Timber Rattlers in Japan
Wladimir Balentien played for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 2004. He hit 15 home runs in just 76 games with the Rattlers during that season.
In case you’ve missed the discussion over the last few weeks, Balentien is making a run at the single season record in Japan.
And who is the slugger who might soon usurp [Sadaharu] Oh? Wladimir Balentien, from a tiny island in the Caribbean.
“I’m going for the top,” Balentien, a native of Curaçao, in the Netherlands Antilles, told reporters after hitting his 52nd home run of the season last week for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. “I always want to be No. 1.”
Balentien, a hulking outfielder who once played for the Seattle Mariners and the Cincinnati Reds, has been unstoppable this season. Though he missed the season’s first 12 games with an injury, he has averaged a home run every two games and is hitting a league-best .340 with 111 runs batted in.
He is the lone highlight for Yakult, which languishes in last place in Japan’s Central League.
That story was written before Balentien hit home run #53 for the Yakult Swallows over the weekend. Sadaharu Oh’s record is 55. There is just over a month to go in the season over in Japan. The 2013 season is the third year Balentien has played for Yakult. He hit 31 home runs in 2011 and 2012.
I decided to see if there were other ex-Timber Rattlers playing in Japan.
I found two others that are still playing – and one who made two starts – over there.
Jorge Sosa had just made the switch to being a pitcher from an outfielder when he joined the Rattlers near the end of the 2001 season. He was in the majors in 2002 after Tampa took him in the Rule 5 draft.
He’s with the Yokohama Bay Stars this year after spending last season with the Chunichi Dragons.
Bryan LaHair joined the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers for the second half of the 2004 season. He wound up leading the team in doubles that year. LaHair was an All-Star with the Cubs in 2012, but since Anthony Rizzo was ready, there was no spot for LaHair in Chicago this year.
He is playing for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League in 2013,
Justin Thomas was 5-5 in eleven starts for the Timber Rattlers in 2006. He made it to the big leagues with the Mariners, Pirates, Yankees, and Red Sox. Thomas started the 2013 season with Sacramento, the PCL affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, but was let go in June. Thomas signed with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of the JPL and made two starts between July 31 and August 7.
There were a few other interesting names on that I found in Japan.
Vinny Rottino - of the Racine Rottino’s – has played 37 games with the Orix Buffaloes.
Casey McGehee is with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. McGehee has 24 homers and 81 RBI so far this season.