As the 2013 season winds down, the Senators begin the playoffs on Wednesday night at Jerry Uht Park in Erie to take on the SeaWolves. Harrisburg clinched the regular season division title for their second time in three years, and the fourth time since the Eastern League went to a divisional alignment in 1994. With only six wins to glory, we can still look back on the highlights and memories that have already been made. Senators’ President Kevin Kulp summed it up, “This has been my favorite season so far since I have been here. There is something about this season that makes me sad just to think about it ending soon.”
Sending Them to The Show
Success in the minor leagues is as much about player development and progress as it is about win-loss records. As manager Matt LeCroy has said, “We want to win every ballgame here, but ultimately our job is to have guys help our big league team.” The Nationals’ rise to prominence after years of futility can be directly traced through their affiliates in Syracuse, Harrisburg, Potomac, and Hagerstown.
Nowhere was this more obvious this season than on City Island when four Senators, Anthony Rendon, Nate Karns, Ian Krol, and Taylor Jordan, were directly promoted to Washington’s active roster. “That’s the best part of my job. There’s no doubt about it,” expressed LeCroy on that moment, “When you can tell a kid that he’s going to the big leagues and it’s the first time. You see them getting emotional and you try to hold it back because you know what kind of work they’ve put into it. I wish everybody could be in the room to see. Rendon thought I was joking with him, thought he was in trouble. Karnsy got fired up, giving everybody hugs…There’s no greater feeling.”
The effect was not lost on any of their teammates either as LeCroy point out what it means to the other guys in the clubhouse, “It should give you some motivation, even if you’re not playing every day. You just never know in this game who could be the next Jamey Carroll or the next David Eckstein. Seeing a guy like Krol, who was a player to be named later (in the off-season Michael Morse trade), in the big leagues. You don’t see that too often. But it’s good that I can use that in the grind of the season to keep these guys going.”
Additionally, three other Senators’ alumni have also made their MLB debuts this season as Erik Davis, Jeff Kobernus, and Tanner Roark each got the call to The Show with the Nationals.
Turning the Turnstiles
Crowds continued to fill Metro Bank Park throughout the summer to watch the “stars of tomorrow today”. 2013 marks the fourth straight season the Senators have averaged over 4,000 fans per game.
Three games this season also drew over 7,000 and placed in the top 15 attendance-wise in Metro Bank Park history: May 25th against the Reading Fightin Phils with a camouflage hat giveaway, July 4th against the Bowie Baysox that featured the biggest fireworks show of the season, and August 29th against Altoona in the final home game of the regular season.
“We did a number of things this year that we hadn’t done before,” Kulp elaborated, “We had more giveaways and more fireworks than we had ever done before. These are things that fans wanted and our ownership group gave us the ability to invest more and make each event a little more special. We also brought in a few marquee appearances like the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, a NASCAR Celebrity pre-game softball game featuring Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer, the Cowboy Monkey Rodeo twice, and an awesome Wrestling Night featuring Jimmy ‘Mouth of the South’ Hart. It’s always fun and it’s also a challenge to keep things fresh and to do things we haven’t done before while also being smart enough to continue to do the things that work.”
Making Harrisburg Proud
Six Senators were selected to represent the Western Division in this year’s Eastern League All-Star Classic held in New Britain. Aaron Barrett, Paul Demny, Brian Goodwin, Josh Johnson, Taylor Jordan, and Steven Souza Jr. were chosen by voting across fans, league media, managers, and officials.
Goodwin played centerfield and batted leadoff, scoring the first run of the game after he drew a walk. Souza Jr. hit eighth as the designated hitter and went hitless in three at-bats. Barrett was called on to finish the game and he struck out Reading’s Jim Murphy to secure a 5-0 victory for the West. Demny, Johnson, and Jordan did not take part due to promotions and injuries.
Souza Jr. also participated in the Home Run Derby held the day before as part of the All-Star festivities. Needing a home run on his last swing, the Senators outfielder fell about ten feet short and had to settle for second place behind winner Caleb Joseph of the Bowie Baysox.
One for the Record Books
On May 9th in Binghamton against the Double-A affiliate of the Mets, Paul Demny and Ian Krol combined to throw the team’s fourth no-hitter in modern history.
Demny was far from perfect as the Texan walked three batters, hit one, and even committed an error over eight innings, but the zero under the B-Mets’ hit column never changed. When he reached 113 pitches, Demny turned the game over to the bullpen to preserve the no-hitter and Krol worked a perfect ninth inning, striking out the last two batters.
Demny on when he realized this might be his night to write his name in Senators’ history, “It was the seventh, I got out of that inning when Jimmy (VanOstrand) made a nice backhanded play and we got that double-play. I thought the chips were falling my way. Let’s make a push for it.”
The Midsummer Classic
At least one former Senator has been selected to participate in the Major League All-Star Game every year since 1994. This season was no different as four players, Bryce Harper, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Jordan Zimmermann, represented the National League in the game held at New York’s Citi Field in mid-July. With his first career nod, Zimmermann also became the 21st former Senator to join the illustrious list of players so honored.
No Senators pitcher had thrown a nine-inning complete game shutout since August 18th, 2005 when David Maust easily handled the Bowie Baysox. Eight seasons later, not one, not two, but three hurlers (Caleb Clay, Taylor Jordan, and Robbie Ray) completed the feat. Starting pitching was a strength of the 2013 squad as the Senators threw an additional five other complete games that were either in a doubleheader, rain-shortened, or in a losing cause.
Looking Ahead to 2014
“I never want the ballpark to look the same on Opening Day as it did when fans left for the last time the previous season. I think that improving our park every year helps to keep things fresh and exciting,” Kulp said looking ahead, “The planning for 2014 has already begun behind the scenes. We’re going to really strip down this season and we’ll come up with a plan to make next year even better than this one. But right now I want to savor every little bit we have left in this season.”
This article was originally found in issues #17, #18, and #19 of the Senators’ program and was reprinted with the permission of the Harrisburg Senators