Sat, March 28

Mingus baseball alums still chasing dreams

Photo courtesy Jo. L. Keener/Daily Courier

ALBERT Rodriguez, Mingus baseball Class of 2002, is wearing different colors on the diamond this season. He is a pitcher for Sky Smeltzer's Yavapai College Roughriders.

Mingus enters the spring diamond season with five graduates playing college ball. Another is entering his third year in the White Sox organization and yet another is coaching in the Cubs’ farm system.

“We have had over 10 kids represent Mingus baseball at a higher level over the past four seasons,” Grauberger said. “We are proud of that. Parents like Mike Whelan, Steve Huson and Jim Lawler along with our spring coaching staff have all contributed in this effort.

“Probably the most striking statistic is that 60 percent of our kids who go to college have been, or will probably finish their college careers involved in a Division I program.”

Two former Marauders are already there – Casey Adams is a senior at Louisiana Tech, which competes in the Western Athletic Conference. Pat Lawler is a freshman at the University of Arizona, a PAC-10 school.

Adams, who played on Grauberger’s Final Four team in 1999, transferred to La Tech after a stint at Yavapai College. He has started once for the Bulldogs so far this season and has appeared in four games.

Last season, he pitched in 12 contests, turning in his best performance against Nicholls State on Feb. 24 – no runs, four hits and eight strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings of work.

Lawler, who graduated last spring after winning his second Grand Canyon Region MVP award, has appeared in a couple of junior varsity contests so far with the Wildcats. He dresses with the varsity and travels to away games with the team, but has yet to appear in a regular season contest.

Arizona (9-4) will host Texas A&M in a three-game series this weekend in Tucson before heading off to Austin for a series with Texas next weekend.

Yavapai College has seen a steady flow of Mingus players in recent years. This season, the Roughriders’ roster features two Marauders – sophomore Eli Arnett and freshman Albert Rodriguez.

Both are relief pitchers. Rodriguez has one save after three appearances, boasting a 2.86 ERA. Arnett has pitched in two games so far and currently has a 6.92 ERA.

The Riders are 8-6 entering this weekend’s series at Scottsdale Community College.

Chris French, a 2001 Mingus grad, pitched for Yavapai last season before transferring to Mesa State in Grand Junction, Colo. The Mavericks compete at the Division II level.

French’s ERA remained at 0.00 after his first two relief appearances, a total of two innings of work.

When spring training opens in Arizona this weekend, Marauder grad Tim Huson will among those taking swings with the Chicago White Sox. Huson was drafted in 2001 and spent the past two summers playing first base at Class A Bristol in Tennessee.

The White Sox use Tucson Electric Park as their spring training hub. When the Sox face the rival Chicago Cubs on March 8 in Mesa or on March 14 in Tucson, Huson may run into his uncle wearing a rival uniform.

Jeff Huson, a Major League journeyman who concluded his playing career a couple of years ago, now coaches in the Cubbies minor league system.

Another group of Mingus graduates recently concluded their playing careers. These alums played in college or for MLB farm teams but are now inactive:

• Mike Wombacher (Chicago Cubs, N.Y. Yankees – Class A)

• Travis Whelan (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi)

• Travis McClendon (Seattle Mariners – A & AA)

• Brian Cronk (Pittsburgh Pirates – A)

• Spencer Young (Tampa Bay Devil Rays – Rookie)

• Kevin Ralston (Glendale JC).

Catcher Rob Maine signed with Glendale Community College following last season but is currently sidelined with an injury.

“Most of my alumni thank us for our enthusiasm and remarkably our discipline – something that helped them get to the next level,” says Grauberger, entering his fourth year as Mingus coach.

“I can assure you, our alumni who play at a higher level understand why and how they got there.”

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