Former Alexandria Beetle sets MLB record
By: By Curt Carstensen, NWL Director of Operations, Alexandria Echo Press
For the second consecutive night Allen Craig delivered a pinch-hit, go-ahead RBI single in the late innings for the St. Louis Cardinals against the Texas Rangers in the 2011 World Series. The 27-year-old Craig, who spent two summers in the Northwoods League with the Alexandria Beetles, is in his second season with the Cardinals.
In game one on Wednesday, Craig's sixth-inning opposite field line drive near the right-field line dropped in front of Nelson Cruz, breaking a tie to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead an eventual victory. In a nearly identical situation in the 7th inning Thursday, Craig's line drive over the second baseman Ian Kinsler gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. However, a two-run rally by the Rangers in the 9th innings gave Texas a 2-1 victory to even the series at one game apiece.
According to Fox Sports, Allen Craig became the first player in Major League Baseball history to have two go-ahead pinch-hits for RBIs in the same World Series. He's done it in just two at-bats so far, but is expected to be in the starting lineup Saturday as the series heads to Texas and will be played by American League rules with a designated hitter.
Craig was an all-star shortstop for the Alexandria Beetles in 2005.
"Alexandria was a big turning point in my career," Craig said in a 2009 interview. "That's when I really started to figure some things out offensively. It was just a good experience for me."
His 2005 season was one of the better performances in Northwoods League history. Coming off his junior season at the University of California, Craig batted .362 with 17 doubles, 12 home runs and 40 RBIs in 49 games, narrowly missing the NWL Triple Crown (which was won that year by Waterloo's Zach Daeges). Craig initially played for the Beetles during the 2003 season, but was limited to 15 games due to an injury. He was an 8th round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2006.
Two other former Northwoods League players are in this year's World Series. Cardinals' utility man Daniel Descalso, who has been a late-inning defensive replacement at third base in the first two games, and Rangers relief pitcher Mark Lowe both are former Wisconsin Woodchucks. Descalso spent the summer of 2006 in Wausau while Lowe made Wausau his home for two summers in 2002 and 2003, winning a Northwoods League Championship with the '03 team.
Regardless of whether the Cardinals or the Rangers win this World Series, at least one of these players will join the list of former Northwoods League players that went on to win a World Series Championship. Juan Pierre (Manitowoc '96) was the first do it with the Florida Marlins in 2003. Jeff Weaver (Dubuque '95) earned his ring with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006.
The Northwoods League has more teams, plays more games, and draws more fans than any other Summer Collegiate Baseball League in North America.