Re: PROSPECT PROFILE: Noochie Varner
Whitecaps win on, off the field
Saturday, August 31, 2002
By Alan Babbitt
The Grand Rapids Press
The West Michigan Whitecaps certainly aren't laboring right now.
The surging Whitecaps kicked off Labor Day weekend in impressive fashion Friday night in the opener of their final regular-season series of the season. They first welcomed an all-star addition to their lineup then blasted the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 11-3 in front of 9,320 fans at Fifth Third Ballpark.
"What a day," Whitecaps manager Phil Regan said after his team extended its winning streak to seven games and claimed its 12th victory in 13 games.
Friday began with news the Detroit Tigers had acquired Midwest League all-star center fielder Noochie Varner and assigned him to their pennant-chasing Class A affiliate.
The Cincinnati Reds sent Varner to the Tigers to complete an earlier trade for pitcher Brian Moehler. The transaction switched the promising 21-year-old from Cynthiana, Ky., between two teams vying for the second-half Eastern Division crown.
The Whitecaps (41-26) lead Dayton by a game with three contests remaining. Regardless of who wins the division, the two teams will meet in the first round of the playoffs because the Dragons clinched a spot Friday with Lansing's loss at Quad City. The best-of-three series will begin Tuesday in Dayton, then return to Fifth Third Ballpark for two games if necessary.
Varner, who took the roster spot of injured outfielder Clint Kolodzey, has been one of the MWL's top offensive players this season. He entered play Friday fifth in batting average at .310 and fourth in stolen bases with 37.
This season he produced 15 runs in 16 games against the Whitecaps. He smacked two three-run homers at Fifth Third Ballpark on Aug. 1 during a 13-12 Dragons loss.
"I got the call, and I couldn't wait to get to the ballpark," said Regan, who's already known for his love of baseball. "My wife (Carol) asked, 'What did you do? Take happy pills?'
"I'm really happy to have (Varner) here. He's a hard-nose player, aggressive. He'll fit right in."
The addition of Varner gives the Whitecaps a player who's on the MWL's postseason all-star team. The league's managers shut them out from any honors, despite fielding one of the best teams in the league.
Varner batted sixth in his Whitecaps debut and went 2-for-4 with an RBI triple. The extra-base blast to deep center capped a six-run rally in the fifth that put the Whitecaps ahead 8-1.
"Any time you get traded, it's going to be kind of weird going to a new team," Varner said. "But the guys welcomed me. I'm glad to be here and I'll do my best to help the team win."
Varner's two hits were part of a 14-hit attack. First baseman Juan Tejeda stroked a two-run single in the fifth to raise his league-leading and franchise-record RBI total to 105.
The Whitecaps received three hits apiece from second baseman Juan Francia and right fielder Jason Knoedler. Francia also contributed three RBIs. Knoedler played in right to accommodate Varner.
The run support was more than enough for Whitecaps starter Chad Petty (15-10).
The left-hander overcame some wildness in the second and surrendering a two-run homer to Hunter Brown in the sixth to earn the decision. The seven-inning performance moved Petty into a tie for the MWL lead for wins with Peoria's Tyler Johnson.
MATT COENEN is scheduled today to try join his Whitecaps teammate Petty among the league leaders for wins by a pitcher, despite a strained oblique muscle in his right side. The injury occurred during his Aug. 23 start at South Bend but Coenen says he's OK.
RYAN RABURN is dealing with shin splints and an apparent calcium deposit in his leg. Yet it is not expected to prevent him from playing in either the last three games of the regular season or the postseason.
VARNER'S FIRST name is Gary, and he is named after his father. He got his nickname through his father as well. High school buddies of the elder Varner called him "Nooch."
2013 Reds record when I'm attending: 26-16 FINAL
2013 Dragons record when I'm attending: 2-1 FINAL
"We want to be the band to dance to when the bomb drops." - Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran