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09/10/2009 8:59 PM ET
Mariners name Alex Liddi Minor League Player of the Year; Erasmo Ramirez named Pitcher of the Year
Pitchers Brandon Bantz and Christian Staehely earn Ellis Award
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SEATTLE, Wash. -- Seattle Mariners Director of Minor League Operations Pedro Grifol announced today the Mariners Minor League Most Valuable Players and Player Development Staff of the Year awards.

Third baseman Alex Liddi was named Player of the Year, while right-hander Erasmo Ramirez was named Pitcher of the Year. Manager James Horner and Administrator of Minor League Operations Jan Plein were named Mariners Player Development Staff of the Year.

"All of these players deserve credit for the hard work they have put in this season," Grifol said. "Our nine teams finished with a combined .528 winning percentage that ranked fifth out of all 30 Major League farm systems. Our coaching and Player Development staffs do a great job with the development of all the players throughout our system."

Liddi, 21, hit .345 (170x493) with 97 runs scored, 44 doubles, 5, triples, 23 home runs, 104 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 129 games Single-A High Desert in the California League. His .345 batting average led all Mariners farmhands, while his 104 RBI tied with teammate Joe Dunigan for the organizational lead. Despite having the highest batting average among full-season minor league players, Liddi shared the California League batting tile with Koby Clemens. He was named the California League Most Valuable Player, after ranking in the top-5 in the league in hits, doubles, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, extra-base hits, and runs scored. He recorded 53 multi-hit games, while also knocking in at least two runs 28 times. A native of Italy, Liddi played for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic in March. In June he was one of four Mavericks on the California League All-Star Team, and in July he participated in the XM All-Star Futures Game in St. Louis. Liddi was signed by the Mariners a non-drafted free agent on Sept. 5, 2005.

"Alex has anchored the lineup in High Desert all season", Grifol said. "He has been consistent all year on both sides of the ball and has shown ability to become a run producer."

Ramirez, 19, spent the season in the Venezuelan Summer League, going 11-1 with 0.51 ERA in 14 games, 13 starts. In 88.0 innings, he struck out 80 batters, walked 5, allowed 10 runs, 5 earned, and limited his opponents average to .174 (54x310). A native of Nicaragua, Ramirez was named the Venezuelan Summer League Most Valuable Player after leading the league in nearly every pitching category, including ERA, wins, strikeouts and innings pitched. He ended the season on a season-high 7-game win streak, including winning his final 5 starts. Ramirez struck out a career-high 10 batters in back-to-back starts, May 25 and 31 and recorded at least three strikeouts all 14 appearances. Ramirez did not allow an earned run in 26.0 consecutive innings over 5 starts from June 12-June 26, lowering his ERA to 0.18 over his first 43.0 innings. He was signed by the Mariners as a non-drafted free agent on Sept. 1, 2007.

"Erasmo had an unbelievable year", Grifol said. "He had great command of the ball and was one of the most dominating pitchers in the league. We are all looking forward to watching him compete in Instructional League. Our coaching staff in Venezuela has done a great job this year in the development of all our players."

Horner was named California League's Manager of the Year after leading the High Desert Mavericks to an 83-57 overall record this season. Horner's 2009 squad was just the fourth in Mavericks history to reach 80 wins in a season, and he guided the team to both first and second half titles. Horner is the only manager in Mavericks history to be at the helm for more than one season. It has paid dividends in 2009, as the club made a huge jump from just 58 wins last year. Horner finished his fifth season as a Manager with Seattle's minor league affiliates, after spending nine seasons as a catcher in the Mariners farm system.

"James has showed the ability to lead both on and off the field with high character and integrity," Grifol said. "He runs a good ball game with very good work ethic."

Plein, who has been in the Mariners Player Development department since 1997, was named Player Development staff of the Year. She handles all staff and minor league player contracts, files and tracks all transactions and coordinates payroll. Plein is also responsible for coordinating travel arrangements for over 250 minor league players and staff throughout the season, while handling all player VISA issues and applications.

"As Jan goes, we go," Grifol said. "She has been an integral part of the Mariners Player Development staff since she first arrived here over 12 years ago. Her work ethic speaks for itself -- she's the best. The level to which Jan commits herself to excellence speaks volumes of the kind of person she is. Everything runs smoothly when Jan is in charge."

A Most Valuable Player and Pitcher were named at every level of the minor league system. Here's a look at the full list:

AAA Tacoma: C Adam Moore, RH Gaby Hernandez
AA West Tennessee: OF Ezequiel Carrera, LH Nick Hill
A High Desert: 3B Alex Liddi, LH Donnie Hume
A Clinton: INF/OF Scott Savastano, RH Kenn Kasparek
Short-A Everett: 1B Geradro Avila, RH Tyler Stanton
Rookie Pulaski: 3B Vincent Catricala, RH Brandon Maurer
Rookie Peoria: OF Mario Yepez, RH Chris Kessinger
Dominican: C/1B Hector Mercedes, RH Richard Vargas
Venezuelan: INF Carlos Ramirez, RH Erasmo Ramirez

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Alex Liddi (High Desert)
PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Erasmo Ramirez (Venezuelan)
PLAYER DEVELOPMENT STAFF OF THE YEAR: James Horner (Manager, High Desert) and Jan Plein (Administrator of Minor League Operations)

JAMES MCOWEN'S CALIFORNIA LEAGUE RECORD 45-GAME HIT STREAK

The Mariners also wanted to acknowledge High Desert outfielder James McOwen's California League record 45-game hitting streak from May 10-July 8. The streak was the 8th-longest in minor league history and longest since Roman Mejias recorded a hit in 55 consecutive games for Waco (Class B Big State League) in 1954. McOwen, the Mariners 6th round selection in the June 2007 draft out of Florida International University, hit .398 (72x181) with 28 runs, 6 doubles, 5 triples, 3 home runs and 34 RBI during the streak. He raised his season batting average 85 points from .270 to .355 during and extended the streak 7 times with a hit in his final at-bat.

KASPAREK WINS MWL ERA TITLE & CARRERA WINS SOUTHERN LEAGUE BATTING TITLE

Clinton LumberKings right-hander Kenn Kasparek went 10-6 with a 2.41 ERA and claimed the Midwest League ERA title. He is the eighth pitcher in franchise history to win the Midwest League's ERA title. Seattle's 12th round pick in 2008 out of the University of Texas, Kasparek won six of his last nine starts and finished 6-2 with a 2.16 ERA (18 ER, 75.1 IP) over his last 13 starts. He tossed his first career nine-inning complete-game on Aug. 3 vs. Burlington and the first complete game shutout by a Clinton pitcher since Chris Barlow did it on 8/19/02 with a two-hit blanking of Wisconsin (11-0 win). Kasparek finished amongst league leaders in strikeouts (3rd, 134), WHIP (3rd, 1.12) and innings (7th, 141.2). He was the only the only LumberKing pitcher this season to be named Midwest League Pitcher of the week (June 1-7).

West Tennessee outfielder Ezequiel Carrera earned the 2009 Southern League Batting Championship with a .337 average. Carrera became the first Diamond Jaxx player to win a league batting title, hitting .337 to eclipse the team record of .329, set by Richard Lewis in 2004. Carrera also ranked first in the league with a .441 on-base percentage, which was third among all full-season minor leaguers. The 22-year-old outfielder was sidelined in May 24-June 18 with a right ankle sprain and again July 9-August 2 with a sprained right thumb, but his injuries didn't slow him down as his average never dipped below .320 all season. Carrera recorded a 25-game on-base streak from April 9-May 7. During that stretch, he batted .356 (32-90) and drew 23 walks against 17 strikeouts. For the season, Carrera nearly walked more times (59) than he struck out (62). He also feasted on right-handed pitching, batting .362 (85-235) with 29 of his 38 RBI. Carrera was named to both the Southern League North Division All-Star Team and the postseason All-Star squad.

MARINERS ANNOUNCE 2009 ELLIS AWARD WINNERS

The Mariners instituted the Ellis Award in 1998 to recognize community involvement by players in their minor league system. In 2009, Mariners minor leaguers were very active in the community, bringing the total hours contributed by the Mariners minor leaguers to over 9,000 hours in the last 12 years.

Catcher Brandon Bantz and pitcher Christian Staehely were honored as the co-individual award winners and the Everett AquaSox, the Mariners Single-A affiliate in the Northwest League, were honored for having the top overall team commitment.

"The Mariners organization prides itself on community involvement by players and staff at all levels," Grifol said. "We try to emphasize the value of being good citizens and role models. In addition, our affiliates understand the importance of reaching out to their communities, which is one of the reasons we enjoy our relationships with each club. We actively encourage all of our players to participate in these efforts."

The AquaSox, honored for their overall team commitment, went 39-37 and finished second in the Northwest League West Division. This was the first year since 1998 that the AquaSox received the Ellis Award, as the team and staff were active throughout the Everett area in several community endeavors. The AquaSox are dedicated to supporting the community that supports them. It is the team's goal to be a responsible, proactive force in the community, championing causes and helping people. Everett accumulated over 150 hours of community service throughout the 2009 season, including participating in community baseball camps, and autograph signings and numerous player appearances. The AquaSox also wore several special jerseys during the season that were auctioned off for local charities. Tie-dyed Frogstock jerseys were auctioned off to benefit Camp Erin, a bereavement camp for local children, and special pink jerseys were auctioned off to help raise breast cancer awareness. The game worn jerseys were autographed and auctioned, raising over $8,000 for local charities.

Teammates Brandon Bantz, 22, and Chrstian Stahaley, 23, were each honored for their individual efforts, after accumulating more then 20 hours in the Everett community. Bantz participated in the Summer Reading Celebration at Mill Creek Library, visited and signed autographs for patients at Seattle Children's hospital and spent time meeting with fans at multiple events at the ballpark including Faith & Family Night, ALS Night and baseball camp. Stahaley also made a positive influence in the community at multiple appearances, including a trip to play baseball and spend time with kids at Camp PROV, a local day camp for children with special needs and their siblings, and helping to host a local Challenger League team's day at the ballpark which included a special on-field experience after the game.

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