golden glove and bat. We'll be watching in 2009 as the Kentucky kid plays out his dream.
2. The Comeback (July 29) - Forget 2008, this game is in the pantheon of all-time RailCats games. Dead and buried under a 9-1 deficit in the sixth inning at CanWest Park in Winnipeg, the 'Cats personal house of horrors, the RailCats scored 13 of the next 14 runs to complete the biggest turnaround in team history. Townsend hit a grand slam during the rally and Mike Reese gave the RailCats the lead with a two-run homer in the eighth.
1. Pecci Quiets Canada (September 6) - As close to a backyard baseball moment as you can get, Jay Pecci's go-ahead, game-winning, series-winning, two-run home run - off Northern League Reliever of the Year Brian Beuning, no less - sent the RailCats to the Championship Series for the fourth year in a row. The high fly curved off the foul pole in right, making audible only wild cheers from the first base dugout as the veteran shortstop silenced a large gathering of Fish faithful.
Got a moment you think should have made the list? Let us know in the comments - where it's now easier than ever to leave a note. No sign-up required!