Inaugural Class of 2009
Lafayette Indians 1979-80
2009 will mark the 28th year of pro baseball for CRBL alumnus and Lafayette native Joe Vavra. Following a record setting career at UW-Stout, Joe was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 8th round of the 1982 amateur draft. Vavra’s versatile, hustling, and fundamentally sound style of play enabled him to quickly rise through the Dodgers’ minor league system, reaching the Triple A level in Albuquerque, NM in August of 1984. That summer was his best in the minors, as he hit .307 (86 for 280) with 14 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 37 RBI’s, 36 runs scored, a .365 OBP, and just 17 strikeouts in 90 games at Double A San Antonio, TX. Joe would conclude his professional playing career in 1986 with an accumulative batting average of .288 (342 for 1,187) in 365 minor league games. Vavra would spend the next 14 years coaching for the Dodgers, being asked to fill a variety of instructional roles throughout the organization.
After spending 2001 as the head coach at UW-Stout, Vavra was hired by the Minnesota Twins in 2002. Working as the minor league field coordinator within the Twins’acclaimed minor league system, Joe moved to the major league level in 2006 to become Minnesota’s hitting coach. Lauded for his hard-working, positive, and practical approach, Vavra’s pupils include 2006 and 2008 American League batting champion Joe Mauer as well as 2006 American League MVP Justin Morneau.
Not to be forgotten is Vavra’s short but productive time in the CRBL. In 1980, his second and last year in the league, Vavra hit .493, leading the league with 69 at-bats, 34 hits, and 13 doubles on his way to being named All-CRBL and playing in the league All-Star game. His mark of 13 doubles in 1980 still stands as a single-season league record.
Prior to Joe’s ascent to the “The Show”, the only other league alumnus to reach the major leagues was Vic Johnson, who pitched for the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians in the 1940’s. In Vavra, there is proof positive that the road to modern day baseball’s highest level can intersect with the sport‘s grass roots, including the Chippewa River Baseball League.