The Butler BlueSox
With a population and size almost identical to Butler's, the town of Washington, PA sits 60 miles to the south. Our ball club began play here as the Washington BlueSox in 2006 as part of the Tri-State Collegiate League, which included teams from Pennsylvania and Ohio. The team remained competitive throughout the season and finished with a 20-9 record. The BlueSox returned in the summer of 2008 and remained in first-place until the final two days of the season. Their 23-12 record was the mark of another successful summer.
The BlueSox moved into Butler's newly-renovated Pullman Park and the newly-formed Prospect League in the summer of 2009. Tom Kahl threw out the first pitch for the BlueSox on June 4, and went on to strikeout nine batters through six no-hit innings as the BlueSox won their first game. Right fielder Brian Youchak hit .350 on the season to rank second in the league. Shortstop Jacke Healy went on to be drafted by the Houston Astros. The team played in front of 16,000 fans as the community did not need much convincing that Pullman Park was the place-to-be all summer long. The team finished just three games out of first place.
Still under the direction of Owner/GM Leo Trich and managers Jason Wuerfel and Glenn Sharrar, Butler continued its strong play into the summer of 2010. A plague of injuries and bad weather prevented the team from making the playoffs, but the excitement and quality of baseball at Pullman Park was just as strong as ever. Center fielder Zach Duggan took charge of Pullman's huge outfield and did not commit a single error the entire summer; he led the team in stolen bases along with Cameron Squires who was one of the most exciting--and fastest--base runners in the league. On the mound Tim Geil led the team in ERA and tied for second in the league with six wins. Kevin Smith confidently led the team in average, hits, runs, and RBIs and was drafted by the Chicago White Sox the following year.
The Prospect League realigned its divisions as it entered the 2011 season with ever-increasing talent and popularity. The team broke their attendance record from their inaugural season in town and over four thousand more listened in on the radio. Team founder Trich handed the reins of the club to five new owners in William Wink Robinson, Matt Clement, Ray Conlon, Dr. Mike Fiorina, and Gordon Marburger. The hometown owners continued to build the teams foundation and created a year-round presence in the community.
A new manager joined the club in 2011 and under his guidance three of Butler's pitchers ranked in the League's top six for ERA and a high of five players made the All-Star team. Shortstop Matt Berezo led the team in games played, stolen bases, and assists in the field. Converted third baseman Shayne Houck showed unprecedented power, setting new franchise records in hits, doubles, RBIs, and home runs. Even those who have been watching baseball at Pullman for decades were hard pressed to think of another player who hit seven round-trippers at the Park. Butler remained in the playoff hunt until the final hours of the season.
2012 was the summer of offense, as single-game and season records were alike were shattered by the BlueSox' bats. Elliott Caldwell led the club by knocking an all-time league record of 99 hits, despite making his home at Pullman Park--the most pitcher-friendly park in the division. Kyle Petty drove in a Butler record 49 runs, while George Roberts came to Butler after playing in the college World Series to hit .410 over the seasons second half. Butler rode the offense to a franchise-high eight game winning streak over the second half of June and finished in second place for the first time in team history. Adam Dian's new franchise record of 13 saves while Kyle Thomas and Jared Locke excelled in the starting rotation. Each threw around 50 innings with over 54 strikeouts; both finished with a sub-4 ERA. Jason Radwan became the first Butler two-time All-Star along with five other teammates including Albaugh, Dian, Petty, Caldwell, and Locke.
Butler hosted the Prospect League All-Star Game in 2013, marking the first year the Eastern division was able to top the West, 2-1. The BlueSox sent six players, tying the record set the previous season for the most players the team has sent to the mid-season contest. During the regular season, Butler fought the whole season, but were finally knocked out of the playoff race during the season's final day. Speedy center fielder Taylor Schmidt set a new BlueSox franchise record with 28 stolen bases. The team's strong middle infield of shortstop Matt Peters and second baseman Ryan Fitzgerald led the team with 70 and 58 hits respectively.
The Sox reached a new high in 2014 winning two of every three games and their first trip to the post-season. Their pitching staff led the way with all-time League records in ERA, shutouts, WHIP, and opponent batting average. Adam Bleday was the team's top starter with a team leading 58 strikeouts in 54.1 innings pitched to go with a miniscule 1.66 ERA. Butler-native Cody Herald led the team with 53 hits, 11 doubles, and 36 runs knocked in; Stephen Sada and Ryan Uhl were close behind with 44 base knocks apiece.
The BlueSox continue to build one of the strongest organizations in the league on and off the field.
The Prospect League
Combining a group of teams formerly in the Frontier professional League and the Central Illinois Collegiate League, the Prospect League was born out of eleven teams in the fall of 2008. As a charter member of NCAA certified summer baseball, the CICL brought a history of over 40 years and a long list of players who went on to play in MLB.
The Prospect League began play on June 4, 2009. Teams played a 56-game schedule and the victors of the east and west divisions faced off in a three-game playoff that resulted in the Quincy Gems becoming the League's first champions.
Three new teams were added for the 2010 summer and Dave Chase, former President/GM of the St. Louis Cardinals AAA affiliate, was named League commissioner. Now stretching over 600 miles, from Missouri to Pennsylvania, the growing popularity increased League-wide attendance to over 335,000 people throughout the summer. An average attendance of 860 people per game raised the attendance to nearly 150% of the 2009 season. The 2011 season saw a continued increase in per game attendance as the strength and talent of the League continued to grow.
The Prospect League continues the traditions of the CICL, upholding the standards of the National Association of Collegiate Summer Baseball (NACSB) in ensuring the amateur status of its student athletes while preparing the players for future professional careers. All ownership groups are committed to providing players a positive experience, quality instruction, and a high level of competition while offering communities first-class, affordable family entertainment.
The CICL was formed in 1963 as a charter member of the NCAAs certified summer baseball program. Throughout its 45 year history, the CICL has maintained a respected and prominent place in collegiate baseball. Names like Kirby Puckett, Mike Schmidt, Jon Papelbon, and Ryan Howard are among the nearly 150 CICL alumni who went on to play Major League Baseball.
The Prospect League's official website can be found at ProspectLeague.com.