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The Return of Norm Hutchins

June 1, 2011 | by RotoRob | Comments (4)
Norm Hutchins has resurfaced with the Rockland Boulders.
Long-time site favourite Norm Hutchins (right) is now manning first base for the Rockland Boulders.

For those of you that have been following RotoRob for a few years – shockingly, we’re just a few weeks away from our fifth anniversary – you must remember one of our most enduring articles, “What the Hell Ever Happened to…Norm Hutchins.” Certainly from a reader backlash perspective, this was our most contentious article ever, as the back and forth between Hutchins’ defenders and detractors got downright comical at times.

In fact, the article got so much feedback that it has long ranked as the No. 1 Google result for “Norm Hutchins.” Posters ran the gamut from family members to ex-lovers that want a piece of Norm again to former teammates and coaches to former lovers that claim he gave them an STD. Very early on, Hutchins himself weighed in, but he has not returned since. Like I said, it was pure bedlam, and if you’ve never read the entire comments thread, you owe it to yourself to catch up.

For a former prospect that never played a day in the majors, Hutchins sure has his share of followers. With this in mind, I thought it would be a good time to revisit Hutchins, as thanks to a recent post by a reader, we’ve been informed that the one-time Angel farmhand has resurfaced in the Can-Am League.

When we first wrote about Hutchins in 2007, he was playing in the Atlantic League – considered the top Indy circuit. He bounced around other Indy leagues in 2008 and 2009, and – according to one reader – Hutchins was playing softball last summer.

Now a member of the Rockland Boulders who kicked off their season last week, Hutchins is off to a fine start, batting .320, having hit safely in five of the first six games. He was 1-for-2 with a run and two walks Tuesday, but got caught stealing for the second time in three tries. Hutchins has six runs, one homer, four RBI, one double, one steal and a solid 3/4 BB/K ratio.

The long-time outfielder is now 35, so he’s switched to first base for Rockland. If nothing else, the reduction in defensive responsibilities has helped him beef up his offensive numbers.

Because of the unbelievable uproar the Hutchins post caused, we can’t help but root for him. So make the most of this opportunity, Norm! And, as always, feel free to drop in and update us all on your experiences in the Can-Am.

Indy Roundup

It’s always fun to see the names that pop up in the Indy Leagues every year, a great source of ‘Oh! So that’s where he disappeared to’ moments for fading big leaguers hoping for a final chance, ex-prospects and hangers-on that just love to play the game.

Some highlights from the 2011 Can Am League:

  • Boulder is being managed by former major league starter Dave LaPoint, who won 80 games in a dozen seasons, the last of which was 1991 when he made two ugly starts for the Phillies.
  • Rockland Pitcher John Muller spent three seasons in the Cubs’ system, but never advanced beyond Class-A, shifting over to Indy ball in 2009.
  • Pittsfield IF Danny Bomback was the 42nd round pick of the Pirates in 2007 and he lasted three seasons in their system. He reached High-A briefly in 2008, but struggled at Class-A in 2009 and made his way to the Indies the following season.
  • Rockland IF Ryan Mollica went even later, getting plucked by the Mets in the 47th round in 2009. He spent two seasons in New York’s minor league season and reached High-A in 2010, but that was the end of the line for this Independent Ball rookie.
  • Pittsfield 3B Billy Mottram was a slightly higher pick, taken by the Cubs in the 36th round in 2007. He spent just the one season in the Cub system, reaching High-A, before launching his Indy League career in 2008.
  • Pittsfield catcher Chris Torres was picked by Detroit in 2005 in the 32nd round (960th overall). He lasted one season at Low-A before heading to the Indies.
  • Pittsfield outfielder Quentin Davis is another veteran of the 2005 draft class, except he was a much higher pick, going in the 13th round to Atlanta. He lasted four seasons in the Atlanta organization, topping out at Double-A in 2008 before shifting over to Independent Ball midway through the next season.
  • Rockland IF/C John Fitzpatrick was undrafted out of college but spent the 2007 season in the Pirate system, reaching Low-A. From the looks of it, he hasn’t played anywhere since.
  • Rockland C Todd Jennings was quite a high draft choice, taken by the Giants in the second round (55th overall) in 2003. He spent six seasons in the San Francisco system, stalling out after 34 games at Triple-A over 2007 and 2008. He didn’t play anywhere in 2009, but last season showed up in Indy Ball.
  • Rockland IF Jermel Lomack was another Pirate draft choice (14th round in 2004). He spent just two years in their system, topping out at Class-A in 2005, and then – five years later – he showed up in the Indy Leagues last season.
  • Sad, but true, Rockland also features IF Dustin Smith, who has never played organized ball, but was sired by someone that knew a thing or two about the bigs – Ozzie Smith.
  • Rockland SP Casey Hodges was taken by Atlanta in the 23rd round in 2008, but he never got higher than High-A in two seasons in the Brave system. He shifted over to Indy Ball last season.
  • Pittsfield SP Chad Paronto likely needs no introduction to long-time ball hounds. The veteran was an eighth round pick by Baltimore way back in 1996 and although he spent 15 seasons in organized ball – 11 of which were at Triple-A – he never got a sniff of the majors. Last season, he was in the bullpen for Pawtucket, but he was hit pretty hard and now he’s nearing the end of the line in Independent Ball.
  • Finally, check out who the hitting coach is for Rockland: Damian Rolls. Remember him? Once one of the top prospects in the Dodger organization, Rolls was another Triple-A veteran that played 266 games in The Show. He was still trying to find his way back to organized ball as a player as recently as 2009 when he spent his final season playing Indy ball. Now he’s coaching in the Indies. Who knows? Maybe Rolls will make it back to the majors in a coaching capacity.
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Atlantic League 2010 Roundup

October 13, 2010 | by RotoRob | Comments (0)
Another season of Independent League ball is done, and as we were recently scouring the Atlantic League All-Stars and award winners, as always, a few interesting names popped out at us.
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Indy Leagues Watch: Could Benitez Make it Back to Bigs?

June 16, 2010 | by RotoRob | Comments (0)
Well, a recent look at his numbers makes me wonder if a bullpen-starved team (Arizona? Milwaukee?) might take a chance on the 37-year-old based on his work this season.
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Indy Leagues: Remember Reggie Taylor?

June 1, 2010 | by RotoRob | Comments (0)
Speed was his ticket to the Show – Taylor swiped 40 bags at High-A in 1997, but a lack of patience doomed him – he drew 28 walks against 163 strikeouts in the Show and, even in the minors, his OBP rarely careened above .300.
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Indy League Watch

May 13, 2010 | by RotoRob | Comments (1)
Every year around this time, we like to scan the rosters of Independent League teams and marvel at some of the names that pop up. It’s always fascinating to see which ex-major leaguers are hanging on, or which tough to sign prospect has opted for Indy ball before he finally inks a deal with the major league organization that drafted him.
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