Willie Calhoun truly is a man of the people.
What better way to clean out his locker than give all of his bats, cleats, balls, and jerseys to the hoard of fans waiting outside the Round Rock locker room following its 6-1 win against the Oklahoma City Dodgers Monday afternoon.
“Coming from the Dodgers organization to Texas, I felt the support and hopefully I can keep that going,” Calhoun said. “It was a long season but I had fun. I look back on it and I enjoyed it.”
The slugging second baseman turned outfielder had two hits in the finale, bringing his mark against his former team to 13 hits with 11 RBIs and two home runs, including a walk-off grand slam on Sunday night.
He finishes the year with 31 home runs, good for third in the Pacific Coast League, and a .300 batting average in a team-high 128 games with Round Rock and Oklahoma City. He hit eight home runs since joining the Express at the MLB trade deadline on Aug. 1.
Catcher A.J. Jimenez, pitcher Paolo Espino, infielders Will Middlebrooks and Phill Gosselin, and outfielder Jared Hoying were all called up with when the rosters expanded to start September.
Now that the minor league season is over, Calhoun will not be joining them on the big league roster despite his monstrous numbers. The team told him a couple days ago that because he’s just 22-years-old and he’s not on the 40-man roster, he wouldn’t be joining Texas.
“I have no control over that,” he said. “I put myself in the best position to get called up and to not get rewarded for that kind of sucks. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but that’s baseball and it’s a business. I did everything I could.”
Round Rock starter Adam Sampson (1-0, 0.90) was dominant in his second start with the team, allowing one run on three hits with three strikeouts in five innings. He threw five shutout innings in his Express debut on Aug. 30.
Ryan Rua continued to swing a hot bat when he picked up his 10th and 11th RBIs in the last nine games with a double to center field in the top of the first. Ronald Guzman followed that up with a bloop single in the next at-bat to drive in Rua.
Three straight singles by the Dodgers in the second got them on the board with one run, but Hays sent a 1-0 pitch to the wall in right field for a two-run double in the third to make it a 5-1 game.
Calhoun showed his improvement on defense in the fourth inning when he robbed Oklahoma City’s Kyle Farmer with a leaping grab at the left field wall.
“People that haven’t seen me probably think I’m a terrible defender just from the stuff they read,” Calhoun said. “Coming out and watching me, I’m not a bad defender. They put so much effort into reading the scouting reports and then they come and see me and I’m better than average defender.”
Brett Hays and Preston Beck singled in back-to-back at-bats to lead off the eighth and Xavier Paul reached on a fielding error to load the bases. Kevin Torres drove in Hays when he grounded into a double play.
Round Rock finishes the year 66-72, the fifth fewer victories in the team’s 18-year history. The Express went 43-27 at home while finishing just 23-45 on the road. They won 14 of 35 series and closed out winning three of four games against Oklahoma City.
The Express begin the 2017 season on Thursday, April 5 against the Memphis Redbirds.
“It was a good year,” Guzman said. “I was more consistent It’s the toughest part, but everybody wants to be consistent. I didn’t get as tired as I did in the past. I’m grateful for my teammates and staff that helped me a lot so I can work this offseason and come back stronger next year.”