Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy and Jamal Crawford. Marcus Trufant. Hope Solo.
These are the names that immediately come to mind when one thinks “Professional athletes from Washington.” (Put your hand down, Jon Kitna, I see you.)
But summer means baseball, and Washington’s rich diamond tradition gets buried under the surfeit of homegrown athletes, particularly those on the hardwood.
Sure, Jason Terry just led his team to a championship, but so did Tim Lincecum. Sure, John Stockton was one of the best ever at his position, but that’s also true of Ryne Sandberg. And 18-year-old Tony Wroten may have been a top-20 high school prospect, but Josh Sale, just a year older, is already one of baseball’s top minor leaguers.
Three baseball Hall-of-Famers grew up here, but more future stars are on the horizon—by unofficial count, 30 players born or raised in Washington saw time on Major League rosters last season, headlined by dominant starters Lincecum and Jon Lester. The All-Washington team could probably take a best-of-seven from this year’s Mariners, which, all things considered, isn’t even that embarrassing for the M’s.
The squad’s youth club isn’t so bad either. According to MLB.com, 195 Amateur Player Draft picks in the last five years were either born or raised in Washington. That includes Rays farmhand Sale, one of the top power-hitting prospects in all of baseball.
You’ll be surprised who else grew up around here… Check out the Present Day All-Washington team after the jump!
Bud Black, San Diego Padres
Mark Morris (Longview) ’75, Lower Columbia College ’77
The defending NL Manager of the Year is in his fifth season leading the Dads. Fun facts galore here: (1) The Mariners made him a 17th-round pick in 1979. He pitched exactly one inning for the Mariners, allowing five baserunners yet no runs. (2) He started the Pine Tar Game for the Royals in 1983. (3) He gave up Reggie Jackson’s 500th home run in 1984. (4) He was traded for Steve Cummings in 1990, replaced Dick Pole as Angels pitching coach in 2000 and nearly hired Rusty Kuntz as first-base coach in 2010. The ‘90s Middle-School Humor Triple Crown remains elusive.
LF Michael Brantley, Indians
Born: Bellevue, 1987
One of baseball’s top young players and a true five-tool player, Brantley has officially arrived in Cleveland and looks like he’ll hold onto the Tribe’s leadoff spot for years to come.
2B Brent Lillibridge, White Sox
Born: Everett, 1983. Jackson ’01, University of Washington ’05
Lillibridge has provided a super-utility spark for the third-place Sox with seven homers, eight stolen bases and an .816 OPS. He is first on the team in WAR per plate appearance and seventh in the majors in Web Gem Points.
CF Grady Sizemore, Indians
Born: Seattle, 1982. Cascade ’00
When healthy (his left knee has been a huge concern in the past few years), Sizemore is the white version of 2004 Carlos Beltran (read: the game’s premier five-tool player). He was raking this season before bruising his other knee in mid-May—he’s back now, though nowhere near 100%.
DH Travis Snider, Blue Jays
Born: Kirkland, 1988. Jackson ’06
Snider has long been considered baseball’s top power-hitting prospect. He was recalled by the big-league club last week and has 20 total bases in 30 at-bats since. He’ll play every day until he no longer deserves to, likely for several years.
C Ryan Doumit, Pirates
Born: Moses Lake, 1981. Moses Lake ’99
A strong-armed catcher with gap power, Doumit is currently rehabbing an ankle fracture but should be back with the Bucs by the end of the month.
1B Lyle Overbay, Pirates
Born: Centralia, 1977. Centralia ’96
Overbay has slumped the past few years but remains among baseball’s best gap hitters—he led the majors in doubles in 2004. He is also one of the best defensive first basemen in the game.
SS Willie Bloomquist, Diamondbacks
Born: Bremerton, 1977. South Kitsap ’96
Baseball’s premier swiss-army player and former Mariner fan favorite hit the most magical home run in recent memory last month.
RF Travis Buck, Indians
Born: Richland, 1983. Richland ’02
Buck hasn’t quite met expectations after a glorious 82-game debut in Oakland four years ago, but the former first-rounder is working on a seven-game hitting streak for the first-place Indians.
3B Matt Tuiasosopo, Mariners
Born: Bellevue, 1986. Woodinville ’04
Tuiasosopo hasn’t seen major league action yet this year but only Chone Figgins stands in his way. He was a top-15 quarterback recruit committed to play for Washington (the same is true of the 6’3 Sizemore) but chose baseball instead when the hometown Mariners made him a third-round pick. Really nothing to write home about offensively or defensively, though his versatility is a plus.
SP1 Tim Lincecum, Giants
Born: Bellevue, 1984. Liberty ’03, University of Washington ’07
Big Time Timmy Jim is in his fifth season. He has two Cy Young awards and a World Series trophy. He’s one of the most dominating pitchers of the last two decades. But that’s OK, the Brandon Morrow pick was totally cool.
SP2 Jon Lester, Red Sox
Born: Tacoma, 1984. Bellarmine Prep ’02
With a career record of 71-29, Lester owns the third-best winning percentage of all time. Kinda nice. The 6’4 lefty is developing into one of baseball’s best pitchers and, oh yeah, he beat cancer as a rookie.
SP3 Kyle Kendrick, Phillies
Mount Vernon ’03
Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt, Kendrick. Wow. And this isn’t a Devean-George-on-the-‘04-Lakers situation, either—though Kendrick lacks overpowering stuff, he is a very good young pitcher.
SP4 Jason Hammel, Rockies
South Kitsap ’00
Hammel is having a thoroughly adequate season for the Rockies. He’s also an accomplished bunter!
SP5 Dana Eveland, Dodgers
Born: Olympia, 1983
Eveland was having a beastly debut tour as a starter in 2008 until he got to July and the wheels came off. His major league numbers have been dreadful since, but he’ll play in Thursday’s AAA All-Star Game. He is still only 27.
CL Bobby Jenks, Red Sox
Jenks is the only player on this roster with extensive closing experience, though he does not fill that role for the Sox. The erratic two-time All-Star came off the disabled list last week and hopes to pitch at a higher level than he had pre-injury. He saved two of the White Sox’ World Series wins as a rookie in 2005 and picked up 168 more saves through 2010.
LHP Jeremy Affeldt, Giants
NW Christian (Spokane) ’97
We finally go east of the Tri-Cities to pick Affeldt, who has been very situationally solid for five straight years. He actually got an MVP vote in 2009 after posting a 1.73 ERA in 74 appearances. He’s allowed just three earned runs in his last 20 games.
LHP Eric O’Flaherty, Braves
Born: Walla Walla, 1985. Walla Walla ’03
Like every other pitcher in the entire Braves organization this year, the former Mariner has been lights-out. His 1.07 ERA in 45 appearances speaks for itself. (OK, I’ll speak for it too–it is the lowest ERA in the majors among pitchers with at least 34 innings.)
RHP Blake Hawksworth, Dodgers
Eastlake ’01, Bellevue College ’02
The Cardinals No. 1 prospect for 2004, Hawksworth finally arrived in the majors and has been reliable in low-pressure situations all season. He has a cool 1.00 WHIP in 30 innings. (It’s particularly delicious on strawberries. I’ll wait.)
RHP Evan Meek, Pirates
Born: Bellevue, 1983. Inglemoor ’01
Meek was the Pirates’ All-Star representative last season, posting a team-best 2.14 ERA in 70 relief appearances. He was one of four relievers to amass 80 innings or more, which may have contributed to the torn labrum he suffered last month. He won’t need surgery but may be done for the year nonetheless.
RHP Mark Hendrickson, Orioles
Born: Mount Vernon, 1974. Mount Vernon ’92, Washington State ’96
One of 12 men to ever play in both MLB and the NBA (you’ll find another in Part III of this series), the 6’10 Hendrickson had a very nice cuppa’ for the Blue Jays’ bullpen in 2002. He’s been pretty mediocre since then, though he’s gotta be top-five in the AL in post moves.
C Hyun “Hank” Conger, Angels
Born: Federal Way, 1988
The former first-rounder is one of the Angels’ top prospects and should develop into one of the game’s better offensive catchers.
C Nick Hundley, Padres
Lake Washington ‘02
The Padres’ starter since 2008 is a very, very average catcher.
OF Aaron Cunningham, Padres
South Kitsap ’04
Baseball America’s 55th-ranked prospect for 2009 will hit .300 every year at some point. Still only 25, he has plenty of time to put it together.
1B Travis Ishikawa, Giants
Federal Way ’02
The Giants’ starting first baseman in 2009 lost his job to prospect Brandon Belt this spring. The second Japanese-American player in MLB history is hitting .251 in the hitter-friendly PCL.
Of course, the defining quality of a talent pipeline is its continuity, and Washington has that in spades. Check out the young guns in Part II, coming soon.