In less than a week Drew Saylor, the Tri-City Dust Devils manager, will be welcoming his second son into the world, an event to which he has been looking forward all season.
“Right now I’m thinking about getting home as quickly as possible so my wife doesn’t have a baby,” Saylor said following the Dust Devils 11-1 win over Vancouver in their season finale on Sept. 2 at Gesa Stadium.
Saylor’s first year as manager saw plenty of highs and lows, but one thing it wasn’t was forgettable.
After all, a manager never forgets his first team.
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“There were so many different personalities, and we all came together to figure out how we were going to mesh,” Saylor said, giving credit to first-year coaches Frank Gonzales (pitchers) and Warren Schaeffer (hitters).
The 29-year-old Saylor is the youngest skipper in professional baseball, and he admits that it showed at times.
His biggest lesson was learning to think ahead.
“I haven’t mastered it yet, and it’s going to take some time,” he said. “I don’t know what I would’ve done if (Ron Gideon) wasn’t around.”
Gideon, who managed the Dust Devils from 2002-2005, came back to the Tri-Cities as the team’s Development Supervisor, a position introduced by the Colorado Rockies this season.
“(Rockies general manager) Dan O’Dowd is such a good designer. He found the right people to fit this staff,” Saylor said. “There were times I needed to be more calm, and I did that. I was willing to listen to criticism.”
On the field, the Dust Devils provided the fans with several memorable moments at Gesa Stadium, the biggest one being a combined no-hitter by four Tri-City pitchers in a 3-0 win over Salem-Keizer on July 20.
Sam Moll, Shane Broyles, Jerad McCrummen and Trent Daniel each did their part for the 39th no-hitter in Northwest League history.
Tri-City finished just 34-42, 10 games behind the Everett AquaSox, who won both the first- and second-half championship.
The Dust Devils struggled in their own division — finishing 10-25 against North Division opponents — but ended 24-16 against the South, including 8-2 against NWL finalist Boise.
There were more than enough individual highlights, including Michael Benjamin’s RBI single to center on Aug. 3 that gave the Dust Devils a 6-5 walk-off win in 12 innings against Eugene, capping a 3 hour, 27 minute contest.
Kyle Von Tungeln and Chris O’Dowd hit back-to-back home runs at Gesa Stadium in a 10-2 win over the Boise Hawks on Aug. 18.
They joined Oscar Materano and Sam Smith, who accomplished the feat on July 16, 2002, as the only other Dust Devils to hit back-to-back home runs at home.
The team had six players — Daniel, Sean Dwyer, Johendi Jiminian, Alec Mehrten, Mike Tauchman and Ryan Warner — voted to the NWL All-Star team in August.
It was the first time the NWL had held the game since 2004.
Daniel became the first Tri-City player to lead the league in saves — recording 15 — since Charlie Ruiz, who had 17 in 2009.
Mehrten (.279) and Tauchman (.297) both finished in the top 10 in batting, and Tauchman also finished among league leaders in runs scored (38, fifth), hits (70, tied for fourth)and stolen bases (20, tied for third).
As a team, the Dust Devils led the NWL with 119 steals, breaking the franchise record of 101 set by the 2009 team.
They also led the league in triples for most of the season but finished behind Salem-Keizer (24) with 22.
Tri-City’s front office also continued to rewrite the record books, breaking the Dust Devils record for average attendance in a year, bringing 2,270 fans through the game per game.
“There has been a lot of cool stuff happen this year,” Tri-City general manager Derrell Ebert said. “On the field, the no-hitter was pretty special. Off the field, the Russell Wilson bobblehead night was an unbelievable success. The fans began lining up at 3 p.m. It was incredible to see a non-fireworks promotion draw that kind of crowd (3,733 fans).”
w On Monday, the NWL announced its schedule for 2014. The Dust Devils, who have opened at Gesa Stadium for the past two seasons, will start their 76-game slate on the road, facing Boise for a five-game series at Hawks Stadium beginning Friday, June 13.
Tri-City will hold its home opener on Wednesday, June 18, against the Everett AquaSox to start a three-game set.
The Eugene Emeralds will play host to the NWL All-Star Game on Aug. 5.
Canadians win NWL title again
The Vancouver Canadians captured their third consecutive Northwest League championship with a 5-0 win over the Boise Hawks on Monday at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver, B.C. in Game 3 of the Northwest League championship series.
Canadians’ starter Tom Robson allowed just three hits over 61⁄3 shutout innings, and Alonzo Gonzales and Chuck Ghysels came in to blank the Hawks for the final 22⁄3 frames.
L.B. Dantzler hit a two-run double with two outs in the third to put Vancouver up 2-0, and Ian Parmley added a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth to cap the scoring.
It was just the third time in NWL history that a team has won more than two titles in a row. Boise won three consecutive championships from 1993-95, and Spokane won four in a row from 1987-1990.