OGDEN -- Another season of Raptors baseball is in the books and despite a less-than-perfect finish, the boys in blue earned their spot among the Pioneer League's elite.
Like its 2010 predecessors, Ogden made it to the postseason after capturing the division title at the halfway mark and defeated the Anaheim Angels affiliate Orem Owlz 2-1 for the Pioneer League South Division pennant.
But like a bad case of deja-vu the Raptors watched the league title slip away in two straight games as the Great Falls Voyagers (Chicago White Sox affiliate) swept Ogden, ending its championship bid with a 7-1 win on Sept. 15.
"We were all sad they didn't finish it but what the heck, we played as many games as we could at Lindquist Field and they did a great job," said Raptors team president Dave Baggott. "One of these days they'll finish it and if they don't that's fine too, we're all having fun."
Once again, Ogden played host to several upcoming stars in the Dodger organization; among them 19-year-old Palo Alto, Calif., native Joc Pederson who's league-leading 64 RBIs and .353 average helped power the Raptors through the regular season.
An 11th round pick, Pederson crushed 11 home runs on the season and his 94 hits were second only to Orem's Taylor Lindsey (105).
Not far behind was another California bruiser, O'Koyea Dickson (.333, 38 RBIs), who logged four RBIs on a pair of home runs in Game 3 of the division playoffs that advanced Ogden to the championship series.
Because the goal for the rookie players and their coaches is constant improvement toward climbing the ladder of professional baseball, it's no surprise the season had its ups and downs. Shortly after clinching a playoff berth with the best first-half record, Ogden slumped in a big way.
Throughout late July and early August, the Raptors lost 15 of 20 games as they fell to the basement of the South Division.
Proving they were worthy of their postseason ticket though, leadership emerged on the mound and guys like Brandon Martinez (6-3; 58 strikeouts), Gustavo Gomez (5-1) and Matt Shelton (2.05 ERA, 30 strikeouts) helped Ogden battle through the slump in August and September and found their way to the league title series.
2011 was also a landmark season for fans, management, and owners.
New food vendors, national sponsors and stadium upgrades made Lindquist Field the most visited park in the Pioneer League with a whopping 130,817 fans spread out over 38 home games.
Probably the most noticeable improvement -- albeit a little late arriving -- is looming over the left field wall.
Built by Fair-Play Scoreboards, of Des Moines, Iowa, the new 14.66 x 26.66 foot scoreboard promises to be a source of entertainment, information, and game insight through the coming years.
"I'm hoping it will bring an increased value of entertainment," Baggott said. "We got it 13 games late so we didn't really have an opportunity to put together all the things we'd like to use it for."
Baggott says features for 2012 like players introducing themselves on-screen while walking up to the batter's box, and enhanced statistics will add even more the fan experience.
Skipper Damon Berryhill, whose success in Ogden could mean a new assignment at one of the higher Dodgers affiliates, has led the Raptors to the postseason in each of the three years he's been in Ogden, and while Baggott says he's contributed immensely to the club's success, baseball at this level is anything but certain.
"It's a little too early to tell," he said. "There's never any guarantee about any coaching staff coming back to the same city from year to year. Damon's (Berryhill) served his time, he's done three years here and been a success every year and we welcome him back. But if he doesn't come back we know the Dodgers will provide us with a coaching staff that will continue to have the kids not only learn the Dodger way but be competitive for all Raptor fans."