The Springfield Odyssey ends for Homer

Dave LaMont, circa 2011

Springfield brought its mascot to the 2011 draft (on the left, to clarify.)

Dave LaMont has announced he is stepping down as manager of the I-75 League’s Springfield Isotopes after 15 seasons.

Dave’s Strat tenure ran parallel to a time of many personal and professional changes, having joined the league in 2003 when we first expanded from nine to 12 teams. Over those 15 years he and his wife Jennifer have raised two young boys to Division I college athletes, and Dave has climbed the broadcasting ranks from local radio to national television broadcaster in multiple sports.

In the I-75 League, he’ll forever be known as “Homer” for his affinity for Homer Simpson. But his clubs will always be remembered as sporting a tough-as-nails pitching staff.

Here’s where the Isotopes have ranked in team pitching in the last eight seasons:

First. Second. Second. Fourth. Third. Second. Second. First.

Clayton Kershaw

The common thread over that period has been lefty ace Clayton Kershaw, who threw two no-hitters for the Isotopes under Dave (Bushwood in April 2012; Dyersville in April 2016). Second baseman Ian Kinsler has also been a longtime mainstay, anchoring a club that became known for its defensive excellence as well.

In the six years since the league expanded to 15 teams, the Isotopes won three division titles (2012, 2015, 2016), made four playoff appearances (wild-card entry in 2017) and had five seasons with winning records. They advanced to the World Series in 2016 before succumbing to the Superior Titans. Their best season was 2012 when they finished with a 102-58 mark, a year that saw three clubs break the 100-win mark in our first year of expansion.

They leave behind a club positioned to remain very competitive in 2018, still featuring the dazzling Kershaw but now becoming an offensive power force to match, led by four sluggers with 30-plus homers (J.D. Martinez, Jonathan Schoop, Adam Duvall and Steven Souza Jr.), plus 20-homer seasons from infielders Chris Davis, Kinsler and shortstop Zack Cozart. Ender Inciarte adds a .300 bat with speed and excellent defense.

So the Isotopes will live on, and likely successfully, in another form and bearing Dave’s imprint, for several years to come. We wish Dave and his family well and thank him for his participation in the league for the last 15 years.

“I cannot thank everyone enough for the fellowship, friendship and fun over the years,” Dave wrote in his farewell email to the league. “I never thought I would play as long as I did and I have no regrets.”

Dave LaMont with sons Drew (left) and Drake (right)

Dave LaMont with sons Drew (left) and Drake (right)

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Tope Dope for May

TOPE DOPE: Springfield went 11-9 in May despite disrepectful treatment by the Superior Titans, who really need to leave the Topes alone. The empahsis on speed has also changed the Topes’ old ways in home run hitting. .. SI has just 46 homers while surrendering 70. However 60 of those 70 were hit by Margaritaville and Bushwood in March. … Justin Morneau continues to make the most of his fewest AB total since becoming a Tope, 333/9/29 in 105 ABs. .. Dr. Choo is hitting .304 and is tied with Morneau for the team home run lead, he also leads the team with 12 steals and 48 strikeouts. … Brett Gardner is 10-16 in steals but his average improved to .228. …However he has fanned 43 times. Chad Billingsley returns to the rotation while Clayton Kershaw gets a month to recuperate.

Tope Dope for April

A staple of league newsletters in the 1980s and ’90s, team notes are back! If you have team notes you’d like to submit for your club each month, e-mail Gary

TOPE DOPE: After a brutal March, King Felix is now 4-2 and dropped his ERA to 5.37, nearly two runs better than March but second worst on the team… Chad Billingsley will get a month off at the French Riviera so the Topes will likely finish 4-16 this month starting three lefties… 39 steals now, 7 by Dr. Choo to lead the team… First-rounder Brett Gardner has just five swipes, but batting .200 might have something to do with that… The good Dr. leads the ‘Topes with 25 rbi and shares the top HR lead with Justin Morneau, whose 77 ABs have yielded a .390 average plus 19 walks… Then there’s rookie DH Chris Johnson, saddled with a .157 average, and fan favorite Orlando Hudson, whose glove sparkles while his batting average is a dull .141… In (hopefully) some Strat foreshadowing, Alexi Ogando’s era was .0.96 with a WHIP just under 1.00 and 12 Ks in 9.1 innings… Ian Kinsler would be mad if I didn’t mention his .365 BA. There you go, Ian.

Tope Dope for March

A staple of league newsletters in the 1980s and ’90s, team notes are back! If you have team notes you’d like to submit for your club each month, e-mail Gary.

TOPE-DOPE: Springfield is known for its starting pitching but absorbed two brutal beatdowns in Bushwood and Margaritaville. Topes pitching surrendered 30 homers, 26 on the road, 14 of the ballpark variety in a pair of wind tunnels…King Felix was taken over the wall 11 times, his ERA is 7.02…Clayton Kershaw led the Topes hurlers with 28 K….Top draft choice Brett Gardner had a mixed debut, sterling in the field, he managed 11 walks, but also fanned 21 times and batted .176… Justin Morneau has fewer than 300 plate appearances available…how much better could the Topes be if he was around full-time? Well in March he batted .455 with 12 RBI in 33 AB with a .535 OBP. …  Dr. Choo was magnificent, batting .395 with a .483 OBP and a team-high five steals. Springfield has swiped 20 bases already, well ahead of any previous season pace. Ian Kinsler was on base 44.7% of the time. … Strat luck? Not this month, minus 20 on pitcher/batter card rolls, an even split between offense and defense….Expect walks when the Topes play, 83 by SI batters, 72 surrendered by pitchers…an average of nearly eight walks per game in March…Gio Gonzalez will make his Springfield debut in April.