Sicnarf Loopstok, A Unique Kind of Award Winner

Over the past month or more of the season the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats players have been dominating in the Carolina League with four consecutive player of the week awards and a player of the month award. Only the most diehard aficionados of minor league baseball will know is that there is another significant award winner on the Hillcats roster, catcher Sicnarf Loopstok.

His award is for the Best Name in Minor League Baseball, otherwise known as Moniker Madness on Loopstok won the 2013 title joining such previous winners as Rock Shoulders (2012) and Seth Schwindenhammer (2011) by defeating Stryker Trahan, the Diamondbacks 2012 first round pick.

“It was a good experience.” Loopstok said about his run to the title. “I didn’t know I was in it, and then I started getting a lot of messages on Facebook, fans saying ‘Hey we are voting for you in Moniker Madness.’ so I checked it out.”

He kept track of where he was in the standings and kept advancing up the ladder, coming out on top.

His unusual first name is his father’s name, Francis, spelled backwards. Asked why his parents decided to name him in such a unique way he said, “I’ve never asked them that question.”
Not only does he hold the distinction of being a victor in Moniker Madness, Loopstok is one of a handful of players who come from Aruba.

A native of Oranjestad, his pathway into baseball is also one of interest.

In 2009 his Senior Little League team went to Bangor, Maine for the World Series. This spurred his interest in wanting to go to college in the United States so that he might profile better for scouts in his native Aruba. Of course getting an opportunity to attend college in the United States would be the first step.

“I had an opportunity because of Andrelton Simmons.” he said. “His dad is from Aruba, while his mom is from Curacao, we had a good family connection. He went to Western Oklahoma Junior College, so he talked to the coach for me.”

Loopstok went there to visit and try out, and earned a full scholarship for the 2013 season. This led to him being drafted in the 13th round by Cleveland.

Now in his third season in the minors he is getting an opportunity to do what he loves, catch and play baseball.

“My grandpa used to play baseball, as well as my dad. My grandpa had signed with the Yankees back in those days and I started playing when I was 3 or 4 years old.”

Right from the start he was drawn to catching and grew up learning the ins and outs of the position. It helped that he had a friend, who is also a catcher, and the two of them motivated each other as players.

“I had a buddy, who is now catching at AAA for the Dodgers [Shawn Zarraga at Oklahoma City]. We grew up and always practiced together.”

Coming from Aruba, Loopstok has the benefit of a range of successful former players from his country who have been in professional baseball, particularly at the highest levels.

For a time it seemed the Orioles organization had a corner on the Aruban baseball player market with Sidney Ponson, Calvin Maduro, Eugene Kingsale, and Radhames Dykhoff all being Aruban natives who played professionally in the Orioles organization and advanced to the Major Leagues.

“In the offseason,” said Loopstok, “we all practice together. We get together and keep in shape for Spring Training.”

It does not hurt that in addition to the previously mentioned Arbuan’s in baseball, Loopstok’s cousin Jiandido Tromp, plays in the Phillies system, and current Boston Red Sox Xander Bogaerts are also from Aruba, so winter practice sessions can help the younger players see what they need to do to advance their skills and progress through the minor leagues to gain an opportunity to reach the pinnacle of their profession.

Currently Loopstok is the second catcher on the Hillcats team, spelling primary catcher Eric Haase. He has played at three stops during the 2015 season, starting at Low-A Lake County, then getting in 5 games at Short Season Mahoning Valley, before being promoted to Lynchburg when Alex Monsalve went on the disabled list.

He has contributed to the Hillcats recent success being part of a back-to-back homer tandem with teammate Dorssys Paulino in a recent sweep of the visiting Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

Speaking about his power output that evening he said, “My first at bat I flew out, so I tried to stay focused and wait for a pitch up in the zone. Get a fast ball and be aggressive”
He did just that. On the next pitch following Paulino’s shot to left field off of Pelicans hurler David Garner, Loopstok put a charge into the ball and also knocked a homer run over the left field wall.

In his 21 games with the Hillcats he is hitting .231, but has three home runs with 10 RBI’s in that span, the most recent homer being a laser shot in Frederick for the only run in a Hillcats loss to the Keys.

He continues to have fun and stays focused on his goals for catching and hitting.

“I come out there ready for the fast ball, trying to keep it between the lines.” A common goal for a baseball player with a unique story.

David Freier was born in Brooklyn New York in 1966 less than a decade after the Dodgers had departed the very same borough. His first professional baseball game was at Yankee stadium and to this day he and his father still argue over who started for the Orioles that day (his father says Mike Cuellar, while he insists it was Jim Palmer). Being a lover of underdogs he naturally became a Mets fan. He grew up in Montclair New Jersey which had the advantage of being home to two baseball legends, Yogi Berra and Larry Doby, as well as having a local college which regularly held baseball card conventions that fed his baseball card hobby. While attending college at the University of Richmond he and some of his friends attended a Richmond Braves game in the then (1985) brand new Diamond stadium, and now home to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. This began what has become a passion for the minor leagues of baseball. During his 10 years as a Richmond resident he and his future wife developed an affinity for the Braves, especially when Richmond fan favorite Francisco Cabrera scored the winning run to knock the Pirates from contention and vault the Braves into the World Series of 1991. During extensive travels he has rooted for the Minnesota Twins, Minneapolis Loons, St. Paul Saints, Iowa Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Erie Sea Wolves, Berkshire Bears and of course the Lynchburg Hillcats. To date he has visited over 110 different baseball parks in which he has seen a game. He joined the Society for American Baseball Research in 2000 and has been a member ever since, where he participates on the Biographical and Minor Leagues committees when time permits. In his day job he is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Science at Lynchburg College in Virginia.

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