AMSTERDAM, N.Y. – Major League Baseball Spring Training camps have opened across Florida and Arizona in preparation for the 2012 season. Five former Mohawks are currently listed on Major League Spring Training rosters. Hunter Pence (Mohawks 2002) of the defending National League East champion Philadelphia Phillies headlines a group that also includes Cord Phelps (Mohawks 2006) of the Cleveland Indians, Brendan Harris (Mohawks 1999) of the Colorado Rockies, Val Pascucci (Mohawks 1997) of the New York Mets and Austin Hyatt (Mohawks 2006) of the Philadelphia Phillies.
That group does not include Mel Rojas Jr. (Mohawks 2009-2010) and Mike Spina (Mohawks 2008). Both Rojas Jr. and Spina appeared in Major League Spring Training games last March for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Oakland Athletics respectively.
Hunter Pence (Mohawks 2002) is a returning starter in the outfield for the Philadelphia Phillies. The two-time Major League all-star was acquired by the Phillies from the Houston Astros at the 2011 trade deadline. Pence helped lead the Phillies to the National League East championship. He appeared in 54 games with Philadelphia and batted .324 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI. Hunter finished the 2011 season with 22 home runs, 97 RBI and a .314 batting average. In July, the Fort Worth, Texas, native appeared in his first All-Star Game as the lone representative for the Houston Astros. Hunter was a second-round pick (64th overall) of the Astros in the 2004 Major League draft. He made his MLB debut in 2007 and he has appeared in 734 Major League games.
Cord Phelps (Mohawks 2006) became the very first Amsterdam Mohawk to make his Major League debut when he started for the Cleveland Indians against the Minnesota Twins on June 8, 2011. The switch-hitting infielder split the 2011 season between Cleveland and Triple-A Columbus of the International League. Cord appeared in 35 games for the Indians and he totaled 11 hits, including home run against Pittsburgh, 10 runs and six RBI. As a member of the eventual International League champion Columbus Clippers, the former Mohawk slugged 14 home runs, drove in 63 and batted .294 over 97 games. Phelps has been part of two Governors’ Cup championships in Columbus. The Stanford University product was a third-round selection of the Indians in the 2008 Major League draft. Phelps made his MLB debut in just his third full professional season.
Versatile infielder Brendan Harris (Mohawks 1999) signed a minor-league pact with the Colorado Rockies in December and earned an invitation to Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Harris is a veteran of seven Major League seasons and he has played for the Chicago Cubs, Montreal Expos, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins. He has appeared in 485 Major League games. The Queensbury, N.Y., native spent all of last season with the International League’s Norfolk Tides, the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Before signing with the Birds, Harris was part of back-to-back American League Central championship teams with the Minnesota Twins in 2009 and 2010. He enjoyed his best offensive season with Tampa Bay in 2007 when set career highs in games played (137), hits (149), batting average (.286), walks (42), home runs (12) and RBI (59). Harris, a fifth-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2001, made his MLB debut for the Wrigley’s on July 6, 2004 against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Valentino Pascucci (Mohawks 1997) is entering his 14th season of professional baseball and second with the New York Metropolitans organization. He is listed as a non-roster invitee with the Mets. Pascucci, who made his Major League debut in 2004 with the Montreal Expos, signed with the Mets as a free agent in 2011 and he earned a September call-up to the Big Apple from Triple-A Buffalo. Pascucci batted .273 over 10 games for the Mets. The veteran of 10-plus minor league seasons with over 200 professional home runs clubbed his first Major League dinger in nearly seven years when he slammed a pinch-hit home run against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sept. 24. The Bellflower, Calif., native was a 15th-round selection by the Expos in the 1999 MLB draft. In 11 minor league seasons, Pascucci appeared in 1,326 games and belted 231 home runs. Val also spent two years in Japan’s Pacific League with the Chiba Lotte Marines.
Austin Hyatt (Mohawks 2006) could be the next in line to make his Major League debut. Hyatt is taking part in Major League Spring Training with the Philadelphia Phillies as a non-roster invitee. He had his first action of the spring on Wed., Feb. 29, in an exhibition game against Florida State. The 15th-round pick of the Phillies in the 2009 draft led all of Double A with 171 strikeouts last season as a member of the Eastern League’s Reading Phillies. Hyatt set career highs in victories (12), appearances (28), starts (28) and innings pitched (154.1). The University of Alabama product was the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year in 2010. As a starting pitcher with the FSL’s Clearwater Threshers, Austin fanned 156 batters in 124.1 innings. He was a 2010 MiLB.com Organization All-Star.
NOTES…In the 30-plus year history of the Mohawks franchise, over 80 former players have gone on to play professional baseball…Six former Mohawks have reached Major League Baseball. The list includes Glen Barker (Mohawks 1991), Tim Christman (Mohawks 1994), Brendan Harris (Mohawks 1999), Valentino Pascucci (Mohawks 1997), Hunter Pence (Mohawks 2002) and Cord Phelps (Mohawks 2006)…Austin Hyatt can become just the second Amsterdam Mohawk to reach the Majors; he and Cord Phelps were Carpet City teammates in 2006…Brendan Harris and Valentino Pascucci were teammates with the Montreal Expos in 2004. Each hit their first Major League home run in the same game, Sept. 15, 2004, against the Florida Marlins at Pro Player Stadium…Val Pascucci’s home run last September as a member of the New York Mets against Philadelphia was his first in nearly seven years. Coincidentally, his last home run came against the Mets in Oct. 2004.