From the Darkness to Winner's Circle

With most minor league schedules coming to a close and the major leagues entering the home stretch, it's time to hand out some postseason awards to players from the Valley/Ventura County region:

Please, no spitting sunflower seeds on the floor.

Playing in a Huge Shadow Award: Robert Fick.

The former Newbury Park High and Cal State Northridge catcher followed his 1997 Midwest League MVP season with another remarkable campaign in the Detroit Tiger organization.

He entered the final weekend of the Southern League season batting .316 with 16 home runs and 110 runs batted in.

His only mistake was playing on the same Jacksonville Suns team as former Taft High and Moorpark College outfielder Gabe Kapler, who last week was selected the double-A league's most valuable player.

A prime example came Friday night when Fick hit two doubles, his 44th and 45th of the season, and surpassed Aaron Boone's league record of 44.

Kapler also had two doubles Friday, his 45th and 46th of the season.

Moonlight Graham Award: Kevin Millar.

In his first major league start for the Florida Marlins, Millar, who attended Hart High in the ninth grade, broke the hamate bone in his left wrist and was placed on the disabled list.

Millar, the 1997 minor league player of the year in the Marlin organization, has not played in a major league game since.

The Best First Impression Award: Jacob Cruz.

The former Channel Islands outfielder, traded by the San Francisco Giants to the Cleveland Indians on July 24, is batting .331 with 12 home runs and 31 RBIs for Buffalo, the Indians' triple-A club.

Cruz was selected the International League's player of the week last week after batting .412 (14 for 34) with four home runs, 13 RBIs and 12 runs scored in nine games. He had an .882 slugging percentage.

Cruz, who has 30 home runs and 93 RBIs this season, is expected to be promoted to the Indians after Buffalo completes its playoff run.

Best Ladder Climbing Award: Adam Kennedy.

The former Cal State Northridge All-American began the season at Class-A Prince William, but has progressed to triple-A Memphis in the St. Louis Cardinal organization. And his numbers have improved at each step.

Kennedy, a shortstop selected in the first round of the 1997 draft, batted .261 at Prince William, .278 at double-A Arkansas and .307 at Memphis.

Rookie of the Year Award: Jorge Piedra, Jeff Weaver.

Piedra, a former Notre Dame High standout, finished second in the rookie-level Pioneer League with a .383 average.

Weaver, who attended Simi Valley High, pitched five innings and struck out nine and allowed one run last week in his first appearance for Class-A West Michigan in the Tigers' system.

Before that, the 14th overall pick in the June draft struck out 12 in 12 innings for short-season Jamestown. Overall, Weaver has a 1.50 earned-run average.

Rags to Riches Award: Kapler.

A 57th-round selection in 1995, Kapler leads theminors with 143 RBIs, paces the Southern League with 28 home runs and is fourth with a .323 batting average.

He too should be promoted to the major leagues once he is finished with the playoffs.

Most Likely to be Voted a Full World Series Share: Mike Borzello.

The former Taft High player is a batting practice pitcher for the New York Yankees. He served as the team's bullpen catcher in 1996 and received a full share when the Yankees won the Series.

Most Likely to be Voted Portions of two World Series Shares: Jim Bruske.

The former Antelope Valley right-hander began the season with the Dodgers, but since has played with the San Diego Padres and Yankees, two teams that could meet in the World Series.

The Something's Fishy Award: Pacific Suns.

In a foul-smelling publicity stunt, the independent Oxnard-based Western League team traded its top pitcher for several pounds of catfish.

In his first game with his new team, that pitcher threw a perfect game. The Suns' president resigned soon after.

Is the Bullpen Phone Working? Award: Mike Magnante.

The Houston Astros' starting rotation has been so effective in recent weeks that the reliever, formerly of Burroughs High, went from Aug. 23 to Sept. 4 without an appearance.

The Who's on First Award: Montreal Expos.

For a bigger Valley-area traffic jam, you'd have to check the Ventura Freeway at rush hour.

Brad Fullmer, formerly of Montclair Prep, and Ryan McGuire, formerly of El Camino Real High, are the Expos' two first basemen.

Former Chatsworth High and Alemany first baseman Jon Tucker, recently acquired by Montreal from the Dodgers, is at double-A Harrisburg and is probably a year away from making the position even more crowded.

Comeback Player of the Year Award: Tim Carr and Kevin Appier.

Carr, formerly of Westlake High, retired during training camp in 1997.

This year, he rejoined the New York Mets' organization and was 3-5 with a 5.81 ERA.

Appier, who attended Antelope Valley High and Antelope Valley College, appears to have finally recovered from the arthroscopic shoulder surgery he underwent March 24.

He was activated by the Kansas City Royals last week after spending the entire season either on the disabled list or rehabilitation assignment.

Appier also had surgery last November after he separated his collarbone and tore ligaments during a fall at his home.


Former Thousand Oaks High infielder Jack Wilson was selected player of the week for the rookie-level Appalachian League.

Wilson batted .511 (24 for 47) with three home runs, nine RBIs and 15 runs scored in 10 games for St. Louis Cardinal affiliate Johnson City.


Former JetHawk Robert Luce of Seattle Mariner affiliate Orlando was chosen the double-A Southern League's pitcher of the week for Aug. 23-30.

In his only start of the week, Luce allowed one hit in eight innings against Huntsville and improved to 11-7


The Lancaster JetHawks were swept by the High Desert Mavericks in a best-of-three California League playoffs series last week.

It marked the second consecutive season they had been swept by their neighbors from Adelanto.

Last season, High Desert swept the JetHawks in a best-of-five series.


The triple-A World Series will be played Sept. 21-26 in Las Vegas. All games in the best-of-five series will be televised live on ESPN2.

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