By Robert Held
Six members of the New Britain Bees were selected to the Liberty Division All –Star team for the Atlantic League, on July 13th. However, one of them is unlikely to play. Cole Johnson might not be able to play because he was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks, and will report to their Triple AAA team in Reno.
Johnson, who lives in Newington Connecticut, was tied for the Atlantic League lead with seven wins, with Jonathan Albaladejo. He was also second in the league with a 2.70 ERA. Before this season, Johnson had spent his entire professional career in the Twins organization. He even played for the New Britain Rock Cats during parts of two seasons.
“Johnson has been our most consistent starter this season and gave us a chance to win every night he took the mound,” said Bees Manager Stan Cliburn. “We wish him the absolute best with the Diamondbacks organization.”
Other Bees players who have made the All-Star team include infielders Jovan Rosa and Jonathan Roof. Outfielder Jon Jones, designated hitter Craig Maddox and pitcher Shawn Gilblair complete the Bees who have made the All-Star team.
Johnson is a Newington resident and is the fourth Bees player to have his contract purchased by a major league team, but is the first to report directly to Triple-AAA. He joins former fellow Bees pitchers Nick Greenwood who was signed by the Minnesota Twins, Josh Zeid who was signed by the New York Mets, and Eric Fornataro who has since rejoined the Bees but was signed by the Baltimore Orioles at the beginning of the season.
Rosa, an East Hartford native and, leads the Bees in batting average at .311, home runs and with eight and RBIs with 38. Him and Long Island Ducks player Fehlandt Lentini are the only members of the Atlantic League to appear in every one of their team’s games this season. Rosa also drove in the first run, and had the first grand slam in Bees history.
Roof will play second base for the Liberty Division during the All-Star game. He leads the Bees with 16 doubles and has two home runs, with 25 RBIs so far this season. Roof has also played in left field this season for the Bees.
Jones has primarily played center field for the Bees this season. He is second on the team with 22 stolen bases, and has five home runs along with 32 RBIs. Originally from Vacaville, CA, this is Jones second season in independent baseball after spending a number of years as a Toronto Blue Jays farmhand.
Besides being the Bees designated hitter, Maddox is also the hitting coach for the team. He has six home runs, 29 RBIs and a .282 batting average for the Bees. Maddox is in his second season in the Atlantic League but this is his first ALPB All-Star game. Besides being a designated hitter, Maddox has also played at first and third base for the Bees this season.
Gilblair is the Bees’ closer and has 4 saves so far this season with a tiny ERA of only 1.33, and a record of 3-0. He is a native of Windham, CT and played college baseball at Eastern Connecticut State University. Gilblair has also had 26 strike outs in 20.1 innings during 19 appearances, all in relief this season. The Connecticut native has spent his entire professional career in independent baseball, but this is his first in the Atlantic League.
“There is a tremendous amount of talent featured among the rosters of our eight member clubs this season,” says Atlantic League President Rick White. “Fans attending the All-Star Game will have the privilege of seeing some of the best players in professional baseball take the field in a fun-filled atmosphere.”
Each All-Star team will feature 22 Atlantic League players. The rosters will be made up of 13 position players and nine pitchers. Position players were chosen by league officials, coaching staffs and media voting. Pitchers were chosen by the All-Star Game managers, including Bees’ manager Stan Cliburn. All eight teams in the Atlantic League will have representatives on the All-Star Game rosters.