Category: Chukars Extra

Chukars lose home-opener, rally late

By Luke O’Roark | prsports@postregister.com
Like so many Pioneer League games, Idaho Falls came alive late Friday against Orem at Melaleuca Field.
Orem ultimately won 10-6, however, in a game that did not end until 10:55 p.m.
Originally down 8-0 in the fifth frame, the Chukars slowly chipped away at their early deficit. They scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth and seventh, respectively, to come back late and make their home-opener competitive.

Chukars pitcher Christopher Marte (24) pitches against Orem on Friday night at Melaluca.
Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com, 6/23/2017, Lens 300, ISO 200, FStop {fstop}, Shutter 1/500, Aperature {aperature},

They can thank Ricky Aracena, Amalani Fukofuka and Robby Rinn’s RBIs in the seventh to help the Chukars close in.
Cristhian Vasquez was a bright spot Friday for the Chukars. He had a diving catch in the outfield during the top of the fifth inning. He then hit a 2-RBI triple in the bottom of the frame to finally get Idaho Falls on the board.
Orem’s offense came out quickly Friday — scoring three runs off four hits during the first two frames. Chukars’ first baseman Robby Rinn made an error throwing to home plate, allowing the Owls’ Franklin Torres to score. Brandon Sandoval would later score in the frame after Leonardo Rivas lined out to center field.
The Chukars, meanwhile, didn’t register a hit until Tyler Straub singled to right field in the bottom of the third.
Idaho Falls had more errors (three) than strikeouts (one) during the first four innings.

What’s important:

The Chukars came home a little flat and didn’t wake up until late. After notching 59 hits in four games against Grand Junction, Idaho Falls only registered 10 hits against Orem.

Player(s) of the game:

Center fielder Cristhian Vasquez and third baseman Tyler Straub.
Not only did Vasquez lay out for a beautiful diving catch in the fifth inning, he was one of the Chukars only effective batters Friday against Orem.
His statline was 2-for-4 at the plate and got Idaho Falls on the board with a 2-RBI triple to shallow right field in the bottom of the fifth.
Straub was 3-for-3 and hit a lazer to right field in the bottom of the seventh for the Chukars’ second three-base hit on the night.

Other notes:

Center fielder Cristhian Vasquez had a stretched-out, diving catch in the outfield during the top of the fifth inning. The catch received caused some spectators to erupt in cheer and applause.
A couple became engaged during the Chukars’ home-opener. Tanner Eastman proposed to his girlfriend, Shelby, after the third frame of Friday’s game. The couple were originally going to do a dizzy bat competition before Tanner put the bats away and got down on one knee near home plate.
The attendance at Melelaeuca Field was 2,926. Last Saturday’s exhibition against the Idaho Falls Bandits drew 3,133 to the ballpark.

Up next:

The Chukars (3-2) host the Owls (4-1) again tonight with first pitch scheduled for 7:15 p.m. at Melaleuca Field.

Chukars best Rockies, Miller Jr. is perfect at-bat

Thursday’s series-ending game between the Chukars and Rockies was initally close, but don’t worry, Darrell Miller Jr. handled things at Suplizio Field.
Miller went 5-for-5 for two RBIs and two runs during Thursday nights’ 13-10 win against Grand Junction (1-3). Miller lead all batters with five hits.
If the Rockies dominated the Chukars (3-1) Tuesday (17-11 and 23 hits), then the Chukars dominated Thursday night behind a 6-run, eighth inning. Robby Rinn and Tyler Straub had 2-RBI singles. Straub then scored on a throwing error and then Jonathan McCray scored on a Jan Carlos Lopez wild pitch.

Darrell Miller Jr. Provided via Idaho Falls Chukars

The Chukars were up 7-6 up to that point, including two runs in the seventh.
In comparison to previous games in the series, though, Thursday night was relatively low scoring. At least at first.
Both teams scored four runs in the first two frames, which saw Ricky Aracena homer in the first inning. There was only two runs (combined) scored from the third to sixth innings.
The series had a combined 86 runs in four games.

What’s important:

The Chukars survived on the road to open the season, working off some early season rust before coming back to Idaho Falls for a six-game homestand Friday. A 3-1 record puts the Chukars atop the Pioneer League South division.
Idaho Falls was 3-5 last season at Suplizio Field, so to start 3-1 is a improvement. It certainly won’t be the last time these two teams meet, either.
The Chukars and Rockies play another four-game series Sunday through next Wednesday.
Idaho Falls will now have an eight-hour bus ride home from Grand Junction Thursday night. They will need the rest — every game went over three hours to start the season. Thursday’s game lasted over four hours.

Player(s) of the game:

Catcher Darrell Miller Jr.
The nephew of NBA Hall of Famer, Reggie, is 6-for-7 to start his Chukars’ career. Miller was instrumental Thursday night, hitting 5-for-5 on the night and two RBIs. He is slowly becoming one of Idaho Fall’s most consistent batters.
During game two of the series, Miller was also a bright spot. He was 3-for-4, garnered hit three RBIs and hit a 2-run home run during the 17-11 loss.
One blemish Thursday: he was picked-off first in the sixth inning.

Other notes:

Pioneer League teams may want to look out for left fielder Jonathan McCray. He hit a home run in the top of the seventh inning and went 3-for-5 and three runs on the night.
Ricky Aracena had a down night after starting the his second season with Idaho Falls strong. Aracena came into Thursday with a .556 batting average in two games. He went 1-for-5 during Thursday’s win at Grand Junction. He did have one home run, though.
Amalani Fukofuka also had an off night: he went 0-for-5. He was 7-15 at-bat and had three home runs heading into Thursday’s game.

Up next:

The Chukars’ home opener is on Friday night against the Orem Owls (3-1). First pitch is 7:15 p.m. at Melaleuca Field.

Fukofuka looks to return to MVP-like form during second stint with Chukars

Chukars outfiielderAmalani Fukofuka (8) poses for a portrait during the 2017 Chukars Media Day on Saturday afternoon. The Chukars opening game is this Monday at Grand Junction Rockies.
Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com, 6/17/2017, Lens 30, ISO 200, FStop {fstop}, Shutter 1/250, Aperature {aperature},

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register
Amalani Fukofuka was a bit earnest coming out of the Chukars’ bullpen Saturday.
He, along with the rest of the team, had just taken official team portraits during media day. They had an exhibition game that night against the Idaho Falls Bandits — an American Legion Baseball team of local high schoolers. Melaleuca Field was supposed to be lax.
But Fukofuka, the former Chukars MVP is back — focused and ready to be a leader in his second stint in Idaho Falls.
“I remember a lot,” Fukofuka said. “(2015) was one of my favorite years I played. I love the people. I love the area. I’m excited to play.”
Fukofuka returns to Idaho Falls in search of the confidence that made him a fan favorite two seasons ago with the Chukars. He’s serious about returning to top form.
During his first go-around at Melaleuca, Fukofuka tallied 95 hits, 38 RBIs and three home runs in 280 plate appearances. He batted .339 in 67 games.
But he struggled last summer with the Lexington Legends, the next stop in the Kansas City Royals’ minor league system. His batting average dipped to .200 in 110 games with the Legends. He struck out 136 times. He had just 110 total bases in 2016, a drop from his 140 total bases a year prior with the Chukars (he also did it in 43 less games).
“I was striking out a lot in Lexington,” Fukofuka said. “So, I’m making a few adjustments to my swing. Here’s the place to do it, adjust, so I can get back up there.”
Chukars’ manager Justin Gemoll said Fukofuka started to put more pressure on himself during his tenure with the Legends and got “out of his game plan”.

Chukars manager Justin Gemoll talks to reporters during the 2017 Chukars Media Day on Saturday afternoon.
Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com, 6/17/2017, Lens 125, ISO 200, FStop {fstop}, Shutter 1/640, Aperature {aperature},

“He’s got all the tools,” Gemoll said. “Just getting back to trusting himself and relaxing a little bit.”
A return to Melaleuca could help the 21-year-old. Change can be a good thing. And Fukofuka has the right attitude and characteristics to turn it around, Gemoll said.
“He’s very responsible and he does what he needs to do,” Gemoll said. “Professional athletes, a lot of the dedication, confidence, is behind closed doors and fans don’t always see that. But it’s how you take care of yourself off the field, how hard you workout in the gym, what you’re eating.
(Fukofuka) checks all those boxes.”
Idaho Falls provides a second-chance for Fukofuka. For others, it provides a new beginning.
Jake Wakamatsu, son of Royals’ bench coach Don, broke his right hand a year ago. He only played three games for the Royals’ Arizona League team.
Wakamatsu has had a journey of his own: he was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school in the 48th round. He decided to attend Arizona State. But after recruiting scandals hovered around ASU in 2011-2012, he transferred to Arizona Christian University. Then, he broke his throwing hand.
He said he just wants to see the field again after a year hiatus. Now healthy, Wakamatsu has a chance to build up his repertoire and advance up through the Royals’ minor system.
“Anytime I get on the field, just play my hardest,” Wakamatsu said. “And just see how it goes. Try to keep moving up.”

Chukars announce opening-day roster

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register
The Idaho Falls Chukars announced its 2017 opening-day roster around 11:40 a.m. Thursday.
Twenty-four players will suit up in Chukars uniforms for the start of the season — including fan favorite and 2015 all-star outfielder Amalani Fukofuka, per Chukars media spokesman Logan Ratick. Fukofuka registered 95 hits, 53 runs and 38 RBIs on a .339 batting average over 67 games during his 2015 campaign with the Chukars. He spent all of 2016 with the Lexington Legends.

Amalani Fukofuka

Other former Chukars players set to return to Melaleuca Field are shortstop Ricky Aracena and pitcher Julio Pinto, who appeared in two games in 2015.
Sixteen of Idaho Falls’ players are free agents, according to the roster released to local media Thursday. Eight of them are draft picks from the 2013, 2015 and ‘16 draft classes. Fukofuka is the highest-drafted player (fifth round in 2013).
An interesting flair: 11 Chukars have international roots (seven are from the Dominican Republic; four are from Venezuela). The Chukars also don’t have any left-handed pitchers currently on their roster (the Royals drafted 15 left-handed pitchers in this year’s draft).
The Chukars have one college player, Darrell Miller Jr. from UCLA, who is the nephew of NBA Hall of Famer Reggie Miller. His father, Darrell Sr., runs the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., and played five season with the Los Angeles Angels.
Miller Jr. isn’t the only Chukar with a genealogy filled with professional athletes.
Jake Wakamatsu is the son of Royals’ bench coach Don Wakamatsu. Jake was previously drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 48th round of the 2011 MLB draft. His brother, Luke, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2015.

Justin Gemoll

Idaho Falls has five returning coaches on its staff. Manager Justin Gemoll returns for his third year guiding the Chukars. He’s led Idaho Falls to a 78-74 record (.513 winning percentage) in two season. He played for the Omaha Royals (Triple-A Royals affiliate) in 2005.
The Chukars play an exhibition game against the American Legion Baseball Idaho Falls Bandits at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at Melaleuca Field. Idaho Falls’ season officially starts Monday at Grand Junction. Its home opener is June 23 against Orem.
The complete roster is below (player, B/T, year acquired, hometown, previous team):

Pitchers (12):

Randy Acevedo RHP/FA ‘15/Pimentel, Dominican Republic/DSL Royals
Jose De Leon RHP/FA ‘15/Bahrahona, Domionican Republic/DSL Royals
Emmanuel Estevez RHP/FA ‘15/Dajabon, Dominican Republic/DSL Royals
Jeremy Gwinn RHP/12th Rd. ‘16/Woodland Park, CO/AZL Royals
Garrett Harris RHP/FA’16/College Station, TX/AZL Royals
Janser Lara RHP/FA ‘15/San Cristobal, Dominican Republic/DSL Royals
Christopher Marte RHP/FA ‘15/Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic/DSL Royals
David McKay RHP/ 14th Rd. ‘16/Melbourne, FL/Lexington Legends
Cody Nesbit RHP/22 Rd. ‘16/La Porte, TX/AZL Royals
Julio Pinto RHP/FA ‘12/ Guacara, Venezuela/Lexington Legends
Michael Silva RHP/FA ‘16/Valencia, CA/Burlington Royals
Andres Sotillet RHP/FA ‘15/Cumana, Venezuela/DSL Royals

Catchers (2):

Freddy Fermin R/R/FA ‘15/Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela/DSL Royals
Darrell Miller Jr. R/R/FA ‘17/Fullerton, CA/UCLA Bruins

Infielders (7):

Ricky Aracena R/R/FA ‘14/San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic/Lexington Legends
Offerman Collado R/L/FA ‘15/Santiago, Dominican Republic/AZL Royal
Logan Gray R/R/13th Rd. ‘16/Leawood, KS/Burlington Royals
Jonathan McCray S/R/24th Rd. ‘15/Riverside CA/Wilmington Blue Rocks
Robby Rinn L/L/ 25th Rd. ‘16/Warwick, RI/AZL Royals
Tyler Straub R/R/FA ‘16/Alberquerque, NM/Burlington Royals
Jake Wakamatsu L/R/FA ‘16/Keller, TX/AZL Royals

Outfielders (3):

Amalani Fukofuka R/R/5th Rd. ‘13/Hayward, CA/Lexington Legends
Christian Vasquez L/L/FA ‘13/ Barquisimeto, Venezuela/Burlington Royals
Vance Vizcaino L/R/11th Rd. ‘16/Wake Forest, NC/ Burlington Royals

Coaching staff:

Justin Gemoll/Manager/San Jose, CA/Idaho Falls Chukars
Jeff Suppan/ Pitching coach/ Los Angeles/Idaho Falls Chukars
Damon Hollins/Hitting coach/Vallejo, CA/Lexington Legends
Ramon Castro/Bench coach/Valencia, Venezuela/Idaho Falls Chukars
Justin Kemp/Trainer/Spearfish, SD/Idaho Falls Chukars
Jesse White/Strength and conditioning/Globe, AZ/Idaho Falls Chukars

Royals draft 41 players, Chukars season starts Saturday

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register
Thanks to the MLB Draft, the Chukars may soon receive some solid players from around the country.

(FILE) Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman Jordan Ebert rounds third base. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)

The Royals had 41 picks during this week’s 2017 MLB Draft. Highlighting the picks were first basemen Nick Pratto, catcher MJ Melendez and left-handed pitchers Evan Steele and Daniel Tillo during the first three rounds.
The Chukars, a Single-A affiliate of the Royals based in Idaho Falls, could have the chance to groom some of these players this summer (however, none of the Royals 2016 draft picks started the season with the Chukars last year, according to a previous Post Register report). Since 2012, the Royals have usually sent 11 drafted players to the Chukars, according to a previous Post Register report.
Chukars’ media relations member Logan Ratick said the team will officially announce the roster Thursday at 10 a.m. But some of the Royals’ 41 selections may wear a Chukars’ uniform throughout their 76-game regular season.
The Chukars’ season begins Saturday with an exhibition game against the Idaho Falls Bandits’, an American Legion team. The game begins at 7:15 p.m. at Melaleuca Field. Idaho Falls begins the regular season Monday at Grand Junction.
Here is some insight on the Royals’ draft selections:

First baseman Nick Pratto, selected 14th overall — Ranked the 13th-best player in this year’s MLB Draft, Pratto is worth around $3.7 million, according to MLB.com draft tracker. Pratto is a 6-foot-1, 195 pound lefty from Huntington Beach (Calif.) High School who batted a .318 and hit seven home runs during his senior season at Huntington. He also hit a walk-off home run to win the 2011 Little League World Series against Japan, per the Kansas City Star.
He is considered by many to be one of the best hitters in this year’s draft and is a University of South Carolina commit.

Catcher MJ Melendez, selected 52nd overall — A 6-foot-1, 175 pound catcher from Westminster Christian (Fla.) High School, Melendez is an “all-around” backstop, according to MLB.com’s draft tracker. The website also lauded Melendez’s athleticism and power. He was ranked 72-best in the draft by the website and was the second high school player selected by the Royals.

Left-handed pitcher Evan Steele, selected 73rd overall — A JUCO product courtesy of Chipola College (Fla.), Steele won the 2017 JUCO World Series and caught the Royal’s attention after going 5-0 with a 2.01 ERA in 40 1/3 innings this season. According to MLB.com, Steele struck out 58 opposing batters while holding them to a .208 batting average.

Royals director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg told Kansas City MLB.com: “To get a big, 6-foot-6 left-hander who throws strikes, who can command his breaking ball, we thought it was a really good day.”

Left-handed pitcher Daniel Tillo, selected 90th overall — From Sioux City, started his career at Kentucky before transferring to Iowa Western and recorded a 2.86 ERA in nine games, according to the Des Moines Register. Tillo has a fastball clocked in around 95 mph, according to MLB.com. He was previously selected by the Minnesota Twins in 2015 (39th round, 1160th pick).

Center fielder Michael Gigliotti, selected 120th overall — A lefty from Lipscomb University, Gigliotti could be a solid professional leadoff hitter. He batted a .310 in the Cape Cod League and recorded a .451 on-base percentage as a junior at Lipscomb, according to CBS Sports. In 2016, he made 49 starts in the outfield and recorded a .301 batting percentage for Lipscomb.

Others selected:

5th round, 150th pick: Charlie Neuweiler/RHP/McClancy HS (Elmhusrt, NY)
6th round, 180th pick: Tyler Zuber/RHP/Arkansas State University
7th round, 210th pick: Brewer Hicklen/OF/University of Alabama-Birmingham
8th round, 240th pick: Holden Capps/LHP/Central Oklahoma
9th round, 270th pick: J.C. Cloney/LHP/Arizona
10th round, 300th pick: Jordan Floyd/LHP/Kansas State
11th round, 330th pick: Sal Biasi/RHP/Penn State
12th round, 360th pick: Collin Snider/RHP/Vanderbilt
13th round, 390th: Cason Sherrod/RHP/Texas A&M
14th round, 420th pick: Isaiah Henry/RHP/North Shore HS
15th round, 450th pick: Robert Garcia/LHP/California-Davis
16th round, 480th pick: Christopher Hudgins/C/Cal State Fullerton
17th round, 510th pick: Julio Gonzalez/SS/ Florida Gulf Coast
18th round, 540th pick: Marlin Willis/LHP/McEachern HS
19th round, 570th pick: Korry Howell/SS/Kirkwood CC
20th round, 600th pick: Bryar Johnson/RHP/Carolina Forest HS
21st round, 630th pick: Isaiah Smith/OF/Battle Ground HS
22nd round, 660th pick: Josh Mitchell/LHP/University of Pittsburgh
23rd round, 690th pick: Matt Morales/SS/Palm Beach CC
24th round, 720th pick: Connor Mayes/RHP/Texas
25th round, 750th pick: Tyler James/CF/William Carey
26th round, 780th pick: Garrett Suchey/RHP/Alabama
27th round, 810th pick: Nick Hutchins/C/Southern Illinois Carbondale
28th round, 840th pick: Taylor Fischer/RHP/Langham Creek HS
29th round, 870th pick: Travis Jones/UTL/Texas
30th round, 900th pick: Adam Brainbridge/LHP/Old Dominon
31st round, 930th pick: Justin Vought/C/Wyoming Valley West HS
32nd round, 960th pick: Andrew Beckwith/RHP/Coastal Carolina
33rd round, 990th pick: Damon Olds/RHP/Indiana State
34th round, 1,020th pick: Jackson Klein/RHP/Stanford
35th round, 1,050th pick: Reed Rohlman/OF/Clemson
36th round, 1,080th pick: Brady Cox/C/Texas-Arlington
37th round, 1,110th pick: Trvor Hauver/SS/ Perry HS
38th round, 1,140th pick: Montae Bradshaw/CF/Patrick Henry CC
39th round, 1,170th pick: Justin Mitchell/C/Platte Country R-3 HS
40th round, 1,200th pick: Yaniel Ramos/SS/Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy

Ratick receives All-America honors from Sportscasters Talent Agency of America

New Idaho Falls Chukars director of broadcasting and media relations Logan Ratick is one of six college students and recent college graduates to receive one of the most prestigious national awards for collegiate broadcasting.

Ratick, who graduated earlier this month from Syracuse University, received All-America honors by the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America as announced by the organization May 19. He is one of three Syracuse students to receive All-America honors. The Jim Nantz Award, which has been awarded annually since 2009 to the nation’s most outstanding collegiate sportscaster, was awarded to University of Missouri junior Nate Gatter. Ratick was hired by Chukars general manager Kevin Greene in February to replace Andrew Haynes and will call home games beside John Balginy and travel to all road games solo.

The Jim Nantz Award, All-America honors, top 20 and honorable mention recipients were selected by a panel of judges including Sports Talent Agency of America CEO Jon Chelesnik, Dallas Mavericks play-by-play broadcaster Chuck Cooperstein, University of Southern California football voice Pete Arbogast, Learfield VP of Broadcast Operations Tom Boman and former Jim Nantz Award winners Alex Faust, Kevin Fitzgerald, Josh Appel, Adam Cavalier, Ross Lippman and Bill Spaulding.

Chukars hire a new broadcaster for the fourth straight year

Ratick
Ratick

The Idaho Falls Chukars’ broadcasting carousel continues to turn.

Last week, the Chukars announced the hiring of Logan Ratick as their director of broadcasting and media relations. Ratick, who is in his senior year at Syracuse University, will be fourth person in four years to fill that position.

Ratick’s duties will include calling Chukars home games alongside John Balginy and calling road games by himself. He will also be in charge of news releases, social media, the Chukars’ website and more.

“I felt like Idaho Falls was a great situation because of the people in the front office, the fact that I could do every single solo on the road and have a chance to learn from John Balginy,” Ratick told the Post Register over the phone earlier this week. “Everything about the situation seemed right.”

Ratick replaces Andrew Haynes, who told the Post Register he landed a temporary broadcasting job in the spring for the University of Texas softball team.

Chukars general manager Kevin Greene said he opens the broadcaster position after each season. Sometimes, the most recent broadcaster lands another job, and Greene’s hand is forced. Other times, a new broadcaster rises above the other candidates. Ratick landed in the second category, Greene said.

“He’s a kid with a bright future, and we look forward to having him for a year,” Greene told the Post Register Saturday. “This is nothing more than a stepping stone for this young man.”

Ratick has gained significant baseball broadcasting experience, despite attending the only ACC school without a baseball team. Last summer, he was the play-by-play man for the Orleans Firebirds of the Cape Cod Baseball League. He served the same role for the Syracuse Jr. Chiefs (New York Collegiate Baseball League) and LeMoyne College.

At Syracuse’s NPR-affiliate radio station, Ratick hosts various sports talks shows, along with postgame shows for the Orange football, men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse teams. He also does play-by-play for the women’s basketball team.

In May, Ratick plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism. He’ll join a prestigious list of Syracuse broadcasting alumni that includes Marv Albert, Bob Costas and Mike Tirico (who is replacing Costas as NBC’s prime time host at the Olympics).

Ratick won’t be the first Syracuse alum to call Chukar games, either. Chris Lewis was the team’s director of broadcasting and media relations in 2013 and 2014. Lewis was a senior at Syracuse when Ratick was a freshman, and Ratick reached out to him when he applied to work for the Chukars.

Ratick’s baseball employment options were limited by his May graduation because most minor league baseball teams begin their seasons in April.

Ratick read the book “Getting in the Game” by broadcaster Josh Lewin for a broadcasting class. The book included a chapter about baseball teams hiring broadcasters at the Baseball Winter Meetings. One of the chapter’s main characters was a man named Kevin Greene.

Ratick attended the Winter Meetings but didn’t receive any offers, so he cold-called several short-season baseball teams (the only minor league affiliates that start their seasons after May). He was immediately intrigued by the Chukars partially because they liked him, partially because their general manager was Greene.

“It’s a little coincidental that we read that story in class and I ended up being the one that made it out of the pool for Idaho Falls,” Ratick said. “I think it was meant to be.”

Ratick, who was born and raised in Connecticut, discovered his love for broadcasting around the age of 8. He was 12 when he set his sights on Syracuse. By then, he was watching baseball games with the sound off so he could practice his future craft.

“The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do in my life is broadcast professional baseball,” Ratick said.

He’ll get that chance in four months. The Chukars begin their season on June 19 at Grand Junction.

Chukars announce their 2017 coaching staff

Gemoll
Gemoll

A new hitting coach will sit in the Idaho Falls Chukars dugout this summer.

Damon Hollins will replace Andre David as the Chukars’ hitting instructor for the 2017 season, the Chukars announced Friday. Manager Justin Gemoll and pitching coach Jeff Suppan will return to Idaho Falls for their third straight seasons, and Justin Kemp will serve as the Chukars’ head athletic trainer for the second straight year.

This is not Hollins’ first stint as the Chukars’ hitting coach. He held the same position in 2013 and 2014. Hollins spent the previous two seasons as the hitting coach for the Single-A Lexington Legends. 2017 will be Hollins’ eighth year in the Kansas City Royals’ organization.

David was named the hitting coach for the Burlington Royals, Kansas City’s other Rookie-level affiliate, according to the (Burlington, N.C.) Times-News. Former Chukars manager Omar Ramirez will become Burlington’s manager this upcoming season, as well. Ramirez, who managed the Legends the last two years, spent three seasons in Idaho Falls. He and Hollins won a Pioneer League title in 2013.

The Chukars did not name a bench coach on Friday. Ramon Castro has occupied that role the previous two seasons.

Melaleuca Field gets a new outfield wall for the first time since the 1970s

Blackfoot left fielder Daden Jorgensen camps under a fly ball in a nonconference game against Skyline on Friday, March 18 at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Blackfoot left fielder Daden Jorgensen camps under a fly ball in a nonconference game against Skyline on Friday, March 18 at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

For the first time in four decades, Melaleuca Field is getting a new outfield wall.

The new fence has been under construction since the end of the 2015 Idaho Falls Chukars season, and it is scheduled to be completed in mid-May. Chukars general manager Kevin Greene said the old plywood fence was rotting, so the City of Idaho Falls could no longer put off the project.

“It needed to be done,” Greene said. “When you build a ballpark like Melaleuca Field, you need to maintain it.”

The last time the city built a new wall at Melaleuca Field was around 1974, according to Idaho Falls Parks and Cemetery superintendent Brent Martin, who is overseeing the new wall project. The previous wall was built after a windstorm blew the wall over. The new wall survived a fire that burned down Melaleuca Field (then Highland Park) in 1975, and it lasted until this previous fall.

The fence was ready to be replaced years ago.

The stadium was rebuilt — and renamed Melaleuca Field — in 2007, but there wasn’t enough money to replace the outfield wall, Greene said. Martin said the city council repeatedly denied Parks and Recreation requests to fund a new wall due to high proposed costs.

As the years passed, the wall became increasingly unstable.

“There were support beams that were literally sheared off from the bottom,” Greene said. “I would go up there on an extension ladder and the whole thing would shake. I felt unsafe being 8-10 feet off the ground.”

Greene said the Kansas City Royals, the Chukars’ MLB affiliate, contacted him asking for the wall to be replaced out of concern for player safety.

The wall came down shortly after the Chukars’ season ended in September.

Martin said the city budgeted $125,000 for the new wall, and so far the city has spent $70,000 on materials. Greene also secured contracts with Rodda Paint, Ashgrove Cement and Valley Ready Mix for the project.

High school baseball teams are currently playing at Melaleuca Field in front of an unfinished wall of plywood. Greene said the wall will be completed in less than two months, before the Chukars come to town. The wall’s advertisement banners will be placed in the exact same spots as last year, which will help mask the changes to fans this summer.

“It will look just like it did before,” Greene said. “You won’t notice any difference.”

O’Hearn wins Pioneer League MVP, makes All-Star team with four other Chukars

O'Hearn

POST REGISTER

The 2014 Idaho Falls Chukars won’t repeat as Pioneer League champions, but their players sure made an impression on the league this summer.

The Chukars posted a league-high five players on the Pioneer League’s 2014 All-Star team, and also walked away with the summer’s top prize when first baseman/right fielder Ryan O’Hearn earned the Ralph Nelles Award given to the league’s MVP.

Third baseman Mike Hill, shortstop Corey Toups, outfielder Robert Pehl and right-handed pitcher Torey Deshazier joined O’Hearn on the All-Star team.

O’Hearn, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound left-handed slugger out of Sam Houston State, is the first I.F. player to win the Nelles Award since Clint Robinson in 2007.

He started his pro career with a 5-for-5 night in his debut and never stopped hitting. His .372 batting average entering Saturday’s game was second in the league, and he leads the league in hits (87), runs (58) and slugging percentage (.598) while also belting 12 home runs and driving in 50 runs. He’s currently second in the league in on-base percentage at .449.

“I want to thank God first of all, and my teammates and coaches,” O’Hearn said in a news release. “I’ve been so blessed to end up in an awesome organization in the Royals, and to start my career with the Chukars. I have nothing but great things to say about the fans and my time here. It’s an honor to get picked for this award, and it’s something I will always cherish.”

Toups, a teammate of O’Hearn’s at Sam Houston State, shook off a slow start and is hitting .330 with 46 walks and an on-base percentage of .452. He also has 20 doubles.

Hill showed a strong arm at third base and is also hitting .282 with three home runs, 30 RBIs and a league-high seven triples.

Pehl has been the team’s cleanup hitter for most of the summer, batting .339 with 41 RBIs.

Deshazier has been the Chukars best pitcher all summer, posting a 5-2 record and a league-low 2.85 ERA. He’s second in WHIP (1.23) and opponents batting average (.236) while adding 64 strikeouts.

Kyle Pollock was named honorable mention at catcher while Omar Ramirez was an honorable mention selection as Manager of the Year (won by Grand Junction’s Anthony Sanders).