As the 2009 Major League Baseball season kicks off for most teams today, fans in Arlington have a good chance of seeing two and possible all three Baylor alums currently in the big leagues — Texas Rangers David Murphy and Jason Jennings and Cleveland Indian Kelly Shoppach — as the two teams square off at Rangers Ballpark. (That’s the trio with Baylor head coach Steve Smith above; photo courtesy Brad Newton, Texas Rangers.)
Murphy, a strong candidate for 2008 American League Rookie of the Year before a late-season injury, begins the year as the Rangers’ starting left fielder after hitting .275 last season with 15 home runs and 74 RBI. (Bonus link: Nice feature on him here from the Oklahoman.) Jennings is in the Rangers’ bullpen as he works his way back from a pair of elbow surgeries. Shoppach hit .261 last season and led all American League catchers in home runs with 21; he will start 2009 as the back-up to all-star catcher Victor Martinez but is again expected to see regular playing time as Martinez also plays first base.
Two other Bears who appeared in the big leagues last season — veteran pitcher Kip Wells and infielder Mark Saccomanno — will open 2009 in the minors. Wells will likely begin the year with the Washington Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse, NY, while Saccomanno will begin his third season with the Houston Astros’ Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock. A host of other Bears are also at various levels of the minor leagues; once their assignments are finalized later this spring, we’ll run a list of those alums, as well.
Sic ’em, baseball Bears in the pros!