AVON — The Crushers used the All-Star break to pull the trigger on what, by Frontier League standards, has to be considered a blockbuster trade.
The only downside is that it sends, arguably, the most popular player in the team’s brief history to the Southern Illinois Miners.
Suspended players Scott Houin and Gordie Gronkowski were packaged together to the Miners in exchange for outfielder Jereme Milons and pitcher Thomas Campbell early Wednesday, giving the Crushers a speedy, All-Star caliber outfielder for two players the team said weren’t going to play for them this season.
“It was an opportunity, obviously, to improve our club,” Crushers manager John Massarelli said. “Jereme Milons is like the Jodam Rivera of Southern Illinois. He’s been one of their best players over the last three years.
“Not having Scott Houin anymore, we needed an outfielder with a bat, and he provides that for us. Both guys provide something we need — some more depth in our pitching staff and a bat in the middle of our lineup. And we gave up two players who weren’t going to play for us this year anyway.”
The 28-year-old Milons is batting .246 with one home run, 15 RBIs and 13 stolen bases with the Miners. Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 21st round in 2001, Milons is entering his 10th season in pro ball and his third in the Frontier League.
In the past two seasons with the Miners, Milons hit a combined .283 (211-for-743) with 26 home runs, 132 RBIs and 79 stolen bases in 93 attempts.
Campbell, a 23-year-old rookie, has made 10 appearances (three starts) for the Miners this season. He is 1-2 with a 2.12 ERA, 24 strikeouts and 12 walks.
“For me, the key to the trade is (Campbell),” Massarelli said. “I really like that kid. Rookie-1 pitchers are hard to find. Rookie-1 players, if you ask any manager in the league, are the hardest classification to find pitchers in. We’ve seen him twice against us and really, really liked him.”
Gronkowski announced via his Facebook page that he will come back to baseball and report to the Miners.
“I’m taking my Talents back to the Baseball Diamond,” he wrote. “Southern Illinois here I come!! Everything happens for a reason!”
Gronkowski hit 16 home runs and had 50 RBIs in 46 games with the Gateway Grizzlies last season. In 47 games this season, the Crushers have hit 17 home runs as a team.
Massarelli knows dealing the guy known as “The Mayor of The Freight” might be unpopular in some fans eyes, but he was prepared for that.
“I don’t want to tell (the fans) to get over it, but he hasn’t played for us since ’09,” he said. “I don’t know how long it’s been since he swung a bat. I know he did well last year for Gateway, but this isn’t Gateway’s ballpark.
“He hasn’t faced competitive pitching for over a year now. To me, it’s a risk (to bring him back). Yeah, I know he’s popular, but if you win, that breeds popularity, too.”
Houin was hitting .286 with two home runs and 16 RBIs in 30 games with the Crushers before he was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.
The Crushers will have only three players active for today’s All-Star Game. Catcher Joel Collins, who was in line to start at catcher today due to injuries, was placed on the 14-day disabled list Monday with a slight fracture in his right forearm.
The Crushers also placed pitcher Jairo Cuevas on the 14-day DL, while infielder Kyle Boe was placed on the seven-day DL. Massarelli said both players’ injuries were “minor” and both should be back shortly.
Collins, however, will be out for a minimum of two weeks, and was sporting a black plastic air cast on his right arm Tuesday during the autograph session.
Zach Aakhus, who was voted in as the starting catcher, is limited to DH-duty due to an injury, which meant Collins would have started. The Frontier League is not replacing Collins, which means Washington’s Blake Ochoa is the lone active catcher on the roster.
“It means a lot to me to be here in front of our home crowd,” Collins said. “Its tough luck I won’t be able to play in the game. But from the team standpoint, I’m happy it happened now so I have four or five days to not worry about missing any important games for us.”
Starting pitchers named
River City’s Zach Sterner and Washington’s Casey Barnes will be the starting pitchers in tonight’s game.
Sterner enters the All-Star break tied for second in the Frontier League in wins with six and third with a 2.24 ERA. He’s allowed more than one earned run in only three of his 10 starts.
Meet the Crushers’ all-stars
Andrew Davis: 3B; .291 BA (51-175), 6 HRs, 36 RBIs, 25 Runs, 15 2Bs, 0 SBs, 26 BBs, 3 Es.
Joel Collins: C; .308 BA (41-133), 2 HRs, 21 RBIs, 16 Runs, 8 2Bs, 1 SB, 20 BBs, 2 Es.
Nick Mahin: 1B; .309 BA (47-152), 0 HRs, 18 RBIs, 18 Runs, 9 2Bs, 1 3B, 0 SBs, 23 BBs, 5 Es.
Kelyn Schellenberg: P; 1-0, 0.61 ERA, 1 S, 292⁄3 IP, 5 Runs, 2 ERs, 20 Hs, 13 Ks, 1 BB.
Frontier League all-star rosters
- 1B – Erik Lis, Joliet Slammers
- 2B – Mike Torres, Windy City ThunderBolts
- 3B – Andrew Davis, Lake Erie Crushers
- SS – Jake Eigsti, Rockford RiverHawks
- OF – J.T. Hall, Traverse City Beach Bums
- OF – Matt Brown, Traverse City Beach Bums
- OF – Josh Flores, Joliet Slammers
- C -Zack Aakhus, Windy City ThunderBolts
- DH – Devin Shepherd, Windy City ThunderBolts
- IF – Nick Mahin, Lake Erie Crushers
- IF – Scott Lawson, Washington Wild Things
- IF – Chris Wade, Windy City ThunderBolts
- IF – Luis Parache, Rockford RiverHawks
- OF – Bobby Leeper, Joliet Slammers
- OF – Brandon Anderson, Windy City ThunderBolts
- C – Joel Collins, Lake Erie Crushers
- C – Blake Ochoa, Washington Wild Things
- Todd Privett, Windy City ThunderBolts
- Casey Barnes, Washington Wild Things
- Justin Hall, Washington Wild Things
- Jhonny Montoya, Washington Wild Things
- Brian Banes, Traverse City Beach Bums
- Scott Mueller, Traverse City Beach Bums
- Ryan Quigley, Joliet Slammers
- Brett Durand, Rockford RiverHawks
- Greg Johnson, Windy City ThunderBolts
- Kelyn Schellenberg, Lake Erie Crushers
- Manager – Mike Kashirsky, Windy City ThunderBolts
- Assistant Coach – John Massarelli, Lake Erie Crushers
- Assistant Coach – Dave Schaub, Lake Erie Crushers
- Assistant Coach – Chris Steinborn, Lake Erie Crushers
- Assistant Coach – Cory Domel, Windy City ThunderBolts
- Assistant Coach – Jon Mrugala, Windy City ThunderBolts
- Assistant Coach – J.T. Scara, Windy City ThunderBolts
- 1B – Steve Alexander, Normal
- 2B – Will Block, Southern Illinois Miners
- 3B – Joe Spiers, Evansville Otters
- SS – Chris McClendon, River City
- OF – Cole Miles, Florence Freedom
- OF – Stephen Holdren, River City
- OF – Alvaro Ramirez, Normal
- C – Danny Sawyer, River City Rascals
- DH – Charlie Lisk, Gateway Grizzlies
- IF – Logan Parker, Gateway Grizzlies
- IF – Chris Curley, Florence Freedom
- IF – Tyler Keeble, Normal CornBelters
- IF – Nate Hall, Southern Illinois Miners
- IF – Joash Brodin, River City Rascals
- OF – Asif Shah, Normal CornBelters
- OF -Joe Agreste, Gateway Grizzlies
- C – Sean Coughlin, S. Illinois Miners
- C – Justin Holloway, Florence Freedom
- Zach Sterner, River City Rascals
- Derrick Miramontes, River City Rascals
- Kirkland Rivers, River City Rascals
- Mark Brackman, Gateway Grizzlies
- Chris Enourato, Gateway Grizzlies
- David Harden, Southern Illinois Miners
- Ryan Zink, Southern Illinois Miners
- Ryan Sheldon, Normal CornBelters
- Brandon Cunniff, River City Rascals
- Manager – Steve Brock, River City
- Asst. Coach – Mike Breyman, River City
- Assistant Coach – Dave Garcia, River City
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.