Tanner Townsend is arguably the greatest RailCat ever, and today his storied 'Cats career has come to an end. But it is with great joy that the RailCats announce Townsend's sale to the Florida Marlins, where the 28-year-old will get his first real shot at affiliated baseball and pursue every ballplayer's dream of making the major leagues.
There is no more quintessential Northern League story than Townsend's - that of the overlooked college player who worked tirelessly for six years in independent baseball before getting his shot. His improvement at the plate this year combined with his gold glove caliber play at third base made him the complete package on the field, and his work ethic and magnetic personality made him the unquestioned leader in the RailCats clubhouse.
With the RailCats since 2005, Townsend has created a bevy of memories for RailCats fans, including countless - like an inside-the-park home run and a couple walk-off hits - in his MVP season of 2008. But for me personally, nothing stands out more than a big blow he struck in the championship series in 2005.
Down 2-0 in a five-game series to the best regular season team in Northern League history (the 2005 Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks went a league-record 68-28), the RailCats won game three of the Northern League Championship Series to force a game four. Down 2-1 into the fifth inning against former RailCat Todd George, the 'Cats used small ball (four singles - two on the infield - and an error) to tie the game, before Townsend stepped up and drilled a majestic three-run home run to left to cap a seven-run inning and an eventual 12-4 win.
In my second year with the RailCats - after withstanding the 2004 season - there was no greater sound inside U. S. Steel Yard than the unbridled roar that accompanied Tanner's blast, a roar that would be duplicated one day later when the RailCats won the Northern League Championship. Every 2005 RailCat holds a special place in the hearts of every fan who witnessed the turnaround from 2004 to 2005, but Townsend would cement his place as one of the greatest of all-time with three more years of memories.
So what's your favorite Tanner Townsend memory? Let us know in the Comments!