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Myrtle Beach Blue Jays

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In 1987 the Florence Blue Jays moved to the campus of Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, SC and became the Myrtle Beach Blue Jays. The team had a great first season in the South Atlantic League, winning the southern division in both the first half (42-28) and second half (41-28) under manager Barry Foote. The team led the league in ERA (3.13) and was third in runs (660) but the Asheville Tourists had an even better record (91-48) and scoring differential, leaving the Blue Jays as underdogs for the league championship. Myrtle Beach won game one 3-2 at home, then lost 9-2 before going on the road for the last three games. They lost 7-6 but then won 6-5 to stay alive with 4 runs in the ninth. The finale was a 3-2 win for the Jays, who had won a title in their first season in their new home (they would also win a title in their last year, in 1992, when they were known as the Myrtle Beach Hurricanes). The team had three All-Stars - OF Mark Whiten (.253/~.370/.409, 49 SB, 90 R, voted the top prospect in the league by league managers), OF Junior Felix (.290/~.350/.436, 64 SB, selected as the #3 prospect) and P Doug Linton (14-2, 1.55, 155 K and 94 H in 122 IP, leading the league in ERA and picked as the 6th best prospect). C Francisco Cabrera (.276/~.335/.434) was selected as the 9th-best prospect, SS Eric Yelding (.305/~.339/.359) stole 73 bases and utility infielder Luis Sojo and backup catcher Randy Knorr would go on to long big-league careers. The pitching staff also included Pat Hentgen (11-5, 2.35) and Cesar Mejia (7-4, 2.73) among the ERA leaders in the league.

The 1988 edition of the team (managed by Richie Hebner) also won the first half (46-24) but slipped in the second half (37-32) and then fell in the playoffs. The team was loaded with All-Stars: OF Derek Bell, 2B William Suero, SS Sojo, RHP Jimmy Rogers and LHP Denis Boucher gave the team 5 of the 12-team league's 12 All-Stars. They also had the Manager of the Year, Hebner, and Rogers won the Most Outstanding Pitcher award. Bell (.344/~.381/.557) won the batting title and was named the top prospect. 1B Greg Vella (.290/~.344/.484) was 5th in average, Sojo (.289/~.335/.377) sixth (1st with 155 hits) and voted the 4th-best prospect and Suero (.284/~.353/.387) was 10th in average. Knorr became a starter behind the plate. Boucher (13-12, 2.84) and Xavier Hernandez (13-6, 2.55, 11th in ERA, the #7 prospect in the circuit) had fine years, while Rogers went 18-4 with a 3.35 ERA and led the league in wins and strikeouts (198); he was named the fifth-best prospect. Rob MacDonald (3-4, 15 Sv, 1.69) and Steve Wapnick (4-3, 12 Sv, 2.24) were an excellent lefty-righty combination out of the bullpen.

In 1989 Myrtle Beach fell drastically, going 59-83 for the worst record in the SAL. Mike Fischlin was the new manager. The club's 4.07 ERA was second-worst in the league as they no longer had top pitching prospects like Hengten, Linton, Rogers, MacDonald, Boucher and Hernandez. Dave Weathers (11-13, 3.86) was the workhorse of the staff that year while Tim Brown (3-12, 4.47) allowed a league-high 103 runs.

Fischlin's club did better in 1990, posting a 77-63 record, fourth in the league despite no All-Stars. The team ERA improved to third place (3.12), with Rob Blumberg (13-4, 2.16) fourth in the league, Mike Ogliaruso (14-9, 2.52) fifth (and named the #8 prospect) and Aaron Small (9-9, 2.80) 8th fifteen years before he surprised the world with his work in the majors long past his prospect days. Martin returned and went 2-4 with 16 saves and a 2.39 ERA, while Graeme Lloyd was 5-2 with 6 saves and a 2.72 ERA as a swingman. OF Nigel Wilson (.273/~.319/.475, 16 HR, 22 SB) was perhaps the club's most potent offensive force.

Sources: 1988-1991 Baseball Almanacs, 1989 Baseball Guide

[edit] Year-by-Year Record

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs Team MVP Hitting Coach Pitching Coach
1987 83-56 2nd Barry Foote League Champs Doug Linton Leroy Stanton John Poloni
1988 83-56 2nd Richie Hebner Lost in 1st round Luis Sojo Leroy Stanton
1989 59-83 12th Mike Fischlin Ray Giannelli Leroy Stanton Bill Monbouquette
1990 77-63 4th Mike Fischlin Mike Ogliaruso Leroy Stanton Steve Mingori
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