From Bees to Leones ...

GLENDALE — Dreams of becoming professional baseball players turned into reality for a handful of former area standouts who once excelled at the high school and junior college levels. From coast to coast, more than 10 of them played on minor league baseball teams.

Wherever they played, each did their best to make an impact for their respective teams — whether it was at the plate or in the field or on the mound.

Some encountered time spent on the disabled list, while others made it through their season without suffering a major injury.

Some helped their teams win division championships, while others competed on squads that finished at or near the bottom of the division.

One former Crescenta Valley High star pitcher began the season in the minors before being called up by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to start and work out of the bullpen. A former Vaquero started the season in the minors before being called up to become the left-handed specialist out of the bullpen for the Washington Nationals.

The following wrap-up highlights the seasons that were for local products at various stages of their baseball careers.

Trevor Bell (Crescenta Valley High, 2005) Salt Lake Bees pitcher: Bell, a former All-Area Player of the Year, began the season with the Bees to hone his skills with the possibility of being called up by the Angels. Bell was taken in the first round of the 2005 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and made his debut with the big-league team in 2009.

Looking to gain some more experience in the event of being summoned to Orange County, Bell flourished early on with the triple-A squad. For example, in a matchup against former American League Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee on April 25, Bell, coming off a left hamstring injury that disabled him for the first couple of weeks of the season, was sharp over 6 2/3 innings in limiting the Tacoma Rainiers to one run on six hits in a 4-1 victory.

Bell, a right-hander, made three starts, going 1-0 with a 2.04 earned-run average in 17 2/3 innings with Salt Lake. He struck out nine batters and walked three before being called up by the Angels on May 9.

After mostly working out of the bullpen and getting an occasional start, Bell was sent back to the Bees in early July. He made several appearances with Salt Lake before being brought back up by Anaheim and finishing the season as a starter and reliever.

In six appearances with the Bees, Bell went 2-0 with a 3.00 earned-run average. He struck out 19 and walked six in 30 innings and yielded 30 hits and 12 runs (10 earned).

With the Angels, Bell went 2-5 with a 4.72 ERA. In 25 appearances, seven as a starter, Bell struck out 45 and allowed 77 hits in 61 innings.

Doug Slaten (Glendale Community College, 1999) Syracuse Chiefs pitcher: Slaten went back to the basics after the Washington Nationals claimed the left-hander off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks following the 2009 season.

The Nationals immediately sent him down to Syracuse, the Nationals' triple-A affiliate in the International League, for seasoning with the idea of bringing him back up and having him become a key component out of their bullpen.

Slaten found instant success at Syracuse, resulting in him being called up by the Nationals on May 9. He fired 17 scoreless innings in 11 appearances with the Chiefs and struck out 17 and walked one in 17 innings.

Slaten, who has battled an assortment of arm injuries during the past 10-plus years, finished 1-0 and opponents batted .200 against him at Syracuse.

With the Nationals, Slaten finished 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA in 49 appearances. He struck out 36 and yielded 34 hits in 40 2/3 innings.

Jason Hirsh (St. Francis High, 2000) Scranton-Wilkes/Barre Yankees pitcher: Once again, Hirsh fared well for Scranton-Wilkes/Barre, the triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. While Hirsh did turn in a fine season for the Yankees, who won the International League's North Division and advanced to the semifinals of the Governor's Cup, he spent the last several weeks of the season on the disabled list.

Unfortunately for Hirsh, a California Lutheran University graduate, he didn't make a postseason appearance. The right-hander was placed on the seven-day disabled list Aug. 18 and didn't return because of a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his pitching shoulder. Hirsh underwent surgery Sept. 9 and became a free agent five days following the conclusion of the World Series.

Hirsh finished up at 9-7 with a 3.90 earned-run average in 26 appearances. He registered 95 strikeouts, 39 walks and 102 hits in 122 1/3 innings. He surrendered 55 runs (53 earned) and allowed 17 home runs, though opponents batted .224 against him.

"I thought I had an extremely positive season," Hirsh said. "I did everything that I wanted to and was able to put up some good numbers and I set myself up to be in good position for next year."

Hirsh's most memorable stretch came in early August, when he was named the International League's Pitcher of the Week. On Aug. 8, Hirsh went a season-best eight innings to help power Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to a 12-3 road win against the Pawtucket Red Sox. Hirsh struck out a season-high nine and brought his earned-run average below 4.00 for the first time since late-May.

On Aug. 3, Hirsh threw five shutout innings against the Syracuse Chiefs in the Yankees' 5-3 road win. Hirsh scattered three hits, struck out five and walked a pair.

"That was a good week for me and I went out there and threw strikes and got ahead of the hitters," said Hirsh, who added he will probably miss the first half of next season while recovering from surgery. "It was a week in which things just clicked for me."

Bryan Longpre (Crescenta Valley High, 2005) Gulf Coast League Blue Jays pitcher: Longpre, a former All-Area member, finally got the phone call he had been waiting for on June 14. Professional baseball became a reality for Longpre, a Cal State Northridge graduate, when he received a call from the Toronto Blue Jays organization and then signed a free-agent contract.

Longpre, a right-handed reliever, immediately joined the Blue Jays' rookie league affiliate in Florida and made his debut June 21 against the Gulf Coast Phillies. Longpre entered the contest in the sixth inning and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings. He gave up two hits, one walk and struck out three, en route to picking up a hold.

Longpre went 1-1 with nine saves and a 3.63 earned-run average with the Gulf Coast Jays. In 15 appearances, Longpre struck out 18 and allowed 11 runs (seven earned) in 17 1/3 innings.

Longpre picked up his last save with the Gulf Coast Jays on Aug. 10. While he allowed a solo home run in the seventh inning, Longpre collected the save in the Blue Jays' 9-8 victory against the Gulf Coast Braves.

For his solid work in the Rookie League, Longpre was assigned Aug. 15 to the Dunedin Blue Jays, a Class-A advanced team in the Florida State League. He made his debut with Dunedin on Aug. 20 against the Gulf Coast League Braves. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning, allowing one hit and striking out one in Dunedin's 6-1 win against the Braves.

At Dunedin, Longpre finished 1-0 with a 3.18 earned-run average. In three appearances that totaled 5 2/3 innings, Longpre struck out eight and walked two and allowed six hits.

Christian Bergman (St. Francis High, 2006) Casper Ghosts pitcher: The former All-Area Baseball Player of the Year and UC Irvine graduate was taken 470th overall in the 24th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Colorado Rockies on June 8. The Rockies then shipped the right-hander to Casper, a member of the Rookie Pioneer League, where he spent time starting and relieving. Bergman had two relief stints and one as a starter.

Bergman was practically flawless in his debut with the Ghosts during a June 25 relief appearance against the host Idaho Falls Chukars.

Bergman entered the game to begin the bottom of the fourth inning and allowed only a single in the fifth. Bergman allowed no runs, no walks, one hit and two strikeouts in three innings, but didn't factor in the decision in the Ghosts' 6-4 victory.

Bergman said it took a little time getting used to participating at the professional level.

"I had a lot of fun and I learned plenty pitching against great competition," Bergman said. "I learned a lot of stuff about pitching, like how to pitch more inside.

"I also learned about how effective I can be and I made some mechanical adjustments. They stress here the now and what you can do and how you can help the team win. I got a lot of experience and I want to be able to carry that over to next season."

At Casper, Bergman went 1-4 with a 5.96 earned-run average in 14 appearances. Five of those appearances were starts. Bergman finished with 37 strikeouts and 11 walks in 48 1/3 innings. He yielded 62 hits and 39 runs (32 earned).

Bill Spottiswood (Glendale Community College, 2005) Visalia Rawhide pitcher: The right-hander spent time as a starter and reliever for Visalia, the Class-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Spottiswood began the season as the team's closer, but was moved into the starting rotation briefly.

His first start came June 28, when he went five innings. He allowed four runs on six hits — including two home runs — but didn't factor in the decision as the Rawhide rallied for a 5-4 victory against the San Jose Giants. Prior to that contest, Spottiswood had been 2-0 with a 0.96 earned-run average in 9 1/3 innings over five appearances in June.

From April through June, Spottiswood was 4-2 with three saves and a 2.01 ERA. However, Spottiswood encountered some bouts of inconsistency over the second half of the season. From July through September, he was 2-4 with one save an a 6.75 ERA. Overall, Spottiswood finished 6-6 with four saves and a 4.59 ERA.

In 35 appearances with the Rawhide, Spottiswood struck out 67 and walked 24 in 68 2/3 innings. He allowed 76 hits, including 11 home runs, and 37 runs (35 earned).

Spottiswood began the season with the Double-A Reno Aces, where he posted an 18.69 ERA over two appearances.

Marco Estrada (Glendale Community College, 2003) Nashville Sounds pitcher: Estrada, who was selected by the Washington Nationals out of Long Beach State University in the sixth round (174th overall) of the June 2005 First-Year Player Draft, suffered from the injury bug during the season after he was called up on May 18.

He saw time on the mound for the Milwaukee Brewers, going 0-0 with a 9.53 earned-run average in seven appearances, but was bothered by shoulder fatigue in early June and subsequently placed on the disabled list.

At Nashville, Milwaukee's triple-A affiliate, Estrada, a right-hander, went 1-2 with a 3.15 ERA. Estrada struck out 33 and allowed 30 hits in 40 innings.

Estrada started seven games at Nashville, where he allowed just one home run and 15 runs (14 earned). Opponents batted .208 against Estrada at Nashville.

Fernando Rios (Glendale High, 1997) Dorados de Chihuahua outfielder: Rios put together some respectable numbers this season for Dorados de Chihuahua, a member of the triple-A Mexican League. Rios batted .314 (49 for 156) with three home runs and 21 runs batted in. In 54 games, Rios finished with four doubles, one triple and scored 31 runs.

Rios helped Dorados de Chihuahua finish at 31-23 and in third place in the Madero Division.

Fernando Valenzuela Jr. (St. Francis High, 2000) Leones de Yucatan designated hitter: Valenzuela, who also stood out at Glendale Community College, enjoyed a quality season in helping Leones de Yucatan, a triple-A franchise in the Mexican League.

Valenzuela, who previously played in the San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox minor league systems, batted .308 (90 for 292) with six home runs and 49 runs batted in.

He contributed 19 doubles and scored 35 runs for Leones de Yucatan, which finished 26-25 and in fifth place in the Hidalgo Division.

Al Quintana (Glendale Community College, 2002) Las Vegas 51s third baseman: Quintana took his turn climbing up the ladder in the minors, as he played at three different levels.

Quintana, a Cal State Northridge graduate, began the season with the Dunedin Blue Jays, the class-A advanced affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. He then earned a promotion to the double-A New Hampshire Fishers Cats in June before being sent up to Las Vegas, the triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League.

At Dunedin, Quintana enjoyed a career night May 17. He collected four hits, including his first home run of the season, to help Dunedin notch an 11-3 home victory against the Bradenton Pirates. Quintana drove in four runs, capped by a solo home run in the eighth inning. In 15 games at Dunedin, Quintana batted .255.

At New Hampshire, Quintana batted .200 with one home run and seven runs batted in. After being sent to Las Vegas, Quintana batted .174 with two runs batted in in eight contests.

Overall, Quintana batted .218 (27 for 124) with two home runs and 18 runs batted in. He finished with 10 doubles and 13 runs.

Brandon McCarthy (Glendale native) Oklahoma City RedHawks pitcher: McCarthy continued to be bothered by a right-shoulder injury that's hampered him the past few seasons. In limited time, the right-hander went 4-2 with a 3.36 earned-run average. He made 11 appearances, including nine starts.

McCarthy struck out 44 and walked 11 in 56 1/3 innings. He yielded 51 hits and 22 runs (21 earned) and allowed eight home runs, though opponents batted .234 against him.

McCarthy had two trips to the seven-day disabled list for Oklahoma, the triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers sent McCarthy outright to the minor leagues on Nov. 5 and the right-handed pitcher refused the assignment and became a free agent.

McCarthy didn't play for the Rangers, who won the American League championship, this season.

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World