We are the World: Lugnuts in the WBC
The World Baseball Classic is now underway, and there's a heavy Lansing Lugnuts presence in the international baseball tournament. Let's take a tour around the international stage, and go a little Nuts along the way. Begin in Pool A, contested in Taichung, Taiwan: - Panamá's roster includes 2022 Lansing outfielder
The World Baseball Classic is now underway, and there's a heavy Lansing Lugnuts presence in the international baseball tournament.
Let's take a tour around the international stage, and go a little Nuts along the way.
Begin in Pool A, contested in Taichung, Taiwan:
- Panamá's roster includes 2022 Lansing outfielder Joshwan Wright and 2017 outfielder Rodrigo "Coquí" Orozco. Though they played for two different organizations affiliated with the Nuts, separated by five years, they've known each other for a long time. The Panamá national team has been tightly knit since they were all kids together. Orozco is of royalty, too, since his father was a star on the national team.
- Italy's manager is Mike Piazza, sadly never a Nut. But his bullpen coach is Jason Simontacchi, who went 3-7 with a 6.97 ERA in Lansing in 1997, fell into independent baseball, resurrected his career, and pitched four seasons in the Majors.
- The Kingdom of the Netherlands (with the greatest baseball cap in the WBC) has 2016-17 Lugnut Josh Palacios in its starting lineup (alongside his younger brother Richie, who's coming up through Cleveland's system). The New Yorker has a parent from Curacao.
Josh Palacios puts Team Netherlands ahead with a run-scoring single!— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) March 8, 2023
The Brooklyn native hit .294 and stole 21 bases across 82 games at Triple-A in 2022: pic.twitter.com/DmTyub3yRS
In Pool B, hosted in Tokyo:
- Nobody. Not on Japan, Korea, Australia, China, or the Czech Republic. The Czech club does feature Martin Cervenka, who played against the Lugnuts while with the Lake County Captains, and the Aussies include former Fort Wayne TinCap Jarryd Dale and former West Michigan Whitecaps Jack "O'Lantern" O'Loughlin, Warwick Saupold, and Ulrich Bojarski with former Whitecaps manager Andrew Graham coaching third base.
In Pool C, situated in Phoenix:
- The USA has Kendall Graveman and Aaron Loup in its pen. Graveman is one of two players in team history to go from Lansing to Majors in one summer, achieved in 2014, and now dominates in relief for the White Sox, while 2010 Nuts lefty Loup from Luling, Louisiana, continues his late-career renaissance. Loup enters his 12th MLB season this year, his second with the Angels.
- Canada has both Otto Lopez, who won the 2019 Midwest League batting title, and Denzel Clarke, who hit inside-the-park home runs in consecutive games in 2022.
- Colombia has been stellar in the Caribbean Series the last two years, winning the championship in 2022 before falling in the third-place game this year. That's thanks in part to the slugging of Jordan Díaz (above), who impressed in Lansing in 2021, made his MLB debut last year, and should be impactful for the A's this season.
- Great Britain, like Canada and Panamá, also has two Luggies on their squad in pitcher Graham Spraker and outfielder Chavez Young, who were teammates on the 2018 Nuts. Each has since moved on from the Blue Jays organization, with Spraker joining Tampa Bay Rays and Young signing on with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
- Mexico features 2014-15 Lugnut Rowdy Tellez, who was given the choice between representing Mexico (his father) and Israel (his mother). Catcher *Alejandro Kirk *was expected to suit up for Mexico as well, but is missing the WBC after becoming a first-time dad.
𝘽𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙜. 𝙊𝙪𝙩. 𝙏𝙝𝙚. 𝙏𝙖𝙥𝙚. 𝙈𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙪𝙧𝙚.— Bally Sports Wisconsin (@BallySportWI) February 28, 2023
Rowdy Tellez HAMMERS it out for a solo home run! #ThisIsMyCrew pic.twitter.com/the03suEUM
And in Pool D, played in Miami:
- The Dominican Republic *should have had the most famous former Lugnut, *Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., as its centerpiece, but Vladdy injured his knee early in spring training while running the bases, knocking him out of the WBC.
- Israel may not be Rowdy, but it does have pitcher Jake Fishman, who dominated in a short stint for the Lugnuts in 2017, aptly debuted for the Miami Marlins last year, and signed on with the Oakland A's this offseason.
- Nicaragua's pitching corps includes Osman Gutiérrez, who made 18 starts for the Nuts in 2017 before being traded to the Marlins. Last season he was a member of Trois-Rivières in the independent Frontier League.
- Puerto Rico has a pair of pitchers who did not stay very long in Lansing in Marcus Stroman, who came in for a rehab start in 2015, and José Espada, who made six appearances in 2019 before resurfacing with Fort Wayne last year.
- Venezuela has journeyman catcher Robinson Chirinos, who has played 11 MLB seasons spread among six different teams after originally stopping by Lansing in 2003-04 as an infielder, and Maximo "Max" Castillo (below), who spent all of 2018 in the Lugnuts' rotation, was called up to the Majors by Toronto in 2022, traded to Kansas City, and approaches the upcoming MLB season as an interesting piece for the Royals.
In all, 12 of the 20 teams feature former Lugnuts, totaling 19 in all!
The WBC was won by Japan in 2006 and 2009, the Dominican Republic in 2013, and the USA most recently in 2017. It runs through March 21st.
For more information, visit mlb.com/world-baseball-classic.
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