2004 Total Newsroom Archive

December 29th, 2004

The Rochester Honkers Baseball Club has signed outfielder Luke Reiland for the 2005 Northwoods League season. The Eagle Grove, IA native is a junior transfer at Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC, following two stellar seasons at Iowa Central Community College.

“Luke brings speed and power to the lineup, with the ability to play multiple positions in the outfield and infield,” says Honkers field manager Greg Labbe. “He will play a key role in the success of Campbell this spring and us this summer.”

At Iowa Central in 2004, Reiland batted .340 with eight home runs, 42 RBI and 14 stolen bases, ranking in the Tritons’ top five in those categories. He was named a First-Team All-Region left fielder and helped Iowa Central to its fifth consecutive National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division II World Series. As a freshman Reiland was the 2003 Tritons’ leading home run hitter with eight, batting .327 and driving in 32 runs. Reiland earned All-State honors in two sports at Eagle Grove High School; he was named First-Team Class 1-A All-State as the Eagles’ catcher, and also won the 2002 state Class 1-A wrestling championship at 140 pounds.

Two of Reiland’s former teammates played for the Honkers in 2004. Righthanded pitcher Brett Jensen was a classmate of Reiland’s at Eagle Grove High School and joined him at Iowa Central in 2003 before transferring to Nebraska. Rochester native Dan Lyons, who will transfer to Minnesota in 2005-2006, remains at Iowa Central this season as the Tritons’ shortstop.


December 16th, 2004

The Rochester Honkers Baseball Club has signed infielder Willy Fox from Arizona State University for the 2005 Northwoods League season. Fox is a Sun Devils freshman from Scottsdale, AZ.

“Willy is a multi-dimensional player that can contribute to this team,” says Honkers field manager Greg Labbe. “He is a ‘plus’ right handed hitter who can run. He has played all four infield positions and can play the outfield in a pinch if we need him. What sold me on Fox is that he likes to play aggressive baseball, and that is what this team will be about.”

Perfect Game/Baseball America ranked Fox as the 11th best 2004 high school prospect in Arizona. Fox starred at second base for Desert Mountain H.S., earning All-State recognition three times including First-Team All-State as a junior. In his senior season he batted .458 with 52 runs scored, 16 doubles, nine home runs, 32 RBI and 11 steals. His .455 career batting average is one of seven records he set at Desert Mountain. The Wolves reached the state semifinals in Fox’s last two seasons and earned a #1 state ranking in 2004.

Baseball America ranks Arizona State’s 2005 recruiting class, which includes Fox, as the second-best in the country. Fox will be the third Sun Devils freshman in the last two seasons to play for the Honkers. Last year, starting pitcher Quentin Andes went 2-3 with a 4.34 ERA, and catcher Brian Walker batted .265 with five homers (one off the team lead), 24 RBI, and a .394 slugging percentage. Andes is now a sophomore with Arizona State while Walker transferred to the University of Arkansas as a redshirt freshman for 2005.


December 11th, 2004

(Rochester, MN)—The Rochester Honkers Baseball Club has signed outfielder Jeff Engel for the 2005 Northwoods League season. Engel, a native of Chanhassen, MN, is a sophomore outfielder for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes.

“I’m real excited to be coming to Rochester and playing close to home,” says the 6’3”, 215-pound Engel. “I know a lot of guys who’ve played in the Northwoods League, and I want to get comfortable playing at that level. I know it’s pretty demanding, but I think I’m prepared for it. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Rochester, and I have relatives there too, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

“I like Jeff’s size and strength for this league,” says Honkers field manager Greg Labbe. “He should be a mainstay in one of the corner outfield positions and hit in the middle of the lineup. His coaches talk very highly about his make-up and work ethic, which makes him a guy I’ll like.”

As a freshman in 2004 Engel batted .250 with four RBI’s in ten games. He is the 12th Iowa Hawkeye to sign with the Honkers, the 10th since 2000. Last year the Honkers featured a pair of Iowa players: outfielder and 2003 NWL All-Star Nate Yoho, and second baseman Andy Lytle.

Engel graduated in 2003 from Minnetonka High School, where he started two years each for the Skippers baseball and football teams. Engel played in two state high school baseball tournaments and helped Minnetonka to a number-one ranking in Minnesota during the 2002 season. His Excelsior American Legion team won the 2002 Minnesota state championship (held in Rochester) and finished 2nd at the national tournament. He batted over .400 in two seasons with Excelsior and drove in 125 runs in his Legion career.


December 9Th, 2004

Valentino Pascucci, the Rochester Honkers’ 1998 co-Player of the Year and the first ex-Honker to play major league baseball, will take his baseball career to Japan in 2005. MLB.com reports that the Washington Nationals have sold the 1998 Northwoods League All-Star’s contract for $300,000 to the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League.

“It’s always been a goal and dream of mine to play every day in the big leagues,” said Pascucci on MLB.com. “With this opportunity in Japan, I could basically come back a year later, be a free agent and look for another big league job.”

Pascucci has played in the Nationals organization since being a 15th-round draft pick by the then-Montreal Expos in 1999. He reached the majors in April 2004, spending a month with the Expos before being sent back to Triple-A. With the Pacific Coast League’s Edmonton Trappers, Pascucci batted .298 with 25 home runs, 98 RBI’s and a .423 on-base percentage, fourth-best in the PCL. He earned a second call-up to Montreal in September, finishing 2004 with 32 games for the Expos, a .177 average, two homers and six RBI’s. His manager with Chiba Lotte will be Bobby Valentine, a major league manager for 15 seasons with the Texas Rangers and New York Mets.

As a Honker, Pascucci established himself as one of the franchise’s best two-way threats ever. He batted .289 with 11 homers, 49 RBI’s and a .509 slugging percentage, while posting a 2-3 pitching record with a 3.06 ERA. The former Oklahoma Sooner pitched the first no-hitter in Honkers history, was named the 1998 NWL All-Star Game MVP for hitting the game-winning homer and picking up a pitching save, and helped the Honkers into the NWL Championship Series that season.


December 1st, 2004

The Rochester Honkers have hired Shane Anderson as the team’s assistant general manager. Anderson has spent four years with the St. Paul Saints’ front office, including two as the team’s ticket manager. He joins the Honkers immediately to help prepare for the 2005 Northwoods League season.

“I’m excited and grateful that [owners] Kim [Archer] and Dan [Litzinger] gave me the opportunity to contribute to the team,” says Anderson. “Everything I’ve done in baseball has built to this moment and it’s something I’m looking forward to very much. I just want to add whatever I can to the great success the Honkers have experienced both on and off the field in the upcoming season and many years to come.”

“We’re extremely happy to have Shane on our team,” says Litzinger. “He brings a unique perspective to the game on and off the field. He has a rare combination of marketing creativity and administrative ability. He’ll be very valuable to us.”

Anderson joined the St. Paul Saints in 2000 as a box office assistant and also aided with game day operations, primarily merchandising and fan services. In 2001 he served a front-office internship, supporting in all areas of the Saints’ business, showing an aptitude towards ticketing and baseball operations. During the final month of the 2001 season Shane was also given the additional responsibility of overseeing the Saints’ group ticket operations including all picnic and specialty seating areas. Following that season, Anderson was hired full time as ticket manager, supervising the team’s ticketing operations and sales, as well as aiding with the development of the Saints’ promotional and marketing plans.

The Belleville, WI native played football for the attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville where he played football before transferring to the University of Minnesota. At Minnesota he studied Recreation, Park and Leisure Studies, emphasizing in Commercial Recreation. Currently a resident of Columbia Heights, MN Anderson will be relocating to the Rochester area in the near future.


November 30th, 2004

The Rochester Honkers Baseball Club has signed Dan Lyons for the 2005 Northwoods League season. The Rochester native is a sophomore shortstop at Iowa Central Community College and will be playing his second summer with the Honkers.

In 2004 Lyons led the Northwoods League with 32 stolen bases, just two short of the Honkers’ record of 34. He batted .235 with a home run, 10 RBI’s and a .354 on-base percentage. Lyons is already more than halfway to the eight-year-old NWL career record of 60 steals. He already ranks fourth on the Honkers’ all-time list and is already halfway to Kevin Lucas’ career franchise record of 60, set in 1996 and 1997.

“Coming back to the Honkers gives me a chance for me to prove myself a little more,” says Lyons. “I fell a little short of the [team] stolen base record, but I want to do a little better at the plate and be a little more consistent overall. It’s an advantage to play at home again, and I look to improve on what I did last year and help the Honkers win a championship.”

“I like Dan for this team because of the experience he brings,” says Honkers field manager Greg Labbe. “He has been successful in this league and he should be able to share with other players what has made him successful. He is a hard-nosed player who can beat a team in more than one way.”

Lyons will be the Iowa Central Tritons’ returning starter at shortstop in spring 2005. He helped the Tritons to their fifth consecutive National Junior College Athletic Association World Series last season, batting .366 with 9 home runs, 41 RBI’s and 16 steals. Lyons has signed a letter of intent to join the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the 2005-2006 school year. He played for Century High School’s 2003 state championship baseball team and the Rochester A’s American Legion national championship squad that same summer.


November 23rd, 2004

The Rochester Honkers have hired Michael Saddler as their pitching coach for the 2005 Northwoods League season. Saddler, a former Kansas Jayhawk who pitched for Rochester in 2004, is an assistant at Baker University in Baldwin City, KS. He joins Field Manager Greg Labbe and Coach Carlos Rodriguez on the Honkers’ staff.

“Mike is very enthusiastic, and he brings a lot to the table, especially for guys who haven’t been through [the Northwoods League],” says Labbe. “He’s gone through this. Especially for guys who haven’t been through it, he’ll know how to keep guys in good shape so that when playoff time rolls around they’ll be in tip-top shape. Our players are accountable to their coaches back in college. Mike’s job will be making sure guys stay on their plans that they bring from their schools and do what they’re supposed to do.”

“I’m really excited to get back to Rochester for the upcoming season,” says Saddler. “I had a lot of fun playing here last summer and can't wait to be a member of the coaching staff as we try to win a title for the Honkers. I think that having played in the league and being a young guy I will really be able to relate to the pitchers and have a better understanding what they are going through. I want to thank Greg Labbe for giving me the opportunity to get started in a quality program such as the Honkers, and hope that I can be there for years to come.”

Saddler went 0-0 with two saves and a 3.80 ERA for Rochester in 2004. The right-handed side-armer struck out 35 against only 14 walks. In 19 appearances between June 14th and August 1st, Saddler held opponents to a .153 batting average and compiled a 1.00 ERA. Saddler began his collegiate pitching career at hometown Colby (KS) Community College, transferring to NCAA Division III Montclair (NJ) State in 2003 before joining Kansas in 2004.


November 20th, 2004

The Rochester Honkers Baseball Club has finalized its 2005 Northwoods League game schedule. Rochester’s season begins with a Wednesday, June 1st visit to Waterloo to face the Bucks at 7:05 p.m. The Honkers’ home opener is the following night, Thursday, June 2nd, at Mayo Field at 7:05 p.m. against Waterloo. All Rochester Honkers home games will be played at Mayo Field, located at 403 East Center Street, across the Zumbro River from the Mayo Civic Center and two blocks east of Civic Center Drive.

All ten Northwoods League teams that competed in 2004 return, and two expansion teams, the Eau Claire (WI) Express and Brainerd (MN) Blue Thunder, will begin NWL play next year, bringing the league to 12 teams for the first time ever. The Express is Eau Claire’s first NWL franchise, while Brainerd regains an NWL team three years after the city’s Mighty Gulls ceased operations.

The 68-game regular season begins June 1st and ends August 14th. The season is divided into two 34-game halves; the first half ends on July 7th and the second half begins the following day. The 11th Annual Northwoods League All-Star Game will be played at Alexandria’s Knute Nelson Memorial Field on Wednesday, July 13th.

The winners of each division’s two halves square off in a best-of-three divisional playoff beginning August 15th. (A team that wins both halves of its division faces the team with the next-best overall record.) The two division champions play a best-of-three Northwoods League Championship Series starting on August 18th.

The league’s divisional alignment is as follows. Years in parentheses denote the franchise’s first year in the NWL.

North Division South Division

Alexandria Beetles (2001) Eau Claire Express (2005)

Brainerd Blue Thunder (2005) ^La Crosse Loggers (2003)

*^Duluth Huskies (2003) #*^Madison Mallards (2001)

Mankato MoonDogs (1999) ROCHESTER HONKERS (1994)

^St. Cloud River Bats (1997) Waterloo Bucks (1995)

Thunder Bay Border Cats (2003) Wisconsin (Wausau) Woodchucks (1994)

^2004 postseason team – *2004 division champion – #2004 Northwoods League Champion

Rochester will play four games against each North team and eight games against every South rival other than Waterloo. The Honkers and Bucks are designated geographic rivals and will square off 12 times in 2005.

The Honkers’ schedule features two long homestands: a five-game set from June 8th to the 12th, and a six-day stretch immediately after Independence Day, from July 5th through the 10th. Rochester’s longest road trip starts June 24th and includes six games in seven days, with visits to Madison, Thunder Bay and Wisconsin. Each half of the Honkers’ season ends with a heavy dose of divisional play. 14 of Rochester’s last 16 first-half games and the Honkers’ final 24 games of the second half are all against South Division teams.


November 6th, 2004

More fall baseball series are marking an end to some former Rochester Honkers’ days in the sun before winter sets in.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Former Honkers Jesse Boyer (2003), Curtis Ledbetter (2003) and Brett Jensen (2004) were grouped together on Team White, which lost the five-game Red/White Series 3-2 to Team Red last month. Jensen made two appearances and allowed two runs on three hits in one and one-third innings. Ledbetter, a two-time All-Big 12 honoree expected to play first and bat in the heart of the Huskers’ spring lineup again, was held to 2-for-11 batting. Boyer, Nebraska’s leadoff-hitting left fielder, was held hitless in seven at-bats in two games.

All three ex-Honkers on the 2005 Huskers had promising seasons curtailed by injury while with Rochester. In late June 2003, Ledbetter was the Northwoods League’s leading hitter, at .382, with slugging and on-base percentages near .500 when he injured his shoulder and saw his season end. That July, Boyer suffered a season-ending abdominal strain; he had been hitting .299 with 20 steals and an NWL-best .481 on-base percentage. Elbow problems limited Jensen to two starts for Rochester last year; he finished 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA and eight strikeouts in 10 innings.

Purdue Boilermakers

2004 Rochester Honkers Trae Dauby and John Hunter helped the Gold Team defeat the Black Team three games to two in the 2004 Purdue Fall Series. Dauby, who earned a spot on the South Division squad for this summer’s NWL All-Star Game, bounced back from allowing three runs in a Game 2 win to fire a scoreless inning in Gold’s victories in Game 3 and 5. Hunter, the Big Ten’s leading home run hitter last spring, hit safely in all five games, finishing .500 (6-12) with seven RBI.

Dauby went 2-2 with a sparkling 1.47 ERA for Rochester in 2004, striking out 37 while walking only nine men in 43 innings. Hunter did double-duty for the Honkers, with a .250 average, five home runs and 15 RBI’s at the plate, and a 4-1 record, a 1.50 ERA and a .231 opponents’ batting average as a pitcher.


November 4th, 2004

The Rochester Honkers’ season will be a little longer, and its roster a little larger, next year. The Northwoods League Board of Directors has approved expanding the league schedule from 64 to 68 games, and teams will now be able to carry 30 players under contract, with up to 26 of those players on the active roster.

The changes will take effect for the 2005 season, the 12th since both the NWL and the Honkers were founded in 1994.

The Northwoods League has played a 64-game schedule since the 1997 season. The new roster sizes are each a one-player increase from last year’s limits.

“This is another positive move in our awareness of caring for the collegiate athlete,” said Northwoods League President, Dick Radatz, Jr. “Our roster size has moved accordingly with our increase in game schedule over the years.”

Earlier this off-season, the Northwoods League grew to 12 teams, with the Eau Claire (WI) Express and a Brainerd, MN team (yet to be named) beginning play in 2005. Eau Claire joins the NWL for the first time, while the League returns to Brainerd three years after that city’s Mighty Gulls folded in 2002.

The Rochester Honkers’ 2005 schedule will be finalized next month, with the 68-game season to be played between June 1st and August 20th.


October 30th, 2004

Fall practice sessions for the University of Florida baseball team have the look of a Rochester Honkers scrimmage this year. The fall season concluded last weekend with the annual three-game Orange and Blue World Series, and five Gators who have worn Honker teal, including three of the four team co-captains, took part in the feature event.

2002 Honker hurlers Connor Falkenbach and Mike Pete co-captained the Orange squad, which also included third baseman Brandon McArthur from last year’s squad. Suiting up for the Blue were outfielder and co-captain Jeff Corsaletti and second baseman/left fielder Stephen Barton, each with two summers in Rochester under their belts.

McArthur powered the Orange to a 10-6 Game 1 win Friday going 3-for-4 with two triples, two runs scored and three runs driven in. Barton countered with three hits, including a two-run home run, and four RBI for the Blue. Corsaletti’s two-run home run off of Pete was the difference in the Blue’s 3-1 win in Game 2 Saturday, but the Orange emerged with the series win, taking the rubber game 6-2 later Saturday.

Much is expected of all the Honkers for Florida next spring, especially veteran position players Corsaletti and Barton. On the Gators’ official website (www.gatorzone.com), Florida assistant coach Tim Parenton cited the pair as “players who saw valuable playing time last year and [will] look to build upon their experience.” Corsaletti batted .293 for Rochester this year with three homers, 21 RBI and a league-high .448 on-base percentage. Barton, a 2003 Northwoods League Post-season All-Star at second base, played mainly left field this summer for Rochester and hit .242 with a .356 on-base percentage. McArthur is preparing for his freshman season at Florida; he redshirted last year after suffering a near-fatal head injury in an October 2003 assault. After joining the Honkers in late June, McArthur batted .282 with 13 RBI and two homers, both in the second inning of a 13-0 shutout of Mankato on July 3rd.

Falkenbach and Pete were in the rotation for Rochester’s 2002 South Division playoff qualifier. Falkenbach earned NWL All-Star honors after going 5-3 with a 1.67 ERA and 85 strikeouts with only 17 walks, with Pete posting a 3-6 record, a 5.02 ERA and 67 strikeouts. “Mike Pete seemed to throw better as the fall progressed. [He] needs to perform on a consistent basis, game-in and game-out,” says pitching coach Ross Jones. “Falkenbach…picked up where [he] left off last spring, which is a good sign for us.”

Barton, Corsaletti and McArthur are among five Gators who suited up for Rochester last year; no school has ever contributed more players to the Honkers in a single season. The other two have since transferred to other schools. Matt Eckardt (3-3, 3.38 ERA) is now a redshirt freshman at Kennesaw State in suburban Atlanta. Adam Sanabria (4-2, 4.01 ERA) hurled Rochester’s first no-hitter since 1998 when he blanked Mankato 13-0 July 3rd (the same day McArthur hit his two homers in the same inning); he is now a senior at Santa Clara University in California.


October 14th, 2004

The city council in Covina, CA has awarded Rochester Honkers outfielder Sergio Pedroza a certificate of commendation. Pedroza, currently a junior at Cal State-Fullerton, was one of three Covina natives honored for being part of the Fullerton Titans’ NCAA Division I College World Series championship team in 2004. After the Titans collected their fourth national crown, Pedroza joined the Honkers in early July for his second summer in Rochester. He batted .286 and led the team with six homers despite missing the entire first half of the Northwoods League season due to the Titans’ NCAA tournament run. The 20-year-old drove in 16 runs, posted a .514 slugging percentage, and on July 10th became the first Rochester Honker since 1995 to hit three home runs in a game, in a 9-3 win over the La Crosse Loggers.

FALL BALL: The Rochester Honkers’ four Kansas Jayhawks have begun the Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmages that wrap up their fall practice season. Junior righthander Don Czyz hurled three scoreless innings for the Red team in last Wednesday’s scrimmage, then posted two saves in a three-game set last weekend. Outfielder Gus Milner, a junior transfer from Hutchinson (KS) Community College, picking up a double in the Wednesday contest. Sophomore pitcher Sean Land threw a seven-inning gem Saturday for the Red side, allowing only four hits and striking out three. Czyz earned Rochester’s 2004 Pitcher of the Year Award after he went 5-3 with a 1.81, led the Honkers with 26 appearances and struck out a team-high 63 batters in only 44 2/3 innings. Milner batted .270 with 4 home runs and 26 RBI, and led Rochester with 13 doubles and 17 extra-base hits. Muich and Miller also suited up for the South Division in the midseason Northwoods League All-Star Game. Land went 3-1 with a 1.25 ERA in six starts for Rochester. Senior pitcher and 2004 Honker reliever Michael Saddler (0-0, 3.80 ERA in 24 games) is also on the Jayhawks’ 2004-2005 roster.

Wichita State University has wrapped up fall practice with the 2004 Shocker Baseball Fall World Series. 2004 Honker of the Year Joe Muich, a senior catcher for the Shockers, was the cleanup-hitting catcher for the Gold team in all six games of the series; he was held to a .200 average (4-20) with three doubles, three RBI’s and a .346 on-base percentage. Sophomore third baseman Derek Schermerhorn of the 2003 Honkers, batting third for the Black team in every game, hit .348 (8-23) with four RBI’s. The Black and Gold squads split the series 3-3, with the decisive seventh game being rained out this past Sunday. (Normally, the losing team in the Black-Gold series must cook a steak dinner for the winning team and then help the grounds crew winterize the playing field. With the 3-3 deadlock, players on both teams were saddled with the cooking and groundskeeping responsibilities.) Muich led the 2004 Honkers with a .322 average, 58 hits, 28 runs batted in and a .439 slugging percentage. Schermerhorn played 30 games in an injury-plagued 2003 season, batting .241.


October 2nd, 2004

The Rochester Honkers have hired University of North Florida graduate assistant baseball coach Carlos Rodriguez as Coach for the 2005 Northwoods League season. Rodriguez joins fellow North Florida Ospreys assistant and new Rochester Field Manager Greg Labbe on the Honkers’ staff. Rodriguez has been a student assistant coach for the past two seasons at North Florida, after concluding his playing career with the Ospreys in 2002.

“Carlos is able to relate to players on a level that I have seen very few people reach,” says Labbe. “He has a knack for coaching each player according to their own personalities, and I feel that is what makes him special. His knowledge of the game is impressive for someone so young. He worked very hard as a player and his work ethic has carried over to his coaching style. He works hard, therefore his players work hard.”

“We are very fortunate to have a coach of Carlos’ caliber working with our program,” adds Honkers co-owner and general manager Dan Litzinger. “He and Greg Labbe work very well together already and that strength will show on the field for us next summer. It’s nice to have that team chemistry already built in. It’s a great combination!”

Born in Puerto Rico, the Orlando resident received his bachelor’s degree, with a double major in international business and marketing, from North Florida in 2004. The Ospreys (41-18 in 2004) compete in the Peach Belt Conference (NCAA Division II); North Florida is the two-time defending conference champion, with five titles in the last six years and berths in the NCAA Division II College World Series each of the last two seasons.


September 27TH 2004

While the Rochester Honkers did not take part in the Northwoods League playoffs this season, a member of the Honkers’ extended family did earn a piece of championship hardware. Andre Ethier, a 2002 Rochester Honker and former Arizona State Sun Devil outfielder, won a California League championship this year with his Oakland Athletics affiliate, the Class A Modesto A’s. Modesto closed out a best-of-five victory over the Lancaster JetHawks (Diamondbacks) Monday night with a 4-3 Game 5victory.

Ethier, 22, spent the year as Modesto’s regular center fielder and finished eighth in the California League in batting with a .313 average, along with seven home runs and 53 runs batted in. A back injury at the end of July sidelined Ethier for the rest of the season, including the playoffs, but he capped his season with a 35-game stretch batting .352 with five homers and 25 RBI.

Ethier batted .264 and led the Honkers in homers (four) and runs batted in (34) as Rochester’s right fielder in 2002. For his defensive play, Ethier earned a Northwoods League Silver Glove in the award’s first year of existence; he is one of only two Honkers to earn the honor, with Florida Gator pitcher Matt Eckardt winning a Silver Glove this year. The Oakland A’s selected Ethier in the second round of the 2003 Major League First-Year Players Draft; he’s the highest-drafted Honker in team history.


September 17TH 2004

The Rochester Honkers have hired University of North Florida assistant baseball coach Greg Labbe as their field manager for the 2005 Northwoods League season. Labbe replaces David Parra, who left the Honkers after the 2004 season to become the new manager of the NWL’s Duluth Huskies.

“To get the opportunity to go to this league, with the level of players up there, I feel very blessed to say the least,” says Labbe. “Playing summer baseball is one of my fondest memories as a baseball player. This is as close to pro baseball as these kids will experience, and I can’t wait to share in the experience with them.

“I think the summer baseball experience is so much better than college ball. The guys don’t have to deal with class, they just play baseball. There’s a big difference when the guys play every day, travel, live on the road, eat on the road. Even when we play at home, it’s like being on the road. It’s a big change, and the guys aren’t used to it at the start. You have to come up with a system that won’t wear them out but still make them better. You want players keeping in shape and keeping fresh as well. It’s going to be a great experience.”

Labbe’s head coach at North Florida, Dusty Rhodes, is very confident Labbe is prepared to succeed in the Northwoods League with the Honkers. “Greg’s just a hard worker, that’s just about the only way to explain it,” says Rhodes. “We’ve had some outstanding coaches come through here, and Greg’s in that mold. He knows summer baseball is about winning, and I don’t have any doubts that he’s ready to make this move.”

Honkers general manager/co-owner Dan Litzinger adds, “We’re extremely excited to have Greg a part of our organization, leading us into our 12th season. His coaching experience, knowledge of the game and baseball contacts will bring an exciting new look and enthusiasm to the Honkers squad in 2005.”

Labbe (pron. LAB-bee), entering his third year as a graduate assistant for the North Florida Ospreys, completed his collegiate playing career as the Ospreys’ second baseman in 2001. As a junior in 2000, Labbe played third base, batted .344 with 77 hits and 56 RBI’s and earned First-Team All-Peach Belt Conference (NCAA Division II) honors. Labbe’s collegiate career began at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, FL, where he set the school career home run record. In addition to his coaching duties at North Florida, Labbe managed Jacksonville’s Post 88 squad into the Florida American Legion state tournament in 2004. The Wellington, FL native is married, owns a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education and teaches high school math in Jacksonville in addition to his coaching duties at North Florida.

NORTH FLORIDA NOTES: Rhodes passed a pair of notable coaching milestones this season, his 17th at North Florida. Rhodes led the Ospreys to a 41-18 record, including his 700th win with North Florida and the 1000th victory of his college coaching career. The Ospreys won their second straight Peach Belt title and their fifth in six years, and also advanced to the NCAA Division II College World Series for the second year in a row. This summer, Rhodes served as manager of the Greek Olympic baseball team at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. His extensive international coaching career includes assisting the 1996 Australian Olympic Team and three summers with the USA national baseball team. Three of Rhodes’ former assistants at North Florida have moved on to head coaching jobs in the minor leagues, and four more have headed junior college programs.


September 16TH 2004

Former Rochester Honker Talley Haines continues to reside on the brink of breaking into Major League Baseball. Haines just completed his third full season of Class AAA baseball, as well as his first year in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, with the Syracuse (NY) SkyChiefs of the International League.

Haines finished 2004 with a 4-2 record and three saves with a 3.87 ERA. The right-handed reliever threw 79 innings in 44 games, walking 15 and striking out 53. Haines was especially strong over the homestretch for Syracuse. After July 6th, he went 3-0 in his final 18 games with a 1.21 ERA, four walks, 23 strikeouts and a .205 opponents’ batting average.

Haines, 27, has been knocking on the big leagues’ doorstep ever since being elevated to the AAA level for good in 2001 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization. Drafted out of Freed-Hardeman (TN) University by Tampa Bay in the 25th round of the 1998 First-Year Players Draft, the Cape Girardeau, MO native pitched in 98 games for the International League’s Durham (NC) Bulls in 2002 and 2003, helping the Bulls to the league championship both seasons. Haines was selected by Toronto in the December 2003 Rule 5 draft.

Rochester benefited from Haines’ championship touch in 1997, when the then-Southeast Missouri State hurler helped the Honkers to the Northwoods League title. Haines finished 5-2 for the Honkers with a 3.09 ERA, and closed out Rochester’s decisive victory over the Waterloo Bucks in Game 3 of the Northwoods League Championship Series.

PASCUCCI’S FIRST BIG-LEAGUE HOMER: Montreal Expos first baseman/outfielder Valentino Pascucci picked up his first major league home run Wednesday in a doubleheader sweep over the Florida Marlins. A Rochester Honker in 1998 and the franchise’s first alum to reach the majors, Pascucci, 25, sent a three-run shot out of Miami’s Pro Player Stadium in the first inning of Montreal’s 10-4 nightcap win. Two other Expos also hit their first big-league homer Wednesday; it’s the first time in 58 seasons that a trio of teammates notched their first home runs in the majors on the same day.


September 3RD 2004

Rochester Honkers pitcher Matt Eckardt has been named a 2004 Northwoods League Silver Glove Award winner. The Florida Gator righthander handled 24 fielding chances (18 assists, 6 putouts) this season for the Honkers without committing an error. Only Gib Hobson of the Waterloo Bucks, with whom Eckardt shares the pitcher’s position on the Silver Glove team, handled as many defensive chances with no errors.

Eckardt joins former Arizona State Sun Devil outfielder and current Oakland A’s farmhand Andre Ethier (2002) as the only Honkers ever honored in the NWL Silver Glove Awards’ three-year history. In addition to his fielding prowess, Eckardt posted a 3-3 record and a 3.38 ERA in 11 starts for the Honkers this year. The Alpharetta, GA native pitched 61-1/3 innings, allowed 23 earned runs, held opponents to a .239 batting average and struck out 44 hitters. A redshirt last spring in his first year at the University of Florida, Eckardt is preparing for his first season of intercollegiate college baseball.

The Northwoods League, in conjunction with Rawlings, has presented Silver Glove awards every year since 2002. The Silver Glove is awarded to the top NWL defensive player at each fielding position.


September 2nd 2004

The Northwoods League Board of Directors unanimously approved on Monday the addition of Brainerd, MN and Eau Claire, WI for entry into the Northwoods League for the 2005 season.

The city of Brainerd had previously hosted a NWL franchise from 1998 to 2002 when it was known as the Mighty Gulls. With the addition of these two new teams for 2005, the Northwoods League grows to 12 teams covering Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ontario, Canada.

“We are extremely pleased to have Brainerd, MN back in the Northwoods League,” said League President Dick Radatz, Jr. “And after several years of knocking on the door, we’re excited to welcome Eau Claire, WI and their rich baseball heritage. Both cities fit nicely into the Northwoods League footprint,” said Radatz.

The Northwoods League is an SCBA sanctioned summer baseball league comprised of teams of the top college players from the Midwest and across the nation. All players in the league must have NCAA eligibility remaining in order to participate. Each team is operated similar to a professional minor league team, providing players an opportunity to play under the same conditions using wooden bats, major league specification baseballs, experiencing overnight road trips, and playing nightly before fans in a stadium.


September 2nd 2004

Former Rochester Honker pitcher/outfielder Valentino Pascucci will bear witness to Canadian baseball history Thursday night. On September 2nd, Pascucci and the Edmonton Trappers, the Montreal Expos’ Class AAA affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, will play their final home game ever at Edmonton’s TELUS Field when they take on the Las Vegas 51’s (Los Angeles Dodgers). The Trappers, will relocate to Round Rock, Texas after this season, their 24th in Edmonton.

Pascucci became the first former Rochester Honker to reach the major-league level when the Expos called him up on April 26th. After a month-long stay with Montreal, during which he batted .217 in 12 games, Pascucci returned to the Trappers and resumed a solid 2004 season in Edmonton. In his third year at the Triple-A level, Pascucci is batting .298 and leads all current Trappers with 25 homers, 92 RBI, a .577 slugging percentage and a .423 on-base percentage despite missing a month during his call-up. Pascucci, who plays mostly first base and some right field for Edmonton, has hit three homers in a game twice this year and is batting .312 (63-202) with 15 homers and 52 RBI since the end of July.

Edmonton acquired the Trappers when the Ogden (Utah) A’s moved north of the border in 1981. Edmonton is a four-time PCL champion, most recently in 2002 when they were the Minnesota Twins’ top affiliate.