For the City Times
Infielder Sonny Rivera returns for second season
WISCONSIN RAPIDS –The Rafters held their 5th Annual Hot Stove Rendezvous event presented by Aspirus at Hotel Mead & Conference Center on Thursday, Jan. 11.
Along with hearing from former Rafters catcher and current Giants prospect Rob Calabrese, attendees were informed of the first player signings of 2018 by Rafters GM John Fanta and Field Manager Craig Noto. The Rafters will welcome back infielder Sonny Rivera (Long Beach State) while adding outfielder Steven Rivas (Long Beach State) and infielder Jarrod Watkins (Indiana State) in 2018.
“We were fortunate to have had a large number of returning players leading the charge last season,” said Rafters GM John Fanta. “This year’s team will have an infusion of younger talent and we couldn’t be more excited to have these three players join us this summer.”
Sonny Rivera will return to the Rafters after appearing in 12 games in 2017, before sustaining a season-ending injury. The 6-foot, 170-pound infielder will play his true freshman season at Long Beach state this spring, after joining the Rafters on a two-year contract last summer. He joined the Rafters mid-season, following his senior year at East Lake High School in Chula Vista, California. Northwoods League rules allow teams to sign up to one player per season who has completed a national letter of intent to attend NCAA institution.
Joining Rivera on the 2018 roster will be teammate and fellow true freshman outfielder Steven Rivas. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound left-handed hitter posted a .477 batting average and led his high school team with nine home runs, 12 doubles, 24 extra-base hits, and 43 runs scored as a senior in 2017. In addition, Rivas also drove in 38 runs while displaying his speed by stealing 12 bases. His strong senior year led him to being selected as a 36th round pick by the Los Angeles Angels in last June’s MLB Draft. He is a native of Rancho Cucamonga, California.
Left-handed hitting infielder Jarrod Watkins will join the Rafters for his second stint in the Northwoods League after playing shortstop in 54 games as a member of the 2016 Battle Creek Bombers. Last spring, Watkins posted a .342 batting average with a .429 on-base percentage in 64 games for Wabash Valley College. The 6-foot-1 Watkins slugged three home runs, 16 doubles, while scoring 49 runs and driving in 48. He also displayed speed on the base paths by stealing 16 in 19 attempts. Watkins recently transferred to Indiana State where he will play his junior season this spring. He is a native of Washington, Illinois.
Rivera, Rivas, and Watkins and the rest of the 2018 Wisconsin Rapids Rafters will begin their season on the road against the Madison Mallards on Tuesday, May 29th. The Home Opener is slated for Friday, June 1st against the Wisconsin Woodchucks. The entire 2018 Rafters schedule is available at www.raftersbaseball.com.