Bat 'Cats in MLB highlight program

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Bob Haynes | The Daily Wildcat Arizona starting pitcher Kurt Heyer works against Baylor during the first inning of a Fort Worth Regional baseball game at Lupton Stadium at Fort Worth, Texas, Friday, June 4, 2010. Arizona defeated Baylor, 10-9. (Bob Haynes/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

MLB’s Opening Day was Monday, and it gave several former key Arizona baseball players another chance to keep playing the game at the next level.

Two former Arizona Wildcats have already worked their way up the managerial level of the Major Leagues. Terry Francona, Arizona’s 1980 College World Series MOP, is the former manager of the Boston Red Sox and current manager of the Cleveland Indians, while Chip Hale — who currently holds 17 batting records at Arizona — manages for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But Arizona has alumni making plays on the field as well. Here are the ones most likely to make a difference in 2015.

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Mark Melancon

Mark Melancon, a current relief pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, played for Arizona from 2004-2006. He was on the Wildcats’ 2004 Pac-10 Conference Championship team that made it to the College World Series. He ranks second all-time in career saves at the UA with 18 and seventh in career games pitched at 77.

Melcanon was drafted in the ninth round of the 2006 draft as the 280th pick by the New York Yankees. He debuted for the team in 2009 before being traded to the Houston Astros in 2010. Melancon also played for the Boston Red Sox in 2012 before heading to Pittsburgh in 2013.

Last year, Melcanon made 33 saves in 72 appearances. He pitched 71 innings, striking out 71. He boasted the second-lowest ERA on the team at 1.90, lowering his career ERA to 2.92.

Nick Hundley

Hundley played alongside Melancon in the 2004 College World Series as a sophomore. The catcher’s most explosive year came the year after, in 2005, where he went on to be a Johnny Bench Award finalist and was listed as an All-American by Baseball America, adding onto his Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American award in 2003.

Hundley is tied for 11th in Arizona history for home runs in a single season with 15 in 2005. He also recorded 23 doubles and 40 total extra base hits that year, the same year he was drafted in the second round by the San Diego Padres.

He now plays for the Colorado Rockies after leaving the Padres for a short stint with the Baltimore Orioles in 2014. The catcher has a career .991 fielding percentage in 517 games and has hit 52 home runs.

He started his first game for the Rockies on Opening Day Monday, going 1-5 in their 10-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Robert Refsnyder

Robert Refsnyder was one of five Arizona players to be drafted following the team’s sweep of the 2012 College World Series. The second baseman plays for the New York Yankees organization, which drafted him in the fifth round, and is currently on the team’s AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders roster. He has a career Minor League batting average of .297.

Refsnyder was a catalyst for the 2012 Arizona baseball season, winning the MVP of the College World Series. He led the team in RBIs in two consecutive years, with 55 in 2011 and 66 in 2012. He also played in every single game as a Wildcat, all 171 from 2010-2012.

Kurt Heyer

Currently a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, Kurt Heyer was another starter to lead Arizona to the 2012 College World Series. Heyer was the team’s Friday night starting pitcher for three seasons.

Heyer holds the Arizona record for most strikeouts by a freshman with 109 of his career total 356 coming in 2010. He started 56 games, which is fourth-most in Arizona history, and pitched 393.1 innings, good for third most in the record books. He also boasted the team’s lowest ERA and most strikeouts from 2010-2012.

The Cardinals picked up Heyer in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. He currently plays for the AA-affiliate Springfield Cardinals but made three appearances on the AAA Memphis Redbirds in 2014, going 0-2 in those outings. Heyer’s Minor League career ERA is 4.21 with 214 strikeouts.

Other notable alumni in Major League organizations: 

  • Joey Rickard (Tampa Bay Rays organization)
  • Alex Mejia (St. Louis Cardinals Organization)
  • Seth Mejias-Brean (Cincinatti Reds organization)
  • Johnny Field (Tampa Bay Rays organization)
  • Konner Wade (Colorado Rockies organization)
  • James Farris (Chicago Cubs organization)
  • Trent Gilbert (Oakland Athletics organization)

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