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TWitM: 2017 Omaha Storm Chasers wrapup

A different kind of wrapup from someone close to the dirt in Omaha

(L-R) Christian Binford, Ryan O’Hern, Frank Schwindel and Bubba Starling sharing a laugh in the Omaha dugout.
Minda Haas Kuhlmann

This is where we would normally take a weekly look at notable performances from all over the system, from big-name prospects and less heralded guys alike. But now the Minor League regular season has come to an end. How did it go?

Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA)

Record: 69-72, 13 GB

Where in the Pacific Coast League is Omaha?

WIL Rank (of 16)
Runs 628 14
Hits 1284 9
2B 229 14
3B 34 7
HR 132 9
RBI 585 14
SB 119 2
BB 399 14
SO 1018 3
AVG .270 9
OBP .330 14
SLG .416 12

The Storm Chasers were exactly 14th out of 16 in quite a few categories.

Notable performances:

In many ways, this was not the season I expected from the Chasers. I thought, for example, that every five days would feature an opportunity to see top prospect Josh Staumont make art on the mound, with 1B/OF Peter O’Brien peppering the home run porch in left field with home run balls. Neither happened.

Staumont showed flashes of brilliance, and did pile up strikeouts as anticipated with an 11.0 K/9 in 16 games (15 starts). But ultimately his old nemesis, the base on balls, crept back in to his game and he was transferred to Northwest Arkansas in early July.

The Royals acquired O’Brien in January for RHP Sam Lewis, thinking he would provide good depth in Omaha and be an option if the Royals needed a fill-in at first base or the outfield. Instead, he stuck just 27 games with the Storm Chasers, batting .162/.235/.276 with three home runs and 31 strikeouts.

O’Brien’s flat performance paved the way for Frank Schwindel to be promoted and surprise everyone with otherworldly hitting all summer long. Every “This Week in the Minors” column answers the question “Who had a good week?” and Schwindel was that answer on more than one occasion.

Who made it to Kansas City?

Basically everybody.

  • OF Jorge Bonifacio
  • OF Billy Burns
  • C Cam Gallagher
  • OF Terrance Gore
  • 2B/UTIL Whit Merrifield
  • SS Raul Mondesi
  • OF Paulo Orlando
  • OF Jorge Soler
  • INF Ramon Torres
  • RHP Al Alburquerque
  • RHP Miguel Almonte
  • RHP Luke Farrell
  • LHP Brian Flynn
  • LHP Onelki Garcia
  • RHP Jakob Junis
  • RHP Andres Machado
  • RHP Seth Maness
  • RHP Kevin McCarthy
  • LHP Eric Skoglund
  • LHP Matt Strahm

On second thought, maybe a shorter list would have been Storm Chasers that did not play for Kansas City at some point.

And on a personal note...

Since Omaha is my Homaha, this team gets a different kind of coverage than the other levels. 2017 was my 11th season working in baseball in some capacity, so I have seen hundreds of players pass through the dugouts of both Rosenblatt Stadium and Werner Park.

Even though they didn’t make the playoffs, the 2017 Storm Chasers were special. So many of the best people I have ever met in baseball were on this year’s team. I have waited all year for a good place to say so, but shoehorning it in the end of the final MiLB wrapup will have to do.

Some examples, though certainly not all of them:
Dean Anna, Ruben Sosa, Ryan O’Hearn and Billy Burns are among the kindest people I have met in baseball or anywhere. Ramon Torres and Raul Mondesi made tons of time to sign autographs or give stuff to fans, every day. Working alongside manager Brian Poldberg is a continual source of joy, and hitting coach Tommy Gregg’s outfield lessons were a great enhancement to my gamedays. (He got frustrated that his outfielders weren’t listening to him, so I volunteered to listen to anything he could tell me about outfield positioning. I learned a lot!)

For the first time in my career, every player on the roster was respectful to me all season long. As a woman working in sports, that is far from a given. And they were all pretty good about giving photo credits on social media, which shows a level of respect and empathy.

Not that I generally root against any players, but anyone who took the field for the 2017 Storm Chasers will have my support in a special way for the rest of their careers. If you have kids who took to cheering for any of these players, they’ve chosen well.

In sum: Stir up the storm.