By Jim Holland
*photo head shot courtesy of Syracuse Chiefs
*action photo courtesy of Rick Nelson
Beyond the six postseason appearances and three Prospect League titles earned over the past seven years by the West Virginia Miners, one mission that is always priority for the organization does not ever appear in the win-loss column.
Former 2013 Miners’ outfielder Issac Ballou is another example of the franchise’s strength in recruiting and preparing players (through further training and networking connections) to springboard them upward into the professional baseball ranks.
Ballou, who will turn 27 next St. Patrick’s Day, has appeared at the AAA level of pro baseball in each of the past two seasons for the Syracuse Chiefs, the International League affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
The native of Germantown, MD has advanced to within one step of “The Show” by taking advantage of his Syracuse opportunity in the form of having a career AAA batting average of .298 (14-for-47) in 30 games for the Chiefs. This upcoming spring training will earn him the shot to vault to a complete AAA season with a chance to end up in Washington.
Ballou is yet another exciting player from Marshall University that wound up in a Miners’ uniform playing at ultra-modern Linda K. Epling Stadium. Before arriving in Beckley in 2013, he had been previously drafted in the 36th round of the 2011 major league amateur draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates but did not sign.
Enter West Virginia Miners’ manager Tim Epling, who recalled Marshall head coach Jeff Waggoner telling him the Herd had an outfielder, who needed a platform to show his skills to get another good look by professional teams. Epling in turn was sold on Ballou.
“Isaac is one of the most athletic players we’ve ever had come through here. He has a dedicated blue collar work ethic and represents the game of baseball well through his actions,” commented Epling.
Ballou’s stay in Beckley was brief (he was also nursing a torn oblique muscle during this time) as Epling received a preliminary call from scouts with the Washington Nationals seeking more information on a player they were considering drafting. The result was Ballou being selected that June in the 15th round of the 2013 MLB amateur draft by the Nationals. This time he was ready, signed a contract, and has been in the Nats’ organization ever since.
His ongoing work ethic has enabled Ballou to post to date a solid career minor league batting average to date of .267 in 439 games that includes 26 homers along with 207 RBI. He complements that with a speedy running game that has seen him steal 63 bases in 84 attempts for a stolen base percentage of .750.
So Isaac Ballou is yet another player to keep your eyes on as he advances up the professional baseball ladder. And, as manager Tim Epling summed up, it’s a major part of the West Virginia Miners mission statement.
“That’s why we do what we do. We are trying to move players up and help them succeed,” concluded Epling.