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ALUMNI WATCH: PENCE, DANIELSON BECOMING FAVORITES


Hunter Pence (pictured) and Sean Danielson are just two of the many Texas Collegiate League alumni have been successful so far in their pro careers and both are becoming fan favorites in their baseball town.

HOUSTON'S HUNTER
Hunter Pence (Highland Park Blue Sox ’04) is not just any other rookie anymore.  He is said to be a fan favorite in Houston even possibly over the likes of Carlos Lee and future Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. 

Looking at the way Pence is playing, the fans in Houston should adore him.  The former Highland Park Blue Sox outfielder is hitting .351 and slugging .598 – which is higher than those of Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds and 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard– but is 30 at-bats shy of qualifying for the league leaders.  If he did have enough at-bats to qualify, Pence would rank four in batting average in the major leagues.

T
he lanky centerfielder has been on a rampage the past two months ripping 37 hits to shatter the Astros' previous record of 28 for the month of May, which he was awarded the MLB Rookie of the Month.

There are now reports of Pence becoming the favorite for the National League Rookie of the Year Award and a candidate for the All-Star team in spite of making his major-league debut on April 28.

Pence, an Arlington, TX native, returns home today as the Astros head into a Interleague series with the Rangers.

Check out Star-Telegram writer Jan Hubbard's story on Hunter Pence in Friday's paper.  Click here to view the article.


DANIELSON MAKE A "BIG" IMPACT
Sean Danielson (Graham Roughnecks ’04) might be a little guy but his play so far has been huge as he continues to move up in the St. Louis farm system. 

Danielson was “spotted” in the TCL by the Cardinals’ scouts and they recognized his talent.  During Danielson’s 2004 summer stint with the Roughnecks, he hit .282 with 50 hits and 28 stolen bases. 

Kary Booher of Springfield News-Leader writes about Danielson’s road to the Springfield Cardinals (AA).  You can click here for the article on News-Leader.com.

He's on his way
Springfield 's Sean Danielson an unlikely hot prospect Undrafted OF plays bigger than his 5-foot-8, 165-pound frame.

by Kary Booher
News-Leader

The beauty of the minor leagues is that anybody can come out of nowhere to become a somebody.

Two years ago, Sean Danielson was a Smurf-sized leadoff man from Texas-San Antonio University 's baseball program who wasn't even drafted and eventually signed a free-agent deal with the Cardinals minor league organization.

His signing bonus was nothing more than a plane ticket to meet up with other recent draftees who had been shipped off to the short-season New York-Penn League.

This past Monday, after a two-month tear since climbing into Double-A baseball with the Springfield Cardinals, Danielson finally qualified to be placed in the high-rent district of the Texas League's batting leaders.

He's carrying a .319 average — the fourth-best mark in the TL and good enough to rub elbows with some of its top prospects.

Sitting down recently outside the Cardinals' clubhouse, the team's sparkplug leadoff man shook his head.

On paper, generously listed at 5 feet, 8 inches and 165 pounds, Danielson would appear to be a guy who has no business even being in Double-A baseball, let alone excelling at it.

In fact, he was recently selected to participate in Tuesday's TL All-Star game in Corpus Christi, Texas .

Ask what roads led to Springfield, how one dusty path in Texas has brought him to within two steps of the big leagues, and Danielson offers a grin.

"It's a long story," Danielson said.

Need someone to cheer for in the season's second half now that Joe Mather has ditched town? Eager to add another "who" to Springfield 's already gaudy who's-who list as part of your daily prospects fix?

Danielson may fit the bill. He's got blazing speed. He's got a surprising rocket of an arm. And he's got nicknames.

"We call him Dash Man, from 'The Incredibles' cartoon, and he's the little kid," Mather said just before leaving for Triple-A Memphis. "He's got superpower speed, and he's not that tall. We also call him by his initials — SPD, for Speedy Gonzalez."

'This guy can play'

It's been some run already for the 24-year-old outfielder, who with a solid finish to this season could work his way into prospect status by serving as Springfield's steady hand atop the batting order and running on jet fuel on the basepaths, with a home to first time — he finally let on about this — once clocked at 3.7 seconds.

When he qualified for the TL's top 10 in batting, he had 51 hits in 160 at-bats. That's good. That's getting it done.

"He's on his way," Springfield manager Pop Warner said. "If he continues this for the rest of the season, I'd say definitely. Right now, he's getting a lot of fastballs to hit and, to his credit, he's not missing. But the more we play these teams, they'll try to figure out his holes."

"We really haven't figured that out yet," Arkansas catcher Bobby Wilson said. You could say Wilson has seen about enough of Danielson.

When the Cardinals took four out of five from the Travelers on a recent road trip, Danielson was a pest in hitting 8-for-22 (.347), with four runs scored, a home run and five RBIs.

From his left-field position, on balls hit close to the line, he also gunned down two runners trying to stretch singles into doubles.

That included a June 10 game when Danielson not only threw out Sean Rodriguez at second base, but also lined a two-run, go-ahead single in the ninth in a victory that gave Springfield sole possession of first place in the TL North Division.

"The guy can play baseball," Wilson said. "I think the most impressive thing that he's done is throw runners out, especially us. He probably threw out three or four at second base that should have been stand-up doubles."

In San Antonio , Sherman Corbett can't say enough about Danielson. The UT-San Antonio baseball coach just finished back-to-back seasons with 36 and 37 wins, respectively, and this year's team took the Southland Conference regular-season title for the first time in school history.

But he credits Danielson, in part, for the turnaround. Corbett brought in the outfielder ahead of the 2005 season, and Danielson went on to hit .304, post an on-base percentage of .381 and push the Roadrunners to the conference postseason tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

"(Scouts) knew he could run," Corbett said. "But obviously when you look at him, there are going to be concerns about his stature. There were concerns whether he could play at the professional level and handle the wear and tear."

Danielson had always been just a hopeful before that season. He started his collegiate career at North Lake Junior College in Irving, Texas, then transferred to Kansas State for the 2004 season.

"They told me I'd be a position player," Danielson said of K-State, "but when I got there, they didn't have a position for me."

At the time, it appeared Danielson's career would not go anywhere.  But on a team that finished 26-30, including 7-23 in the Big 12 Conference, all Danielson got were 20 at-bats. Nothing to impress the scouts with.

So he turned that summer to an upstart circuit for collegians, the Texas Collegiate League.

That's where Corbett spotted him.

"We had gone a couple of years where we didn't have a lot of speed at the leadoff spot," Corbett said. "He definitely brought that added speed with his ability to run and create havoc on the bases."

And now look. He's in Double-A baseball. He did not have enough at-bats to qualify for the TL's top 10 in batting average until this past week.

"You keep working at it, and this makes you feel like you're that much closer," Danielson said. "You definitely don't want to go back to A-ball after getting a taste of this." 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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