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Helpi Reyes Advances in Moniker Madness

July 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Another week down and another win for Jamestown Jammers starting pitcher Helpi Reyes, who advanced into the final 16 in an online contest on Minor League Baseball’s official website.

MiLB.com’s Moniker Madness is in its sixth year and is a fan vote to determine “Who has the best name in the Minor Leagues?” The tournament starts with 64 players, similar to NCAA Tournament and has now been trimmed down to the final 16.

“I was the first to notice when we were in Brooklyn,” said relief pitcher and social media-extraordinaire Beau Wright. “We’re aware, but it’s kind of on me to keep checking.”

Reyes defeated Roidany Aguila in the first round and Yogey Perez-Ramos in the second round to advance to the Natty Nattress Region semifinals.

Reyes, who turns 20 on Friday, is native of Cotui, Dominican Republic and doesn’t speak a whole lot of English. While some of his teammates are aware of contest, Reyes isn’t, but it’s hard to fault him on focusing on pitching instead of an online vote.

And the same goes for his teammates.

“I don’t think so,” said Wright referring to if his teammates are stuffing the ballots. “We just think its cool for him to be in it.”

Reyes will face Boss Moanaroa, a first baseman for the Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League. That voting goes from July 24-26 with the winner to take on either Rougned Odor of the Hickory Crawdads or Zelous Wheeler of the Norfolk Tides. Quarterfinal voting will be this weekend, starting on Helpi’s birthday, July 27 and going through July 30.

“Pretty much I have been plugging it on the website and Facebook,” said Justin Michael, media relations officer for the Jammers. “But beyond that we haven’t made buttons or anything special like that.”

Fans can vote by simply logging onto milb.com and clicking on the Moniker Madness page. Once there, you only need to fill out winners for each matchup before filling out your name and birthdate.

Voting ends at midnight on Thursday

On the field, Reyes has been an important cog to the team. He’s 1-2 with a 3.26 ERA in seven starts this year. He’s allowing opponents to hit just .214 off him and has struck out 26 while only walking 14 batters this year.

In addition, Reyes has improved in a lot of categories this year versus his first stint in Jamestown last year when he went 1-6 with a 5.37 ERA.

“He is slated as our No. 1 starter in the rotation,” Michael said.

Elsewhere in the contest, in the Icicle Reeder Region, it’s top-seeded Caleb Bushyhead vs. Socrates Brito, and Bear Bay vs. Kevin Quackenbush. Winners will face each other next round.

In Farmers Works Region, top-seeded Duke von Schamann vs. Rock Shoulders and Jamodrick McGruder vs. Scooter Gennett.

Finally, in the Razor Shines Region, it’s top-seeded Forrest Snow vs. Tuffy Gosewisch and Michael Goodnight vs. Xander Bogaerts.

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Gomez Finds Familiar Surroundings in Jamestown

June 27, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s been one hectic, up-and-down month for Jammers second baseman Anthony Gomez.

His junior season at Vanderbilt came to a disappointing end in the NCAA Regionals on June 4. With the Commodores in the winners bracket, Vandy needed to beat N.C. State one out of two to advance to the Super Regionals. But a pair of losses by a combined three runs ended the ‘Dores’ season seemingly early.

Jammers second baseman Anthony Gomez is hitting .276 with a .353 OBP through nine games this season.

But, he was drafted the following day in the sixth round by the Miami Marlins with the 197th overall pick. Stay for his senior year or pursue a childhood dream?

He sat on it for a few days.

“It’s tough you know,” Gomez said referring to his decision. “You don’t want to get off to a bad start your team by not signing, but it was a crazy turnaround from losing in regionals to getting drafted. My season had just ended, I wanted to enjoy some time with my friends.”

Who could blame a 21-year-old college student for that? But with Short Season minor league seasons less than two weeks from starting, Gomez was short on time.

“It was obviously exciting to get drafted,” he said. “But I wanted to give it a day or two. Just relax and weigh the options. But, Miami was a good fit and getting drafted in the sixth round was a big compliment. Both of my parents agreed and I signed.”

And exactly two weeks after his season with Vanderbilt had ended, Gomez was batting second as the starting designated hitter on Opening Day for the Jamestown Jammers. He had two hits, a double and drove in a run in his first professional game.

But Gomez, like virtually all other rookies, didn’t know what to expect when starting pro baseball. Luckily for him, as Gomez said, he was joined on the Jammers 2012 roster with a pair of rookie hitters from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) who had just finished up their final college seasons as well. All three were embarking on their first season of pro ball in a bit of a rush. All three just played everyday in the best conference in college baseball and all three were now members of the Jamestown Jammers and the Miami Marlins.

That was Austin Nola from LSU and Cameron Flynn from Kentucky. Nola’s season had actually just ended on June 10 against Stony Brook. Had they won, he wouldn’t have been in Jamestown yet. Flynn’s Kentucky Wildcats season ended where Gomez’s did, in the NCAA regionals, although just one day before Vanderbilt’s. And while Gomez said none of the three were best friends prior to signing, the three quickly became acquainted with each other and flew into Buffalo late Friday night, just three days before Opening Day.

“It’s huge to play with those two guys,” Gomez said. “[Austin] Nola’s a four-year guy at LSU and is one of the great baseball minds I’ve ever met. I just try to pick up anything I can from him. [Cameron] Flynn’s one of the best hitter in the SEC last year. We’re all just feeling things out together, but it’s great to have two guys you’re so familiar with… guys that have the same background as you.”

And familiarity is always an issue at this level. For most of these players, it’s their first year of pro ball. In fact, it is for 10 of the 30 players on Jamestown’s roster (nine from college and one was injured for first two years). In addition, more than half of the other 20 players have little experience at the GCL (rookie) level. Very few guys on this roster are used to the everyday grind.

But while that’s been the toughest adjustment for Gomez, it certainly isn’t something he’ll complain about.

“It’s fun playing baseball everyday,” he said. “Not worrying about school and to be out with the guys everyday, it’s a new experience and its great.”

Switching from a metal bat to a wooden bat?

“Well it is something, but having (batting practice) everyday helps,” Gomez continued. “It sort of helps shorten the learning curve.”

That learning curve hasn’t appeared to affect the rookie infielder too much yet. Although it’s still early, Gomez is batting .308 with four RBI in six games (through June 25). He’s been a key cog to the lineup and has done exceptionally well in clutch situations. He’s hitting .667 (4-for-6) with runners in scoring position.

“You don’t want to worry about your average at this point,” Gomez said. “Right now, it’s about making sure you have quality at bats. I want to get used to the pitching and get used to playing second base.”

Gomez played shortstop and hit .353 in 63 games for Vandy. Remarkably, he had 57 RBI this year while only grabbing 15 extra-base hits. He’s proven to be a solid clutch hitter with plenty of speed to use at the top of the lineup.

But, already off of a long college season, time will tell if Gomez and his rookie teammates can handle the task of playing for another two-plus months.

“The game’s still 60 feet, six inches,” Gomez quipped. “I’m still getting used to the grind and used to the bus rides — getting ready to move from town to town in a hurry. You’re on your own much more than in college.”

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Fermin Redesigns Career As Relief Pitcher

June 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Miguel Fermin last played for the Jamestown Jammers on Sept. 14, 2008. It was Game 2 of the Nader Cup, the championship of the New York-Penn League between the Batavia Muckdogs and the Jammers, a game Batavia won 9-3 to claim their first championship in 45 years.

But it was a bittersweet day for Fermin. Sure, the Jammers had lost the championship and Fermin went 0-for-4, but the 23-year-old catcher had just finished up one of the best seasons ever seen at Jamestown. He hit .347, clubbed 17 homeruns (both of which led the league) and had an OPS over 1.000. And on top of it all, he was a stout defensive catcher with a cannon for an arm.

Surely, he was on the radar of the Florida Marlins and was moving on to bigger and better things next year. Whatever the case, it was certainly the last time he had seen Diethrick Park and Jamestown.

Now fast-forward three years and nine months. After playing in Jamestown’s final game in 2008, he’s now playing in Jamestown’s first game in 2012. Now 27, after reaching as far up as AAA New Orleans, Fermin has been relegated to using that power right arm of his on the mound, instead of throwing back to it, because of injuring his left knee.

“I focus, I just try to do my job,” said Fermin through translator and Jammers first baseman Viosergy Rosa. “I try to work as hard as I can with every pitch.”

His work ethic showed on Opening Day, as did his arm. Fermin’s pitching debut was about to come against the 3-4-5 hitters for Mahoning Valley who had wreaked havoc all day long.

He got Aaron Siliga to pop softly to right field before striking out Charlie Valerio. Then, after getting ahead of Hunter Jones, Fermin got him to hit a broken-bat grounder back at the pitcher, before flipping to Rosa for the out. Not a bad trip through the heart of the order.

“I just try to stay ahead of hitter,” Fermin said. “Throw strikes and keep the ball down.”

The eighth was seemingly just as easy with another soft grounder to third followed by Fermin’s second strikeout. But he got a lesson from Juan Romero, who hit a first pitch fastball over the leftfield wall.

Still, it was the only hit Fermin allowed through two innings of work. Surely a guy with this arm, whose been playing baseball ever since growing up as a youngster in Samana, Dominican Republic, had thrown before, though, right?

“Three months,” Fermin said in English, while laughing. “Pitching for three months.”

He had a hard fastball moving, which seemed to set up his out pitch, a slider. Fermin said the slider has been the easiest pitch to pick up since redesigning his career on the mound.

“It’s just natural,” he said.

Fermin, who was also an all-star in 2009 and 2011 in the Florida State League for Jupiter, isn’t too thrilled to give up the bat, but is looking forward to helping Jamestown win this season.

“I feel good to be here (in Jamestown),” Fermin said. “I’m here to make the team win and help out as much as possible.”

But don’t think Fermin will be here for long. Although it’s been just one game, if he continues to throw like this, he’ll be moving through the system just like he’s already done so before.

“It definitely gives me confidence to know what it takes to climb through the system,” Fermin said. “No question about it.”

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