20 Seasons Highlights Countdown: MVPs, Pitchers of the Year
In 2022, the Washington Wild Things are celebrating their 20th Frontier League season. The team will be celebrating in numerous ways Opening Weekend, beyond that and in several other ways. As part of our celebration, we're counting down some of the historical highlights the organization and team has seen occur over the first 19 seasons of Wild Things' baseball in the league.
The countdown isn't in any specific order in terms of importance, but it's time we visit some of the best on-field moments, significant historical accomplishments, records, traditions and more.
Plans for the celebration of the 20th season of Frontier League baseball for the Washington Wild Things are still in the works and whenever they get announced, you can rest assured the party will not stop all season long with the festivities kicking off May 13-15 with Opening Weekend.
We teased it last week when we looked back at the most significant individual and organization postseason awards in Wild Things' history when it comes to the Frontier League postseason awards. This week we take a deeper look at the six biggest ones our players have received. Washington has had four pitchers win the Brian Tollberg Award for Pitcher of the Year and has had two players win the league's Morgan Burkhart Award, given each year to the league MVP.
Most Valuable Players
Josh Loggins was the first Wild Thing to receive the award for league MVP in the team's second season in 2003. That season for Loggins was his second and final in Washington that came amidst an eight-year career in pro baseball. In 2002, Loggins slashed .347/.400/.484 with 18 doubles, five homers and 45 RBI. The next year, his MVP season, his .331 batting average was the third best in the league and that went along with the league's top home run total (24) and fourth-best RBI total (72). His 15 stolen bases that season were the second most in his career for a single season (24 with Fort Wayne in Padres' system in 1999). He also was the league's postseason All Star catcher that season. Loggins would go on to play two seasons with the Joliet Jackhammers in the Northern League before retiring from baseball. Toward the end of the campaign in 2003, Loggins had his contract purchased by the Colorado Rockies' organization. Loggins, a midseason all star in 2003 as well, was inducted in the Frontier League Hall of Fame in Washington for the class of 2020-21.
It was a while before the Wild Things would see another player honored for the league's MVP award. In 2018, outfielder James Harris became the second Wild Thing to win the Morgan Burkhart Award. Harris signed with the Wild Things after stints in the Rays' and A's organizations. He was the first former first-round pick (60th, compensatory in 2011) to sign with Washington. In 2017, he helped the push to the playoffs for the team by slashing .300/.371/.444 with 18 stolen bases, 25 RBI, five home runs and 10 doubles. That was the tip of the iceberg in Washington for Harris. In early 2018, he hit for the first cycle in team history on his way to a 26 stolen-base season that also included a .305/.385/.529 slash line. His 117 hits that year were the second most in the league. Harris clubbed 22 doubles, a league-high eight triples and 16 home runs on his way to posting 64 RBI. As one of the most impactful players in the league, the MVP award was a no brainer. Harris was a postseason All Star outfielder as well as one of six All Stars for the Wild Things at the midsummer event for the Frontier League. Harris went on to play for the Winnipeg Goldeyes (AA) in 2019 before suiting up for the York Revolution (ATLL) in 2021.
Pitchers of the Year - Washington's pitchers have been honored with the Brian Tollberg Award four times, a total that is second most in league history behind five by Southern Illinois Miners' pitchers.
In 2002, lefty Jared Howton capitalized on a wildly successful season by winning the Brian Tollberg Award in the inaugural season of the Wild Things. After pitching in the Pioneer League (Rk, CIN) with Billings in 2001, the southpaw made his way to Washington, where he would pitch for two seasons before a season in 2005 with the Richmond Roosters in the Frontier League. In 2002, Howton went 11-3 and led the league in wins. His 1.89 ERA stood as a team record for pitchers with at least 50 innings of work for a while. That was also the top ERA in the league that season. In 109.1 innings, he fanned 89 batters and allowed only 86 hits, which was the least among those pitchers with at least 100 innings of work. In his second season in 2003, he suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery and forced him to miss the 2004 season. In 2003, Howton was 7-2 with a 2.60 earned run average in 11 starts. He then worked two seasons as the pitching coach in Traverse City. Each of those years the Beach Bums had the pitcher of the year on their staff. He was a midseason All Star the year he won the Pitcher of the Year award and was inducted in the Frontier League Hall of Fame class of 2020-21.
Aaron Ledbetter, a Frontier League Hall of Famer in the Class of 2014 and holder of multiple career pitching records in the league, spent three seasons in Washington and was named the Frontier League's Pitcher of the Year while with Washington in 2007. He was also a postseason All Star that season and was selected to the 2007 and 2008 midseason all star teams as well, leaving him as one of nine Wild Things to be selected to the midsummer event twice in their career in Washington. Before we dive into his 2007 season let's visit some of Ledbetter's records. He is the league record holder for career innings pitched (671.2), game started (98), wins (51) and strikeouts (522). Before his time in Washington, he spent three full seasons and part of 2006 with River City. His numbers there were good, but in Washington, he exploded. The 2007 season saw him lead the league with 14 wins and he only was the losing pitcher twice. His 2.71 ERA was amongst the best for qualified pitchers in the league and his 129.2 innings pitchers trailed only two other pitchers in the league.
Thomas Dorminy was the next Wild Thing to win the award in 2018, as the Wild Things swept the major awards. The southpaw was the ace of the staff that helped Washington get to within one win of a title. He was 9-5 but his 2.45 ERA was the league's best and he logged 132.1 innings, the second most in the league. Dorminy fanned 109 batters to just 39 walks. He was a midseason All Star that season and started the game for the Experienced team and ended up being named the Postseason All Star starting pitcher as well. A former 10th round pick of the Padres, Dorminy pitched in the San Diego organization between 2014 and 2017. He'd go to the Atlantic League with Somerset in 2019 before pitching in the American Association in 2021 and in the Mexican League in 2021.
The final honoree in this week's countdown is our most recent. Last year in 2021, Ryan Hennen received three postseason awards after being selected second in the Frontier League Tryout and Draft held before the season. He was a postseason All Star as the starting pitcher on the team and the league's Jason Simontacchi Award winner for Rookie of the Year. The 2021 Brian Tollberg Award winner led the league in ERA (2.12) by 0.60 points and tied for second in the league in wins with 11. Hennen tossed 106.1 innings were a top 10 total in the league. He pitched a complete game shutout in Lake Erie for his first of both of those achievements. He was a big reason why the staff was top three in the league in both Team ERA and fewest walks issued. Hennen is set for a second season in Washington in 2022.
To keep up with the countdown, see below for trips back in the past to our previous three stops on the countdown. Stay glued to our social media, website and more for more information regarding our big plans for the 20 Seasons Anniversary celebration, because it's sure to be wild. We're giving you the presents, the parties, the fun and more as a thanks for your support over the years and the support we know will continue to be shown to us.
20 Seasons Countdown History:
20: James Harris Makes History with First Wild Things' cycle
19: Barry Bonds a Wild Thing? We revisit the moment that got the Wild Things national attention!
18: Two Triple Plays in Wild Things history
17: Postseason Awards, All Stars