January 19, 2018

Rare Home Run Feats by Nava and Guerrero Make It Tough for Others to Take Spotlight

June 18, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Two extraordinary feats, both a few days old now, continue to take much of the thunder away from everything else that is happening in Independent Baseball.  They deserve the attention because the accomplishments were not predictable, will not likely happen again any time soon, and they sent everyone scrambling to baseball’s treasurer record books.

The “happenings,” if you will, were Cristian Guerrero’s five home runs in five at-bats in a Northern League doubleheader and Daniel Nava’s grand slam on the first pitch he saw in the major leagues.  Each event seems to have taken place only once previously in the well over 100 years of professional baseball although there is some chance others have hit five consecutive homers, and the scramble continues to prove the point one way or another.

Daniel Nava distinguished himself in several ways even before his historic bases-loaded blast while debuting for the Boston Red Sox at fabled Fenway Park:

  • He shook off being only 4-foot-8 and 70 pounds when he entered high school in the Bay Area, left Santa Clara after a season in which he was more team manager than player, ignored the fact he was left undrafted after his second stint with the Broncos and did not quit when he did not make the Chico (CA) Outlaws (Golden League) on his first try.
  • He became the Golden League batting champion (.371), Most Valuable Player, led the Outlaws to the league title the next season (2007), and Baseball America selected him the No. 1 prospect in any Independent league.
  • Once signed by Boston prior to ’08, he became a steady .300 hitter, and took a career .345 average that had topped out at Class AA into the 2010 season.  He still ranks No. 1 among all players at Pawtucket, RI this season in hits (58), RBI (38), runs (28) and home runs (8) while hitting .294 for the Triple-A team.
  • Now, he stands as the first person who played his initial professional game in the Golden League—and only the third overall—to become a major leaguer.

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Guerrero Just Misses a Sixth Consecutive Homer

With all of the justifiable hoopla over Cristian Guerrero’s five consecutive home runs for Gary, IN during a Northern League doubleheader one can only imagine the clamor if the 29-year-old Dominican native and Independent Baseball veteran had run his string to six.  It almost happened, but Vladimir Guerrero’s younger cousin had to settle for a sacrifice fly to the base of the right-center field fence in Rockford, IL on that trip to the plate.

This is a feat never accomplished in the major leagues, mind you, and so far as research has shown only took place in another Independent game in 1996 in the long history of professional baseball.  Corey Parker of the Bangor (ME) Blue Ox managed five consecutive round-trippers in the old Northeast League. The left-handed hitter only had 11 homers that season. The feat was accomplished in a doubleheader, with home runs in his last two at-bats in the opener and the first three in the nightcap—on the only three pitches he saw.  Guerrero, who also spent a portion of 2007 in the Atlantic League (Camden, NJ), has only six homers on the season and has not homered in six games since the explosion although he has kept his average at .286 by going 6-for-21.

‘Catfish’ Sweeney Makes Sparky Look Good

Atlantic League Manager Sparky Lyle has been saying all season he thought Brian Sweeney would be back in the major leagues this season.  He liked the four pitches he saw in Sweeney’s limited time in his Somerset (NJ) Patriots’ training camp even saying earlier this week the right-hander “reminded me of (Hall of Fame pitcher) Catfish Hunter”, in the way he could rack up strikeouts without being overpowering.

Sweeney’s 32 strikeouts (eight walks) in 28.2 innings over 15 games at Tacoma (2-1, 2.51) impressed Seattle, which gave him his first major league time since 2006 this week.

Sweeney, who got out of Independent Baseball in a hurry (to Seattle) after starting his pro career with a 6-0 record and 52 strikeouts in 49 innings for Lafayette, IN of what was the Heartland League in 1996, took a 3-0 career record with two saves and a 3.49 ERA over 49 major league appearances back to the Mariners this time.

Jon Weber ‘Excited’ for Fresh Start

“It wasn’t fun at all”, Jon Weber told us this week of his time with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA after failing to stick with the parent New York Yankees after hitting a team-leading .483 during spring training.  “I’m ready for a fresh start.  I’m very excited.”

That fresh start was to begin Thursday night with the Toledo Mud Hens after Detroit signed the 32-year-old outfielder known for his heart and hustle despite the fact he is well under 6-foot tall.  Weber is one of the best known of Independent players (Canton, OH, Frontier League, and Fargo, ND, Northern League) who has done everything but break into the major leagues.

(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes on Independent Baseball.  Fans may subscribe at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy his blogs, www.AtlanticLeagueBaseball.com and www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, or comment to RWirz@aol.com.  The author has 16 years of major league baseball public relations experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners and lives in Stratford, CT.)

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