Tag: around the Pioneer League

Meibrys Viloria named Pioneer League MVP


Idaho Falls Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria, who batted over .400 for most of the season, won the Pioneer League’s 2016 Ralph Nelles Award as the league’s most valuable player.

Viloria, a 19-year-old catcher from Cartagena, Colombia, through Monday led the Pioneer League in batting average (.381), doubles (28) and RBIs (54). And one season after not having an extra-base hit for the Burlington Royals, Viloria is second in the league with 37 extra-base hits. He is also second with 53 runs and third in on-base percentage (.442) and slugging (.619).

The international free agent owns the Pioneer League’s longest hitting streak of 2016 at 20 games from July 7 to Aug. 7.

“It’s a great credit to him and the year he’s had,” Idaho Falls manager Justin Gemoll said in a news release. “He does a lot of good things blocking balls, controlling the running game and leading the pitching staff, and offensively he’s had a great approach and been consistent all year long. He’s one of those kids who comes ready to play and wants to play every day. His energy is infectious for our team and he got after it all season long.”

Viloria is the third Chukar to win the award since Idaho Falls became affiliated with the Royals. Clint Robinson, currently with the Washington Nationals, won the award in 2007, while Ryan O’Hearn, now at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, was honored in 2014.

Viloria, Olloque honored

Idaho Falls teammates Meibrys Viloria and Manny Olloque were named to the 2016 Pioneer League end of season All-Star team, the league announced late Monday. The award is voted on by the league’s managers and honors the best players at each position.

Viloria, who was named the league MVP Tuesday, leads the league in batting average, doubles and RBIs through Monday.

Olloque, in his third minor league season, was hitting .319 through Monday with 15 doubles, seven homers, 49 RBIs and 50 runs scored.

Tuesday’s game

CHUKARS 6, OWLZ 5: At Orem, Utah, Idaho Falls built a 5-1 lead and then held on late to beat Orem the day after it was eliminated from the Pioneer League playoffs.

Idaho Falls starter Alex Luna was solid again, allowing two runs on seven hits with one walk and four strikeouts over six innings. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound right-hander improved to 5-1 and saw his ERA drop to 3.90.

The Chukars scored single runs in the first and third innings and plated two in the fourth to go up 4-1. I.F.’s lead went to 6-2 after single runs in the sixth and seventh. Orem, which rallied in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings Monday to win, scored three times in the eighth to cut the lead to one. But Christian Flecha worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to close it out.

Idaho Falls shortstop Ricky Aracena had one of his best offensive games of the season, going 3 for 3 with two walks, a double and three RBIs. He also stole a base and was error-free in the field. Rudy Martin was 2 for 4 with two runs scored and Luke Willis was 2 for 4 with a run and an RBI.

The Chukars (38-36 overall, 16-21 second half) return to Melaleuca Field for the final two games of the season. Idaho Falls and Orem will play Wednesday and Thursday, with first pitch scheduled for 7:15 p.m. both nights.

Ogden hosts stressful, successful all-star game

The players line up for the Canadian National Anthem prior to Tuesday’s Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game in Ogden, Utah. (Victor Flores / vflores@postregister.com)
The players line up for the Canadian National Anthem prior to Tuesday’s Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game in Ogden, Utah. (Victor Flores / vflores@postregister.com)

Many things occupied Dave Baggott’s mind Tuesday afternoon, but one overruled the rest.

“The game’s about to start pretty soon, but I’m more excited about going to bed without turning the alarm on,” Baggott said with a laugh.

The Ogden Raptors’ president was referencing Tuesday’s Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game at Lindquist Field in Ogden, Utah. Baggott and his staff prepared for this game for the better part of a year, and the workload reached exhausting levels Monday and Tuesday.

Ogden was responsible for all of the festivities’ expenses, and the club will collect all of the revenue, Baggott said. The Raptors might not net a profit, but Baggott was proud of the event even before the game began.

“It’s not hard work, it’s just three times the work because normally you’re dealing with one team and one fan base,” Baggott said. “This is a culmination of a year’s worth of work, and we’ll see what the payoff is.”

Ogden announced it would host the 2016 all-star game during last year’s inaugural game in Spokane, Wash. Minor League Baseball officially approved it near the end of the 2015 season, allowing Baggott and company to move forward with the event schedule, ticket packages, TV deals, etc.

The festivities started Monday evening. Players and executives arrived sporadically throughout the day. The players talked to the media at 4:15 p.m., then left for dinner at Needles Lodge at Snowbasin Ski Resort. The players, executives, media and others involved rode gondolas up to the resort.

“I’m not real big on heights, so I’m glad it was the gondolas they were using and not the T-bars,” Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner said. “I talked with a few young men (about the gondola ride) and said, ‘You ever seen anything like that?’ And they said, ‘Never.’ And they may never again.”

Tuesday’s festivities began with a fan fest at 3:30 p.m. Vendors lined the street outside of Lindquist Field, and fans received autographs from the all-stars. Then fans entered the stadium.

General admission tickets cost $18 while bleacher and grass area seats were $12, up from $12 and $6, respectively, for Raptors games. Each ticket served as a voucher that would get fans into four Raptors games for free (a $48 value). Baggott also sold 10-ticket packs that would give fans season tickets for the 2017 season. He said about 20 people

Idaho Falls catcher Meibrys Viloria connects for a single during Tuesday’s Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game in Ogden, Utah. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls catcher Meibrys Viloria connects for a single during Tuesday’s Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game in Ogden, Utah. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)

purchased such packages.

“The expense to put on the all-star game is probably five times greater than putting on a normal game,” Baggott said. “So there’s a lot on the line.”

The all-star game was preceded by a home run derby. Idaho Falls Chukars’ catcher Meibrys Viloria participated in the derby, which was won by Salem-Keizer’s Gio Brusa. The main attraction started at 7:15 p.m., and the Northwest League won 11-5. The announced attendance was 5,339. The game wasn’t broadcast live, but it will air on Root Sports (Rocky Mountain region) at 2 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Sunday.

Next year’s game will be played in Hillsboro, Ore. (home of the Hillsboro Hops), pending MiLB approval.

“We’ll do a postmortem and a debrief,” O’Conner said. “We’ll check with all of the Major League affiliates that participated, and we’ll move forward and ask for an extension.”

Baggott said two things constituted a successful event: a significant profit and minimal mistakes. He wouldn’t know about the first category until after the game, but everything leading up to the game went smoothly, and nothing went noticeably awry during the game. He was also happy to give Ogden exposure, regardless of money.

A successful end to the night, however, had different standards to Baggott.

“We’ll have a little postgame party upstairs at the BBQ for an hour after the game,” Baggott said. “And then I want everybody to get out of my ballpark and go home because I want to go to sleep (laughs).”

Northwest League pounds Pioneer League 11-5


OGDEN, Utah Last year’s inaugural Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game concluded in walkoff fashion. The Northwest League won again this year, but the score was not nearly as close.

The Northwest League followed up last year’s 6-5 win in Spokane, Wash. with an 11-5 victory Tuesday at Lindquist Field in Ogden. All four Idaho Falls Chukars who represented the Pioneer League played, but they had quiet performances.

The Pioneer League answered the Northwest’s three-run top of the third inning with a four-run bottom half. Ogden’s DJ Peters tied it at 3-3 with a 445-foot two-run home run to left-center field.

The home team’s lead was short-lived. The Northwest League hit for the cycle in the top of the fourth and scored seven runsto take a commanding 10-4 lead. Home run derby champion Gio Brusa of Salem-Keizer capped the inning with a two-runblast to right field.


The Northwest League finished with 19 hits in the game, and the Pioneer League had seven.

Third baseman Xavier Turner of the Spokane Indians won the game’s Most Valuable Player award. He went 3 for 3 with a solo home run.

Peters’ home run was his only hit in three at-bats, but it was enough to earn him the Pioneer League’s Top Star honor.

I.F.’s Meibrys Viloria was the Pioneer League’s starting catcher, and fellow Chukar Manny Olloque started at third base. Viloria finished 1 for 3 with a single, and Olloque went 0 for 2 with a strikeout and a deep flyout to right.

I.F.’s Yeison Melo replaced Peters in right field in the top of the sixth. He went 0 for 2 with a lineout to left and a game-ending groundout to second.

Chukars reliever Brian Bayliss pitched the sixth inning. The right-hander allowed one earned run on three hits while striking out one.

Five Chukars selected to Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game


Five Idaho Falls Chukars will represent the Pioneer League in next week’s Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game.

The five Chukars are reliever Brian Bayliss, starting pitcher Alex Luna, right fielder Yeison Melo, third baseman Manny Olloque and catcher Meibrys Viloria. Infielder David Edwards was also named the first alternate for the Pioneer League team. He will join his teammates if any current position player pulls out of the game.

Bayliss was not named to the initial all-star roster, but a spot opened up due to a Luna injury. Luna strained his oblique in Tuesday’s game at Missoula, according to Chukars broadcaster and director of media relations Andrew Haynes.

Viloria and Olloque will start for the Pioneer League, and Melo will come off the bench.

Going into Wednesday, Viloria led the league in batting average (.455), on-base percentage (.504), slugging percentage (.804), doubles (15), RBIs (36) and total bases (90). He and Melo were tied for first in hits with 51, and


Olloque was third with 50.

Viloria’s 1.308 OPS was tops in all of Minor League Baseball, according to MiLB.com.

Olloque was hitting .355 with a .891 OPS through Tuesday, and Melo hit .345 with an .859 OPS.

Luna leads all Pioneer League starters with a 2.48 ERA (minimum 0.8 innings pitched per start). He’s also struck out 42 and walked seven in 40 innings pitched.

Through Tuesday, Bayliss had a 2.51 ERA, 10 strikeouts and five walks in 14.1 innings pitched.

First baseman Josh Banuelos, outfielder Amalani Fukofuka and reliever Tripp Davis represented I.F. in last season’s inaugural all-star game, which was played in Spokane, Wash. This year’s game will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 2 around 7 p.m. in Ogden, Utah.

Here are the full rosters (asterisk = starter):

Pioneer League
RHP Brian Bayliss, Idaho Falls
LHP Nate Bertness, Orem
SS Jasrado Chisholm, Missoula
3B Brady Conlan, Great Falls
RHP Colton Cross, Helena
RHP Jordan Desguin*, Helena
RHP Jake Elliott, Great Falls
LHP Roberth Fernandez, Ogden
RHP Connor Grey, Missoula
SS Jose Gomez*, Grand Junction
OF Mitchell Hansen* (DH), Ogden
1B Ibandel Isabel, Ogden
RHP Dean Jackson, Missoula
C Ryan January, Missoula
OF Jahmai Jones*, Orem
RHP Andrew Jordan, Billings
RHP Alex Luna, Idaho Falls
RHP Aron McRee, Great Falls
RF Yeison Melo, Idaho Falls
RHP Kenny Oakley, Grand Junction
3B Manny Olloque*, Idaho Falls
OF DJ Peters*, Ogden
2B Jonathan Piron*, Grand Junction
RHP Tony Santillan, Billings
OF Aaron Schnurbusch*, Great Falls
CF Jose Siri, Billings
2B Hector Vargas, Billings
C Meibrys Viloria*, Idaho Falls
RHP Nash Walters, Helena
INF Colton Welker, Grand Junction

Northwest League
SS Chris Baker, Tri-City
INF Cavan Biggio*, Vancouver
1B Jacob Bosiokovic*, Boise
OF Gio Brusa, Salem-Keizer
RHP Jesus Castillo, Eugene
RHP Jared Cheek, Eugene
RHP Tommy Eveld, Hillsboro
RHP Tyler Ferguson, Spokane
RHP Julian Fernandez, Boise
OF Eric Filia*, Everett
RF Ashford Fullmer, Salem-Keizer
OF Robert Garcia*, Eugene
SS Garrett Hampson*, Boise
C Javier Hernandez, Vancouver
OF Kyle Lewis, Everett
RHP Diomar Lopez, Tri-City
RHP Tyler Mark, Hillsboro
RHP Javier Medina, Boise
RHP Brandon Miller, Everett
RHP Patrick Murphy, Vancouver
RHP Liay Newsom, Everett
LHP Jose Paulino, Eugene
OF Chris Pieters* (DH), Eugene
RHP Emmanuel Ramirez, Tri-City
C John Riley, Salem-Keizer
OF Chad Smith, Spokane
C Seth Spivey*, Spokane
3B Xavier Tuner*, Spokane
SS Donnie Walton, Everett
RHP Jake Winston, Hillsboro

Chukars sweep doubleheader versus Helena; Denson makes history


Before Saturday, Idaho Falls Chukars fans had not seen their team at Melaleuca Field during the month of August.

The Chukars rewarded their fans with a doubleheader sweep over the Helena Brewers on Saturday night. Idaho Falls pulled out a walkoff 8-7 win in extra innings in the first game, and its pitchers shut down Helena in the second game for a 6-1 win.

In the first game, Idaho Falls erased a 3-1 deficit with a run in both the third and fourth innings. The Chukars scored four runs in the fifth inning to pull ahead, and the lead looked safe behind Carter Hope.

The right-handed Hope pitched four straight scoreless innings after his shaky start and was an out away from the Chukars’ first complete game of the season. But he encountered some trouble in the top of the seventh, allowing one run on two hits. Left-hander Tripp Davis replaced Hope after the run scored.

Davis was a Pioneer League all-star with a 2.70 ERA heading into Saturday’s doubleheader, but the side-armer struggled out of the gate. A hit batter, wild pitch and back-to-back singles netted three runs and sent the game into extra innings.

Helena right-hander Jon Olczak shut the Chukars down when he entered the game with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.


Olczak struck out 10 of his first 12 batters faced, allowing one baserunner, and he got two quick outs in the bottom of the ninth. But center fielder Amalani Fukofuka struck a single to right and stole second base, setting up first baseman Josh Banuelos, who was 3 for 4 at that point.

Moments later, he was 4 for 5.

Banuelos hit a deep drive to right field that one-hopped the wall and easily scored Fukofuka for the Chukars’ fourth walkoff win of the season.

Idaho Falls right-hander Josh Staumont made his first professional start in the second game and dominated. The Kansas City Royals’ 2015 second round draft pick went three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and two walks. He struck out seven thanks to a fastball that consistently sat in the high 90s.

Reliever Cruz Guevara gave up one earned run in his three innings, and Drew Milligan pitched a scoreless seventh. The offense supplied six runs on 12 hits.

Collins went 4 for 6 with a solo home run in the first game, second baseman DJ Burt went 5 for 8 (4 for 4 with a triple and double in the second game) and right fielder Brawlun Gomez hit a 440-foot home run in the second game.

Brewer makes major announcement

Helena outfielder and cleanup hitter David Denson came out as gay, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Saturday night. Denson is the first openly gay player actively playing for a team affiliated with the MLB.

Denson joins former major leaguers Billy Bean and Glenn Burke as the only affiliated baseball players to ever come out, according to the Sentinel. Bean and Burke came out after their careers ended. Bean helped Denson reach out to the Sentinel, the newspaper reported.

Denson isn’t the first professional baseball player to come out. Sean Conroy, a pitcher for the independent Sonoma Stompers, came out in June.

Through Saturday, Denson has a .255 batting average with four home runs in 159 at-bats for the Brewers this season.

Chukars Notebook: Ogden to host Northwest vs. Pioneer League All-Star Game

Idaho Falls Chukar's Luis Valenzuela makes the tag at third base against Ogden's Jake Henson during Tuesday night's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukar’s Luis Valenzuela makes the tag at third base against Ogden’s Jake Henson during Tuesday night’s game at Melaleuca Field.
(Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)


The inaugural Northwest League vs. Pioneer League All-Star Game does not appear to be the last.

The Ogden Raptors announced near the end of Tuesday’s all-star game that they will host the 2016 game, pending approval from Minor League Baseball. The success of Tuesday’s game, hosted by the Northwest League’s Spokane Indians, led to the decision to play another one next year, this time at a Pioneer League ballpark.

“It will be a big project for us but we will be excited and ready for the game,” Raptors president Dave Baggot said in an article on Ogden’s website.

Ogden could not be reached for comment.

The date and time of next year’s all-star game have not yet been announced. Pioneer League president Jim McCurdy and Northwest League president Mike Ellis will make a joint application for MiLB approval, and Idaho Falls Chukars general manager Kevin Greene hopes the game will be approved in the next few weeks.

“I think what they’re really waiting for is to get feedback from all of the farm directors from all the teams that participated,” Greene said. “Make sure all the farm directors are comfortable with us moving forward and doing this annually.”

As Greene told the Post Register before Tuesday’s all-star game, Ogden was a prime candidate to host next year’s all-star game. The Raptors’ ballpark, Lindquist Field, has a capacity of 6,700 people, making it the largest ballpark in the Pioneer League. Spokane’s Avista Stadium had an attendance of 7,083 for Tuesday’s all-star game.

Other than ballpark size, location was another key factor for Ogden’s all-star game selection. Ogden is about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, narrowly surpassing Orem as the closest Pioneer League town to an international airport. Ogden’s proximity to Salt Lake’s airport allows Northwest League teams to save time and money compared to the Pioneer League’s seven other venues (Idaho Falls; Orem; Grand Juction, Colo.; Billings, Mont.; Helena, Mont.; Missoula, Mont; Great Falls, Mont.).

Next year’s likely all-star game wouldn’t have been possible if Tuesday’s inaugural game went poorly. It went anything but, according to multiple people at the event. The home run derby was well-done, Greene said, and the capacity crowd was treated to a thrilling 6-5, extra-inning victory by the Northwest League.

“Spokane did such a great job,” Greene said. “Their attention to detail was spot-on. These guys worked very, very hard, and they spent a lot of money to pull it off the way they did. The way it was all put together, you couldn’t have asked for it to be done better.

“I’d hate to be the one to try and follow what they did.”


On Aug. 2, Chukars’ left-handed pitcher Dylan Sons was placed on the voluntary retirement list. The Chukars could not provide further details, and Sons could not be reached for comment.

Sons, 22, was drafted in the 15th round of the 2012 MLB draft by the Kansas City Royals. In seven starts and 26.2 innings this season for Idaho Falls, Sons had a 10.80 ERA on 14 walks, 21 strikeouts and five home runs.

The Chukars also added a player on Aug. 2. Catcher Luis Lara, 20, was promoted from the Arizona League, where he had a .278 batting average, a .381 on-base percentage and a .278 slugging percentage in 36 at-bats.

Idaho Falls now has four catchers on its active roster.

Lara played his first game in an Chukars uniform on Saturday. He went 2 for 4 at the plate against Helena.


RHP Josh Staumont

Staumont has been electric since he joined Idaho Falls on July 15, but he was also wild early on. In his first appearance with the Chukars on July 16 against Missoula, Staumont walked five and gave up two earned runs in 0.2 innings. The 21-year-old settled down a bit his next three relief appearances, but he still finished the first half with 11 walks, nine strikeouts and four earned runs in 7.1 innings.

Staumont, a second- round pick by Kansas City in the 2015 MLB draft, has given up one earned run in his 6.2 second half innings (three relief appearances). But more importantly, he’s walked three batters while striking out 11. Staumont’s fastball has hit 100-plus miles per hour on several occasions, as well.


1B Josh Banuelos

It’s not easy to find a struggling player on a team that’s won eight consecutive games, and hardly any Chukar is currently slumping. But compared to his hot start, Banuelos fits that bill.

Banuelos’ batting average was .361 before Idaho Falls’ game against Orem on July 23. He’s gone 12 for 44 (.273) since, dropping his season average to .337.

Perhaps most concerning for Banuelos are his walks, or lack thereof. He’s drawn two walks since July 20, leading to a 35-point drop in his on-base percentage.

Banuelos, a 2015 Pioneer League all-star, missed four games last week due to a bone bruise in his hand.

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



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).

Chukars eliminated from 2014 Pioneer League playoffs


Idaho Falls did its part to stay alive in the Pioneer League playoff chase Saturday night. Unfortunately, the Ogden Raptors didn’t play along.

Idaho Falls knocked 11 hits, stole five bases and got dominating relief pitching to beat Orem 5-1 in front of 2,698 fans at Melaleuca Field. But down in Ogden, Utah, the Raptors cruised to a 9-7 win over Grand Junction and eliminated the Chukars from the South Division second-half playoff face.

The Chukars played a complete game Saturday.

Brawlun Gomez led the offense, going 3 for 4 with a run scored, two RBIs and a stolen base. Corey Toups went 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI and DonAndre Clark was 2 for 4 with a run scored and two stolen bases.

Eric Stout and Matthew Strahm shut the door over the final five innings. Stout earned the win, tossing three scoreless, hitless innings. Strahm followed with two scoreless innings.

The Chukars (35-36, 15-18) finish the regular season with five games against Ogden, the first three in Utah beginning today with the final two at Melaleuca Field beginning Wednesday.

Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game to debut in 2015



The best of the Pioneer League will take on the best of the Northwest League in an all-star game starting in 2015, the leagues announced Tuesday.

The first PBL-NWL All-Star game will be hosted by the Spokane Indians and will be played at Avista Stadium on Aug. 4, 2015.

“The Northwest League and Pioneer League are two prominent short-season leagues in Minor League Baseball,” Pat O’Connor, president and CEO of Minor League Baseball, said in a news release. “To combine the two and showcase the talented individuals from 14 Major League farm systems is a win for everyone, especially the fans.”

The release didn’t specify how the teams would be chosen.

The Pioneer League is made up of teams from Idaho Falls, Ogden (Utah), Orem (Utah), Grand Junction (Colo.), Missoula (Mont.), Billings (Mont.), Helena (Mont.) and Great Falls (Mont.).

The Northwest League has teams in Boise, Spokane, Everett (Wash.), Tri-City (Wash.), Eugene (Ore.), Hillsboro (Ore.) and Salem-Keizer (Ore.).