THREE TEAMS CELEBRATE QUARTER CENTURY OF BASEBALL
Congratulations to the Sioux City Explorers, Sioux Falls Canaries, and St. Paul Saints who will all celebreate their 25th year in 2017.  When it comes to minor league sports, stability can be challenging at times, so this is a tremendous achievement for the Northern League’s three remaining “original six” franchises.

Sioux City has already rolled out the nominees for their 25th anniversary team.  The list is very thorough, and you can tell that a lot of effort was put into the project.  Longtime Goldeyes fans might recognize the name Kevin Farlow under the list of shortstops.  Farlow was struck out by Goldeyes’ closer Todd Marion for the final out of the 1994 Northern League Championship Series at old Winnipeg Stadium.

Meanwhile, the Saints have unveiled the logo for their 25th season.

The Goldeyes will celebrate their own 25th season next year, while the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks’ 25th season is slated for 2020.

AA WELL-REPRESENTED AT WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC
The fourth World Baseball Classic begins in less than a month, and the American Association has numerous current and former players spread throughout the 16-team field.

Two prominent members of the Goldeyes’ 2012 championship club were named to rosters last week.  Yurrendel de Caster is one of six American Association alumni representing Team Netherlands.  de Caster batted .327 and drove in 68 runs for Winnipeg in 2012, and delivered a monumental (both literally and figuratively) home run in Game Two of the Division Series against the RedHawks.

Chris Roberson was named to Team Mexico.  Roberson was a league MVP candidate for the Goldeyes in 2012, hitting .317 with 21 doubles, 11 homers, and 36 steals, all while providing stellar defence at a premium position.  Since then, Roberson has carved out an impressive run in the Mexican League, which is conisdered on par with Triple-A.

In total, 18 American Association players are represented in the tournament.  Other notables include Karl Triana (Team Colombia) who pitched the sixth no-hitter in league history last June for the Gary SouthShore RailCats, and Blake Gailen (Team Israel) whose .406 batting average for the Lincoln Saltdogs in 2011 remains an American Association record.

Team Canada features two recent American Association alumni in Scott Richmond (Wichita) and Rene Tosoni (Sioux City), both of whom saw time in the Major Leagues.  The roster looks very formidable, but I think Goldeyes fans should petition for Wes Darvill to be added!

The full list of American Association players named to tournament rosters is listed below.

SPEAKING OF THE CHAMPIONS
Following the addition of Ryan Chaffee on Monday, the Goldeyes now have 18 players under contract for the 2017 season, including 12 from last year’s championship squad (there were six returnees in 2016 from 2015).  This will be great for fans from a continuity standpoint.  Ultimately, the top priority is putting the best possible team on the field, but when that can be accomplished with familiar faces, it allows fans to build the type of longer-term relationships with players that you generally won’t find in the affiliated minor leagues.

ROSTER RULES REMAIN
For a second straight year, American Association teams will be allowed to carry 23 players for the entire regular season (the maximum had been 22 players from the league’s inception in 2006 all the way through 2015).  Even when the roster maximum was 22, it wasn’t uncommon for Rick Forney to carry 21 from time to time, so it will be interesting to see how many players break camp when the team heads to Cleburne on May 18th.

Not much is known about the expansion Railroaders, who are effectively replacing the Joplin Blasters.  However, the renderings of “The Depot at Cleburne Station” look terrific.  A new ballpark only gets to host one inaugural game, so it will be fun for the Goldeyes to be a part of history on Opening Night.

NEW SKIPPERS
One-third of the American Association will feature new managers in 2017.  Former St. Paul Saints’ pitcher Mike Meyer has taken the reigns in Sioux Falls, where he previously served as pitching coach.  Joe Calfapietra was recently introduced as the new manager for the Kansas City T-Bones.  Calfapietra is one of the most decorated managers in Can-Am League history, and was also the RailCats’ original skipper in 2002.  Billy Martin Jr., son of former New York Yankees’ legend Billy Martin , will pilot the Texas AirHogs.  Texas, by the way, will play all of their games at AirHogs Stadium in Grand Prairie.  Last season, Texas split their home schedule between Grand Prairie and Amarillo.  Cleburne is expected to annouce their inaugural manager soon.

CELEBRATE WITH THE GOLDEYES
Expect several championship-themed events when the Goldeyes’ promotional calendar is announced later this off-season.

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION PLAYERS IN 2017 WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC
Chinese Taipei
Kuo Hua Lo (Lincoln)

Netherlands
Yurendell de Caster (Fargo-Moorhead, Winnipeg)
Chris Garia (Lincoln)
Shairon Martis (Lincoln)
Randolph Oduber (Lincoln)
Dashenko Ricardo (Lincoln)
Curt Smith (Lincoln)

Israel
Blake Gailen (Lincoln, Wichita)
Tyler Herron (Fargo-Moorhead)

Australia
Ryan Searle (Grand Prairie)
Josh Tols (Kansas City)

Canada
Scott Richmond (Wichita)
Rene Tosoni (Sioux City)

Colombia
Kendy Batista (Wichita)
Karl Triana (Gary SouthShore)

Mexico
Chris Roberson (Winnipeg)

Italy
Alessandro Maestri (Lincoln)

Venezuela
Omar Bencomo (Laredo, Wichita)