|June 26, 2009 - LOVES PARK, Ill. – The Rockford RiverHawks continued their tradition of international acquisitions on Friday when they signed Russian pitcher Slava Vasilyev.
Vasilyev is a right-handed 24-year-old from Moscow with many accolades from his native country. He won the Russian Baseball League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2007 and helped lead the Russian club team MGPU to the league championship title in 2008. Vasilyev also played outfield. He is a graduate of Moscow City Pedogogical University.
“We are very pleased to have Slava in the league,” Frontier League commissioner Bill Lee said. “He demonstrates that the Frontier League has grown to attract players from all over the world. I personally wish him the best of luck to become successful and attain his dreams in professional baseball.”
Vasilyev has no prior professional experience.
Vasilyev is the third foreign player on the Rockford roster this year. Injured pitcher Jose Mateo is from the Dominican Republic, and Tanner Watson, the team’s all-time wins leader, is a Canadian national. Catcher Robert Sabates, a native of Cuba, is now a resident alien in the U.S.
The RiverHawks almost missed out on the Russian prodigy. Vasilyev was initially discovered by scouts for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the spring of 2008. The Dodgers liked what they saw and wanted to sign him, but Vasilyev had university course requirements to complete in Moscow. This winter Vasilyev impressed RiverHawks manager Bob Koopmann and Director of Baseball Operations Dave Ciarrachi during practice sessions. Koopmann soon dubbed Vasilyev the “Russian Rocket.”
Vasilyev arrived to Rockford with limited English skills. In order to improve his abilities, he has brokered a lingual exchange in the Hawks’ locker room.
“We plan to have Russian class in the clubhouse,” RiverHawks clubhouse manager Alex Sagas said. “He will teach me Russian and I will help him with his English.” Sagas also said he will distribute Russian phrases to teammates to help them communicate with Vasilyev.
The RiverHawks are members of the Frontier League, a 12-team independent professional baseball league that will play its 17th season this summer. The RiverHawks host the 2009 Frontier League All-Star Game at 7:05 p.m. on July 15. Advertising and season-ticket information is available by calling (815) 885-2255. Fans can also visit the RiverHawks online at www.rockfordriverhawks.com. Most games are broadcast live on ESPN 1380, and on the team website.