PASCO -- Now in their 11th season in Pasco, the Tri-City Dust Devils are well established in the local baseball community, having graced the Mid-Columbia with a wealth of talented players since arriving in 2001.
However, because minor league baseball -- especially short-season A-ball -- is designed to keep players moving up the ladder of their respective franchises, the best players don't remain in Tri-Cities for long.
But if you've been lucky enough to catch a few games at Gesa Stadium over the years, you've seen plenty of rising stars, some of whom already have reached the major leagues. In case you didn't get to see them when they passed through town, here's a position-by-position take on the Dust Devils' most memorable performers.
The 2011 Tri-City squad could end up being the most memorable of all, having already clinched the Northwest League East first-half title. However, since this season is only halfway over and a full season of statistics haven't been accrued, any current Dust Devils have been withheld from the list.
Since at least half an average baseball team is comprised of pitchers, we named three starters, a relief pitcher and a closer.
You have to start with Shane Lindsay, a right-handed fireballer out of Australia who put together probably the best season ever by a Dust Devils starter. In 2006, he went 6-1 and set two Colorado Rockies short-season records with 107 strikeouts and a 1.89 ERA. Incredibly, Lindsay was not selected for the Northwest League All-Star team but was later named the league's top prospect by Baseball America.
Bruce Billings was a 30th-round draft pick in 2007, but with his outstanding repertoire he outpitched many higher draft picks and led the NWL with 89 strikeouts. Chad Bettis, a second-round pick in 2010, was named a NWL all-star despite being promoted after just nine starts. The left-hander out of Texas Tech went 4-1 with a 1.12 ERA in Tri-City without much offensive support.
Craig Bennigson led the league in wins in 2009, going 8-3 out of the bullpen with a 1.53 ERA to earn a spot on the NWL all-star team. Bennigson also led the 20010 squad with seven saves and remains one of the Dust Devils' top relief men this season.
The Dust Devils have had some fine closers, but none were better than Jim Miller in 2004. The talented right-hander led the league with 17 saves to secure an all-star bid. He also averaged 15.8 strikeouts per nine innings and finished the year with a 0.98 ERA.
In the field, it was difficult to nail each position down to one standout performer, considering there were several strong candidates for most positions.
One of the easiest selections was outfielder Charlie Blackmon, who set a Rockies' short-season record with 98 hits in 2008 and was named to the NWL all-star team. He also hit .338, scored 42 runs and hit 21 doubles.
Joining him in the outfield is Travis Becktel, who earned an all-star bid in 2005 after finishing in the top 5 in the league with 50 runs, four triples and a .412 on-base percentage. He also led the league with 37 walks.
Chandler Laurent was streaky in 2010, but when he was hot there were few better. The right-handed outfielder showed plenty of versatility during a losing year, leading the Dust Devils with 11 homers, 36 RBIs, 44 runs, 14 steals and a slugging percentage of .500.
Michael McKenry may be with the Pittsburgh Pirates now, but he was a promising Rockies prospect in 2006. He handled a talented Tri-City pitching staff with confidence and played great defense. He was also selfless at the plate, leading the team with six sacrifice bunts and six sacrifice flies to go with four homers and 23 RBIs.
Bo Bowman set a new standard in 2009, recording the best offensive numbers ever recorded by a Dust Devils first baseman with 46 RBIs and a .526 slugging percentage. He also led the team with seven home runs and a .328 average.
Everth Cabrera's 2007 season was cut short by an ankle injury, but the future big-league shortstop was headed for a potential all-star season. In just 42 games, Cabrera hit .300 and collected 29 runs, 23 RBIs and 12 stolen bases to go with a .432 on-base percentage.
This was possibly the toughest decision to make, but it was difficult to ignore the all-star season from Oscar Materano in 2002. The 20-year-old Venezuelan led the team with nine home runs, 40 RBIs and 38 runs to go with a .259 average.
But it would be a crime not to mention Joey Wong, who committed just five errors in 342 chances in 2009. That translated to a .985 fielding percentage, which is nothing short of miraculous for a shortstop. He also started a league-high 51 double plays.
The list of all-time Tri-City position players ends with one of the biggest all-star snubs in Dust Devils history.
Somehow, third baseman Darin Holcomb was passed over by NWL voters despite a monster season that included a .303 average, 12 home runs, 46 runs, 51 RBIs, 23 doubles and a .523 slugging percentage -- all team-highs. But the Gonzaga product was left off the list for Clayton Conner of the Yakima Bears, who had a great start but finished the season with inferior numbers.
Third baseman Matt Macri earned the ulitity spot on the team by virtue of his impressive stats during the 2004 season. He led Tri-City with a .333 average, 43 RBIs and a .569 slugging percentage to go with seven homers.
Finally, the team needs a manager, and who better to guide it than the man who has been a part of the Dust Devils franchise since its inception -- current manager Fred Ocasio. The former Tri-City hitting coach from 2001-2005 took over as skipper in 2006 and became the winningest manager in team history with a 190-198 career record. He also led the Dust Devils to East Division championships in 2007 and 2009, earning NWL manager of the year in 2009.
* Led Dust Devils
** Led NWL
P--Shane Lindsay (2005: 6-1*, 1.89 ERA*, 107 Ks**)
P--Bruce Billings (2007: 4-2, 2.97 ERA, 89 Ks**)
P--Chad Bettis (2010: 4-1, 1.12 ERA, NWL AS)
RP--Craig Bennigson (2009: 8-3**, 1.53 ERA, NWL AS)
Closer--Jim Miller (2004: 17 saves**, 1-1, 0.97 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 65 Ks, 15.8 Ks/IP, NWL AS)
C--Michael McKenry (2006: .216, 4 HRs, 23 RBI, 6 SH*, 6 SF*, 11 HBP*)
1B--Bo Bowman (2009: .328*, 7 HRs*, 46 RBI*, .526 SLG*)
2B--Everth Cabrera (2007: .300, 29 R, 23 RBI, 12 SB, .432 OBP; played 1/2 season)
SS--Oscar Materano (2002: .259, 9 HRs*, 40 RBI*, 38 R*, NWL AS)
3B--Darin Holcomb (2007: .303*, 12 HRs*, 51 RBI*, 23 2B*, 46 R*, .523 SLG*)
OF--Charlie Blackmon (2008: .338*, 42 R*, 13 SB, 21 2B*, 98 H*, NWL AS)
OF--Chandler Laurent (2010: .263, 11 HRs*, 36 RBI*, 44 R*, .500 SLG*, 14 SB*)
OF--Travis Becktel (2005: .314, 4 HRs, 50 R, 37 BB**, .412 OBP, NWL AS)
All-purpose--3B Matt Macri (2004: .333*, 7 HRs, 43 RBI*, .569 SLG*, .410 OBP, NWL AS)
Mgr.--Fred Ocasio (190-196 through 2010; NWL East Division championship in 2007, 2009; NWL manager of year in 2009)
P Jentry Beckstead (2002: 1-3, 1.21 ERA, 19 saves**); 1B Joe Koshansky (2004: .234, 12 HRs*, 43 RBI*, 41 R); OF Michael Paulk (2005: .312, 4 HR, 45 RBI*, 37 BB**); RHP Andrew Kreidermacher (2006: 95.2 IP*, 6-5*, 3.48, 2 CG**); OF Mike Mitchell (2007: .259, 39 R, 32 SB**); SS Joey Wong (2009: .215, 30 R, led all NWL SS with .985 fielding %, 219 assists*, started 51 double plays*); OF Tim Wheeler (2009: .256, 5 HRs, 35 RBI, 44 R*, 10 SB).