By Tommy Mumau│Utica Blue Sox Media Relations Assistant
The Utica Blue Sox provide collegiate baseball players with the opportunity to showcase and develop their skills, and work towards reaching the next level in their baseball careers. Utica has had tremendous success developing this talent in recent years, as they currently have nine players playing in professional baseball. Some of baseball’s biggest stars took a stop in Utica on their journey to making it to the major leagues.
Cedric Mullins – Baltimore Orioles
Before Cedric Mullins was roaming the outfield for the Baltimore Orioles, he was manning center field for the Utica Brewers. Mullins played for the Utica Brewers in 2014, prior to being drafted by the Orioles a season later. He made his MLB debut for the Orioles in August of 2018 against the Boston Red Sox. The left-handed slugger impressed in his first appearance, with a three-hit and two-RBI performance. Mullins has spent the majority of his last two seasons with the Orioles AA and AAA affiliates, the Bowie Baysox and Norfolk Tides. Mullins has also spent some time in the majors, recording four home runs for Baltimore in 2018. He was also the Opening Day center fielder for the Orioles against the New York Yankees in 2019. Mullins is entering his sixth professional season.
Ryan Yarbrough – Tampa Bay Rays
Ryan Yarbrough made a stop in Utica in 2011 as a part of his journey to the major leagues. The southpaw helped the Utica Brewers win the 2011 NYCBL title by posting a 2.30 ERA and being named to the All-Star team. He was then drafted in the fourth round by the Seattle Mariners in 2014, before being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. Yarbrough made his MLB debut against the Boston Red Sox in March of 2018, where he delivered a four-inning performance with three strikeouts while allowing only one earned run. The hurler generally pitches in relief, but has started 20 games in his career as an opener with the Rays. Yarbrough has greatly contributed to Tampa’s 90-plus wins in each of the past two seasons, posting a 27-12 record with a 4.02 ERA. Yarbrough is entering his third major league season.
Gus Varland – Oakland Athletics
On his road to becoming a pitcher in the Oakland Athletics organization, Gus Varland was a hurler for the 2016 Utica Blue Sox. Varland impressed during his time in Utica, posting a 1.50 ERA and a 2-1 record in his four appearances with the Sox. The right-hander was then drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 2018, and he was first assigned to the Rookie-Level Arizona League Athletics. After one scoreless performance with the club, Varland was promoted to the Class-A short season Vermont Lake Monsters, where he impressed by posting a 1.02 ERA in seven appearances. After this stint, Varland made his final stop of his first professional season with the Class-A full season Beloit Snappers. He also excelled at this level by posting a 0.93 ERA in five appearances, providing him with an overall 0.95 ERA in 2018. In 2019, the hurler was assigned to the Class-A advanced level Stockton Ports. He continued to post respectable numbers with Stockton, recording a 2.39 ERA and a 2-1 record in five appearances prior to being placed on the injured list for the remainder of the season. Varland is entering his third professional season.
Justin Washington – Los Angeles Dodgers
On his road to professional baseball, outfielder Justin Washington made a stop with the Utica Blue Sox. Washington spent the 2018 season in Utica as an outfielder and pitcher, prior to being drafted as an outfielder by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2019. He impressed in his first professional season, as he hit .272 with three home runs and 10 RBI in just 34 games with the Rookie-Level Arizona League Dodgers 2. Washington is entering his second professional season.
Mitch Calandra – Atlanta Braves
Prior to being a catcher in the Atlanta Braves organization, Mitch Calandra was a backstop for the Utica Blue Sox. He spent the 2017 season with the Utica Blue Sox, where he hit .338 while driving in nine runs in only 19 games. Calandra was then drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2019. The catcher impressed in his first professional season, as he hit .271 and recorded seven RBI in just 28 games with the Rookie Advanced Level Danville Braves. Calandra is entering his second professional season.
Louie Varland – Minnesota Twins
On his road to becoming a pitcher in the Minnesota Twins organization, Louie Varland was a hurler for the 2017 Utica Blue Sox. Varland was drafted by the Twins in June of 2019, and he was then assigned to the Rookie Advanced level Elizabethton Twins. He impressed in three appearances in 2019, posting a 2.08 ERA while striking out 10 batters. Varland is entering his second professional season.
Bear Bellomy – Pittsburgh Pirates
Prior to pitching in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, Bear Bellomy pitched for the Utica Blue Sox. Bellomy spent the 2016 season in Utica, posting a 3-1 record along with a 2.76 ERA. The reliever was drafted by the Pirates in 2019, and he was then assigned to the Rookie Advanced Level Bristol Pirates. In just seven games with Bristol, the right-hander impressed by recording saves in two games while not allowing a single earned run. This success earned Bellomy a promotion to the short-season A level West Virgina Black Bears. He also impressed at this level, saving two more games while recording a respectable 3.86 ERA. Bellomy is entering his second professional season.
Michael Messier – Kansas City Royals
Michael Messier made a stop in Utica on his journey to becoming a professional pitcher. Messier impressed with the Utica Brewers in 2015, recording a 3-1 record and a 1.38 ERA. The southpaw was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2016, and he was then assigned to the Rookie-Level Arizona League Royals. In 2017, he appeared in 13 games for the Rookie level Burlington Royals. Messier was assigned to the Rookie level Idaho Falls Chukars in 2018, notching a 1-0 record. Messier is currently listed as inactive.
Jared Solomon – Cincinnati Reds
Prior to pitching in the Cincinnati Reds organization, Jared Solomon was taking the mound at Murnane Field. Solomon was a member of the Utica Blue Sox in 2016, prior to being drafted by the Reds just a season later. His first assignment in professional baseball was with the Rookie level Arizona League Reds. The righthander impressed in his second season, recording a 4-3 record and a 3.34 ERA, as he split time between the Rookie-Level Billings Mustangs and the Single-A Dayton Dragons. Solomon also had a respectable 2019 campaign, as he posted a 3.98 ERA with the Single-A Level Dayton Dragons and the Daytona Tortugas. Solomon is entering his fourth professional season.
Moving forward, Blue Sox fans should keep an eye on 2019 Blue Sox first baseman and right fielder Josh Hatcher. Hatcher was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2017 but opted to further his athletic and academic careers at Mississippi State University. During his time in Utica, the lefty slugger recorded a .364 batting average along with four home runs and 27 RBI, in just 21 games. He has continued these high levels of production with Mississippi State, and will likely re-enter the draft next year. The same goes for other former Utica Blue Sox, such as Luis Deleon, Robbie Young and Tyler Simon, all of which are expected to be drafted next year.
The Blue Sox have played a role in helping these players reach their goals of becoming professional baseball players, and they will look to continue to do so in the future.