Thursday, January 29, 2009

Around the Northern League

With Opening Night now just over 100 days away, rosters across the Northern League are starting to take shape. While the RailCats had a bit of a quiet week as far as on-field moves go - the only update is Jordan Comadena heading to Astros Spring Training - there was plenty of other action.


The Schaumburg Flyers are coming off the worst season in league history, but they have made a couple moves that should have the RailCats Chicagoland rivals back as a serious contender in 2009. Their hiring of Mike Busch as manager was the first sound transaction, bringing in a proven winner who has had success in this league in the past. Busch, if you remember, led Calgary to the Championship Series in 2007 before they were felled by the RailCats, and was one inning away from a Golden League title last season.

One of Busch's first moves as manager was to pull in Brian Nelson - the RailCats Hitting Coach in 2007 - as his hitting coach this year. Nelson managed the Windy City Thunderbolts for the first half of last season and is yet another proven commodity in the highly competitive Northern League.

Then, just a few days ago, the Flyers made a move to acquire former RailCats first baseman Jason Colson (pictured above) from the Can-Am League. Colson was a part of Greg Tagert's first RailCats team in 2005 and made the All-Star team before being traded to the Vipers along with Quintin Oldenburg for Fehlandt Lentini, who would go on to lead the RailCats to a title. Colson, a converted pitcher, has above-average power and will be a mainstay in the middle of the Flyers lineup this year.

The busiest Northern League team this offseason has been the Winnipeg Goldeyes, and Manager Rick Forney has been quickly re-building one of the league's best pitching staffs from 2008. Forey has re-signed pitchers Zach Baldwin, Ace Walker, Bear Bay, Aaron Jackson and Brandon Kintzler (essentially the entire rotation from last year) and has also re-upped with slugger Kevin West and infielder Antoin Gray.
Forney has also brought in a couple new bodies - notably former standout Frontier League infielder Wes Long - but with his rotation in place the only real building that needs to be done is in the bullpen. There Winnipeg has lost rubber-armed lefty Dustin Pease (trade) and Relief Pitcher of the Year Brian Beuning (retired).

The RailCats Fan Fest is February 21 at the Radisson Hotel in Merrillville [BUY TICKETS], and along with the baseball clinics, Q & A sessions and autograph signings, the 'Cats will also announce at least two major player signings. You won't hear about those signings unless you're at Fan Fest, and tickets are going fast at just $15 per person, so make your plans now.

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