Indians' prospects receive AFL championship rings
Seven players express pride over winning, being chosen to play
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The majority of the Indians' Minor League players crammed into a cafeteria at Cleveland's complex Tuesday morning, supporting the handful of players who won the Arizona Fall League's championship over the offseason.
Steve Cobb, the AFL's executive vice president, was on hand to distribute rings to seven of the Tribe's prospects and express to the rest of the group what an honor it is to suit up in the league. The last sentiment was not lost on the players who took part last fall for the Indians.
"It was an honor to be selected for that by the Indians staff," Indians outfield prospect Tyler Naquin said. "They think highly of you, obviously, if they enter you in the Fall League. It'd be crazy not to take that opportunity. It was fun, playing with some guys from other teams and organizations.
"There's a bunch of good players from each and every team. It was just a blast."
Naquin -- selected in the first round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft by the Indians -- was a part of the Surprise Saguaros squad that took home the AFL title in October. Joining him on that roster were infielder Joe Wendle, catcher Tony Wolters and pitchers Will Roberts, Shawn Armstrong, Tyler Sturdevant and Trey Haley.
Cobb noted that this marked the first time that Cleveland had players on an AFL championship team.
For the most part, organizations send lower-level or mid-tier prospects to participate in the AFL after the Minor League season has ended. In some cases, players are asked to continue working on tasks they tackled throughout the season. It is also a way for clubs to get some extra innings for certain pitchers.
"It's just a great opportunity for our players to play against a high level of competition," said Carter Hawkins, the Indians' assistant director of player development. "It's also a great reward for guys to get out there and be with some of their peers.
"A lot of the guys who have played in the Fall League develop into really successful Major League players. It's just a experience for all of our guys."
Wendle, who was honored with Cleveland's Lou Boudreau award as the top position player in the farm system last season, took great pride in the fact that the Indians asked him to go to the AFL.
"It was definitely an awesome experience," said Wendle, who was taken in the sixth round of the '12 Draft. "Playing with guys from other organizations and coaches from other organizations, you're just kind of bouncing ideas of of them and you're getting to play against some of the best players in the world. It was a really cool experience.
"I know it was definitely an honor for me to get chosen by the Indians. Obviously, there's a lot of great players in the organization and a lot of them had really good years. It was just continuing to develop as a player and this was just one more thing to help me do that."
Winning the championship did not hurt the experience, either.
"We had a pretty solid team," Naquin said. "Everybody is tired. Everybody wants to go home. But then again, it's who can still pull it together and still win and say, 'Hey, I won the championship. Now, I'm going home maybe two days later, but I have some hardware to prove it.'
"It shows that everybody played hard for their team and they went out there with a purpose."