First, let me apologize for the long delay on getting back on board. The off-season for the Blaze was filled with excitement as we saw many of the guys who once donned a Blaze uniform were central in the trade talks. Last year’s Cal League All-Star and Blaze catcher Yasmani Grandal was an intrigal part in the Mat Latos trade with San Diego. While it is a bummer he won’t make it to the majors as a Red, Grandal has a great opportunity in San Diego and had an incredible Spring hitting .353 with 2 homers and 11 RBI. Previous Blaze alumni C.J. Wilson also made a big splash by leaving the Rangers and signing along with Albert Pujols in Anaheim, making them an instant contender.
Locally, the biggest and GREATEST news happened when local Bakersfield businessmen Gene Voiland and Chad Hathaway bought the Blaze off of the D.G. Elmore group, who has owned the team since 2006… in Indiana. The first thing you hear about when talking about the Blaze is the state of Sam Lynn Park. Granted, it is built backwards and has not been taking that great of care of, but Voiland and Hathaway showed how easy a difference could be made with some small upgrades. Why did it take so long? Again, Elmore was owning the team from Indiana and most assuredly doesnt come to Bakersfield often, let alone connect with the city to know what the locals say about the park. If you’re reason for not attending a game was because of the Park, then you OWE it to yourself to get back out there. Even with all the upgrades, the park will hardly be noticeable once you see the amass of talent ON the field.
Let’s just say 2012 is going to be a very fun year for Blaze fans as the Cincinnati Reds have really staked our team to be something to mess with in the California League. Of course, Ken Griffey Sr is back at the helm for the club and he has Eli Marrero with him as batting coach and Rigo Beltran taking on the pitchers. If you pay attention to Minor League Baseball then you heard about Billy Hamilton last year with the Dayton Dragons (Reds A-team) as he stole 103 bases, the first in pro baseball to hit triple digits in over a decade. With the upward movement of Rodriguez, LaMarre and Grandal last season, I thought Billy might play a few games here, but he stayed with the Dragons for the entire season. He is the Reds Organization #2 prospect according to Baseball America and #48 overall in baseball. If he has a similar season with the Blaze, then there is little chance that he will play all of 2012 in Bakersfield. The Blaze also have 2 members of the 40 man roster of the Blaze with Kyle Lotzkar, the right handed Canadian 2007 first round pick (as a 1B) and 1B Donald Lutz, the left handed slugger who helped the Reds Futures team take victory against the big league club on 4/3/2012 with a 2 run homer off of Mike Leake. The futures game in Cincy featured several current Blaze, next to Lutz, Hamilton and Lotzkar also had 3B David Vidal, C Tucker Barnhart and RP Tony Cingrani recorded the save for the futures team. Also returning are some of last seasons favorites, SP Daniel Renken and OF Stephen Hunt, who will be playing a little first base this year. Let’s just say that the Reds REALLY have given a lot of their treasured assets to Bakersfield and those are all the more reasons to see the club play.
With that, I am going to make a few predictions on what we will see here with our Club in 2012.
Fan Attendance: 100,000+
Team Record: 81-59
HR Leader: Donald Lutz 28 HR
RBI Leader: Donald Lutz 89 RBI
AVG Leader: Billy Hamilton .312
First Call-Up: Tony Ciangrani
W Leader: Josh Smith 13 Wins
ERA Leader: Josh Smith 3.58 ERA
SV Leader: Brooks Pinckard 18 Saves
What are your predictions?