The Island to the Show: Richard Bleier

Photo courtesy Will Bentzel / MiLB

Photo courtesy Will Bentzel / MiLB

MLB Debut: May 30

Harrisburg stats (2015)
8-3, 2.45 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, .247 BAA
103.0 IP, 9 BB, 40 K

Richard Bleier always seemed like his style of pitching was better suited to the 1970s. Nowadays, baseball has become all about velocity in the high 90s and strikeouts. Bleier is a guy who is much happier keeping the ball down and inducing a groundout on one pitch.

In today’s landscape, pitchers like him rarely get a chance.

But the 6’3″ southpaw got the call he had waited nine professional seasons to receive when he was called up to take the place of injured Chasen Shreve in the Yankees’ bullpen. So much about who makes it and who doesn’t on the fringe of Major League rosters is about timing and opportunity.

Who knows what the future holds for Bleier? But his last 13 appearances in pinstripes were scoreless and he posted the lowest ERA and lowest WHIP for Yankees’ pitchers. Bleier also walked only four, didn’t allow a home run, and lefties hit .150 off him.

The Eastern League Roundtripper: November 21

Welcome back to our bi-weekly tour around the Eastern League this off season…

• Greg Legg is returning as the Reading Fightin Phils’ manager 13 years after helming the club for three seasons. Legg had a winning record in 2002 but only accumulated 126 more wins in the next two campaigns. Legg also played in Reading as a Phillies’ farmhand in 1983-84 and 1988. “I was thrilled about it when I found out I was coming back,” Legg told the Reading Eagle’s Mike Drago. “There’s no place like ‘Baseballtown.’ They have great crowds to play in front of. I remember how well I was treated the last time I was there. I remember (Ryan) Howard tearing up the league. I remember getting to tell Carlos Ruiz that he was going to be our No. 1 catcher. And I remember the year (Ryan) Madson had. It was fun.”

• The name change to Rumble Ponies isn’t the only modification happening to Binghamton in 2017. NYSEG Stadium will undergo $2.5 million in renovations before Opening Day including new stadium lighting, bullpen and batting cage, right field entrance gate, picnic party deck, and third base terrace. “It’s an amazing honor to have this kind of community support as we grow NYSEG Stadium into a regional sports and entertainment destination,” said John Hughes, Binghamton Rumble Ponies owner. “Because of support from Mayor David, Sen. Akshar and Leader Flanagan, we are building an environment for fans to enjoy the best experience Minor League Baseball has to offer. Our investments in player development facilities will ensure the New York Mets have a stadium built to host their Double-A franchise for decades to come. This is the latest step on our journey to bring fun and excitement to the Rumble Ponies franchise. I look forward to seeing everyone next season in Rumble Town.”

• The New Hampshire Fisher Cats announced a new leadership team including Mike Ramshaw as the newly appointed President, Jim Flavin as General Manager, and Jenna Raizes as Deputy General Manager. The trio all has roots in New Hampshire and Massachusetts as Ramshaw and Raizes were both internal promotions and Flavin was born and raised outside of Boston. “I am pleased to have watched Mike, Jim and Jenna grow as individuals and leaders. They’re a strong team and have assembled a staff of creative, energetic professionals poised to bring the best possible Fisher Cats entertainment experience to fans in the upcoming season,” said Fisher Cats’ owner Art Solomon.

Senators Annual Hot Stove Dinner Set for February 4


Pitchers Tyler Mapes and Greg Ross and outfielder Andrew Stevenson expected to attend

The Harrisburg Senators announce that their seventh annual Hot Stove Dinner presented by Ollie’s Bargain Outlet is Saturday, February 4.  For a third year in a row the dinner is at the Central Hotel and Conference Center Best Western Premier. The evening allows fans a chance to interact with players and Nats front office staff members as well chatting about baseball in the middle of winter.

Special guests this year include the Senators 2016 manager, Matt LeCroy, pitchers Tyler Mapes and Greg Ross and outfielder Andrew Stevenson.   The Washington Nationals will also be represented as Doug Harris, Assistant General Manager and Vice President Player Development; Mark Scialabba, Director, Player Development; and Ryan Thomas, Assistant Director, Minor League Operations will also be in attendance.

The evening begins with a cocktail hour at 6:00pm, followed by dinner at 7:00pm. The program begins after dinner at about 8:00 p.m. There is a silent auction and raffle with the winners announced at the end of the evening.  The three players and Matt LeCroy will be available for pictures and autographs from 6:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.

The seated-dinner is $45 per person through December 31 and then $55 after January 1 through the ticket deadline, which is Friday, January 20. To purchase a table of eight prior to January 1 is $280 with the price increasing after January 1. Tickets are available online through the Senators website at or by calling Blair Jewell at 231-4444 ext. 122.

The Senators offices are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily during the off-season. The 2017 home opener is Thursday, April 6th against the Altoona Curve.  For information about season tickets, ticket plans, group tickets please call the Senators at 717-231-4444 or visit the Senators online at can find the Senators on Facebook at or @hbgsenators on Twitter. You can also find Senators information at The Island Chronicles blog which is updated frequently. It’s located at

The Island to the Show: Matt Purke

Photo courtesy Will Bentzel / MiLB

Photo courtesy Will Bentzel / MiLB

MLB Debut: May 20

Harrisburg stats (2014-15)
2-9, 7.28 ERA, 1.796 WHIP, .350 BAA
55.2 IP, 25 BB, 41 K

The question with Matt Purke was always about his health. After an unbelievable freshman season at TCU where he went 16-0, Purke only started 11 games the next season. The Washington Nationals weren’t deterred by that though and drafted the southpaw in the third round of the 2011 draft.

Purke made just three starts in 2012 with Hagerstown before needing shoulder debridement surgery that caused him to miss the remainder of the season. After a disastrous stint in Harrisburg in 2014, Purke once again went under the knife but this time for Tommy John surgery. The Nationals released the lefty that off-season (removing him from their 40-man roster in the process) but re-signed him to a minor league deal for 2015. A year later, the Nationals cut bait on him this time for good.

“I really never got a chance to actually showcase myself fully because if it wasn’t one [injury] it was another thing, so I was really kind of handcuffed,” Purke told The Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes. “The biggest thing I got from that was I was able to mentally stay focused and understand that it was going to end. Eventually I was going to get out of the tunnel. I just had to keep progressing and doing what I knew was the right thing to do.”

The Chicago White Sox took a chance on the Texas native’s health in 2016 and the gamble paid off. Purke was placed in the Triple-A Charlotte bullpen out of spring training and flourished in 10 appearances pitching to a 2.30 ERA before getting the call to the Majors. After his debut on May 20 where he tossed 1.1 scoreless innings against the Kansas City Royals, Purke appeared in 11 more games for the White Sox before getting sent back to Charlotte for the remainder of the season.

Spin Williams named MiLB’s Mike Coolbaugh Award Winner

60237-3555022frThis is a 2014 photo of Spin Williams of the Washington Nationals baseball team. This image reflects the Nationals active roster as of, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, when this image was taken. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


Per a Minor League Baseball announcement, Washington Nationals Senior Advisor of Player Development Donald “Spin” Williams was selected as the recipient of the ninth annual Mike Coolbaugh Award. Williams will receive the award at the Baseball Winter Meetings Banquet on Sunday, Dec. 4, at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. The Mike Coolbaugh Award is presented annually to an individual who has shown outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game and skill in mentoring young players on the field.

Williams was the Harrisburg Senators’ pitching coach in their return to the Eastern League in 1987. He held that same position with the club for the 1988 and 1990 seasons when the Senators were still affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Williams has returned often to the island the last 11 years as the Washington Nationals’ minor league pitching coordinator and now senior advisor for player development. In his time with the Nationals, he has overseen the development of over 40 pitchers that have reached the major leagues with the Nationals, including 12 on the current major league roster.

“This game has blessed me in so many ways: The people I have met, the opportunities that I have had, and the places that I have been able to go, but being chosen for the Mike Coolbaugh Award is one of the highlights,” said Williams in the press release. “I am grateful to Minor League Baseball and the Coolbaugh family for recognizing me with this honor. There are so many good baseball people out there that are deserving of such an award, and I am humbled to be chosen. Thanks to my Washington Nationals family, Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner, and all of the people who have helped me along the way on this wonderful journey.”

“On behalf of the entire Washington Nationals organization, I am thrilled to congratulate Spin Williams on being named the 2016 Mike Coolbaugh Award winner,” said Washington Nationals Assistant General Manager and Vice President, Player Personnel Doug Harris. “Spin’s commitment to not only helping our players develop as pitchers, but also to mature as men, is second to none. For me, personally, it is an honor to know him and to work with him for as long as I have, and I’m so proud to see him earn the type of recognition he so richly deserves.”

Election Day


We’re adding two new life-sized bobbleheads to our One & Only, World Famous Life-Size Bobblehead Hall of Fame in 2017.

The first inductee of 2017 will be Matt Stairs but we need your help to pick the 2nd one. The finalists are: Michael Barrett, Jamey CarrollBrandon Phillips, and Andy Tracy.


The Eastern League Roundtripper: November 7

Welcome back to our bi-weekly tour around the Eastern League this off season…


• The Binghamton Rumble Ponies it is. After the team held a “Name the Team” contest, the Rumble Ponies moniker was the overwhelming fan favorite among the five finalists. The name references Binghamton’s standing as “Carousel Capitol of the World,” as the city is home to six vintage carousels originally donated by local businessman and philanthropist George F. Johnson. “[Rebranding] was really an easy decision because of all the rumors there had been about the team leaving,” primary owner John Hughes said, just prior to the official announcement. “This helps strengthen our connection to the city, it creates an identity, something that only exists in Binghamton. This is our own story, our own identity.”

• The Altoona Curve will have a new manager this upcoming season as Joey Cora, last year’s skipper, has been promoted to the big club to be the Pirates’ third base coach next season. Additionally, the Pirates also named Tom Prince, 2015 manager of the Curve, to the Major League staff as the new bench coach.

• Richmond’s ballpark saga may be in the rear-view mirror as the Flying Squirrels, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the city have agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on a new Boulevard-area ballpark costing between $50 million and $60 million. “The Flying Squirrels are excited by the progress and spirit of cooperation that is evidenced by this new agreement. We look forward to playing our games in a new ballpark, as tenants in a Boulevard area that is being economically developed to best serve the interests of our Greater Richmond community, neighbors and fans,” said Flying Squirrels President Lou DiBella.


Pitching Performance of the Year




Three batters, three strikeouts for Bryan Harper (June 4)

In what would be his last appearance with the Senators, Bryan Harper sealed a 3-1 victory over Richmond with a scoreless seventh inning. The southpaw needed just 14 pitches to strike out all three Flying Squirrel batters he faced for his sixth save.


Greg Ross fires zero after zero (June 7 – June 24)

Greg Ross pitched seven scoreless innings in his debut and then threw seven scoreless innings in each of his next three starts. In all, Ross finished with 30 straight scoreless innings – a new Senators modern-day record. The right-hander finished the season with a stunning 0.83 ERA over eight starts, two relief appearances, and 54 total innings for Harrisburg.


The Ks keep coming for Reynaldo Lopez (June 8, June 19)

Reynaldo Lopez finished his time with the Senators on a wicked stretch in which he fanned 56 batters in his final 33.2 innings. Highlighting that time is two 13-strikeout performances in a span of 11 days.


Lucas Giolito fans career-high 12 (June 10)

Lucas Giolito had it all working on this Friday night at FNB Field, surrendering only a pair of unearned runs while striking out a career-high 12 against the eventual league champion Akron RubberDucks.


Tyler Mapes goes the distance (June 15)

For the first time since current Arizona Diamondback Robbie Ray in July 2013, a Senators’ pitcher threw a nine-inning shutout. On this night it was Tyler Mapes, who needed just 98 pitches to complete his masterpiece. Mapes allowed only three hits and a walk as he remained locked in all night long with Harrisburg providing just one run in a 1-0 victory.

The Eastern League Roundtripper: October 17

Welcome back to our bi-weekly tour around the Eastern League this off season…


• The Altoona Curve have dug into their past to name Derek Martin (pictured above) as their new general manager. Martin was with the franchise in ticketing from 2002 through 2007 and even met his future wife when she “won” him in a charity bachelor promotion at then Blair County Ballpark. The 37-year-old worked in finance for nearly four years and most recently has been a commercial insurance agent in Altoona.  “I didn’t think I had much chance at all,” Martin told The Altoona Mirror’s Cory Giger about getting the GM job. “But I know my passion for the Curve and for baseball itself. I went in not thinking there was much of a chance, but the stars lined up, and it’s a dream come true.”

• The Bowie Baysox are the latest team that will have a new home next year, well at least a new name. The club is seeking a stadium naming rights partner for Prince George’s Stadium as they begin their 24th season at the facility.


Stuff the MiLBYs Ballot Box

Guerrero Vladimir_2016_04_16 - 2385 (Will Bentzel)

Fan voting for the 2016 MiLBYs is underway where you can choose the best teams, players, videos, promos and more from across Minor League Baseball.

The Senators are nominated for the Promo of the Year with their Life-Size Bobblehead Hall of Fame where the team began a new tradition by recognizing the truly great players from their storied history. The first three inductees this season were Vladimir Guerrero, Cliff Floyd, and Bryce Harper.

Pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, who began the season in Harrisburg, was nominated for Breakout Prospect. Lopez had 14 starts with the Senators in 2016 and went 3-5 with a 3.18 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 76.1 innings pitched. The 22-year-old also made five starts at Triple-A Syracuse and 11 appearances with the Nationals while working his way to No. 38 in’s overall ranking on the strength of an impressive fastball-curveball mix.

Former Senator Destin Hood is also up for a Top Home Run MiLBY for a bomb he hit as a member of the New Orleans Zephyrs. Hood’s mammoth blast in Memphis’ AutoZone Park caromed off a Ford pickup well beyond the left-field wall that players could win if they hit the bullseye next to the truck.

Voting continues until October 25th and you are allowed to vote as often as you’d like, so stuff the ballot box for the Senators!