Saturday, November 26, 2016

So Long For Just Awhile

Watching Minor League Baseball means that there is an inevitable separation looming from the players that you spend your summers cheering.  As a resident of central North Carolina, and Durham Bulls fan, for more than a decade I have seen plenty of favorites move on to the Majors and become successful.  Whether that success comes with the Bulls parent team, the Rays or another club, it's always a good feeling to see former their players doing well.

The fact that my favorite Durham Bulls players move on does not always mean it is the easiest thing to deal with as a baseball fan.  It stinks at times.

The same thing happens to fans of Major League teams too, it just looks a little different.  Some players leave via free agency, some are traded, some are released, and some retire.  They can all be equally difficult.  I distinctly remember hanging through the 1996 Cardinals NLCS Game 7 loss to the Braves just to say I watched Ozzie Smith's last at-bat.  The game ended 15-0, but it was worth it for Ozzie.



This off-season is young, but I have already had one of these difficult moments watching two of my favorite players move on from the Durham Bulls/Rays.  It all started last Friday evening when I saw this tweet flash across the screen of my phone......


I had to step outside for a bit, take a walk, and clear my head.  For the last two seasons I had thoroughly enjoyed watching both players with the Durham Bulls.  I had seen Shaffer awhile back when he was a third baseman at Clemson, but Motter was a new player for me.  Both had a huge impact on the team and were immediately amongst the most popular players with the Bulls fan base.  

Motter played all over the field during the 2015 season and posted a great line for the Bulls....


In 127 games in 2015 Motter posted a .292/.366/.471 line with 14 home runs. 43 doubles, 72 RBIs, and 26 stolen bases.  He was not promoted to the Majors by the Rays at the end of the season after posting that line.  

Shaffer did not quite lead the International League in home runs in 2015, but that's mainly because he only played 69 games in Durham that summer.....


His final line was .270/.355/.582 with 19 home runs, 17 doubles, and 45 RBIs.  For the year, Shaffer ended up hitting a total of 26 home runs adding in the dingers he also hit in Double A Montgomery.  Shaffer did get called up in September of 2015 and managed 7 extra base hits in 74 at-bats.  Everyone knows the first hit and home run Shaffer hit against the White Sox.  It was classic....


Both players were back with the Bulls in 2016.  Motter and Shaffer both also spent time with the Rays.  Tampa utilized Motter's versatility and played him in both corner outfield spots, all four infield positions, and he even pitched a third of an inning.  Yet, he only briefly stayed up with the Rays.  Shaffer got another 48 at-bats with the Rays, had 7 more extra base hits, and managed to improve his slash line percentages from the previous season.  

For whatever reason, both players were basically buried this year in Durham.  Neither of the players performed up to their best in Triple A, but they both seemed to handle it the right way.  Motter continued to work hard, grind out at-bats, and move all over the field to wherever the team needed him.  Shaffer worked out all over the field too, including spending some time learning the outfield.  

It was clear that neither player fit into the Rays plan. 

While the trade was a little hard to take, ultimately I know that the Mariners are going to give both players a chance to win jobs and playing time.   I know that both have a really good of getting the playing time that they did not get in Tampa.  

Further, as a baseball card guy, I am really excited to continue my collection of both players.  Shaffer has had a bunch of cards already including one from his first home run.....


I am not sure if anyone can ever top this card, but I am hoping that his cards will be a regular occurrence for years to come.  For next year, I am planning on having to track down a few sweet Mariners cards of the former Clemson Tiger.  

Same with Motter.....  


who has picked up his first Topps cards late this summer, but I have had fun chasing down the different variations of the two that are floating around.  A regular role in Seattle will definitely result in more cards of the super utility player.  Besides, as someone recently pointed out to me, someone with hair like Motter's needs to be playing on the west coast.  

While I am disappointed to say that I will never see Motter and Shaffer play another game at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, I know that the trade is the best thing for both of their careers.  I am looking forward to some late nights next summer staying up to watch a few Mariners games.  I know many other Bulls and Rays fans will likely be joining in with me in watching two of their favorites succeed somewhere else....

So long for just awhile.  

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