Those signs were in the form of pennants bearing the logo of the Cincinnati Reds. At the team’s annual Hot Stove Banquet, Reds farm director Tim Naehring and new Potomac manager Jayhawk Owens introduced themselves to a crowd of about 140 supporters.
“We’ve had farm directors come to this before, but the number of people here is a little more than we’ve had in the last several years,” Potomac general manager Max Baker said. “That’s probably because of the new affiliation and the new stadium — I think some of the people wanted to come here for that.”
The approved $10 million Pfitzner Stadium replacement, which will be located either next to the current ballpark or near Interstate 95 or Interstate 66 within Prince William, won’t open until the 2004 or perhaps even the 2005 season. But for this season, the team will begin its two-year agreement with the Reds instead of the St. Louis Cardinals.
In six years with the Cardinals, the Cannons didn’t win any Carolina League titles. Owens, however, won a championship at the same level — the high Class A California League — at Stockton in 2002, his first season as a manager.
“You play hard, you play aggressive for me,” Owens said in an interview prior to the dinner. “That’s the only style I accept. You better be able to look in the mirror when the game’s over.
“Development come first [in the minor leagues], but nobody wants to develop a loser.”
Owens calls himself blue-collar and old-school. Naehring said several of last year’s Stockton players likely will be with the Cannons this year, as will a core of prospects.
Three highly regarded players who have a good chance of beginning the season with the Cannons are right-handed pitcher Bobby Basham, shortstop Edwin Encarnacion and third baseman Mark Schramek.
Basham, who pitched collegiately at Richmond, went 6-4 with a 1.64 earned-run average in 13 starts at low Class A Dayton last year. “He had one great start in his opportunity with Stockton in the playoffs,” Naehring said. “He would be here or maybe even higher if he has a big spring.”
Encarnacion played 116 games at third base and just 17 at shortstop last year with Dayton (where he hit .282 with 17 home runs and 25 stolen bases), but Naehring said he has the ability to play in the middle of the infield. Schramek was a 2002 supplemental first-round pick out of Texas-San Antonio.
Naehring, who played with the Boston Red Sox from 1990-97, said 56 of the organization’s prospects will attend the club’s new Minor League Accelerated Program from Feb. 18-22 at the Reds’ spring-training site in Sarasota, Fla.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to get individual instruction and let the players sharpen their tools,” he said. “And hopefully it will drop the chance a player has of getting hurt.”
Owens’ given name is Claude Jayhawk Owens. He goes by Jayhawk, a name honoring the Cherokee background on each side of his family. Based on family research, he says he is “right at 38 percent” Cherokee. Owens was a major league catcher for 130 games for the Colorado Rockies from 1993-96. Owens’ wife, Jennifer, and two children (5-year-old son, Walker, and 3-year-old daughter, Grace) plan to join him during the summer after the school year ends in Cincinnati. Cannons Internet play-by-play voice Scott Laurer will not return next season. Baker, the team’s GM, has not chosen a replacement but expects a wide variety of applicants and said, “We’ll do something, hopefully on the radio, but if not at least on the Internet.” Baseball America’s top 10 prospects for the Reds’ organization will be released to subscribers next Monday on the magazine’s Website. The National League Central prospects will be the next issue to hit newsstands. At Sunday night’s banquet, Lydia Sumner and Jess Stewart of Osbourn High School were named the Cannons’ 2002 High School Softball and Baseball players of the year. Right-hander Josh Axelson was named the Cannons’ player of the year.