The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, April 29, 2020 1:00 am

Fort Wayne Sports History

Wizards' lanky hurler was 1st to reach big leagues

BLAKE SEBRING | For The Journal Gazette

On this date in 1995, LaTroy Hawkins becomes the first former Fort Wayne Wizard to make it to the major leagues. He started a virtual convoy from Fort Wayne to The Show.

Hawkins was the Wizards' Pitcher of the Year during their first season in 1993, posting a 15-5 record, leading the Midwest League in strikeouts and with a 2.06 earned-run average. He also won 12 straight games.

Hawkins was followed to the Minnesota Twins by former Wizards Scott Watkins, Matt Lawson, Dan Naulty, Dan Serafini, Travis Miller, Shane Bowers, Torii Hunter and Javie Valentine. Other famous former Wizards to make it to the big leagues with the Twins include Corey Koskie, A.J. Pierzynski, Matt LeCroy, Jaun Rincon and Michael Cuddyer.

The 1993 team, the first Wizards team, featured nine players who eventually made it to the major leagues, and the 1994 squad had seven such players.

Among the more famous future San Diego Padres who have come through Fort Wayne are Sean Burroughs, Jake Peavy, Josh Barfield, Matt Latos, Corey Kluber, Nick Hundley and Will Venable.

More recently, players such as 2011 World Series hero David Freese, Mallex Smith, Fernando Tatis, Jr., Trea Turner, Oliver Perez and Franmil Reyes have advanced to the big leagues from the TinCaps.

Among their career Major League Baseball highlights, Hawkins played 21 years and appeared in more than 1,000 games; Lawson was a two-time all-star; Hunter was a five-time all-star and nine-time Gold Glove Award winner; Peavy won the National League Cy Young Award in 2007, was a three-time all-star and won two World Series titles; Kluber won two Cy Young Awards; Freese was the Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series and World Series in 2011; Pierzynski was a two-time All-Star and a World Series champion; Turner led the majors in stolen bases in 2018 and won a World Series ring last season with Washington; a two-time all-star, Cuddyer won a batting title in 2013; and Smith led the majors in stolen bases in 2019.

Led by players such as Turner, Smith and Tatis, those honors are sure to keep building in the next 10 seasons.

Then there's Norwell product Josh VanMeter, who realized his major league dream after a two-year stint with the TinCaps. The infielder played 95 games with the Cincinnati Reds in 2019, hitting .237 with eight home runs and 23 RBI.

According to local baseball historian Chad Gramling and the TinCaps, there have been more than 188 players who played their Class A ball in Fort Wayne who have made it to the major leagues.

About This Series

Ever wonder what a Northeast Indiana Sports Hall of Fame might include? During a time when it may be difficult to look ahead to great sporting events, The Journal Gazette is going to offer you a look into Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana's fantastic athletic past. Over the next few weeks, we'll offer some suggestions on the people and events which could be featured in such a facility.

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