Former Mohawks Mel Rojas Jr. (Pirates) and Brendan Harris (Orioles)
Six former members of the Mohawks baseball organization are in the Major League version of Spring Training this spring. The Mohawks have another 15+ players who will also be reporting to minor league camp as well this month. Hunter Pence of the Houston Astros (2002 Mohawk), Brendan Harris of the Baltimore Orioles (1998 Mohawk), Cord Phelps of the Cleveland Indians (2006 Mohawk), Mel Rojas Jr of the Pittsburgh Pirates (2009-2010 Mohawk), Mike Spina of the Oakland A's (2008 Mohawk) and Val Pascucci of the New York Mets (1998 Mohawk) are all in big league camp. The Mohawks are members of the newly formed Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.
Pence, has been a mainstay for the Astros in right field since breaking into the big leagues in 2007 where he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting.. He was an National League All-Star in 2009. For the Mohawks in 2002 he hit .316 and led the team to a 33-14 record.
Harris, an infielder, was traded from the Minnestota Twins to the Orioles last off season and hopes his new home provides the same success he enjoyed with the Twins where we was an impact player in 2008-09. The Queensbury, NY native enjoyed a great summer with the Mohawks in 1999 before being drafted in the 4th round by the Chicago Cubs out of William and Mary.
Phelps, a second baseman has torn up the minor leagues in his time with the Indians and now has emerged as a candidate for both their starting second and third base jobs. Although most predictions have him starting the year in AAA Columbus, Phelps is trying to make his pitch this spring. Last season playing both AA and AAA, he hit a combined .308 with 8 home runs. In the fall, he played in the prestigious Arizona Fall League and hit .367 with 3 home runs and over the winter was the starting second baseman for Team USA in the Pan-Am Games. Last season, he won the Indians organizational award for percentage of most "hard hit balls" throughout the season. The former 3rd round pick from Stanford, where he hit .351 with 13 home runs as a junior and helped lead the Cardinal to the College World Series, enjoyed success as a Mohawk in 2006 where he became known for his "game winning hits", including his first night here. Arriving in Amsterdam late due to Stanford's participation in the NCAA Super Regionals, Cord unboarded a plane and arrived in Amsterdam while the Mohawks were having a game at Shuttleworth Park against Glens Falls. Sitting in the dugout in blue jeans, Phelps was summoned to put on a uniform in the ninth inning and pinch hit where he laced a game winning double to left field.
Rojas Jr, has become a household name in the Amsterdam region and the 2009-2010 Mohawk was summoned to Major League camp in just his first spring training with the Pirates. The son of the former big leaguer with the same name, Mel was a 3rd round pick out of Wabash Valley CC (Illinois) a year ago. For the Mohawks, the outfielder was a fan favorite and helped the Mohawks win back to back championships in 2009 and 2010. In 2010, Mel left in the middle of July when he finally signed his contract with Pittsburgh.
Spina, another Amsterdam community favorite, was a star for the Mohawks during the 2008 season. The former University of Cincinnati Bearcat was recently invited to spend time at Oakland A's major league camp after hitting .253 and blasting 23 home runs last season for the A's Class A affiliate in Stockton, CA. He is expected to spend the 2011 season with the A's AA affiliate in Midland, TX. During the 2008 season as a Mohawk, the third baseman hit .330 with 10 home runs. At Cincinnati, Spina broke Kevin Youklis' home run record blasting 23 home runs during the 2009 season.
Pascucci, a long time minor leaguer, is searching for a spot on a big league roster and this spring has been in the New York Mets big league camp. The former Montreal Expo major leaguer has been a AAA standout over the past few years where he was an all-star in 2007 when he hit 34 home runs as a member of the Dodgers organization. Val played for the Mohawks in 1998 while attending Oklahoma.
The Mohawks also have a number of players who will be in the minor leagues this season including a handful who should be competing at the AA and AAA levels. 2004 Mohawk LHP Derrick Gordon (Lamar) is a member of the Oakland A's system, 2006 Mohawk and roommate of Cord Phelps, Austin Hyatt (U of Alabama) is a starting pitcher in the Philadelphia Phillies system and 2006/07 Mohawk Eric Beaulac (LeMoyne) is in the New York Mets system and all should be on AAA or AA rosters in 2011. Many others will be playing Class A baseball this summer.
The Mohawks open their 2011 season on Thursday June 9 against the Albany Dutchmen. They will have an opening weekend fireworks extravaganza after their second home game on Saturday June 11.