A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Jon Hale: Chaz Roe’s promotion latest sign that Lexington is becoming a baseball town

Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A. J. Ellis and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Ben Revere never played against each other in high school, but for at least one MLB game Lexington baseball fans had no trouble envisioning their hypothetical matchup on a Bluegrass State field.

 

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In the second inning of the Dodgers and Phillies Sunday matchup, Ellis, a 1999 Paul Laurence Dunbar High School graduate, threw out Revere, a 2007 Lexington Catholic High School graduate, while he was trying to steal second base. In the eighth inning Ellis lined a double to Revere in center field to drive in a run.

 

The 3-for-4 performance for Ellis came one day after his ninth-inning single gave the Dodgers’ a walk-off win versus Revere’s Phillies (See video above). Revere reached base four times in that game.

 

AJ Ellis boasts a .349 on-base percentage in 54 games for the Dodgers. (Photo by AJ Ellis)

AJ Ellis boasts a .349 on-base percentage in 54 games for the Dodgers. (Photo from Dodgers)

The weekend performances of Ellis and Revere reinforced a truth that may have snuck up on you in recent years if you were not paying close attention: Lexington is a baseball town.

 

Sure, interest in the so-called national pastime may never rival the Bluegrass State’s passion for hoops, but from a talent standpoint there’s really no question as to which sport has come to dominate the state’s second-largest city.

 

On Monday, 2005 Lafayette High School graduate Chaz Roe made his MLB debut after an eight-year odyssey that included a supplemental first-round draft selection, a trade, a release, a season in an independent league and a 50-game suspension for testing positive for an amphetamine.

 

Ben Revere ranks seventh in the majors with 20 stolen bases. (Photo from Philadelphia Phillies)

Ben Revere ranks seventh in the majors with 20 stolen bases. (Photo from Phillies)

Roe, who redefined himself as a short reliever in independent ball, gives Lexington five high school alumni on current MLB rosters. Joining Ellis, Revere and Roe are 2008 Lexington Christian Academy graduate Robbie Ross (Rangers) and 1998 Lafayette graduate Austin Kearns (Marlins). Outfielder Collin Cowgill, a 2004 Henry Clay High School graduate, and left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde, a 2008 Lexington Catholic graduate, have also seen time in the big leagues with the Mets and Angels this season. Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard was born in Lexington but graduated from high school in Florida.

 

Meanwhile, Bryan Station High School alum Shelvin Mack was the only Lexington high school product to appear in the NBA during the 2012-13 season. Tates Creek alum David Akers and Lexington Catholic alum Winston Guy were the only Lexington products on NFL rosters during the 2012 season.

 

Lexington’s baseball impact is not limited to the big leagues.

 

Robbie Ross is 4-1 with a 1.86 ERA in 38 games for the Rangers this season. (Photo from Texas Rangers)

Robbie Ross is 4-1 with a 1.86 ERA in 38 games for the Rangers this season. (Photo from Rangers)

Cowgill has slugged two home runs in three games for AAA Salt Lake since being traded to the Los Angeles Angels. Opponents are batting just .206 against Maronde in the AA Texas League. Henry Clay alum Cameron Flynn ranks 10th in the low A South Atlantic League in batting. Tates Creek alum Trevor Gott has already earned a promotion to the low A Midwest League after being drafted by the San Diego Padres in June.

 

Baseball America ranked Henry Clay alum Walker Buehler as the top freshman in college baseball prior to the 2013 season. LCA alum Evan Stephens ranked eighth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in batting in 2013 with a .358 average. Stephens’ former high school teammate Shane Crain started 36 games for Louisville’s 2013 College World Series team. Lafayette alum Jonathan Youngblood has already been drafted twice and has signed to play with Tennessee next season.

 

LCA senior Taylor Blair and Tates Creek senior JaVon Shelby were selected in June’s MLB draft, though both players are expected to attend college instead of starting a professional career. At least six 2013 Lexington high school graduates have committed to play collegiately at Division I programs according to Perfect Game USA’s database. Three Lexington high school players were named First Team All-State by the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association following the 2013 season, including Tates Creek infielder Devin Hairston, who earned the honor as a junior.

 

By now you may be asking yourself, ‘So what?’ So, Lexington has produced some good baseball players. The vast majority of local sports fans are probably still more concerned about whether Kyle Wiltjer will decided to transfer, how John Calipari will blend his newest influx of McDonald’s All-Americans or if Mark Stoops‘ recruiting success can translate to the Commonwealth Stadium field this fall.

 

All true, but put yourself in the shoes of the next generation of aspiring Lexington athletes. When they take to the Little League fields this summer, Lexington youth will not have to look far to find a local example of someone who once shared their same big-league dreams.

 

Ask A. J. Ellis. Ask Ben Revere. Ask Chaz Roe. Lexington is a baseball town.

 

Editor’s note: Collin Cowgill was called up by the Angels late Monday, giving Lexington six active MLB players.

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