Two weeks ago I began a weekly series looking back at some of the top farm squads in the history of Brewers baseball, dating back to 1970 when the Seattle Pilots headed northeast from spring training in Arizona and became the Milwaukee Brewers. I have not included short-season Class A or Rookie ball teams, as their seasons are generally too short to compare to full-season squads in A, AA, and AAA levels.
With this week’s edition of Beating the Bushes, I present the #18 team on my list:
#18 Beloit Snappers, 1995
Beloit, Wisconsin is located on the Badger State’s southern border, just minutes from Rockford, Illinois. The Snappers name was derived, beginning in 1995, from the snapping turtle, as Beloit was formerly known as Turtle Village. Beloit was a Brewers farm club from 1982-2004.
The team played its home games at Harry C. Pohlman Field at Telfer Park, which had a capacity of 3500.
Walter ‘Dub’ Kilgo, Jr. was the manager during the 1995 season. Kilgo managed for two seasons (1994 Helena and 1995 Beloit) and then it appears that Milwaukee released him after the 1995 season, despite his stellar managerial record. According to newspaper accounts, Kilgo ran afoul of the law and the Brewers decided to cut ties with him.
Forty-seven total players suited up for the Snappers in 1995, with seven of those advancing to the major leagues. Another five, including John Jaha, Dave Nilsson, and Turner Ward, spent rehab stints with the Brewers farm club located just an hour southwest of the big league city.
Twenty-year-old second baseman Ronnie Belliard had a slash line of 297/356/464 for the Snappers and went on to a solid 13-year career in the bigs, including five years as a Brewer. He amassed 1377 hits, including 114 round-trippers and a career line of 273/338/415.
Nineteen-year-old Jeff D’Amico tied for the team lead with 13 wins and had an ERA of 2.39 in 20 starts. He pitched five years for the Brewers (eight overall in the majors) and placed seventh in the balloting for Rookie of the Year in the American League in 1996. He had a career-high of 12 wins for Milwaukee in 2000, the Brewers final season at County Stadium.
Right-hander Steve Woodard compiled a 7-4 mark for the Snappers in 21 starts. He would toil for seven seasons in the majors (four with Milwaukee) and twice won at least ten games en route to a career record of 32-36.
Southpaw Kelly Wunsch was a starter for Beloit, winning four of eleven decisions in 14 starts. His first year in the majors was 2000 for the Chicago White Sox, and he finished fifth in the RoY race in the junior circuit. His 83 appearances led the A.L. that season. In six overall seasons, he took the ball 257 times, all in relief.
Brian Tollberg also won 13 games for Beloit, while losing four. He had a 3.41 ERA in 22 starts. In four major league seasons for San Diego, Tollberg went 15-16, with a career-high ten victories in 2001.
Danny Klassen started at shortstop, slashing 275/332/390 for Beloit in 218 ABs. He played parts of five seasons in the bigs–mostly with Arizona–seeing action in 85 games.
The Snappers won the first half in the Midwest League Central with a mark of 45-25. They finished second in the second half at 43-26. They went on the beat Michigan in the championship round for the MWL title.
HR: Derek Hacopian (23)
RBI: Derek Hacopian (92)
BA: Derek Hacopian (.324)
SB: Scott Krause (24)
W: Jeff D’Amico, Brian Tollberg (13)
ERA: Jeff D’Amico (2.39)
SV: Chris Burt (27)
K: Jeff D’Amico (119)
WHIP: Jeff D’Amico (1.008)
C: Josh Zwisler/Alex Andreopoulos/Rob Campillo
1B: Drew Williams
2B: Ronnie Belliard
3B: Junior Betances
SS: Danny Klassen/David Milstien
LF: Derek Hacopian
CF: John Smith
RF: Scott Krause
SP: Gabriel Mercado
SP: Brian Tollberg
SP: Steve Woodard
SP: Jeff D’Amico
SP: Kelly Wunsch
CL: Chris Burt
Best Player That Didn’t Make the Bigs: Derek Hacopian, OF
Hacopian was drafted in the 23rd round by the Cleveland Indians in the 1992 MLB June Amateur Draft out of the University of Maryland. He split his first season between Rookie ball and Low A, notching a slash line of 310/428/508 with nine jacks in 197 ABs.
The next year, he moved up to A and performed well with a line of 315/404/537 with 24 HRs and 82 RBIs.
It appears he was injured the following year in High A, playing in only 21 games yet still producing with a line of 300/380/429. Hacopian was acquired by the Brewers and was assigned to Beloit.
The next year for the Snappers, he was named to the post-season MWL All-Star team with his very good year. He moved on to the Montreal Expos system before the 1996 season, and finished his professional career playing in 43 games for West Palm Beach, slashing 268/330/382.
Hacopian is the owner of The Baseball Zone, LLC, a year-round baseball training facility located in Rockville, Maryland and is also the sole proprietor of a company that provides management software for sports facilities and health clubs.