December 3, 2020

Recent Indy Grad Rene Rivera Only Hitter to Take Stephen Strasburg Over the Fence

June 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Rene Rivera is one of only a dozen and a half baseball players in the Independent leagues who has had his contract purchased by a major league organization in this still young season.

The stocky catcher has a unique distinction, though, not only among the privileged group that has moved one step closer to the major leagues but among all professional players.  And I do mean every player, affiliated or not.

Rivera can explain what it feels like to hit a home run off Stephen Strasburg, who will take his act as the minor leagues’ No. 1 poster boy to the nation’s capitol Tuesday to debut for the parent Washington Nationals and satisfy the frenzied baseball throngs who have followed his every move since he left San Diego State one year ago.

Rivera’s top home run production in 10 professional seasons has been nine.

But he is entitled to his day in the sun for his solo shot on a 3-2 count off a 99-mile-per-hour Strasburg fastball over the right-center field fence in Syracuse, NY which happened when most of us were at whatever we were doing on Memorial Day weekend.

After all, Rivera has been granted free agency at the end of the last three seasons, and he was catching for the Camden (NJ) Riversharks of the Atlantic League until Jorge Posada went onto the disabled list, Chad Moeller was added as backup insurance with the New York Yankees and that organization needed catching protection at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA. His contract was purchased only eight days ahead of the milestone homer.

“The kid throws hard,” Rivera said to MLB.com of Strasburg, who ran his Triple-A record to 4-1, 1.08 Thursday.  “I wasn’t expecting to hit a home run.  He has the best stuff I’ve ever seen in the minor leagues”.  Rivera is hitting .273 (6-for-22) with the one home run, three doubles and four RBI in seven games in Class AAA.

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Outstanding Major League Performances

What a last few days Independent graduates have had in the major leagues, with Travis Schlichting, Max Scherzer and Eliezer Alfonzo all returning with outstanding performances.

Schlichting is the most recent success story with the onetime Kansas City (KS) T-Bones reliever, who only had three previous major league innings, blanking Arizona in innings 11 through 14 Wednesday until the Los Angeles Dodgers could muster a run to give the 25-year-old his first National League victory, 1-0.  “Schlichting pitched his tail off,” Manager Joe Torre told The Los Angeles Times after the three-hit performance.  The onetime infielder told Dylan Hernandez of The Times he had not gone four innings since high school except for once two years ago in the Arizona Fall League.

Scherzer obviously learned a valuable lesson about his delivery when he was demoted to Toledo because after he came back to the parent Detroit Tigers all the former Fort Worth, TX (American Association) hurler did was get 14 of 17 outs (5.2 innings) on strikeouts while holding Oakland scoreless (two hits).  His earned run average had been 7.29 when he went to the Mud Hens.

Alfonzo celebrated his return to the majors—and his first game with Seattle—with a three-run homer and a run-scoring hit (2-for-5).  “He stepped right in and hit the ball extremely well,” Mariners skipper Don Wakamatsu told MLB.com, which might have been understated since Seattle dropped a 9-7 decision to the Angels. The onetime St. Paul (MN) Saints catcher has hits in five of 10 official plate appearances over three games, and has scored three runs.

3,223 Welcome Baseball Back to Pittsfield

A different sort of debut took place on Memorial Day in quaint Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, MA. This was the return of professional baseball to the Berkshires, and with 3,223 fans looking on in the 91-year-old stadium, onetime major league pitcher Matt White came back from a one-year layoff with six sparkling innings as the Pittsfield Colonials topped the New Jersey Jackals, 3-0, in a Can-Am League game.  Pittsfield had been without a professional team since 2003.

(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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