In many ways, the 2019 season was a showcase of power for the Chicago Dogs.

Manager Butch Hobson’s Dogs built off a blazing close to 2018 by amassing a franchise-record 59 wins, the third-best record in the American Association. By blasting 122 home runs, the team led the league in longballs, falling just six homers shy of the league record.

But pre-existing records posed no threat to Dogs first baseman and American Association Most Valuable Player Keon Barnum. A former first-round draft choice of the Chicago White Sox, Barnum mashed 31 home runs this year, breaking the league record for big flies in a season.

In the Dogs’ penultimate game of the season on September 1, Barnum made history. Facing a 1-1 count with one out in the fourth inning on September 1, Barnum exploded on a pitch from St. Paul Saints LHP Jordan Jess and sent it over the right-field wall for home run No. 31: the record-breaker. 

Barnum’s MVP campaign paced the Dogs high-octane offense from a world-record opening night until Labor Day. He not only led the league in home runs, but the Tampa, Florida native led the way in slugging percentage, OPS, extra-base hits and total bases, while ranking second with 90 RBI. With a team-leading .311 batting average and 116 hits, he led the way for the Dogs with pure hitting, too, not just power.

Another former first-round pick, outfielder Victor Roache, whom the Milwaukee Brewers selected in 2012, showcased tremendously in 2019. Roache was named to the American Association’s Postseason All-Star Team along with his MVP teammate. The Ypsilanti, Michigan native slugged 24 home runs, the second most in the league.

Chicago’s pitching staff screamed power, too, racking up 895 strikeouts on the season and falling just two shy of the league record. Schaumburg native and left-handed pitcher Austin Wright struck out 135 batters, the most in the American Association, with Luke Westphal (123) ranking third and Lakes Community High School alumnus D.J. Snelten (112) falling fourth in the league. Westphal’s first two starts featured no hits, and he kept the opposition scoreless through his first four starts.

The historic season also included a bevy of individual and team awards. Impact Field was voted Ballpark Digest’s Best Independent Ballpark for the second-consecutive season, and the Dogs’ logo was named best in the minor leagues by Minor Trips.

Four different Dogs — Barnum, Roache, Westphal and Tony Rosselli — combined to garner six league Player of the Week Awards. Barnum was selected as the league’s Player of the Month for July, and Snelten was named league Pitcher of the Month in August.

In addition to Barnum and Roache’s nod to the Postseason All-Star Team, those two sluggers and Westphal were named Midseason All-Stars, with Barnum representing the Dogs in the American Association Home Run Derby in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Chicago started the season 14-7, holding the best record in the American Association through the first three weeks. Following an up-and-down June, the Dogs roared through most of July, piling up 14 wins in 15 games heading into the All-Star break, a stretch which included a nine-game win streak.

By season’s end, the Dogs fell just four games shy of a playoff spot, but the 59-41 record marked a 14-win improvement from 2018 and beat out all other teams but two.

“This team had an outstanding season, and I’m proud of them,” Hobson said. “We set some records in the second year that are going to be hard to break — the number of home runs we hit, the runs we scored, the winning streak. They are going to be goals to try and get next year. 

“I believe in class and character. If you don’t have that, you’re not going to play for me. It doesn’t necessarily equate to wins and losses, but it equates to going home at the end of the year and feeling good about the team and staff that you assembled. That’s the kind of atmosphere that I like, and we accomplished that.”