Spring is in the air, and the baseball season is right around the corner.
The major-league season kicks into high gear on Monday, and to get you caught up and ready we provide this list of players with ties to Hampton Roads who will start the year in the majors.
Colorado Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer (Chesapeake) – Last year, at age 34, all he did was lead the National League in batting average (.331), play in the All-Star Game and make the semifinals of the Home Run Derby. If he hits 23 home runs this season, he will reach 200 for his career. Considered to be one of the nicest guys in the majors, and as a bonus, his hobby is magic and sleight of hand.
Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Mark Reynolds (Virginia Beach) – The team announced this week that Reynolds would at least share the starting first base job. Reynolds has prodigious power (he once hit 44 home runs in a season) but also strikes out at a historic level. Six times in history, a batter has struck out 200 times in a season; half of those seasons belong to Reynolds.
Atlanta Braves outfielder B.J. Upton (Chesapeake) – Looking to rebound after batting .184 in the first season of a lucrative five-year contract. He's got some power and a lot of speed, and he is almost certain to improve on last year's production. Turns 30 in August. He was the second player taken overall in the 2002 draft, which gave him family bragging rights, but only for a couple of years.
Atlanta Braves outfielder Justin Upton (Chesapeake) – B.J.'s younger brother, who was the first player taken overall in the 2005 draft. Last year was their first season as teammates in a decade. Justin batted .263 with 27 home runs. The Braves would love to see B.J. on base and Justin driving him in on a regular basis.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander (Old Dominion University) – Still one of the best pitchers in the American League at age 31. He's won Rookie of the Year (2006), Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player (both in 2011). He was a little bit off his game last year, but still won 13 games and struck out a batter per inning. Romantically linked to supermodel Kate Upton (no relation to the brothers Upton of the Braves).
New York Mets third baseman David Wright (Chesapeake) – He is the face of the Mets' organization and is close to becoming the best position player in that franchise's history (if he isn't there already). He is the franchise's career leader in hits, runs and RBIs, and before long he will hold every significant hitting record in Mets' history. The team seems to like him – he is under contract through the year 2020.
Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (Virginia Beach) – He has 179 career home runs. If he stays healthy, he will become the first player to hit 200 home runs in a Nationals uniform. No one else has even come close to hitting 100. Still in his 20s, but a veteran leader on a team loaded with young stars such as Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.
Several other players with local ties are expected to start the season in the minors but have a good chance of seeing major-league time at some point this season, including: Chris Rahl of William and Mary, an outfielder in the Minnesota Twins organization; Will Rhymes of William and Mary, an infielder in the Washington Nationals organization; Williamsburg native Mark Montgomery, a pitcher in the New York Yankees organization; Virginia Beach native Neil Ramirez, a pitcher in the Chicago Cubs organization; Chesapeake native Eddie Butler, a pitcher in the Colorado Rockies organization; and Old Dominion's Daniel Hudson, a pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization.
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