‘Hawks Talk: RiverHawks changing leagues in 2010

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The Rockford RiverHawks have been as busy off the field as they have been on it lately. In just a little more than a week, the RiverHawks have announced they will join the independent Northern League in 2010, traded for 2009 Frontier League All-Star Javier Brown, and won six of their last 10 games to stay in the hunt for one of the four playoff berths.

Monday, Aug. 3, RiverHawks Owner and Director of Baseball Operations Dave Ciarrachi announced Rockford will join the Northern League in 2010, signaling the end of their more-than-seven-year relationship with the Frontier League in the stateline area. The RiverHawks’ franchise, orginally located in Portsmouth, Ohio, was a charter member of the Frontier League when umpires shouted “play ball” for the first time back in 1993.

“This will broaden our marketing base as well as our media exposure,” Ciarrachi said. “We feel that this is a tremendous upgrade for our franchise.”

Three Chicagoland teams are competing in Northern League play—the Schaumburg Flyers, the Joliet Jackhammers and the Gary Southshore RailCats—with the Zion-based expansion team, the Lake County Fielders, scheduled to join the league with Rockford in 2010. This means there will be four teams within 100 miles of Road Ranger Stadium, which could cut down on some of the extremely long bus trips the Rockford squad faced in Frontier League play.

When discussions of a possible merger between the Northern and Frontier leagues did not pan out, Ciarrachi knew what needed to be done for his franchise.

“When that didn’t happen, we felt that we as a franchise had to make the move,” Ciarrachi said. “We hold the Frontier League in the highest regard.”

Originally founded in 1902 on the northern plains of America’s midwest, the Northern League was the first league of the modern independent-baseball era. The league plays a 96-game schedule that begins in late May and ends around Labor Day, much like the Frontier League. The Northern League has no age limit for players and allows teams to carry a larger number of experienced players when compared to Frontier League roster rules.

“We have the opportunity for players to interact with our community for a longer period of time,” Ciarrachi said. “It gives us the chance to put the best professional baseball product on the field.”

Since the rebirth of the Northern League in 1993, more than 600 of its players have been picked up by major league organizations. More than 30 players, including J.D. Drew and Kevin Millar, have reached the Major Leagues. The talent level for the Northern League is approximately that of Class AA.

“We’re going to try to upgrade our on-field product,” Ciarrachi said.

The RiverHawks will retain the rights to all players on their roster at the end of the 2009 Frontier League season, and those players who meet the requirements for Northern League play will be eligible when the season starts in 2010.

RiverHawks acquire All-Star for stretch run

Friday, Aug. 7, the RiverHawks acquired infielder Javier Brown of the Evansville Otters in exchange for two players to be named later. Brown, a 2009 Frontier League All-Star, batted .296 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 65 games with the Otters.

The acquisition of Brown will add depth to an already deep group of Rockford infielders. However, Brown could take away at-bats from Doug Sanders, Jono Brooks and Caleb Fields, depending on where Manager Bob Koopman slots the versatile Brown in the infield. Brown could fit nicely into the second spot in the order ahead of Jason James, giving Rockford an even stronger top of the order.

The RiverHawks are 5 1/2 games out of first place, and they remain three games out of the final wild-card playoff spot.

The RiverHawks came home for a six-game homestand at 7:05 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 11, against the Washington Wild Things.

from the Aug 12-18, 2009 issue

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