A Visit to Salt River Fields

Last week, I had the chance to visit the Arizona Diamondbacks’ state-of-the-art spring training facility in Scottsdale, Arizona: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

While there, I spoke with (among others) the new Hillsboro Hops manager, and a couple of players who were with the Hops in 2013 — including one who is currently ticketed for a return trip to Hillsboro.

First, let’s meet the new skipper, J.R. House. If you’re a Hops fan, you’re likely familiar with J.R. — he was Hillsboro’s hitting instructor last season. Needless to say, he’s excited about the upcoming season, which begins on June 13th:

Hillsboro’s most dangerous hitter in 2013 was Zach Esquerra, who led the club in home runs (8) and tied for the team lead in RBIs (33), though a rib cage injury limited him to just 46 games. Esquerra was taken in last year’s draft, so this is his first spring training. I first asked him what it’s been like:

Esquerra will likely begin the 2014 season with Arizona’s Class A affiliate in South Bend, Indiana, and hopefully move up from there. Another 2013 Hop, however, is currently ticketed for a return trip to Hillsboro — fleet-footed center fielder Taylor Ratliff. Personally, I’d love to see Ratliff back in a Hops uniform — after missing most of the 2012 college season with injury and all of the 2013 college season with ineligibility, he was flat-out rusty in his first pro season last summer. He spoke first about the adjustments he made last year:

And finally, one other note. On the very day I visited the D-backs’ camp, Hillsboro’s most popular player from 2013, outfielder Yogey Perez-Ramos, was released by Arizona. Word is, Yogey’s throwing arm was getting progressively worse. Already one of the older players in Short Season ball last year, his prospect status had dried up. Let’s hope Yogey is able to hook on elsewhere.


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