From the Fort to the Fall Classic.
The 2015 World Series continues Friday as the Kansas City Royals visit the New York Mets and Michael Cuddyer, who played for the Fort Wayne Wizards in 1998.
“It was my first taste of pro ball,” Cuddyer recalled last month while the Mets were in Cincinnati. “I have good memories. Fort Wayne is a great city. They took care of us. Plus, we went to the playoffs, so I got to experience postseason baseball.”
Now, in his 15th big league season, the 36-year-old Cuddyer is experiencing his first World Series.
Back in ’98, long before the gray hairs came in, Cuddyer was a 19-year-old Minnesota Twins prospect. He led the Wizards that year in virtually every offensive category, including runs (82), hits (137), doubles (37), triples (7), home runs (12), RBIs (81), walks (61), and total bases (224).
“At that level in the minors, it’s just getting used to playing so many games and not having many days off,” Cuddyer said. “It’s more of getting your feet wet with pro ball and learning as you go. For most guys, it’s the first time they’re playing a full season.”
By 2001, Cuddyer, who grew up in Virginia, made his Major League Baseball debut with the Twins. After 11 seasons with Minnesota, the corner outfielder/first baseman signed with the Colorado Rockies. Cuddyer hit a career-best .331 in 2013 and won the National League batting title. Following three seasons with the Rockies, the two-time All-Star signed a two-year deal with the Mets last November.
Cuddyer has provided New York with veteran leadership during their first World Series run in 15 years. In 117 regular season games, he hit .259/.309/.391 with 10 homers, 18 doubles, and 41 RBIs. Although Cuddyer was forced to spend time on the disabled list with a bone bruise in his left knee during the second half of the season, he has been praised for mentoring rookie outfielder Michael Conforto, who has chipped into Cuddyer’s playing time. Mets manager Terry Collins has said he thinks Cuddyer will be a quality manager himself in the future.
But first, they’re focused on winning a title — something the Mets haven’t done since 1986.
“We’ve got pitching,” Cuddyer said. “It all starts and ends with pitching. Hopefully we can do something special.”
Regardless of the outcome of this World Series, 2015 has been a memorable season for Cuddyer — just like his year with the Fort Wayne Wizards.
“You’ll always remember that team because it was your first one.”
While Cuddyer is the only Wizards/TinCaps alum on the World Series roster for the Mets or Royals, several others have area ties or have played in the Midwest League.
Mets reliever Jon Niese grew up less than an hour away from Fort Wayne in Defiance, Ohio, and was drafted out of Defiance High School. New York manager Terry Collins is from Midland, Mich., home of the Great Lakes Loons, one of the TinCaps’ Midwest League Eastern Division rivals. Collins went to Eastern Michigan University. Mets backup catcher Kevin Plawecki calls Carmel, Ind., his hometown and is an alumnus of Westfield High School and Purdue University.
Midwest League Alums in the 2015 World Series
Kansas City Royals
· RHP Johnny Cueto – Dayton (2006, 2013*)
o Started in Fort Wayne on April 15, 2006: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 SO
· RHP Wade Davis – Southwest Michigan** (2006)
o Started in Fort Wayne on July 31: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 2 SO
· RHP Danny Duffy – Burlington (2008)
· RHP Kelvin Herrera – Burlington (2008-10)
· RHP Luke Hochevar – Burlington (2006)
· RHP Yordano Ventura – Kane County (2011)
· RHP Edinson Volquez – Clinton (2004), Dayton (2010*)
· C Salvador Perez – Burlington (2009)
o Played in Fort Wayne from May 30-31: 3-for-7, 2B, BB, 2 R
· INF Eric Hosmer – Burlington (2009)
o Played in Fort Wayne from May 29-31: 6-for-14, 4 R, 2B, HR, 8 RBI, BB, 3 SO
· INF Mike Moustakas – Burlington (2008)
o Played in Fort Wayne from May 5-7: 4-for-12, 4 R, 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, SO, 2 SB
· OF Lorenzo Cain – Wisconsin (2009)
· OF Jarrod Dyson – Burlington (2007-08)
o Played in Fort Wayne from April 18-20: 3-for-15, R, BB, 5 SO, SB
Note: The Royals are currently affiliated with Class A Lexington in the South Atlantic League. Kansas City was affiliated with Kane County from 2011-12 and Burlington from 2001-10. For 20 out of 30 years between the franchise’s inception in 1969 and 1998, the Royals had a Midwest League affiliate.
New York Mets
· RHP Tyler Clippard – Battle Creek** (2004)
o Started in Fort Wayne on April 23: 8.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 6 SO
o Started in Fort Wayne on June 28: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 5 SO
· OF Michael Cuddyer – Fort Wayne (1998)
· RHP Noah Syndergaard – Lansing (2011-12)
o Started in Fort Wayne on August 29, 2011: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, BB, 3 SO
o Started in Fort Wayne on June 13, 2012: 4.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 SO
o Started in Fort Wayne on September 5, 2012: 4.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 SO
· OF Curtis Granderson – West Michigan (2008*)
Note: The Mets are currently affiliated with Class A Savannah in the South Atlantic League. In 2016, the Savannah Sand Gnats will move to Columbia, S.C and be called the Fireflies. Like the TinCaps, they are owned by Hardball Capital. The Mets had a Midwest League affiliate in 1962 and ’63, the Quincy Jets. From 1975-78, the Mets were affiliated with the Midwest League’s Wausau Mets. Both Quincy and Wausau are defunct franchises.
*Rehab Appearance **Now Great Lakes