June 12, 2001 marked the beginning of an era in Southwestern Illinois. After more than two years of questions, and three different “homes,” the Gateway Grizzlies took to the home field for the first time, in front of what was then a franchise record crowd of 1,480, at Sauget Field, which was meant to hold just over 1,000 people.
With a 5-4 win over the Evansville Otters, the Grizzlies kicked off a home season that would bring much success for the first-year franchise.
On the field, the Grizzlies finished with a record of 37-44, including a 20-19 record at Sauget Field. The finish put the Grizzlies in fifth place in the Frontier League West Division. The Grizzlies had a legitimate chance at 40 wins, had it not been for late season rainouts.
Off the field, the Grizzlies averaged 781 fans per game at Sauget Field, good for 10th place in the league. That was better than two playoff teams in 2001, and included six crowds of more than 1,000 people.
Grizzlies players enjoyed a successful year as well. Outfielder Brian Sellier led the team in hitting with a .332 average, then a franchise record, good for seventh in the league. He also finished second in the league with six triples, and fifth in the league with a .529 slugging percentage. He tied David Lara for the team lead with 11 home runs, and was selected as an All-Star earlier in the season. Sellier joined the Oakland Athletics organization, and advanced as high as triple-A.
Outfielder David Lara finished with a team-high 11 home runs, and 58 RBIs. He finished the season on a team-best 15 game hit streak.
Outfielder James Molinari finished with a team-high 27 stolen bases, and was tied for third in the Frontier League with 65 runs scored. He was the only Grizzlies’ player to start every game, and one of just nine players in the league to do so for their team.
Pitcher Pete Buck finished with a team-high nine wins, which was tied for fourth best in the league. He was second in the league with 119.2 innings pitched, just 1/3 of an inning off the lead. Pitcher Layne Meyer finished with 16 saves on the year, good for third in the league. He was also selected as an All-Star during the season.
The Grizzlies pitching staff finished with the eighth best ERA in the league at 4.53, to go along with a .254 batting average, which was good for ninth in the league.
Following the 2001 season, things looked grim again for the Grizzlies, and again it was the village of Sauget that stepped to the plate, passing an agreement to build the Grizzlies’ new home. Work began on GMC Stadium in late October, 2001, an impressive facility that would rival any park in minor league baseball.
2002 brought with it a new beginning in many ways for the team. While June 7 began the team’s second home season, again the Grizzlies debuted a new home, this time a permanent home, for Southwestern Illinois’ only professional sports franchise.
On the field, the 2002 season may have been a disappointing one, the team finished with a sub .500 record, at 34-50, and a fifth place finish for the second straight season.
Off the field was a different story. Nearly 93,000 fans flowed through the gates of beautiful new GMC Stadium. The total more than tripled the total attendance from the first season. The per-game average of 2,264 ranked the Grizzlies fourth in the league in attendance. Four times, the Grizzlies drew more than 4,000 people to a game in 2002, culminating in a crowd of 4,772 in late August for a game against cross-town rival River City
Though the Chinese Zodiac may disagree, fans in Southwestern Illinois, St. Louis and around the Frontier League will always remember 2003 as the year of the bear. The Gateway Grizzlies enjoyed unparalleled success on and off the field during the 2003 season.
Off the field, a Frontier League record 168,067 fans streamed through the gates in the second season at GMC Stadium. Through 42 home dates, the Grizzlies averaged 4,002 fans a game. It marked the first time in the league’s 11-year history that a team had averaged over 4,000 fans a game. Throughout the season, the Grizzlies broke their single-game attendance mark five times. They enjoyed eight crowds of 5,000 or more, culminating in a new single-game attendance record of 6,159 on August 23.
On July 16, the Grizzlies played host to the entire Frontier League when a league-record crowd of 5,267 came through the gates for the Casino Queen All-Star Game. The tone of the night was set when baseball Hall of Famer, and St. Louis Cardinal legend Stan Musial threw out a ceremonial first pitch. The All-Star record crowd, plus a national television audience on Fox Sports Net saw manager Danny Cox lead the West Division to a thrilling victory, capped off by a tie-breaking home run derby. The West Division included five Grizzlies players. Pitchers Scott Patterson and Josh Lane were joined by infielder Tony Coyne, designated hitter Todd Oetting and outfielder Ben Piatt. Piatt was making his second consecutive All-Star appearance while the other Grizzlies were each making their first appearance.
The Grizzlies off-the-field success led to recognition as the Frontier League’s Organization of the Year. First-year General Manager Tony Funderburg was honored as the league’s Executive of the Year.
On the field, first-year manager Danny Cox guided the Grizzlies to a franchise-best 50 wins during the regular season and the team’s first-ever West Division Championship. The division title turned out to be just a precursor to an unprecedented playoff run, as the Grizzlies became the first team since the Championship Series expanded to a best-of-five format in 2000, to sweep through the entire playoffs. The Grizzlies defeated the Washington WildThings in two games, then the Evansville Otters in three games to claim the ultimate prize, the Frontier League Championship.
Multiple players enjoyed record-setting campaigns during the year. On August 14, Adam Jahnsen turned in the single-greatest pitching performance in Gateway Grizzlies history. Jahnsen, a rookie, struck out a career-high and franchise-best 13 en route to the first no-hitter in Grizzlies history, and the 10th in league history, a 4-0 victory over Kenosha. Jahnsen added a pair of post-season victories to lead all playoff pitchers. Jahnsen tossed a one-hitter in game two of the Championship Series in which he allowed a leadoff single before throwing nine complete no-hit innings. He struck out 11 in the 2-0 win.
Gateway career wins leader Pete Buck set a team record with 10 wins en route to tying the FL career record with 26 victories over his three-year career. An emotional Buck, earned the series-clinching victory in the first-round of the playoffs, sending the Grizzlies to the finals.
The power-hitting duo of Todd Oetting and Phil Warren each slugged a team record 13 home runs during the regular season. Oetting edged out Warren with a team-record tying 58 runs batted in. Warren finished close behind with 56. Warren and Oetting finished 1-2 respectively as far as post-season hitting was concerned. Warren led all playoff participants with a .500 average. He added a home run and three RBIs, all coming in the Championship Series where he hit .615. Oetting finished the playoffs with a .435 mark, a home run and four RBIs. It was Oetting’s RBI-single that broke a 9-9 tie in the top half of the 12th inning during game three of the Championship Series.
Tony Coyne became the first Grizzlies player with more than 100 hits in a season, leading the league with 104, earning him a spot on the Frontier League’s post-season All-Star team. Coyne became the first Grizzlies players to earn such an honor, leading the team and finishing fifth in the league with a .313 average.
Right-handed pitcher Scott Patterson finished with an 8-3 record and an earned run average of 2.92, good for seventh in the league. Patterson added a team-record 120 strikeouts, good for third in the league.
The Grizzlies had another dynamic duo, out of the bullpen, in Dave Klahs and Dan Smith. The two combined for 23 of the team’s 24 saves during the regular season. Smith finished third in the league with 15 saves, one shy of the Grizzlies all-time record of 16. Smith tossed three and one-third shutout innings in the final game of the Championship Series before giving way to Klahs. Klahs appeared in four of the Grizzlies five playoff games, recording a save in each of his first three appearances. He pitched the final two and two-thirds innings in game three of the Championship Series to earn the win. He was named as the series MVP thanks to the win and a save in the finals.
The Grizzlies were quickly becoming a part of the rich baseball tradition in Southwestern Illinois, and the St. Louis area. While 2003 marked a banner year for the Gateway Grizzlies, it was merely a glimpse of what was to come.
After a record-shattering season both on and off the field the Gateway Grizzlies organization faced a new challenge for the 2004 season. Namely, how to build on the landmark success of 2003? The organization proved worthy of the challenge.
Off the field, the Grizzlies again made Frontier League history, becoming the first team in league history to draw more than 200,000 fans for a single season. Specifically, 217,500 fans streamed through the gates at GMC Stadium during the 2004 season, a record average of 4,628 fans a game. 11 times during the 2004 season the Grizzlies enjoyed crowds of 5,000 or more. Six times crowds numbered 6,000 or above, and twice the Grizzlies saw crowds of more than 7,000 pack into GMC Stadium. The team set a new single-game mark of 7,459 on June 16 when reality TV star Rupert Boneham of the popular show Survivor appeared at the ballpark. The Grizzlies were honored with the inaugural Frontier League Commissioner’s Award of Excellence for their accomplishments off-the field.
While the team didn’t quite match the accomplishments of 2003 on the field, the season was a memorable one. The team did not repeat as Frontier League Champions, but won a franchise record 56 games during the regular season, qualifying for the playoffs for the second consecutive year, and finishing within two games of the regular season West Division title. The playoffs brought a thrilling five-game first round series that included a series saving walk-off home run in game four, but ended with a series loss to eventual league champion Rockford.
The team set a franchise record hitting .279 collectively, good for fourth in the league. The lineup combined for 113 home runs to set a new Frontier League record.
Individually, multiple players stood out during the 2004 season. First baseman Phil Warren again found himself in the middle of the powerful lineup. Warren led the FL with a franchise record 23 home runs. He added a career-best 66 runs batted in, another franchise mark. At season’s end, Warren held career records for home runs (36), and RBIs (122). Warren was named to the mid-season and post-season All-Star teams. He won the home run derby prior to the July’s All-Star game at River City. Newcomer Greg Stevens turned out to be the best off-season pick up for the Grizzlies. Stevens, who had tried to catch on with three other FL teams before the season, proved to be a versatile player at the plate as well as in the field. The switch hitter began the season at third, before settling in as the team’s everyday catcher. Stevens finished second on the team with 20 home runs and 64 RBIs. His 20 homers were third best in the Frontier League. Stevens joined Warren on the mid-season and post-season All-Star teams as well. Designated hitter Todd Oetting turned another solid offensive season. Oetting hit .294 for the year, and added 12 home runs and 53 RBIs. It was the second consecutive season that Oetting drove in more than 50 runs for the season.
The Grizzlies pitching staff proved to be a powerful force as well. The staff set a Frontier League record with 785 strikeouts during the 2004 season. The relief core added a franchise record 27 saves for the season.
For the first time in franchise history the staff could boast two 10-game winners. Scott Patterson led the charge with an 11-2 record. The 11 wins is the most by a Grizzlies pitcher in a single season, and was second most in the league in 2004. He tied his own franchise mark with 120 strikeouts. Joe Dooley turned in a career year as well for the team. Dooley began the season 8-0, earning the start in the mid-season All-Star game. He finished 10-3 with a team best 2.75 earned run average, which was good for sixth in the league. Closer Mike Golden became the latest in what has become a tradition of dominant Grizzlies closers. Golden notched 16 saves to tie the Grizzlies franchise record. He struck out an impressive 66 hitters over 39 and one-third innings of work. He joined Dooley on the All-Star team in July.
The Grizzlies rose to the challenge in 2004 with remarkable accomplishments on and off the field.
Up and down, back and forth, ebb and flow. These are some of the ways the Grizzlies 2005 season could be described.
More than 177,000 fans came to GMC Stadium during a summer in which many expected the Grizzlies to be hurt by the fact nearby Busch Stadium was closing. While the total was
down from 2004, it was high enough for the Grizzlies to lead the Frontier League in attendance for the third consecutive year.
Four times during the season Grizzlies crowds numbered better than 5,000. On Friday September 2, a franchise record 7,917 fans jammed into GMC Stadium to see the Grizzlies defeat the Kalamazoo Kings in the home finale.
On the contrary, for the first time since 2002, the Grizzlies saw two crowds number less than 2,000 people. On a Monday in late August, the Grizzlies attracted just 1,319 fans-the fourth lowest crowd to see a Grizzlies game at GMC Stadium.
On the field, it was truly a tale of two halves. The Grizzlies whimpered out of the gates dropping five of their first six games. A powerful offense was no help to a woeful pitching staff. The Grizzlies team ERA hovered near six runs per game for much of the first half. A 3-2 loss at Windy City on June 27 dropped the Grizzlies record to 10-21, a season-worst 11 games below the .500 mark.
From that point the Grizzlies rebounded. Thanks to a consistent offense and a rejuvenated pitching staff, the Grizzlies used a 39-26 record to pull back in the playoff picture by season’s end. The second half of the year was not all good news-on July 26 the Grizzlies dropped a 22-2 decision at Windy City, marking the worst loss in franchise history.
Ultimately the Grizzlies would finish with their third consecutive winning season at 49-47, but it was not enough for their third consecutive playoff appearance. The Grizzlies finished in third place in the West division, just two games out of the playoffs.
The Grizzlies offense as a unit continued its run as one of the best in the league. The Grizzlies finished fifth in the league in hitting and was second in the league with 112 home runs, one off the franchise mark set in 2004. The team set multiple team records including highest average (.280), most runs (565), most hits (914), most RBIs (516), and highest on-base percentage (.368).
Multiple players enjoyed career years for the Grizzlies.
Mike Breyman certainly didn’t suffer from the “sophomore slump.” After hitting .324 in his rookie season, Breyman turned in one of the most impressive offensive years in team history in 2005. His .365 mark set a new team record and was good for fourth in the Frontier League. He also set a new team mark with 72 RBIs.
Teammate Ryan Sullivan also had a breakout year. Playing for the first time as a full-time starter, Sullivan appeared in 87 games in 2005, second on the club. With the increased playing time came increased productivity for the Grizzlies most versatile player. Sullivan hit a career-best .298 with a team-high 19 home runs and 64 RBIs. Sullivan enjoyed maybe the best night ever for a Grizzlies hitter on August 7. Sullivan tied a team-record, smacking three home runs en route to the first five-hit game in team history. Breyman equaled the hit total just 15 games later with a five-for-five night against Mid-Missouri.
Catcher Ben Margalski made a splash in his return to his “hometown.” The veteran, a native of St. Louis, came to the Grizzlies after spending four seasons in affiliated baseball. Margalski hit .306 with 16 home runs and 58 RBIs for the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies also got an offensive jolt in the form of a trade when they acquired Thomari Story-Harden from the Mid-Missouri Mavericks in August. Story-Harden hit .409 in 23 games with the Grizzlies. He also added three home runs and 18 RBIs. Overall he finished with a .355 average, good for fifth in the league, 18 home runs and 75 RBIs. He led the league with an on-base percentage of .500.
Grizzlies all-time hit leader Phil Warren finished his six-year Frontier League career in 2005. While the numbers were low by Warren’s standards they added to an illustrious FL career. Warren hit .268 with nine home runs and 58 RBIs. He left to standing ovations at both GMC Stadium (in the home finale) and at River City’s T.R. Hughes Ballpark (season finale). In Warren’s FL finale he went 4-5 with a run scored in a Grizzlies win. Warren finished his career with seven regular-season team records and 10 career records. He also finished with the second most hits in FL history (420) and the third most games played (387).
Margalski and Warren joined teammates Jimmy Reiter and Gary Gilbert as selections to the West Division All-Star team in mid-July. Warren did not participate. Both Margalski and Story-Harden were named to the league’s post-season all-star squad.
While the offense thrived in 2005, the pitching struggled. The beleaguered staff finished with the second-worst ERA in the league at 5.78. They gave up the second most home runs (115) and third-most hits (952) in the league. Both totals were franchise records. 28 different pitchers appeared for the Grizzlies in 2005. The staff did however lead the league with 12 complete games, also setting a new franchise mark. Seven of those came from staff ace Brandon Smith, which set a team record for a single pitcher.
Smith turned in career numbers, en route to a record-setting season. Smith was
12-5 with a team-best 3.55 earned run average. The 12 victories were the most for a Grizzlies pitcher in a single-season. He also set a team record tossing 131.2 innings during the season. He finished with 119 strikeouts, which left him one punch-out shy of the team mark. Smith was an All-Star for his efforts.
The staff was also sparked by the return of starter-turned closer Scott Patterson. Patterson spent the first half of the season with the Atlantic League's Lancaster franchise before returning to the Grizzlies after the All-Star break. Patterson led the team in saves with nine in just 19 appearances. He finished with a record of 1-1 and a miniscule earned run average of 1.65. Patterson struck out a staggering 41 hitters in just 27 1/3 innings of work. Patterson's 41 punch-outs gave him a franchise-best 332 for his career.
Despite its struggles, the staff retooled and helped the Grizzlies during their late season surge. Young pitchers such as Erik Dessau, Nick Szczur, Nathan Roush and Alex Justus should bolster the starting staff in the coming seasons.
The Grizzlies amassed 226 victories and entertained more than 680,000 fans in their first five years in the Frontier League. The Grizzlies will again face new challenges on and off the field as they begin the next five years.
The Grizzlies enjoyed another successful season at the gates in 2006. Despite losing five home dates as a result of weather, the Grizzlies were able to draw 182,124 fans to newly named GCS Ballpark for the 2006 season. The total ranked second for the franchise in total attendance. Only during the 2004 season did the Grizzlies draw more fans to their home park. The club’s average attendance of 4,235, also second best, left the Grizzlies just five people short of leading the league in attendance for the fourth consecutive season.
The Grizzlies had eight nights where attendance numbered more than 5,000, including three nights where more than 6,000 packed the park. August 11th’s crowd of 6,257 ranked eighth all-time among Grizzlies single-game attendance totals.
The Grizzlies staff was honored with their second Frontier League Organization of the Year Award for their efforts in 2006.
On the field, the Grizzlies again struggled through a season of ups and downs. The Grizzlies got within striking distance of first place just a few days prior to the All-Star break. The club dropped the final two games of the first half at Traverse City then lost the first five in a row following the break.
The seven-game slide dropped the Grizzlies to third in the division, and they would never again get higher than that. While the slide was rough, it wouldn’t be the last extended losing streak for the Grizzlies.
August would turn out to be an especially trying month for the
team. The Grizzlies turned in a record of 13-18 for the month,
tying the franchise mark for loses in a single month. The
Grizzlies pulled within one-half game of second-place Evansville
prior to August 8th’s game with Traverse
City. Gateway dropped a 2-1 decision that night at home and
wouldn’t win again until August 19th. In all
the Grizzlies dropped a franchise-worst 12 consecutive games
including all five in a grueling three-day series at Chillicothe
where they were outscored 25-4.
The win on August 19th, a 2-1 decision at home-against Traverse City, proved to be a turning point of another kind. The Grizzlies finished the season on a tear winning 13 of their final 17 games, including ending the season on an 11-game unbeaten streak that could have been a 12-game winning streak had it not been for a weather-induced tie on September 1st in Florence, KY. The two teams were unable to finish the final game of the series due to consistent rain.
The 2006 Grizzlies finished with the franchise’s first losing season since 2002. Even with a record 10 games under the .500 mark, the Grizzlies were just three games out of a playoff spot in the West Division. Division runner-up Evansville finished four games under .500 before capturing their first Frontier League title.
The Grizzlies offense ranked third in the FL with a combined .262 batting average. The team’s 865 hits ranked second in the league, as did their 67 home runs.
The offensive attack was paced by first baseman Mike Breyman, who enjoyed his third successful season in a Grizzlies uniform. He led the club with a .310 average, 12 home runs and 55 RBIs. His average placed him fourth in the Frontier League. Breyman finished the year going 17-for-37 (.459) with five home runs and 20 RBIs. Breyman was third in the league with a .404 on-base percentage, and fourth in the league with a .503 slugging percentage. He also stood out among a defense that committed a league-worst 125 errors. He was tops among first baseman in the league with a .994 fielding percentage. In 667 total chances he committed just four errors. Breyman was named the club’s MVP for his efforts.
Several other players enjoyed productive years for the Grizzlies.
Newcomer Rob Wirth proved to be a valuable and versatile asset to the team. Wirth, acquired in the off-season from the Northern League, appeared at three different positions for the Grizzlies during the season. He finished the year as the team’s everyday catcher. Wirth tied with Breyman for the team lead with 12 home runs. He hit .296 and added 44 RBIs.
Team Rookie of the Year Dustin Roberts had little trouble adapting after joining the Grizzlies from the college ranks. The University of West Alabama grad hit .275 in 61 games as a pro. He was third on the team with 11 home runs and was fourth with 41 RBIs.
Minor league vet Greg Isaacson also proved to be a valuable off-season acquisition. After spending time in the Phillies organization, Isaacson joined the club to anchor the infield. Isaacson set a pair of franchise records in 2006. He played in a team-best 94 games and added a record 27 doubles from the second base position. He was second on the team with 49 RBIs.
The pitching staff proved to be the team’s downfall for the second consecutive season. The Grizzlies ranked ninth in the 10-team league with a 4.47 team earned run average.
Frontier League veteran Steve Soja turned in the most successful year. Soja, who had spent three seasons with two other teams, was acquired when the Mid-Missouri Mavericks folded. Soja set a career high with eight wins. He tied the franchise record with 20 starts during the season. He finished 2.1 innings short of the franchise record for innings pitched, tossing 129.1 innings for the year. That total was good for fifth in the Frontier League.
Two returning starters were among the bright spots in the Grizzlies rotation. Nate Roush and Erik Dessau each contributed during the 2006 campaign. Roush was tops among regular starters with a 3.49 earned run average. He tied with Dessau for second on the club with six wins. Dessau was tops on the team with 74 strikeouts. Roush was second with 73. Dessau was also tied for third in the league with four complete games.
Once again the Grizzlies were blessed with strong closers. Todd Pennington joined the staff after three seasons in the Cleveland Indians organization. Pennington quickly broke the Grizzlies’ single season save record; recording 17 saves before being dealt to the Atlantic League. After Pennington’s departure, the Grizzlies acquired Ryan Rafferty in a trade with the Chillicothe Paints. Rafferty was nearly un-hittable in 11 appearances for the team. Rafferty tossed 14.1 innings without allowing a run, and allowing just four hits. He struck out 23 hitters and walked just five. He recorded seven saves in seven chances and was 1-0.
Changes abound in 2007 for the Grizzlies: On the field, league realignment and new division foes await the Grizzlies. A new coaching staff, led by manager Phil Warren will guide the club. Off the field, the Grizzlies will again strive for record numbers. The Grizzlies major
Milestone will come when they welcome their one-millionth regular season fan at some point during the ‘07 season.
Thought by some to be a season of transition both on and off the field, the franchise enjoyed great success earning the club’s second West Division title while enjoying their second-best season ever in total attendance.
On August 1, 2007 the Grizzlies achieved a milestone shared by only two other Frontier League franchises. Kristina Lynn of Highland, IL made her way through the GCS Ballpark gates, becoming the club’s one-millionth regular season fan. The Grizzlies were the second fastest league team to the one million mark-achieving the feat in their seventh season. The River City Rascals welcomed their one-millionth fan earlier in their seventh season, while the Evansville Otters were in their 11th year when the one-millionth fan was recorded.
In all, 196,134 fans took in a Grizzlies game in 2007. The total attendance number ranked third in the league, and was second only to the 2004 season in franchise history. The Grizzlies average attendance of 4,086 fans a game was second best in the 12-team league. By the time the season was over the Grizzlies had welcomed 1,062,895 fans over seven seasons.
11 times during the 2007 season Grizzlies crowds numbered better than 5,000. Three times the Grizzlies had crowds of 6,000 or more culminating with a crowd of 7,469 on September 2 when the Grizzlies closed the regular season with a win over rival River City. The crowd is the second-largest single crowd in franchise history.
On the field, the Grizzlies opened the “Phil Warren Era” in grand fashion. Charlie Lisk drove in the winning run with a walk-off double in the bottom of the 12th inning on opening night. The win earned the new skipper his first win. The team went on to win 12 of their first 13 games, and spent the entire season atop the West Division standings. They won 12 consecutive games to finish the first half with a 35-10 record-one of the top marks in all of professional baseball. The Grizzlies finished with a franchise-best 64-29 record to capture the Division Title. The post-season proved unkind to the Grizzlies, where they were swept in a three-game first round series by East Division Champion Washington.
The playoff loss only briefly diminished what was a record-breaking season for the club. The Grizzlies have long been an offense-first team, and 2007 simply cemented those ideas. The 2007 club set new standards in the form of offensive prowess.
Early on it was clear that the team would hit a lot of home runs. No one could imagine that by season’s end they would have hit 164 long balls, bettering their franchise record by 51 home runs, and the league record by 40. Their batting average of .286 set a new franchise mark and led the Frontier League. In all, the 2007 Grizzlies set new franchise records in 10 offensive categories.
Not surprising, numerous players put up imposing numbers during the 2007 season.
Mike Breyman cemented his place in Grizzlies history with his fourth outstanding season in a Grizzlies uniform. Breyman finished second on the team, and seventh in the Frontier League with a .331 batting average. He hit a career-high 22 home runs to establish a new franchise mark with 58 in his career. The 58 home runs also tied him for third all-time in Frontier League history, and left him just six shy of second place. Breyman led the club with 111 hits to give him a franchise-best 357 for his career. He also added 70 RBIs, which was good for third on the team, and gave him a club record 226 for his career. By season’s end Breyman held 10 career offensive club records.
Dustin Roberts followed up a successful rookie campaign with a stellar second season as a Gateway Grizzlie, finishing with five single-season records. Roberts crushed a franchise-record 29 home runs to lead the league. He also led the league with 73 RBIs, setting another single-season record. His 48 extra base hits in 2007 also set a new record. He scored 88 runs to lead the league, and establish a new club record. And he acquired 213 total bases to set the franchise mark there.
Two new additions help make the Grizzlies lineup one of the most feared in league history. Stephen Holdren joined the Grizzlies after splitting 2006 between Rockford and Windy City in the league. Jonathan Armitage joined the Grizzlies after spending five seasons in the San Francisco Giants organization. Both paid huge dividends.
Holdren found new life in a Grizzlies uniform. After a sub par 2006 season, Holdren played in all but three regular season Grizzlies games during the year. He finished second on the club, and in the Frontier League with 23 home runs. He tied Roberts for the team lead in RBIs-setting the new single-season mark. He established a new club record with eight triples during 2007-to lead the league. His slugging percentage of .616 led the league and was just shy of the franchise mark (.618) held by Breyman.
Armitage joined the club after being released by the Giants in the off-season. He was let go despite finishing the 2006 season with the organization’s triple-A affiliate in Fresno, Calif. Armitage led the Grizzlies, and finished fourth in the league with a .336 batting average. He led the league, and set a new season record with a .452 on-base percentage. He was fourth on the team, and sixth in the league with 18 home runs and added 59 RBIs. He did all of this while patrolling center field for the Grizzlies. He led all league outfielders with a .994 fielding percentage. He committed just a single error in 158 chances, and added 10 assists from center. Armitage was named as the team’s most valuable player for his efforts.
Newcomers Charlie Lisk and Manny Paula added to the club’s potent offense. Each finished with double-digit home run totals.
Lisk was added in a pre-season trade with the Windy City ThunderBolts. Lisk hit just .201 for the year but added 15 home runs and 41 RBIs.
Paula enjoyed a fine rookie campaign. Paula finished the year with a .299 batting average. He added 15 home runs and 47 RBIs. Paula appeared at six positions for the Grizzlies and earned team rookie of the year honors for his efforts.
Veteran utility man Ryan Sullivan rounded out a total of eight Grizzlies with more than 10 homers. Sullivan contributed 11 home runs and added 45 RBIs.
Unlike the previous few seasons, the Grizzlies pitching staff was on par with a strong offense. For the first time since 2004 the Grizzlies finished in the upper half of the league in team earned run average. The staff finished with a combined ERA of 4.28, which was fourth best among league clubs.
Starter Erik Dessau paced the staff, settling comfortably into the role of the team ace. Dessau set a franchise mark with 14 regular season wins, finishing 14-2, tied for the best record in the Frontier League. He also led the club with 20 starts, tying a team record. He also set a franchise mark with 138 innings pitched. He led the starters with a 3.13 ERA. Dessau finished the season with 26 career wins, tying him for the franchise mark with Pete Buck.
Starter Toro Trevino, who was also acquired in the pre-season trade with Windy City, joined Dessau with double-digit wins. Trevino was 11-5, despite an up and down season that saw him finish with a 5.09 ERA and a franchise record 79 runs, and 66 earned runs allowed.
Relievers Brandon Kellbach and James Hertel each added 7-1 records out of the bullpen. Kellbach returned to the Grizzlies after beginning his pro career with the team in 2004. Hertel signed with the team following a successful career at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He added a sparkling 1.83 ERA in 44.1 innings in relief.
Eric Ridener established himself as the best in a long lineage of dominant Grizzlies closers. Ridener set the franchise mark for saves in a season and career with 20 in his first season with the team. His 20 saves came in just 21 opportunities. He added 52 strikeouts in 38.1 innings worked.
The 2008 season will bring high hopes for the Grizzlies. After a successful first season, manager Phil Warren and his entire staff returns to lead the Grizzlies on the field in 2008. The bulk of the roster will return and anything short of a return to the post-season would be a disappointment.
Another strong season at the gates, a slow start, a surprising finish, and the finale of a record-breaking career highlighted the Grizzlies 2008 Frontier League season.
Despite a struggling economy, the eight-year old Gateway Grizzlies proved consistency was possible at the minor league level. Gateway attracted 190,892 fans to 50 regular season games in 2008. Their average of 3,818 was second in the Frontier League. It marked the sixth straight year the Grizzlies had finished either first or second in the Frontier League in average attendance. Their total attendance ranked third in the league behind Southern Illinois and Traverse City. Both clubs hosted more games in 2008 than the Grizzlies did. The total was also the third highest in franchise history.
Nine times during the season, crowds at GCS Ballpark numbered better than 5,000. On August 23 the Grizzlies attracted 6,398 to a Saturday game against the Midwest Sliders. The season-high crowd was also the seventh largest single-game crowd in franchise history.
After a monster season in 2007, nobody would have expected second-year manager Phil Warren’s club to drop eight of its first nine games, but that is exactly what happened. Undeterred, the Grizzlies battled the entire season, even tying for first place at the All-Star break. They began the second half just 3-6-leaving them in need of an extended winning streak for any chance at the post-season.
The Grizzlies hadn’t won more than four in a row at any point during the season, but found themselves three games out of the final wild card spot with just a week left in the season. Gateway defeated River City in the final game of a three-game series to trail Rockford by three games. The Grizzlies then swept a three-game series from Rockford at GCS Ballpark to tie for the final spot. Gateway then won the first two in the final series of the season from playoff-bound Southern Illinois to clinch the franchise’s fourth overall, and second consecutive, playoff spot.
The playoffs again proved unkind to the Grizzlies. Gateway won the first game of the first round at Kalamazoo 6-1, before dropping the final three games of the series by a combined score of 15-6. For the second straight year, the Grizzlies were out in the first round of the playoffs.
Perhaps the playoff series loss wasn’t a surprise, given that the Grizzlies lineup featured six players that hadn’t started the year in a Grizzlies uniform, and three that were playing their first season of pro baseball. What began as a season of hope because of many returning players, finished with hope for upcoming seasons because of young and promising, although unproven, talent.
The Grizzlies began the year with a powerful offense, but woeful pitching. During the Grizzlies 1-8 start the powerful offense simply couldn’t make up for a pitching staff that had an ERA over 7.00. Throughout the season the tables turned, however. Thanks to new faces, and a rejuvenated staff, the pitching carried the team through much of the middle part of the season, even as the offense struggled. July proved to be the best month for Grizzlies’ hurlers. In 26 games for the month, the staff had an ERA of 3.29.
In the end the Grizzlies finished with the fifth-best team ERA in the league at 4.52 while their batting average dipped to ninth. They finished with a team batting average of .264, their lowest since 2006 when the team hit .262 yet still finished third in the league. The Grizzlies hadn’t finished below sixth in the league in hitting since 2002, when their batting average of .244 was last in the league. Despite the woes in batting average, the Grizzlies still finished second in the Frontier League with 121 home runs, just seven behind league leader Florence, but 43 off the league record total of 164 the club hit in 2007.
Perennial All-Star Mike Breyman paced the Grizzlies offense, as he had done numerous seasons before. Breyman saved perhaps his best for last. After a terribly slow start, the slugging first baseman carried the Grizzlies during the second half, and more importantly over the final month of the season. Breyman hit just .200 in 11 games in May, then never hit below .283 for a month the rest of the campaign. In August, Breyman’s final full month as a professional, he hit .351 in 111 at-bats. He slugged 10 home runs and added 34 RBIs to lead the Grizzlies into the post-season. He finished with a .299 average, a career-high 24 homers and a franchise record 86 RBIs. Both totals were second best in the Frontier League.
On August 28, in a rain-shortened game at River City, Breyman forever etched his name into Frontier League history. He finished 2-3 for the game, collecting his 449th and 450th career hits to become the Frontier League’s all-time hits leader, and the Grizzlies downed the River City Rascals in the first of their six-game winning streak. Breyman finished the year with 101 hits, to leave him with 458 hits for his Frontier League career. He also finished with 312 RBIs leaving him tied for the league record in runs batted in as well. Breyman earned mid-season and post-season honors in the league for his achievements. His slugging percentage of .609 was second best in the league and just points off his own franchise record of .618 set in 2005. Breyman set a new franchise record with 54 extra base hits during the year. He tied the franchise record with 27 doubles, while playing in 91 games-tying his career high. He led the league with 206 total bases. His 815 career total bases are also the most in league history.
Charlie Lisk enjoyed his best season as a professional in 2008. The Grizzlies catcher led the team with a .313 batting average, tied Breyman for the team lead with 24 long balls and added 64 RBIs in 87 games. Lisk’s contract was purchased by the Detroit Tigers following his impressive season with the Grizzlies. Lisk hit 39 home runs and added 105 RBIs in two seasons as the Grizzlies’ back stop.
Stephen Holdren finished third on the club with 14 home runs and added 46 RBIs in an injury plagued season. Holdren finished the year on the injured list, and played in just 82 games for the season.
Newcomer Carter McQuigg also provided a spark. McQuigg had played with four different independent franchises before joining the Grizzlies for the final one third of the season. McQuigg hit 11 homers and added 26 RBIs in 39 games for the Grizzlies, while filling a need a third base.
Another newcomer, Robbie Minor, provided a spark of a different kind. Minor played in all but four games for the club as the starting shortstop. A defensive master, Minor finished as the leading shortstop in the league with a .972 fielding percentage. He recorded 169 putouts, added 283 assists and turned 66 double plays. He also led the team from the lead off spot. Minor stole a franchise record 29 bases, in 31 attempts. He added two home runs, his first in professional baseball, and 27 RBIs.
Numerous “true” rookies played major roles in the Grizzlies offense in 2008.
Infielder Alex Kerins led the cast of newcomers. The rookie from Cleveland State University hit .272 with four homers and had 25 RBIs while playing at both third and second for the Grizzlies. Brandon Peters, from California Baptist University, had a major impact despite playing in just seven games. In those seven games Peters hit .350 (7-20) with two homers and nine RBIs. Peters added a game-winning home run in the eighth inning of the second game of the Grizzlies late six-game streak. Chris Pecora, from North Carolina Wesleyan, also enjoyed success with the Grizzlies. Pecora saw action in 49 games down the stretch adding a pair of homers and 14 RBIs. Pecora’s speed and accurate arm proved to be an asset for Gateway’s outfield.
The pitching staff underwent great change during the season, with 27 different players appearing on the mound for the Grizzlies. 12 different players made at least a single start, while seven started at least five times. The 2008 Grizzlies had the dubious honor of walking more hitters than any other Gateway staff, handing out 416 free passes during the year. They also pitched more innings than any previous staff (831.2).
Derek Blacksher led the staff for the season. Blacksher led the team with a 10-8 record and 110 strikeouts. He also paced the staff with 19 starts and 128 innings. On August eighth, Blacksher set a new franchise record, striking out 14 Kalamazoo Kings in a Grizzlies win.
Erik Dessau wrapped his Grizzlies, and Frontier League, career with 13 starts for the Grizzlies before signing with the Atlantic League. Dessau was 4-5 to vault him to 30 wins, to set a new franchise record. His 64 career starts are also a franchise record.
Newcomers Brandon Williams and Justin Lilly each turned in seven-win seasons for the Grizzlies. Williams joined the team from the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, while Lilly was a true rookie from Campbell University.
Grizzlies reliever, and all-time saves leader, Eric Ridener made a pair of spot starts. His first was easily his best. Ridener unexpectedly started August ninth against the Kalamazoo Kings because of an injury to the scheduled starter. He proceeded to throw seven innings of no-hit baseball, striking out 10, despite allowing a pair of unearned runs in the first inning. Grizzlies closer Zack Gray finished the deal with two no-hit innings in a 5-2 win. The no-hitter was the second in Grizzlies history and the 13th in Frontier League history. Ridener appeared 38 times in 2008, one off his franchise record set in 2007. For his career, Ridener has appeared 77 times, the most in Grizzlies history. He was 5-2 with five saves. His 25 saves are also the most in club history. Ridener turned in 73 strikeouts in just 58.2 innings, primarily in relief.
Gray topped the relieving core with a 1.97 ERA in 31 appearances. He led the team with nine saves.
Local product Joel Boeschen proved to be a dominant force out of the bullpen for Gateway. Boeschen, from Okawville, appeared 30 times and was 5-2 with five saves. Boeschen finished the year with seven consecutive scoreless innings, allowing only three hits while recording a win and a save in three games.
After compiling a record of 115-74 and two playoff appearances, manager Phil Warren returns as Grizzlies skipper in 2009, becoming only the second manager in franchise history to manage a third season. Experienced veterans have moved on, but an exciting young core remains for the Grizzlies. Once again, expectations should be high for 2009 but as 2008 proved, expectations are only that. The team would have to prove they were up to the challenge, to compete for a third consecutive playoff appearance.
A disappointing season on the field, didn’t translate to the same at the gate for the Gateway Grizzlies. The 17th Frontier League season saw the Grizzlies draw more than 175,000 fans for the sixth consecutive season. 2009 also marked the seventh straight season the Grizzlies had finished second or better in attendance. Both the Grizzlies total attendance or 175,720 and their average of 3,739 were second best in the 12-team league.
GCS Ballpark hosted crowds numbering more than 5,000 11 times during the 2009 campaign. Three of those crowds numbered better than 6,000 people. And for the first time in two years, the Grizzlies played in front of a crowd of more than 7,000 people. A season-high 7,222 attended the Grizzlies final home game on September 3. It is also the fourth largest crowd in franchise history.
While the attendance numbers continued to mount throughout the season, the wins didn’t. On the field, the Grizzlies fell short of expectations and the hope of a third consecutive playoff appearance. After consecutive winning seasons, and two straight post-season appearances, 2009 saw a Phil Warren led Grizzlies squad suffer their first losing season. The Grizzlies finished 40-54. The 54 losses are the most in franchise history, and the 40 win total is the lowest since 2002 when the Grizzlies finished 34-50 in an 84 game schedule.
The Grizzlies began the year by dropping their first five games, and never got to the .500 mark during the season. The team suffered three-more losing streaks of more than four games during the year, including a second five-game streak in June. From June 21-July2 the Grizzlies lost nine of 11.
Like 2008, an offense that relied largely on the long ball, struggled to do much else. Unlike 2008, the ’09 Grizzlies didn’t have the pitching staff to make a late-season charge.
The Grizzlies batting average of .259 was 10th among the league’s 12 teams. Their total of 150 home runs was 22 more than any other team in the league and just 14 shy of their own Frontier League record. By season’s end the Gateway Grizzlies had become the most prolific home run hitting franchise in league history, having muscled out 910 home runs in nine seasons. The 2009 team also scored 23 more runs (603) than other team in the league, but the power didn’t translate to wins.
The club did achieve a rather dubious record by striking out 830 times, 80 more times than any other FL team, setting a new Frontier League record.
Several players stood out offensively for the Grizzlies in 2009. Charlie Lisk, Stephen Holdren and Joseph Scaperotta finished 1-2-3 in home runs, and all three were named All-Stars for the efforts. Lisk and Holdren were each named to their third consecutive All-Star game, while Scaperotta was making his first-ever appearance.
Lisk returned for a third season in a Grizzlies uniform, after beginning the year in Bridgeport in the Atlantic League. The veteran enjoyed his best Frontier League season in 2009, at least from a power standpoint. Lisk hit 28 home runs, added 82 RBIs, while hitting .282 for the Grizzlies. While he anchored the middle of the Gateway lineup, Lisk also provided defensive versatility. The catcher-turned infielder played 82 games for the Grizzlies, dividing his time almost evenly between catcher, third base and first base. His 67 home runs in three seasons are second most in franchise history.
Stephen Holdren began the year with the Grizzlies and spent 59 games with the club before being dealt to Southern Illinois in August. In those 59 games Holdren hit .318, to lead the team. He added 17 home runs and 42 RBIs.
Scaperotta enjoyed an outstanding “sophomore” season for the Grizzlies. The second-year pro played in a team-high 85 games while hitting .291. He hit a career-best 22 home runs while adding 62 RBIs. Both totals were second-best on the team. From June 10 through July 4, Scaperotta hit safely in 23 straight games to set a new franchise record hitting streak. Scaperotta’s streak was the fourth-longest in the league in 2009.
Brandon Peters, like Scaperotta, enjoyed a successful second season with the Grizzlies. Peters appeared in just seven regular season games in 2008, because of injury, but bounced back to play 81 games for Gateway in 2009. Peters hit .289 with 11 home runs and 52 RBIs for the year.
Newcomer Jaareck West provided speed in the outfield and on the base paths for the Grizzlies. West, a former Oakland farmhand, led the team with 21 stolen bases in 75 games. His season was cut short due to injury. Before West left the lineup, though, he accomplished one of the more rare feats in professional baseball when he hit for the cycle on August 1 at Southern Illinois. West finished the game 5-6 with a grand slam. He is the only player in franchise history to hit for the cycle.
Fellow newcomer Brandon Johnson, out of the White Sox organization, finished second on the team with 17 stolen bases in 61 games. Johnson hit .281 for the year with 14 homers and 46 RBIs.
True rookie Joe Agreste joined the Grizzlies mid way through the season after finishing his college career at West Virginia. Agreste hit .303 for the Grizzlies in 46 games while finishing second on the team with 18 doubles, just one off the team lead. He also hit five home runs and drove in 33 runs.
True utility man Breck Draper played a second season with the Grizzlies in 2009, spending time on the mound, behind the plate and everywhere else for the matter. Draper played 33 games as a catcher for the Grizzlies and appeared nine times out of the bullpen, striking out nine hitters in 15.1 innings of work. On September 4, though Draper played all nine positions in the same game against Rockford at GCS Ballpark.
To say the Grizzlies pitching staff struggled would be an understatement. The team finished with a 6.47 earned run average, worst in the league, and almost a run higher than the second-worst team. Grizzlies pitchers allowed a league-worst 1,016 hits and 139 home runs. By contrast, the team fanned 754 hitters as a staff, the second-highest strikeout total in the league, and the second-most strikeouts in franchise history.
Late season acquisition Chris Wiman was the only hurler to finish with an ERA below 4.00. Wiman appeared just eight times for the Grizzlies, but earned three saves and struck out 15 hitters in 12.2 innings.
Veteran Mark Brackman led the team with six victories, but tied a franchise record with 10 losses. Brackman led the team with 127.2 innings pitched in a team-high 20 starts. He also led the club in strikeouts with 112.
Jamie Arneson and Paige Dumont both added five wins for the Grizzlies.
Nate Melek was third on the team with four wins. He was second on the club with 19 starts, 117 innings, and 90 strikeouts.
Joel Boeschen led the team with 10 saves. He appeared in a team-high 30 games for the Grizzlies.
Fourth-year manager Phil Warren has 155 wins as the Grizzlies skipper, second-most in franchise history. He is within striking distance of the team record in 2010. Warren returns for a fourth season in the Grizzlies dugout, making only the second manager to lead the team for four seasons.
Off the field the franchise will celebrate their 10th anniversary in 2010, making the team the third oldest in the Frontier League. On the field, the team is gunning for a return to the playoffs after a year away and that elusive first post-season series win since 2003.
After a 2009 season that saw them garner only 40 wins, the Gateway Grizzlies turned things around and accumulated 54 wins in 2010, which also proved to be a record-breaking year for a veteran Grizzlie.
Not to be overlooked in 2010 was the success off the field for the Grizzlies. 2010 marked the eighth straight year the Grizzlies finished second or better in the Frontier League in attendance. Gateway eclipsed their 2009 attendance total by nearly 11-thousand as 186, 147 fans made their way through the gates at GCS Ballpark, good for second in the league behind Southern Illinois.
The Grizzlies averaged 3,722 fans per home game, which was a shade below their average for 2009. On September 5, 2010, 7, 508 people came to help bid farewell to the 2010 Grizzlies season and also say goodbye to longtime Grizzlies broadcaster Joe Pott. That attendance figure was good for second most in the history of the franchise, falling short of the 7,917 fans on September 2, 2005.
Unlike 2009, the play on the field was just as good as what was going on off the field. Rebounding from a lackluster 2009, the Grizzlies used a red-hot August to finish 54-40. While the Grizzlies proved to be arguably the best team in the league down the stretch, early season struggles came back to haunt Gateway en route to a third place finish in their division. The Grizzlies finished the season two and a half games out of a playoff spot. The 54 wins were the most for the Grizzlies since the 2007 team won a franchise-best 64. Gateway won nine of their last 11 games to show ‘what could’ve been’ had the team made the playoffs. The 2010 season marked the fourth time in franchise history in which the Grizzlies had over 50 wins. Every other 50-plus win season was coupled with a visit to the postseason.
The Grizzlies began the year on a high note, sweeping the Florence Freedom in a three-game series at GCS Ballpark. After going 26-22 in the first half of the season, the Grizzlies completed the second half with a 28-18 mark. At the conclusion of the season, the Grizzlies dominated the Frontier League’s postseason awards. Pitching coach Randy Martz was selected as the Coach of the Year in the league, Geof Manzo was named Athletic trainer of the Year, Ben Young was Groundskeeper of the Year and Joe Pott was chosen as Broadcaster of the Year. On the field, a fan favorite earned the league’s highest honor.
The 2010 season proved to be a historic one for Grizzlies Veteran, Charlie Lisk. The fourth-year man from Fort Mill, S.C. enjoyed one of his finer seasons as a professional, hitting .303 and homering 21 times for the Grizzlies. No homer was bigger than the history-making long ball Lisk hit on August 26th in Florence KY. Charlie’s homer that night was the 87th of his Frontier League career, breaking the previous record of 86 set by former Richmond Rooster Morgan Burkhart. The catcher/infielder led the Grizzlies in home runs and led the league in RBIs, hits, total bases and extra base hits. Lisk made the All-Star team and was named the Frontier League MVP, becoming the first player in franchise history to earn the honor.
Rookie Matty Johnson started his professional baseball career with a bang. The 5-9 Johnson was the spark-plug at the top of the Grizzlies order and proved to be a pest for opponents in the Frontier League. All leadoff men strive to lead their respective team in on-base percentage and Johnson was able to do that with a .429 clip that paced Gateway. The Bellevue University alum also hit .313 and stole 24 bases en route to being named the Grizzlies Newcomer of the Year. Johnson didn’t join the team until July 6th and played in only 47 games. After the season concluded, Johnson received the largest accolade possible in Independent Baseball when he was named Baseball America’s top Independent League prospect. The great 2010 season and top prospect honor catapulted Johnson to receiving a minor league contract from the Boston Red Sox.
While Johnson will get his affiliated career started in 2011, fellow 2010 Grizzlie teammate Logan Parker is no stranger to affiliated ball, having spent his career meandering through the Cincinnati Reds farm system. Making it as high as Double-A in the Reds system, Parker enjoyed a fine campaign in his first season with Gateway. The first baseman/outfielder hit .305 with 13 homers and 77 RBIs. Unlike many of the team’s offensive stalwarts, Parker was a mainstay for the Grizzlies from the start of the season until the end.
Outfielder Jason Patton was solid all season on offense for Gateway, while also patrolling the always difficult right-field at GCS Ballpark. Patton was fourth on Gateway with a batting average of .304. The former Lake Erie Crusher also slammed 10 home runs and drove in 57.
Well-traveled first baseman/DH Gordie Gronkowski made a huge impact in Sauget when he joined the team in a mid-July in a trade with the Worcester Tornadoes of the Can-Am League. Known as a feared bat around the league after his time with the Lake Erie Crushers, Gronkowski proved just that. The New York native, who has three brothers playing in the NFL, bashed 16 home runs and hit a team-best .319 in a career year. The 6-6 slugger also drove in 50 runs in 46 games.
After getting off to a great start, utility man Brandon Peters had an injury-plagued campaign in 2010. Playing in only 60 games and missing the final part of the season, Peters batted .301 with 10 homers and 34 RBIs.
Second-year Grizzlie Jareck West, a product of the Oakland A’s Organization, also battled injuries in 2010. When healthy though, West showed the Grizzlies fans the power that he possesses, homering 12 times in just 50 games.
Tyler Heil, a rookie out of San Jose State University, showed plenty of promise in his first season of pro ball. Spending time at shortstop and third base, Heil hit .283 with 33 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.
The Grizzlies also received contributions from third-year utility man Breck Draper. The Oklahoma native hit a career-high 13 home runs while manning second base for the majority of the season.
After finishing the 2009 season with a league-worst 6.47 earned run average, the Grizzlies pitching staff showed steady improvement. The Gateway pitching staff finished the 2010 season with an ERA of 4.02.
Veteran Mark Brackman was the unquestioned ace of the Grizzlies staff, compiling a 13-4 record with a 3.18 ERA in 152.2 innings. Brackman, a former Detroit Tigers farm hand, struck out 118 batters while walking only 39. The six foot seven right-hander was one win away from tying the most wins in a single season for a Grizzlies pitcher. Erik Dessau won 14 games for Gateway in 2007. After heading into the all-star break with a below .500 record, Brackman was 10-0 in the second half of the season for the Grizzlies.
Fellow starting pitchers Tim Clubb and B.J. Dail combined for 15 wins. Clubb, a former Cubs draft pick, pitched the second-most innings on the Grizzlies staff. Clubb threw 118.2 innings while recording a 3.42 ERA.
Dail started 19 games for Gateway during the 2010 summer. A North Carolina native, Dail also threw over 100 innings for the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies bullpen was rock-solid throughout the season. Left-hander Nick Walters did his job as a set-up man. Walters was 5-0 with a 1.14 ERA in 41 appearances, all relief. Walters struck out 71 batters in just over 47 innings of work.
Jake Schafer led the team with 11 saves. The right-hander appeared in 33 games for the Grizzlies.
Grizzlies Manager Phil Warren completed his fourth season with Gateway by reaching 209 wins for his career. Warren passed former manager Danny Cox during the 2010 season to become the franchise’s all-time leader in managerial wins. Warren’s total of 209 is good for 11th all-time in Frontier League history.
After completing their first decade of play, the Gateway Grizzlies will look to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 when the 2011 season gets underway in May. The Grizzlies will also be searching for their first Frontier League championship crown since 2003.
Leading up to the 2011 season, hope and promise was surrounding the Gateway Grizzlies baseball team. With a solid blend of returners and newcomers, talent was up and down the Gateway roster, but as they say, ‘you don’t win games on paper.’ The Grizzlies never found a groove and stumbled to a 39-56 record, their lowest win total since they won only 34 games in 2002.
Gateway jumped out to an early 10-5 record and appeared to be destined for plenty of success. With third-year Grizzlie Mark Brackman and hyped newcomer Aaron Shafer anchoring the starting rotation and a loaded batting order, the Grizzlies endured two four-game winning streaks and won eight of nine from late May to early June.
Shafer, a former second round pick of the Chicago Cubs, lasted only two starts with Gateway before a big league club came calling. The Atlanta Braves purchased Shafer’s contract and placed him at High-A Lynchburg, where Shafer shined. The Moscow Mills, MO native finished the season at Double-A Mississippi.
Despite the hot start, June is when the wheels started to fall off. Gateway suffered a 9-19 record during the month of June, their worst monthly record during the season. Dropping back in the standings, the Grizzlies were never able to recover. The Grizzlies never collected a five-game winning streak during the season, winning four in a row three times, but never five in a row.
Gateway sent their second player to affiliated ball in mid-June when Ryan Khoury was signed by the Boston Red Sox. It was Khoury’s second go-around with the Red Sox, who released him in the 2011 Spring Training after he spent 2006-2010 with them. Khoury batted .320 with five home runs during his stint at Gateway and excelled upon his return to the Red Sox organization, finishing the year at Triple-A Pawtucket.
With the team all but out of the playoff chase in early-August, Grizzlies Manager Phil Warren began making roster moves. The first move made by Gateway was a blockbuster trade, involving star slugger Logan Parker. Gateway traded Parker and a player to be named later to River City for pitcher Erick Carillo and three players to be named later on August 3rd.
Gateway followed up the Parker deal with another trade on August 9th. This time the Grizzlies sent outfielder DJ Fitzgerald to Windy City for a player to be named later. Two days later the Grizzlies shipped fourth-year Grizzlie Brandon Peters to Joliet for outfielder Jett Hart.
The Grizzlies finished the season with a roster that was drastically different than opening day. Only eight players from opening day finished the season with Gateway.
The Grizzlies offense shined once again in 2011. Finishing second in the league in runs scored and home runs, Gateway was led by Charlie Lisk, Joe Agreste and Landon Hernandez, three mainstays throughout the 2011 season.
Playing in his fifth year with Gateway, Lisk had another remarkable season, earning his fifth Frontier League All-Star selection. The Wentzville, MO native batted .295 with 24 homers and 94 RBI, both tops in the Frontier League. At season’s end, Lisk was the Gateway Grizzlies career record holder in games played, at-bats, runs scored, total bases, triples, hits, home runs and RBI. Lisk is also the Frontier League career leader in home runs and RBI. He was named the Grizzlies team MVP for the third consecutive season.
Agreste had a consistent and productive 2011 campaign. A 2009 member of the Grizzlies, the Chesapeake, VA native spent 2010 in the Padres organization, before returning to Gateway. Tying a franchise single-season record with 94 games played, Agreste hit .291 with ten homers and 71 RBI. Agreste set a new single-season franchise record for at-bats, notching 378, en route to his first ever Frontier League All-Star selection.
Hernandez had the most up and down season of the three Grizzlies offensive strongholds. After a blistering start to the season, the second-year Gateway catcher ran into a mid-season funk, before finishing strong. Landon’s end of the season production earned him a spot on the Frontier League Post-Season All Star team. Hernandez batted .250 with 18 homers and 46 RBI, while proving he was the top defensive catcher in the league, throwing out over 40 percent of attempted base stealers. He was named Gateway Grizzlies fan favorite at the end of the season awards ceremony.
Three rookies came to Gateway late in the season and helped the teams finish strong in August. Clovis, CA native Case Rigby made the biggest impact of the three. Batting .354 with nine RBI in 24 games, Rigby was one of the hottest hitters in the Frontier League down the stretch. Derek Jennings and Jett Hart came to the Grizzlies from the Seattle Studs of the Pacific International League and played in all 21 games to end the season, batting at the top of the Grizzlies order in each game. Jennings drove in nine runs while Hart homered three times and drove in ten.
On the pitching side of things, Gateway struggled once again on the mound, posting the third worst ERA in the Frontier League at 5.16. Brackman led the Grizzlies pitching staff for the third consecutive season, inching closer to numerous Grizzlies career pitching records. Despite a month long absence due to a right foot injury, the Grizzlies ace right-hander amassed seven wins and finished with a league-best 2.15 ERA, while tossing three complete games. Brackman’s stellar first half of the season earned him a spot on the Frontier League All Star team. He was the only Grizzlies pitcher to eclipse 100 innings.
Brackman was the only member of the starting rotation to start and finish the season with Gateway. While Shafer was picked up by the Braves, the other members of the Grizzlies start of the season rotation, Josh Whitlock, B.J. Dail and Adrian Garza, were all released.
Blake Barber and Ryan Juarez, both true rookies, made key contributions to the Grizzlies straight out of college. Barber, a Missouri State product, finished 4-3 with a 4.92 ERA. Juarez, a product of Cal State Northridge, went 4-4 with a 5.22 ERA and was named Grizzlies Rookie of the Year.
The Grizzlies bullpen was bolstered mid-season by the addition of two rookies. Right-handers Paul Tremlin and Jordan Cudney enjoyed a good start in the professional ranks. Tremlin appeared ten times and finished with an ERA just over four, prior to missing the final weeks of the season due to right elbow irritation. Meanwhile, Cudney shined in the bullpen before notching a spot start on the second to last game of the season. In that start, Cudney threw six shutout innings, allowing only one hit. He finished 2011 with a 1-1 record and a 2.67 ERA.
Nick Walters, JR Boling and Chris Enourato started and ended the season with the Grizzlies, adding stability to the bullpen. Walters, in his second season with Gateway, compiled a 2-1 record and a 2.81 ERA. Boling, who battled injuries throughout the season, appeared 20 times and posted an ERA just over four. Enourato started the season as a middle reliever, but quickly took over the role of closer, where he saved 11 games. Enourato was named the Grizzlies Pitcher of the Year.
Warren completed his 5th season and with the team’s 39 wins, he moved into 8th place all-time in Frontier League Managerial wins.
Gateway finished third in the league in attendance, barely being clipped by Traverse City for second place. 166,072 fans came through the gates at GCS Ballpark for an average of 3,610. The final attendance total helped mark the ninth straight year in which the Grizzlies averaged over 3,600 fans. A franchise record 8,189 fans came through the turnstiles on Sunday, September 4th for the ‘Greatest in Baseball’ as the Grizzlies fell to the River City Rascals in the final game of the 2011 season.
The Grizzlies will look to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 when the 2012 season gets underway in May. The Grizzlies will also be searching for their first Frontier League championship crown since 2003.
After missing out on the playoffs for three straight seasons, the Gateway Grizzlies were able to taste postseason baseball once again in 2012. Phil Warren’s ballclub compiled a record of 57-39, winning the second most games in franchise history.
Gateway stumbled out of the gate in 2012. They started the season 7-11 and never found their groove until the midway point of the season. Despite the rough early season start, Warren stayed patient and decided to make limited transactions in the team’s first 48 games.
Gateway finished the first half of the season with a 25-23 record, in fourth place in the West Division, but only four games out of first place. They went a league-best 19-8 in July to move one game back of first Schaumburg and 11 games over the .500 mark at the end of the month. The 19 wins in July tied a franchise record for most wins in one month.
The Grizzlies stellar July was aided by what proved to be one of the biggest in-season acquisitions in team history. Outfielder/DH Rogelio Noris joined the Grizzlies and played his first game with the team on June 24th. After stumbling to a .250 average and only three home runs in 24 games with the Lake Erie Crushers, Noris hit .313 and blasted 18 home runs in 58 games with the Grizzlies, providing much needed pop in the middle of the Grizzlies batting order.
Warren’s team enjoyed a solid August to help them clinch their first playoff berth since 2008. With the division cluttered among three teams in late August, Gateway picked up a road sweep against first place Windy City to overtake the division lead. The Grizzlies maintained their lead and clinched the Frontier League West Division on August 31st after the Schaumburg Boomers lost in Washington. It was the Grizzlies first division title since 2007.
The Grizzlies went 32-16 in the second half of the season and won 30 of their last 44 games to cap off the second best regular season in franchise history.
Pitching was a bright spot for the Grizzlies in 2012, compiling a franchise-record 3.57 team ERA, good for third in the league. The Grizzlies previous best ERA for a single season was 3.72 in 2003. Gateway turned a league-best 95 double plays and recorded a franchise-record ten shutouts, with six of them occurring at hitter-friendly GCS Ballpark.
Gateway surged into the playoffs and won two of their first three games before blowing a 5-1 lead in game four at Florence. Grizzlies closer Richard Barrett surrendered a three-run walk off home-run to Drew Rundle with the team one out away from advancing to the championship series for the first time since 2003. Florence shutout Gateway 7-0 in the deciding fifth game of the divisional series to end their season.
Gateway second baseman Jonathan Johnson set for a Frontier League record during his impressive first season. Johnson recorded a 65 game on base streak before not getting on base on July 31st to end the impressive streak. Johnson hit .295 with 26 extra base hits, was named a Frontier League All-Star, set a team record for walks in a single season, nabbed team MVP honors at the end of the season and played in a franchise-record 95 games.
Vladimir Frias was the only Gateway player who left the team for a Major League organization. Frias was signed by the Chicago Cubs on July 29th, joining his third different organization. Frias .283 in 32 games with Gateway, while doing a stellar job defensively. He missed a month with a hand injury after a head first slide into first base.
A trio of former University of Kentucky standouts helped out the Grizzlies in 2012. Chris McClendon, John Shelby and Antone DeJesus played the whole season with the team and played a large part in the playoff run.
McClendon, who began his pro career with the Grizzlies, joined the team after being acquired in a trade with the River City Rascals in the offseason. ‘Mac’ played in 84 games and hit .288 with eight home runs and 49 RBI.
Shelby got off to a slow start, but enjoyed a solid second half of the season. The former 5th round pick of the White Sox in 2006 batted .239 with 14 homers and 55 RBI while stealing 12 bases.
DeJesus played in 93 games and batted .270 with five home runs and 46 RBI. ‘Tone’ was a big contributor defensively as the Grizzlies everyday center fielder.
Jon Myers tied Johnson with 95 games played in 2012, setting a new franchise record. After hitting .210 in the first half of the season, the St. Peters, MO native and former Saint Louis University standout finished the season with a .257 average and 20 home runs. Myers drove in 57 runs and picked up a team-best 24 doubles.
Landon Hernandez earned Frontier League All-Star honors for the second straight campaign. The Grizzlies third-year catcher from Palm Desert, CA finished the season with a .247 average, 16 home runs and 49 RBI, despite hitting .206 with eight long balls in the first half of the season. Hernandez hit a team-best .322 with seven homers and 18 RBI in August.
Justin Dunning and Alex Guthrie were key contributors off the Grizzlies bench in 2012 while Richie Jimenez Jr. split time as a starter and backup infielder. Dunning, a Trenton, IL native, batted .245 with nine RBI during his first pro season. He picked up a walk-off hit in June and contributed both offensively and defensively throughout the season. Guthrie, a college teammate of Johnson at Loyola Marymount, hit .256 with two homers in 30 games after joining the Grizzlies in late June. Jimenez started the season as a backup middle infielder before taking over the starting reigns as shortstop was injured and then again when he was picked up by the Cubs. Jimenez hit .230 in 59 games, but played his best baseball at the end the regular season and in the postseason when he hit .313 with two RBI.
St. Louis native Tim Brown anchored the Grizzlies pitching staff in 2012 and put together one of the best pitching season’s in team history. Brown, a 6-3 right-hander, went 12-2 with a 2.27 ERA in 20 starts. He led the league in wins and ERA, while finishing second in innings pitched and complete games (4). Brown suffered the loss in the deciding fifth game of the divisional series, but still went 8-1 in his last 11 starts and did not lose at home in the regular season. The former Clayton, H.S. great suffered his last regular season loss on June 6th and pitched into the seventh inning in 19 of his 20 starts. He was named the Grizzlies Pitcher of the Year.
Right-hander Zac Treece earned Grizzlies and Frontier League Rookie of the Year honors for his stellar campaign in the bullpen. The 6-3 23-year-old finished the season with a miniscule 1.21 ERA and four saves.
Phillip Reamy, Jordan Cudney, Logan Mahon and Richard Barrett helped form a dominant bullpen along with Treece. Reamy capped off his rookie season with a 2.18 ERA. Despite a rough end to the season, Cudney put together a 2.21 ERA. Mahon was the only Grizzlies left-hander for the majority the season and he was effective with a 2.52 ERA. Meanwhile, Barrett closed out a team-best 17 games.
Alex Kaminsky, Paul Tremlin and Chris Enourato joined Brown in the Grizzlies starting rotation.
Kaminsky won his first five starts of the seasons and finished the campaign strong after a rough middle of the season. The 6-1 right-hander from Fostoria, OH went 10-5 with a 3.73 ERA in 18 starts. He enjoyed a scoreless streak of 26 2/3 innings in August.
Tremlin and Enourato both started the season in the bullpen before finishing in the rotation. Tremlin went 7-4 with a 3.72 ERA, while Enourato finished with a 5-4 record and 5.12 ERA.
Pitching and defense were the staples of the 2012 Grizzlies under Warren, who wrapped up his sixth season. Warren picked up his 300th career managerial win during the 2012 season.
After completing one of the best seasons in franchise history, the Gateway Grizzlies will look to build another competitive team in the offseason and begin their quest to their first Frontier League Championship since 2003 when May 2013 rolls around.