Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 11, 2014

No shortage of major leaguers produced by Princeton baseball

By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Professional baseball will enter its 27th season in Princeton in 2014.

In a short span, Princeton baseball has made a definite impact at the highest level of the sport, having sent 65 players to the major leagues since 1988, including 45 for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Princeton has served as an affiliate for three different major league teams, including the Pittsburgh Pirates (1988-89), the Cincinnati Reds (1991-96) and the Rays (1997-current).

A member of the Appalachian League since the creation of the organization, Princeton didn’t have an affiliate, but still participated as a co-team.

While most of the athletes who have reached the majors from neighboring Bluefield have completed their careers, Princeton has numerous players currently in the major leagues.

Among the players who spent at least a portion of their career in Princeton includes 1999 Rays’ Josh Hamilton and Carl Crawford, along with Boston Red Sox World Series hero Jonny Gomes and such young pitchers as Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb.

The 2014 season will open for Princeton on Thursday, June 19, against Bristol, which is now affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates after being part of the Chicago White Sox since 1995.

Here is a look at just some of the 65 players who have called Princeton home in their road to ‘The Show.’



 MGR—Jared Sandberg (Princeton, 1997, .302, 17 HR, 68 RBI, 15 2B, 12 SB, 62 runs). Nephew of Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, Jared played three seasons with Tampa Bay (16th, 1996), batting .221 with 25 home runs and 38 doubles. Managed the Princeton Rays in 2009, 36-31 record, second in East.

 SP—Jeremy Hellickson (Princeotn, 2005, 0-0, 6.00 ERA, 4 games, 11 Ks, 1 BB in 6 innings). Currently in his fifth season, all with the Rays (4th round, 2005), Hellickson is 39-31 from 2010-13, with 409 Ks and just 189 BB in 576 1/3 innings. 2011 A.L. Rookie of the Year. 2012 Gold Glove. Hellickson hasn’t pitched in 2014, still recuperating from arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow.

 SP—Wade Davis (Princeton, 2004, 3-5, 6.09 ERA, 38 Ks in 52 2/3 innings. Currently in sixth season, having played with the Rays (3rd round, 2004) and Royals, posting a 41-34 record with a 4.12 ERA, 501 Ks in 622 1/3 innings. Davis is 5-1 with a 1.27 ERA this season for the Royals, along with 46 strikeouts and just 10 walks in 28 1/3 innings and 25 games. Was fourth in Rookie of the Year balloting in 2010.

 SP—Matt Moore (Princeton, 2007, 0-0, 2.66 ERA, 8 games, 29 Ks in 20 1/3 innings, 2008, 2-2, 1.66 ERA, 77 Ks in 54 1/3 innings). Currently in his fourth season with the Rays (8th round, 2007), Moore is 29-17 wiht a 3.53 ERA, 339 Ks in 347 innings. All-Star in 2013. Moore (0-2, 2.70 ERA) started the season with the Rays, but is out for the rest of the year after ungoing Tommy John Surgery.

 SP—Alex Cobb (Princeton, 2006, 0-0, 5.19 ERA, 8 Ks in 8 2/3 innings). In his fourth season with the Rays (4th round, 2006), Cobb is 26-18 with a 3.50 ERA with 311 strikeouts and three complete game. He is currently 1-4 with a 4.39 ERA in seven starts for Tampa Bay, along with 34 Ks with 41 innings.

 SP—Jason Hammel (Princeton, 2002, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 games, 5 Ks in 5 1/3 innings) . Has played nine seasons with Rays (10th, 2002), Rockies, Orioles, Cubs, 55-62, 4.64 ERA, 787 Ks, 4 saves. Hammel is currently 6-3 with a 2.53 in 12 starts for the Cubs, 70 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings.

 SP—Victor Zambrano (Princeton, 1997, 0-2, 1.82 ERA, 20 games, 36 Ks in 29 2/3 innings . Signed as free agent by Yankees in 1993. Played seven years for Rays, Mets, Blue Jays, Orioles, 45-44, 4.64 ERA, 529 Ks, 2 saves.

 Backups: Seth McClung (Princeton, 1999); Doug Waechter (Princeton, 1999), Brandon Backe (Princeton, 1998); Joe Kennedy, Princeton, 1998; Lance Davis (Princeton, 1995).

 RP—Kevin Jarvis (Princeton, 1991, 5-6, 2.42 ERA, 13 startes, 79 Ks in 85 2/3 innings). Played 12 years with Reds (21st round, 1991, 5-6, 2.42 ERA, 79 Ks in 85 2/3 innings.  Twins, Tigers, Athletics, Rockies, Padres, Mariners, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Red Sox, posted 34-49 record, 6.03 ERA, 3 shutouts, 1 save, never had a balk in 187 appearances.

 RP—Jose Veras (Princeton, 1999, 3-5, 7.12 ERA, 48 Ks, 50 BBs in 60 2/3 innings. Has played nine seasons for Yankees, Indians, Marlins, Pirates, Brewers, Astros, Tigers and Cubs, posting a 19-23 record with a 3.99 ERA, 26 saves, 401 Ks in 390 1/3 innings.

 RP—Jake McGee (Princeton, 2004, 4-1, 3.97 ERA, 12 games, 53 Ks in 56 2/3 innings). Has played 5 seasons for the Rays (5th, 2004), 17-7, 3.01 ERA, 214 Ks in 179 1.3 innings, 1 save. McGee has pitched in 30 games this season, all in relief, posting a 2-0 record, 159 ERA and 33 Ks in 28 1/3 innings.

 RP—(bonus pick) Travis Phelps (Princeton, 1997, 4-3, 4.88 ERA, 60 Ks in 62 2/3 innings. Pitched three seasons for Rays (89th round, 1996) and Brewers, 3-5, 4.34 ERA, 93 Ks in 105 2/3 innings, 5 saves. Lowest drafted player to ever appear in a major league game.

 Backups: Chad Fox (Princeton, 1992, 4-2, 4.74 ERA; World Series champion with Florida Marlins in 2003); Blas Minor (Princeton, 1998); Buddy Carlyle (Princeton, 1996); Ron Blazier (Princeton, 1990), Matt Whisenant (Princeton, 1990).

 C—Humberto Cota (Princeton, 1998, .310, 15 HR, 61 RBI, 13 2B, 48 runs). Played seven seasons with Pirates, batting .233 with 12 HR, 61 RBI, 48 runs. Cota has played professional baseball every year but one since 1997. Cota is currently play for Monterey in the Mexican League, batting .291 with 6 HR, 23 RBI, 6 2B.

 Backups: Shawn Riggans (Princeton, 2001).

  1B—none.

 2B—Pokey Reese (Princeton, 2001, .238, 3 HR, 27 RBI, 8 2b, 3 3B, 30 runs, 10 SB). Played eight seasons with Reds (1st, 20th pick, 1991), Pirates, Red Sox, batting .248 with 144 SB, 128 2B, 366 runs. Two-time Gold Glove winner, twice led league in stolen bases percentage. Played on 2004 World Series champions in Boston.

 SS—Elliot Johnson (Princeton, 2002, .263, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 40 hits, 21 runs, 10 2B, 14 SB). Signed as free agent by Tampa Bay in 2002. Has played five seasons for Royals, Braves, Indians, batting .215, 46 SB, 80 runs. Has appeared in 7 games for Cleveland this season, batting .105 with two doubles.

 3B—Willie Greene (Princeton, .324, 24 RBI, 2 HR, 6 2B, 2 3B, 22 runs, 4 SB.). Drafted by Pirates in first round of 1989 draft. Played nine seasons with the Reds, Orioles, Blue Jays, Cubs, .234, 86 HR, 307 RBI, 17 SB. Played 1B, SS, 3B and OF in the majors.

 Backups—Tim Beckham (Princeton, 2008, top pick by Tampa Bay in 2008 draft); Reid Brignac (Princeton, 2004).

 OF—Josh Hamilton (Princeton, 1999, .347, 10 HR, 48 RBI, 20 2B, 17 SB, 49 runs). Currently a member of the Los Angeles Angels, Hamilton, the top pick by Tampa Bay in the 1999 draft, has played eight seasons with the Reds, Rangers and Angels, batting .296 with 185 HR, 643 RBI, 1,023 hits, .356 OBP. Five-time All-Star. A.L. MVP in 2010, ALCS MVP in 2010, led AL with .359 batting average in 2010. Top 7 in MVP voting on three occasions. Has overcome drug and alcohol addiction to become one of the best players in the game. Currently on the disabled list, Hamilton is hitting .389 with 3 HR and 11 RBIs in 15 games for the Angels.

 OF—Carl Crawford (Princeton, 1999, .319, 25 RBI, 14 2B, 17 SB, 4 3B, 62 runs). In 13 seasons, Crawford has played for the Rays (2nd round, 1999), Red Sox and Dodgers, batting .291, 1,805 hits, 936 runs, 290 2B, 118 3B, 456 SB). Four-time All-Star. All-Star Game MVP in 2009. Gold Glove winner in 2010. League leader in stolen bases and triples four times apiece. Oft-injured in recent seasons, Crawford is batting .267 with 18 RBIs and 21 runs scored in 44 games for the Dodgers.

 OF—Desmond Jennings (Princeton, 2006, .277, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 32 SB, 10 2B, 48 runs). Has played five seasons with the Rays (10th, 2006), batting .248 with 42 home runs, 85 stolen bases, 245 runs. Currently batting .235 in 60 for Tampa Bay, with 5 HR, 16 RBI and 12 stolen bases. Had originally committed to play football at Alabama.

 UTIL/OF—Rocco Baldelli (Princeton, 2000, .216, 3 HR, 25 RBI, 9 2B, 2 3B, 33 runs, 11 SB. Played 7 years with the Rays and Red Sox, batting .278 with 60 HR, 60 SB, 531 hits, 281 runs. Injury-riddled, played 92 or fewer games from 2006-2010. Retired in 2010. Third in Rookie of Year balloting in 2003.

 Backups—Kevin Kiermaier (Princeton, 2010); Jason Pridie (Princeton, 2002).

 DH—Jonny Gomes (Princeton, 2001, .291, 16 HR, 44 RBI, 58 runs, 11 2b, 15 SB). Gomes has played 12 seasons with the Rays (18th, 2001), Rays, Nationals, Athletics and Red Sox, batting .244 with 154 HR and 146 2B. Gomes’ 3-run home run in the fourth game of the World Series helped the Red Sox past the Cardinals last October. Third in Rookie of Year balloting in 2005.



A quick skim of the list didn’t find a first baseman from Princeton to have advanced to the major leagues. Not surprisingly, pitching has been a definite strength for the local organization.

bwoodson@bdtonline.com / Twitter @bdtwoodson.