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
“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 Reportby 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.