Baseball America names Kalamazoo's Church Player of Year
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October 18, 2006 - A Frontier Leaguer is Baseball America's Independent Leagues Player of the Year for the second time in four years. The industry magazine has named Kalamazoo center fielder Ian Church the winner of its top independent-league award.

Church hit 31 home runs, tops in independent ball and the second-highest total in Frontier League history. Church hit .317, second in the league, and drove in 78 runs for the Kings. He was also voted Frontier League Player of the Year by managers, coaches, media and general managers, and was named Most Valuable Player of the league all-star game.

League earned-run average champion Kurt Hartfelder, who won the circuit's Rookie of the Year award with Chillicothe, was also a member of BA's first-team indy all-stars.

Traverse City's Tony Casoli, who led the league in wins and shutouts and was voted Frontier League Pitcher of the Year, was on the magazine's second team.

Former Frontier League players Peanut Williams, Fehlandt Lentini, Pichi Balet and Andre Simpson were also named to the Baseball America indy all-star team. Simpson, now with Long Beach of the Golden League, struck out 140 batters, second in independent ball to former RiverHawk Jason Shelley's 145.

Church is the first Frontier League player awarded by Baseball America since Shelley won the 2003 POY, when he recorded a league-record 0.85 ERA for the RiverHawks and finished the season in the Milwaukee organization. Morgan Burkhardt, who hit a league-record 36 homers for Richmond in 1998, is the only other Frontier Leaguer to win BA's top prize.


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