Looking back with Legends-turned-Astros

May 3, 2011

What better way to spend a rainy day in Cincinnati than to catch up with some of the former Lexington Legends who now dot the Houston Astros roster?

In addition to highlights provided in a Herald-Leader/kentucky.com article, here’s what some of the fellas had to say.

Chris Johnson

“How many guys do we have up here — three or four guys?” third baseman Chris Johnson said. Told that the number was seven, he continued: “Wow! That’s great. That’s actually a testament to the Astros for drafting guys and getting them through the system. They’re really trying to develop us. And it’s a credit to all the coaches that we played with coming up through the system. They’ve really transformed us into being pretty good ballplayers.”

Fernando Abad
Brian Bogusevic
Bud Norris

In addition to Johnson, the Astros include former Legends Fernando Abad, Brian Bogusevic, Bud Norris, Hunter Pence, Wandy Rodriguez and J.R. Towles.

Johnson says he loves playing in Houston’s Minute Maid Park, but there’s also something about Chicago.


“That’s probably one of my favorite stops,” he said. “Just because as a kid I’ve always grown up dreaming about playing in Wrigley Field. All the history there, being so old. I haven’t been to Fenway (in Boston). … As a kid, those are two places I really wanted to go. So, one down.”

(Believe it or not, Johnson’s father Ron is first-base coach for the Red Sox.)

Towles, a catcher, on being hampered for two weeks-plus by a left ankle sprain — “I want to keep playing, so it’s going to be nagging around, staying around longer than if I would just stay off of it. But it’s one of those things that I can’t stay off of it, so it’s going to hang around. But it’s doing a lot better, and as long as it doesn’t get worse (will be OK).”

Norris on his days with Lexington pitching coach Charley Taylor — “I’m glad to see he’s healthy (after battling cancer). Charley was very encouraging. That was the thing. He always patted you on the back whether you did good or bad or in between, and it was kind of nice to have that at that level.”

Rodriguez (a.k.a. Eny Cabreja) on his time in the Bluegrass — “Nice place. And I had a good season when I was there, too. Won 11 games. I love Lexington.”

As Legends have it, baseball season beckons

February 4, 2009
Fernando Nieve

Fernando Nieve

Hard to tell in snowy Central Kentucky, but baseball season soon will be here. (Not soon enough, though!)

The Houston Astros, parent club of the Lexington Legends, open spring training at Kissimmee, Fla., on Feb. 14, when pitchers and catchers are due to report. Position players report for the first full-squad workout on Feb. 17.

Eleven Astros are on provisional rosters for the World Baseball Classic, including former Legends pitchers Wandy Rodriguez (Dominican Republic) and Fernando Nieve (Venezuela). Rodriguez, known as Eny Cabreja during his time in Lexington, recently signed a one-year deal worth $2.6 million, plus incentives.

Spring training invitees include past Legends Sergio Perez, Chris Johnson, Lou Santangelo and Bud Norris.

Watch out for camels

Meanwhile, the Legends annual radio caravan will visit Cynthiana, Somerset, Richmond, Danville and Lexington, Tuesday through Thursday, Feb. 10-12.

Atlanta Braves outfielder Josh Anderson, a former Legend and Eastern Kentucky University standout, will join the Caravan for its visit to Somerset. Anderson is a native of nearby Eubank.

Another former EKU Colonel, Legends pitching coach Charley Taylor, will be along for Caravan stops at Somerset and Richmond.

Doug Flynn's 1978 Topps card


The final stop, at Applebee’s Park, will feature Lexington’s Michael Bertram, Doug Flynn, Ben Revere and John Shelby.

Bertram, a third baseman, hit .285 with eight homers, 55 RBI and 51 runs over 102 games last year with the Detroit Tigers’ Class A Lakeland, Fla., team. Bertram has risen through the minors with Ryan Strieby, a teammate on Kentucky’s 2006 Southeastern Conference co-championship team.

Flynn won World Series titles with Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” in 1975 and ’76. He also won a Gold Glove in 1980 as second baseman for the New York Mets.

Minnesota Twins prospect Revere earned MVP honors in the Midwest League last season, leading all of minor-league ball with a .379 average for the Class A Beloit Snappers. He also had a homer, 43 RBI, 51 runs and 44 stolen bases (57 attempts) over 83 games. He had nearly as many walks (27) as strikeouts (31).

Shelby, a Chicago White Sox prospect, was a teammate of Bertram on UK’s SEC co-championship team. He hit .295 with 15 homers, 80 RBI and 81 runs over 114 games for High-A Winston-Salem last season. In addition, he stole 33 bases in 38 attempts. His father, a former big-league outfielder of the same name, is first-base coach for the Baltimore Orioles.

The Legends note that other guests may be added, and that the schedule of guests is subject to change.

The schduled stops:

Tuesday, Feb. 10 – Live broadcast (8-9 a.m.) of Coffee Break with Rick Chasteen on WCYN-AM 1400, Biancke’s Restaurant, 102 South Main, Cynthiana. Harrison County High School coach Mac Whitaker will be a special guest.

Wednesday, Feb. 11 – Backyard Burgers (3-4 p.m.), Highway 27, Somerset; and

Powell Building (5:15-6:15 p.m.), Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond.

Thursday, Feb. 12 — Danville (details incomplete); and

Maker’s Mark Club (5:30-6:30 p.m.), Applebee’s Park, Lexington.

Talking Legends baseball

Keith Elkins hosts a weekly radio show, Legends Inside Scoop, on WLXG-AM 1300, Tuesdays from 7:20-8 p.m.

Recent guests include Manager Tom Lawless, pitching coach Charley Taylor and Astros “Scout of the Year” Nick Venuto.

* The Legends will host their annual national anthem tryouts Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 14-15, at Lexington’s Fayette Mall.

The auditons will take place in the mall wing nearest Dick’s Sporting Goods, noon-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday.

For details, or to reserve an audition time, call the Legends at   (859) 252-4487  . Walk-up entrants also are welcome.

* You say you’ll save the fans from your vocals, but you’d still like to be at the park?

Well, senior slugger, the Legends have a pitch to make to you about the Silver Sluggers Club.

SSC membership, for fans 55 and over, costs $30. That will get you “a special package of gifts,” as well as Sunday tickets for half price, meal vouchers for Sunday games and “exclusive sale opportunities at the Legends Locker merchandise store.” Those registering before April 1 will receive a free box seat to the April 13 home opener.

Club members who attend six Sunday home games will receive a dinner for two in the Maker’s Mark Club. Those who attend all 10 Sunday home games will receive an autographed set of team cards. More details are available from the Legends:   (859) 252-4487  .

Talking baseball: Legends, Wildcats and Reds

January 21, 2009
Six of Baseball America’s “Top 10 Prospects” in the Houston Astros organization are former Lexington Legends.

The top 10 in order (Legends underlined): Jason Castro, C; Bud Norris, RHP; Ross Seaton, RHP; Brian Bogusevic, OF; Chris Johnson, 3B; Jordan Lyles, RHP; Felipe Paulino, RHP; Drew Sutton, SS/2B; Collin DeLome, OF; Jay Austin, OF. Castro, Norris and Johnson have invitations to major-league spring training with the Astros. Castro is Houston’s top draft pick of 2008, out of Miami (Fla.).

Baseball America’s “Best Tools” designees in the Astros system include: Bogusevic (a converted pitcher), best hitter for average; Johnson, best power hitter and best infield arm; Sutton, best strike-zone discipline; and Norris, best fastball. Other ex-Legends on the Best Tools list are Sammy Gervacio, best slider; Polin Trinidad, best control; Tommy Manzella, best defensive infielder; and Josh Flores, best defensive outfielder.

* More ex-files – Houston signed RHP Paul Estrada; reclaimed 2B Jonny Ash from Milwaukee in the 3A Rule 5 draft; and sent OF Jordan Parraz to Kansas City as the “player to be named” in a deal that sent LHP Tyler Lumsden to the Astros.

* The Brewers signed former Clark County High School RHP Matt Ginter.

Cats not included in Baseball America pre-season Top 25

Kentucky cracked pre-season polls released by Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (23) and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper (19), but not with Baseball America. Louisville checked in at No. 23 in the BBA rankings. Texas A&M is No. 1, followed by LSU, the first of five Southeastern Conference teams listed. The other four: Mississippi (6), Georgia (14), Alabama (21) and Arkansas (22).

The Reds are coming! The Reds are coming!

A reminder that the Cincinnati Reds Winter Caravan is scheduled to stop at Fayette Mall in Lexington on Saturday, 6-8:30 p.m.

Scheduled to make the trip are Gold Glove second baseman Brandon Phillips, No. 1 draft pick Devin Mesoraco and Reds Hall of Famer Lee May. Fans also will have the chance to meet Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman, TV analyst Chris Welsh, Chief Executive Officer Bob Castellini and Assistant General Manager Bob Miller, as well as team mascot Gapper.

Lexington is part of the Caravan’s “Southern Tour” stops. Simultaneous “Northern” and “Western” tours will feature others in the Reds family.

All the stops are free to the public, and two tickets to opening day (April 6 vs. New York Mets) will be raffled at each stop.

The full Southern Tour:

Thursday, Jan. 22 — 3:15-4:45 p.m., Charleston (W.Va.) Towne Center; 6:30-8:30 p.m., Huntington (W.Va.)/Ashland, Ky., Fannin Motors.

Friday, Jan. 23 — 7-8:30 p.m., Bowling Green, Ky., Greenwood Mall.

Saturday, Jan. 24 — 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Nashville, RiverGate Mall; 6-8:30 p.m., Lexington, Fayette Mall.

Sunday, Jan. 25 — 12:15-1:45 p.m., Maysville (Ky.) Conference Center.

The Northern Tour will stop at Vienna, W.Va.; Athens, Ohio; Lima, Ohio; and Columbus, Ohio. General Manager Walt Jocketty, broadcaster Thom Brennaman, Chief Operating Officer Phil Castellini, Reds Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Browning, Reds Minor League Player of the Year Chris Valaika, infielder Jeff Keppinger, pitcher Mike Lincoln, coach Billy Hatcher and mascot Mr. Redlegs will take part in all or parts of the Northern Tour.

The Western Tour includes one Kentucky site, Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Louisville Bats (Jan. 22, 4:30-7 p.m.). Also on the circuit are Indiana stops in Evansville, Bloomington, Indianapolis and Muncie, as well as the final leg at Dayton, Ohio. Western  participants include Manager Dusty Baker, broadcasters George Grande and Jeff Brantley, outfielder Chris Dickerson, utility player Jerry Hairston Jr., 2008 top draft pick Yonder Alonso and mascot Rosie Red. 

In addition to Lexington, CEO Bob Castellini will visit Louisville and Columbus.

More details are available online at: www.reds.com/caravan.