Lake County Captains
Although it’s often called “The Mistake on the Lake,” Cleveland’s proximity to the water is something that excites Lake County Captains catcher Jeremy Lucas. In fact, one of his 2013 season goals can only be accomplished because Cleveland has a coast.
“I saw the lake for the first time,” Lucas said of a recent drive that took him down the Shoreway. “By the end of the season, I want to go to the beach.”
After a lackluster start, the Lake County Captains finally seem to be settling to a groove. Although they are still second-last in the Midwest League Eastern division (20-34, .370), before their game on June 5, the Captains have won five of their last six games, including a season-high four game winning streak from May 29 through June 1.
Numerous players have helped the team along in this newfound road to success, including two recently named to the Midwest League All Star Team.
One June 3, Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera left the game early after limping his way down the baseline. The next day he was placed on the 15 day disabled list and the Indians called up injury fill-in Juan Diaz from Columbus. The injury seemed to call into question among fans not only his value on the field, but his value in the trade market. Many looked to the Indians Minor Leagues and asked who within the organization could replace Cabrera at short. The Tribe is thick with young talent at shortstop at the Minor League level, and among there is almost certainly a couple future Major League players. Three of the Indians top 20 prospects play short, and four of their top 20 prospects play the position. Among all those young players, six have made themselves worthy of note as possible future Indians.
Francisco Lindor is one of the most recognizable names that have come through the Indians system in the last decade. He has sparked hope and excitement in Cleveland’s future, and the hype is not just smoke and mirrors. Drafted 8th overall by the Tribe in 2011 at the age of 17, Lindor has climbed the ranks to debut this season for the Carolina Mudcats, the Indians High A affiliate. The now 19 year old Lindor currently boasts a .299 batting average, a .367 on-base percentage, and a .416 slugging percentage. He looks like the real deal, excelling both offensively and defensively at every level. His skills have earned him the Indians organization top prospect and Baseball America’s 28th best prospect in baseball. He is certainly on the fast track to the Major League level but is still at the very least a year away.
Having grown up in the Cleveland area, it’s hard to imagine anyone thinking Lake County is an exciting place to be, especially when compared to someplace warm like, say, Arizona. However, if you’re a baseball player, being in Eastlake, Ohio, is a much more desirable location – just ask one of the newest additions to the Captains’ roster, 22 year-old catcher Richard Stock.
“Arizona gets kind of monotonous,” Stock said of his playing prior to coming to Lake County this season. “It’s great getting out here with all the guys. It’s great to play other teams for meaningful games.”
From May 6-13, Lake County Captains left-handed pitcher Ryan Merritt went 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA. He pitched a total of 12.0 innings in two starts during the week, one of which included a 7.0 inning shutout on two hits at Burlington on May 6. Some may say this performance “merritt-ed” a recognition.
On May 14, the Indians organization announced that the 20-year-old from McKinney, Texas, was the Cleveland Indians’ Minor League Player of the Week for May 6-13.
So far, 2013 isn’t going as Mitch Brown had hoped, but there is certainly still reason for optimism surrounding the Lake County Captains young right hander.
At just 19 years old, Brown is just about to turn the calendar on his first year as a professional baseball player. He has had some mixed results thus far, but overall, his attitude is upbeat and optimistic.
“It’s been a great experience for me so far,” Brown said. “(The Captains) give you everything you need to be successful and kind of put you in the right position. It’s awesome.”
Coming into his 2013 season, Levon Washington was ready to start out strong. Having had hip surgery just over a year ago, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound center fielder from Gainesville, FL, was looking forward to a season of smoother sailing, unmarred by injury.
Unfortunately, Washington found himself with a pulled right hamstring during his first game of the season.
For a while, it looked as though the Lake County Captains had fallen into a rut. The young team was losing more games than they were winning, giving up leads in late innings and producing plays marred by numerous errors. Fans weren’t the only ones discouraged by the games, however – Captains’ players noticed the slump just as vividly.
“I know we had been struggling and it seemed like we couldn’t win any games,” left fielder Logan Vick said of his team’s performance throughout the month of April. “We were giving up leads and just not putting hits together to get big wins.”
The absence of big wins, however, changed on Monday night, April 29, at Classic Park, where Vick played a vital role in reversing the Captains’ string of losses. The Captains won both of their games during a double header with the Kane County Cougars, restoring faith in both fans and players alike.
The first time he was on the mound in Lake County, the 6-foot-3, 173-pound, right-hander Luis DeJesus was pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in his life.
While it’s not unusual for players to be moved around to different positions in order to satisfy roster needs, DeJesus’ move during the 2012 season from starter to reliever threw a wrench in the young pitcher’s routine.
Before he was drafted by the Indians in the seventh round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Eric Haase had made a decision that will shock Ohioans – the Michigan native from right outside Ann Arbor had committed to playing baseball at the Ohio State University.
“I know almost half the baseball team at Michigan,” Haase said of his almost-traitorous departure. “That would have been a rough Big Ten match-up there.” Haase said that Michigan had recruited him “a little bit,” but OSU had, “a good staff put together, so I thought that would be a better choice for me.”
Instead of alienating himself, though, and becoming an unheard of Wolverine in a sea of Buckeyes, the 5-foot, 10-inch, 180-pound Haase found himself headed for Arizona to catch for the Indians Arizona League.
Mark Twain once said that “writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Not to discount Twain’s literary prowess at all, but – that’s easy for him to say. Writing about boys having adventures on the Mississippi River leaves a lot of room to find the right words to misplace those “wrong ones” he apparently had to cross out.
Writing about something like baseball, though, doesn’t seem to lend itself to this notion as easily. It’s easy to fall into a rut, repeatedly using the same words and phrases to describe the action on the field. This was the exact dilemma author and minor league broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler found himself facing when he started his broadcasting career in 2005.
It has now been ten years since the Captains opened up Classic Park in Eastlake and became the geographically closest minor league affiliate for the Cleveland Indians in 2003. Through the past decade, the Captains faithful has had numerous future Indians and Major Leaguers don their uniform and even with new faces at the helm, the goal remains status quo.
“The best thing that could ever happen to our staff is that every one of these guys would progress out of here and they’d have to send us all new players,” Captains new manager Scooter Tucker said. “It’s not realistic, but that would be the ultimate for us.”
Tucker is a former Major League catcher, who spent parts of three seasons with the Houston Astros as well as 20 games as a replacement backup catcher for the Indians in 1995.