To celebrate Black History Month, teams across the Minors are talking more about the Nine initiative, which is named after the number Jackie Robinson wore for the Montreal Royals in his lone season in Minor League Baseball. The initiative honors and celebrates black success in the sport while also encouraging
To celebrate Black History Month, teams across the Minors are talking more about the Nine initiative, which is named after the number Jackie Robinson wore for the Montreal Royals in his lone season in Minor League Baseball. The initiative honors and celebrates black success in the sport while also encouraging further diversification in the sport.
To celebrate, we’d like to celebrate our top nine moments and feats accomplished by black athletes while they’ve worn the neon and navy uniforms for the Fireflies.
9.) The 2022 Fireflies season featured an incredible second-half run that saw Columbia closer to the playoffs than the team has ever been. Although the team didn’t end up clinching the playoffs, we saw a ton of excitement, including nine walk-offs on the year. Columbia began the season with a walk-off homer, and Javier Vaz ended the season, scoring on a walk-off wild pitch to officially bookend the season with walk-offs. As it stands, Vaz is the last Fireflies player to score as we head into the 2023 campaign.
8.) One of the most-hyped prospects that came through the South Atlantic League in 2019, played in Columbia. Simeon Woods Richardson made his Major League debut in 2022, and set a fun record, as the player with the longest last name in MLB history. He had some fantastic moments in Columbia, but the most notable thing that happened on a national scale is that he was the first Top 100 Prospect (according to MLB Pipeline) to get traded while playing for the Fireflies. Woods Richardson and former Columbia Fireflies player Anthony Kay went to Toronto in exchange for Marcus Stroman, who had a 2.96 ERA for the Blue Jays at the deadline in 2019. Woods Richardson had 97 strikeouts in only 78.1 innings with the Fireflies.
7.) Tyler Tolbert is the fastest player to wear a Columbia Fireflies uniform, and we’ll have more on that later in this article. One of the speedster’s many feats was tying the franchise-record seven triples in a single season in less games than Kevin Kaczmarski, Edgardo Fermin and Matt Winaker, who also have recorded seven triples in a single season.
6.) Tony Dibrell is the strikeout king of Fireflies history. Fueled by Chik-Fil-A before every game he pitches—even when he’s scheduled to pitch on Sunday, Dibrell fanned double-digit hitters in a single game three times. His first of those three nights was a record-setting evening at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park in Charleston, South Carolina, where the righty fanned a franchise-best 11 hitters in only 5.1 innings.
5.) August 17, 2022, the Fireflies scored seven runs in the sixth to go up 12-1 over Kannapolis at Segra Park, but the most exciting part of the game was yet to come. Southpaw Marlin Willis came back onto the mound in the top of the eighth innings and punched out 2021 second round pick Wes Kath on three pitches. After issuing a five pitch walk and a wild pitch, Kannapolis had a runner on second with one out. Wilfred Veras then struck out on the sixth pitch of an at-bat, that rolled all the way to the back stop, leaving runners on first and third base. Willis buckled down after that, wringing up Colby Smelley on three pitches and Benyamin Bailey on seven pitches to give him four strikeouts in the top of the eighth. It's the only time a Fireflies player has struck out four batters in a single inning.
4.) Adonis Uceta is simply put, the best reliever in Fireflies history. In 2017, he went 6-0 with a 1.26 ERA in 29 games while converting all 11 of his save opportunities before getting the call-up to the St. Lucie Mets. Overall, Uceta pitched 43 innings in a Fireflies uniform, but during the heart of the season, the righty was unflappable, spinning 29.1 consecutive scoreless innings from May 11-July 22. That still holds as the longest scoreless innings streak in franchise history.
3.) The Fireflies strikeout king, Tony Dibrell, already made the list once, for having the most strikeouts in a single game in Fireflies history, but he also has the most strikeouts in a single season as well. Dibrell’s 147 punchouts in 2018 unseated Joe Shaw’s 134 strikeouts in 2016 to set a new franchise record. Since 2020, no Fireflies player has had more than 100 strikeouts in a season.
2.) A young outfielder from the Netherlands had the most exciting individual moment in franchise history. With stadiums still at a reduced capacity around the country due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, on June 26, 2021, Darryl Collins came to the dish in the bottom of the 10th inning against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans with one out and the bases loaded. The lefty launched a grand slam on the first pitch, causing an uproar at Segra Park prior to a dazzling fireworks show. The slam was the Fireflies first walk-off homer in franchise history and was the defining moment of the first baseball season in the capital after public events were halted for a year.
1.) We mentioned that the king of speed would be back again. Tyler Tolbert obliterated the Fireflies single-season steals record in 2021. He passed Jacob Zanon’s 28 stolen bases record in early July. The Fireflies defensive swiss army knife played five positions in 2021 and ended up stealing 49 bags before getting promoted to Quad Cities. He stole 50 total bases across the season. The next closest to his record in the neon and navy is Diego Hernandez, who swiped 34 bases in 2021.