Nov 02 2056: Corvallis Pitching Brings Home the Hardware - by lostraven on October 7th, 2022
For Immediate Release
02 November 2056 - Corvallis, Oregon
It's been a while, but it appears the award-winning ways of the Corvallis Ravens are finally back on the table. The Broken Bat Award Committee announced its end-of-season awards today, conferring high honors to three Corvallis pitchers: Bernardo Vargas, Chuck Bonds, and Ismael Hernandez.
The Award Committee announced that for the 2056 season Vargas and Bonds were All-League pitchers and Hernandez Rookie Pitcher of the Year. Vargas narrowly lost a bid for the Cy Young award, being outdone by Santa Cruz starting pitcher Adrián Zuniga.
"Wow, you know, it's a great honor for me to take home All-League hardware for my team," said Vargas in a press conference this morning. "I feel like I can take another step forward next season and hopefully lead the Ravens on to League Level II," he added.
When asked about his prospects for the Cy Young, Vargas acknowledged that the competition was steep this season. "I knew the Cy Young might also be on the table, but you have to tip your cap to what Zuniga did this season," he said. "He's a class act and deserves it."
Bonds, who was thrust into the closers role late last season with the unexpected departure of Kurt Hanson, had a season for the ages in 2056, according to manager Domingo Collazo. "It's almost unreal what Bonds accomplished this season," said Collazo. "He's always had his detractors, but when Kurt left, I had a hunch Bonds' ability to control his pitches and go the extra inning might play well at the back end. And he proved us right, beyond expectations."
"You know, I just tried to focus on every out like it was the playoffs," said Bonds of his performance this season. "When your manager gives you that kind of confidence, you have to step and add some intensity and focus to your game, treating every day like you're out to win it all. And everything just kind of clicked."
As for the young rookie Hernandez, his excitement at winning the Rookie Pitcher of the Year award was palpable. "When told he had won the award, I think the chair exploded out from underneath him and he gave me the biggest bear hug I've had in a while," said manager Collazo. "His English is still a bit rusty, and saying what he wanted to say was tough, but you could just tell he was genuinely excited to win such a prestigious award. Have to tip my cap to what he accomplished this season. He wants to take it to the next level for next season, and I think he can do it."
Vargas finished the season with a 3.53 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 211⅔ innings, with an 18-10 record. Bonds racked up 46 saves and had a shiny 1.09 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 91 innings. Hernandez's first full year shone with a a 3.47 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 132⅓ innings, while striking out 108 batters.
Nov 02 2050: Youngblood Retires, Waters Moves Back Home as New Manager - by lostraven on July 2nd, 2021
For Immediate Release
02 November 2050 - Corvallis, Oregon
The Corvallis Ravens announced the retirement of long-time manager, Harry Youngblood, who just recently turned 72 years old. Youngblood served as manager of the team for 20 seasons, staying with the team the entirety of his managing career. The team also chose to induct Youngblood into the team Hall of Fame as part of his retirement ceremonies.
"It was time," said the stoic manager. "I've been doing this for so long now. I needed a rest. There comes a time when, even when paid handsomely, money isn't the main thing. And I was getting tired. I need to spend the rest of my years with my wife," he added. "I had a good run, and we even managed to win it all in Legends. What else can I ask for, except for more time with my family?"
Youngblood finished his career going 1610-1500, a .518 winning percentage. "The final two seasons with the Ravens diminish his remarkable career," said owner lostraven when pressed for comment. "He truly was a hometown hero and local legend. The team had reached its peak, and he really didn't deserve those last two losing seasons," lostraven added.
The Ravens simultaneously announced the hiring of a replacement, surprisingly another Oregon native in Dick "Ziggy" Waters. Waters notably served with the Mountain View Artists and Phoenix Stars for most of his career, before getting hired by the Meridian Knights for 2050. The Knights, surprisingly, decided to give Waters the quick boot, and the Ravens quickly tendered him an offer.
"We see a lot of the similar traits we saw in Youngy with Waters," said lostraven. "That he's a native to the area is merely a bonus to his exceptional skillset as a manager. We believe the players will, while saddened by the retirement of Youngy, take quickly to Waters' managing style and thrive."
The Ravens suffered a second demotion in a row this season, moving down to III.1 after a mixed 2050 that saw the team go 67–93. The team only vaguely hinted at its financial troubles at the beginning of the season, and matters apparently got worse for the team financially, choosing to pay veterans to maintain the team's position in II.1. When the wins failed to come and the budget bottomed, many were cut, leading to a season of numerous rookie performances. Owner lostraven hopes that despite the numerous young players making up the roster, the bleeding will stop in 2051 and finances—as well as win totals—will improve in the next few seasons.
Nov 01 2047: Ravens Find Unexpected Success, Win It All - by lostraven on November 12th, 2020
For Immediate Release
01 November 2047 - Corvallis, Oregon
"We're not a last place team," Corvallis Ravens manager Harry Youngblood kept telling his players in mid-May, after a brutal 10 and 20 win-loss stretch. "You know it, and I know it."
Youngblood, an Oregon native working his seventeenth season as the Ravens' skipper, says in retrospect, it's not that surprising that this 2047 team found success, but there was certainly a bit of luck in helping it all come together.
Rewind to the preseason of 2047, and you'd have seen a lineup card that looks a little different than the one that won Legends West and, subsequently, the Legends Pennant. Not drastically different mind you, but there were "question marks," as Youngblood puts it.
"We had had our eyes on some young guys filling some spots in the lineup card, at first base versus right-handers and left-handers, as well as at second base. We weren't sure at the time where that would put us, though we had a lot of confidence in our players and staff. Come that rough patch we hit in May, we wondered if we could improve in a few spots."
That's when veteran first baseman Marques Glenn came into the picture.
"For whatever reason, it didn't look like Glenny was getting much attention from other teams on the waiver wire," Youngblood said. "There was only one other claim on him, and we really liked what he did out in Charleston. And, well, the rest is history."
Glenn would go on to put up a triple slash of .335/.410/.576 in 373 at-bats, filling a key role in the four slot of the team's lineup versus right-handed pitching. This protection behind the Ravens' number three batter, third baseman Arseniy Morozov, arguably allowed the "Mad Russian" to put up more quality at-bats. Though his bat cooled late in the season, Morozov agrees.
"Yes, without a doubt I was able to be a better hitter and saw better pitches with Glenn batting behind me," said Morozov.
Other critical acquisitions gave the Ravens more flexibility with their lineup. Veteran second baseman Luis Rojas took a little of the pressure to succeed off of young lefty-throwing second baseman Silvio Cisneros. Power-hitting shortstop Luis Enriquez arrived July 2, similarly giving young shortstop and defensive ace Fernando Padilla a chance to focus on learning more in the outfield. And veteran DH Kirk Kishio arrived at the acquisition deadline to make some critical at-bats versus lefties, taking pressure off a young, struggling Glenn Santini.
Where the team felt strongest was with its pitching staff, yet even they would acquire a bullpen upgrade in the form of volatile flamethrower Erik Schuster. While Schuster had a difficult introduction to the league initially in June, he eventually settled in and contributed to the tune of a solid 3.33 ERA in 73 innings pitched, while further stabilizing the road to the eighth and ninth innings.
However, there was always a strong heart to the team, Youngblood says. "No, without a doubt, this team has had the talent," he said. "Look at what we did two seasons prior, after taking a rare demotion to League Level Three. We immediately fought back, won III.4. then II.2, and now ..."
Youngblood gets emotional at this point, pausing to wipe a tear from his eye.
"You don't work this hard for seventeen seasons not expecting to win it all at some point," he added.
Echoing the manager's sentiment was veteran catcher Kōichi Ueno, the longest tenured player on the team. Ueno received his first cup of coffee in the Majors back in 2036, in League Level Four but was sent down to the Minors again the following season to further work on fundamentals. But in 2038 he would come back to stay, playing not only the catcher position but filling in around the outfield and first base. But catcher was always his home, and he's elated to have been able to help see this team to Legends.
"An amazing experience, absolutely," said Ueno. "A part of me still can't believe it, but I knew always we had the potential to win. And here we are! This may end up being my last season, so this is all a bit extra, how do you say, bitter and sweet?"
In the end, everyone contributed to this 2047 season, one that will go down in Ravens history forever. The team saw Gold Glove defense from the likes of Morozov and right fielder Esteban Mena. Starting pitchers Yo*beep*omo Nakata and Randall Houser put up All-League Pitcher performances. Closer Jared Romano recovered from last season's debacle and put up a record 46 saves. Young pitcher Matt Bench continued to emerge as a late-inning option. And everyone subscribed to Youngblood's formula of "medium-to-small" ball, sacrificing runners over, sacrificing hits to bring runners across the plate, all while also hitting 10 to 20 home runs.
In retrospect, claims Youngblood, it may have been easy to see why the Ravens were viewed as underdogs coming into Legends. After all, it IS Legends. Denver Broncos. Laredo Mules. Moore Manta Rays. These are all teams with rich and fruitful histories in the league, with pedigrees to put them at the top at any given season. Maybe things went wrong for those teams. Maybe the Ravens got a little lucky. But in the end, claims Youngblood, luck carries you only so far.
"Sure, I'll take the lucky bloops, the unexpected waiver wins," he said. "But in the end, lineup composition, bullpen management, defensive alignments ... These are all aspects that require skill. A team doesn't win 96 games on luck alone."
And, largely, this team seems to agree, brushing aside the critics and soaking up the champagne in rarified air.
Tonight, the Ravens roost atop all of Broken Bat.
Oct 14 2046: Ravens Fans Go Wacko for Promotion to Legends League - by lostraven on August 22nd, 2020
For Immediate Release
13 October 2046 - Corvallis, Oregon
Darius Epps was rolling through the top of the ninth inning, having only given up one run all game. Then he faltered. There was one out left in the game, one out away from clinching a promotion to the Broken Bat Legends League. Manager Harry Youngblood, in his sixteenth year managing the team, had a decision to make.
As it turns out, it was the right one. Cole Bergman came in, and four pitches later, a ground ball clinched it. The fans erupted into rapturous applause.
"No problem with that decision at all," said a champagne-soaked Epps after the game. "The fans have been waiting for years for this. I trust in Youngie. We pulled it off. Mission accomplished!"
The win was particularly sweet for veteran catcher Kōichi Ueno, the lone veteran who's been on the team since before the climb to League Level II. "I can't describe the feeling," said Ueno. "I got my first shot in 2036, and here we are in 2046, winning it all and going to the Legends League. We spent so many seasons in II before falling back to III last season. But our young pitching core has propelled us forward!"
Youngblood also was sentimental after the game. He was hired on in 2031, and the team was mired in League Level IV for more than a handful of seasons. But his reputation for tenacity and working with young pitchers has earned him a positive reputation in Corvallis.
"It's finally on the way," stammered a cooler-drenched Youngblood in the post-game interview. "I can't believe it. At 67, I wasn't sure I'd see it. But here we are. It's amazing, and I owe this team so much."
On the other side of the country, in the Eastern division, the Concord Jets were only one game away from clinching, and were fully expected to head to Legends along with the Ravens next season. With a Ravens-Jets playoff likely in the cards, Youngblood was mum about what the rotation may look like.
"We ran a six-man all year," said Youngblood. "Difficult to say what we'll do going forward. We'll cross that bridge soon."
In Corvallis, revelry has already proved robust, with fans taking to 2nd Street in droves. "Unbelievable!" shouted 46-year-old Terry Downs. "Wasn't sure this day would ever come." Another reveler, Annie, quipped, "Ravens will be perching atop Legends before you know it!"
Oct 22 2041: Facing Likely Final Start, Dunbar Reminisces on Being a Career Raven - by lostraven on August 5th, 2019
For Immediate Release
23 October 2041 - Corvallis, Oregon
For a man who's been with a single baseball team for his entire career, the slightly grayed and normally contemplative Stuart Dunbar was acting like it was his first day in the Minors. The smile on his face was enormous, and so was his glove, as he shagged pop flies in left field in preparation for what may very well be his final career start.
"I always wanted to play a little outfield," said Dunbar afterwards. "I actually had my sights on chasing down fly balls and robbing homers when I was growing up, but mom ..." His voice trailed off for a moment. "She saw something in my arm and signed me up for pitching classes in first grade."
The Los Angeles native reminisced on his childhood and his college years at California Polytechnic. "Man, those were some good years. But it wasn't until pitching at Polytechnic that things got a little more complicated. I was humbled by losing some big games, and I first realized I had a propensity for giving up a lot of flies and bombs."
In truth, Dunbar always found success with pitching despite his flyball nature. It wasn't, however, until his first year in AAA that really got him worried.
"It was awful. Something like 33, 34 home runs with the [Rockaway Beach] Snappers in my first year of AAA. I really started to doubt myself and whether I'd succeed. But Billy Jean, the pitching coach at the time, he told me my fast ball and control would still carry me, even if I couldn't quite get the spin I wanted on them. It was kind of a turning point. Oh, and that's when I got my nickname, 'The Jet.'"
Dunbar went on to pitch a third of a season in AAA in 2030. Then he got the call.
"Nervous," he said, when asked about the call. "I think that first start in front of the big crowd in Corvallis, man that was nerve-racking. But I quickly found I could succeed in the Bigs."
Dunbar would pitch out of the rotation the rest of the year and help propel the Ravens to League Level IV. With more experience, he found success in the rotation, keeping his fly balls and home runs in check best he could. But then in 2033, at the age of 27, Dunbar faltered.
"I started to doubt myself again," he said of that year, finishing with a career worst 4.48 ERA. "I was in a funk after that, but [manager] Youngy' surprised me. He had my old pitching coach Billy Jean visit with me for a few weeks, straighten out some hiccups in my delivery. And then it finally clicked. I finally felt like I was supposed to be here."
Dunbar settled into his new norm and soon went on to some of the best years of his career. In 2035 he went to the All Star Game for the first time and won an All-League pitching award. He would go on to have arguably his best season ever the following year, with a 3.47 ERA, 0.999 WHIP, a career high 241 innings pitched, and 220 strikeouts. That was also the year he helped the Corvallis Ravens finally make the jump to League Level III.
As his early thirties went by, his numbers started to slip a bit, but Dunbar always remained a key component of the rotation. The going got tougher at age 33 with the Ravens' introduction to League Level II, and Father Time started catching up with Dunbar. But he always believed in himself, he said.
"Naw, without a doubt. You look the truth in the face and know that your clock is ticking. Despite it, you want to get out there and give it your all, even as you see the signs, the strike percentage falling, the walks increasing ..."
When asked if he would consider one more year of pitching in some capacity, Dunbar faltered a bit.
"I'll be 36 next season. The fastball ain't what it used to be. Sure, I could pitch out of the pen a bit like I did this year, but, I don't know. I think I'd rather go out on a high note, you know? When I graduated Polytechnic, it was with a mechanical engineering degree. I've had this idea of an improved pitching machine in my head for a while. Maybe I'll get to work on that."
Whether he retires at the end of the season or comes back for one more, Stuart Dunbar reflected on what was most important to him as a baseball player.
"I'm so glad the Ravens gave me a shot. It will mean so much to me to retire as a career Corvallis Raven. I understand I'll be the first career Raven in team history, and I couldn't be prouder."
Afterwards, Dunbar grabbed his outfielders mitt and trotted off again to left field, smiling. He paused for a moment and turned.
"Catching all these fly balls, I think it's a joyful penance."
He laughed and ran off to a different pasture, seemingly giving little thought to pitching his likely final game.