An already historic championship season was capped off with a major national award as Baseball America named the Midland RockHounds its 2017 Minor League Team of the Year.
The honor from Baseball America, the sport's premier publication, follows a season in which the club captured its fourth consecutive Texas League championship.
While the award goes to the '17 RockHounds, logic dictates it also recognizes of a remarkable body of work.
The club's run of four consecutive titles, which began in 2014, makes the Midland RockHounds one of just two teams in the Texas League's 130-year history to capture four consecutive championships, joining the Fort Worth Panthers, who won six straight crowns between 1920 and 1925. In fact, the RockHounds and Fort Worth are the only two teams in league history to win as many as three consecutive outright titles (Houston and Waco each won three-in-a-row between 1912 and 1916, but the teams shared the 1914 title).
The four consecutive championships are part of an equally impressive total of six Texas League titles in the last 13 seasons (extremely rare in the modern era of Minor League Baseball). Prior to the 2005 championship, the franchise had just one Texas League title in its first 33 seasons and no outright championships (the Midland Cubs shared the 1975 league crown). All six have come since the RockHounds became the affiliate of the Oakland A's, a partnership which enters its 20th anniversary year when the 2018 season opens in April. The affiliation is the longest in franchise history and, by far, the most successful on the field.
"This award belongs to the players and field staffs, really of all four of the championship teams," Midland RockHounds general manager Monty Hoppel said. "Our congratulations and thanks go out to (Executive Vice President) Billy Beane, (Director of Player Development) Keith Lieppman and to all the great people with the A's."
The four championship clubs have been guided by three different managers with Aaron Nieckula (2014) and Ryan Christenson (2015 and 2016) preceding Fran Riordan, who led the RockHounds to the 2017 title. The '17 club featured a trio of Texas League All-Stars: (first baseman) Viosergy Rosa, (second baseman) Max Schrock and (outfielder) B.J. Boyd. After clinching their playoff spot on the final day of the season, the 'Hounds defeated the San Antonio Missions (who had the league's best regular season record) in the South Division Championship Series and came back from a two-games-to-none deficit against the Tulsa Drillers to capture the league title. Including the last day of the regular season, the 'Hounds were 6-0 in games in which they faced elimination.