As the Manager of Sports News for Learfield News and Ag, I had the privilege to report on sports for two of our company’s networks. Before turning over the reigns to Todd Kimm this spring, one was right here at Nebraska Radio Network and the other in Missouri.
That position provided me a rare opportunity to not only follow the 2014 American League Champion and 2015 World Series Champion Kansas City Royals, but I also followed many of those players as they made their way up the system, which included successful stops at Triple-A affiliate Omaha.
Starting with the 2011 season, Omaha’s Triple-A club changed their name from Royals to Storm Chasers. That first year, under the direction of their longtime manager Mike Jirschele, Omaha finished in first place for the first time in 21 years.
The Storm Chasers went 79-63 and won the American Conference playoff series by beating the Round Rock Express 3-1. Omaha then beat Sacramento 3-0 for their first Pacific Coast League Championship since 1990.
Several members from that Storm Chasers’ championship club were on the Royals championships roster this year. They included: Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Paulo Orlando, Salvador Perez, Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland.
Hosmer made his major league debut that year after playing in 28 games for Omaha. The overall 3rd pick in the 2008 draft hit .437 in his short time with the Storm Chasers. The same can be said for 21-year old catcher Salvador Perez. The World Series MVP debuted with the Royals on August 11th of 2011. However, Omaha was a short stay for the kid behind the plate who started the year at Double-A ball before moving on after just 12 games in Omaha. Perez also spent just 12-games in Omaha in 2012.
In fact, of all the World Series champs who spent time in Omaha, Dyson was the only player to not see time with the big league club in 2011.
During the 2012 season Christian Colon, the 4th overall pick in the 2010 draft, made his debut with Omaha. New York starter Matt Harvey was selected three players later, 7th overall. Colon, who was left off the 2014 World Series roster with a finger injury, showed no rust at the plate in the 12th inning of their World Series clincher. His single scored Dyson, putting the Royals on top 3-2. They eventually won Game 5, 7-2.
Colon’s major league postseason batting numbers in three at-bats: 2-for-2 with a walk, two runs scored, an RBI and stolen base 1.000 avg
After Colon’s single, Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz came up to Colon and gave him a fist bump to the chest yelling “Gimme some…atta boy…Hell yeah!!!”
(VIDEO/Fox Sports, MLB)
In 2013, it was the arrival of Yordano Ventura, who started at Double-A Northwest Arkansas before being called up to Omaha where he made 14 starts.
I also can’t forget former Husker and Lincoln native Alex Gordon, who spent part of 2010 in Omaha learning how to play left field. The former third baseman gave way to Mike Moustakas and saved his career by turning into a Gold Glove major league left fielder.
The Storm Chasers also continued their run in 2014 after manager Mike Jirschele was called up to coach third base for the Royals. In those four seasons from 2011-2014, the Omaha Storm Chasers went 308-265 and won three PCL Championships and two Triple-A National Championships.