Former Geneva Red Wings Chaplin and Fennell sign free agent deals
Little more than a year ago they wore the uniform of the Geneva Red Wings. Later this month they may face each other in the Arizona Rookie League.
Jake Chaplin (Haverford) will catch a plane headed to Arizona early this week. When he arrives he will find a locker, new uniform and a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He joins former Geneva teammate, Ryan Fennell (Canisius), in the AZL. Fennell signed with the Cincinnati Reds earlier in August.
“It’s a dream come true,” Chaplin said. “It’s starting to sink in that it’s real.”
Chaplin hit .274 for the Wings during the 2011 regular season. The left-handed batter drove in 11 while walking on 28 occasions and striking out nine times for Dave Herbst’s club which finished in third place with a record of 24-20.
“Geneva was fantastic,” Chaplin added. “I owe a lot to that organization for preparing me for what this grind and pro routine is going to be like.”
Fennell, on the other hand, compiled an ERA of .90 in 20 innings of work out of the bullpen. The right-hander struck out 23, walked 19 and allowed nine hits in 12 appearances.
“Ryan was a force on the mound,” Herbst commented. “He wanted to have the ball in clutch situations. He throws 93-94 miles per hour and is a force to be reckoned with. We just loved giving him the ball.”
The duo helped the Red Wings advance to the NYCBL West Division finals. Chaplin hit safely in 12 of his final 13 games in the Red Wing uniform. He worked four base on balls in the only game he did not get a hit. He went on to bat .462 in the playoffs. He drove in the tying and winning runs with a two-out triple in the bottom of the eighth as the Wings came from behind to defeat the Webster Yankees, 4-2 in game two of the West Division finals.
“Jake is a consummate baseball kid,” Herbst said. “He was the first to the stadium and last to leave. He’s a baseball junkie. He really got there with hard work.”
Fennell, who pitched two seasons with Geneva, made his first pro appearance on August 10th. He tossed a scoreless inning in relief.
“It’s a lifestyle,” Fennell said when discussing how his experience in the NYCBL prepared him. “You have to go lift on your own. You have to make your own food. The coaches do a lot to help you out. They make actual practices, but ultimately it’s up to you. Having the opportunity to experience that before pro ball was very important. It’s been very helpful to me.”
With Chaplin joining the pro ranks, three Red Wings from the 2011 club play minor league ball. The New York Mets chose Jon Leroux in the 31st round of the 2012 MLB Draft. Leroux currently plays with the Kingsport Mets of the Rookie Appalachian League.
Along with Leroux, Chaplin and Fennell join five other Geneva Red Wing alums still active in Minor League Baseball: Tim Crabbe (’08), Matt Perry (’08), Kyle Bellamy (’07), Jeremy Kehrt (‘o7) and Travis Ozga (’06).
The Reds chose Crabbe in the 14th round of the 2009 MLB Draft. Crabbe currently plays with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos of the Double-A Southern League. The Detroit Tigers picked Perry in the 41st round of the 2010 draft. Perry plays with the Lakeland Tigers of the Advanced-A Florida State League.
Chicago’s White Sox nabbed Bellamy in the fifth round of 2009. Bellamy comes out of the bullpen for the Double A Southern League Birmingham Barons.
Kehrt heard his name in the 47th round of the 2008 draft. He has made 13 starts in 2012. Two of his appearances came with the Pawtucket Red Sox of the AAA International League. At this time, Kehrt is with the Portland Sea Dogs of the Double-A Eastern League.
In 2009, the Mets chose Ozga. The Ft. Lauderdale, FL native plays with the Binghamton Mets of the Eastern League.
Five other former Red Wings have been drafted or signed free agent deals and have since been released: Dusty Odenbach (’07), Ashton Mowdy (’07), Doug Elliot (’08), Chris Bashara (’08) and Will Harford (’09).
Chaplin started all 44 games during his senior season at Haverford College, a Division III school in Haverford, PA. He had a team-high 64 hits and batted .400.
Fennell appeared in 45 games during his career with the Canisius Golden Griffins. He averaged better than a strike out per inning over his last 14 frames of college work.
“Our teams will definitely be playing against each other,” Chaplin said. “I can’t make any guarantees if I’ll face him. It’ll be great to see him and obviously we’ll both have our jobs to do. We’ll be professional about it. If it comes to the point where we’ll have to face each other, nobody is going to give an inch. We’re competitors. We relish that.”
The 2011 West Division Finals produced six current minor leagueplayers. Along with the three Red Wings, Chris Bostick, Joe Greenfield and Jasvir Rakkar of the Webster Yankees all play minor baseball. Greenfield (Boston 22nd round) and Rakkar (Chicago Cubs 26th round) were taken in the 2012 MLB Draft. Bostick went in the 44th round of the 2011 draft to the Oakland A’s.
Bostick and Leroux did not play in the series. Bostick signed with the A’s upon the finish of the regular season. Nagging injuries forced Leroux to return home before the start of the playoffs. Leroux opened the 2012 season with Geneva before signing with the Mets.
The NYCBL, sending players to the pros since 1978.