Your 2009 Boise Hawks!
The Boise Hawks begin play tonight, kicking off their 2009 season. They will play 77 games (76 "league" games plus tonight's Opening Night exhibition game versus Treasure Valley CC) up through the first week of September, with one game scheduled each and most every day (they get only three days off for the entire season!).
The Boise Hawks are the Cubs "Short-Season A" affiliate in the Northwest League. Besides the Cubs affiliate in Boise, ID, the other seven clubs in the league are the Tri-City Dust Devils (Rockies) in Pasco, WA, the Yakima Bears (Diamondbacks) in Yakima, WA, the Spokane Indians (Rangers) in Spokane, WA, the Eugene Emeralds (Padres) in Eugene, OR, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Giants) in Keizer, OR, the Everett Aqua Sox (Mariners) in Everett, WA, and the Vancouver Canadians (A's) in Vancouver, BC. All eight of the clubs have their minor league base in Arizona, so the players know the rival players pretty well from having played a lot of opponents in AZL, Spring Training, Extended Spring Training, and/or Instructional League games
Per MLB Rule 51, a "Short Season A" club may have a maximum of four players on its roster age 23 or older (as of June 5th), and a maximum of three players on its roster with three years or more of minor league service time coming into the season. (Seasons spent playing in DSL, VSL, Mexican League, or MLB international academies don't count toward minor league service time limit, the age limit does not apply to first-year players who sign after June 5th, and there is a one-year age & service time exemption for position players who are being converted to pitcher). .
Generally speaking, players assigned to Boise would include college players selected in the recent Rule 4 Draft (First-Year Player Draft), and Latin, Pacific Rim, and U. S. high school and JC players who have "graduated" from Fitch Park (EXST Cubs & AZL Cubs).
Players assigned to Boise stay with "host families," which are local Boise residents who house and feed the young Cubbies (Hawks) during their stay in Boise. In return, the families receive complimentary season-tickets to the Hawks home games.
It's not unusual for players and host families to stay in touch for many years after the player has left and moved on to other things. Occasionally a player who stayed with a host family one year and another player who stayed with the same host family in a different season meet each other in later years and discover their "family connection."
The Boise gig is a lot different than Minor League Camp, Extended Spring Training, AZ Instructional League, or playing for the AZL Cubs in Mesa at Fitch Park. The players assigned to Fitch Park stay in the same motel (two players per room) with a curfew and no alcohol allowed in the rooms. Shuttle vans (maxi-vans) transport the players from the motel to Fitch Park and back. "Road trips" consist of maybe a 20-minute ride to another minor league complex in the maxi-vans.
But in Boise, the players are mostly on their own. They have to find their own way to the ballpark, and the Cubs rely on the host families to help keep the player on the "straight & narrow." (The Cubs probably wouldn't want a couple of meth freaks to be a "host family"). And Boise "road trips" consist of all night bus rides through the back roads and high deserts of Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia, with pre-made peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and/or Dominos Pizza (usually the only "restaurant" open late in most of the Northwest League towns) the in-bus meal.
The 2009 Hawks roster features the "cream of the crop" from Extended Spring Training, and those of you who might have followed my EXST Cubs game reports will probably recognize most of the names.
Three of the prized Korean teenaged bonus babies (SS Hak-Ju Lee, OF Jae-Hoon Ha, and RHP Su-Min Jung) were assigned to Boise, as were 19-year old Venezuelan RHP (and Carlos Zambrano clone) Larry Suarez and 18-year old Dominican LHP Jeffry Antigua (the two most-impressive pitchers at Extended Spring Training), and 2008 4th round pick C-2B Matt Cerda (a good-looking young hitter who has yet to find a permanent position).
In addition, three players selected in the recent Rule 4 Draft (First-Year Player Draft) are also on the Hawks Opening Day Active Roster. RHP Danny Keefe (14th round pick out of the U. of Tampa), CF Cody Shields (15th round pick out of the U. of Auburn - Montgomery), and 1B Greg Rohan (21st round pick out of Kent State) signed immediately after the draft and got to Fitch Park before the Boise club was organized, and just in time to be included on the Hawks Opening Day roster. (Keefe, Shields, and Rohan were college seniors, so they had virtually no leverage as far as holding out for more money).
The Hawks currently have a 14-man pitching staff, and it will likely increase to 17 or 18 by the time some of the other drafted players sign and get assigned to Boise. (Players who would be candidates for Boise who sign sometime beyond the first week after the draft usually spend about a week to ten days assigned to the AZL Cubs at Fitch Park before they are moved up to Boise).
Generally, ten of the Boise pitchers are considered "three-inning guys" and will "piggyback" with another pitcher, where one starts the game and throws three or four innings, and then the second pitcher throws three or four innings. The other pitchers on the staff (the "two-inning guys") rotate as closers, set-up guys, and middle-relievers.
The Boise club has a 35-man Reserve List (which is like a major league club's 40-man roster) and a 30-man Active List (which would be like a MLB club's 25-man roster). Injured players assigned to the Hawks usually are not put on the DL. Instead they are placed on the Hawks "Temporary Inactive List" (reserve list). Likewise, a player who is being converted from a position player to pitcher or catcher is usually placed on the Temporary Inactive List while the player learns the new position in the off-fields at Fitch Park.
Also, sometimes a player who quits Extended Spring Training and goes home is placed on the Temporary Inactive List until he files his official retirement papers or until the Cubs decide to release the player. An unofficially retired player who doesn't file his papers by the end of the season is usually either released during the off-season, or else is transfered from the minor league club's Temporary Inactive List to the Cubs Restricted List.
Here is the 2009 Opening Day Roster for the Boise Hawks:
* bats or throws left
# bats both
MANAGER: Casey Kopitzke
COACHES: Ricardo Medina (hitting), David Rosario (pitching), and Min-Kyu Sung (Korean player liaison and 1st base coach)
* Jeffry Antigua
Josh Lansford (ex-3B)
Andres Quezada (ex-OF)
* Ryan Sontag (ex-OF)
* Matt Cerda (C-2B)
# Alvaro Sosa
John Contreras (3B-1B-C)
Sean Hoorelbeke (1B-LF)
# Jose Made (2B-3B)
George Matheus (SS-2B-3B)
* Hak-Ju Lee (SS)
Greg Rohan (1B)
* Logan Watkins (2B-SS)
# Jose Valdez
INACTIVE LIST (4):
* Kurt Calvert, OF (left EXST Cubs in April & returned home)
Dylan Johnston, OF-RHP (at Fitch Park -converting from OF to RHP)
Dwayne Kemp, INF (at Fitch Park - injury rehab)
Cedric Redmond, RHP (at Fitch Park - injury rehab)