(Credit: Logo from Oakland Ballers)
December 8, 2023
The Oakland Ballers on Friday selected their first player in the history of their franchise utility player Dondrei Hubbard prior to the start of their inaugural season in the Pioneer League for 2024.
Hubbard, 28, was born in Canton, GA began his first professional season in 2019 when he signed with the Sonoma Stompers of the Pacific Association and would later have his contract bought out in the middle of the season by the Lake Erie Crushers of the Frontier League.
Hubbard in 2019 batted .319 in 60 games with 267 plate appearances recording 76 hits, 12 doubles, 18 home runs, 60 RBI, nine stolen bases, 23 walks, 58 strikeouts and a .984 OPS.
During the 2020 season, Hubbard signed as an undrafted free agent to the San Diego Padres on February 10, 2020 prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic which canceled the 2020 season in Minor League Baseball.
Hubbard was released by the Padres on May 28, 2020 and decided to play in the Constellation Energy League with Team Texas which just ran in the 2020 season as an independent league due to professional released players not having jobs with Major League Baseball organizations. Eastern Reyes del Tigre, the Sugar Land Lightning Sloths, Sugar Land Skeeters and Team Texas were the only four teams in the Constellation Energy League during its lone season in 2020.
Hubbard batted .276 in 11 games with 32 plate appearances recording eight hits, two RBI, two stolen bases, two walks, and two strikeouts with Team Texas during the 2020 Constellation Energy League season.
Back in 2021, Hubbard played his first season in the Pioneer League. Hubbard played in 81 games with the Grand Junction Rockies. He batted .338 with 361 plate appearances recording 105 hits, 26 doubles, 20 home runs, 81 RBI, 15 stolen bases, 35 walks, 48 strikeouts and a 1.022 OPS.
Hubbard signed as a free agent on March 8, 2022 with the Washington Nationals to a minor league contract. He was assigned to Double-A Harrisburg on April 8, 2022 and played in 46 games with 150 plate appearances batting .257 smacking 36 hits, five doubles, one triple, three home runs, eight walks, and 39 strikeouts prior to being released on August 9, 2022.
A few days later, Hubbard signed with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League on August 13, 2022 and played in seven games with 27 plate appearances batting .042 recording one hit, one RBI, three stolen bases, three walks, and striking out six times before being released on August 22, 2022.
In 2023, Hubbard played in the Pioneer League with the Missoula PaddleHeads and also had his contract bought out by the Kane County Cougars of the American Association.
Hubbard played in 77 games during the 2023 regular season with the PaddleHeads and Cougars batting .373 recording 114 hits in 345 plate appearances, smacking 29 doubles, one triple, 12 home runs, 52 RBI, 18 stolen bases, 26 walks, 54 strikeouts, and a 1.028 OPS
Bryan Carmel and Paul Freedman are the Co-Founders and Entrepreneurs that helped launch the Ballers franchise during the last few months. Former Major League Baseball manager and Bay Area native Don Wakamatsu was one of the managerial candidates for the Ballers in their first season in 2024.
Former MLB scout Micah Franklin will be the manager for the Oakland Ballers for the 2024 Pioneer League regular season as he announced Hubbard as the first player in their franchise history on Friday.
The Oakland B’s, which is short for Ballers, will be the new organization in Oakland, Calif for the 2024 season and will play in the Pioneer League. The B’s will play their home games at Laney College in Oakland starting in July after the program’s 2024 collegiate season. The Pioneer League will begin its 2024 regular season in May.
There will be a 96 game schedule for the 2024 Pioneer League regular season and the Ballers will play 48 home games at Laney College, which is five miles north of the Oakland Coliseum.
According to Janie Mccauley of the Associated Press,”plans are underway to upgrade the Laney ballpark to hold upwards of about 3,000 fans”.
The Pioneer League is now part of the Major League Baseball independent partnership landscape after it was part of affiliated Minor League Baseball from 1939-2019 when the Professional Baseball Association negotiations wiped out 40 teams throughout the minors prior to the 2020 season. The Pioneer League has 10 franchises in operation and the Ballers would be the 11th team at the start of the 2024 regular season. All of the Pioneer League teams are based in Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Colorado.
The Pioneer League divisions for the 2024 regular season will have the North Division with the Billings Mustangs, Glacier Range Riders, Great Falls Voyagers, Idaho Falls Chukars, and the Missoula Paddleheads. The Oakland Ballers will be in the South Division for the 2024 Pioneer League regular season with the Boise Hawks, Grand Junction Jackalopes, Northern Colorado Owlz, the Ogden Raptors, and the Rocky Mountain Vibes.
The Ballers will have to have an expansion draft prior to the 2024 Pioneer League regular season and include players who were previously in the minor leagues with MLB organizations along with scouting players that were not selected in the 20-round MLB draft.
The Ballers will start on the road to begin their inaugural 2024 Pioneer League regular season against the Glacier Range Riders at Flathead Field in Kalispell, MT. No start times have been announced for any of the 2024 regular season games for the Pioneer League.