20 Seasons Highlights Countdown: Big League Things
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.
After we highlighted the 45 players to have their contracts purchased last week, this week we will highlight the four instances where a former Wild Thing reached the pinnacle of the journey: Major League Baseball.
Three of the four players to reach the big leagues have pitched in games at the big-league level. All four are pitchers.
The first Wild Things' player to reach the bigs was southpaw Tom Cochran. After pitching for Ohio Valley in the Frontier League in 2005, Cochran made his way to Washington and spent two seasons in a Wild Things' uniform before being picked up by the Reds' organization following a year with Worcester in the Can-Am League. Cochran's three shutouts over two years are tied for fourth in Wild Things' history and his 22 starts in 2006 are a Wild Things' season high. Between 2006 and 2007, Cochran pitched his way to a 14-13 record in 42 games (41 starts). He logged 242.2 innings as a Wild Thing and allowed 210 hits, fanned 198 opposing batters and walked only 95. Cochran was a mid-season All Star in 2007.
He was called up to the Cincinnati Reds' big-league roster nine years to the day (May 29) of the Wild Things' first game. Cochran did not end up pitching for the Reds but would continue playing in the system until he went to the Phillies' organization in 2012, where he played until he retired following the 2013 campaign.
The former Wild Thing with the longest big-league tenure is Vidal Nuño III, who was only with the Wild Things for six games in the 2011 season following a brief stint in Cleveland's farm system. He was purchased by the Yankees' organization after six starts for Washington, where he logged 41.1 innings and was 2-3 with a 2.83 ERA. He fanned 34 and walked 12. Nuño made his big-league debut April 29, 2013 at 25 years old and pitched three scoreless against the Houston Astros. His last game in the bigs was on September 28, 2018 at the age of 31, for Tampa Bay. He pitched in parts of six seasons in the big leagues for the Yankees, Arizona, Seattle, Baltimore and the Rays.
Next up was Chris Smith. Smith played for the Wild Things in 2011 and 2012 and had his contract purchased by the Yankees in 2013, signaling the end of his Wild Things' tenure. Smith pitched in six games and made five starts in 2011 and totaled 24 innings with 21 strikeouts. In 2012, Smith was 9-6 with a 2.92 ERA in 19 games (all starts). He posted two completes games and two shutouts, while working a total of 129.1 innings. He struck out 116. Smith was picked up by New York and worked his way up the ladder until he madehis big-league debut June 27, 2017 at 28-years old against the Orioles. He pitched a scoreless inning and allowed one hit in the frame. In total in 2017, he appeared in four big-league contests totaling five innings and allowed only three runs.
Finally, the latest former Wild Thing to appear in the bigs is right-hander Zac Grotz. Grotz was one of four mid-season All Stars for the club in 2016 and didn't even get to finish the season in Washington, thanks to his contract being purchased by the Dodgers' organization. He had come to Washington after a stint in the Astros' system and ended up pitching in the Atlantic League in 2017 after being released from the Dodgers' organization. He went to York (ATLL) and the Mets' system in 2018 before his stint in the Mariners' organization and was with Worcester in the Boston system in 2021. With Washington, Grotz mainly appeared out of the bullpen in his 29 games. Only one game was a start. He was 4-2 with a 1.36 ERA in 46.1 innings and posted 10 saves. He allowed just 32 hits and nine walks while striking out 51. Grotz debuted August 2, 2019 and pitched two innings against Houston. In 2019, Grotz appeared in 14 games for the Mariners. He threw 17.1 innings and struck out 18 batters. In 2020, he pitched in five games and threw 7.1 innings.
The four pitchers have reached the biggest stage the sport has to offer, and the goal is to get more there to continue to grow the resume of the Frontier League and Wild Things. There are multiple former Wild Things in affiliated ball right now.
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
16: MVP's, Pitchers of the Year
15: Midseason All Stars, ASG's hosted in Washington
14: Longevity, Attendance Milestones
13: Pat McAfee: A Professional Baseball Player
12: Major Traditions
11: Unmatched Perfection: Matt Sergey's Perfect Game
10: Milestone Wins, Success in FL