My number 14 top Wilmington Blue Rocks moment is…
The 2000 season full of prospects that turned into one of the worst teams in the club’s history.
I went to the “Meet the Blue Rocks” dinner that was held prior to the start of the season, with a chance to meet some of the new players (and see some returning faces). It was an event filled with excitement, as the club was coming off back-to-back league Carolina League championships (and had finally won during an odd year). It was also a roster filled with high draft picks and prospects.
Instead, it turned into one of the worst teams statistically in the club’s 20 year history. They had the worst first half ever, with a 29-41 record, as they ended the first half losing both games of a doubleheader. On June 4th, their ten game losing streak finally came to an end (which tied a franchise record). In May, the pitching staff walked 12 batters in a nine inning game (which is most all-time).
Their starting rotation began with Corey Thurman, who came up huge for the Blue Rocks in the 1999 championship series. He was surrounded by hugh draft picks and prospects like Mike MacDougal, Jeremy Affeldt, and Brian Sanches (who all went on to pitch in the big leagues). Unfortunately, those three weren’t exactly impressive in their one season in Wilmington.
MacDougal is still first all-time in walks with 76 and Sanches is second with 69. MacDougal also threw a franchise-record 21 wild pitches. Affeldt set the single-season record for losses with 15 (he was 5-15) and Sanches finished right behind him with 12 (which is in the club’s top five all-time). Sanches’ 15 hit batters led the league.
The positives to the season were a no-hitter (more on that later in the list) and a homerun record. Outfielder Brandon Berger, who spent a lot of time in Wilmington (three seasons), broke the all-time homerun record on August 10th with his 36th. He went on to hit three more homers in the season and still stands as the all-time homerun leader with 39. Those three seasons put Berger at the top (or near the top) of every Blue Rocks offensive category. His 17 hit by pitches in 2000 led the league.
Thurman also had a great season, as his 2.26 ERA for the season ranks fifth all-time (but he was promoted to Double-A after 19 starts) and led the CL. Shortstop Mark Ellis had a solid season in his final season in the Kansas City Royals organization, as his 83 runs scored is third in franchise history. He also had 146 hits (which led the league) and joined Thurman on the Carolina League All-Star team. Ellis also led the league in on-base percentage at .404.
Despite the down season, this group of guys was a fun one to be around and the Blue Rocks led the league in attendance with an average of 4,909. Plus, many on this team went on to play in the big leagues (15 in total). They just proved that just because a team has a talented group of prospects (and looks good on paper), does not mean that they will win games.