Rumblings on onetime Redlands High catcher Jacob Nottingham began on a Sunday night. Milwaukee Brewers’ catcher Manny Pina was headed for the 10-day disabled list, among a flurry of other moves.
Those rumblings were Redlands’ baseball observers — parents, coaches, former players, ex-teammates, observers from all corners of the city, you name it — that included social media attention.
On July 8, Nottingham was recalled to the Milwaukee Brewers. He was expected to share catching duties with Erik Kratz over the next week.
Sure enough, Nottingham was placed in the lineup — batting eighth, in fact — in Milwaukee’s game at Miami. He would be facing Marlins’ pitcher Jose Urena while catching Brewers’ pitcher Chase Anderson.
Nottingham, a catcher who spent a few days with the Brewers earlier in the season over a similar situation, had been recalled again. He was hitting .303 with 10 HRs at Class AAA Colorado Springs.
He’s the Brewers’ No. 25 prospect, according the MLB Pipeline.
This could be no ordinary Redlands Connection. Perhaps, it’s just the latest.
Nottingham singled off Urena, who fed him an 89-mph off-speed, hitting it to left field off the end of the bat. Next time up, against Javy Guerra, Nottingham drilled a double to left field.
In the end, Miami beat the Brewers, 4-3.
Milwaukee, which held a two-game lead over 2016 World Series champion Chicago in a rough-and-tumble National League Central Division race, could be the surprise force in 2018.
Nottingham, along with a bevy of other Milwaukee youths, might be a vital cog in the expected summer duel with the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.
Nottingham-to-the-big-leagues is big news.
Redlands has produced previous major leaguers, including undrafted second baseman Julio Cruz (Mariners, White Sox, Dodgers), Seattle’s 1980 13th round pick southpaw pitcher Ed Vande Berg (Mariners, Dodgers, Indians and Rangers), plus Angels-Blue Jays catcher Dan Whitmer (a 1978 Angels’ draft pick), who worked Detroit’s bullpen when the Tigers won the 1984 World Series.
When the Houston Astros drafted Nottingham at No. 167 overall in the sixth round in 2013, it didn’t take long for Nottingham to sign on June 14.
After a couple seasons in the Astros’ chain, Houston needed pitching at the major league level. On July 23, 2015, they traded Nottingham to the Oakland A’s in exchange for southpaw pitcher Scott Kazmir, who was 108-96 with a 4.00 ERA over a dozen MLB seasons.
Traded for by A’s legendary Billy Bean, who authored Money Ball in the early 2000s.
But it was hardly the end of Bean’s transaction activity surrounding the Redlands prospect. Between 2015 and 2016, Nottingham was shipped to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Brewers’ General Manager David Stearns dealt outfielder Khris Davis (166 home runs, .248 average over 5 MLB seasons) to Oakland. Davis, who would go on to smoke over 40 home runs in the next two seasons for the A’s, has 21 bombs so far this season.
That’s how highly Milwaukee must’ve viewed Nottingham’s potential.
On Nov. 20, 2017 Nottingham’s minor league contract was purchased. The Brewers placed him on the 40-man roster, the ultimate payoff for any off-season transaction.
Nottingham was one of five catchers – by far, the youngest on Milwaukee’s roster.
Over a five-year span with a handful of teams ranging from Rookie Ball to Low Class A to High Class A to Class AA, Nottingham had blasted 43 home runs and hit .238 (.325 OBP) in 424 professional games.
Upon his call-up to the Brewers in April, Nottingham received the full treatment. His father, Greg, was spotted being interviewed on the Brewers’ TV network.
Brewers’ history is traced back to the 1969 season when the American League expanded to two teams, the Seattle Pilots and Kansas City Royals. When the Pilots’ support floundered prior to the 1970 season, the were sold to a group in Milwaukee, which included eventual baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
When baseball needed to even up its 30-team alignment in 1998 — there were, at one point, 16 N.L. teams and 14 A.L. teams — the Brewers were shifted to the National League to evenly align the leagues.
Other than a playoff season in 2008 (wild card) and 2011 (N.L. Central Division title), the Brewers’ post-season appearances have been limited. Longtime reader Ben Mulder noted that the Brewers, the in the American League, lost the 1982 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.
As for Nottingham, he had one final swing in the Brewers’ loss in Miami. That he struck out against Marlins’ closer Kyle Barraclough is only part of the story.
Against Barraclough’s 95-mph fastballs, Nottingham unloaded back-to-back swings that were hard-core, all-out powerful, home run-conscious hacks that would’ve tied the score if only he’d connected.
He’s a true Big Leaguer.
Nottingham’s call-up, most likely attracting attention from all corners of his hometown, got the rumblings rolling.
Next stop is an N.L. Central Division showdown between the second place Cubs and first place Brewers. That showdown would have true Redlands Connections if Tyler Chatwood, a Redlands East Valley prospect, were pitching for Chicago with Nottingham catching for the Brewers.