16 Aug Taylor, Miners Welcome Y’alls
Whether the Sussex County Miners are cruising or slumping, one thing is for sure: Left fielder Chuck Taylor will be hitting the ball all over the place.
In Sunday’s loss at Tri-City, the 27-year-old from Arlington, Tex., went 1-for-4 with a solo home run – his team-leading eighth swat of the year.
He leads the Frontier League in batting with a .344 batting average, and he’s been an iron man, playing in all 70 of the Miners games this year. He also leads the team in six other categories: 56 runs, 88 hits, 47 RBI, 18 doubles, three triples and 24 stolen bases.
Not bad, not to mention his current 12-game hitting streak.
He’ll face a new challenge tomorrow night when the Florence Y’Alls make their first-ever visit to Skylands Stadium.
Out of the Frontier League’s West Division, Florence is locked into a day-to-day battle for that pennant with the Evansville Otters. After yesterday’s road loss to Washington, the Y’Alls trail the Otters by one game.
The visitors from Florence, Ky. – a Cincinnati suburb – will be in town for a three-game series before heading south on Route 287 to face the New Jersey Jackals over the upcoming weekend.
For Taylor, a switch-hitter who played Triple-A ball for the Washington Nationals in 2019, it doesn’t seem to matter what uniform the opposition wears or what division they’re from.
LOOKING GOOD in CLASS-A
He was one of the most popular Miners in 2019 and, again, this year – at least for the 15 games when he was here.
That’s when the Texas Rangers swooped in on June 16 and signed 26-year-old Trey Hair to a free-agent contract, sending him to North Carolina to play for the Hickory Crawdads, their High-A minor league team.
Since then, Hair has been a versatile and consistent producer, mostly playing third base, but also at first base and second base, and even filling in as a pitcher, catcher, and designated hitter.
In Sunday’s loss to the Rome Braves, Hair went 3-for-4 with a solo home run, and he’s currently batting .304 in 47 games with the Crawdads, including 11 home runs and 37 RBI. Right now, he’s batting .378 for the month of August.
Back in 2019, Hair appeared in 94 games for Sussex County, batting .324 with eight home runs, 62 RBI and 27 stolen bases. That kind of year must have put him on major-league radars, but the 2020 season was wiped out by the Covid pandemic. Back with the Miners this year, the righty-throwing, lefty-swinging infielder was batting .260 with six homers when the Rangers offered him a second chance at the big leagues.
His first chance had been limited after the Tampa Bay Rays had chosen him out of the University of Evansville in the 34th round of the 2017 draft. In 2018, he appeared in 58 games for the Rays’ Class-A Bowling Green Red Hots, batting a promising .290, but released, nonetheless.
This time around with the Crawdads, the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder from Nebraska is three years older and more of a power hitter than he was back in his Red Hots days.
Like the Miners, the Crawdads are off today, then they open a six-game home series tomorrow night at 4,000-seat LP Frans Stadium, hosting the Winston-Salem Dash, representing the Chicago White Sox. Hair’s team plays in the South Division of the High-A league that includes several North Division franchises that might be more familiar to Miners fans – the Phillies’ Jersey Shore Blue Claws, the Yankees’ Hudson Valley Renegades, and the Mets’ Brooklyn Cyclones.
Tomorrow night’s Crawdads game features an in-game appearance by “Amazing Tyler’s Balancing Act,” with the performer “balancing everything on his face, from ice cream and sunglasses to bicycles and ladders.
HOLDING HIS OWN in TRIPLE-A
He’s a lefty pitcher who’s already defied the odds by making it to the Triple-A level of the minor leagues twice in three years. And with two different major league organizations. And playing for Sussex County both times as a springboard.
Tyler Alexander began the 2021 season here at Skylands Stadium, starting five games and going 2-3 with a 2.22 ERA. Raising eyebrows were his league-leading 42 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings, with just two walks.
That got him the attention of the Philadelphia Phillies, who signed him as a free agent on June 28 and sent the 29-year-old to their Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, in Allentown, Pa.
That’s a story in itself: How many players go directly from an independent league to the Triple-A level? Answer: very, very few.
Today, Alexander is 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA with the IronPigs, starting four games and making one relief appearance. That’s not a lot of work for the 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of Tampa, but at least he’s shown enough to stay on the Triple-A roster, even if it’s only as a spot starter.
His last appearance was on July 30, when he went five innings with one earned run in a 3-2 win over the Rochester Red Wings, the farm team of the Washington Nationals.
A 27th-round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2013 draft, Alexander played for that organization for two seasons, followed by three years in the independent American Association. He first joined the Miners in 2018, going 6-0 in seven starts, striking out 49 in 47 2/3 innings, which earned him a contract with the Oakland A’s, playing at both the Double-A and Triple A levels in 2019.
His IronPigs, who play at Coca-Cola park in Allentown, Pa., are part of baseball’s new Triple-A East, which now includes some of the most legendary team names in minor-league history: Toledo Mud Hens, Durham Bulls, St. Paul Saints, and Memphis Redbirds, plus local favorites, the Syracuse Mets and the Yankees’ Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
By Carl Barbati, former sports editor of the New Jersey Herald, Daily Record and The Trentonian.