Huskies Alumni Making their Mark in the Pro’s
Forty-six former Huskies players have now made their was from Duluth into the ranks of Professional Baseball with right handed pitcher Joe Bisenius, who pitched for the Huskies in 2003, became the first former Huskie to make his Major League debut early in 2007 when he pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Former Duluth Huskies All Star Joe Bisenius is the first Duluth Huskies player to make it all the way to the Major Leagues. Joe made Huskies history when he entered the Phillies April 5th, 2007 game against the Atlanta Braves. Joe came to the Huskies in 2003 from Oklahoma City University. Bisenius was drafted in the 12th round of the 2004 MLB draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. Joe started his pro career with the Batavia Muckdogs (SS Class A) before being assigned to the Lakewood Blueclaws for the 2005 campaign. After spring training in 2006, Joe started the summer as a member of the High A Clearwater Threshers of the Florida State League, then was promoted to Class AA Reading Phillies of the Eastern League. In 2007, Joe made quite an impression on the Philadelphia brass as he made his Major League Debut with the Phillies on April 5, 2007 against the Atlanta Braves.
Doug Mathis was picked by the Texas Rangers in the 13th round of the 2005 draft. Huskies fans will remember the Central Arizona Junior College right hander dominating Northwoods League hitters in 2004 prior to him joining Mizzou Tigers. Doug started 2006 assigned to the Class A Bakersfield Blaze of the California League but was promoted to the AA Frisco Roughriders of the Texas League. In 2007, Mathis started the year with the Class AAA Oklahoma RedHawks of the Pacific Coast League.
Outfielder Chris Frey, who first joined the Huskies by way of the Alaska Summer Collegiate league in 2004, was drafted in the 10th round of the 2005 draft by the Colorado Rockies. The speedy center fielder enjoyed an outstanding career with the Arizona Wildcats, NCAA, Div 1, and had a strong spring training camp with the Rockies in 2006 before being assigned to the Modesto (CA) Nuts with the Rockies Class A Advanced California league affiliate. In 2007, Frey was promoted to Class AA and will play with the Tulsa Drillers in the Texas League.
Jon Mueller came to Duluth from the University of Minnesota as a hard throwing right handed pitcher. Mueller pitched for the 2005 Huskies and later signed with the Chicago Cubs organization. In 2006, Mueller pitched for the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League. In 2007, Mueller was promoted to the Class AA Tennessee Smokies in the Southern League.
Huskies fans will remember Fernando Rodriguez who starred with El Paso Junior College in Texas and then was signed by the California Angels while playing with Duluth. Rodriguez started his pro career in Provo, Utah (Short Season Class A) before being promoted to the Cedar Rapids Kernals (Class A) last season. After spring training in 2006, Fernie was assigned to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Class A Advanced). Rodriguez just completed his 2nd spring training camp with the California Angels and has been assigned to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, High A affiliate of the Angels.
RHP Matt Swanson, who’s big 6’8” frame dominated Northwoods League hitters in 2004 and later signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 2006, Swanson twirled for the Pirates South Atlantic League affiliate the Hickory Crawdads. Matt had an excellent debut as a reliever with the Williamsport Crosscutters in 2005 and the Pirates now want to try him as a starter. So far in 2007, Swanson is dealing for the Lynchburg Hillcats in the Carolina League, the Class A - Advanced affiliate of the Pirates.
Rhyne Hughes came to the Huskies via Pearl River CC in Mississippi. Hughes was drafted in the 8th round of the 2004 draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The lanky first baseman played a handful of games for the Huskies before joining the US Junior College All Star team in China. Rhyne was signed late in 2004 and played for the Hudson Valley Renegades (SS Class A) in 2005. In 2006, Hughes was assigned to the Devil Rays Class A Midwest league affiliate the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays. Rhyne is now suiting up in the Class A Florida State League for the Vero Beach Devil Rays in 2007.
Former Huskies RH closer Steve Schroer was an un-drafted free agent in 2005 out of UC Irvine when the New York Yankees came calling. Steve immediately made an impact for the Staten Island Yankees and was devastating coming out of the bullpen during the Baby Bombers championship run last fall. After a good spring training, Steve was assigned to the Yankees class A affiliate in Tampa, Florida and recently was moved to the Charleston RiverDogs in the South Atlantic League.
Brian Schroeder came to the Huskies from UCLA and from a strong lineage, his father Jay Schroeder was a longtime quarterback in the National Football League. Brian made a name for himself in Duluth; however by pitching well for the 2005 Huskies. Schroeder later signed with the St. Louis Cardinals organization and, in 2006, pitched for the State College Spikes of the New York-Penn League. In 2007, Brian was assigned to the Class A Swing of the Quad Cities.
Lauren Gagnier came to Duluth in the summer of 2005 from Cal State Fullerton where he had been a part of a National Championship team. Lauren threw brilliantly in Duluth during the summer and returned to Fullerton for their 2006 spring season where he led the nation in wins. Following his stellar college season Gagnier signed with the Detroit Tigers organization and pitched for the Oneonta Tigers of the New York-Penn League. In 2007, Gagnier was assigned to the Class A West Michigan Whitecaps of the Midwest League.
Will Crouch came to the Northland from San Jacinto CC in Texas. The big power hitting first baseman was undrafted in 2005 but signed as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks after a fine senior season and NCAA Championship crown with the Texas Longhorns. In 2006, Will played for the South Bend Silver Hawks of the Midwest League.
Kody Valverde found his way to Duluth from the University of New Orleans and ended up leaving with the team single season and career records in Home Runs. Valverde donned the Huskies "D" in 2004 as a member of the Huskies first playoff team. In 2006, Valverde signed with the San Diego Padres organization and was assigned to the Class A Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League.
Mark Melancon came to Duluth in 2004 from the University of Arizona. The hard throwing right-hander mowed through the Northwoods League hitters throughout the summer as an anchor in the Huskies pitching staff. In 2006, Melancon signed with the New York Yankees and pitched for the Class A Stanton Island Yankees during the summer.
Richardo Cruz made the trek north to Duluth in 2003 from Yavapai Community College in Arizona. As a slick fielding middle infielder Cruz was seen patrolling second base at Wade Stadium. Cruz signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks and played the 2006 season in both the Midwest League and the Pioneer League before ending the season with the Missoula Osprey of the Pioneer League.
Ryan Lilly made Duluth his summer home in 2004 as a shortstop from the University of San Diego. Lilly hard play in the field and his strong bat at the plate made him memorable to Duluth baseball fans. In 2006, Lilly signed with the Chicago Cubs organization and made it up to the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League. Lilly hit .319 with the Chiefs in 2006.
Estaban Lopez joined the Huskies in 2003 for their inaugural campaign. Lopez's time in Duluth propelled him from a Community College to the University of Hawaii. Lopez later signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and, in the summer of 2006, played with the GCL Dodgers of the Gulf Coast League.
Mark Wright came to Duluth from the University of Mississippi for the 2003 Huskies season and had a strong showing while at the Wade. The hard swinging outfielder made a name for himself amongst the Duluth faithful as a hard-nosed competitor who wasn't afraid to get dirty. Wright later signed with the New York Mets and played the 2006 season with the Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League.
Fan favorite Gilbert Gil found his way to Duluth from St. Mary's University. Gilbert played in Duluth in both 2003 and 2004 and is career record holder in RBIs, runs scored, hits, doubles, at bats, and games played. Gil also holds the single season record for at bats. Gil signed with the Kansas City Royals organization and played the 2006 season with the Class A Idaho Falls Chukars of the Pioneer League.
Chad Lundahl wore a Duluth Huskies uniform in 2004 during the Huskies magical run to the North Division Title. Lundahl came to Duluth from the University of California-Irvine and was slated to return to Duluth in 2005 but an injury late in his spring season kept him in California. Lundahl was signed in the summer of 2006 by the Atlanta Braves organization and reported to the Gulf Coast League Braves Rookie League franchise, and has since been promoted to Atlanta's Class A affiliate Rome Braves. Lundahl returned to Rome to start the 2007 as well.
Chris Nash came to Duluth from Johnson County Community College in Missouri as a highly touted first baseman. Nash was then drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 24th round the the 2006 MLB Draft, but decided to stick with Duluth through the summer with hopes of bringing the city a Northwoods League Championship. Nash was able to lead the Huskies to their best record in team history and a playoff berth, by winning the second half North Division title. For the season Nash appeared in 56 games for Duluth and batted .278 with 2 home runs and 14 RBIs. He also compiled a total of 42 hits and a .364 slugging percentage. Nash then signed with the Indians following the 2006 season and will be assigned to his minor league home in the spring of 2007.
Mike Pontius was a menace out of the bullpen for the Huskies for the end of their 2006 season. The big right hander impressed everyone with his high velocity and his aggressive style. Pontius found his way to Duluth from Wentzville Holt High School in Missouri. He joined the Huskies bullpen for the stretch run and ended up blowing away all he faced compiling 13 strikeouts in only 8.2 innings pitched while appearing in 6 games for Duluth. Pontius has been drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 43rd round of the 2006 MLB Draft and eventually signed with the Indians after the Huskies 2006 season came to a close. Pontius will join the Indians organization in the spring of 2007 and will start his trek towards Major League Baseball.