SAUGET, Ill. — Since their inception in 2001, the Gateway Grizzlies have sent 45 players to affiliated professional baseball and two former Grizzlies have reached the major leagues. Trevor Richards, a Grizzlies starting pitcher in 2015 and 2016, is in his second season in the Miami Marlins' rotation; he has appeared in 37 MLB games, easily the most of any former Grizzlie in history. Additionally, former Grizzlies pitcher Alec Kisena and outfielder Matt Hearn have taken their careers to new heights in the minor leagues.
Richards, who turned 26 on May 15, signed with the Marlins midway through the 2016 season and progressed to the majors in only a year and a half. After spending nearly all of 2018 with Miami and making 25 starts, Richards has been in The Show for the entire season thus far in 2019. While his 3-5 record is perhaps a product of a rebulding club, Richards' 3.53 ERA is second-best among Marlins starting pitchers. He's thrown 66 1/3 innings over 12 starts and struck out 63 batters against 30 walks with a 1.0 WAR, fourth-best on Miami's roster. Richards also added the third MLB hit of his career this year.
After an up-and-down start to the season, Richards has been fantastic since the calendar turned to May: Over his last six starts, he is 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA and 32 strikeouts against only 12 walks in 33 1/3 innings.
Hearn, who led the Grizzlies with a .331 batting average and set a single-season franchise record with 30 stolen bases in 2017, signed with the Colorado Rockies in 2018. In under a calendar year in the Rockiers' minor-league system, he earned two promotions. After starting with the Short Season-A Boise Hawks, Hearn hit .377 in 36 games. He moved up to the Class-A Asheville Tourists to finish 2018 and hit .271 across 31 games. Between his two 2018 stops, Hearn batted .329 with 18 steals. So far in 2019, he has appeared in 52 games for the Class A-Adv. Lancaster (Calif.) JetHawks and posted a .330 batting average (.388 on-base percentage) with 18 more stolen bases. A 2-for-5 game Sunday against Stockton extended his hitting streak to 12 games.
Prior to joining the Grizzlies, Hearn's only chance in affiliated baseball came with the Atlanta Braves in 2016. Atlanta moved on from him after only 34 games at Rookie-level Danville; that decision looks now as though it could become the Rockies' gain in addition to the Grizzlies'. Hearn is still only 23 years old after celebrating his birthday in February.
Kisena, who struck out 108 batters in 100 1/3 innings as a Grizzlies starting pitcher in 2018, signed with the New York Mets prior to this season. The 23-year-old righthander has pitched in eight games for the Class-A Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies so far and stuck out 19 hitters over 20 2/3 innings. He was previously drafted by the Detroit Tigers before spending parts of two years with the Grizzlies.
Grizzlies manager Phil Warren believes advancing players' careers is a core tenet of his duty and the organization's purpose.
"Of course, playing good baseball and winning games are priorities for us, but so too is giving talented players a chance to move up the professional ranks," Warren said. "At our best, the Gateway Grizzlies and the Frontier League are proving grounds for players who deserve a second look or might otherwise have been passed over. Trevor Richards didn't receive the attention in high school or college one might expect given that he's now a MLB pitcher, but he took advantage of an opportunity with us and it changed his career and life forever. I look forward to watching more Grizzlies players follow in his footsteps as we strive to help develop talented ball players and chase down a Frontier League championship here at Gateway."
Gateway has 36 remaining home games in 2019 at GCS Credit Union Ballpark for fans to see the newest crop of Grizzlies, who have started the season 9-12. After a week-long road trip in the Chicago area starting Tuesday, the Grizzlies will begin a six-game homestand the following Tuesday (June 12) against the River City Rascals.
ABOUT THE GATEWAY GRIZZLIES: The Gateway Grizzlies are a professional baseball team, located a mere 100-yards from I-255 (10 minutes from downtown St. Louis). The Grizzlies offer baseball fans entertainment, the likes of which are difficult to find - affordable, family, fun in the comfortable GCS Credit Union Ballpark with a great view of the St. Louis skyline. For tickets or general information please visit gatewaygrizzlies.com or call 618.337.3000.
ABOUT THE FRONTIER LEAGUE: The Frontier League is a professional, independent baseball organization. Since its inception, the Frontier League has provided millions of fans to a fun and exciting baseball experience within the American Midwest. Consisting of 10 teams in two divisions and 96 game schedules, the league is recognized for the amount of talented athletes that are picked up by various MLB teams every year.