Otters receive Frontier League awards; Long named MVP
SAUGET, Ill. - The Frontier League announced its end-of-season awards for the 2019 season Thursday afternoon and the Evansville Otters came away with multiple awards, including Ryan Long who was named the league’s MVP.
Third baseman Ryan Long was named the league’s Most Valuable Player and postseason all-star at third base, while relief pitcher Taylor Wright was named the league’s Rookie of the Year.
Tyler Beardsley received the league’s Citizenship Award, pitching coach Max Peterson was named the Coach of the Year, and the Evansville Otters were also voted the league’s Organization of the Year.
Voters in the league-wide process included broadcasters, general managers, field managers, coaches and local media.
Long is the first Otters player to receive the Morgan Burkhart MVP Award since former infielder Josh Allen won the MVP Award in 2016, preceding the Otters’ championship run. Long is also the third Otters’ player in the last six seasons to win MVP as Shayne Houck also won the award in 2014.
“Long is invaluable to this team and is, no doubt in my mind, the MVP,” Otters manager Andy McCauley said.
“He’s always been a great hitter, but I think he’s learned how to read situations, anticipate pitches, and prepare his body to play every day.”
“It’s a great feeling to see all the hard work and preparation that goes into a season paying off,” Long said.
This season, Long is hitting .292 with a .905 OPS. With four games remaining on the Otters’ schedule, Long has a league-leading 77 RBIs, a team-best 14 home runs, and is top five in the league in batting average. The Otters third baseman also is fourth in the league with 25 doubles, tied for third with four triples, second best slugging percentage at .515, and fifth best on-base percentage at .390.
“There is so much failure in the game, but I have learned to have a short memory and just play the game, making adjustments one pitch at a time,” Long said. “Doing that has allowed my game to grow.”
“This season in particular, I’ve gotten better at making adjustments, being more consistent, and executing my plan at the plate.”
“Our best teams have included players who have been with us several years, and Ryan's statistics from year-to-year have been amazingly consistent,” Otters owner Bill Bussing said. “We know we can count on him, both on the field and in the clubhouse."
“Long has also really worked hard at becoming a very good defender at third base. He has matured as a hitter and taking his walks as well,” McCauley said.
“I’m very appreciative for the votes I received across the league and honored to receive such a special recognition,” Long said.
Long was selected to his second All-Star Game this season and was named a 2019 Postseason All-Star at third base.
Otters closer Taylor Wright was given the Jason Simontacchi Rookie of the Year Award. He is the second relief pitcher in three years for the Otters to win the honor as Kyano Cummings won in 2017.
“After being out of baseball for four years since his collegiate career at Brown, Wright made a commitment to his baseball career in the offseason,” McCauley said. “He trained, worked hard, and improved his mechanics.”
“He attended an open tryout and got a chance because he showed his commitment and showed he can compete.”
“It’s such an honor to be recognized by the rest of the league, especially with so many good players on all the teams,” Wright said.
Wright has a 0.75 ERA through 37 appearances and in 47.2 innings pitched. He has tallied 56 strikeouts and 17 saves in his rookie season.
"Finding talented, new players like Taylor is what keeps our organization healthy, and Andy has developed such a strong network of contacts that we've been fortunate to replace good players with players of comparable ability,” Bussing said. “Taylor stepped into the closer's role with no professional experience and has performed flawlessly."
“On the mound, he has confidence in his stuff and we have plenty of confidence in him,” McCauley said. “He pounds the strike zone and gets ahead of batters.”
“Wright has worked hard to get to this point, fundamentally on his own, which is a testament to him. He has opened a lot of eyes in the Frontier League and elsewhere.”
“The key for my success has been having a great group of veteran teammates to help me learn the game and having awesome coaches who helped me maneuver my way through my first year of professional baseball,” Wright said.
Meanwhile, starting pitcher Tyler Beardsley was awarded the league’s Fran Riordan Citizenship Award. Not only posting an 8-4 record with a 2.72 ERA and 111 strikeouts on the mound in 19 starts, Beardsley has also been actively involved in the Evansville community throughout the season.
"Tyler is not just a fine starting pitcher, but during his two years here, he's also represented us well at appearances throughout the community, from schools to libraries to retirement homes,” Bussing said. “Tyler cares about people, and it shows. He is one of the most committed young men our club has seen in my 19 years in the league.”
“Tyler has volunteered for every community outreach program that the Otters organization participates in,” McCauley said. “It takes a special person with great character.”
“Getting out in the community is imperative, and it represents the Bussing’s and Otters’ commitment to be a community baseball organization. Tyler embodies what the Otters organization is all about in interacting with the community.”
“I feel very honored to be chosen for this award, truly meaning a lot to me, and I can’t thank everyone enough for the votes around the league, especially my manager in Andy and Mr. Bussing,” Beardsley said.
Beardsley’s community outreach involved non-profit organizations and spending time with the youth. Some of the specific activities include interacting with at-risk children at the Ark Crisis Children Center, reading to children at the St. Vincent Early Learning Center, promoting pet adoption at It Takes A Village no-kill animal rescue shelter, engaging with veterans at Evansville’s VA Health Clinic, and more.
“It’s very important to be involved in the community,” Beardsley said. “You can get carried away very easily with baseball so it’s important for me to get out and be involved in the community every opportunity I get.”
“Tyler is always the first one to want to sign up and participate in our community outreach programs,” Assistant General Manager Elspeth Urbina-Roos said. “He engages with everyone, adults and youth alike.”
“This season, when he went to interact with children at the Ark Crisis Center, one child and himself remembered each other from last season, which shows there was an impact made. He exemplifies a positive role model to the children he has interacted with.”
“Receiving this award will be something I will remember for the rest of my life,” Beardsley said. “I will continue to be involved in the community wherever I’m at.”
The Evansville coaching staff also received some recognition as pitching coach Max Peterson was given the Darren Bush Coach of the Year Award. Peterson’s guidance led four Otters’ pitchers to being signed to MLB affiliated organizations this season, including starting pitchers Patrick McGuff, Randy Wynne and Jacques Pucheu as well as relief pitcher Danny Hrbek.
“I’ll continue to say that Max is the best pitching coach in minor league baseball,” said McCauley. “He is invaluable on our staff because of his connection with players and his ability to communicate to them so they know what they need to do, whether it be their mechanics or in any given game situation.”
“It’s an honor to win this award that is voted on by other coaches and staff members in the league,” Peterson said. “There have been some great coaches to previously win this award like our own Boots Day and Bobby Segal.”
“During the player procurement process, his ability to evaluate pitchers off numbers and in-person with his own eyes is incredible,” McCauley said. “Throughout his own playing career and now coaching career, he has developed numerous contacts to find quality pitchers for our organization.”
“There is a lot that goes into finding pitchers such as stats, scouting reports, and their overall body of work,” said Peterson. “When working with guys, I’m big on keeping guys accountable but also teaching them the why factor.”
“I like to communicate with my pitchers whether it’s good or bad, as I think any dialogue is good dialogue when it comes to pitching.”
"I can't say enough good things about Max Peterson,” Bussing said. “He has a knack for finding good pitchers and helping them reach their potential. The continuity Max brings to our organization is invaluable."
Peterson has also led the Otters’ pitching staff to a franchise single season record of 842 strikeouts, which leads the Frontier League. The franchise’s last record-setting mark was 832 in 2017.
“Max is outstanding working with our pitchers because he can relate to them in so many ways, utilizing his own playing experiences in affiliated baseball and independent baseball,” McCauley said. “He can relate to left-handed pitchers, fastball pitchers, closers, etc.”
“Max is able to see the talent in guys, work with them to make a commitment to our organization as well as their mechanics and get the best out of them. He does a great job developing a game plan and explaining to our pitchers pitch sequences, so they understand what pitch to throw in a situation or when to go for the strike zone or get batters to hit into the defense.”
The Evansville pitching staff has allowed the second-fewest runs and hits, has the second-best WHIP in the league at 1.25, batting average against at .227, and ERA at 3.21, and has the most shutouts with 14.
The Otters also are tied with the River City Rascals for the most complete games with eight.
“To get the best out of pitchers and getting them to affiliated baseball is a product of good numbers, hard work, and consistency,” Peterson said. “We have had a lot of guys on our pitching staff do those things, and all the credit for this award really goes to the pitchers I’ve had all year.”
Heading into Thursday’s home finale against the Gateway Grizzlies, the Otters (55-37) currently sit atop the Frontier League West Division with the best overall record.
The magic number to clinch a postseason berth is one. The Otters can make it to their fourth consecutive postseason with a win Thursday or a loss by the Southern Illinois Miners.
The magic number to clinch a division title is four as the Otters make their push for the postseason and in pursuit of the franchise’s third Frontier League championship.
First pitch Thursday for game three of the series and Evansville’s last regular season home game will be at 6:35 p.m. from Bosse Field.
Broadcast coverage can be found on the radio at 91.5 WUEV-FM or WUEV.org or streamed on the Otters Digital Network via YouTube with Dave Nguyen (play-by-play) and Bill McKeon (analyst) on the call.
The Otters are celebrating their 25th anniversary season in 2019.
For Evansville's final regular season homestand, the Otters are presenting Bites, Brews and Baseball.
Thursday's regular season home finale will be Customer Appreciation Night, College Night, and Bud Light Thirsty Thursday. For College Night, those with a valid college I.D. can get $2 G.A. tickets and free popcorn. There will special price drafts for Bud Light Thirsty Thursday presented by Working Distributors. Thursday will also feature special music guest DJ McNaughty. Thursday is sponsored by Army ROTC.
The Evansville Otters want to thank all fans and corporate partners for their support and help in making the Otters' 25th anniversary season a success.
To purchase a playoff pass or a group outing, call (812) 435-8686 or visit the Bosse Field front office at 23 Don Mattingly Way, Evansville, Ind. The front office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Evansville Otters are the 2006 and 2016 Frontier League champions.
The Otters play all home games at historic Bosse Field, located at 23 Don Mattingly Way in Evansville, Ind. Stay up-to-date with the Evansville Otters by visiting evansvilleotters.com, or follow the Otters on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For more information, visit evansvilleotters.com or call 812-435-8686.