The greatest home runs in Harrisburg Senators modern history: Nos. 30 to 26

Welcome to the third in a series of posts ranking the greatest home runs in Harrisburg Senators modern history (otherwise known as when baseball returned to City Island in 1987).

Part 1 covering homers 40 through 36 can be found here.
Part 2 covering homers 35 through 31 can be found here.

Just like Casey Kasem, I’ll be counting them down from 40 to 1 as we make our way to the top of the list.

I have tried to be as comprehensive as possible, but the odds are good I’ll be kicking myself later for leaving off a dinger or two. That also goes for ones that you might remember more fondly; after all, sometimes it’s about the memories and what they mean to you.

I am also positive my rankings will upset some and infuriate others. Hopefully, though, this will be a fun little exercise that helps us all re-live the most significant home runs in Senators’ history.

So without further ado…

30. Cliff Floyd – Roll On Down the Highway (June 19, 1993) 

Before Turn Back the Clock Night at Reading’s Municipal Stadium, the Phillies held a pregame home run hitting contest featuring the winner Boog Powell, Willie Montanez, and hometown favorite Rocky Colavito.

Perhaps Reading forgot to replace the home run derby pitcher as the Senators strafed the Phillies 19-4 on 24 hits, including three long balls to maintain the best record in baseball.

Already ahead 10-0 in the fifth inning, Harrisburg’s Cliff Floyd unleashed on Eric Hill’s 2-2 pitch sending the ball deep into the night. The mammoth home run cleared the stadium’s outer brick wall and landed amongst the passing traffic on Route 61.

The solo shot for Floyd, his 21st of the season, tied the modern team record for homers by a Senator with Wes Chamberlain. The USA Today Minor League Player of the Year would add five more on the season for Harrisburg.

“My motto is to go up to the plate and swing as hard as I can,” Floyd told The Patriot-News’ Andy Linker. “Not wild and crazy swings, but nice and hard and aggressive.”

29. Chris Stowers – Put Me in Coach (Sept 6, 1998)

Maybe the Senators don’t win their third straight Eastern League championship if Harrisburg manager Rick Sweet stuck with his original lineup. Tied with the Trenton Thunder in the playoff push with two games to play, Sweet considered resting Chris Stowers after playing in all but seven games during the long season.

Instead, Sweet changed his mind and penciled Stowers into the two-hole of the Harrisburg batting order. The outfielder, fortunately, proved the offensive catalyst for the Senators’ Sunday tilt in Portland.

Stowers started a two-run rally with a double that would increase the Senators’ lead to 4-1 in the third inning. Four frames later, the then 24-year-old led off with a solo home run against Sea Dogs reliever Mick Pageler to push the advantage to four runs.

Harrisburg would go on for the 7-1 victory to clinch at least a tie for the Eastern League’s final Southern Division playoff spot. Hours later, the tie dissolved into an outright stake of second as Trenton lost 14-4 to clinch the Senators’ seventh trip to the postseason in eight seasons as the Montreal Expos’ Class AA affiliate.

28. Tyrone Woods – When Opportunity Knocks (September 10, 1993)

All season long manager Jim Tracy knew the right buttons to push for his 94-win Harrisburg Senators. He wanted his team to take care of business when it had the opportunity up two games to one on the Albany-Colonie Yankees in the Eastern League semifinals.

After waiting out a nearly two-hour rain delay to start Game 4, the Senators didn’t exactly take their manager’s pregame talk to heart. The Yankees jumped on Harrisburg starter Reid Cornelius for a pair of first-inning runs to stake the early 2-0 lead.

But Harrisburg had an answer. Slugger Tyrone Horne led off the top of the second inning with an infield single bringing Tyrone Woods to the plate.

The 24-year-old had struggled to find playing time in the outfield all season, but with promotions to Cliff Floyd, Rondell White, and Curtis Pride, Woods suddenly became a vital cog for Harrisburg in their championship quest. The Florida native began the game leading all hitters in the playoffs with a .583 average.

Woods remained hot, smoking a 1-0 pitch deep over the Heritage Park left-field wall, taking one bounce before hitting the clubhouse roof.

“I know now I’m going to be in the lineup,” Woods told Linker. “When I come through the doors, I’m in the right frame of mind.”

The homer evened the score and settled the Senators who went on to clinch the 8-4 victory sending them to the Eastern League finals for the fourth time in seven seasons.

27. Vladimir Guerrero – A Sign of Things to Come (May 1, 1996)

Photo courtesy Will Bentzel / Harrisburg Senators

Vladimir Guerrero hadn’t played in five days due to a minor injury to his finger when the Montreal Expos promoted him from Class A West Palm Beach. The Dominican prospect didn’t need much time to shake off the rust in his first action back on the diamond on City Island.

In the nightcap of a doubleheader on his first day, Guerrero singled in the first then crushed a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning.

“It just goes to show that everything we’ve heard about him is true,” Senators manager Pat Kelly told Linker. “I saw him take one at-bat in spring training. You hear everybody rave about him, how great he is. You just don’t know what’s going to happen the first time a guy steps to the plate in double-A. But, boy, everything he hit was hard…He stands in there, and he looks like a hitter, so it was impressive.”

The Senators promptly reeled off 19 wins in its first 25 games with Guerrero in the starting lineup.

26. Brad Wilkerson – Lucky Number Nine (Sept 8, 1999)

Despite winning three straight Eastern League championships, Harrisburg entered the 1999 playoffs as the prohibitive underdog. The Senators had the worst record of the four teams, and their first-round opponent, the Erie SeaWolves, had been in first place every day since May 28.

Seven innings of Game 1 did little to dispel that myth as the Senators trailed 6-2 with only six outs left. But then Harrisburg mounted the first of two rallies that would change its fortunes.

Andy Tracy led off the frame with a solo homer to center off Scot Shields. The Erie right-hander induced a Brian Schneider groundout, but Jeremy Ware chased Shields with a single up the middle. Cody Salter was summoned from the SeaWolves’ bullpen to face Brad Wilkerson and quickly found himself in an eight-pitch battle with the Senators’ outfielder.

The ninth pitch of the at-bat was the decider as Wilkerson deposited the Salter offering deep over the wall in right to cut Erie’s lead to 6-5.

“That was a great at-bat,” Senators’ manager Doug Sisson told Linker. “That gives you a little lift there.”

As for the rest of the game, well, we’ll get to that later in the countdown.

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Catching Up with…John Simms

Without baseball on the horizon, I’m using this time to connect with former Senators (all of them can be found here).

We will relive some of their fondest memories and find out what they’re up to now. This week we’re staying on mound for John Simms.

The Nationals selected Simms in the 2013 11th round out of Rice University. The right-hander made 67 appearances (including 49 starts) over parts or all of the 2014, 2015, 2016,and 2017 seasons with Harrisburg pitching to a 3.88 ERA. Simms also ranks sixth in team history with 242 strikeouts.

Photo courtesy Sam Getty / Harrisburg Senators

Mayflies: What are you currently doing?

John Simms: After playing in 2018, I looked around, talked to other organizations about where they saw me for the next season. That was when I realized that my time in baseball was coming to an end. I’ve always said baseball will tell you when it’s time to go, but you have to be willing to listen.

Since my last game, I went to Driveline in Seattle to train, got married, went back to school at Rice University to get my degree, got my degree, and got a dog. Recently I started working at a medical device company. We specialize in orthopedic total joint replacements. I began working at their Houston location a few weeks after my graduation from Rice University, and a few weeks before coronavirus shut down hospitals in Houston.

MF: What is your fondest memory of playing in Harrisburg?

JS: As far as a baseball life is concerned, I spent quite a bit of time in Harrisburg. During that time, I met some amazing people. First and foremost was Allison and Jimmy Creighton and their daughter Faith, who were my host family for my last two years. They are an amazing family that made my time in Harrisburg much better.

Anyone that knows me also knows that I loved to explore different places before and after games. But that really centered around coffee and food before and after games while I try and wind down and relax away from the field. A few of my favorite places had amazing people that I got to know. As a coffee ‘snob’ (according to my teammates), I found a home at Little Amps coffee, thanks to Peter Leonard and Aaron Carlson. I also found a few friends along the way. One of them was Tom McGrath, who was the cocktail director at Cork and Fork (forgive me if he isn’t there anymore) but Tom was awesome for letting me squeeze an order of food in before close and then hanging out and talking for longer than most people should want to.

As far as baseball is concerned, let’s just say that three out of my four groomsmen were road roommates from my time in Harrisburg. And my highlight was definitely starting the 2018 AA All-Star game in New Hampshire and finding a way not to get shelled and escape with a clean inning.

MF: Going back to the beginning…why baseball?

JS: Baseball has always been the sport I gravitated to. Specifically, pitching was more fun to me than anything else I ever did. The days after weren’t always fun, but actually competing was the most difficult yet rewarding challenge. I always enjoyed trying to beat hitters by thinking one step ahead of them. I always had a knack for understanding what a hitter was trying to do or couldn’t do. Now attacking that weakness was a different story because the higher I went, the ability to exploit a weakness got harder and harder to do. It also made the challenge that much more rewarding when games went well.

MF: What was your greatest or favorite day in baseball?

JS: My greatest day is probably not a realistic thing for me to identify. But I think there are a handful of games that mean more. I was the type of pitcher that had to get emotional to “lock-in” to the game. Anger and sadness were usually the easier ones to tap into well. Frustration could go either way for performing well or poorly. So my best games where I was completely locked in, also had something emotional wrapped around it. Whether it was the last day of the 2014 draft realizing that two of my closest friends had their dreams of playing pro ball shattered even though I believe even to this day that they were good enough. Another game I remember is the game I pitched after Hurricane Harvey had ravaged through my hometown of Houston while I was thousands of miles away. My final game for the Chiefs also stands out since I pitched well against the PawSox even though my hip was in agonizing pain all morning. Those games are etched in my mind as games where everything went right even while things around me weren’t always right.

MF: What factors went into your decision to stop playing?

JS: I asked for my release from the Nationals because I did not see a path for me to the major leagues with the Nationals. They obliged because otherwise, someone deserving from AA would have had to get sent down. AAA couldn’t keep me either because a player in MLB came off the DL and sent a trickle-down effect to the minors, and I was the guy without a home.

After that, I went to Driveline in Seattle to train while trying to stay ready for any potential calls. When I went there, they did a bio-mechanical analysis of my mechanics. They identified a potential area of improvement in my back leg directionality. We worked on it for a month, and during that time, I heard back from teams saying that they didn’t have room but might circle back before next year’s spring training. At that time, I realized that the reason there was a back leg issue was because of my hip surgery in 2014. When we tried to fix the problem, my hip screamed out in agonizing pain. With the pain, no fix in sight, and no concrete desire from other organizations, I heard baseball tell me it was time to move on with my life.

Thanks to John for taking the time out of his schedule to answer our questions.

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The greatest home runs in Harrisburg Senators modern history: Nos. 35 to 31

Welcome to the second in a series of posts ranking the greatest home runs in Harrisburg Senators modern history (otherwise known as when baseball returned to City Island in 1987).

Part 1 covering homers 40 through 36 can be found here.

Just like Casey Kasem, I’ll be counting them down from 40 to 1 as we make our way to the top of the list.

I have tried to be as comprehensive as possible, but the odds are good I’ll be kicking myself later for leaving off a dinger or two. That also goes for ones that you might remember more fondly; after all, sometimes it’s about the memories and what they mean to you.

I am also positive my rankings will upset some and infuriate others. Hopefully, though, this will be a fun little exercise that helps us all re-live the most significant home runs in Senators’ history.

So without further ado…

35. Tony Blanco – Over the Green Monster (August 11, 2007)

Tony Blanco spent four years in the Red Sox system after initially signing with the team in 1998 as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic.

Presumably, he dreamed of one day starring for Boston while bombing baseballs over the famed Green Monster at Fenway Park. But that never happened for Blanco as the organization released him after the 2002 season.

However, five years later, as a Harrisburg Senator, he had the chance to fulfill that dream during the 2007 season.

On August 11, the Senators and Portland Sea Dogs played the second game of a minor league doubleheader dubbed the Futures at Fenway at Boston’s famed ballpark in front of an announced crowd of 34,746.

Fourteen minutes into the game, after walks to Brandon Powell and Josh Whitesell, Blanco launched a three-run home run over the fabled Green Monster in left field to give the visiting Senators the early 3-0 advantage. Yes, four relievers combined to blow three different leads, as the Senators lost 12-11, but Blanco already had his big league moment.

34. Brad Fullmer – In the Driver’s Seat (September 9, 1996)

Up 1-0 in the best-of-five 1996 Eastern League Championship Series, the Harrisburg Senators had a small cushion for error. But don’t tell Brad Fullmer that.

“This was a crucial game,” the left-fielder told The Patriot-News’ Andy Linker. “There’s pressure on both teams, but we needed this game, and we needed to be ahead 2-0 going up to Portland.”

Fullmer let his bat do the talking on the field as he rocketed a two-run homer in the first inning off Sea Dogs’ starter Livan Hernandez to give Harrisburg a 3-0 lead. It was precisely the kind of start the Senators needed since it was also the last hit they managed in the game. Hernandez and reliever Robbie Stanifer retired 23 straight batters after Fullmer’s homer.

But the three runs were enough as Harrisburg hung on for the 3-2 victory to move the Senators within one game of their second playoff title in four seasons and third since baseball returned to City Island in 1987.

33. Ron Johns – Capping Off a Perfect Day (June 17, 1987)

In a game where Harrisburg shellacked the Albany-Colonie Yankees 26-9 on 26 hits, there were bound to be more than a few individual performances that stood out. I doubt anyone would have bet any money on the newest Senator to have a day that has yet to be topped in team history, though.

The Montreal Expos acquired Ron Johns from the St. Louis Cardinals in a late May trade for local Mechanicsburg product Ben Abner. Johns, a former third-round draft pick of the Cardinals, was playing in only his third game on City Island when he left a sensational impression on the Senators’ faithful.

Hitting out of the cleanup spot, the then 24-year-old singled in his first three at-bats in the second, third, and fourth innings. That was already a stellar day at the plate for Johns, but then it became legendary.

His next three at-bats followed with a solo shot, a grand slam, and a two-run homer to become the first Senator to hit three home runs in a game and finish a perfect 6-for-6 with five runs scored and nine RBI.

“I was dreaming tonight,” Johns told The Patriot-News’ Skip Hutter. “I never had a game like this. I hit two home runs a couple of times, but not three, not even close to it.”

“They were all fastballs I hit out. The first two times up, I couldn’t get the bat around. After that, I was having no problem.”

32. Crash Brown – A Historic First (April 11, 1987)

Professional baseball had been absent from Harrisburg for 35 years when the Senators took the field for the first game of the 1987 season in their newly built $1.4 million RiverSide Stadium. A sell-out crowd of 4,083 fans came out in full force for its return to City Island.

They clapped, stomped, and even helped Nancy Wambach finish the National Anthem before the game. The one thing they couldn’t do was will the Senators to an opening day victory as the Vermont Reds won handily 11-5.

But that didn’t mean the spectators had nothing to cheer about on this glorious day.

The Senators struggled against Vermont starting pitcher Glenn Spagnola managing to eek only a few balls out of the infield until the fourth inning. Trailing 9-1, Craig “Crash” Brown turned on a pitch, driving it high and deep over and beyond the left-centerfield fence.

Sure, it didn’t put much of a dent into the Reds’ lead, but Brown’s solo shot was much more than that.

It was the team’s first home run in modern history.

31. Andy Tracy – A Record-Breaker (August 12, 1999)

Andy Tracy’s pursuit of the Senators’ single-season home run record was quick and to the point. Less than a week before, Tracy was sitting four behind Izzy Alcantara at 23 home runs, but then the Bowling Green State University product went on his latest tear.

Three long balls in four games left Tracy on the precipice of team history as Harrisburg traveled to Binghamton for a weekend series.

He wouldn’t need the series to end the drama. He wouldn’t even need a game. Just one at-bat is all it took.

Tracy gave the Senators a 2-0 lead in the first inning with a two-run opposite-field homer off rehabbing MLBer Bobby Jones breaking Alcantara’s two-year-old franchise record.

The home run helped propel the Senators to a 10-4 victory, their 13th win in 16 games to move one game ahead of Bowie for the Southern Division’s second and final playoff spot with 23 games remaining in the regular season.

Tracy would go on to hit to nine more regular-season home runs to finish with 37 on the season. Twenty-one years later, that record still holds.

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The greatest home runs in Harrisburg Senators modern history: Nos. 40 to 36

Welcome to the first in a series of posts ranking the greatest home runs in Harrisburg Senators modern history (otherwise known as when baseball returned to City Island in 1987).

Just like Casey Kasem, I’ll be counting them down from 40 to 1 as we make our way to the top of the list.

I have tried to be as comprehensive as possible, but the odds are good I’ll be kicking myself later for leaving off a dinger or two. That also goes for ones that you might remember more fondly; after all, sometimes it’s about the memories and what they mean to you.

I am also positive my rankings will upset some and infuriate others. Hopefully, though, this will be a fun little exercise that helps us all re-live the most significant home runs in Senators’ history.

So without further ado…

40. Chris Rahl – King of the Home Run Derby (July 10, 2012)


At no point should anyone think putting a cocktail party, a live concert, an elementary school carnival, a Cirque du Soleil performance, and a home run derby together would be a good idea. Yet, that’s what the Reading Phillies pulled off successfully when they hosted the 2012 Eastern League All-Star Game festivities.

Take everything you thought you knew about home run derbies and throw it out the window. Deadspin called it “drug-induced” and a “fever dream of a competition.” Off the Bench thought it resembled the crazy rules of Calvinball, that beautiful game played by a little boy and his stuffed tiger. After seeing it in action, I’m more prone to compare it to the old MTV Rock N’ Jock softball games where there were mud wrestling rings and palm trees in the field of play.

It was all of those things and more.

Even the winner, Harrisburg’s own Chris Rahl, didn’t have a plan before stepping in the batter’s box. “I have no idea,” the outfielder said. “I looked at the sheet, and I looked at some of the scoring breakdowns for some of the things. We pulled it up on YouTube and saw exactly what was going to be on the field.”

Rahl’s big hit during his two-minute round was a shot to dead center worth a whopping 100 points when it ricocheted off the crane sitting beyond the outfield wall. It was an advantage that no batter after Rahl could repeat, and it secured the victory for the Senators’ outfielder.

“Its one of those things I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Rahl said. “It was a lot of fun, I had a great time.”

39. Jon Tucker – The Foreshadow Knows (May 30, 1999)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Vaunted Norwich closer and Eastern League saves leader Joe Lisio surrenders a walk-off grand slam on a two-out, full-count pitch to a Harrisburg batter. That may sound familiar because the same scenario will also happen four months later in a much more crucial situation. (But more on that further along in this countdown.)

Lisio entered the ninth inning for the Navigators protecting a 5-4 lead before two singles and two walks tied the game up, loaded the bases, and brought Senators’ first baseman Jon Tucker to the plate.

Tucker, who to that point in the season, was hitting a meager .184 average with runners in scoring position, fell behind 1-2 in the at-bat before drawing two balls to push the count to full. The next pitch, Lisio’s 33rd of the inning, rocketed off Tucker’s bat as he drove the offering the opposite way over the left-field wall to give the Senators the 9-5 victory.

“I just wanted to hit a line drive,” Tucker told The Patriot-News’ Andy Linker.

38. Brad Coon – On the Brink of the Playoffs (September 5, 2010)

Photo courtesy Will Bentzel / Harrisburg Senators

Deadlocked with the Bowie Baysox with two games to play for the final playoff spot, Senators center fielder Brad Coon picked the perfect time to have a career day. The then 27-year-old finished 5-for-5, including a solo home run to kickstart the Harrisburg offense on its way to a 13-3 victory over Binghamton.

In the top of the third inning, Coon launched a solo home run, his sixth round-tripper of the season, to break the scoreless tie and open the floodgates. The Senators went on to send twelve batters to the plate, including Coon again for a two-run single as Harrisburg put up an 8-spot in the frame.

The win, coupled with Bowie’s 1-0 loss to Richmond, left the Senators with their destiny in their hands up one game with one to play for their first playoff berth since 2002.

37. Valentino Pascucci / Matt Cepicky / Scott Hodges – A Baseball Turkey (April 23, 2001)

Altoona reliever Geraldo Padua was summoned from the bullpen to start the eighth inning protecting a 2-1 Curve lead over Harrisburg. The right-hander retired the first two batters before running into trouble through the heart of the Senators’ batting order.

Padua got ahead on Valentino Pascucci 0-2 before the first baseman evened the count and fouled off a pitch to stay alive. The next offering, Padua’s fourth straight slider, came in faster than it went out as Pascucci rattled a long ball off the third tier of billboards in left field to tie the score at 2.

Before the applause could barely die down, Matt Cepicky drove the next pitch, a fastball, over the wall in right-center to give the Senators a 3-2 lead. Scott Hodges followed suit as he also deposited the first pitch of his at-bat over the fence.

Three straight pitches. Three straight home runs.

“When Val hit his home run, I thought their pitcher was going to want to get ahead in the count,” Cepicky told Linker. “Nine out of 10 times, he’s going to want to put one in there because he doesn’t want to get behind. … You’re looking for something to drive.”

36. Jeff McAvoy – The Reliever Walks it Off (May 24, 2002)

When pitcher Jeff McAvoy was called on to hit during the 2002 season with the Harrisburg Senators, it marked the first time he had batted in a game since high school. He had gone five seasons between college at Western Carolina and Ole Miss, and the minor leagues at Cape Fear and Jupiter without picking up a bat.

Harrisburg manager Dave Huppert sent McAvoy up to the plate three times that season. Still, I’m sure the now Miami Marlins Vice President of Player Personnel only remembers one of them 18 years later.

The Binghamton Mets plated two runs in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game up at four and force extra innings. McAvoy, the fourth Senators pitcher, came into the game to pitch the top of the 11th inning. He did his job on the mound, holding Binghamton scoreless on one hit over three frames.

But Harrisburg was unable to scratch across a winning run either. So as the game went deep into the night and with nobody left on the bench, McAvoy had to bat for himself.

With one out in the 13th, the Palmer, Massachusetts native sent the remaining fans home happy from RiverSide Stadium as he homered off Rene Vega to lift the Senators to a 5-4 win.

It was, and remains, McAvoy’s only hit of his career.

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Catching Up with…Danny Rosenbaum

Without baseball on the horizon, I’m using this time to connect with former Senators (all of them can be found here).

We will relive some of their fondest memories and find out what they’re up to now. This week we’re signaling for the southpaw for Danny Rosenbaum.

The Nationals selected Rosenbaum in the 2009 22nd round out of Xavier University. The left-hander made 35 starts over the 2011 and 2012 seasons with Harrisburg pitching to a 3.61 ERA.

Photo courtesy Will Bentzel / Harrisburg Senators

Mayflies: What are you currently doing?

Danny Rosenbaum: My wife Alexis and I bought a house in West Orange, New Jersey. We moved to NJ about three years ago for a new career opportunity. I am a sales engineer for a great company called Ketchum and Walton Company, focusing on selling noise control products. I also do some pitching lessons and clinics during the offseason.

Before I moved to NJ, I co-owned a baseball facility in Cincinnati all the years while I was playing and for a year after I retired. I really love passing the knowledge I gained throughout my baseball career to young athletes to help them both on and off the field. I miss being around the game sometimes, and teaching kids helps me cope with that.

MF: What is your fondest memory of playing in Harrisburg?

DR: This is a tough question. I really enjoyed every moment of it. I love my teammates, my coaches, and the fans. The stadium was awesome. So many great things happened there. I met so many great people and formed so many relationships that I still talk to today, like the two of the previous interviewees, Sean Nicol and Neil Holland. Sean was my roommate in 2012. Yes, I LOVE competing and 100% miss competing at that level, but being with my teammates is probably the #1 thing I miss most.

Playing moments – One of the first games I pitched the game against Trenton in 2011 when Harper hit a walk-off 2-run home run over the batter’s eye for the 3-2 win…WOW. 2011 we made the playoffs, and the island flooded, which forced us to play all our games in Richmond. I also had my first professional hit playing with the Senators.

MF: Going back to the beginning…why baseball?

DR: It definitely came from my dad and his side of the family. My dad, my uncle, and my grandpa all grew up playing baseball. I loved the game ever since I could remember, and I was always good at it. I was always practicing with my dad. Whether it was going down to the basement to hit off the tee or going to a park and work on fielding. If I wasn’t with my dad, I was always outside competing with friends or teammates, imitating some of my favorite players like Ken Griffey, Jr. I couldn’t get enough of it. And if I wasn’t playing or practicing, I was probably watching the Reds, or I would be studying my card collection. I love the competition. I played other sports like basketball and soccer, but baseball was my first true love.

Growing up, I was never a pitcher. I would only pitch if we were up or down a lot. I really didn’t start pitching until I was about 14 years old. All my friends hit their growth spurt early on, and I was a late bloomer. So my basketball career ended when I was a sophomore. At that point, I was really able to focus on baseball and especially pitching. My velocity started developing along with my off-speed stuff. At that point knew I had a chance to play at least at the next level (college). By the time my senior year rolled around, I had started to have some pro scouts attend my games. I had realized my ultimate dream of playing at the professional level was absolutely obtainable, and I wanted it more than ever.

MF: What was your greatest or favorite day in baseball?

CB: There are too many moments to solidify just one. Draft day, my first professional game, my last…the list goes on and on. But there is always one that sticks out. In 2014 in big league camp with the Nationals, we went on the road in Tampa to play the Yankees. I was supposed to pitch towards the end of the game after the bigger name guys got their work in. Ross Detwiler started and ran into the trouble in the first and then again in the second. They told me to get going and warm up quickly. The next guy got a hit, and I was told that I had the next hitter. It was 1st and 3rd with one out, and I jogged in from the bullpen.

I did not know who I was facing until I started warming up on the game mound. Keep in mind this is also my first hitter of the spring. I see out of the corner of my eye someone swinging, and I knew I had seen that swing hundred of times. It was “The Captain” Derek Jeter, and it was his retirement year. I was told probably about five times that there was one out. I usually never get nervous, but come on.

Well, I threw a sinker…ball one. Next pitch…4 seamer in…strike one. Next pitch…curveball…ground ball double play. I started walking around the mound like there were two outs, while everyone else was running off the field. It was so great because my work was done for the day!

MF: What factors went into your decision to stop playing?

DR: In 2014, I had Tommy John surgery. I was traded to the Red Sox before spring training started in 2015. I spent most of the year rehabbing and then was sent on my assignment after the all-star break. My arm just never felt right again. I tried everything, and it just continued to hurt. I then went out to the Arizona Fall League that year and pitched really well. I got an invite to big league camp with the Red Sox in 2016.

Right at the beginning of camp during live BP, I got hurt again. I did not pitch the rest of the spring and ended up getting released. They thought it was just inflammation, but I ended up having a bone chip in my elbow. I had a couple of tryouts while I was home and unfortunately did not have any offers besides playing indy ball, and I promised myself if it came down to that, I would stop playing.

Being hurt was extremely difficult on me mentally because I had never been hurt, never went on the DL until I had surgery. I did not want to rehab again, and I felt like baseball was becoming more of a job than just going out and competing and having fun. So, a couple of days before I thought I was going to play indy ball, I woke up the next morning and told my wife I was done. That was a tough day, but I felt like it was the right thing to do, I do not regret anything during my playing career. I gave it all I had and then some.

Thanks to Danny for taking the time out of his schedule to answer our questions.

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The Team of the 2010s

Here is the Senators Team of the 2010s as voted by you the readers…

1B Tyler Moore, 2B Steve Lombardozzi, SS Danny Espinosa, 3B Anthony Rendon

OF Michael Taylor, OF Steven Souza, OF Chris Rahl

C Sandy Leon, UT Adrian Sanchez, DH Bill Rhinehart

RHSP Stephen Strasburg, LHSP Tommy Milone, Reliever Aaron Barrett

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The Team of the 2010s: Reliever Aaron Barrett

Photo courtesy Sam Getty / Harrisburg Senators

Aaron Barrett (2013, 2019) – 1-3 57 saves, 2.45 ERA, WHIP 1.07, 131 K

Ahead 8-4 in last year’s opening day game against the Baysox, Harrisburg Senators manager Matt LeCroy made a familiar call to the bullpen for the final three outs. The door swung open, the recognizable opening to Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” came on the PA system, and Aaron Barrett jogged to the FNB Field mound.

Media members are not supposed to cheer in the press box, but sometimes they root with all of their hearts. I can tell you that’s true because I did that night in his return to City Island.

It was just the first of a 140-game season, but for Barrett, it was another step in his long, arduous journey back from Tommy John surgery and subsequent broken humerus he suffered during rehab.

I had covered him back in 2013 when he saved 26 games and helped the Senators reach the Eastern League finals for the first time since 2002. During that season, I came to know the man they call “Bear” as a compassionate, straight-shooter who almost always wore a smile on his face.

I cannot imagine the inner courage, faith, and perseverance he had to get on the bump day after day, fighting the doubt and pain. I’ve read the accounts, and I’ve heard the story of the journey back. It still amazes me.

So to see him set down the final three Bowie batters in order last year was one of those moments I’ll never forget.

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Catching Up with…Colin Bates

Without baseball on the horizon, I’m using this time to connect with former Senators. We will relive some of their fondest memories and find out what they’re up to now. This week we’re making yet another call to the bullpen for Colin Bates.

The Nationals selected Bates in the 2010 23rd round out of the University of North Carolina. The right-hander made 67 appearances including 16 starts over the 2014 and 2015 seasons with Harrisburg pitching to a 4.03 ERA.

Photo courtesy Will Bentzel / Harrisburg Senators

Mayflies: What are you currently doing?

Colin Bates: Since the conclusion of my playing career, I have been working for a Registered Investment Advisor and Trust Company here in Chapel Hill, North Carolina – Franklin Street Partners. Within the firm, we have a Family Office group that helps to advise primarily Professional Athlete clients as they navigate their everyday lives. It has been great to stay involved working with athletes in this capacity, while helping guys transition from college in to professional athletics and beyond. I recently took on the Executive MBA program at UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan Flagler Business School, and graduated in November of 2019. I’ve enjoyed finding ways to put lessons learned in the program in to practice right away within my role at work.

On the family front, my wife Cydney and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary this past October, and welcomed our first son, Jarrett, in to the world this February. We feel very blessed to have a happy, healthy boy to share our lives with! Our 9-month-old yellow lab, Isla, keeps us on our toes as well; it has been fun to see our family grow.

MF: What is your fondest memory of playing in Harrisburg?

CB: My fondest memory of playing in Harrisburg would be having the good fortune of participating in the Eastern League All-Star Game in 2014. When Neil Holland was unable to make the trip, I was thrilled to get to fill in his place. I had never been able to play in a game like that throughout my minor league career. As challenging of a road as I had to make it to that point, it definitely gave me the confidence to feel like I belonged at that level and could succeed there.

When it comes to the folks in Harrisburg, I’ve got to give a shoutout to Chris and Sheryl Delozier, my host family for two years. They were overly gracious to have me in their home without asking for anything in return. Looking back on my whole minor league career, I am amazed at the families that open their homes for folks like us and understand how difficult it can be without people like them! We still exchange Christmas cards and the like, it has been crazy to see their kids grow up!

MF: Going back to the beginning…why baseball?

CB: Much like most of us would probably mention, in the beginning, it was just something that came more naturally to me than other sports. In general, I think it is fun to compete at things you are relatively good at!

I would say I continued to pursue it as I fell more and more in love with the game and everything it represents. I don’t think there is a purer form of competition (outside of maybe a street fight) than that between a pitcher and a hitter. I loved the adrenaline it would stir up, and do not feel it is possible to find anywhere else. I love what you can learn about a teammate, a team, a coach, or yourself over the seven months of a season; there is just nothing like it!

MF: What was your greatest or favorite day in baseball?

CB: Go ahead and start the glory days soundtrack on this one. My best memory playing baseball dates back my high school team being able to win our State Championship. We had an incredibly close group of players, families, and coaches that had been through a lot leading up to our senior season. Our two coaches both had their own personal battles with cancer throughout the season, alternating who could be at practice each week. They had been coaching for 30+ years at the time without ever winning a championship; for us to be able to deliver that for them was something I will cherish forever.

MF: What factors went into your decision to stop playing?

CB: I would definitely credit this to running through the pros and cons of what continuing to play meant for me and my family. While I felt as though I could continue to compete, and hate that I fell short of my goal of making the big leagues, the cons of being away from family and making next to no money, it was time to be done after that 2015 season. I think me at my best was good enough to make the big leagues, but realistically I wasn’t the best version of myself often enough!

I’ve enjoyed my time since then setting new goals and look forward to each new stage of life with our growing family!

Thanks to Colin for taking the time out of his schedule to answer our questions.

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Forgotten Seasons: Josh McKinley 2003

Time and distance have let some excellent and outstanding seasons slip away from our collective memory. Occasionally, I’ll highlight some of those seasons here.

First-round draft picks inherently carry lofty expectations. Organizations expect the player to not only become a future cornerstone for the team but hope they will become the next superstar.

Montreal expected big things from Josh McKinley when they selected him with the 11th overall pick of the 1998 amateur draft out of Malvern Prep and gave him a $1.25 million signing bonus. But the switch-hitting middle infielder had failed to live up to that promise in five seasons, including a disappointing 2002 campaign in Harrisburg where he batted a career-low .234 and committed 19 errors.

An ankle injury early in the season left McKinley less than 100 percent and hampered him trying to play catch up with his assimilation to Double-A. Worse, the defensive problems the 23-year-old had ending up affecting his offense as well.

“I’d go out there some nights and feel like I couldn’t get out. Other nights, I’d be worried about stuff, and I wasn’t even thinking in the box,” McKinley told The Patriot-News’ Andy Linker. “I need to worry about my at-bats. I can’t take a let’s see-what-happens attitude. I have to have a plan every at-bat.”

McKinley was determined to get off on the right foot in 2003, proving the previous season didn’t represent who he was as a player. He made huge strides during the winter months with hitting coach Frank Cacciatore in Orlando, honing his mechanics and approach at the plate. McKinley was then able to carry that over into spring training and his return assignment to Harrisburg.

The second baseman began the year by earning Eastern League Player of the Week honors. It was the first of many accolades McKinley would garner during a breakout season where he hit .288 with 33 doubles, 15 home runs, 82 runs scored, and 75 runs batted in. For his efforts, the Eastern League selected him for the All-Star Game, where he collected an RBI single during his appearance.

“This year has been a whole night and day experience from last year for me,” he offered to The Patriot-News’ Roxanne Moses.

His manager, Dave Machemer, had nothing but praise for McKinley and his work ethic with the opinion that it would see him reach the highest level.

“He’s not afraid to work,” Machemer said. “He’s here at 1:30 every day, hitting early and fielding early. And, he asks questions — and when you ask questions, you understand more.

“I’ve seen a lot of players come and go [to the majors] and, I’m telling you, Josh McKinley is going to play there.”

Machemer wasn’t the only one that believed that either. Cacciatore, then the Expos’ minor-league hitting coordinator, also projected him to be able to hit in the major leagues someday.

However, that day never happened for McKinley.

Along with pitcher Chris Young, McKinley was traded to the Texas Rangers right before the 2004 season began. He struggled at Class AA Frisco batting only .212 as they continued the experiment Montreal had begun, trying to convert him to a catcher or outfielder. The Texas organization saw all they needed to after 45 games and sent him back to Montreal in yet another trade.

McKinley finished the season back on City Island, but his numbers were never the same. That was the last he played professionally, and just like that, he was out of the game.

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The Team of the 2010s: Reliever

We’re picking this up were we left off last year…We’ll be running polls to determine the Harrisburg Senators’ Team of the 2010s. When we’re done, we’ll have starters for every position on the field including a designated hitter, utility player, right-handed and left-handed starter, and reliever.

Did a player turn into a MLB superstar? Or maybe he was a legend on City Island? Or just maybe he was your favorite because he was a better person than a player? Or you just loved his walk-up songs? How you make your selection is solely up to you.

Mondays we will post that week’s poll and Fridays we will announce the winner. You can only vote once a day, but that means you get five opportunities to stuff the ballot box.

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