The York Revolution celebrates its 2017 Atlantic League title, the third in franchise history.
York Revolution team president Eric Menzer sat in the PeoplesBank Park press box, reveling in his team's latest Atlantic League title, as a few stray pieces of confetti fluttered down from the roof of the stadium.
Menzer helped bring baseball back to York in 2007, and it was the third time he was part of an Atlantic League championship. The Revs won back-to-back crowns in 2010 and 2011.
This title, however, was a bit more special, at least for him, if only for two reasons.
First was the team's turnaround from first-half afterthoughts to second-half Freedom Division champion, which allowed York to participate in the postseason.
Second, for the first time in three opportunities, Menzer was finally around to celebrate the victory.
"My first year, in 2010, we won it up in Bridgeport and I was not there," Menzer said. "Then, in 2011, I was in Germany because I had a 25th anniversary trip that had been booked by my parents two years in advance, so I sat on the deck of a ship on the Rhine River and listened to us win. But, this is the first time I've seen it."
Shades of 2010: Of the previous two Atlantic League titles that York won, 2017 was more similar to the 2010 championship season than the 2011 campaign.
In 2011, the Revs needed to win the second half to make the playoffs, but did it running away. However, in the first half, they were also strong, finishing just a game back of the Lancaster Barnstormers. For the regular season, York went 73-51, the second-best overall record in the league.
In 2010, however, after a dismal first half in which the Revs went just 29-41, the second worst mark in the league, the team rebounded to win the second half, going 40-30 and make the playoffs.
That 2010 run to the title played out just about how this year's went. York was 28-42 in the first half this season, again finishing with the second-worst record in the league. After going 40-30 in the second half, however, the Revs found themselves in the postseason as second-half Freedom Division champs.
"In the first half, we lost a lot of one-run games," manager Mark Mason said. "We thought we were close. We made a couple personnel changes going into the second half and they worked out. Sometimes those things work out and sometimes they don't. But, in the first half, it wasn't like we were getting boat-raced. We lost a lot of one-run games."
That might be the irony in the entire run to the championship, especially in the championship series against the Long Island Ducks. En route to the three-game sweep of Long Island, York won all three games by a single run, putting a convincing finish on an otherwise competitive series.
"In baseball, you never know," Mason said. "When you get into the playoffs, you don't think about sweeps, you just think about winning three games."
Key changes to turnaround: All fans will remember about the 2017 season is the end result.
However, in late June, nothing about the Revs looked like a team capable of making the playoffs, let alone winning it all.
Menzer, however, looked at three player acquisitions and a role change that helped shape the team into a contender.
It started with the acquisition of former big leaguer Alexi Casilla at midseason, who added some veteran experience to a relatively young lineup. However, Casilla left the team late in the regular season.
Then, there was the addition of slugger Telvin Nash, a veteran player for York who came back for the final 55 games of the season. Nash, who had his contract purchased by the Chicago White Sox last year, was suspended 50 games last season for amphetamines, before being released outright midway through this year. His return to the Revs provided a jolt, belting 19 home runs in the 55 games he played for York.
Lastly, there was the late-season acquisition of Rubi Silva, a dynamic middle infielder who tore the cover off the ball and played stellar defense from the moment he arrived with the Revs. In the clinching game of the series on Friday night, Sept. 29, Silva went 4 for 4, scoring two runs, while making a couple impressive plays at second base.
The role change Menzer referred to was moving Chase Huchingson into the closer's role. While Brad Allen was strong in that spot during the first half, he began to falter and Mason made the change to Huchingson as the team's closer.
The lefty made the move pay off. He was lights out as the closer, helping to earn him co-MVP honors in the postseason, along with Nash. In Game 1 and Game 2 of the championship series against the Ducks, Huchingson came up with a pair of five-out saves on the road to put York ahead 2-0 in the series.
All the moves fit together like a puzzle.
Midway through the season, the picture of that puzzle wasn't pretty. The end result, however, was a third championship in franchise history.
"I will freely admit that I never saw this coming in the early part of the season and I think Mark Mason would tell you the same thing," Menzer said.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com