Indianapolis Indians manager Dean Treanor remarked in mid-summer that his club fielded one of the youngest teams in Triple A baseball. Consider youth served however, as the veteran baseball man directed the Tribe to a 76-68 record, good for second in the International League’s West division and a nice rebound from a 1-8 start. The Indians remained in the thick of the playoff race until the season’s final weekend despite weathering 31 players who spent time with major-league parent club Pittsburgh.
Outfielder Alex Presley emerged early as Indianapolis’ best player and earned a promotion to Pittsburgh in mid-summer. Presley made a brief return to Indianapolis on a injury rehab assignment, but leads the Pirates in batting average (.315) and triples (5).
Besides Presley, 1B Matt Hague and former closer Tim Wood were also selected to the IL’s postseason all-star team. Hague, selected the Indians Most Valuable Player, was also the club’s most consistent. He was among the top ten in several league categories, including average (.309, sixth), runs (70, seventh), and doubles (37, third).
Some other memorable moments from the season are noted below:
Major Leaguers in Indy: the parent Pirates provided a number of players on rehab assignment (Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, Ronny Cedeno, Evan Meek) including one who ended up staying, 3B Pedro Alvarez. The Atlanta Braves Jason Heyward, runnerup in last season’s rookie of the year voting in the National League, also came to town as did Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, now managing Philadelphia’s top farm club Lehigh Valley.
Best stretch: the Indians turned around a slow start with a solid stretch of baseball from mid-May through early July. Individually, Hague was on fire, recording a hit in 13 of 14 contests and batting .527 during that stretch with 13 runs, nine doubles, four homers and 14 RBI. He collected 11 multi-hit games including a streak of seven straight.
Toughest slide: essentially, the Indians playoff chances evaporated during a 4-6 late season homestand.
Most exciting player: CF Gorkys Hernandez flashed considerable leather throughout the season. Hernandez regularly made acrobatic catches that robbed hitters of potential extra base hits. Known as a light-hitter, Hernandez enjoyed a power surge when he reached base in 18 consecutive games. During that period, he batted .428, scored eight runs, stroked eight extra-base hits, and drove in eight runs.
“Best” Fan: Longtime season ticket holders Kerry Smith and wife Rita, who are avid collectors of Indians memorabilia, graciously donated several pieces to the Indiana State Museum for a recent exhibit. The Smiths have been attending Tribe home games since 1986.
Milestones: Victory Field welcomed its nine millionth fan to the ballpark in 2011.
Power Failure: The Indians ranked last in the 14 team International League in home runs.
Consistency award: Indians attendance remained strong, with 580,082 turning out for 71 home dates, an average of 8,170. The total attendance represents an increase over the 569,969 fans who attended Indians games in 2010. This is the fourth time in five seasons the Indians have posted an attendance increase from one season to the next.
Best Homecoming: Greenfield’s Kyle Gibson, a former Indiana All-Star and a top pitching prospect in the Minnesota Twins system, took the mound for Rochester before a large contingent of hometown fans. Gibson wasn’t at his best, perhaps affected by nerves in front of so many well-wishers, perhaps due to the arm fatigue he told me about in a weekend interview. He was later shut down for the season and sent to the Twins Florida spring training headquarters to begin rehab work.