The Frontier League announced last week the formation of the Frontier League Hall of Fame and former Wild Things pitcher Aaron Ledbetter is among the inaugural class of inductees.
Joining Ledbetter will be former players Morgan Burkhart, Scott Pinoni, Fran Riordan and Kirk Taylor, special contributor Dr. W. Chris Hanners and the special moment of Brett Gray’s 25-strikeout game for the London Werewolves against Chillicothe June 3, 2000. They will be honored at the All-Star Luncheon July 15 at the Casino Queen in East St. Louis. It will be part of the all-star festivities hosted by the Gateway Grizzlies.
Ledbetter is the Frontier League’s all-time leader in wins (51-26 record) and played for the Wild Things in three seasons (2006-08). He is Washington’s all-time leader in wins (27) and was named the FL’s Pitcher of the Year in 2007. Ledbetter also holds the league record for innings pitched and career starts.
Burkhardt was a first baseman for the Richmond Roosters (1995-98). The Frontier League’s Most Valuable Player award is named after Burkhart, who was the recipient in 1996, ’97, and ’98. He holds the Frontier League’s single-season home run record with 36 in an 80-game schedule in 1998. Burkhart had a .353 career batting average with 86 home runs and 306 RBI. He was the first position player to go from the Frontier League to the major leagues.
Riordan played for the Richmond Roosters (1997-98 and 2001-02) and the Dubois County Dragons (1999-2000). He has held the league records for career games played, at-bats, and RBI. He served as player-manager for Dubois County in 2000 and for Richmond in 2001 and ’02, then returned to the Frontier League as manager of Kalamazoo (2004-09) and has led the Florence Freedom since 2011. Riordan has three Frontier League titles as a manager (2001, ’02, and ’05) and is the career leader in managerial wins. Richmond defeated Washington in the 2002 championship series.
Pinoni played first base for the Chillicothe Paints (1996, 1998-99) and was named Most Valuable Player in 1999. He ranked second in Frontier League history in career home runs (58) and RBI (237) when he left.
Taylor was an outfielder for Ohio Valley (1998) and Johnstown (1999-2002) and the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2001. Taylor finished with a .320 career batting average, 64 home runs, 275 RBI, and 87 stolen bases in 327 games.
Hanners was one of the founders of the Frontier League and owned the Chillicothe Paints from 1993 through 2008. He has owned the Rockford Aviators since 2011.
New playoff format
The Frontier League has a new playoff format and it increases the number of postseason qualifiers from four to six teams.
The winners of the East and West Divisions will qualify for the playoffs along with the four remaining teams with the best records, regardless of division. The division winners will be seeded first and second and receive first-round byes. The four wild-card teams will be seeded Nos. 3 through 6. No. 3 will host No. 6, and No. 4 will host No. 5, in single-game playoffs with the winners advancing to the divisional series.
The No. 1 seed hosts the lowest-remaining wild card, and the No. 2 seed hosts the highest remaining wild card in a best-of-three series. The division champion will host Games 2 and 3.
The championship series will be best-of-5.
The new format could create rugged travel situations. For example, it’s possible for Washington to travel to River City (598 miles one way) for a one-game playoff, then return home to host Gateway for one game, then turn around and go back to St. Louis for the next game in the division series.
Washington begins a three-game home series this morning (10:35) against the Traverse City Beach Bums. ... Traverse City pitcher Casey Delgado (5-1) was named the league’s Pitcher of the Week yesterday after not allowing a run in 13 innings over two starts. ... The Gateway Grzzlies (22-13), the only team in the league with a better record than the Wild Things (20-13), had third-year second baseman Jonathan Johnson and rookie shortstop Michael Massi signed by the New York Mets and St. Louis Casrdinals, respectively, over the weekend.