Snappers host Hot Stove banquet Feb. 2
BELOIT — The Beloit Snappers will celebrate their 35th anniversary season in 2016 when they kick off their schedule at home against the rival Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 7.
The Snappers, who will be in their fourth year as an Oakland A's affiliate in the Class A Midwest League, host the Rattlers the next evening and then finish off the home-and-home series with two contests at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.
However, the Snappers hope to get Stateline area fans excited about minor league baseball again with their 12th annual Hot Stove banquet. The event will be held Tuesday, Feb. 2, at the Garden Hotel Conference Center, 200 Dearborn Ave. in South Beloit, Illinois. Activities begin at 5:15 p.m. and include a cocktail hour, buffet-style dinner, guest speakers and live and silent auctions.
Some of the proceeds from this year's event will benefit Beloit Meals On Wheels.
Three speakers are planned:
• Sportscaster Brett Dolan has some history in Beloit. He was the Snappers' radio announcer from 1994 to 1997 before becoming the voice of the Iowa Cubs and Tucson Sidewinders. He also was a fill-in broadcaster for the Montreal Expos in 2003 and 2004 and the play-by-play announcer for the Arizona Fall League on MLB Radio during 2004 and 2005 before working for the Houston Astros. Currently, Dolan works for ESPN-3 and ESPN-U.
• Ryan O'Rourke also is returning as a speaker. O'Rourke is a left-handed pitcher who made it to the majors this year, joining the Minnesota Twins on July 7. In 28 relief appearances, he pitched 22 innings, struck out 24 batters and finished the season with a 6.14 ERA.
Snappers' fans might remember O'Rourke playing for Beloit in 2011 and 2012. He compiled a 7-10 record in 63 games, 166.1 innings pitched, an ERA of 4.39 and 163 strikeouts. O'Rourke is one of the most recent former Snappers to make it to the Big Leagues. Currently, 192 players have worn a Beloit jersey and gone on to the majors.
• Oakland minor league field coordinator Aaron Nieckula will be the third banquet speaker. This past season, Nieckula served as manager for the Vermont Lake Monsters, the A's short-season affiliate. He was drafted by Oakland in the 22nd round in 1998 and spent five years as a catcher in the Oakland and San Francisco minor league systems. Nieckula also has managed the Kane County Cougars, Stockton Ports and Midland Rockhounds.