Way back on June 18, the River City Rascals announced that they had signed a little known catcher out of tiny Lee University in Tennessee, and that the new player would be in the starting lineup that afternoon when the club hosted its annual Kids Splash Day game against the visiting Rockford Aviators.
It was one month into the season, and hardly anyone batted an eye when Danny Canela took the field for the Rascals on a day when nearly 2,000 kids from local day camps got to come to a game and enjoy all types of water games, while they watched a professional baseball game on another sweltering St. Louis summer day.
The Rascals won the game 3-1; the kids got to get wet and cool off; and Canela went 0-3 with a strikeout. There's a good chance nobody at T.R. Hughes Ballpark that day even remembered the new catcher's pro debut.
But the next day, Canela got two hits and River City won 3-2.
And although the Rascals struggled to win consistently throughout the summer, Canela kept hitting and hitting and hitting.
He had a five-game hitting streak at the end of June and a seven-game hitting streak at the beginning of July. Then he topped them both with a 15-game streak with at least one hit that began in late July and ended in early August.
Just before that, right around the mid-July All-Star break, word got out that River City's new hitting sensation was the same player that tore up high school pitching in his native Florida, where he set several records, and then played three dynamite seasons at North Carolina State, where he hit 17 home runs as a D1 designated hitter/catcher before transferring to Lee for his senior year.
Most thought Canela would be the Wolfpack's cleanup hitter during the 2013 college season, but he left the ACC power to play at Lee for reasons that have never been disclosed.
But he still had a sensational season at the plate, hitting .335, with seven homers and 52 RBIs in 61 games for the Flames, who went 51-12 and just missed making the NAIA National Tournament.
Then the June MLB Draft came, and somehow Canela, who was selected by the Detroit Tigers as a high schooler in 2009, went undrafted this time around, which left him miraculously available when the Rascals were looking for a new catcher and possible big-time bat to solidify the middle of its lineup.
River City was able to ink Canela to a deal before anyone else and the marriage has proven tremendous for both parties with the possible crescendo coming on Labor Day, when the club made a new announcement that has generated a whole lot more excitement and much more fanfare than the quiet one it made back on June 18.
Danny Canela, a player who began the summmer on nobody's team and could've been had by any professional ballclub in the country, was named the 2013 Frontier League Rookie of the Year, becoming the first player in Rascals history to win the award-- a truly remarkable turn of events, considering he didn't even play the first month of the season, but will still enter River City's final four games of the season, with a league-best .371 batting average.
Canela has also hit 12 home runs and driven in 52 RBIs this season, while leading the Rascals to a 41-25 record since the day he joined the club.
And what's even more astounding is if you factor in what he did during the college season, Canela has played 124 games since February and totaled 152 hits in 431 at-bats (a .353 batting average), with a combined 19 homers and 104 RBIs.
And his teams have a combined 92-37 record.
Needless to say, Canela didn't win all those games by himself. But it does say a lot that his numbers are always outstanding and his teams seem to do a whole lot of winning.
Other Frontier League award winners announced on Monday were:
Morgan Burkhart Award (MVP) – Jacob Tanis, Florence Freedom
Brian Tollberg Award (Pitcher of the Year) – Scott Dunn, Traverse City Beach Bums
Jason Simontacchi Award (Rookie of the Year) – DANNY CANELA, River City Rascals
Roger Hanners Award (Manager of the Year) – Jamie Bennett, Schaumburg Boomers
Fran Riordan Award (Citizenship) – Cannon Lester, Southern Illinois Miners
Bob Wolfe Award (Executive of the Year) – Joel Padfield, Evansville Otters
The Frontier League also announced its 2013 Post-Season All-Star Team on Monday, those award winners were:
1B – Russell Moldenhauer, Lake Erie Crushers
2B – C.J. Beatty, Washington Wild Things
3B – Jacob Tanis, Florence Freedom
SS – Patrick McKenna, Normal CornBelters
OF – Jon Myers, Gateway Grizzlies
OF – Nick Akins, Joliet Slammers
OF – Daniel Bowman, Lake Erie Crushers
C – Landon Hernandez, Gateway Grizzlies (also 2011 and 2012 selection)
DH – Steve McQuail, Schaumburg Boomers
Starting P – Scott Dunn, Traverse City Beach Bums
Relief P – Eric Massingham, Evansville Otters