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Full Count

  • Parkview Field rated top park in minors
    At least according to one publication, Parkview Field, the home of the TinCaps, is the best of 160 ballparks in the minor leagues.
  • South Bend changes name to Cubs
    The TinCaps' Midwest League rivals up the road in South Bend are no longer called the Silver Hawks.
  • TinCaps staffer honored
    TinCaps director of promotions and community relations Abby Naas was named the Midwest League's Female Executive of the Year.

Eleven alums returning as Tucson Padres

Brach, Darnell, Blanks headline roster

Former TinCaps right-hander Brad Brach and infielder James Darnell, who helped Fort Wayne to a 2009 Midwest League title, were recently added to the Tucson roster. RHP Josh Geer (currently on DL)

Fort Wayne 2005-06

The Padres drafted Geer in the third round of the 2005 draft out of Rice University. After debuting

with Short-A Eugene, Geer finished the season in Fort Wayne and spent half of 2006 in the Summit

City. A year later, he went 16-6 to earn Pitcher of the Year honors in the Double-A Texas League.

Geer made his big-league debut on August 30, 2008.

RHP Greg Burke

Fort Wayne 2006

Burke went undrafted out of Duke University and pitched in the independent Atlantic League before signing with the Padres. He went 6-5 with a 3.58ERA with the Wizards, working his way into the starting rotation. Burke went back to the bullpen in 2007 and made it to San Diego in May 2009.

LHP Wade LeBlanc

Fort Wayne 2006

LeBlanc was a top prospect, drafted by San Diego in the second round in 2006 out of the University of Alabama. He finished his first pro season as a Wizard, going 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA. Almost exactly two years after his last appearance in Fort Wayne, LeBlanc debuted with the San Diego Padres.

"I can’t wait. Before the season started I was hoping to be with Tucson for this trip," Brach said in a statement. "A lot of the guys are excited to see . It’s a great atmosphere."

Here are the players expected to make the trip to Fort Wayne, according to a release by the TinCaps:

INF/OF Kyle Blanks

Fort Wayne 2006

OF Cedric Hunter

Fort Wayne 2007

RHP Jeremy Hefner

Fort Wayne 2008

The big man spent his first full professional season in Fort Wayne, slugging 10 home runs in 86 games before foot problems put an early end to his season. Blanks made his MLB debut in 2009 and shortly thereafter showed his deceptive speed by legging out an inside-the-park home run.

Last year he underwent reconstructive elbow surgery and is currently working his way back from the procedure.

Hunter was the Wizards’ offensive spark plug in 2007, batting .282. Since then he has climbed to the top of the chain, opening this season on San Diego’s major-league roster.

Hefner anchored Fort Wayne’s starting rotation in 2008, going 10-5 with a 3.33 ERA and averaging more than a strikeout per inning. Last year at Double-A San Antonio he went 11-8 with a 2.95 ERA to warrant a Triple-A assignment in 2011.

INF Matt Clark

Fort Wayne 2009

RHP Brad Brach

Fort Wayne 2009

It would be a stretch to say anyone expected this much out of a 42nd

-round selection. Brach came out of little-known Monmouth University to lead the MWL in saves in 2009 with 33. He delivered the final pitch of the TinCaps’ run to the league title that season, then kept rolling last year at Advanced-A Lake Elsinore, converting 41 of 44 save chances to garner Padres Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors. Brach opened this year at Double-A, saved 25 games and had 64 strikeouts in 44 innings. He was promoted to Tucson on July 4.

INF James Darnell

Fort Wayne 2009-10

In 2009, Darnell smacked the first home run in Parkview Field history and made the jump to Lake Elsinore at mid-season on his way to winning the Padres’ Minor League Player of the Year award.

Last year a hand injury hampered his production, but Darnell rebounded this year to hammer 17 homers and post a .434 on-base percentage at San Antonio. He was promoted to Tucson on July 4.

Clark was the TinCaps’ Opening Day DH in 2009 and slugged 11 home runs before a mid-season promotion to Advanced-A Lake Elsinore. He kept his power stroke going last year at Double-A San Antonio, hitting 28 round-trippers.

LHP Pedro Hernandez

Fort Wayne 2010

Hernandez split time between the TinCaps’ bullpen and starting rotation last year, going 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA. He broke Spring Training with Lake Elsinore and was effective enough there (5-0, 2.70 ERA) to jump straight to Triple-A when an arm was needed in late June.

 C Rocky Gale

Fort Wayne 2011

A defensive whiz drafted last year out of the University of Portland (Ore.), Gale was on the TinCaps’ opening day roster this year and spent about a month on the team. When C Luis

Martinez was promoted to the major leagues on Friday, Gale got the call from Advanced-A Lake Elsinore.

Pitching Coach Steve Webber

Fort Wayne 2004-05

Webber’s pitching staffs finished in the top five in the MWL in ERA both seasons he was with the Wizards.

RHP Dirk Hayhurst

went 9-4 with a 2.66 ERA under Webber’s tutelage in 2004 and debuted with San Diego in 2008; he received praise for his book, The Bullpen Gospels, which was released in 2010 and chronicles Hayhurst’s journey through the minor leagues.

In 2005, Webber saw RHP Mike Ekstrom go 13-6 for Fort Wayne; Ekstrom has since climbed the ladder to the major leagues.

Look for more on the series this week in The Journal Gazette.