Lethbridge Black Diamonds

From BR Bullpen


In 1996 the formerly independent Lethbridge Mounties were replaced in the Pioneer League by the Lethbridge Black Diamonds, as one of the first two farm clubs of the Arizona Diamondbacks, getting their start two years before their parent club played a game. The team had the best record in the league in its first year, going 50-22, under the leadership of Chris Speier, before falling 2 games to 0 in the opening round of the playoffs. The team drew 49,124 fans. They led the league in both offense (637 runs, 94 more than the next club) and defense/pitching (339 runs allowed, 102 less than #2). League MVP Kevin Sweeney hit .424/.552/.734 and led the Pioneer League in average, slugging, OBP, runs (72), RBI (72, tied for the lead) and walks (60). Vladimir Nunez (10-0, 2.22) led the circuit in ERA by a full point; the Cuban defector won the pitching triple crown (93 strikeouts) and was voted the top prospect in the league. Nick Bierbrodt (2-0, 0.50 in 4 games) was rated the #3 prospect and Cuban defector Larry Rodriguez (7-1, 3.83) was voted #4. Also posting fine stats were C Rod Barajas (.337/~.380/.594), 2B Junior Spivey (.336/~.454/.495), OF Jason Conti (.367/~.441/.496, 5th in the league in hitting, 30 SB), 3B Ron Hartman (.326/~.408/.601, the other 72-RBI man) and OF David Hayman (.313/~.436/.601, tied for the league lead with 17 HR).

With the Arizona farm system growing, the talent was more diluted the next season. Tommy Jones led the club to a 39-33 record. They won the second-half northern division crown but fell in the first round of the playoffs. No player made the All-Star team or led the PL in any key stat. Swingman Jamie Puorto (4-2, 2.43) was third in ERA while OF Jhensy Sandoval was named the top prospect after a .375/~.405/.625 season.

Lethbridge went 43-32 in 1998. Mike Koplove went 1-2 with a 3.54 ERA and Alex Cintron hit .264. The big star was prospect Jack Cust, who hit .345 with 11 homers and 56 RBI. It was the last season for the Black Diamonds, who became the Missoula Osprey in 1999.

Year-by-Year Record[edit]

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs Hitting Coach Pitching Coach
1996 50-22 1st Chris Speier Lost in 1st round Dennis Lewallyn
1997 39-33 3rd (t) Tommy Jones Lost in 1st round Ty Van Burkleo Mike Parrott
1998 43-32 3rd Joe Almaraz Lost League Finals Jeff Davenport Dave Jorn