Posted: Saturday, April 27, 2013 10:17 pm
PALMER — There was a time when Pete Scott hardly followed baseball at all. Now the Valley man is among the biggest fans of the Mat-Su Miners, and for home games at Hermon Brothers Field, he can always be found in his spot; high up the bleachers along the third base line.
Earlier this year, Scott was one of a handful of Miners fans brought together by Mat-Su general manager Pete Christopher to put together the Miners’ first all-decade team.
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Christopher, in his 11th year as the general manager of the Valley-based Alaska Baseball League organization, wanted to create a new tradition for the team, while recognizing some of the top talent to wear the Miners’ green and gold from 2000 through 2009.
To help chose the team, Christopher brought together a select panel that included Scott, Chuck Griffin, Erwin Easter and Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz.
“I thought it was great,” Scott said of the all-decade team. “The players that come up here, they might not go on to the next level. This might be a highlight for some of them, playing in the ABL. I think it’s a great experience for somebody.”
For Christopher and the Miners fans, it was also designed as a way to help pay back a group of Miners who provided so many memories and moments for local baseball fans. Scott his time as a regular fan at Hermon Brothers came just about the time Christopher took over as general manager in 2003.
“Since the Christophers took over, there’s more of a family atmosphere. It’s a real community event. Every home game, to draw that many people to anything in the Valley is a huge success, whether it’s a concert or a sporting event. They do it consistently,” Scott said. “I wasn’t really a baseball fan to begin with. I was more of a football and basketball fan.”
Scott said when he started going to Miners games, he could tell it was something special.
“It’s like the basketball shootout,” Scott said, referring to UAA’s Great Alaska Shootout. “You could tell immediately these guys are on a different level. It’s the same with the ABL.”
Griffin has been a regular at Hermon Brothers and a staunch supporter of the team, since the first days of ABL baseball in the Valley. Griffin said at one point, former Miners general manager Stan Zaborac had put together his all-time team, but this is the first time someone has put together an official all-decade list.
A great decade, in which the Miners won three ABL titles and finished with 20 or more wins for six straight years, produced a myriad of Miners talent for the committee to choose from.
“There were some great clubs in there,” Griffin said.
When thinking of the Miners and the decade, Griffin said pitchers are among the first players to come to mind, one season in particular.
“The pitching we had in 2004,” Griffin said.
Mat-Su won an ABL title in 2004, and finished runner-up in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. A big part of the Miners’ success was due to a pitching staff that included San Joaquin Delta Community College right-hander Chris Malone, North Carolina-Greensboro right-hander Chris Mason and Stanford righty Jeff Gilmore.
All three were selected by the committee and placed on the all-decade team.
“Gilmore stands out. He gave you something on the mound every time. That was almost a given,” Griffin said. “Mason impressed me. Malone was kind of a silent killer out there.”
Mason finished the summer 7-1 with a 2.09 earned run average, while Malone was 6-0 with a 1.99 ERA. Both fanned 56 hitters. Malone tossed a no-hitter during a win over the Alaska Goldpanners.
Gilmore posted a 0.67 ERA in 27 innings of work. He was 3-1 with 40 strikeouts.
Scott said Lehigh catcher Matt McBride, who is currently in the Colorado Rockies organization, was among the first players he thought of.
“He’s the best catcher I’ve seen up here,” Scott said.
McBride, Mason, Malone and Gilmore are among 20 players and a manager selected to the all-decade team. Four honorable mentions were also named.
Baylor lefthander Josh Scott (2000), Washington right-hander Jason Erickson (2007, 2008) and Washington State lefty David Stilley (2009) were named all-decade starter pitchers, along with Mason and Malone.
Erickson made a combined 15 starts during his two summers in Palmer. In 2007, the Washington product was 3-3 with a 1.56 ERA in 52 innings. The following summer, Erickson was 7-1 with a 2.62 ERA in 48 innings.
Stilley was 4-1 with 43 strikeouts and a 1.95 ERA during eight starts in 2009. Scott was 5-1 with a 1.41 ERA in 2000.
Gilmore, California right-hander Alex Trafton (2005), College of Charleston righty Josh McLaughlin (2005), Oklahoma right-hander Michael Rocha (2008) and San Diego Mesa Community College southpaw Max Peterson (2007, 2008) were named all-decade relief pitchers.
The 2005 pitching staff included a pair of Major Leaguers (Marc Rzepczynski and BJ Rosenburg), but McLaughlin and Trafton were among the standouts that summer. McLaughlin finished with an impressive 11 saves for the 28-win Miners. He also had 33 strikeouts in 22 innings. Trafton was 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA. Trafton made one start, but the majority of his 36.67 innings came out of the bullpen.
Rocha and Peterson both pitched for the Miners in 2008. Rocha led the Miners with five saves, and was 3-0 with a 0.32 ERA in 29.33 innings. Peterson was 3-2 in 35 innings. He fanned 32 hitters in 2008.
In 2007, Peterson was 5-0 with a 1.31 ERA in 34 innings.
McBride, Northern Illinois first baseman Scott Simon (2004), Louisville second baseman Nick Haley (2005), Central Florida third baseman Shane Brown (2009) and Stanford shortstop Tobin Swope (2002) make up the all-decade infield.
McBride and Haley were both on the 2005 squad. Haley led the team in batting average (.329), runs (29) and hits (51). McBride hit .283 with 43 hits, 11 doubles and 21 RBI.
Simon was the top hitter for the ABL champs in 2004, finishing with a .323 batting average. He also led the team with 53 hits, and finished with 18 runs and 29 RBI.
Brown hit .284 with 27 runs and 25 RBI in 2009. Swope was second on the team with a .330 average in 2002.
Blake Gill led the team with a .336 average in 2002, and was named to the all-decade team as a utility player.
Mat-Su’s all-decade outfield includes Florida State left fielder James Ramsey (2009), UC-Riverside centerfielder Brett Bigler (2004, 2005) and Stanford right fielder Michael Taylor (2005).
Ramsey, a first-round draft choice of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012, helped Mat-Su win the ABL crown in 2009.
Ramsey hit .314 with 43 hits, 14 doubles, 25 runs and 26 RBI.
Bigler scored 26 runs and stole 14 bases in 2004. The following summer, Bigler added 29 runs and 13 stolen bases. He also hit .282 in 2005, and collected 46 hits.
Taylor, a highly-touted Stanford product, led the ABL with 25 stolen bases in 2005. Taylor also hit .317, scored 20 runs and drove in 25.
DJ Gentile, who hit .345 in 2009, was named the all-decade designated hitter.
Jeff Pritchard was named all-decade manager, for leading his team to an ABL title in 2007.
Lehigh outfielder Joe Ercolano (2006, 2007), Notre Dame utility player Matt Bransfield (2005), Long Beach State lefty Abe Alvarez (2001) and UC-Davis right-hander Luke Steidmayer (2000, 2001) were named honorable mentions.
Mat-Su Miners All-Decade Team
Position Player School Year
Catcher Matt McBride Lehigh 2005
First base Scott Simon Northern Illinois 2004
Second base Nick Haley Louisville 2005
Third base Shane Brown Cen. Florida 2009
Shortstop Tobin Swope Stanford 2002
Left field James Ramsey Florida State 2009
Centerfield Brett Bigler UC Riverside 2004-05
Right field Michael Taylor Stanford 2005
DH DJ Gentile Cal Poly 2008-09
Utility player Blake Gill Louisiana State 2002
Starting pitcher Josh Scott Baylor 2000
Starting pitcher Chris Malone San Joaquin CC 2004
Starting pitcher Chris Mason NC-Greensboro 2004
Starting pitcher Jason Erickson Washington 2007-08
Starting pitcher David Stilley Washington State 2009
Relief pitcher Josh McLaughlin Co. of Charleston 2005
Relief pitcher Alex Trafton California 2005
Relief pitcher Jeff Gilmore Stanford 2003-04
Relief pitcher Michael Rocha Oklahoma 2008
Relief pitcher Max Peterson San Diego Mesa CC 2007-08
Head coach Jeff Pritchard Santa Clara 2007
Outfield Joe Ercolano Lehigh 2006-07
Utility Matt Bransfield Notre Dame 2005
Pitcher Abe Alvarez Long Beach State 2001
Pitcher Luke Steidlmayer UC-Davis 2000-01
** Miners All-Decade Team chosen by a committee, which included Erwin Easter, Pete Scott, Chuck Griffin, Miners general manager Pete Christopher and Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz.