MLB organizations release ex-Hawks
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March 27, 2007 - For the first time in nearly five years, the Rockford RiverHawks do not have alumni on the rosters of any MLB organization.

Monday, the Minnesota Twins released pitcher Justin Olson, who had spent the last two years in Double-A. Last week, the Chicago Cubs released catcher Kevin Ciarrachi from their minor-league camp.

Olson, a resident of Oak Park and a former Illinois pitcher, broke into pro ball with the RiverHawks in 2003. He appeared in just four games, but drew immediate attention with a fastball that topped out at 97 miles per hour on the radar gun. Olson struck out 11 in just five innings with Rockford - including all seven Kalamazoo Kings he faced in his final appearance, a near-perfect two innings of work - and was snapped up by the Twins on June 19 of that year.

Olson quickly progressed through the Minnesota chain, and went from low Class A Quad City to high A Ft. Myers before the year was out. Last year with New Britain of the Eastern League, Olson was 7-7 with a 5.09 ERA in 32 appearances, but struck out 102 and walked just 40 in 88 1/3 innings. Olson has averaged more than a strikeout per inning and a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his four-year pro career.

Ciarrachi, a 2004 Frontier League all-star, was signed by the Cubs this winter. The Lombard native was drafted out of the University of Northern Iowa by the New York Mets in the 17th round in 1999 and also spent time in the Pittsburgh organization.

Ciarrachi split last season between two independent teams. He hit a combined .301 with two home runs and 13 RBI for the now-defunct San Diego Surf Dawgs of the Golden League and the Joliet Jackhammers of the Northern League.

The RiverHawks have had seven players signed directly off their roster by MLB organizations in their first five seasons. Since the New York Yankees signed corner infielder Jayson Drobiak in July 2002, there had always been at least one former RiverHawk somewhere in the affiliated minors.

Currently, 2004 Frontier League Player of the Year and Baseball America all-Indy outfielder Rich Austin is playing for the Tabasco Olmecas of the Mexican League. The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the governing body of the major-league affiliated minor leagues, classifies the Mexican League as Triple-A ball, though the Mexican teams operate quasi-independently of Major League Baseball.


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