GARY, Ind. — Shortstop Jay Pecci – a four-time Northern League All-Star and the franchise’s all-time hits leader – will return to the Gary SouthShore RailCats in 2010, becoming the first player ever to spend six seasons in a RailCats uniform after agreeing today to play out his contract option.
Pecci, 33, has been the RailCats shortstop throughout Manager Greg Tagert’s tenure and is the franchise’s all-time leader in hits (486) and at bats (1,700). A veteran of over 1,000 minor league games, Pecci has been arguably the best shortstop in the Northern League during the last five years, batting at least .266 each season and consistently improving his defensive numbers. A Novato, California native, Pecci ranks in the top five in league history in nearly every offensive category in team history and is the only RailCats player to be selected to four different Mid-Season Northern League All-Star Games (2006-09).
Last season, Pecci overcame a slow start offensively (going 6-for-50 in May) to post his second-best batting average as a RailCat (.292). Pecci hit better than .350 in both June and July, and posted the best on-base percentage (.372) of his RailCats career by drawing 35 walks in 82 games. Primarily the team’s number three hitter, Pecci was one of five different ‘Cats with at least 46 RBI (48) in 2009 and scored an even 50 runs.
The 2008 season, however, was perhaps Pecci’s best of his entire 12-year professional career. With 115 hits, Pecci set the RailCats single-season hits record that season – in only 85 of a possible 96 games – and batted .317, the best full-season average of his career. Pecci slugged .474 (easily the best of his career) and cracked 26 doubles to go along with a career-best nine home runs. In addition to all that, the switch-hitting Pecci homered in the Northern League All-Star Game in 2008 en route to earning Most Valuable Player honors and hit the game-winning home run in the ninth inning of the decisive Game Four of the Northern League Semifinals. Following the 2008 season, Pecci earned his first Post-Season All-Star commendation from the league as the circuit’s top shortstop.
Always a tough hitter to strike out, Pecci was third in the Northern League in strikeouts per plate appearance last year after leading the league in that category each of the previous two seasons. Pecci has whiffed only 122 times in 1,934 RailCats plate appearances, or once about every 16 trips to the dish. Pecci collected the 1,000th hit of his professional career in 2009 and now has 1,074 in total to go along with 178 doubles, 28 triples, 30 home runs, 94 stolen bases and 450 RBI.
Originally selected by the Oakland Athletics in the 11th round of the 1998 Major League Entry Draft out of Stanford, Pecci played four seasons in the A’s system, topping out at Double-A Midland in 2001. Following that season, Pecci was claimed by the Seattle Mariners in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft and advanced to Triple-A Tacoma before the end of the 2003 season. Pecci finished 2003 as a San Francisco Giants farmhand and spent the entire 2004 season with the Norwich Navigators (AA) in the Eastern League.
Not recruited out of high school, Pecci walked on to the Stanford baseball team and managed to become a starter virtually from day one. An All-Conference pick in 1998, Pecci led Stanford to the 1995 and 1997 College World Series and boasts one of the all-time best CWS batting averages, going 10-for-17 (.588) in Omaha in 1997, at the time the third-best average in event history. Pecci’s Stanford teams were loaded with eventual pros, including major leaguers Jody Gerut, Joe Borchard, Chad Hutchinson (who also played in the NFL) and eventual RailCats teammate Tony Cogan.
Pecci becomes the 14th player under contract for the 2010 season, joining fellow infielders Jeff Beachum, Chris Carrara and Mike Rohde; outfielders Caleb Curry, Adam Klein and Mike Massaro; catcher Matt Lenski; and pitchers Aaron Cook, Willie Glen, Zach McClellan, Andy Paulun, J.J. Potrikus and Andy Shipman. The RailCats expect to have at least 28 players under contract when Spring Training opens May 6 at U. S. Steel Yard.
The RailCats begin the 2010 season back at The Steel Yard, Thursday, May 20 against the Kansas City T-Bones at 7 p.m. Season tickets, mini-plans, flex tickets and group outings are on sale now by calling the RailCats front office at 219.882.2255 or visiting www.railcatsbaseball.com.