Indians road to World Series goes through AA Akron Aeros and Akron Rubber Ducks

Posted at 5:10 PM, Oct 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-25 18:44:59-04

If the Indians win their first World Series in 52 years, the organization may want to send a shout out to Akron for getting so many players started on the long journey to the fall classic.

On the Tribe's 25-man roster, 16 of them either played for, or did a rehabilitation assignment with the AA Akron Aeros or Rubber Ducks.

At a time when many teams build their rosters through free agency and trades, the Indians formula proves teams can win by developing key prospects through the minor league farm system.

Those who played for AA Akron include Cody Allen, Mike Clevinger, Corey Kluber, Ryan Merritt, Danny Salazar, Roberto Perez, Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall, Coco Crisp, and Tyler Naquin. Yan Gomes and Zach McAllister have each done rehab stints in Akron.

"These are mostly our guys and that's what makes it so special," said Jim Clark, one of the play-by-play men for the Rubber Ducks. "Having all these guys come up from AA Akron on the big stage now, a chance to do something we haven't done since 1948."

Rubber Ducks manager Dave Wallace is thrilled for many of his former players and take some personal satisfaction in their accomplishments.

One player who stands out is left-handed pitcher Ryan Merritt, 24, who rescued a depleted Indians pitching staff by  mystifying Toronto Blue Jays hitters en route to a game 5 ALCS victory that sent the Indians to the World Series.

His shutout performance came a day after Jose Bautista predicted Merritt would be "shaking in his boots" while facing the Toronto lineup.

Merritt's extremely quiet demeanor can fool a lot of people, including Wallace, who originally mistook his attitude for a lack of competitive fire.

"As he was out there on the mound, I interpreted it a little bit as he wasn't the best competitor out there, but it didn't take long before I realized that the fire burns within him and he is a great competitor," Wallace said.

If the manger had any doubts, those were removed last July when Merritt tossed a 7-inning no-hitter.

"He seemed like nothing ever bothered him when he was on the mound," Clark added.

Many of the "future Indians" were sure bets to make the majors, including Lindor, Santana, Kipnis and Chisenhall.

But others, including Ramirez and Kluber were not shoe-ins.

Ramirez showed his moxie in Akron when he stole home during a game, and his trademark hustle and rapidly improving skills punched his ticket to Cleveland.

Still, the third baseman generally flies under the radar, even though some consider him the MVP of the Indians this year.

Clark recalled a funny story when Ramirez came to a Rubber Ducks game over the summer during an off day for the Tribe.

"He wanted the Jose Ramirez discount, but they didn't know who he was so he bought his ticket, came into the ballpark and watched the game one night."

As for Kluber, Clark remembers the pitcher struggled for a few starts before he was "lights out", showing the early signs of his deadpan composure on the field.

Now, the former Aero will start the first game of the World Series on Tuesday night.

"He just gets better and better and better and no matter the situation, you can never tell by looking at Corey Kluber's expression, he's always the same guy," Clark said.