Since we don’t exactly have teams to rank (which we usually do by now), and I have the wiffle itch, I’m making up some power rankings. So I’m going to rank every OCWA season (including 2008) by how special I thought it was. We will start with number six.
6.) 2008-The Trial Year
Highlights: Inaugural Opening Day Tourney, the birth of the League
Let me clear things up by saying I don’t hate any season I have spent in the OCWA. It’s all been fun, but this year didn’t compare to any other season the league has ever seen. There were only four teams, roughly ten players, and most of the games played that “season” were between the Renegades and the Quakes. Ohh, and no official champion was crowned. The mound was at 33 feet, and fast pitch, which explains why the highest average in the league was .258. This season also saw this introduction to Turner Field, which I’ll dive into later in this article. Still, the ODT was a blast, and it covered two days, only because of the rain.
Fun Fact: The C-Mets didn’t win a single game in the Opening Day Tournament and didn’t play another game, finishing 0-3. They would go on to become the Lil’ Pens, who won the Inaugural OCWA Championship one year later.
5.) 2009-The Inaugural OCWA season
Highlights: The Inaugural season, ODT goes through 3 rain delays, joining the NWLA.
This is not a chronological list, I promise. This is just second to last of my list of favorite OCWA seasons. A lot of current staples of the league were introduced, like Chris Sacheli, Josh Maves, Brett Bigler, among others. The mound was moved back (thank God) to 49 feet, the field moved from the side yard to what is now Bush Grapes Park. The schedule only increased to 15 games, and the learning curve was in full effect for most players. The talent level wasn’t quite there and the league standings were quite spread out. And now, let’s talk about Turner Field. An entire weekend of games was played at the House that BJ Built, and they were incredible. A comparison to the New Yankee Stadium doesn’t quite do it justice. No, it wasn’t nice, it’s just that every pop fly ended up being a home run. And that was the last time any regular season game has been played outside of BGP. But who could forget that ODT, where thunderstorms delayed play THREE SEPARATE TIMES?
Fun Fact: If you sum Ryan Bush and Chris Roeder’s ERA’s from each of the last two seasons, it wouldn’t add up to Roeder’s or Bush’s ERA in 2009, at 3.62 and 3.71 respectively.
4.) 2013-The Year of the Roeder
Highlights: The OCWA joins Golden Stick, the Second NWLA Tourney, The Insane Rookie campaign of Coyk
I told you it wasn’t chronological. Last season sits low on this list for two reasons: 1.) I HATE FORFEITS, and 2.) The other seasons are just ridiculous. I loved my Golden Stick experience and I can’t wait to come back to that next year. I loved the fact that the league got much more recognition than in previous years. I loved that Coyk became the best rookie ever. I loved that a team not named the Freaky Franchise won 19 games. All of these things made this season a great season, but one factor really brought it down. The Schweaty Sachs had promise but no one on their team could show, and they forfeited the last six games of the regular season. This wasn’t the first time this happened, but it still sucked. We always like to finish our schedule, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out.
Fun Fact: The longest game in OCWA history was played in this year’s ODT. It was a 12 inning battle between the Freaky Franchise and the Strong Tough Dudes, which the Franchise won 8-5.
3.) 2012-The Undefeated Season
Highlights: The Inaugural NWLA Tournament, the Franchise going undefeated and winning the National Championship
This year and 2013 could be 3a and 3b, but I rank this one higher for a few reasons. The first reason was the Inaugural NWLA Tournament. Last year’s tournament was more of a spectacle, but the first year is my personal favorite because it was a new thing. Ohh, and we won. Not an all-star team, the actual Freaky Franchise won the tournament. And they went undefeated in the regular season. And they only lost three times all year, with a combined record of 30-3. And they won the NWLA National Championship. Yada yada yada. This year was the year that the league started to get national attention, and the Franchise had a season for the record books. The reason this season isn’t higher is, once again, due to forfeits. Not only did the Hairy Hoodlums not finish their season (they only played 12 games), they also forfeited the playoffs. This created an unbalanced playoff schedule, with three teams getting a bye and two teams playing a play-in game. Still, it’s tough to beat a season where one of the teams wins everything they can win.
Fun Fact: The Freaky Franchise outscored opponents 207 to 81, which is the largest scoring margin in OCWA history. They also finished 8 games ahead of the second-place Plainguys, which is the largest wins differential in OCWA history. They did all of this without a no-hitter.
2.) 2010-The Expansion Era
Highlights: expanding to 8 teams, the All-Star game, the epic 96er’s-Blue Storm playoff series
I loved this season and I hope that the upcoming season closely follows its path. The creation of two divisions led to the best seeding battles in OCWA history. It developed rivalries, such as Bush vs Roeder and Papa Bush vs Bacon, Brown, and Sacheli. The Opening Day Tournament and Playoffs expanded with it, eliminating any byes. I have two memorable moments from this year. First is the All-Star game. I was lucky enough to attend this ridiculous six inning game. The Griffey Division was heavily favored with studs like Ryan Bush and Chris Roeder, but after all the talk, the Milledge Division won the game 22-20. The second moment was the 96er’s-Blue Storm playoff series. I was lucky enough to play in this series, but anyone who witnessed it firsthand or watched the video knows that it was one of the best playoff series’ ever. After splitting the first two games, the Blue Storm needed a huge fourth inning comeback to tie game three and then went on to win in extras. They would also take that championship. The league went back to six teams after this season, but the division structure and rivalries spawned from this season were excellent.
Fun Fact: Chris Sacheli won the Milledge Division MVP. His stats: .400 avg, 12 HR, 60 RBI, 6-2, 4.80 ERA, 17 K. He led Big Bob’s Beepers to a 13-7 record and the 1st seed in the Milledge Playoffs… only to lose to 4-16 Coexist.
1.) 2011- The Draft Era
Highlights: the Inaugural Draft, the Pegula Rays
This season may seem very high on this list, and it easily could’ve been much lower on this list. When the league determined that BJ Turner had not fulfilled his managerial duties, they booted his team, and we’re prepared to play out the season with five teams. Then, James Draveck formed the Pegula Rays, and played the entire 20 game schedule over the course of two and a half weeks. They went 2-18 but Draveck won Manager of the Year, and he went on to form the Tampa Bay Turtles who introduced rising star Mitch Rupp to the world. This was also the year of the draft, which completely shook up old alliances. This also created the Freaky Franchise, which has done work in the league ever since. This year is my favorite solely because we took what could have been a disaster and turned it into a good thing, which from a commissioners standpoint, is awesome.
Fun Fact: James Draveck and the Pegula Rays went 2-18 with a -95 run differential. Draveck was named Manager of the Year.