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Washington Wild Things

First season: 2002

Years in league: 2002-present

Ballpark: Falconi Field

The Washington Wild Things continued the move of the Frontier League into brand new ballparks in major metropolitan areas. Washington is just south of Pittsburgh on Interstate 70. In contrast to the Pirates, who have never drawn well even when winning, the Wild Things immediately became one of the Frontier League's elite franchises.

The Wild Things were born when the Canton Crocodiles moved to Washington after the 2001 season. They brought with them hitting coach and former A.L. Rookie Of the year Joe Charbonneau. Joining him was pitching coach Kent Tekulve, the Pirates' closer duing their glory days of the late 1970s. Tekulve's involvement gave the Wild Things instant credibility.

The team gained much more credibility when in their first season they won the East Division title with a Frontier League record 56 victories. Four Wild Things made the league's post-season all-star team, led by Most Valuable Pitcher Jared Howton's 11-3 record and 1.98 ERA. At the gate the team drew 132,000 fans, at the time a record for any team except River City. The Wild Things were rightly named Frontier League Organization Of the Year.

2003 was another great season for Washington fans as the Wild Things almost equaled their win total of 2003, once again making the playoffs. Josh Loggins hit .331-24-72 to win the MVP award despite being acquired by the Colorado Rockies in mid-August. Amazingly, attendance increased to 156,000. Only the success of the Gateway Grizzlies kept the Wild Things from being Organization Of the Year again.

WildThings fans enjoyed another successful season in 2004 as the team won the East Division for the second time in three years by winning a league-record 62 games. New manager John Massarelli was named FL Manager Of the Year. Again the team was rewarded at the gate as the WildThings drew over 150,000 fans to Falconi Field. The Wild Things shared the league's Organization Of the Year award for their continued excellence.

OF Jack Headley (.325-3-38, 18 steals) led the way on offense. He had help from outfield mates Mike Arbinger (.299-6-51) and L.J. Biernbaum (.278-13-58). Also contributing were 1B Bill Greenwell (.293-13-72), who had been acquired from Mid-Missouri after the 2003 season, and 2B Brian Stoecklein (.295-10-43). Headley and Stoecklein were named to the post-season All-Star team.

The starting rotation was led by Ryan Ewin (9-2, 5.38), along with Matt Powell (8-5, 4.46), Matt McDonnell (7-5, 4.46) and Eric Holt (5-3, 4.11). Late-season addition Adam Palmer was 4-1, including an August 5 no-hitter against his former Rockford teammates.

As solid as the rotation was, the real success of the 2004 Wild Things lay in the bullpen. They not only had an excellent closer in B.J. Borsa (7-1, 2.12, league-leading 19 saves), but to get to him opponents had to get past setup men Jim Popp (5-1, 1.40, six saves) and Brendon Davis (3-2, 2.76, four saves).

Incredibly, the Wild Things were even better in 2005. They were clearly the best team in the Frontier League. After a close first half the team won the division by ten games, breaking their own record with 63 victories. They also set records for runs scored, hits, walks received and saves.

The lineup was solid from top to bottom, with eight players hitting over .300, and seven in double digits in stolen bases. The outfield was so good it was scary, led by Mike Arbinger (.317-12-88). Joining him were Chris Carter (.286-12-73), Chris Sidick (.333, 15 steals) and Ryan McGraw (23 steals). The rest of the team was both versatile and deadly. Lance Koenig split time between second and third but still hit .323. Backstopper Randy McGarvey added a .306 mark, cornerman T.J. Graves hit .309 and David Reaver played third and short and hit .305. Matt Swope hit .309 as spare outfielder and DH.

The pitching staff was also excellent with a rotation of Ryan Douglass (11-3, 3.25), Brian Burks (10-4, 4.16), Brendon Davis (9-1, 4.00) and Matt Brumit (6-2, 3.06). Popp moved into the closer's role and responded by tying for the league lead with 17 saves to go with a 2.98 ERA. Assisting Popp was Steve Spragg (2.72, 12 saves).

As dominant as they were in the regular season, the Wild Things again struggled in the playoffs. Making the playoff for the fourth consecutive season, they failed to advance for the third time, losing to Chillicothe in the first round.

Speed was the word in 2006, as Washington led all of professional baseball with 58 triples. Outfielder Chris Sidick led the way with a league record 16. Four of the top five players in the league in triples played for the Wild Things. Sidick also stole 31 bases, one of five Wild Things to reach double figures in steals.

The Wild Things were the best-hitting club  in the FL, led by the outfield of Sidick (.300), Arbinger (.273-8-53) and Carter (.314-8-58). SS Brett Grandstrand hit .284 and stole 12 bases while 3B Pat Peavey had an excellent season, hitting .262 with 10 homers and a league leading 83 RBI. 1B Andy Hudak added another 10 homers. Catcher Brandon Ketron was hitting .330 when he was signed by the New York Yankees organization on August 1. That move allowed Lance Koenig (.279, 17 steals) to move behind the plate full time. He was named to the post-season all-star team, joining Sidick, Carter and Peavey.

After losing Cory Hahn (4-3, 3.37) for the season in mud-July, Massarelli switched to a now-rare four man rotation. Two lefthanders led the way as Matt Squires went 10-5, 4.31 and Tom Cochran, picked up from Ohio Valley in the dispersal draft, went 8-5, 3.38 and ranked second in strikeouts to teammate Pat Stanley (8-4, 2.72). The team pulled off a coup in August, obtaining workhorse righthander Aaron Ledbetter from River City. Ledbetter went 4-1, 2.12 down the stretch.

Popp returned for another season as the closer with a 3-0 record and 15 saves. Spragg won six games out of the bullpen and pitched enough innings to rank second in the FL with a 2.09 ERA. Lefty Corey Ohalek (3.62) and converted catcher Patrick Sadler (4-2, 2.68) were also valuable members of the Washington relief corps.

The Wild Things struggled at the start of the 2006 season, and they were a distant 8 1/2 games out of first at the All Star break. However, they went 37-14 the rest of the way to edge Chillicothe by a half game for their third consecutive division title and record fifth consecutive playoff appearance. John Massarelli was rewarded for his work with his second Manager Of the Year award in three seasons. In an anticlimactic playoff series the Wild Things were bounced by the Paints in the first round of the playoffs for the second year in a row .

The lack of playoff success not withstanding, Washington has become one of the key franchises of the Frontier League, and their success has spurred interest in adding a second Frontier League team in the Pittsburgh area in the near future.

Falconi Field in Washington, PA, home of the Washington Wild Things.

 

Year   Won   Lost   GB   Finish   Attendance   Manager   Playoffs First Round   Playoffs Second Round
                                 
2002   56   28   --   1E   132,901   Jeff Isom   Beat Kalamazoo 2-0   Lost to Richmond 3-1
2003   54   34   1.5   2E   156,276   Jeff Isom   Lost to Gateway 2-0    
2004   62   34   --   1E   154,963   John Massarelli   Lost to Evansville 3-0    
2005   63   32   --   1E   159,857   John Massarelli   Lost to Chillicothe 3-2    
2006   59   37   --   1E   152,805   John Massarelli   Lost to Chillicothe 3-1    

Major Award Winners:

2002 Jared Howton, Most Valuable Pitcher

2002 Jeff Isom, Manager Of the Year

2003 Josh Loggins, Most Valuable Player

2004 John Massarelli, Manager Of the Year

2006 John Massarelli, Manager Of the Year

Wild Things Post-Season All-Stars:

2002 C Shaun Argento; SS Brad Hensler; P Jared Howton; P Robert Garvin

2003 C Josh Loggins; DH Jay Coakley

2004 2B Brian Stoecklein, OF Jack Headley

2005 OF Mike Arbinger, P Jim Popp

2006 3B Pat Peavey, OF Chris Carter, OF Chris Sidick, C Lance Koenig

Players on FL Tenth Anniversary All-Star Team: C Shaun Argento (2002)

Franchise Player: OF Mike Arbinger (2004-06) led the Wild Things' offense to three consecutive division titles and holds most of the team's career hitting records.

Wild Things in the majors: none