Over the past few years, the Sonoma Stompers Professional Baseball Club’s annual pilgrimage to Palm Springs, Calif. to scout the California Winter League has netted some nice returns.
In 2014 the team used the scouting trip to sign the man who would make the first start in franchise history, Will Scott, and acquired two-year starter, Eric Schwieger. The following year saw Palm Springs produce second baseman Yuki Yasuda, as well as the man who would become the team’s eventual manager, Takashi Miyoshi.
Though the results of this spring’s harvest have yet to bear fruit, the club is excited about the signing of four young hopefuls. Catcher Marcus Blackmon Jr., left-handed pitcher Landon Hunt, utility player Masahiro Miyadera, and outfielder Ethan Szabo all agreed to terms with the Stompers.
“It’s a delicate balance, building a roster at this level, and at this time of year,” said Stompers GM Theo Fightmaster. “We spent a lot of time watching these players, speaking with scouts and coaches who have seen them play even more than we had, and spent time with these young men in an effort to teach them about the Stompers, Sonoma, and gauge what kind of people they are.
"In every instance, we’re optimistic about what they all can do for the ball club, and our community.”
Blackmon Jr, is a right-handed hitting catcher and graduate of the University of Jamestown in North Dakota. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Oregon native received was a 2015 First- Team All-Conference player in the North Star Athletic Association (NAIA), and also earned was the recipient of the conference’s Gold Glove for catcher. During his college career, he threw out 57-percent of would-be base stealers.
In the CWL, Blackmon hit .379 (11 for 29), drove in eight runs, scored seven times while leading the Toronto Rush to the CWL championship, earning him rave reviews from Los Angeles Dodger Special Assignment Scout, Barry Moss, as well as Jamestown head coach Tom Hager.
“(Marcus) is a first class kid and I will do anything I can to help him out. Marcus is one of the most talented catchers I have ever worked with,” Hager said in an email. “He is very athletic, has a great arm, and definitely knows how to lead a pitching staff. … I think he could be a great fit for (the Stompers).”
Hunt, 24, a 6-foot tall, left-handed hurler, is a product of Long Beach State University (the Alma mater of former Stompers Matt Hibbert and Brennan Metzger). With the Dirtbags, Hunt was used primarily as a lefty specialist, and in 2012 he didn’t allow a hit in his final four appearances.
In 13 1/3 innings in Palm Springs, Hunt was 1-1 with a 1.58 ERA. In three starts he struck out 23 batters, and walked just four. Opponents in the CWL hit just .216 against him and he furnished a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 1.13.
Miyadera under Miyoshi’s in the CWL, and has enjoyed stints in the CanAm League (Trois Rivieras Aigles), the Pecos League as well as professionally in Japan. In 29 at bats in the CWL, Myadera had 12 hits (.353) with four walks, three doubles, scored eight runs and stole three bases while playing all over the field.
Szabo – 6-foot-2, 230 pounds – is a resident of Delaware and product of Glenville State in West Virginia. He started 38 games in 2014, with a .278 average and a dozen extra-base hits, and an on-base percentage of .333. Last summer, Szabo played in the short-lived Ozarks Baseball League, where he was a two way player (pitcher and outfield). He is following in his father’s footsteps in an athletic sense. Gerry Szabo was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and has spent more than 40 years coaching and teaching.
These signings come in advance of the first Pacific Association tryout, that will be held Saturday, March 12-13 at Peterson Field in Sonoma. While the Stompers will serve as host, each team from the league will be in attendance to scout and sign players. More than 35 players have been signed to pro contracts out of these tryouts the last two years. All interested can register by clicking here.
The Stompers open the season May 31, 2016, and start their home season in Sonoma on Tuesday, June 7, at 6 p.m. against the Vallejo Admirals.
Full Season tickets, mini-plans and partial season tickets are on sale on our website, www.stompersbaseball.com, or at the Stompers Fan Shop, located at 234 West Napa Street in Sonoma. Group events and Group Tickets are also available now. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 707.938.7277 for questions and more information.