Rosemont, Ill. – Whether it’s the crack of the bat, the pop of the leather, or those two simple, yet melodic words—pitchers and catchers—nothing says spring quite like baseball. And this spring in Rosemont, for the first time, baseball is on everyone’s mind. As construction of world-class Impact Field comes down the final stretch, the team that will call the glistening ballpark on the corner of Balmoral and Pearl home is beginning to take form as well. Since assuming his role with the club as its first ever manager last winter, Butch Hobson has been hard at work scouting and hand-selecting the players and coaches who will get to be the first to wear the Chicago Dogs light blue and red.
The first of those players, pitcher Josh-Goossen Brown, signed with the Dogs on January 29, marking the first transaction in team history. Such a landmark honor is not lost upon Goossen-Brown. “I’m excited to be part of this groundbreaking team,” says the 26-year-old righty out of Sherman Oaks, Calif. “From meeting the fans to helping guide this team to our first ever championship, I look forward to our first season at Impact Field.”
Originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox, Goosen-Brown also brings some independent baseball experience with him, having pitched for the Wichita Wingnuts of the American Association last season. “I am thrilled to have such a talented pitcher like Josh on the mound for our first season,” says Hobson. “He had a tremendous year [in the American Association] last season and I look forward to the possibility of him being our number one starter.”
With pitching being the cornerstone of any successful baseball team, Hobson and the Dogs didn’t stop with one quality arm, they added a whole stable of them. The team signed two right-handers, Brandon Shimo and Connor Root, within 24 hours in early March, and then less than one week later, traded for another left-hander, Miles Moeller, and signed one more righty, Richard Ruff. Right-hander, Scott Firth signed with the Dogs in early April, and southpaw, Rich Mascheri was traded to Chicago from the Lincoln Saltdogs less than a week later.
Dogs fans from all across Chicagoland will have hometown heroes to root for in Ruff, Firth, and Mascheri. A Skokie, Ill. native, Ruff played his high school baseball at Niles North before playing in college at Quincy University in Quincy, Ill. Firth grew up in Buffalo Grove, Ill., and attended Stevenson High School before playing his college ball at Clemson, and Mascheri played his high school baseball at Wauconda High School before attending Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill.
As for position players, the Dogs began their singing period by primarily focusing their attention along the infield. Matt Telesco of Fresno, Calif. joins two foreign born players as Dogs signees—Edwin Arroyo of Peurto Rico and Mike Blanke of Canada. Arroyo led Puerto Rico’s Empire League in hitting last season and also received a gold glove award from the league, while Blanke played in the American Association last season with stints in Cleburne and Salina. Matt Dean and Michael Baca were added to the Dogs’ roster later in March to help round out the infield. Dean spent the last six seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, while Baca played most recently for the independent New Britain Bees.
With a 23 man Opening Day roster, Hobson and his staff emphasized the importance of signing versatile players this offseason. Craig Maddox, Tony Thomas, and Kaohi Downing all bring the ability to play multiple positions to the Dogs’ 2018 roster. Along with Baca, Maddox also played most recently for the New Britain Bees. Thomas brings American Association experience with him to Chicago, having played parts of last season with the St. Paul Saints.
Playing a crucial role in the outfield for Hobson will be Billings, Mont. native, Justin Black. A former fourth round pick of the Atlanta Braves, Black will be making his independent baseball debut in 2018. Joining Black in the outfield will be another Chicagoland native, Kyle Gaedele. Gaedele grew up in Arlington Heights, Ill. and played college baseball at Valparaiso University where he became the highest draft pick in school history. Ardent baseball fans may recognize the ring of Kyle’s last name, as he is the great nephew of former major leauger Eddie Gaedel, who famously stood in the batter’s box at a mere 3-foot-7.
Gaedele relishes the opportunity to be playing in his own backyard. “At this stage of my career, I feel blessed for the opportunity to be playing in front of a lot of friends and family this summer,” says Gaedele.
The Dogs hope to bring around 30 players to spring training which will begin May 6 in anticipation of their first regular season contest May 18 in Sioux Falls, S.D. Ultimately, the Dogs will trim their Opening Day roster to 23 players, per American Association rules, so finding the perfect mixture of versatile players will be crucial for Hobson and his staff. A grizzled independent league veteran of 16 years though, Hobson is confident that the club he is assembling will be a winning one. “I like the way our team is shaping up,” says Hobson. “I think we are going to have a very strong pitching staff, our outfield may ultimately be the strength of our team, and our infield is full of versatile players.”
The Village of Rosemont will have its first chance to see the inaugural version of the Dogs in action will come May 25 as the team begins play in their state-of-the-art ballpark, Impact Field. The Dogs will play 50 home games in 2018 including Opening Weekend, Father’s Day, and Labor Day weekend. Hobson says the first crop of players in team history will give fans plenty of reason to come to the park. “I pride myself on putting together a team of not just quality players, but quality people as well. We’ve signed some class individuals that will be role models for the kids in the stands and quality members of the community as well.”