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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

“A” Level

Continuing with a historical review of the Phillies Minor League teams. Today I look at the Phillies history at the “A” level affiliation with a primary focus on the present club - the Lakewood Blue Claws and the South Atlantic League.

As previously noted in 1963 minor league classifications were adjusted to create the outline of the present structure with AAA, AA and A levels being the framework. In 1966 a further distinction was made to separate “Short Season” leagues from A. Another refinement took place in 1990 when the Advanced A classification was added - the California League, Florida State League and Carolina League were moved to the Advanced A distinction.

Today the South Atlantic League (SAL ) and the Midwest League are the only two full season leagues classified as A level, sometimes referred to as “Low A”. The current SAL evolved from the Western Carolinas League having been renamed in 1980 ... it’s known also as the Sally League.

There were several South Atlantic Leagues dating all the way back to 1903. The initial one ran until 1917 as a class C league, it started again from 1919 to 1930, moving up to class B beginning in 1921.

It was restarted once more as a class B league from 1936 to 1942 but shut down during WWII and returned in 1946 as a class A league. It was promoted to the AA level in 1963 ... one year later the name was changed to the Southern League. The South Atlantic League name went unused for 16 years, but in 1980 the name was brought back when the Western Carolinas league changed it’s identification.


Phillies A level clubs in other leagues ( not including Florida State League which I’ll write about separately ) :

Prior to the 1963 re design the Phillies had multiple “A level” teams ... the initial club was the Hazelton Mountaineers operating out of Hazelton, PA from 1934 to 1936 in the New York Penn League. The Utica Braves/Blue Sox ( Utica, NY ) was the A level affiliate from 1943 to 1950 in the Eastern League. The Schenectady Blue Jays ( Schenectady, NY ) became the primary A level team from 1951 to 1957 also playing in the Eastern League. There were one year affiliations with A level franchises in Tri City, Spokane and Salem from 1952 to 1954 as well.

The Williamsport Grays ( Williamsport, PA ) took over as the primary Phillies A level team from 1958 to 1962 in the Eastern League.

The Portsmouth Tides were an A level affiliate from 1966 to 1968 in the Carolina League. From 1969 to 1985 the Phillies also fielded Carolina league affiliations in Raleigh Durham ( 1969), Rocky Mount ( 1973-1975) and Peninsula ( 1970-1971, 1976-1985).


Phillies teams in the South Atlantic League

Asheville Tourists - 1959 & 1960

In 1963 the Spartanburg Phillies ( Spartanburg, SC ) were born as an A level member of the Western Carolinas League, then switching to the South Atlantic League concurrent with the 1980 name change. The Spartanburg franchise also changed it’s name to the Traders for the 1980 season, the Spinners in ‘83 and the Suns in 1984 before reverting back to the Phillies name in 1986.

In 1995 Spartanburg’s team moved to Kannapolis, NC and became the Piedmont Phillies ... later named Boll Weevils and served as the affiliate in the South Atlantic League from 1995 to 2000.

In 2001 the Lakewood Blue Claws franchise was born, it’s been the Phillies SAL A level affiliate ever since.


Players and Managers :

I’ll detail the Phillies Carolina League teams and the Spartanburg/Piedmont franchise history of players and managers in a separate posting ... today’s player/manager focus is on the Lakewood franchise.

2001 - Present - Lakewood Blue Claws

2006, 2009, 2010 SAL Champions, 2016, 2018 SAL Championship Finalist

Managers - Gregg Legg ( ‘01, ‘14 ), Jeff Manto ( ‘02 ), Buddy Biancalana ( ‘03 ), PJ Forbes ( ‘04 - ‘05 ), Dave Huppert ( ‘06 ), Steve Roadcap ( ‘07 - ‘08 ), Dusty Wathan ( ‘09 ), Mark Parent ( ‘10 ), Chris Truby ( ‘11 ), Mickey Morandini ( ‘12-‘13 ), Shawn Williams ( ‘15 - ‘16 ), Marty Malloy ( ‘17 - ‘18 ), Mike Micucci ( ‘19) .... Chris Adamson slated for 2020

Players who made it the the Major Leagues :

2001 Team - C Carlos Ruiz, Pitchers : Eude Brito, Taylor Buchholz, Wayne Gomes, Yoel Hernandez and Robinson Tejeda

2002 Team - 1B Ryan Howard, Pitchers : Eude Brito, Ezequiel Astacio, Gavin Floyd and Bobby Korecky

2003 Team - OF Chris Roberson, Pitchers : Cole Hamels, Zack Segovia, Alfredo Simon and Robinson Tejeda

2004 Team - OF Michael Bourn, 1B Randy Ruiz, Pitchers : Kyle Kendrick and Scott Mathieson

2005 Team - OF Greg Golson, IF Brad Harman, C Jason Jaramillo, Pitchers : Joe Bisenius, Carlos Carrasco, JA Happ, Kyle Kendrick

2006 Team - OF Greg Golson, C Lou Marson, Pitchers : Carlos Carrasco, Matt Maloney, Josh Outman, Mike Zagurski

The ‘06 club went 84-55 and won the league title defeating the Augusta Green Jackets in the championship series

2007 Team - OF Quintin Berry, IF Adrias Cardenas, IF Jason Donald, C Tuffy Gosewisch, Pitchers : Antonio Bastardo, Kyle Drabek, Sergio Escalona, Carlos Monasterios, Brian Schlitter and RJ Swindle

2008 Team - OF Domonic Brown, C Travis d’Arnaud, SS Freddy Galvis, OF Steve Susdorf, OF Michael Taylor, Pitchers : Tyson Brummett, Jake Diekman, Adam Eaton, Sergio Escalona, Michael Stutes and Vance Worley

2009 Team - C Travis d’Arnaud, OF Anthony Gose, OF Steve Susdorf, Pitchers : Tyler Cloyd, Justin DeFratus, Jake Diekman, Trevor May, BJ Rosenberg

The ‘09 club went 78-58 and won the league title defeating the Greenville Drive in the championship series

2010 Team - 1B Darin Ruf, OF Domingo Santana, 1B Jon Singleton, IF Jonathan Villar, Pitchers : Jared Cosart, Jake Diekman, Trevor May, Jonathan Pettibone and Josh Zeid

The ‘10 club went 84-55 and won the league title defeating the Greenville Drive in the championship series for a second year in a row

2011 Team - OF Aaron Altherr, 3B Maikel Franco, C Cameron Rupp, OF Domingo Santana, Pitchers : Jesse Biddle, Lisalverto Bonilla, David Buchanan, Lendy Castillo, Mario Hollands and Hector Neris

2012 Team - OF Aaron Altherr, 3B Maikel Franco, 1B Brock Stassi, Pitchers : Ken Giles, Mario Hollands, Hoby Milner and Colton Murray

2013 Team - SS JP Crawford, OF Roman Quinn, OF Carlos Tocci, 3B Mitch Walding, Pitcher Mark Leiter Jr

2014 Team - C Willians Astudillo, OF Dylan Cozens, SS JP Crawford, 3B Zach Green, C Deivy Grullon, C Andrew Knapp, OF Carlos Tocci, 3B Mitch Walding, Pitchers : Drew Anderson, Mark Leiter Jr, Yacksel Rios and Jessen Therrien

2015 Team - C Deivy Grullon, 1B Rhys Hoskins, 2B Scott Kingery, OF Carlos Tocci, Pitchers : Austin Davis, Ricardo Pinto, Josh Taylor, Jessen Therrien

2016 Team - C Deivy Grullon, Pitchers : Drew Anderson, Austin Davis, Seranthony Dominguez, Edgar Garcia and Jacob Waguespack

The ‘16 club went 74-65 and were finalists for the league title succumbing to the Rome Braves in the championship series

2017 Team - OF Adam Haseley, Pitcher Ranger Suarez

The ‘2018 club went 87-51 and were finalists for the league title succumbing to the Lexington Legends in the championship series ... Spencer Howard tossed a no hitter in the playoff series against the Kannapolis Intimidators.

Till tomorrow ... Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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