Three-time All-Star James back with RiverHawks
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April 22, 2010 - LOVES PARK, Ill. – One of the top hitters in Frontier League history will have a chance to make his mark against Northern League pitching.

The Rockford RiverHawks announced Thursday that Jason James, a three-time Frontier League All-Star, has returned to the team. James spent March in the Chicago Cubs’ minor-league camp and appeared in a major-league exhibition game last month.

“It was a good time, but it’s always fun to be back in Rockford, especially with a lot of the older guys, like Richie (Austin) and Randall Simon,” James said. “It was a good experience. You just try to put up good numbers, win some games, and see what happens from there.”

Last year, James hit a team-record .374 to win the league batting crown and hit a career-best 14 home runs with 48 RBI. Along the way, he had a league-record 40-game hitting streak. Following the season, he signed a minor-league contract with the Cubs and was named by Baseball America magazine to its All-Independent Leagues first team.

“You don’t expect to be able to bring back a player who has a season like that,” RiverHawks manager Bob Koopmann said.

When the RiverHawks moved from the Frontier to the Northern at the end of the season, James left the circuit in sixth place on the all-time hit list and No. 2 among active players.

On March 21, James, who had played every day in Mesa with the Cubs’ Class AA team, became the first former RiverHawk to get into a major-league spring-training game, when he played against the Cincinnati Reds. James was released at the end of camp.

“Glad to have him back,” RiverHawks co-owner and director of baseball operations Dave Ciarrachi said. “He’s young enough and talented enough that I’m sure he’ll get other opportunities.”

In 3½ professional seasons – with the exception of spring training with the Cubs, spent entirely with the RiverHawks – James set nine team single-season or career records, including home runs and hits.

James has never hit under .341 and finished second in the league batting race in 2007 and ’08. His .355 career average is the best in team history. James also holds the RiverHawks’ all-time records for hits (415), home runs (34), RBI (199), doubles (86), games (306) and at-bats (1,170). In 2008, he doubled 30 times to set a single-season team record.

The RiverHawks signed the former Kishwaukee College player in July 2006 and he had two hits in his first professional game. James was voted to the Frontier League All-Star Game and to its end-of-season All-Star team in each of his three full seasons.

“He’s stepped up his whole level and certainly his performance will be watched more closely by major-league teams because the league he’s playing in this year is significantly better,” Ciarrachi said.

Northern League rosters are largely made up of players with experience in the major leagues, Triple-A and Double-A ball. The league has no age limit. For the first time, James will be on the same roster as Austin, a fan favorite from the RiverHawks’ 2004 FL championship team and the team’s previous all-time homer king. James will also be in the same lineup as eight-year big-league veteran Randall Simon and Patrick O’Sullivan, a longtime minor-league power hitter with five 20-homer seasons.

“It’s going to be awesome,” James said. “It’s going to be a great for me playing with a lot of guys with experience, not just playing in the minors, but in the majors and overseas.

“We’re going to try to bring another championship back to this town.”

The RiverHawks are members of the Northern League, an eight-team independent professional baseball league that will play its 18th season this summer. The RiverHawks’ ninth season begins at 7:05 p.m. May 20 against the Schaumburg Flyers at Road Ranger Stadium. Advertising and ticket information is available by calling (815) 885-2255. Games are broadcast live on ESPN 1380 (WTJK-AM) and at ESPN1380.com. Fans can also visit the RiverHawks online at www.rockfordriverhawks.com.


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