By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STRASBURG -- Strasburg's first season in connection with the Connecticut Titans was a successful one.
The Express entered a partnership with the Titans in the offseason in which the Titans will act as a farm team to the Express. The Titans play in the Collegiate Baseball League.
Strasburg general manager Jay Neal said his son, Parker, and the Titans co-owner Duke Dickerson worked out the deal in the offseason.
"It worked out well," Jay Neal said. "Duke suggested it. They have a tremendous amount of respect for the Valley League. He said a lot of his kids will never get a chance to play in a league like that -- exposure-wise and other reasons."
Whenever the Express needs a player during the season they contact the Titans about possibly bringing somebody up to the Valley Baseball League.
This year the Express called up one player -- shortstop Chris Perkovich. The Saginaw Valley State University rising junior has played in 11 games this season. He hit .242 (8 for 33) with five RBIs after being signed on June 25 until an injury sidelined him for the season.
"He came in and did an excellent job until he got injured," Strasburg manager Butch Barnes said. "We can call up and get a guy in a moment's notice, but we try not to abuse that, because they've got a season to get through, too."
Neal said they also heard about catcher Teddy Payne through the Titans organization.
Barnes said they considered bringing up another player towards the end of the season, but he didn't want to mess up the team chemistry that the Express already had.
Another advantage the Titans have brought is their connection to the New York Yankees. The Titans have contacts with the Yankees, and the players sometimes show up for autograph signings and clinics at their field. Earlier this year Yankees veteran closer Mariano Rivera autographed balls for the Titans, and Neal said they sent seven or eight to the Express that were auctioned off at a cash party.
The Titans only play a six-week schedule, but Neal said he heard they were having a good season in the CBL.
Neal said they will also look at some of the guys that played for the Titans this season and keep them in mind for the Express next season.
"We're going to talk to them next year and see what guys they got that might fit this league," Neal said. "Their coaches know baseball well enough, even though it's not as good of a league, they can evaluate guys that are able to play in this one."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org