By Bob Wirz
Minor league affiliates of the 30 major league teams only started playing for keeps Thursday so it will take some time before any trends turn up, but a pair of recent Sioux City Explorers standouts already are enjoying some good fortune which could help them position themselves well in their National League organizations.
Connor Overton, a standout in the Explorers’ bullpen in 2016, is enjoying some home cooking. Literally!
First baseman John Nogowski, who displayed his offensive potential in the American Association only two years ago, is getting inspiration from what his new Memphis teammates achieved last year.
These major league hopefuls are at the right age where their best days should be ahead of them.
Overton, who won’t turn 26 until late July, is benefitting from playing in his hometown of Richmond, VA with the San Francisco Giants’ Double-A farm club.
“I grew up coming to the games (in Richmond) and watching the guys,” the right-hander told The Commonwealth Times. “At the time, it’s a dream like, ‘Man, I want to be out there doing what these guys are doing.’ Then to actually be able to do it, especially in your hometown, is absolutely surreal.”
Overton, who was exceptional at Sioux City when he went 5-1, saved 11 games and posted a 1.96 earned run average in 30 appearances, pointed out various reasons living a home benefit him, including saving money. “A lot of guys who haven’t been here, they’re struggling to find apartments and that whole first couple weeks are really stressful, just to get in the groove. Luckily for me, I get to go home and just be super comfortable and kind of get into a routine.”
Nogowski, 26, is only one level below the parent St. Louis Cardinals at Memphis where the young Redbirds won the Triple-A National Championship one year ago.
While he wants to continue raking with the bat that allowed him to hit .402 and drive in 28 runs in his 34 games with the Explorers and hit .309 with 12 homers and 61 RBI in only 83 games at Double-A (Springfield) last summer, he is hearing plenty about last season’s title in Memphis.
“A lot of these guys were part of it,” he told WMC.com. “Hearing the stories about winning and stuff makes you want to win just that much more, and keep the winning culture.” Nogowski and the Redbirds started right in their opener. He scored twice (0-for-2, one walk, twice hit by pitches) in a 9-2 victory over Omaha.
Where Are They?
Elsewhere among former American Association players, last year’s Kansas City T-Bones outfielder Keith Curcio is with Boston’s Double-A club in Portland, ME but started out on the seven-day injured list. He hit .306 with 11 homers and 57 RBI in 94 games in KC.
Sioux City right-hander Kevin McCanna is scheduled to be a starter for Visalia in the Class A California League. In the same league, lefty Ian McKinney (Sioux City), who recently was re-signed by Seattle, is on the staff at Modesto.
Outfielder Dillon Thomas, at Texas last season before signing with the Milwaukee farm system, is at Double-A Biloxi. New Orleans, where Mike Kickham (T-Bones) is slated to continue his pursuit of a major league job after an outstanding spring training with the parent Miami Marlins.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at Amazon.com or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.