|9/23/2014 By Tim FitzgeraldThe old saying goes, “If we score, we might win. If our opponent never scores, we’ll never lose. Defense wins championships.” – Erk Russell|
The Admirals may have come up one game short of winning the second-half championship in the Pacific Association in 2014, but their championship-caliber defense played a big part in having the opportunity to play for a title on the season’s final day and finishing 10 games over .500.
Four of those Admirals defenders were awarded a gold glove by the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball for their stellar work in the field. Center fielder Tillman Pugh, right fielder Jordan Hinshaw, shortstop Elvin Rodriguez, and third baseman Michael Cerda received recognition for their defensive prowess, as the Admirals collected the most gold gloves awarded by the league.
“I take a lot of pride in my defense,” center fielder Tillman Pugh said after learning he won a gold glove.
“In this game of failure, playing defense is the one thing I have the most control over and consistency. I know that if I’m cold at the plate — or our team is — I can fire things up and inspire those around me and myself with a great, game-changing play in the outfield”
Inspiring, game-changing plays were Pugh’s specialty, along with making the routine grabs. The Oakland, CA native slid to take away little bloopers and leapt up against walls to rob big boppers. He went into the alleys to take away extra base hits, and fired laser beams to bases to eliminate runners.
Pugh joined the Admirals mid season in 2013 and played a variety of positions. In 2014, the former member of the Mets organization grabbed ahold of the center field job in spring training and never let go, as his speed and hand-eye coordination made him the obvious choice for the job.
Pugh lead the Admirals in games played, playing in 75 of the Admirals 78 games. He also lead the league in stolen bases with 43 and in runs scored with 77, all while hitting .303, with 11 home runs and an on base percentage of .443. It’s that combination of offensive and defensive skill that has him in the running for the league’s MVP, which will be announced on October 8th.
Another returner to Vallejo in 2014 to win a gold glove is third baseman, Michael Cerda. A fan favorite for his highlight reel plays at the hot corner along with his clutch hitting, as he hit .297 with six home runs and three triples, which led the Admirals in three baggers.
Cerda excelled at bare-handed plays charging in on a ball and difficult fly balls in foul territory. He can dive to both sides of his body, but he was especially adept at snaring hot shots down the line with his backhand and firing over to first.
“It’s really just the hard work and countless ground balls finally paying off,” Cerda said when asked what this award means to him. ” I make sure I take 60-80 ground balls before the game even starts.”
He credited his teammates for helping him achieve this success. “Hats off to all the pitchers, Garry Templeton II, and coach Mike Samuels who took their time to hit ground balls to me every time I ask. If you really want to work and get better, the guys are always going to respect that.”
Two new comers to the Admirals also collected gold gloves. Shortstop Elvin Rodriguez joined the Admirals in early July of this season. He was advertised as a slick fielder, and he lived up to his billing. Rodriguez gets to nearly every ball, has smooth hands, and has the proper decision making skills needed at shortstop.
“First of all, I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity and ability, without him I wouldn’t be able to do any of this,” Rodriguez said after learning he won the gold glove at short.
“I’m very happy about this award not only for myself, but because my left-side partner in the infield, Cerda, won the award too, along with Tilley (Pugh) and Jordan (Hinshaw) winning the award as well. That’s what makes it special, it shows a lot about our team.”
Another new comer to the Admirals to collect the defensive hardware was rookie outfielder, Jordan Hinshaw. He made several diving grabs in the most difficult spot to play in Wilson Park… right field.
He has a big arm in right, which not only gunned runners down, but became a deterrent for runners trying to take an extra base. Hinshaw filled in the few games Pugh was not in center, and even made a couple of appearances at catcher.
“It’s an awesome achievement to be considered at the top of my position defensively,” Hinshaw said. “I always work hard to be a presence in the outfield, and I’m thankful to the league for their recognition.”
Hinshaw hit .339 to lead the Admirals in batting average in his rookie season, to go along with 12 home runs and 18 stolen bases. Hinshaw is considered a favorite to win the league’s rookie of the year award, which will be announced on October 1st.
Admirals Manager, Garry Templeton II, was very pleased to learn of his players’ gold-glove honors. “I wan to give my congratulations to Elvin Rodriguez, Tillman Pugh, Michael Cerda and Jordan Hinshaw for winning the Gold Glove award,” Templeton said.
“It was a pleasure watching each one of them play defense. As a manger it’s always nice to know that you have guys in the field that are going to make all the routine plays and take away hits. Sometimes when the ball was hit to them I would just turn away because I knew it was an out already. Other times when a ball was put in play and it was suppose to be a hit, I would sit there and say ‘go get it, go get it’ and more times than not, that’s exactly what they did.”
Along with the upcoming MVP announcement on October 8th and the rookie of the year announcement on October 1st, the Pacific Association will announce its reliever of the year on September 24th, manger of the year on September 29th, and pitcher of the year on October 6th. Templeton is a finalist for the manager of the year award.