14 Former ‘Chucks in MLB Spring Training
Spring training has officially begun! Take a look at the 14 former Woodchucks that are participating in a spring training camp this season:
Daniel Descalso is spending this spring with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Descalso played for the Wisconsin Woodchucks in 2006. He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2007. In 2011, he was named a finalist for the Rawlings Golden Glove Award at third base and won the World Series. Descalso continued his success with the Cardinals from 2012-2014, joining the team in four straight postseason appearances. In 2017, Descalso joined the Arizona Diamondbacks and helped lead the team win the National League Wild Card Game vs. the Rockies with a two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning.
Ben Zobrist is with the Chicago Cubs for his third season. Zobrist played for the Wisconsin Woodchucks in 2003. He was drafted by the Houston Astros and later traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays where he made his MLB debut. Zobrist played for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays from 2006 to 2013 earning team MVP honors in 2009 and two All-Star berths. In 2013, he joined the Kansas City Royals, and won the 2015 World Series with the team. After that season he signed a four year contract with the Chicago Cubs. He earned the 2016 World Series MVP by hitting. 357 with five runs and two RBIs that included the game winning RBI in game seven.
Three more ‘Chucks alum will be trying for roster sports with the LA Dodgers this spring. Mark Lowe was a member of the Wisconsin Woodchucks during the 2002 and 2003 seasons. Lowe made his MLB debut with the Mariners in 2006 and posted a 1.93 ERA in 15 games started. In 2010, Lowe was traded to the Texas Rangers. He helped the Rangers to the 2011 World Series and was on the mound during game six. Lowe has since bounced around in the majors and minors. He saw success in his 2015 season with both the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays, pitching 55 innings with a 1.96 ERA. Pat Venditte was with the Woodchucks in the 2007 season. Best known for being the only active professional switch pitcher, Venditte was drafted by the Yankees in 2008. He spent time in the Yankees minor league system before signing with the Oakland A’s as a free agent in 2015. He made his MLB debut with the A’s in 2015 and has since moved around to a variety of teams in the minors. Jake Peter played for the Woodchucks in 2012 and 2013. Peter was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2014. Peter has been in the White Sox minor league system until January of 2018 when he was traded to the Dodgers.
Sam Freeman will begin his second camp with the Atlanta Braves. Freeman was on the Woodchucks pitching staff during the 2007 season. He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008 and made his MLB debut in 2012. Freeman spent time with the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers before the Atlanta Braves picked him up in 2016. The Braves promoted him to the majors in 2017 where he posted a 2-0 record and 2.55 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched. Mike Gerber will be competing for a roster spot with the Detroit Tigers. Gerber was with the Woodchucks in 2011 and 2012. He was drafted in 2014 by the Tigers and has spent the past few seasons in their minor league system. Brock Stassi will join the Minnesota Twins’ spring training camp after making his MLB debut with the Phillies last April. In his first season in the majors, Stassi had 13 hits, two home runs, and seven RBI. Stassi played for the Woodchucks in 2010. J.D. Davis will spend his spring with the Houston Astros after debuting with them in August of 2017. With the Astros, he had a .226 batting average with four home runs and seven RBI. Davis played for the Woodchucks in 2012.
Two former pitchers will participate in the Philadelphia Phillies spring training camp. Jerad Eickhoff, 2010 Woodchuck, will spend his third spring with the Phillies. In 2017, Eickhoff had a 4-8 record with 118 strikeouts in 128 innings pitched. Pat Neshek, 2000 Woodchuck, will return to the Phillies after being traded from them to the Colorado Rockies during the 2017 season. He made his second MLB All-Star Game in 2017 and his fifth postseason appearance. Neshek holds a 2.75 ERA and a 33-22 record in his MLB career.
Kevin Pillar will enter his sixth season with the Toronto Blue Jays. The superstar in the outfield played for the Woodchucks in 2010. He has been nominated for three Gold Glove Awards and in 2015, Pillar was named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year for center field. He has made two post-season appearances with the Blue Jays.
Paul DeJong, 2017 NL Rookie of the Year finalist, will join the St. Louis Cardinals for another spring training. DeJong played for the Woodchucks in 2014 when he set the franchise record for home runs with 20. He made his MLB debut last May and finished the season with 119 hits, 65 RBI and a .285 batting average. He is second all-time for the Cardinals with 25 home runs as a rookie.
Steve Foster will join the Colorado Rockies at spring training in his fourth season as their pitching coach. Prior to working for the Rockies, Foster was the bullpen coach for the Kansas City Royals from 2010-2014 and the bullpen coach for the Florida Marlins from 2007-2009. Foster was the head coach of the Wisconsin Woodchucks in 1998 and in 2002-2003, leading the Woodchucks to win their second NWL World Series in 2003. He has the most wins of any Woodchucks manager with 103 and coached in both the 1998 and 2003 Northwoods League All-Star Games.
Photos courtesy of the MLB