In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February, teams across Minor League Baseball are taking a look back at five of the best Black players to suit up for their club.
While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great Minor League careers or, in some cases, just one incredible season that went down as “a year for the ages.”
Here is a look at five of the best Black baseball players ever to suit up for the Sacramento River Cats.
Former Sacramento River Cats right-hander Tyson Ross has California in his blood. The Berkeley, California native was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the second round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of the University of California, Berkeley before becoming an All Star with the San Diego Padres in 2014.
Prior to his move south, Ross spent five years in the Oakland organization, three split between the A's and Sacramento. In 30 games with the River Cats, Ross was 11-5 with a 4.30 ERA, 128 strikeouts, and a 1.48 WHIP.
He was traded to the Padres in 2012 in exchange for infielder Andy Parrino and left-hander Andrew Werner. Ross excelled with the Padres, posting a sub-3.30 ERA in each of his first three seasons in San Diego.
In 10 MLB seasons, Ross is 44-70 with a 4.04 ERA, 816 strikeouts, and a 1.36 WHIP in 904.2 innings, last pitching in the Majors in 2019 with Detroit.
Ross’ strongest impact now is off the field, inspiring young baseball players in the Bay Area. He is the founder of the Loyal To My Soil program, where he and his big leaguer peers gather to “educate, inspire, and coach the kids of our community to be great on and off the field.”
You can hear Ross talk about his MLB journey, his time in Sacramento, and Loyal To My Soil on episode eight of the River Cats Nine Lives Podcast.
Former Sacramento first baseman/left fielder Chris Carter is one of the most powerful sluggers in the Oakland A’s era of River Cats history, with his 65 home runs still standing atop the team’s leader board.
He played 285 games for the River Cats from 2009-2012, finishing inside the franchise’s top-10 with 233 RBIs (third), 156 walks (tied for sixth), 68 doubles (seventh), and 202 runs (sixth).
After four years in the minors, Carter broke into the majors in 2010, bashing 158 home runs for four teams across eight MLB seasons. His best season was 2016 with Milwaukee, where he tied for the National League lead with 41 home runs, and also won the Brewers Good Guy Award.
The 2005 15th-round pick by the Chicago White Sox outperformed his draft slot with a prolific minor league career. The three-time top-100 prospect on Baseball America (2009-2011) earned seven Player of the Week awards, 14 All-Star nods (one with Sacramento in 2010), and played in the 2009 Futures Game.
Carter was originally acquired from Chicago by Arizona in 2007 for All-Star outfielder Carlos Quentin. He was quickly traded to Oakland alongside fellow former River Cats Carlos González, Brett Anderson, Aaron Cunningham, Greg Smith, and Dana Eveland for All-Star right-hander Dan Haren. He left the Oakland organization in Feb. of 2013 as part of the package for infielder Jed Lowrie.
Former Sacramento River Cats second baseman Jemile Weeks is one of the fastest players in River Cats history.
The speedy switch-hitter had a standout career at the University of Miami before going 12th overall to the Oakland A’s in the 2008 MLB Draft.
The professional game did not slow Weeks down.
After making the Futures Game in his first full professional season, Weeks impressed in the Arizona Fall League, being named a Player of the Week and Rising Star while earning a spot on the All-Prospect Team.
He arrived in Sacramento in 2011, posting a .417 on-base percentage through his first 45 Triple-A games.
Weeks turned that hot start into an MLB debut, where he had an impressive June, winning American League Rookie of the Month.
He played parts of six MLB seasons with Oakland, Baltimore, Boston, and San Diego, hitting .254 with 121 runs, 45 doubles, 18 triples, 62 RBIs, and 41 stolen bases in 260 games.
In 185 games for Sacramento from 2011-2013, Weeks hit .287 with 131 runs, 29 doubles, seven home runs, 72 RBIs, 28 stolen bases, and is tied for third all time in team history with 14 triples.
Weeks continues to make an impact off the field as the executive director for the nonprofit organization WeFam United, Inc., located in Orlando, Florida. WeFam United aims to “change the narrative of our underserved youth.”
Listen to Weeks talk about WeFam United, his time in Sacramento, his MLB draft experience, and more on episode 13 of the River Cats Nine Lives Podcast.
Former Sacramento River Cats outfielder Michael Taylor is one of the most successful hitters to don the RC logo.
Drafted out of Stanford University in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2007 MLB Draft, Taylor had a well-decorated MiLB career. His impressive production in the Philadelphia system led to his inclusion in the Phillies’ 2009 trade for Hall-of-Fame right-hander Roy Halladay.
Taylor was a five-time Player of the Week (one with Sacramento in 2012), two-time Mid-Season All-Star, a Post-Season All-Star, a Topps Double-A All-Star, and two-time Organization All-Star while with the River Cats in 2012 and 2013.
The 6’5 outfielder did everything for the River Cats during his five seasons in Sacramento.
He was the River Cats’ Most Improved Player in 2010, Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, and Most Exciting Player in 2013.
He still holds the title of River Cats’ all-time RBIs leader with 325 and also ranks second in games played (511), at-bats (1,900), runs (299), hits (521), doubles (112), walks (266), and steals (60).
Taylor played 37 games in the Majors for the Oakland A’s and Chicago White Sox, hitting his first MLB home run off left-hander Derek Holland on Sept. 20, 2011. He hit his 100th professional home run on April 10, 2014 at Las Vegas.
Former Sacramento River Cats infielder/outfielder Eric Patterson is one of the best table-setters in franchise history.
The eighth round pick out of Georgia Institute of Technology by the Chicago Cubs in 2004 wracked up plenty of Minor League awards. The highlights include three Player of the Weeks, six Mid-Season All-Star nods, three Post-Season All-Star honors, a 2006 Futures Game selection, and a spot on the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars team.
Patterson broke out in 2009 with Sacramento, winning the River Cats’ MVP and Most Exciting Player awards, and leading the team with a .307 batting average. He currently ranks fourth all-time in River Cats history with 51 steals and is tied for fifth with 13 triples.
The speedster played parts of five seasons in the Majors, making his debut with the Cubs on Aug. 6, 2007. In 226 MLB games, Patterson hit .217, with 65 runs, 20 doubles, seven triples, 10 home runs, 50 RBIs, and 35 stolen bases.
He was acquired by Oakland on July 8, 2008 alongside then-catcher Josh Donaldson, right-hander Sean Gallagher, and outfielder Matt Murton for right-handers Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden. Patterson was the left fielder in former River Cats left-hander Dallas Braden’s 2010 Perfect Game for the Athletics.