A look back at: Keoni De Renne

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in an off-season series examining the 2008 performance of York Revolution players.

In the Atlantic League, records fall as frequently as that young college co-ed who had one too many Mimosas.

The franchise best for hits? For runs? For attendance? These marks fall almost on a weekly basis when it comes to the York Revolution and its brief two-year history.

Yet, here’s one dubious record that we may never see anyone duplicate or exceed — Keoni De Renne’s 36 errors in 2008.

To be fair, the entire York team was awful defensively in ’08. The Revs committed 156 errors for the year, only one behind Lancaster for the league high, and added six more in two crushing playoff defeats. And most will agree that De Renne, a standout shortstop in college at Arizona, is ill-suited for the position in the pros. He’s a decent second baseman — there’s not much debate here.

But that shouldn’t excuse the mistakes De Renne made again and again. Often he would make the spectacular play — like when he dove in the third-base hole and pitched a one-hopper to George Sandel at second to give the Revs the Community Cup. But more often he would botch the routine — De Renne committed a crucial error on a routine ball in that same game against Lancaster that gave the Barnstormers a four-run advantage in the eighth that the Revs would soon erase.

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The winning formula

Editor’s Note: This column ran in Monday’s York Dispatch.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tried to put the York Revolution’s thrilling second-half turnaround into words.

I’ve tried to explain it by pointing out the mid-season roster moves the Revs made — chiefly, the acquisitions of Kennard Jones and Chris Ashby.

I’ve tried to make sense of it with the realization that York’s big hitters and pitchers simply started playing up to their potential.

And then there’s the law of averages — York had to make the playoffs sooner or later in a league where four of eight teams qualify for the postseason each year, right?

Well, yes.

But here’s a theory that hasn’t received much credence yet — team unity. And I’m not necessarily talking about the great team chemistry this club found late in the season.

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Sovereign Bank Stadium is Ballpark of the Year

Fresh off the first playoff appearance in team history, the York Revolution garnered quite the accolade on Friday.

The Atlantic League named the Revolution’s Sovereign Bank Stadium the league’s Ballpark of the Year for the 2008 season.

York, which averaged 4,351 fans this season and welcomed just over 300,000 fans through its doors, just completed its first complete season in its stadium by hosting Game 1 of the Freedom Division Series on Tuesday. The Revs’ prestigious honor was first reported by the Courier News’ Ryan Dunleavy over at his blog.

The players who helped bring all those fans out to the Revolution’s ballpark also earned a slew of postseason awards from the Atlantic League. Team MVP Jason Aspito (pictured) captured a spot on the league’s All-Star first team after hitting 24 home runs and collecting 105 RBIs in the regular season. Aspito also had a big two-run homer in York’s Game 2 playoff loss to Somerset Wednesday night.

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Hoiles still waiting for a contract

Editor’s Note: This column appeared in Friday’s York Dispatch.

As the clock moved toward midnight, he made his rounds around the locker room, checking on every man like a general minding his troops.

First, there came a stop at the wounded. Were Jason Aspito’s arms OK after a full-out desperation dive on the warning track that almost saved the season?

Then came the veterans. The stops at the lockers of Chris Ashby and Keoni De Renne — the guys who in all likelihood will opt for retirement and will never suit up for him again.

And after he had made his way around the entire room, shaking the hands of all 25 men — and hugging most of them too — Chris Hoiles took a moment to reflect. He said his men had battled brilliantly; that he would take all of them back next year in a heartbeat.

He beamed with pride when explaining how this blend of differing souls came together to give York a thrilling stretch run that produced the first pro baseball playoff appearance the city had witnessed since 1969.

And then you have to ask the obvious question: In a world where some managers act like classless idiots, how is it even remotely possible that Hoiles does not have a contract to manage the York Revolution for a third season?

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York ousted from playoffs

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — Twenty years from now, after the dust has settled and memories have faded, the final scores in this playoff series will suggest the York Revolution went down swinging like a famed prize fighter.

But in reality, that is not how York’s crushing exodus from the postseason should be remembered. The Revs had their chances to give Yorkers their first pro baseball postseason victory in 46 years. Too much timid play from the Revolution simply would not allow it to happen.

York committed three errors for the second straight night while watching another close loss circle the drain. The Revs were ousted from the Freedom Division Series Wednesday night after Somerset’s 6-4 victory before an announced crowd of 6,346 at Commerce Bank Ballpark.

And the end of the season came after York seemed to wake up in big fashion during a three-run seventh that created a one-run lead. But George Sandel overthrew first baseman Chris Ashby on a routine ground ball that would have ended the seventh. That error, which gave Somerset the tying run, allowed the Patriots to smell blood and they went in for the kill.

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The Gold Standard

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — In this suburb that spans a little more than 30 miles, the journey to minor league baseball is an altogether different experience.

There are no classic railroad tracks criss-crossing the road or signs of a downtown revitalization project. No upscale lofts in the midst of construction. No worries about finding a parking spot in the bustling center of a city.

Commerce Bank Ballpark sits in southeast Bridgewater in the shadow of a full forrest. There is a shopping complex across the street. And the $18-million stadium, located within the Bridgewater Promenade, is worlds apart from what baseball fans in Lancaster and York have grown to love.

But in this case, being different is hardly a negative. This ballpark, which will host Wednesday’s Game 2 of the Freedom Division Series featuring the York Revolution, is the home to one of the most successful independent baseball franchises in the country — the Somerset Patriots. And since the team’s inception in 1999, the Patriots have become a pillar of success in the Atlantic League.

In a sense, they are the Atlantic League’s gold standard — the franchise that everyone else aspires to emulate on and off the baseball diamond.

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Defense dooms Revs in Game 1 loss

In a season in which the York Revolution scored nearly 800 runs, its biggest weakness went unnoticed week after week.

The Revs have not been a good defensive team all year — and it finally caught up to them when it mattered most.

Three errors, including an eighth-inning miscue through the legs of Jose Enrique Cruz that allowed the eventual winning run, plagued York in a 3-2 loss to Somerset in Game 1 of the Atlantic League Freedom Division Series Tuesday at Sovereign Bank Stadium. A crowd of 4,038 watched the Revolution drop its first playoff game ever in the best-of-three series.

And York, which had a league-worst .969 fielding percentage and committed 156 errors (second-to-last) in the regular season, wasted a brilliant outing from Aaron Rakers. The right-hander, making his first postseason start since his college days at Southern Illinois Edwardsville, went 7 1/3 innings and gave everything he had for 123 pitches. Rakers, a career reliever before this year, could even be seen biting his glove in the late innings in between his rare mistakes.

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