2017 Clarence A's Awards
Less than one week after finishing off their 2017 campaign, the Clarence A's have announced the winners of their annual awards:
Jay McKee Most Valuable Player: PJ Martucci
Previous winners: Pat Doherty (2015-2016), Jimmy Honsberger, Jr. (2014), Trevor Elston (2013)
In 2017, Martucci truly came into his own at the plate as well as in the field. Always a big swinging lefty, PJ found the consistency he was always looking for, batting .558, a drastic jump from his .200 average in 2016. In 14 games, he racked up 4 XBH (2 2B, 2 3B), a team-best 20 RBI, tied for the team best with 30 total bases (Pat Doherty being the other), and a 1.330 OPS. What's most impressive, though, is the only 3 strikeouts in 49 plate appearances, compared to the 12 in 56 plate appearances in 2016. In the field, Martucci also took control of the first base position, becoming practically automatic on ground balls and continued to show his awareness and knowledge of the game in key situations. PJ only made 3 appearances on the mound this year, including two starts, and had a 1-0 record with 6 strikeouts in 7 innings of work.
Best Hitter: PJ Martucci
Previous winners: Pat Doherty (2015-2016), Jimmy Honsberger, Jr. (2014)
Best Pitcher: Dillon Boyack
Previous winners: Mason King (2014-2016)
An award owned by Mason King over the last 3 years, Boyack burst onto the scene this year and owned his competition. In 8 appearances (7 starts), he went 5-2 with a 1.31 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 32 innings of work. Dillon finished with 48 strikeouts to only 15 walks and allowed only 28 hits and 6 earned runs. There's no doubt that his ability to keep his fastball low in the zone, combined with his mix of changeups, curveballs, and sliders, were what got batters to either watch pitches go by or hit into groundouts, and if you ever watched this kid pitch there's no doubt in your mind he was taking the hardware home for this award.
Unsung Hero: Jake Garvelli
Previous winners: John Strohmeier (2016), Andrew King (2015), Evan Weitz (2014)
There was no doubt Garvelli was getting this award this year. While getting robbed of hits more than any hitter we've ever witnessed in the history of baseball, Jake still managed to hit .410 with a 1.027 OPS. There was never any doubt of his abilities, even when he was making fielders look like gold glovers, and to his credit he continued to keep a short memory and grind it out. In the field, Garvelli continued his gold glove-like play, making every play he was asked and even some that a normal player has no business making. Jake also made a major impact as a base coach, coaching in more runs than anyone else on the A's. Though he never saw action toward the top of the lineup, Garvelli was scorching hot in the middle of the order and there was no reason to take him out of that spot. Those middle of the order guys don't typically get the love and recognition they deserve, but Jake changed that this year with the tremendous productivity he had.
Coach's Award: Pat Doherty
Previous winners: Jimmy Honsberger, Jr. (2016)
There was no way this kid wasn't going home with an award. He was in the conversation, along with Jimmy Honsberger, Jr. for the Jay McKee MVP award, but Martucci wanted to make sure he had a horse in that race and made a very convincing argument to take that one home. But Pat had another Pat year and continued to do things his own way, hitting .460 with 4 XBH (2 2B, 3B, HR) with 14 RBI, only 3 strikeouts, an uncharacteristic 7 walks, and a 1.217 OPS. Doherty also continued to be a workhorse on the mound, making appearances in 11 of the team's 17 games, and throwing a team-high 34.2 innings. Pat also took control of the team in the absence of manager Jordan Honsberger and made sure the guys didn't skip a beat.
Most Improved Player: Eric Nash
Previous winners: Mitch Alexin (2016)
While PJ Martucci made a strong case for this award, the strong argument can be made that Eric Nash made overall biggest jump from 2016 to 2017. In 2016, Nash hit .167 with 16 walks and 9 strikeouts in 15 games, but clearly found his swing and built confidence this summer. Eric finished hitting .364 with 16 hits (up from 7 last season) and a .939 OPS (up from .649 in 2016). Nash also played 8 of 9 positions this season (did not appear on the mound) and showed his teammates and the league that he can play all of those positions well. Eric's always been a talented and heady ball player, and the jump he made form 2016 to 2017 showed that he can be a key piece on this team for years to come.
Best Rookie: Dillon Boyack
Previous winners: Anthony Castellani (2016), John Strohmeier (2015), Zach Zabel (2014), Sully Curry (2013)
Boyack was already mentioned in this piece for his pitching dominance, but people forget what he was able to do at the plate. Dillon finished the season hitting .333 with 3 XBH (2B, 3B, HR) with a .965 OPS. There was no doubt he coming into the season that he was going to be a big bat for the A's, and even after a slow start his rookie campaign at the plate, Boyack seemed to deliver every time it was needed. He was also a force to be reckoned with at third base, making every play he was asked to and quietly owning his position. It was hard to not look at Dylan Moscato and Chris Salasny for the award, because they did more than hold their own, but Boyack had shown time and time again that he's a game-changing talent, no matter where he was on the field.
Congratulations to all of our winners!
2017 Clarence A's Preview
This time next week the Clarence A's will be taking the field against the Cubs for their Spring Training game before opening the season Sunday, May 14 at 3:30pm against the Nationals. There have been several moves in the offseason for the A's that will contribute to their potential success this summer, and the same can be said about the guys they've brought back:
Departures: Jordan Hrynczak, Brady Siwek, and All-Stars Drew Ailing and Anthony Castellani
The losses of Hrynczak and Siwek are ones of pure disappointment: Hrynczak came into 2016 being looked at as a workhorse on the mound that would give Mason King some relief and Siwek was expected to be a bottom of the order bat with great speed and tremendous defensive prowess. Both played a combined four games last season, and although they played well in their appearances, it was far too inconsistent to give them the invite back for 2017. Ailing and Castellani, however, did get invited back, but both had to decline for personal reasons. Ailing was a power bat in the top five of the lineup for the A's in 2016 while playing a shutdown third base to the point where, quite literally, nobody was safe hitting the ball his way. The same can be said for Castellani, who roamed center field in Andrew King's absence and tracked down every ball hit his way. He also finished his only season with the A's with an even .400 batting average and utilized his speed on the bases every chance he got, which earned him last year's Best Rookie award.
Additions: Chris Salasny, Colin Barnes, Dylan Moscato, and Dillon Boyack
The A's front office did a fantastic job this offseason addressing the needs of their ball club through their free agency additions. First to sign was former Penguins manager and Legends outfielder Chris Salasny, who looks to be another anchor in the outfield for the A's. Very similar to Castellani, Salasny has great wheels, can track down any ball, and has a lightning rod for a bat from the left side of the plate. Next was Colin Barnes, who played his last two seasons on the Clarence High School Varsity team, the same program that seven other A's came from. Barnes will be a reliable bat in the bottom half of the lineup and a swift fielder in the middle infield. Although the team has Jimmy Honsberger, Jr., Mitch Alexin, and others who can play up the middle, we did see Ailing play in the middle infield for some time last year, so having a life-long shortstop mix into that rotation will bring a higher level of confidence to the A's pitchers. Shortly after the Barnes signing was the signing of Dylan Moscato, who played in the Williamsville North High School program. Moscato will find himself playing everywhere in the field and batting toward the bottom of the lineup to start 2017, but after seeing the progression of Jake Garvelli last year, we can definitely see Moscato move up in the lineup in the same fashion if he's able to find himself at the plate. The fourth and final signing for the A's came just a couple of months ago when they signed former Clarence High School and current Niagara County Community College pitcher Dillon Boyack. Boyack figures to fill the roles of both Ailing and Hrynczak by being the second ace in the rotation and playing a shutdown third base and hitting in the top of the lineup on his nights off.
Returning: All-Stars Jimmy Honsberger, Jr., Pat Doherty, and PJ Martucci, Jake Garvelli, Skipper Jordan Honsberger, Mitch Alexin, John Strohemeir, Andrew King, Mason King, and Eric Nash
Any time you make a run to the championship series, it's important to return the majority of your team and make tweaks where you need to in order to give yourself another chance at a title, and that's exactly what the A's did this offseason. A total of 10 guys coming back for 2017, the team is excited about the building blocks they have for another year on the roster after a 2016 season that was a huge learning experience.
The A's return 3 of their 5 all-stars: Honsberger, Jr., Pat Doherty, and PJ Martucci. Honsberger, Jr. has continued to be one of the lifelines for the team, batting leadoff and playing shortstop or taking the mound in relief appearances, and this is why he received the 2016 Coach's Award. This season will be interesting, due to the additions of Salasny and Boyack, to see where Honsberger, Jr. ends up in the lineup, but no matter where he is we can expect the above average performance that he's always had. Doherty, last year's team MVP and Best Hitter, will also be a major contributor when he's at games, which could be limited this season due to a relocation. Martucci started last season hot, blasting balls out to right field further than anyone would've thought of playing him. He cooled off as the season progressed, but make no mistake, that hot bat could come back to stay at any time, which would be a huge boost for the A's lineup.
Garvelli is coming off a rookie season where he shattered expectations in the field, at the plate, and on the bases and if he's able to continue with that then you can expect a strong lineup all the way through. Jordan Honsberger started to come into his own toward the end of the regular season last year at the plate as well as behind it. Having a solid catcher is one of the most underrated things in the game of baseball, and he can certainly be a serviceable option as long as he continues to work as he has on his at-the-plate approach and his arm when throwing runners out. Mitch Alexin has continued every year to improve, to the point where last year he was a solid contributor in every aspect of his game and earned the Most Improved Player award for 2016. Alexin has worked hard on improving his game both on and off the field, so this kid could be someone fun to watch come opening day.
John Strohmeier is another one who broke out last year and shattered expectations. After a slow-paced rookie season, Stroh came into 2016 focused and hungry at the plate. It showed he knew he belonged in the middle of the order when he was consistently squaring up balls all over the zone and even finding lots of green space in the outfield on some of those hits, and this eventually earned him the team's Unsung Hero award for 2016. If we see anything close to what he did last year, Stroh could prove to be another solid piece of this championship aspiring puzzle. Andrew King, as mentioned, was out for most of the 2016 season because he was studying abroad in Singapore, but he's back for a full season and couldn't be more excited about it. King is the type of guy to wear his emotions on his sleeve and have fun with the game of baseball, and it shows in his collected approach. In limited time and with minimal practice, he came out and was able to play a solid center field and put balls in play almost every chance he had. Like Honsberger, Jr., King's spot in the lineup isn't known yet because of the additions of Salasny and Boyack, but he's had experience in every part of the lineup, so there's no worry about his ability to hit in a certain part of the order.
Mason King continued to dominate on the bump last year, taking home the team's Best Pitcher award for the third straight season. But this year may prove to be a little more difficult for him to four-peat because of the addition of Boyack to the starting rotation. King's excited about the addition, though, because he knows it'll make his job easier in the long run to have another ace alongside him. King also raked at the dish last year, once again proving he's not a typical pitcher who can't do anything else. With the addition of another huge arm, look for King to be even more effective in his starts and, due to the rest, it should prolong deeper into the season than in previous years. Eric Nash has, year in and year out, been one of the most quiet contributors to the A's. He's played almost every position in the field and has spent time in almost every spot in the lineup, and most impressive of all he's done all that effectively. It's always important to have a "plug-and-play" guy on a roster, and Nash will continue to be that into 2017 for this team.
Overall, this team is once again looking to be in the top few spots in the league and will make for an interesting series in the playoff rounds for whoever they play. Because of the depth at pitcher, the aggressive type of play, and the fact that the entire lineup can hit well, they're going to be a tough out come August and will get the best out of every team in the league.
2016 Clarence A's Awards
One day after finishing off their 2016 campaign, the Clarence A's have announced the winners of their annual awards:
Jay McKee Most Valuable Player: Pat Doherty
Previous winners: Pat Doherty (2015), Jimmy Honsberger, Jr. (2014), Trevor Elston (2013)
Doherty put together an incredible season, finishing with a .397 batting average and led the team in doubles (3), triples (3), home runs (4), and RBI (23). He also posted the team's highest OBP (.653) and SLG (.759) in his 19 games played. Doherty was the only A's player to play in every game this season, and to put up those numbers in more games than anyone else is a true testament to his offensive prowess. Doherty also threw 60 innings on the mound, more than any other A's pitcher, logging a 3.30 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.
Best Hitter: Pat Doherty
Previous winners: Pat Doherty (2015), Jimmy Honsberger, Jr. (2014)
Best Pitcher: Mason King
Previous winners: Mason King (2014-2015)
This is the third time in three attempts King will be taking home the hardware for Best Pitcher on the Clarence A's. He finished with a 2.17 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 29 innings pitched. King saw the mound in some of the toughest games of the season, including the second game of the semifinal series against the Nationals, a game in which King got the win. His dominance with his fastball and ability to hit spots with his offspeed pitches are what made him a dominant pitcher in the Buffalo MABL this season and is without a doubt a pitcher teams need to gameplan for.
Unsung Hero: John Strohmeier
Previous winners: Andrew King (2015), Evan Weitz (2014)
Strohmeier was the epitome of this award: showed up, contributed every game, and didn't necessarily make it noticed. After winning the Best Rookie award last year, Strohmeier came into this season with a mission to make more of an impact at the plate than he had in his first season with the team. Things certainly worked out; he finished the season with a .390 batting average and .509 OBP. As with most of the other rewards, there were multiple guys who could've won, but in this case Strohmeier played into the unsung model more than anyone else.
Coach's Award: Jimmy Honsberger, Jr.
Previous winners: None
One of two new awards being handed out by the organization this year, the Coach's Award goes to the player that displayed great leadership, both on and off the field and through words and actions. Honsberger, Jr. fit this mold perfectly; on the bench and off the field, he made it known his philosophy was to give other teams hell and he showed exactly how to do it when he laced up his cleats. He finished the season with the team's best batting average (.429), the most hits (24), and the most stolen bases (18). The rest of the Buffalo MABL took notice of Honsberger, Jr. and quickly gameplanned against him getting pitches over the plate and swiping bags, but the adjustments he made in his game are what made him the super star shortstop he was once again this season.
Most Improved Player: Mitch Alexin
Previous winners: None
The other of the two new awards this season, the Most Improved Player commemorates the player that put in the most work in the offseason and showed his true colors on the field. This year, Mitch Alexin was hands down the most improved of the Clarence A's. After posting batting averages around .175 the past couple of seasons, Alexin batted .238 with a .378 OBP. He's best known as quoting "I don't get on that often" when being thrown out on a tag from second on a fly to right field, but based on the numbers, Alexin was getting on more than he, or anybody, had ever anticipated. His fielding abilities also improved this season, going from a hit-or-miss second baseman and outfielder to a sure thing on fly balls and sacrificing his body to keep balls in the infield.
Best Rookie: Anthony Castellani
Previous winners: John Strohmeier (2015), Zach Zabel (2014), Sully Curry (2013)
Castellani joined the A's after playing his last few seasons in the Town of Clarence Baseball Association Senior League and made it known he was going to be a force to be reckoned with as soon as he took his first steps on the fields at Brighton Park. Before moving to Rochester, NY for a job with the Buffalo Bills, Castellani quickly became an all-star for the A's: he batted .400 in 8 games with one home run, 4 stolen bases, and a .621 OBP. He also excelled in the field, holding down the entire area from left-center to right-center as a center fielder, best remembered by many when he sprinted 120 feet to camp under a deep fly ball hit by Snappers 1B/OF Doug Stoll.
Congratulations to all of our winners!
Five A's Players, One Coach Named To Buffalo MABL All Star Game
Tomorrow night the Buffalo MABL will host their annual All Star Game at 8:30pm at Sheridan Park. Each team in the game will consist of 13 players and is a showcase of the best talent the league has to offer.
There were five players from the Clarence A's roster named to the team: Drew Ailing, Anthony Castellani, Pat Doherty, Jimmy Honsberger, Jr., and PJ Martucci.
Ailing has had a standout rookie season for the A's, playing either third or second base and finding himself in the cleanup spot of a lineup that's averaging 6.6 runs scored per game. His .333 batting average, 7 RBI, and 1.078 OPS, along with his consistent playmaking in the field, earned him a spot on the team.
Castellani is another A's player in his first season with the team and he's shattered every expectation the team had coming into the season. He's currently batting .389 with an outstanding .600 OBP and 1.322 OPS, enough to frighten pitchers league-wide. Castellani has also displayed his incredible speed in center field, tracking down balls unimaginable and providing a strong arm, making it hard for runners to take bases on hits to the outfield.
Doherty is a cornerstone player for the A's, finishing up his fourth season with the team. After a slow start, Doherty has raised his batting average to .359 and is leading the team in extra base hits (7), home runs (3), and RBI (14) and currently holds a 1.361 OPS. His consistency in the field and on the mound is what he thrives on and it looks like there will be more of the same as we move into the playoffs.
Honsberger, Jr. is another fourth year A's player making a run at the team's Jay McKee Most Valuable Player award. Of all players that have played at least 6 games, he leads the team in batting average (.447), hits (17), and stolen bases (12) and has only one strikeout on the season. Honsberger, Jr. has also been a stud in the field, holding a .953 fielding percentage with 5 double plays.
Martucci is finishing off his third season with the organization and has been the power bat the A's have needed so desperately in the previous years. He has a triple and a home run in 10 games and has dropped his strikeouts to only 4 in 36 at bats. Martucci's ability to put the ball in play and move runners is his biggest improvement from last season and seems to have become his biggest strength during his 2016 campaign. On the mound, he's posted a remarkable 1.38 ERA with a 2-0 record, posting 20 strikeouts in only two starts.
A's manager Jordan Honsberger has been named as the coach of one of the teams in the All Star Game after running one of the top two teams in the Buffalo MABL. With lots of help from his team, Honsberger has put together a 9-3 team with a +46 run differential with two games left in the regular season.
Five Reasons A's Fans Should Be Hopeful For The 2016 Season
We're nine days out from Opening Day and coming off a strong outing in the Clarence A's Spring Training game. There's no doubt the team is looking to take home the hardware this season, but as a fan how can you be sure your favorite team has a chance? Here are five reasons why the team has the ability to be 2016 Buffalo MABL champs.
1.) Strong Free Agent Signings
The team made a splash in free agency after losing five roster players from last year's squad (Greg Newman, Alex Johnson, Evan Weitz, Pat Territo, and JJ Doherty) by bringing on three players from the 2015 Clarence High School Varsity Baseball team (Drew Ailing, Brady Siwek, and Jordan Hrynczak), one from the St. Joe's Collegiate Institute organization (Anthony Castellani), and one from the Williamsville North organization (Jake Garvelli).
Ailing, who was the strongest player on the Clarence team last year and drew attention from a number of colleges (no pun intended), will be a vital part of the top of the order and infield for the A's. With a powerful bat and hands smoother than butter, he's looked at as an early contender for the team's Jay McKee Most Valuable Player Award. Siwek will play a huge role, playing either center or left field while Andrew King takes his Summer semester to study abroad in Singapore. Siwek's ability to cover ground is compared to Cincinnati Red's center fielder Billy Hamilton, and he bats in a similar fashion, being able to either lead off an order or be a second lead off man at the bottom of the order. Hrynczak won't challenge Mason King for the ace of the pitching staff, but he will for sure be the number two. On top of that, he's able to bat anywhere in the order which allows manager Jordan Honsberger to be more creative with his lineups.
Castellani is a linebacker on the John Carroll University football team, so it's obvious power is one of his specialties. Another power bat, a lefty one at that, in a lineup that saw lots of singles the past few seasons will lead to a huge boost in the team's runs scored and RBI this year. Also, his swift feet make him another outfielder who can cover lots of ground and a threat on the basepaths.
Garvelli is a shifty, versatile fielder that can play many different positions, which again gives Honsberger lots of options when formulating a lineup. He, as well as Castellani, is a left-handed bat that the team could use, seeing all they had last year was PJ Martucci and to an extent the switch-hitting Pat Doherty.
2.) Improved Outfield Play
As mentioned, Siwek, Castellani, and Garvelli can all be put somewhere in the outfield. Adding them into the equation that consists of Andrew and Eric Nash, two of the league's most elite defensive outfielders, solidifies this entire area of the field. Where balls would fall and errors would be made last year, fielders will cover ground and catches and throws will be made this year. With these five as well as Mitch Alexin, John Strohmeier, and Mason King, who can all play some sort of outfield, the A's won't ever be short on outfielders.
3.) Player Development
This year's offseason training program has done wonders for everyone. With that said, the three guys that seemed to benefit most from them are Martucci, Strohmeier, and Alexin. Martucci is a powerful left-handed bat that can hit over heads given the right pitch, but consistency was an issue in year's past. This Winter, PJ got a handle of his swing and is beginning to hit long balls on command. Strohmeier dedicated his Winter to bettering his contact at the plate as well as adding even more power to his swing. Seeing as he's already a strong guy, these adjustments should make him a top half of the order guy. We saw it in the scrimmage Sunday morning against the Astros with his long RBI double and it's sure to be more of the same as we move through the season. Alexin has worked a lot on both his fielding and hitting and it showed on Sunday. Although he made an error at second base, Mitch was catching balls and making plays that the Mitch of last year didn't have a chance at. At the plate, Mitch went 1-3 with a hard RBI single. He's improved tremendously each season and if this trend continues, we can see him as an every day role player that'll lift the A's over the hump.
4.) Middle Inflieders Galore
The art of playing the middle infield is one that's overlooked by many. Typically, these players are looked at as small and scrappy and low in supply. The A's will have no such issue finding guys to play there this year. Everyday shortstop Jimmy Honsberger, Jr. is entering his fourth season with the team at that position and couldn't be more reliable. When he takes the mound, Doherty will be assuming the position and is just as dependable. At second, we will see a mix of guys, depending on who's on the mound. Ailing is the top second baseman on the team, and like Honsberger, Jr. and Doherty, he's considered a gold glove caliber player. We can also see Strohmeier, who's quickly developed at the position, Garvelli, who's played a lot of middle infield in years past, Alexin, who's becoming more reliable every day, and Siwek, who spent a decent chunk of time last season taking reps at second. Double play balls will be in an abundance which the pitchers will love and the other Buffalo MABL teams will despise.
5.) Half Of The Team Can Pitch
That's right. Seven of fourteen guys can legitimately take the mound and shut down opposing batters. Of those seven, five will be looked at as the core of the pitching staff: Mason, Hrynczak, Honsberger, Jr,, Doherty, and Martucci. Four of the five guys were the main hurlers for last year's team, Hrynczak being the new face to the staff. The four of them earned the team the 3 seed and a trip to the Buffalo MABL semifinal series, an accomplishment that not many staffs in the league can claim. The addition of Hrynczak as the number two pitcher will only strengthen the staff and weaken the left hands of Honsberger and Nash, the team's catchers going into the season. Garvelli threw some in Winter workouts and looked phenomenal, so expect him to throw some innings. Conversation within the organization says Ailing can also take the hill if need be, and seeing he threw 77 mph from third to first as a Senior in high school, he can probably put some mustard on his four seamer.
Overall, there's lots to be excited about regarding the 2016 Clarence A's; as long as attendance isn't an issue, the team is poised to take a top seed into the playoffs and utilize their strengths in the pursuit of a championship. The team starts their season Wednesday, May 18th at Brighton Park #2 at 6:15pm against the team that bounced them from the playoffs and eventually won the whole thing, the Nationals.
Be sure to follow the team on Twitter @ClarenceAsMABL and Buffalo MABL on Twitter @BuffaloMABL and on Facebook "Buffalo MABL."
Long Time A's Catcher Announces Retirement
Saturday afternoon A's catcher Greg Newman told GM Jordan Honsberger he would be retiring, effective immediately. Newman cited his various Summer commitments as the reason for his moving on from baseball.
"Newman was one of the guys that kept us loose during the games," Honsberger said. "His skills ranked higher than the average Buffalo MABL player and it was apparent when he would step into the box or go behind the plate." Newman was known on the field for his long-ball ability and consistent catching. Off the field, he was known as the goofy, relaxed guy that every team has one of.
Newman had been with the A's since the beginning, when they won the Town of Clarence Baseball Association Senior League Championship back in 2013. As the team grew and joined the Buffalo MABL, he remained a solid bottom-of-the-order bat that helped the team develop into the postseason threat they are today. What many will remember about number 2's play was his aggresiveness on the basepaths, regardless of his catcher-like build. Honsberger alluded to Newman's running tendencies by saying "I've never seen a big man with such heart on the bases. There was no way he should've stolen bases or scored on hits in the gap like he did, but it was his competitive mentality that allowed him to do so."
With Newman gone, the A's have some question marks to fill in the bottom of their order and at catcher, as Honsberger is now the only active catcher on the roster. No word yet on if the team is looking to fill the role internally or if they'll make a last-minute trip into the free agent market. We've seen Patrick Doherty, Jimmy Honsberger, Jr., and Eric Nash catch previously, but who knows if them leaving their current positions to catch the occasional game is the answer.
One thing is for sure, though, and that is there will never be another Greg Newman. "Newman has done so much making this organization what it is today, These behind-the-scenes guys don't get enough credit, and he's one of the pioneers that helped the Clarence A's take off the way we did. Greg's welcome back in the dugout this season whenever he wants and on the field in the future," Honsberger said.
A's Honor Former Sabre Jay McKee With New Award Name
Wednesday night the Clarence A's Board of Directors (Jordan Honsberger, Patrick Doherty, PJ Martucci, Jimmy Honsberger, Jr., and Mitchell Alexin) recognized it was time to name the team's Most Valuable Player award after a Buffalo great. After about an hour of deliberations, the group came to the conclusion that The Jay McKee Most Valuable Player Award would be the new name.
McKee, defenseman, played in the National Hockey League from 1996-2013 for the Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, and Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent 10 seasons in the Sabres organization, often splitting time in Buffalo and Rochester with the Sabres' American Hockey League affiliate Americans for the first three seasons of his career. McKee was selected 14th overall by Buffalo (pick received from the Vancouver Canucks) in the 1995 NHL Draft, the same draft the team took goaltender Martin Biron with the 16th overall pick. From there McKee went on to have a productive tenure with the team, playing 582 games, tallying 17 goals, 81 assists, and a whopping 470 penalty minutes.
When asked why McKee was the person of choice, Honsberger simply replied "He was a monster on and off the ice. We want our MVP to exude the same energy Jay did during his time in Buffalo." The vote to change the name of the award was won by a 4-1 majority vote. The one board member that voted against the name change didn't want any other name, just instead to keep the name of the award as it was. Other names tossed around during the deliberations included Eric Boulton, Donald Audette, Rob Ray, Devante Smith-Pelly, Erik Rasmussen, and Alexi Zhitnik.
The team is unsure if any other names will be changed, but a revamping of the image of the organization isn't frowned upon by this group of board members.
Make sure to follow Jay McKee on Twitter @JayMcKee74 and the Clarence As @ClarenceAsMABL
One Month Into Practices, A's Shine
After three practices, the Clarence A's are looking better than they ever have in Winter practices. "This year's practices seem to have more of an edge to them," said General Manager Jordan Honsberger. "The past few years we came in and worked hard, but that was just because we were there. When you come to practice, you work hard. But this year, we understand why else we are working hard. Getting swept in the semifinals by the eventual champion Nationals made us realize how close we are to hoisting the trophy. I think that experience did us wonders in terms of getting our work in."
Honsberger's right; the practices are certainly more intense this season, but also seem more relaxed. The players seem to wander in at their own pace, make jokes while warming up, and dance to music during fielding drills. Guys like Honsberger and Andrew King set the tone for practices, encouraging the "get better" mentality while still staying loose. It's surely rubbed off, as noticeable changes in the play of Vice President of Operations PJ Martucci and Mitchell Alexin have become evident. Also tagging along in the regular practice squad are Assistant General Manager/ President Patrick Doherty, Vice President of Marketing Jimmy Honsberger, Jr., and John Strohmeier. "It's obvious a Friday/Saturday evening practice isn't appealing to some, and some aren't even available because of work or their living arrangements at school, but it's clear when the Spring rolls around who practiced their butt off during the Winter," Honsberger said.
It'll be interesting to see how the starting positions unfold in the upcoming months, as we're only three months out from opening day for Buffalo MABL's 2016 season. Honsberger is currently carrying 14 guys, which means there can be a "position battle" at just about every spot. He's known to play all of his guys during the regular season if they have nine or ten or even eleven, but when those games come when the team has twelve-plus guys, or playoff games when there's more than ten, the decision will have to be made on recent play. If attendance at games early in the season is high, you may see Honsberger make decisions based on what he's seen in these Winter practices.
A's Look to Bolster Middle of Lineup Through New Tryout System
One week ago, General Manager Jordan Honsberger announced that the Clarence A's would be holding their first ever tryout open to the public. After talking about the idea with his C-level executives, it was concluded this would be the best way to address some of the needs the A's have; specifically, adding depth to the middle of their order. Last season, the team's 4-7 batters (assuming a typical 10-person lineup) were of average skill compared to those of other teams in the Buffalo MABL. It's apparent to anyone who's watched the A's that the team is talented, but less consistent than almost any other team. Honsberger said that the tryouts would "be an easy way to find solid players to add onto the ones we already have." He went on to say "I feel our issue is that our great guys can't have a bad game without the entire team suffering. This is a failing game, so everyone's going to have those days. We just need to add more depth so when our great guys are off, someone else will pick them up. After every game last year, I found myself saying 'Wow, Patty was excellent today' and we just so happened to win 13-0, or 'It's so unusual to see Jimmy struggle that much at the plate or in the field or whatever,' and we lost 9-2. I just want to be consistent. I know we're going to win some and lose some, but I hate losing the ones that we could've had if we had only been just that much more consistent with who we usually are."
Rumors have it that the team will be looking to add another starter to help out 2-time Best Pitcher Mason King and last year's MVP Pat Doherty, making Jimmy Honsberger, Jr. the primary reliever/closer. Also, Honsberger and his board are apparently looking for a middle infielder, potentially a corner-infielder, and an outfielder or two that can bat in the middle of the order. Although the number of errors last season was down drastically from the 2014 season, the team still averaged 3 a game, which is assumed to be worst in the league. To the team's defense, whoever they threw on the mound usually did most of the work himself, so the field could've been periodically nodding off, but you'd still like to see these numbers change.
Thirdly, Honsberger is surely to be looking for guys who can run the bases "in an educated, yet wild, kind of way." After trying to implement more aggressive baserunning last season, the 3rd year GM said "At our age and level, there's no more learning to be aggressive; either you have [that attitude] or you don't." So if I had to put money down on anything regarding this tryout, it would be that the team is looking to add speed.
Tryouts are Saturday, September 19 at 2:00pm at Goodrich Field #1, George W. Honsberger Field. If you or anyone you know are interested in trying out for the 2016 Clarence A's squad, you can contact the GM right here through our website or you can email him at Jordan.Honsberger@gmail.com.
Also, congrats to the winners of this year's five annual awards:
Most Clutch Offseason Pick-Up- John Strohmeier
Unsung Hero- Andrew King
Best Pitcher- Mason King (second time winning award; 2014)
Best Hitter- Pat Doherty
Most Valuable Player- Pat Doherty