Get to know the NoL - Gary
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May 15, 2010 - Gary joined the league as an expansion franchise and began play for the 2002 season. In its inaugural season, RailCats manager Joe Calfapietra was named Northern League manager of the Year, leading the club to 35 wins, despite playing every game on the road as the stadium was finished being built. In 2003, Calfapietra left Gary to be closer to home, so the RailCats hired former major league all-star infielder Garry Templeton as the new manager. In July, Tim Flaherty became the first RailCat to hit for the cycle in a game at St. Paul that was suspended due to fog and resumed the next day. The franchise continued to struggle early in its history, and the low point came in June 2004, when the RailCats endured a 14 game losing streak, which is the longest in Northern League history.

A managerial change began 2005 for Gary, when they hired Greg Tagert. Tagert, the all-time wins leader in the Frontier League, had posted nine winning seasons in nine years managing at a professional level. Later in 2005, the first RailCat alumni debuts in the major leagues when pitcher Tim Brydak was promoted by the Baltimore Orioles. On September 2, 2005, Gary defeated Joliet to clinch the first post-season berth in franchise history. Two days later, they would clinch the second half division title. The first playoff appearance was successful for Gary, as they would beat the defending champion Saints three games to two. On Spetember 18, 2005 Gary won 2-1 in the decisive final game for the franchise’s first championship.

After starting 2006 with a 3-11 record, the RailCats get hot to finish the first half at 24-24. In the heat of a playoff chase, the RailCats needed wins, and
they did so sweeping Kansas City to pass them in the standings. Two days later, Gary defeats Joliet 5-2 in a one game tie-breaker to advance to the playoffs. After splitting the first two games against Schaumburg, Josh Habel took the mound, and threw seven scoreless innings, propelling the RailCats to a 7-0 win, and a trip to the championship series for the second consecutive year. Gary would lose the championship series in four games to Fargo-Moorhead, but they are named Northern League Co-Organization of the year.

2007 started the exact opposite of 2006, with Gary going 14-3 to start the year. The hot start leads to a first half division title, guaranteeing a post-season berth. On August 30, Willie Glen breaks the all-time league record for strike-outs in a single season, ending the year with 162. Gary would win 12 of the final 13 games to win the second half division title and end the season with a club record 58 wins. Facing Winnipeg in the first round, Gary rebounded after trailing two games to one, before winning the final two games at home, reaching their third straight championship series. Another post-season series pushed to the brink, Gary would defeat Calgary 5-1 in Game 5 for the franchise’s second championship. Pitcher Willie Glen was named Most Outstanding Player in the championship series, going 2-0 and pitching a three hitter in Game 5. Glen also won Pitcher of the Year posting a 16-1 record, including 4-0 in the playoffs, was named to Baseball America’s All-Independent League First Team, and signed a contract with the Florida Marlins after the season. Greg Tagert added to the RailCats awards by claiming Manager of the Year. Catcher Jose Yepez had his contract sold to the Seattle Mariners becoming the 17th RailCat to be sold to a big league organization.

After a slow start in 2008, pitcher Jeremy Plexico sparks a RailCats surge in June, going 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA as Gary rebounds from a 4-10 start to take over first place. Plexico would in Northern League Pitcher of the Month. After another slump in July, Gary found a spark in Winnipeg. Trailing 9-1 after six innings, Gary completes a comeback to win 14-10 and begin a franchise record nine consecutive wins to make the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. The RailCats broke several team offensive records, and won the league batting title for the first time ever, setting league records in hits (1,057), and team batting average (.307). In 2008, Jay Pecci recorded 115 hits, Christian Guerrero hit 16 home runs, and Tanner Townsend collected 84 RBI, all setting team records for a single season.
In the first round of the 2008 playoffs, Gary and Winnipeg split the first two games in Gary, and in Game 3, Tony Cogan pitches a complete game giving Gary a 2-1 series lead. In Game 4, Pecci hits a ninth inning two-run home run to give the RailCats a come from behind victory and win the series three games to one. The RailCats reach the league championship series for the fourth consecutive year under Greg Tagert.

After winning Game 1 against Kansas City, Gary would lose three consecutive games, and the series. Townsend and Plexico are named the league’s Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, respectively, and become the third and fourth RailCats to be named to Baseball America’s All Independent League teams. Townsend is the first RailCat to win Player of the Year, and would have his contract sold to the Florida Marlins becoming the 18th RailCat to accomplish that feat. Plexico makes it back to back years Gary has had a pitcher win Pitcher of the Year. Mike Rhode adds to the award list by winning Northern League Rookie of the Year.

On July 3, 2009 the RailCats welcome their one millionth fan into U.S. Steel Yard. Tony Cogan enjoyed an excellent July, pitching 28.2 scoreless innings, including his first career complete game shut-out, earning Pitcher of the Month honors. Cogan’s pitching would help Gary win a team record 12 consecutive home games and finish the season 40 of the final 58 games reaching the playoffs for the fifth straight year. Cogan pitched brilliantly in the first round, as Gary would beat Kansas City three games to two and advance to their fifth consecutive league championship series where they would lose to Fargo-Moorhead. Cogan is named the league’s top left handed pitcher, Tagert is named Manager of the Year for the second time in three seasons, and Andy Shipman won the league’s Relief Pitcher of the Year.


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