Sep 04 2024: The Stretch Run - by GreenYoshi on October 20th, 2015
The Stretch Run
Central Dogwood, Iowa ---
The end of the waiver deadline has come and gone and the Central Dogwood Mustangs have found themselves back in the pennant race. After toiling near the bottom of the division for the majority of the season, their sudden ambitious play has pushed them three games behind the Eastern division leading West Orange Mountaineers with 39 games left. What was looking like another lost season for Mustang fans and yet another demotion suddenly changed with the stabilization of the bullpen.
Dogwood managed to acquire P. Patrick McGinnis on June 15th and was inserted into middle relief duty spelling the end for six-year veteran P. Jaime Becker. Becker contributed his most effective seasons during Dog’s division clinching years of ’21 and ’22. The California native sported a 47-26 record switching between the rotation and bullpen. He was recently acquired by the Lansing Pirates. As for McGinnis, he has quickly found success in his new role posting a 5-2 record and a sterling 1.59 ERA over 45 1/3 innings.
Several more changes were enacted by management to build upon the success of McGinnis. Rookie lefty Stanley Dawson was re-called from AAA to provide a situational left-hander. He was rocked for 6 runs in his first two major-league outings but management is hopefully the lefty has improved and will help the team succeed the rest of the way. Veteran P. Manuel Salas has found his role as the righty situational setup man. His transition was partly the result of Central Dogwood Ace Wendell Crawford’s season-long struggle. The lifelong Mustang has had a disastrous season going 6-9 with a 6.22 ERA as he’s trying to salvage the rest of the season. He was asked his theory of why things haven’t clicked,
“Don’t know. Wish it did though because I hate feeling like I’m pulling the team down”.
His teammates disagree and among the more vocal was of course team captain 3b. Stanley Mathews who had this to say about his teammate and close friend.
“Wendell and I go back since our minor league days. I know for a fact he gives it everything he has each start. Sometimes the results don’t play out like they should. That’s baseball. But I’m positive he’s turned that corner and coming closer to the end, he’ll catch fire”
Mathews was also asked about his thoughts on stolen base number 900 in his career. Modestly, he downplayed the significant milestone but indirectly hinted his ambition to break the All-time Broken Bat record of 1374 before retiring. “The franchise” has seen slightly lesser playing time this year due to nagging injuries but again was voted into the All-Star game for the sixth time. He currently leads the league in stolen bases with 85 and is in the league’s top ten in runs and on-base-percentage for the fourth consecutive year. Many diehard Mustang fans worried about the future of Mathews when fellow third baseman Larry Weiss was acquired in June. Weiss has a similar skill-set to the captain and has an MVP in ’23 as well. However manager Huge Ball reiterated that Mathews will continue to be the team’s third baseman and Weiss will serve as the de-facto DH.
Not to be overlooked for the turnaround to this season is Dogwood’s offense. Although it has been its strength the entire year, the additional offense of 2b. Alex Bass, Of. Josh Morris, and Weiss has certainly kept the runs coming. The team currently leads the league in average with a .264 and 649 RBIs. The most alarming statistic is the combined 173 Homeruns which outpaces the league by a couple dozen. Seven of the nine starters have double digits in round trippers with Of. Gordon Collins leading the way with 33 and Bass with 22. Flying under the radar once again is C. Chris Hampton who is having himself a career year. He’s currently batting .316 with 17 HR, 75 RBIs and 19 SB as the number three guy in the order. Gordon is on his way to having another 100+ RBI year and vying for MVP consideration. Fans are chomping at the bit for Of. Shawn Gregory and SS. Sean Kane to catch fire and really send a powerful offensive punch to their foes.
In the meantime, the Mustangs must go through the Eastern division league two more times before the end of the season. It has been a thrilling battle for the title as West Orange, Athens, Sheboygan, Quincy and Dogwood have traded positions up and down the division all season-long. Thanks to an 11-game win streak banking off the tail-end of inter-league play, the Mustangs have a fighting chance going into the stretch run. All five of Dog’s division rivals have challenged them hard and the remaining games are no exception. Is Central Dogwood ready to take on the challenge and prove they belong back in Div. II? The city and its fans are ready to find out.
May 21 2023: Central Dogwood Blues - by GreenYoshi on July 8th, 2015
Central Dogwood Blues
Central Dogwood, Iowa ---
The newly promoted Central Dogwood Mustangs have found themselves at the bottom of the division after several rough weeks into the season. Their all-around play has taken a decline since last season’s amazing run and now they’re fighting to avoid demotion at season end. Many fans have asked out loud, what has happen to their mighty Mustangs and why haven’t they managed to compete for the top this season?
During yesterday’s first annual Central Dogwood Yoga Day, residents were welcomed onto the field to participate in a free session of mid-morning yoga and meditation preceded by a free screening of Dogwoods series against Wilkes-Barre on the diamond vision in center field. Among those in attendance, was the owner of the Mustangs who has been very private since the start of the season. Many wondered if he had skipped out of town by choice, or chased out of it after his team started poorly to begin the season. For ten seasons since adopting the team, Central Dogwood had a losing record only once.
As the owner was attempting a chakravakasana, our reporter Jacob Nebraska caught up with him to ask one simple question: “Is Central Dogwood rebuilding?” He took in a sharp breath, before exhaling and replying, “yes and no”. Those in his group overheard his answer and gasped and many dropped out of their pose in shock. “Why?” and “What?!?” and “#!@$” could be heard amongst the group as the yoga instructor begged to regain order and tranquility.
The confirmation shouldn’t come as any surprise for diehard Mustang fans. Although the core of their team remained intact, the concern coming into the season was if their hitting would match up against the league’s higher quality bats and if Dog’s pitching would be enough to stifle them. The lack of quality acquisitions on the waiver wire forced management to turn to their unproven rookies. While finances have not been an issue in seasons past, taxes and salaries continue to skyrocket to keep talent on the field.
Currently, Dogwood is dead last in their league with a .240 team average. They are however, first in the league with 48 homeruns. They are second worse in the division with a 5.28 team ERA while giving up the most homeruns with 52.
Wendell Crawford has struggled to start this season going 2-2 with a 7.17 ERA and even being chased out of the 1st inning a couple times already. Dale Morgan, the All-Star sensation last season, is 2-3 with a 5.68 ERA and veterans Brian Vaughn and Jamie Becker are being shuffled in and out of the rotation and have failed to stabilize the talented but vulnerable pitching staff. Rookie starter Luis Avalos was plucked out of AAA to begin the season and has been battered to an 8.20 ERA as he finds his way through an unmerciful league.
On the offensive side, many have wondered what has happen to C. Chris Hampton who has started the season ice cold hitting .225/.336/.333 with only 12 RBIs. The young up-the-middle tandem SS. Sean Kane, and 2B. Alex Bass are both hitting below .240 and although they are the future of Dogwood’s offense, they have yet to breakout. Amongst the most puzzling situations was the future of DH Justin Meadows. Last season the team acquired a young prospect named Shawn Larkin. Like Meadows, Larkin is poised to be a Designated hitter. Last season’s struggles for Meadows continued into this season and as soon as management made the call-up for Larkin, Meadows would soon be let go.
It was an emotional goodbye for Justin Meadows who was the longest tenured Mustang. He was first signed on August 31st, 2014. He would continue on to contribute over 1000 hits, 643 RBIs, 4 All-Star appearances, and 2 All-League nominations. The Texan known by everyone as “the Bull” will always be amongst the All-Time greats in Dogwood’s history but the decision by management to let him go, was based on his current and projected struggles if he stayed on the team.
The Mustangs also cut ties with 2B. Robert Watson; a highly talented player who never quite lived up to expectations. He always seemed to struggle at the plate and while this speed was an assist, his hitting and fielding was suspect at best. Long-time tenured OF. Jorge Trujillo was also cut. He was acquired during Central Dogwood’s most successful waiver acquisition day ever in which they got OF. Gordon Collins and C. Chris Hampton among others on March 2nd, 2017. SP. Brett Garrison was sent packing as the team transitions away from high priced starting pitching to rely internally. RP. Mike Simpson was the last of the cuts, as his lack of use and high price tag was consistent with management’s decision to rely internally on pitching solutions.
Though this season hasn’t exactly seen much success, there are some positives within. The continued success of OF. Shawn Gregory hitting .316/.382/.586 has fans cheering. OF Gordon Collins continues to stabilize the 4th spot of the lineup to prove 2019, and 2022 were the norm, and 2021 was the exception. The leader 3B. Stanley Mathews is having a surprising power surge in his 8th year in the Bigs. He’s currently hitting .269/.337/.526 with 9 HRs and 30SB as he’s looking to add to his 4 consecutive All-Star appearances. He just recently hit 700SB as he continues to trail blaze his spot amongst the greatest to ever play the game.
After Dogwood won the final game of the series against Wilkes-Barre 7-0, the owner invited the media to a press conference to discuss questions involving the direction of the team. Filtering out the ones about the collapse of the team, the Owner remained relatively optimistic of the current and future look of the Mustangs.
“I’ll say this: we have at the moment, players who have maximized their potential and will be productive enough to keep us competitive this year. They are at their peak, and we won’t have to worry about replacing them for several more seasons. And then we have the unproven kids like Anthony, Bass, Kane, Sato, Morris, Cline, Avalos, and Gibbs, who need time to develop in the Majors. Instead of struggling with older veterans, getting demoted and then make the transition, our management feels it’s best to weather the storm with these rookies, and have them at their max potential to make a quicker run again. It’s not to say we’re quitting by any means, but if we can pull off this transition while still being competitive, it’ll all be worth the pain.”
Management also commented that they would still be competitive on the waiver wire if they feel the talent is both young and skilled. They made note that the recent roster moves have allowed more spots to be occupied by minor league talent. They were finally asked if highly talented prospect 3B. Robert Lowe would make his debut this season. They declined to answer but mused that “anything is possible right now”.
Sep 26 2022: Stanley Mathews Collects 1000th Hit - by GreenYoshi on May 25th, 2015
Stanley Mathews Collects 1000th Hit
Central Dogwood, Iowa ---
Central Dogwood Captain 3B. Stanley Mathews collected his 1000th hit in the bottom of the 8th inning in the final game of the series against Kalamazoo. The 28 year old is in the 7th year with the club after being drafted May 10th, 2015 (game date) and worked his way into the starting lineup in 2016. He went on to win Rookie of the Year honors in 2016 after dazzling the opposition with 82 stolen bases. From there, he showed a preview of what was to come.
In 2019 he was honored with his first All-Star selection as well as his first All-League nomination, Gold Glove and being the first in Dogwood history to break triple digits in stolen bases. He followed up his breakout year with another All-Star and All-League nomination in 2020 and 2021. The reliable lead-off hitter has already cemented his spot in Central Dogwood history demolishing the previous stolen base record with 671 and holds seven of the top 8 single season spots in the team’s history. He joins teammate Justin Meadows as current active players with 1000 hits as members of Dogwood. He is also just 2 stolen bases away from breaking the III.4 Single Season stolen base record. All in all, he continues to be the heart of the team.
Fans throughout Dogwood continue to fall in love with the cheerful Mathews who exuberates optimism wherever he goes. There is no doubt when his playing days are over, his name and number will be the first to be memorialized. During the team press conference after today’s game, he was smiling ear to ear thanking everyone for their support,
“I want to thank everyone for their words of encouragement. I honestly can’t believe it’s been 7 years since I was first drafted. I’m just a small-town kid living a dream playing the game I love… and I had no idea I’d be sitting here holding on to hit number 1000. If I am blessed to play several seasons more, I would hope to reach 2000 but first priority would always be helping this team win.”
Central Dogwood leads the Eastern division by 8 ½ games with 22 games left to play.
Jul 16 2022: 2022 Central Dogwood Mid-Season Review - by GreenYoshi on May 6th, 2015
2022 Central Dogwood Mid-Season Review
Central Dogwood, Iowa ---
[Update]: Six Central Dogwood players were honored with All-Star nominations. C. Chris Hampton, 3B. Stanley Mathews, OF. Gordon Collins, OF. Shawn Gregory, SP. Brian Vaughn, RP. Dale Morgan. The East lost to the West 5-1.
Central Dogwood wrapped up their first half on a high note salvaging the last game against the Western Division leading Pomona Wolves 9-4 in a 2-3 series loss. All five games had pennant like intensity as the division leaders went head-to-head for the first time this season. Pomona’s brilliant pitching was on display in the first three games silencing a potent Mustang offense to two hits in game one as they padded their league leading team ERA to 3.65. CD fought back in game three and five as team captain 3B Stanley Mathews led the offense going 10-18 (.556) and adding five stolen bases to increase his league lead to 70. Overall, the team went 18-12 against the Western Division and found themselves 7 games ahead of Ft. Lauderdale, 8 ahead of Kalamazoo and 12 ahead of Manhattan. Looking back at the first half, there were a lot of positives to highlight from both the pitching staff and offense.
Central Dogwood is second in the division with a 3.96 team ERA and one of the reasons for their early season success is the maturation of 2021 acquisition SP. Brian Vaughn who got his first taste of the big leagues and won the Rookie of the Year. This season the twenty-nine year old was moved into the rotation and has fared very well going 8-2 with a 3.33 ERA which is currently the 9th best in the league.
The veterans Wendell Crawford and Jamie Becker are both stabilizing the rotation as well providing a great 1-2-3 punch. SP. Russell Curley continues to gain valuable experience banking off a solid 2021 campaign. Early season acquisition SP. Andrew Church started out like a house on fire but the last several starts has seen him battered a bit as he hopes to turn it around next half. Dogwood also picked up SP. Armando Gomez as the lefty will slide into the rotation to start the second half.
The most surprising and exciting headline this first half belongs to RP. Dale Morgan who sustained a critical injury in Spring Training that sidelined him into Mid-April. His activation back into CD’s pen completely changed the dynamic of the staff as he went on to go 11-0 in late inning bullpen victories. He picked up another win in an 8 IP 3R 7K spot start against Downey to end the half with twelve victories which leads the league. When asked about his amazing start, he was just as puzzled as us.
“I guess it’s just good situations. I come in when [Manager] Money says and just do my job. I just let the chips fall where they may.”
Church and Gomez were not the only new faces in the black and white. The upper management has been active this season trying to fit together talent and fans feel their pitching staff has been the strongest it’s ever been since the owner’s acquisition in 2014. One positive has been the youth of the new talent like twenty-seven year old RP. Edgar Pacheco, twenty-five year old RP. Rafael Lowry, and twenty-eight year old RP. Mike Simpson. Manager Hugh Ball stresses the importance of building a core group of players and watching them grow up together. Ball is in his eigth season as manager and recently collected his seven hundredth victory as well. Affectionately named “Money” after exclaiming “Right on the Money!” in his first season, the young manager felt there was a lot to be proud of not just personally, but the success of the team.
“You know, 700 wins is great, but it’s because of great players I was able to win so many. The way Central Dogwood has moved up the ladder… that’s the best accomplishment”
Offensively the team is putting up numbers comparable to their 2019 and 2020 season where they had 5.7 and 6.2 runs forward respectively. They are currently second in the division with a .269 team average and they lead the division with 457 Runs, 756 Hits, 438 RBIs, and 130 Stolen Bases. The main contributor is RF. Gordon Collins who is having a comeback season after mightily struggling at the plate in 2021. Overall he is hitting .344 with 20 Homeruns, 86 RBIs and 33 Doubles and leads the league in BA, RBIs, SLG and OPS in his quest to capture an MVP denied in 2020 by OF Booker Charles who now happens to be Collins teammate. The thirty year old Collins knows he’s past his peak and hopes to lead the team closer to the Legends league before hanging up his spikes while adding to his amazing personal accomplishments.
Also off to a hot start is CF. Sergio Virgil who has moved from a bench role to a platoon mostly hitting against righties. The 2015 ROY has always contributed a helpful bat but this season he’s hitting .318 with 35 RBIs and is playing flawless defense. LF. Mike Frank was also an early season acquisition and is off to a hot start. The Houston native is batting .308 and has stabilized the number two spot in the batting order against righties. C. Chris Hampton and SS. Shawn Gregory --- now veterans --- continue to provide thump up and down the order. However the struggles of DH Justin Meadows has left all of CD befuddled as to why the sure hitting Texan is struggling. Manger Ball has tried moving Meadows out of the heart of the lineup but he continued to struggle against right handed pitching. Upper management made a move to acquire Charles to fill in until the Bull finds his stride. He was positive about turning it around the second half,
“I’ve been working with the hitting coach trying to fix a hitch in my swing. Hopefully a short stride to the plate will let me catch up to the pitch and things come back.” And all of CD is hoping the longest active tenured player does succeed.
Also struggling is Mathew who is having a tale of two stories. On one hand, he’s second in the league with 71 Runs, and leads in stolen bases and improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio 1:1. On the other hand, he’s struggled to hit with a .242 average and just recently came out of a funk that dropped his average nearly fifty points. But the always upbeat leader knows it’s a long season and will continue to set the table for the big bats. His speed certainly hasn’t slumped and in mid-May he celebrated his six hundredth stolen base solidifying his franchise lead. He needs nearly seven hundred more to break the All-time record set by Jacob McCormick in 2018 and he’s got the determination to do it.
2B. Alex Bass was recently called up after the team released the highly talented 2B Jalen Schmitt in order to give the twenty four year old a shot to develop in the Majors. Scouts believe he’ll be an excellent hitter with terrific pop and upper management felt this was a good time to pull the trigger. 1B. Nate Anthony will also see time in the Bigs so he can round out his development. More exciting talent is also coming down the pike with RP. Roger Hensley, SP. Luis Avalos, RP. Herb Brandt, and SP. Patrick Gibbs nearly ready to showcase their stuff. Dogwood has drafted well this season adding RP. Diego Canizares who projects to be a back-end reliever, C. Jerome Burns who has a cannon of an arm, and OF Andrian Ford, their best projected hitter down on the farm. Overall upper management is looking to develop younger talent so the next crop of players will continue on the legacy of Dogwoods 5 Rookie of Year honorees.
So, what’s in store for the second half? CD will again face the western division before wrapping up the season against their division foes. Ft. Lauderdale caught fire the last several series, Manhattan has fallen from the top but still remains within reasonable reach of climbing back in, and the potential of Kalamazoo to make a move is always there. Mathews and Meadows need to catch fire for the team to continue their success and the pitching will have to stay consistent if they hope to push back the rest of the division. Overall it will be an exciting second half as the Mustangs and their fans hope to once again reach the playoffs and move forward.
Nov 01 2021: Central Dogwood Celebrates - by GreenYoshi on March 19th, 2015
The game came down to the wire as their talented opponent from Downey put up a valiant fight. LF Cody Newman hit the game-tying homerun in bottom of the 8th to keep the Crusaders alive but in stunning fashion, the Mustangs answered with 6 runs in the top of the 9th inning including hitting for the cycle in 4 consecutive at-bats. Downey made it exciting with one last comeback attempt, but CL Carl Bass was called in to close the game. In the end, Central Dogwood took it in 5 games and will head into the offseason with plenty to celebrate.
As the team popped the Champagne in their clubhouse, upper management went down to congratulate the team and award 1B Jesus Coronado the team Playoff MVP for his outstanding offensive production during the series. The SDSU graduate joined the Mustangs in a mid-season waiver claim and provided stability at first base. Although he got off to shaky start through August, he perked up in September and brought the thunder in the playoffs with 3HRs and 9RBIs as he carried the team with his clutch performance against Downey’s excellent pitching staff.
“They were a tough bunch, but I bore down and knew what had to get done.” Said Coronado as teammate and Central Dogwood Captain 3B Stanley Mathews joined him.
“I knew Jes had it in him for a great series! This guy really lives up to his awesome strength!” Spoke Mathews; who not to be overlooked, put up impressive numbers in the series as well. He tacked on 8 RBIs and showed off his trademark speed swiping 6 bags all while shifting the credit to his other teammates. “Man, I’m so proud of my guys. Everyone contributed this series, we had Hammy (Hampton) getting on base and G (Gregory) was solid and Bull (Meadows) popping his own homeruns and the Craw (Crawford) getting us going with the first win and Bass shutting it down… all these guys… I can’t tell you how much I love ‘em. Let’s celebrate CD fans!”
“Couldn’t have asked for a better match-up. Cesar’s been dealing this whole year, it was an honor to compete with the best of the best. I’m sure we’ll face off against each other next season.”
As the city prepares for the festivities tomorrow morning in front of City Hall, one player in particular will be celebrating one last time before walking into the sunset after a fantastic 15 year playing career. OF Dwight Patton was drafted by Inglewood Panthers as a raw 19 year old and spent over 16 years with the organization until he was released this June. The 9 time All-Star provided Dogwood with a left-handed power hitter and veteran presence as well as a resume enriched with winning and playoff experience. The Connecticut native was emotional when asked to reflect on his career and his decision to retire.
“I can’t imagine a better life… I was so young when I joined this game, time flew, I had grown up with Inglewood and they were my home for so many years and they’ll always be… but being here, getting one final chance with Central Dogwood… and how they welcomed me into their tight knit group, I’m blessed. For my longevity in this game, my success and this one last league title, I can leave with no regrets, only long lasting memories.”
Central Dogwood’s manager Hugh Ball was asked his thoughts on this evening’s victory and the season as a whole, “Well, I can tell you that nothing was taken for granted this season. We fought each and every day all the way until the end of the season. These teams are some of the most talented, but we stuck in there and pulled together as a team and everything gelled at the right time. Congrats to the boys, and I’ll tell you another thing, I’m ready for next season already.”
Looking towards the off-season, Central Dogwood will finally move up to III.4 and face new challenges as the opponents only get stronger here on out. They’ll look to re-touch a few spots on the pitching staff as well as finding a replacement for Dwight. Look for the 2021 Central Dogwood Review to be posted in a few days detailing this thrilling season of Mustang baseball and what to look forward to next year!