September 24, 2020

With Talent and Motivation, Kevin Hooper ‘Without Concern’ As Wichita Powerhouse Readies for Playoffs

August 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“To be honest, there is no concern.”

How often does a manager talk in such confident terms?   Never might be too soon, right?

Yet, that was exactly what Wichita (KS) Wingnuts Manager Kevin Hooper said this week when I asked him what his biggest concern was heading into next week’s American Association playoffs.

Let me make it clear that Hooper never comes across as cocky.  It seems more like confidence, which is understandable since he has led the Wingnuts to three consecutive division titles (although they have not won the postseason championship), has nearly a .600 winning percentage for his five seasons at the helm which came after he had been on eight postseason teams in a 10-year playing career and had helped Wichita State University get into the 1996 College World Series.

He does seem to put himself on a potential hot seat should Fargo, ND or some late postseason qualifier get hot and win it all because Hooper also says of this Wichita team, which is 64-31:  “We’re so talented.  I think we’re motivated…ready.”

The onetime infielder-outfielder, who got into a few major league games with Detroit in 2005-06, did throw out a warning to his team a few days ago.  “I mentioned to the guys that—especially in baseball—the best team doesn’t always win.  I’ve felt like we’ve had the best team the last couple of years and we were unable to win it all.  It (also) comes down to getting hot at the right time.  Winnipeg did it last year (to us) as the wild card.”

The big name in the lineup is first baseman and cleanup hitter C. J. Ziegler, who is leading Tim Pahuta of Sioux Falls, SD 30 to 28 for the American Association home run title and seems to have the RBI crown under control with 98 so far. “He (Ziegler) has had a special year offensively,” Hooper praised.  “I’d be shocked if he is not (voted) the MVP.”

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 AttendancePeaks in Sioux Falls and Evansville

 Sioux Falls, SD and Evansville, IN are two long-time Independent franchises not normally known for superb attendance stories, but this is their time even though the Canaries will miss the American Association playoffs and the Otters need a whirlwind finish in the Frontier League.

Sioux Falls is poised to break its one-season record in the final three home games, topping the 150,837 of five years ago, but most impressively up 26 per cent over one year ago and a whopping 116 per cent over the ’11 season with an average of 3,367.

Evansville has been running up about 700 fans per game over one year ago to 3,255 and the total count of 120,427 ranks fourth among the 13 teams with stadiums despite the fact the Otters have had far fewer home dates than anyone else in the FL.  Operators might do well to take note of the fact Evansville opted not to play on a number of Monday and Tuesday evenings when crowds often are smaller, and to add doubleheaders on other dates.

Colabello MVP, Brock Peterson All-League in Triple-A

Chris Colabello and Brock Peterson, whose mutual power bursts have gotten them to the major leagues for the first time this season, are continuing to fill up their personal trophy cases even though one would imagine they might swap the latest honors for a few more hits at baseball’s highest level.

Colabello, who played seven seasons in the Can-Am League (Worcester, MA and Nashua, NH), has added both Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year laurels in the International League on top of being the top vote-getter for in the Triple-A circuit for the All-Star Game.  He still paces the league in batting (.352), on-base percentage (.427) and slugging (.639) along with top-five figures in home runs (24) and RBI (76) even though he is on his fifth call to the parent Minnesota Twins.

Peterson, who played for Bridgeport, CT in the Atlantic League in 2011 and 2012, was selected as the designated hitter for the Pacific Coast League’s postseason all-star team.  The 29-year-old first baseman, who started opposite Colabello in the Triple-A All-Star Game, has a league-leading 25 homers and paces the league in slugging (.533) and OPS (.904) and is hitting .297 with 83 RBI.  He seems likely to get called back to St. Louis for the stretch run once Memphis‘s season ends.

By BOB DUTTON The Kansas City Star

Updated: 2013-03-26T05:37:57Z

(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball.  Forty columns are planned during 2013.  Fans may subscribe at reduced rates at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy added stories on the blog 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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