By STEFAN GESTWICKI
OBSERVER Sports Reporter
When the Miami Marlins became big spenders to bring in the likes of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell this past offseason, many predicted the team to take the step from a fringe playoff team to a World Series contender.
Former Jamestown Jammer and current Oakland Athletics third baseman Brandon Inge watches his RBI single against the Chicago White Sox during the eighth inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Saturday, Aug. 11.
While those big moves didn't pan out for Miami, many former Jamestown Jammers - the Marlins' short season Single-A affiliate - are making an impact in pennant races at the Major League level.
The surprising Baltimore Orioles, who currently sit in second place in the brutal American League East, feature a pair of former Jammers.
Wilson Betemit, who played in Jamestown in 2000 and hit .331 with 5 HR and 37 RBI for the Jammers, has appeared in 97 games for the Orioles in 2012 and hit 12 long balls while playing multiple positions. Overall in his career, Betemit has hit .268 with 75 HR for seven different teams, including the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Orioles also sport Jammers alumnus Robert Andino. The infielder spent parts of four seasons with the Marlins before signing with Baltimore prior to the 2009 season.
Andino played just nine games in Jamestown during the 2002 campaign, but will always be remembered as a former Jammer.
See JAMMERS, Page B3
"It's great to see so many former Jammers contributing at the Major League level," Jamestown Jammers General Manager Matt Drayer said. "Some guys spent a full season with us and others were only here a couple weeks, but they can all claim that they got their start right here in Jamestown."
One of the most recognizable of all the former Jammers in the big leagues is current Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Gaby Sanchez.
Sanchez, a 2011 National League All-Star, was traded from the Marlins to the Pirates just a few weeks ago and immediately became the cleanup hitter in the Pittsburgh lineup.
In 2005, Sanchez hit .331/5/42 for the Jammers and won the NY-Penn League All-Star Game MVP award, prompting Drayer and then-assistant GM George Sisson to shave their heads for charity. A video of the event entitled "Gaby Sanchez Remembers Jamestown Jammers (Jan. 2006)" is available on YouTube.
A Jammers alumnus from 1998, Brandon Inge is revitalizing his Major League career while helping the Oakland Athletics remain in wild card contention in the American League. Inge, a 2009 A.L. All Star, hit .230/8/29 for the Jammers when they were still an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.
The New York Mets were a big surprise for the first half of the season and their leadoff hitter, Andres Torres, was a teammate of Inge's with the Jammers back in 1998.
Besides showing up in the middle of the pennant races, former Jammers were involved in a handful of trades at the end of July.
Relief pitcher Francisco Cordero, who has saved over 320 games in the Major Leagues, was traded from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Houston Astros. He spent his first two professional seasons as a member of the Jamestown Jammers in 1995 and 1996.
One of the more successful alumni, the 37-year old Cordero is a three-time All Star ('04, '07, '09) who has appeared in 800 Major League games.
Also changing teams this season was young third baseman Matt Dominguez, who was sent from the Marlins to the Astros in the trade that brought Carlos Lee to Miami.
Dominguez, a former first-round draft pick who played in Jamestown during the 2007 season, has had limited Major League experience but figures to garner more playing time with a rebuilding Astros franchise.
Major Leaguers who got their starts in Jamestown are all over both the American and National Leagues. Jason Vargas has been steady as a rock in Seattle, Zach Miner has bounced around a few teams but refuses to go away and of course the young stable of talent in Miami Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison, Josh Johnson, etc. continues to improve and make Jamestown proud.
While the current members of the Jammers are only just out of high school or college, you never know when one of them will be contributing to a playoff contender or even a World Series champion.
Stefan Gestwicki is an OBSERVER sports reporter. Please send comments on this story to email@example.com.