The Indianapolis Indians will be prominently represented at this season’s historic World Series showdown of two Wild Card Playoff winners. First pitch for Game 1 is set for Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 8:00 p.m., with the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals boasting rosters dotted with Tribe ties in both the lineup and their respective coaching staffs.
The Giants, pursuing their third World Series title in the last five seasons, reached baseball’s ultimate stage in dramatic fashion after walking off the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. With Game 6 knotted 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, an unlikely hero in Travis Ishikawa blasted the game-winning, three-run homer homer off 2013 NLCS MVP Michael Wacha.
Ishikawa was originally on the Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Opening Day roster before being assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis on April 19 and later electing free agency. The “on-paper-Indians-tie-in” went 7-for-34 (.206) with a double, triple and homer, two runs scored and three RBI in 15 games with the Tribe’s parent club in Pittsburgh this season.
Actually donning an Indianapolis Indians jersey during his career, fellow Giants teammate and right-hander Ryan Vogelsong turned in a dominant Triple-A stint in 2006 during a 10-season career in the big leagues between the Buccos (2001, 2003-06) and his current San Francisco club (2000-01, 2011-present). The 37-year-old Vogelsong first reached the Pirates system in a package trade with Armando Rios in exchange for Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal in 2001, later joining the Indians for 10 starts in 11 appearances from July – August, 2006.
Overall with the Indians, Vogelsong posted an impressive 2.66 ERA (20 ER/67.2 IP) with 43 strikeouts to 12 walks, a .217 average against and 0.98 WHIP. He authored quality starts in nine of his 10 total outings and concluded his debut at 3-1 with a 2.12 ERA (8 ER/34.0 IP) over his final five starts.
The righty starter is joined out of the bullpen by 2009-10 Indians closer Jean Machi. The lights-out, late-innings arm signed a minor league contract with the Pirates in January, 2009, en route to converting a combined 29 saves (34 SVO) with a .215 average against over his two Triple-A campaigns. Machi stamped his mark with the Indians via his perfect 6-for-6 debut (in 2009) when pitching with a save on the line.
Machi’s wrapped up a strong stay in Indianapolis having held opponents without an earned run in 53 of his 71 total appearances while going 6-1 with a 3.52 ERA (30 ER/76.2 IP) and 70 strikeouts.
San Francisco’s coaching staff also boasts two instructors to see action with Indianapolis during their professional tenures. Giants batting coach Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens served in the same capacity with the Tribe from 2005-08, while SF’s bullpen coach Mark Gardner compiled a 21-9 record with a 2.62 ERA (110 ER/324.2 IP) and 325 strikeouts in 52 games (51 starts) with the Indians from 1987-89 and 1991 during the club’s Montreal affiliation.
*Bullpen Catcher Bill Hayes also has local ties as an alumnus of Indiana State University*
For SF’s American League counterpart, the Royals-Indians connections begin at the top of the organization in skipper Ned Yost. Primarily a catcher during his playing days, Yost suited up with the Tribe in 1985 – just two years prior to Giants bullpen coach Gardner – and hit .262 (70-for-267) with 15 doubles, two homers, 17 runs and 24 RBI in 95 total games. He worked behind the dish in a team-high 84 contests and made two of his three career appearances at first base for the then-Montreal affiliate.
Yost’s trip to the Fall Classic puts the exclamation point on his fifth consecutive year at the helm of the Royals. The skipper has led Kansas City to the first 8-0 start in MLB postseason history as part of the Royals’ first trip beyond the regular season since a 1985 WS title.
The former Indians backstop Yost is joined by his team’s current catcher, Erik Kratz, as the Royals’ only two personnel to see in-game action with the Tribe. Kratz, who was acquired by Kansas City from the Toronto Blue Jays near the 2014 Trade Deadline, turned in back-to-back solid efforts at the Triple-A level during his 2009-10 stint in Pittsburgh’s chain. The slugger hit .273 (87-for-319) over 93 games during his Indians debut in 2009, before producing a .274 average (63-for-230) with 22 doubles, one triple, nine homers, 30 runs and 41 RBI in 70 games as a 2010 IL All-Star selection.
Kratz is currently featured in the Tribe’s record books as one of just three team backstops to earn Mid and Postseason All-Star selections. He also joins current Indians catcher Tony Sanchez (2013) as a recipient of the prestigious “Top Star” award, which is presented to the IL’s MVP of the Triple-A All-Star Game.
The Indianapolis Indians’ connections to the 2014 World Series are capped off with Kansas City’s first base coach, Rusty Kuntz. The MLB veteran – whose playing career featured plating the go-ahead run in Kirk Gibson during the 1984 WS clinching Game 5 – joined the coaching ranks in 1987, and from 2006-07, served as a roving outfield instructor based primarily between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.
Fans can follow all of these hometown Tribe connections during the 110th edition of Major League Baseball’s championship series. Each game broadcast is available on Fox, beginning with Tuesday night’s opener between San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner (2-1, 1.42) and Kansas City’s James Shields (1-0, 5.63). For complete broadcast information, visit mlb.com