SWB Anniversary Team: Corner Infield
Throughout the 2014 campaign, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders will celebrate 25 seasons of baseball for the franchise in NEPA. A big piece of that puzzle – the step-by-step unveiling of the club’s All-Time team leading up to the big reflective June 7 celebration. Players in each field are represented by a variety of interests, including success in SWB, Major League triumph, service time and, of course, fan favoritism. This week we examine the corner infield positions.
ALL-TIME TEAM FIRST BASEMAN – JON ZUBER
Often called Mr. Red Baron, Jon Zuber might not be the most decorated SWB product, but he is emphatically one of the most beloved players to pass through the region. After a month-long tournament style challenge hosted by the RailRiders in the offseason, the left-handed hitting Zuber reigned supreme in the Red Baron bracket challenge, bulldozing his way in upset fashion through Phillies cornerstone Ryan Howard, local connection Andy Ashby, world bleeping champion Chase Utley and a former IL MVP in the Flyin’ Hawaiian himself, Shane Victorino, in the championship round. Maybe UConn and Kentucky snuck a peek at that tournament before making their own unprecedented run – Zuber was the 14th-seed in the 16-name field. But while the committee positioned Zuber in the bracket’s lower tier, SWB’s faithful fans made their feelings boisterously known. Jon Zuber simply could not be ignored.
Through parts of five seasons (1995-99), Zuber called SWB his summer home. The longtime minor leaguer appeared in 554 games for SWB, 291 of which were spent manning the first base bag while donning the Red Barons’ uni. Zuber consistently made a conscious effort to represent the organization and region to the best of his ability. “I enjoy this place because the people support me tremendously,” he told Keith Groller of The Morning Call before his final Red Barons Opening Day in 1999. “I try to go out and play as hard as I can for them. I’m flattered that people think so highly of me. It’s nice to feel appreciated.” The former Cal Bear had his cups of coffee with Philadelphia, splitting time between parts of the 1996 and 1998 crusades between SWB and Veterans Stadium. Zuber hit a career .250 over 68 big league games and 136 at-bats. His first AB came on April 19, 1996 when the first baseman’s long-awaited odyssey through baseball’s back roads finally came to fruition as a pinch hitter for Phillies starting pitcher Rick Hunter. After nearly 1,600 professional at-bats, our own Jon Zuber’s dream was a reality – he was a Major Leaguer.
The 12th-round selection’s professional career came to a close at the conclusion of the 2002 season. With baseball still in his blood, the long-time fan favorite turned to his alma mater for his baseball fix, spending time with the University of California as an assistant hitting coach from 2004-09. Zuber still holds the all-time record for most walks recorded in SWB history (317), while residing in the franchise’s top five for most singles (424), extra-base hits (166) and on base percentage (.402).
ALL-TIME TEAM THIRD BASEMAN – GREG LEGG
Only one SWB player has ever had his number retired. That man, Greg Legg, cracks the list as the franchise’s all-time third bagger. Known more as a utility presence, Legg played 473 games during his time as a Red Baron from 1989-94 with a vast majority of those games seeing him man the hot corner (172). Legg still stands in the top 10 in the SWB records books for games played, runs scored (196), hits (402), sacrifice hits (22) at-bats (1,498) and total bags (506).
After chasing a dream for 13 minor league campaigns, Legg made just 14 appearances with the Phillies before playing his last game of professional baseball with SWB at the age of 34. Much like Zuber, Legg continues to chase his life-long journey of reaching the show, this time as a manager. After leading the Low-A Lakewood Blue Claws in their inaugural campaign, Legg has been bumped back up from hitting coach to skipper with the Phillies’ South Atlantic League affiliate for his 32nd season within the Phillies organization in 2014. Still a presence in the community, Legg annually hosts a fundraising dinner to provide NEPA high school baseball players with college scholarship funds. This past season that dinner was held at PNC Field.
So there you have it, Jon Zuber at first and Greg Legg at third. Two legends and two more pieces to the puzzle that is SWB’s All-Time Team. Make sure to check out the RailRiders’ official blog, Porcupines in Pinstripes, and the GuideRail at PNC Field for the next reveal Thursday, April 18.