Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2000 Peoria Chiefs

As I have previously mentioned, I like to collect the local kids from Southern California. In the 1998 MLB Draft, the St. Louis Cardinals selected Tim Lemon in the second round out of La Mirada High. The previous fall, I had covered Lemon's exploits on the gridiron and that spring, I watched the toolsy Lemon on the baseball diamond. I figured he would be a cool player to track, follow, and collect. After a couple of years in Short Season ball, Lemon moved up to Low-A Peoria in 2000. (Lemon would play 7 years in the minors never getting out of High-A, and was even converted to a pitcher in 2004)

The Chiefs offered an internet broadcast of their games that season, and I remember listening to many a game in the afternoon. What I remember most about those games was a totally unknown hitter on the Chiefs by the name of Albert Pujols. I had never heard of him before which wasn't surprising since he didn't appear in the minors in 1999. Heck, in looking at the 2000 Baseball America Almanac, he is listed as Jose Pujols.

Pujols seemed to have an exceptional batting eye and had a knack for driving in runs, a sign of what was to come. He was promoted to High-A before the year was over and went on to win the Rookie of the Year with the Cardinals the following year. The rest, as they say, is history, or historic in Pujols' case. Congratulations Albert on hitting your 500th homerun tonight; I'll always remember those humble beginnings with the Peoria Chiefs.


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