Tim Tebow was assigned to the Columbia Fireflies of the South Atlantic League. (John Bazemore-AP)

Tebow Time:  It looks like Tim Tebow will be back on the field in Lexington, but this time it would be at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, not Commonwealth Stadium.

The New York Mets’ organization made news around the South Atlantic League when it was announced that Tebow, the former Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, will play for the Columbia Fireflies, the Mets’ affiliate in the SAL.

Tebow signed with the Mets last year and played in the Arizona Fall League against some of baseball’s top prospects.

It’s all up to the Mets as to how long Tebow stays with Columbia, but it’s certain that the Fireflies will play three series in Lexington this season: four games May 25-28, four games June 26-29, and three games July 19-21.  The Legends have put together a Tebow ticket package for 10 of those series.

Nice exit for O’Hearn:  Ryan O’Hearn, who tied for the South Atlantic League lead in home runs with 19 for the Legends in 2015, was one of five players assigned to minor league camp by the Legends’ parent club, the Kansas City Royals.   O’Hearn homered in his final spring training game with the Royals, and made a good impression – again – on Royals manager Ned Yost.

Ryan O’Hearn hit 19 home runs in 81 games with the Legends in 2015. (Photo-Mary Lay)

“We liked him the little bit that we saw him last year, too,” Yost said. “He’s got a nice, short swing. He’s going to be a good player.”

 

 

Raul Mondesi, who played for the Lexington Legends in 2013.

 

Kansas City Royals infielder Raul Mondesi, a 2013 Lexington Legend, continued his outstanding spring by leading off Wednesday’s game against the Chicago White Sox with a home run.

Going into Thursday’s game, Mondesi was batting .444 (12 hits in 27 at bats) in 12 spring games for the major league club.

Mondesi played in 125 games for the Legends in 2013, 108 of them at shortstop, the rest as a designated hitter or pinch hitter.  A switch hitter, he batted .261 with seven homers and 47 runs batted in.  He was a late addition to the Southern Division All-Star team and had two hits in the All-Star game.  He didn’t turn 18 years old until July of 2013.

As a Legend, Mondesi hit for the cycle May 27, 2013 against Kannapolis.  Story  Video

Mondesi became the first player in history to make his major league debut in a World Series game when he pinch hit for the Royals against the New York Mets in game three.

He played in 47 games for the Royals in 2016.

 

 

 

Gabe Cramer was 3-2 and had 57 strikeouts in 43 and two-thirds innings for the Legends in 2016.

Former Lexington Legend Gabe Cramer pitched well in his World Baseball Classic debut with Israel.  Cramer pitched the sixth inning and allowed one hit and no runs in Israel’s 2-1 10-inning win over Korea.

            Cramer had a 3-2 record with 57 strikeouts in 43 and two-thirds innings for the Legends in 2016.

Left-hander Jake Kalish, who had a 2.38 earned run average in five appearances with the Legends in 2016 before being promoted to advanced-A Wilmington of the Carolina League, is also on the pitching staff for Israel.

 

Jacob Bodner had a 2-0 record with three saves for the Lexington Legends in 2016. (Photo by Mary Lay)

Jacob Bodner greeted young fans at the Legends’ caravan stop in his hometown of Danville, Ky.

Danville native Jacob Bodner, who pitched for the Lexington Legends in 2016, is more than ready for baseball in 2017.

The unusually warm weather through the winter months has helped, but even more important is having a full year of experience as a professional, including his first spring training in 2016.

“Just being able to get outside and throw – that alone can give you the itch, but having the full off-season and knowing what to expect makes you want to get back out there,” said Bodner, who was a special guest at the Legends’ recent pre-season caravan stop in Danville.  “Last year, I didn’t know what to expect going into spring training.  I was a little more nervous, but this year I’m ready to go.”

Bodner pitched for Boyle County High School before moving on to Xavier University.  He was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 27th round of the June 2015 draft.  In his first professional assignment, he was 2-0 with an 0.77 earned run average in 16 appearances with rookie-level Burlington of the Appalachian League in 2015.

Assigned to class A Lexington for the start of the 2016 season, Bodner recorded a save on opening night.  In all, he made seven appearances with the Legends and had a 2-0 record with three saves before being promoted May 16 to advanced-A Wilmington of the Carolina League.

He hit a rough period there, but recovered.

“There was about a three-week stretch where I was getting hit around a little bit, and control-wise, I wasn’t where I wanted to be,” Bodner said.   “Hitters were able to capitalize on that.  In rookie ball and sometimes in A ball, I might have gotten away with a hit or two, but in high-A, I was giving up a couple of runs.”

He credits his pitching coach at Wilmington, Charlie Corbell, for helping him get back on track for a strong finish.  In August, the final full month of the season, he made seven appearances and had a 1.74 ERA.

With his second spring training approaching, he’s feeling a different kind of nervous energy.

“I have those ‘pre-game jitters,’” he said.  “But I’m ready to get on the mound and throw.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacob Bodner had a 2-0 record with three saves for the Lexington Legends in 2016. (Photo by Mary Lay)

Pitcher Jacob Bodner, a Boyle County graduate and a former Lexington Legend, will be a special guest at the Legends annual pre-season caravan stop in Danville Monday, February 13.

Bodner, who pitched in college at Xavier University before being drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2015, was 2-0 with three saves in seven appearances for the Legends in 2016.  He was promoted to advanced-A Wilmington of the Carolina League May 16.

Bodner and Legends representatives will be at Mallard’s Restaurant, 1001 Ben Ali Drive Suite 3, Monday from 4:30 p.m. to  6 p.m., and fans are invited to stop by and register for items to be given away, including autographed Royals’ memorabilia and Legends tickets.   Bodner will be available for pictures and autographs, as will the Legends’ Big L.   Joe Mathis of Z-105 will broadcast live from Mallard’s,  and fans are also encouraged to interact through social media.

The Legends open their 2017 home season Thursday, April 13 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark when they take on the West Virginia Power, an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Game time is 7:05 p.m.

For ticket information, visit www.lexingtonlegends.com or call (859) 422-7867.

 

Mauricio Ramos, who played third base for the Legends in 2014, is on the Colombia roster for the World Baseball Classic. (Photo-Mary Lay)

Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, a two-time American League batting champion and a 2010 Lexington Legend, and right-handed pitcher Gabe Cramer, who was with the Legends in 2016, are among eight former Legends players who are on rosters for the World Baseball Classic. Rosters were released Wednesday night.

Sixteen teams will compete for the WBC championship. Pool play begins March 6, and the championship game is set for March 22 at Dodger Stadium.

The former Legends on WBC rosters include:

Colombia – Right-handed pitcher Dayan Diaz, who led the Legends with 19 saves in 2012, and pitched in the majors for Cincinnati in 2016; and infielder Mauricio Ramos, who hit nine homers and drove in 54 runs for the Legends in 2014.   Ramos played for double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2016.

Israel –  Cramer, who was 3-2 with 57 strikeouts in 43 and one-third innings with the Legends in 2016; and left-hander Jake Kalish, who had a 2.38 earned run average in five appearances with the Legends in 2016 before being promoted to advanced-A Wilmington of the Carolina League.

Mexico –Left-handed pitcher Fernando Abad, who has pitched with five major league teams and is currently with the Boston Red Sox. Abad struck out 94 batters in 78 innings with the Legends in 2008.

Puerto Rico – infielder-outfielder Enrique Hernandez, who is currently with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He played in 62 games for the Legends in 2011, with two homers and 17 runs batted in.

                VenezuelaAltuve, who batted .308 with 11 homers and 45 runs batted in for the Legends in 2010 and reached the majors the next year; and right-handed pitcher Arcenio Leon, who pitched for Lexington in 2009 and 2010 and had a record of 8-6 in 67 appearances over those two seasons. Leon signed a free agent contract with Detroit Tigers in October of 2016.

“This is a great indicator of the diverse backgrounds of Legends players,” said Jesse Scaglion, Legends’ director of corporate sales and a follower of the WBC. “Congratulations to all the former Legends who will be in the World Baseball Classic. We enjoyed watching them play for the Legends, and it will be fun to follow their progress.”

 

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New Legends manager Scott Thorman was the manager at Burlington of the Appalachian League for the past two seasons.  The Appalachian League is a short-season league, with a 70-game season that begins in late June.   For many players, it’s the first stop in their professional career after being selected and signed in the first-year player draft, which is

New Legends manager Scott Thorman played for the Atlanta Braves in 2006 and 2007.

held each year in early June.   Others begin in the Gulf Coast League in Florida or the Arizona League before moving up to the Appalachian League.  In the low minors, both life experience and baseball experience can vary widely.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges at that level,” Thorman said in a recent interview after being named Legends manager for 2017.  “In rookie ball you have players with a wide range of backgrounds from all over the world.  You have players that have been in pro ball for two or three years coming up from Florida or Arizona leagues, and then you have guys with college degrees who are coming to their first year of pro ball.  Sometimes the only thing these kids have in common is baseball.”

A manager and his coaches work with the players at getting better on the field, but that involves more than just baseball fundamentals.

“You try to bring them together and get them playing well, but you also want them to learn how to be a professional,” Thorman said.  “They have to learn how to take care of their bodies and how to play the game at a professional level, where everything speeds up.”

Every different level is another adjustment, he says.  Most Legends players are in their first year of full-season (140–game schedule) minor league baseball.

“It’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint, so that will be a bit of an adjustment for me,” Thorman said.  “I also played in the South Atlantic League for Macon in 2002.  I do have an appreciation for the league and the travel, and for the first season of full-season baseball.”

Meet the manager on Inside Scoop

New Legends manager Scott Thorman will be a guest on the Inside Scoop show Sunday at noon on ESPN Sports Radio 1300, WLXG-AM and wlxg.com.

Scott Thorman is the new Legends manager. (Waterloo Region-Record/Burlington Royals)

Caravan starts Monday

The Legends annual pre-season caravan gets rolling next week with stops in Lexington, Cynthiana and Mt. Sterling.

At each stop, fans are invited to visit.  The Legends will have items to give away, including tickets to a home game.  The Legends’ Big L or Pee Wee will be available for photographs, and live radio broadcasts will originate from each location.

               Monday, January 30 – Lexington   5 p.m.- 7 p.m.  Raising Cane’s, 2555 Nicholasville Road, Lexington.  Former major league pitcher Jeff Parrett will join the caravan for this stop.  ESPN SportsRadio 1300, WLXG-AM, will broadcast live.

               Thursday, February 2 – Cynthiana  8-9 a.m. Biancke’s Restaurant, 102 S. Main Street, Cynthiana.  Legends’ staffers will be guests on the Coffee Break program on WCYN-AM.

                Friday, February 3 – Mt. Sterling  10:30 a.m. – noon, McDonald’s, 642 Northview Drive, Mt. Sterling.  Live radio coverage will be provided by WMST, Mt. Sterling.

Other stops later include Richmond, February 8; Campbellsville and Columbia, February 9; Jackson, February 15; London, February 16; and Maysville, February 20; and more will be added.

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew Edwards, a native of Gilbertsville, Kentucky and a 2014 Legend, is among Kansas City’s top pitching prospects. (Photo-Mary Lay)

Kentuckian and former Lexington Legend Andrew Edwards is moving ever closer to making his major league debut.   A right-handed relief pitcher, Edwards, a native of Gilbertsville who pitched for Western Kentucky University, was with the Legends in 2014.  He was 3-5 with one save in 22 appearances with Lexington, including six starts, and has continued to make progress through the Kansas City Royals system.   He is now on the Royals 40-man roster after spending most of 2016 at triple-A Omaha.

With spring training approaching, Edwards is rated at number 21 in MLB.com’s list of top 30 Royals prospects.  The comments there note that his fastball regularly hits 94-96 mph after sitting at 91-93 during the 2015 season.

Edwards was selected by Kansas City in the 19th round of the 2013 first-year player draft.  After pitching in 2013 for Burlington of the Appalachian League and Wilmington of the Carolina League, Edwards began the 2014 season with the Legends, working in the same ballpark where, five years earlier, he had taken the mound for Marshall County in the state high school baseball tournament.

Royals pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training in Surprise, Arizona on February 14.

Scott Thorman, who was the manager at Burlington of the Appalachian League for the last two seasons, will be the manager of the Lexington Legends in 2017. (Photo: Waterloo Region-Record/Burlington Royals)

Scott Thorman will be the manager of the Lexington Legends in 2017.   He’ll be joined in Lexington by bench coach Glenn Hubbard, pitching coach Mitch Stetter,  hitting coach Jesus Azuaje, athletic trainer Saburo Hagihara and strength and conditioning coach Jon Ervin.   Thorman, Azuaje, Hagihara and Ervin are all new to the Legends.   Stetter returns for his second season, and Hubbard will be in his fourth season with Lexington.

Field staff appointments were announced Tuesday (Jan. 10) by the Legends’ parent club, the Kansas City Royals.  Full story

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