Dennis Higgins – Voice of the Tulsa Drillers

During the past three years four Dodger minor league affiliates have won a league championship. The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes did so in 2015, the Great Lakes Loons in 2016 and the Ogden Raptors in 2017. And, let’s not forget that the 2017 DSL Dodgers won the league title  among themselves. That is,  the DSL Dodgers No. 2 defeated the DSL Dodgers No. 1, 6-4, in the league’s championship game  at Campo Las Palmas.

That has established a nice trend that might just continue in 2018 with another affiliate championship. It would seem that the Oklahoma Dodgers and Tulsa Drillers might be poised to do just that. The Drillers came up short in the 2017 championship game falling 1-0 to the Midland RockHounds. With a revamped and exciting lineup the Drillers seemed poised to take another run at the league crown.

Dennis Higgins has returned to the Drillers as the playby-play announcer for a ninth season and no doubt would love to live the moment with the Tulsa squad when the last out is recorded in their championship game. Tulsa has not won a league title since 1998.

Higgins had an award winning year of his own  during the past season  as the National Sports Media Association named him the 2017 Oklahoma Sportscaster of the Year. He will receive his award during the 59th annual NSMA Awards ceremony in June during the weekend of June 23-25 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Humbled by the unexpected award, he gave a brief statement: “It is a great honor,” Higgins said of winning the award. “It was very unexpected, and I am very appreciative.”

His name will now be listed among past Oklahoma Sportscaster Award winners and National Award winners which includes well known voices such as Joe Buck and Jim Nantz.

Higgins always had an interest in broadcasting but was making a good living as a truck driver in Sacramento when he was urged by his father to change courses.

“It was good money and it was physically demanding,” the 42-year-old [in 2000] Higgins said. “My dad mentioned to me that he knew I had always wanted to work in broadcasting and I wasn’t getting any younger.”

Willing to follow a dream he registered in graduate school at San Francisco State University, graduated, and began work at AM radio station KNBR in San Francisco.

From there he launched his career in baseball broadcasting with minor league stops in Wichita, Kansas, Helena, Montana and Eugene, Oregon.

In 2000 he earned a broadcasting stint with the San Francisco Giants after gaining the attention of veteran Giant broadcaster, Jon Miller, who had happened to tune in to one of Higgins’ minor league broadcasts.

    “I turned to my wife and said, ‘This guy sounds damn good,’ ” Miller said. “He was not only providing

     a good description of the game, but he had very good enthusiasm and he sounded like he was having

    fun.”

    “He’s got a strong likability quotient and he really enjoys the game,” Miller said. “Part of what makes

     him unique is that he was not a young kid who had this dream. He has really persevered later than

     a lot of people.”

In 2009 Higgins was recruited by the Drillers Director of Public Relations, Brian Carroll, who still works with the Tulsa organization but now as a Vice President of Media/Public Relations. He selected Higgins from among nearly 200 candidates.

“We were fortunate. We had a number of good candidates,” said Brian Carroll, the Drillers’ director

    of media relations. “Bruce Howard and Mark Neely did a great job for us. Dennis has big shoes to

     fill, and we know he’ll do a good job.”

    “We are fortunate to have an announcer as experienced, informed and entertaining as Dennis Higgins

     to lead our broadcasts.”

On his part, Dennis Higgins had his eye on Tulsa when an opportunity came along as former Drillers announcer Mark Neely accepted a job with the San Diego Padres.

“I always told Mark, ‘If you ever decide to leave Tulsa, I might be interested in that job,’ ” Higgins said. “The Drillers are a minor-league team with a major-league front office. It’s very unusual to see a front office that has been together for so long.”

Higgins has a very personal touch in pre-game or post-game interviews with players and is willing to do the unusual. Last summer he had a live pre-game interview with Jesica Beaty, wife of Dodgers minor league player, Matt Beaty, in which they discussed the life of a minor league player’s wife. From her enthusiasm and acquired knowledge of the game and all its demands on young players, it provided a close up look at what support a wife can be to a player trying to accomplish the near impossible.

Tune in to the Tulsa radio broadcasts again this season on iHeart Media station AM 1430, The Buzz.  Dennis Higgins will be working the usual 140 games also heard over the Internet at Tulsa Drillers.com or through MiLB.com.

He might have to take a couple of days off to attend his well deserved Sportscaster of the Year presentation in Winston-Salem in June.

Dodgers Minor League Report by Always Compete

After previously summarizing the early Tulsa game, there were two evening games where the Dodger affiliates split a pair of games. Not a whole lot of action, and very few stand out performances.

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes – 8-2 Loss to the Stockton Ports (A’s)

Tony Gonsolin started and went 4.1 innings allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 8 hits, and registered 6 K’s. This was not good outing for Gonsolin. Chris Mathewson completed 1.2 innings allowing a HR. Imani Abdullah had another successful relief appearance pitching 1.0 inning striking out 3. However he did uncork 2 WP, one on a K, to put a slight blemish on otherwise outstanding game. Perhaps we are seeing the transformation of another starter to the bullpen.

The offense consisted of Rylan Bannon’s 6th HR on the campaign, and 6 singles from 6 different players.

Great Lakes Loons – 5-0 Win over the Fort Wayne TinCaps (Padres)

Jesus Vargas started and won his second consecutive game with another 5 shutout innings. Vargas allowed 3 hits and 1 walk and struck out 3 batters, before being removed. Vargas threw 51 pitches, 37 for strikes. Dan Jagiello followed with 2.0 innings of 1 hit, 2 BB, and 3 K pitching. Aneurys Zabala continued with his Jekyll & Hyde season. Last night he threw 2.0 innings of shutout/hitless baseball. He did have 2 K’s on the evening.

C Ramon Rodriguez went 2-3 with a 3 run HR, and 4 RBI’s overall, while 1B Nick Yarnall added a 2-4 night. Brandon Montgomery contributed a triple.

Posted by DodgerChatter

I have been a Dodger fan longer than many of you have been alive. I picked the name Dodger Chatter so that you can call me DC. That way, LA Dodger Talk can be the home of AC/DC! I particularly enjoy following the minor leaguers.

This article has 26 Comments

  1. Would anyone care to provide a SSS scouting report on Daniel Hudson’s stuff last night? Thanks.

  2. I saw a lot of movement on Hudson’s pitches. He looked really good! Can’t wait to see him again.

    AC/DC: Is Ryan Bannon a legit 3b prospect?

    1. Bobby, because I live in the Atlantic Time Zone I rarely, if ever, get to listen to or watch Quakes games on MiLB. My thoughts about Rylan Bannon would be mostly from what I have read. I did get to listen to quite a few Raptor games during the 2017 season and Bannon certainly was an important cog in the Raptors championship wheel.
      .
      I wrote this about him last August: http://www.thinkbluela.com/2017/08/raptors-rylan-bannon-having-a-banner-year/
      .
      He skipped the Great Lakes Loons this year so that is a good sign. With the Quakes he has played mostly third base with three games at second base. I would have thought that Christian Santana would be ahead of Bannon on the depth chart and I think he is certainly with his bat and he is one year younger than Bannon. However, Santana is playing mostly at first base. Santana is ranked 14th by MLBPipeline while Bannon is ranked 30th.
      .
      Bannon’s triple slash with the Raptors was .336/.425/.591 in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. Any reports I have read are that he is a good glove man. “He has range to both sides and comes in on balls well, and he possesses soft hands as well as solid arm strength. He could be a plus defender with more consistency, and he’s quick enough that Los Angeles is giving him some time at second base this year”.
      .
      Oddly enough his glove has let him down so far in 2018 as he has nine errors at third base.
      .
      Some might say that he is more suited to second base as he will not be a typical power hitting third baseman and is not big at 5’10”/180-pounds. However those are almost identical dimensions to former Dodger great third baseman Ron Cey.
      .
      He is not taking anything for granted and the jump from rookie ball to High-A in one season is significant .I think he has a good perspective on what it takes to make it in the world of baseball.
      .
      “I think coming off a good year like that, some guys might let it get in their head like that it’s just going to happen automatically,” he said. “I definitely worked hard this off season. I put on some weight, I hit a lot and took a lot of ground balls. I just kind of stayed with my same approach as last year and taking it into this year.”
      .
      He is not high profile and on everyone’s radar but to this point has done what he can do to improve his stock. He is second in home runs in the California league and sixth in Slugging. Granted the league is reputed to be a hitter friendly league but you still have to hit the ball. I think we need some more time to see that his fielding tightens up and that he can hit right-handed pitching well enough as well being a clutch hitter as he was with the Raptors.
      .
      I have a feeling he may continue to surprise us and to this point has not done anything to suggest he is not a legit prospect, putting his fielding aside for the moment. He is still only 22 and his second year of professional ball.

      1. I love it. One of those guys who gets an early tag on him and it’s hard to shake. I too remember he came with a good defensive reputation and his power was considered suspect for 3b. Considering we have an opportunity at 3b opening up in the next few years, he’s definitely one to watch and let slowly develop. There’s so much more to power than size. Just look at Dustin Pedroia, who hit the crap out of the ball when he first came up. Not saying he’s a comp but it’s great to keep these guys in mind as we monitor our prospect ranks. Also could potentially free us to trade a C. Santana, for example, if another team really wants him as a piece in a major trade.

  3. When are we going to finally pull the plug on Baez and trade the guy for a warm six pack? Someone do some research and find out how many times over the last few seasons he has blown high leverage situations. Roberts keeps going back to the well with this guy, and he has proven he can’t handle the pressure when the game is on the line. Screw the potential, this guy is Hatcher a Darvish headcase rolled into one. Time to give someone else(Brock Stuart, Mark?) a chance. Seems like we have this same conversation every other week. Pull the cord Doc, pull the cord…

  4. The Dodgers cannot hit. Period. Here are the numbers:

    On the season:
    .239 BA; .694 OPS.

    Vs. LHP – .218/.633
    Vs. RHP – .250/.724.

    The last 7 days:
    .196 BA/.655 OPS, 14 R

    Last night against a pitcher with a 7.91 ERA coming into the game they managed 5 H, 2 R
    4/23 they managed 6 H, 2 R
    4/22, the got 5 H and 4 R against a pitcher who had a 5.43 ERA in 2017.

    The biggest culprits?
    Puig – .195 BA, .256 OBP,.244 SLG, .499 OPS (that’s not a mis-print), 0 HR
    Muncy – .118/.211/.294/.505, 1 HR
    Forsythe – .174/.224/.283/.507, 1 HR
    Farmer – .222/.300/.296/.596, 0 HR
    Pederson – .190/.306/.310/.616, 1 HR
    Seager – .241/.333/.357/.671, 1 HR

    They have 6 guys with OPS below .700. They are all getting AB. (Except Forsythe who is mercifully on the DL) For all of the complaining about Joc (justified in my view) they have 4 guys who are worse and generally, no one complains about them. This isn’t all going to be fixed by Turner’s return.

    Furthermore, I have watched enough of the games to know that while some guys like Bellinger and Taylor have OPS over .700, they still aren’t right (and .700 is below average anyway). Taylor has 6 BB vs 25 K in 103 plate appearances which is awful for a leadoff hitter as is his OBP of .282.

    In short, something big has to change. The recent “streak” of 7 wins in 8 tries is not really that good – 4 of the 7 were against SD and MIA. They don’t look like a division winner to me.

    The bullpen is the subject of a different post.

  5. I’m afraid that Baez’s value has dropped below a warm six pack. Maybe can get a used pine tar rug.

      1. Why? The offense struggled for the second game in a row against a TERRIBLE team. Yes, the bullpen–specifically Baez–blew a late lead and Joe West was garbage, but our lack of offensive productive was the main reason we lost. How is that controversial? A mere surmise, sir.

      2. Rick

        People are not complaining about Puig and Corey, because they have much more of a history of hitting well, then Joc.

        And Farmer and Muncy, have not been given the starts, or the at bats, and the chances, that Joc has been given, in the last three years, at the major league level.

        They have been playing mostly in AAA.

        And Joc has been taking away at bats, and starts, from Kemp, who was actually hot, and providing most of the offense, from the outfield.

    1. I thought you were a businessman, Mark. It’s an allusion to a classic quote about the economy. No offense intended.

  6. 22 games into the year without J.T….
    dodgerrick, like the Rev. Jim Jones in Guyana, is saying drink the koolaid… This team is definely not the People’s Temple…
    Sounds like a Gigantes rep!??!

    1. Per TrueBlue LA: “Miami’s starters have a 5.16 ERA so far this season, 26th in MLB. The Dodgers have scored two total runs in 11⅓ innings against Marlins starters this season.”

  7. The Dodgers were able to get a return on Wilmer Font after all. Font was traded to the A’s for 23 year old LHRP, Logan Salow. Salow was a 2017 6th round draft pick for the A’s out of Kentucky. Salow joins the Dodgers 2017 7th round draft pick Zach Pop also out of Kentucky. OF Zach Reks (10th) and SS Connor Heady (23rd) were also 2017 draft picks out of Kentucky.
    .
    Salow has been assigned to Great Lakes and has been pretty good with the A’s Midwest League affiliate Beloit Snappers. This year in 5.2 innings at Beloit he has allowed 1 ER, 2 hits, 2 walks, and 8 K’s. He has 0.53 WHIP. In 24.0 IP in Rookie Leagues, he pitched in 16 games, allowing 4 earned runs, 15 BB and 29 K.
    .
    He certainly does not project to be a ML closer, but one never knows how a pitcher may develop from his first full season in professional ball. Nice pickup for a pitcher that was not in the Dodgers plans.

  8. With the A’s Font may very well get a shot in the rotation which is what he has done for the most part. I wish him well and it’s better to get a prospect back than a waiver claim.

    The Dodgers will struggle no matter who pitches until the team starts hitting and if a guy has a good offensive game play him the next day no matter what arm the starter pitches with. The team better bounce back in the rubber match or it could be a long road trip.

  9. Is Kershaw hurt again? Strike out the side in the first and then just lose it. No velocity and no command. And our offense against a minor league is embarrassing.

  10. I hear you Shade, this is getting pathetic, Turner Ward is going to lose some sleep tonight.

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