New Potomac manager Matt LeCroy was introduced and Washington Nationals assistant general manager Bryan Minniti served as the keynote speaker at the 16th annual Potomac Nationals Hot Stove Banquet at the Hilton in Springfield, Va., on Sunday night.
LeCroy was promoted in the offseason after guiding Single-A Hagerstown last year. A lot of those prospects will again be under his tutelage now at Single-A Potomac of the Carolina League.
“It is a challenging league,” LeCroy noted. “I think it will be a good challenge for all these guys. I am looking forward to it because it really was a good group of kids that worked hard. Hopefully, they will continue to do that and become big leaguers.”
LeCroy was introduced alongside new hitting coach Mark Harris, who previously worked in the Kansas City Royals organization. Paul Menhart returns as the P-Nats’ pitching coach.
LeCroy was joined at the head table by former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, chairman and CEO Art Silber, P-Nats general manager Josh Olerud, master of ceremonies David Vincent, Washington Nationals director of player development Doug Harris, Nationals director of minor league operations Mark Scialabba and Carolina League president John Hopkins.
Awards were given out to Tyler Moore, P-Nats player of the year; Woodbridge Senior High’s Tyler Thomas, high school player of the year, Osbourn Park’s Ashley Runion, high school softball player of the year; and Jayon Porter, employee of the year.
The silent auction benefiting the education foundation for Prince William County Public Schools featured noteworthy sports memorabilia, including a signed Bryce Harper bat and a hockey stick signed by the Washington Capitals’ Nicklas Backstrom .
The Mills Cup was also prominently displayed, signifying the franchise’s second league title in the past three seasons.
“It really was a remarkable year from start to finish,” Doug Harris said. “Anything that could go wrong probably for about four months did go wrong. Whether it was freak injuries or something else. Our staff did an incredible job, led by (manager) Gary Cathcart, and persevered throughout the entire season. It was an incredible year and an incredible accomplishment for these young men.”
Harris believes this season’s P-Nats squad could also be good, but for different reasons.
“In 2011, we expect another tremendous year,” Harris said. “We look forward to the group of young men that will be P-Nats. It is a very young, very athletic and very talented club. A little bit different then what was here last year, maybe not as seasoned, but an extremely talented club.”
LeCroy says he knows this year’s team can be successful because he has seen a lot of them play in Hagerstown.
“I am looking forward to the 2011 season,” LeCroy said. “We got some exciting young players. I emphasize young. We got some guys that can run. We got some guys that can hit. We got guys that can pitch. I am looking forward to a new year and an exciting new place. I have been in Hagerstown for two years and it is time to move on.”
LeCroy also made reference to an incident Nationals’ fans will remember in 2006, his only season with the Washington Nationals. In a game against the Houston Astros, he was pulled by manager Frank Robinson in the middle of an inning after he had committed two throwing errors and allowed seven stolen bases in seven innings.
“I made a lot of things famous in the game. I made a manager cry - Frank Robinson. I made a banana and mayonnaise sandwich famous as a pregame meal,” LeCroy said.
Minniti was asked when top prospect Harper would be playing in Woodbridge, Va.
“He is obviously a supremely talented kid,” Minniti said of Harper. “It is really hard to believe what he has already done. He went right to the Arizona Fall League and performed well with guys that are right on the cusp of the big leagues. My anticipation is we will start him lower than Potomac, if that is Hagerstown or the Gulf Coast League. He is a pretty special talent. Time will tell and he will tell us when he is ready to move. Guys like Stephen Strasburg and Harper can speed that whole process up.”