Jack Wilson was signing autographs Friday night after his first game as a Cannon when one of the team's young clubhouse workers reached for the bat the shortstop was toting. Wilson thought the child was just fooling around, but he soon discovered that having a bat caddy was one of the perks to his promotion from Peoria.
It could be an arrangement that benefits both parties. The Cannons will gladly help carry Wilson's gear if Wilson will help carry the Cannons, who finished 24-45 the first half of the season. It was the worst first-half finish in the 22-year history of the franchise.
Wilson, 21, and center fielder Jason Lee, 22, joined advanced Class A Potomac this week from the mid-level Class A Peoria Chiefs. Meanwhile, Esix Snead, the light-hitting but ball-hawking center fielder who leads the Carolina League in stolen bases with 35, was demoted to Peoria.
Wilson, a Midwest League all-star, was batting .343 with 47 runs, 22 doubles, four triples, 28 RBI and 11 stolen bases. He had hit safely in 27 of his last 28 games with the Chiefs. The 1998 ninth-round draft pick hit .373 in rookie league ball last year.
Wilson's debut with the Cannons was not one to remember fondly. He went 0 for 4 and committed an error that keyed a four-run inning in a 7-2 loss.
Lee hit .232 with 31 runs, 14 doubles and 26 RBI at Peoria. The 15th-round pick from 1995 spent 4 a seasons at lower levels in the St. Louis farm system and played with many of the current Cannons in Peoria last season.
As for the switch-hitting Snead, he's now where he probably should have been all along. He batted .233 last year in short-season Class A ball, his first professional season, and this spring bypassed Peoria for Prince William, where he batted just .183.
"When we started the season, we really didn't have a center fielder ready to come and play at this level," Cannons Manager Joe Cunningham said. "Esix was kind of pushed because we knew he had some talent. We need to get some confidence for his offense, and I think he'll have a better chance maybe to do that [with Peoria]."
When second baseman Rob Macrory hurt his thumb and had to sit out a few games, he watched successful hitters both on his team and opposing teams to see what they were doing that he wasn't.
Macrory turned those observations, particularly from studying fellow Cannons infielder Taber Maier, into a 13-for-44 (.295) stretch to close the first half of the season, inching his batting average to .229.
"Taber knows what pitch he wants to hit before he goes up there, so I try to take that approach up there myself," Macrory said. "I've just been working on having a plan every time at the plate. I'm dictating my at-bats instead of the pitcher [dictating]."
Reliever Jason Marr, tied for the Carolina League lead with 12 saves, blew a save but wound up notching his first win of the season Tuesday night in a 10-inning 10-6 victory in the Carolina League/California League All-Star Game in Lake Elsinore, Calif.
The other Cannons representative, designated hitter Andy Bevins, went 2 for 5 with a run and RBI. Both players are natives of the host state, and each played college ball in Southern California.
The win felt almost like a loss to Marr, who gave up an unearned run in the ninth that tied the game. The inning featured a passed ball, a wild pitch on a strikeout that scored the tying run, two intentional walks that loaded the bases and a near-hit batsman that would have forced in the winning run and given Marr the loss.
The Carolina League scored four runs in the 10th.
CAPTION: Cannons' second baseman Rob Macrory is averaging .229 in 201 at-bats.