Welcome back to Banished to the Pen’s preview of the 2015 season for The Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs. So far, we have posted previews for the Sonoma Stompers and Pittsburg Diamonds. The opening week is under way in the PA as the Stompers have already swept the Diamonds, and the Admirals did likewise versus the Pacifics on Thursday. The two undefeated teams face off in a series starting tonight.

Now entering its third season of play, the Pacific Association appears to have moved its way into the middle tier of the independent ball hierarchy, with one front office member commenting to BttP that the league may now rival the Frontier League for talent. While the league started with 5 teams, including 2 Hawaiian teams in 2013, the league now features 4 teams exclusively in Northern California: the San Rafael Pacifics, the Vallejo Admirals, the Sonoma Stompers and the Pittsburg Diamonds. You can find standings and statistics for the league on PointStreak.com as well as Baseball-Reference.com.

The Pacific Association season runs from June 1 to August 30, and uses a first half winner vs. second half winner format to determine the competing teams for a winner-take-all championship game at the end of the season. If one team wins both halves then no championship game occurs. Last season, the first half victor Pacifics were able to barely hold off the Admirals, defeating them in the final game of the season to clinch the second half and league championship.

The league favored hitters last season, with an average slash line of .280/.367/.400, but that can change quickly in a league with significant player turnover from one season to the next. We’re huge fans of two things here at Banished to the Pen: the Effectively Wild podcast, and baseball that is a little different from what you see on ESPN every Sunday night, so the Pacific Association is the perfect intersection of those two forces.

The Vallejo Admirals

The Admirals began play in the Pacific Association in 2013, when the league still included two Hawaiian teams, under the ownership of Redwood Sports and Entertainment, which also owns the Pacifcs and formerly owned the Stompers. The Admirals are now owned locally. Tim Fitzgerald, Broadcaster and Media Relations Director for the Admirals, was kind enough to provide his thoughts on the Admirals season and his comments appear throughout this article.

Team in a Box

Owner and General Manager: Kathy Beistel. According to Fitzgerald, Beistel’s involvement with the Admirals has grown from super fan and supporter to sales and marketing director to the owner’s seat. According to a Times-Herald article on Beistel, she has been involved in the Vallejo community for years, starting a community watch and spear-heading a community garden as well as managing a City Council member’s campaign.

Wilson Park as seen before off-season renovations. Source: Yelp.com

Home FieldWilson Park, VallejoFitzgerald explained several changes to the baseball field for 2015, such as a redeveloped infield and new sod. The team hopes there will be more “upgrades to the park as the team gains standing in the community,” according to Fitzgerald. The park’s dimensions measure 324-370-390-370-323 from left to right field and Fitzgerald mentioned that there is a slight jet stream out toward right field.

Broadcast Info: Audio broadcasts of the Admirals’ games can be streamed on their Mixlr page or heard locally on 89.5 FM, Ozcat Radio.

Most famous player from Vallejo:  This one is a tie. Current Yankee CC Sabathia was born in Vallejo and played baseball at Vallejo High School. Former Cubs and Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner was born in Vallejo, though he attended Napa High School

Manager:  Garry Templeton II. Templeton is the son of retired major league shortstop Garry Templeton.  Drafted by the Angels in ‘99, Garry II spent three seasons in affiliated ball before playing professional independent baseball from 2001-2008. Previously, Templeton managed the Hawaii Stars of the North American Baseball League and Pacific Association from 2012-13. He replaced former major league slugger Pedro Guerrero as the Admirals’ manager.  Fitzgerald praised Templeton’s work with the Admirals players: “Garry is just super professional. You can tell he’s been around baseball a long time. He does a great job with that line of kidding around with players but he’s their boss. He keeps that buffer there. He does a good job weeding out who’s a professional and who isn’t. Those times when he needs to go argue he turns it on. When he does it, it’s like ‘whoa.’ He’s cool and calm and it has an effect but he can turn it on.”

2014 in Review

The Admirals (44-34) finished 2nd overall in the standings, outscoring the other Pacific teams (488 runs) while allowing the 3rd most runs in the league (436 runs allowed). On the final day of the season, the Admirals played the Pacifics with a chance to force a championship game, as a victory would have pushed the Admirals into first place in the second half of the season. The Pacifics prevailed, however, and took home the league championship. There appears to be a friendly rivalry brewing between the Admirals and Pacifics, as the senior members of the league. “We’re definitely trying to knock them down. We’ve been their main rival since the first year. You can feel the intensity turn up when we’re both in the building. Last year’s title came down to us. San Rafael likes their perch and that’s our target,” said Fitzgerald. There was even a bench clearing moment last season between the two teams.

Last Year Honors: Rookie of the Year (Jordan Hinshaw, RF), 4 Gold Gloves (Tillman Pugh, CF, Jordan Hinshaw, RF, Elvin Rodriguez, SS, Michael Cerda, 3B), Manager of the Year (Garry Templeton II)

 

Notable Losses

Tillman Pugh (right) was drafted by the Mets and made it to A ball before playing with the Admirals last season. Photo credit: Metsmerizedonline.com

Tillman Pugh (OF), Joe Lewis (OF/RHP)

Switch-hitting center fielder Tillman Pugh is reportedly heading to the Frontier League after finishing 3rd in MVP voting last season. A switch-hitter, Pugh finished 3rd in on-base percentage, 4th OPS, 4th in SLG, and 4th in walk rate among hitters with more than 78 plate appearances last season.

As profiled in the Diamonds’ preview, Joe Lewis decamped for his hometown Pittsburg Diamonds this season, another notable loss to the Admirals’ talented outfield.

Notable Returning Players:

Nick Boggan was a ABCA and D3Baseball.com First Team All-American in his final year at Cal Lutheran University.

Jordan Hinshaw (OF), Nick Boggan (1B), David Dinelli (RHP), Nick Flory (LHP)

Right-handed right-fielder Jordan Hinshaw returns after winning rookie of the year last summer. Hinshaw batted .339/.429/.561 with 12 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 23 attempts.. He finished 2nd in OPS and slugging, 3rd in home runs, 4th in isolated power and 5th in on-base percentage last season in addition to his gold glove performance.

Nick Boggan returns to anchor the Admirals’ lineup. The left-handed hitting first baseman finished 2nd in the Pacific last season with 14 home runs and 8th in isolated power.

David Dinelli, who finished with an above average ERA (4.17) is expected to pitch at the top of the Admirals rotation this season after finishing the season as a starter in his final 5 games with the Admirals in 2014.. Dinelli reportedly topped out in the upper 90’s in his younger seasons. He can still pitch in the mid-90’s according to Fitzgerald.

The only pitcher to remain with the Admirals since their inaugural season, Nick Flory brings a crafty lefty presence to the rotation for the Admirals. Flory finished among the league leaders in ERA (3.14) for starting pitchers in 2014 while striking out over 2 batters per walk. According to Fitzgerald, Flory is a location artist who pitches off his two seam fastball but picked up a four seam fastball during last season.

Notable Additions: Darian Sandford (OF)

28-year-old outfielder Darian Sandford brings elite speed to the Admirals. Sandford spent last season in the Frontier and United Leagues. He stole 136 bases over the 2012 and 2013 seasons in the Frontier League and posted a .390 on-base percentage during his time in the United League last season.

The Season Ahead

Fitzgerald pointed out that Templeton really put his stamp on the team this off-season and it should flash lots of speed in 2015. They’re already off to a running start, beating the Pacifics in all three games of the opening series. For the Admirals, much like other Pacific Association teams, 2015 is as much about the growth of the organization as results on the field. Fitzgerald used the metaphor of a person’s growth to explain how quickly the organization has grown up: “In year one, this team was a baby. Last year was the adolescence, as the team showed growth and potential. This year [the team is] hitting young adulthood. This person is beginning its professional life. The continuity is beginning to develop in ‘15. [We’re] really getting attendance to perk up and more promotion and advertising than ever.”

 

Disclaimer: In the interest of fair disclosure, BanishedtothePen.com advertises with the Sonoma Stompers.

Stats in this article are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and PointStreak.com.

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