When minor league baseball returned to Virginia’s capital city in 2010, it marked a rebirth of pro baseball in the city. From 1966-2008, Richmond was home to the R-Braves. the AAA affiliate of the Richmond Braves. But stadium issues plagued the team’s final years. and the Atlanta Braves finally gave up on seeing a badly needed new facility in Richmond, and pulled the team out and moved them to suburban Atlanta.
After a dark 2009 at the Diamond, baseball returned in 2010, as the Eastern League’s Connecticut Defenders, AA for the Giants, moved south to Richmond and became the Flying Squirrels. Part of the agreement of the team coming to Richmond was that a new facility would be forthcoming.
2015 marked the 6th season at the Diamond for the Squirrels, and no new stadium, and none on the horizon.
While the lack of a new stadium remains a source of frustration for Flying Squirrels management, SF Giants management, and even the Eastern League powers-that-be, as well as throwing some doubt into the future of pro baseball in Richmond, that is not stopping fans from flocking to the ballpark to see future San Francisco Giants. Final attendance figures are in for the 2015 season, and for the 4th time in their 6 years, the Flying Squirrels were tops in the league in attendance. A total of 417,010 fans showed up to the Diamond in ’15 to watch their beloved Squirrels, pulling in approximately 800 fans more than 2nd-place Reading.
Richmond also won the EL title in 2010, 2012, and 2014.
10 former Squirrels now in the Bay Area.
The Richmond Flying Squirrels appear headed nowhere off the field with regards to the ongoing drama in Virginia’s capital city about replacing the aging Diamond. On the field, they are 27-26, 6 games out of first place in the Eastern League’s Western Division, have won three in a row, 7 of their last 10, and sit 2 games out of a playoff spot.
Yes, the same Richmond Flying Squirrels who not long ago went through the misery of a 15-game losing streak.
On April 13th, Richmond defeated Altoona in a rout 10-3, in the opener of a 3-game series. The next day, the game was rained out, and on the 15th, the Squirrels lost to Altoona 3-0, kicking off a losing streak that reached 15 games. It got so bad that team front office man Todd Parnell pledged to abstain from showering until the team won a game. That losing streak put the team at 3-17 after 20 games, by far dead last in the league. They broke their losing streak on May 4th, defeating that same Altoona squad by a score of 5-1, the first of 6 straight wins.
Since that hellish losing streak, they have gone 24-9, and are now just 2 games out of a playoff spot.
What has fueled this squad’s turnaround? SS Rando Moreno is batting .331 in 40 games, and has increased his batting average by 16 points in the last 10 games. 2B Kelby Tolmlinson is batting .421 over the 5 games, .359 in the last 10 games. On the mound, RHP Joe Biagini is 4-3 with a 1.82 ERA in 9 starts, and has 35 strikeouts to only 12 walks. posting a 1.03 WHIP. Returning LHP Jack Snodgrass won 4 games for Richmond before he was promoted to AAA.
Should be an interesting summer for the Giants AA affiliate.
Since moving from New York to San Francisco in time for the 1958 season, the San Francisco Giants have been, well, not inept, but highlights have been few and far between. Oh sure, they have had great players like Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, and other notable names. In 1989, they got swept in a World Series that was best known as the Earthquake Series. In 2012, Matt Cain joined a very exclusive fraternity by throwing one of only 23 Perfect Games in baseball history, and first in franchise history.
But in terms of winning, the Giants were not doing so. From 1958, the first year in San Francisco, until 2009, the franchise had only 7 playoff appearances. Think about that for a minute, 7 in 52 seasons, and only three of those resulted in pennants (1962, 1989, 2002).
Times have drastically changed in the City by the Bay. In this decade, the Giants have won three World Series titles, generating talk of whether of not the Giants have become a modern dynasty. At the same time, Minor League Baseball returned to Virginia’s Capital City, Richmond, in 2010, with the new Richmond Flying Squirrels, San Francisco’s Double-A developmental club.
Baseball fans in Virginia’s Capital have watched with pride as several former Flying Squirrels have gone on to stardom 3,000 miles away in San Francisco and help resurrect the Giants franchise.
1B Brandon Belt and SS Brandon Crawford both played for the inaugural Richmond Flying Squirrels squad of 2010. 2B Joe Panik (2013) completes 3/4 of the Giants starting infield that played here. OF Matt Duffy (2014) batted .332 in 97 games before bypassing Triple-A and going to the Giants, and at 23, was the youngest player on the Giants World Series roster.UTIL Andrew Susac (2013) batted .256 with 46 RBIs in 84 games with the Squirrels before debuting in San Francisco in 2014. On the mound, P Hunter Strickland (2014) recorded 11 saves for the Squirrels before heading west, and in the NLDS, he recorded the save in an 18-inning game against Washington-at 6 hours and 23 minutes, the longest playoff game in baseball history.
With the slew of players heading west from Richmond, who could be next? I like 2 names. OF Jarrett Parker (2014), a Stafford-native, hit .275 with 12 HR, 58 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases in 100 games with Richmond before actually getting promoted to San Francisco, where he sat in the dugout for one game, before getting sent down to Triple-A, where he hit .278 in 24 games. I also like SP Jack Snodgrass (2013-2014). Snodgrass has won 23 games while posting a 3.64 ERA at Richmond. Conventional wisdom says he will be at Triple-A to start 2015, but with the Giants rotation having some question marks after Madison Baumgarner, Snodgrass might get a chance to break camp with the big club.
Just in..Final Score Giants 5, Royals 0.
Brandon Crawford (Richmond, ’10) and Juan Perez (Richmond, ’11 &’12) combined to drive in all 5.
San Francisco is one win from the title.
The Wild Card Series is now a best-of-3, and is assured of going back to Kansas City.
OF Hunter Pence (Salem, ’05) had three hits and three RBIs, and 2B Joe Panik (Richmond, ’13) had 2 doubles, 2 RBIs, and scored 2 runs as the Giants rallied to defeat the Royals 11-4 and square the series up at 2 games each.
Game 5 is tonight in the City by the Bay, and the series will finish up one way or another in Kansas City this week.
After a lengthy season and postseason, the 2014 World Series is set.
Representing the American League will be the Kansas City Royals, streaking through their first postseason in 29 years. They earned their way here by beating Oakland in the Wild Card Game, then sweeping Anaheim and Baltimore.
Representing the National League will be the San Francisco Giants, who are no strangers to recent postseason action, as they have won 2 World Series titles this decade-2010 and 2012. They got here by pounding Pittsburgh in the Wild Card Game, then besting Washington and St. Louis.
When the two teams take the field Tuesday in Game 1, the Giants will do so with a strong Virginia connection.
Baseball fans in coastal Virginia will watch with pride, as former Norfolk Tides player Travis Ishikawa will go for his second ring. In fact, it was Ishikawa who got the Giants to this point; on October 16, Ishikawa hit a 3-run walk-off homer to win the game and the series for the Giants and send them roaring into the Fall Classic. Ishikawa played in 49 games with the 2013 Norfolk Tides.
Just up I-64 in central Virginia, baseball fans in Virginia’s Capital City will also be watching with pride. Since 2010, when pro baseball returned to Richmond in the form of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, not only has Richmond gone to 2 EL finals, but a slew of players who played here have gone on to the Bay Area and are on the postseason roster for the Giants. When San Francisco takes the field, 8 former Squirrels will be among them: starting 1B Brandon Belt, starting second baseman Joe Panik, starting shortstop Brandon Crawford, infielder Matt Duffy, outfielders Juan Perez and Gary Brown, catcher Andrew Susac and reliever Hunter Strickland.
When we head up I-95 to the Potomac Capital region, fans here, who are probably still smarting over the Nationals losing to the Giants in the NLDS, might still have an interest in watching two of their own try to win the World Series. Veteran LH reliever Javier Lopez grew up in Fairfax County, went to Robinson Secondary school, and went on to play at UVA. The 37-yr old Lopez won World Series rings previously with Boston in 2007 and San Francisco in 2010 and 2012. Also of interest to Northern Virginians is manager Bruce Bochy, who spent his teen years in Falls Church and still has a loyal following here.
Giants. Royals. Game 1 Tuesday.