Nothing secures a team's place in our collective memory like a championship.
The 2017 Memphis Redbirds won 91 regular-season games (a franchise record), then six more in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) playoffs to earn the club's third PCL title. That team set a high bar for the years ahead, particularly for the team that immediately follows them in the history books.
The 2018 Redbirds have answered the challenge. Through 101 games, their record (64-37) is but two games off the pace of the 2017 champs (66-35). Whether or not they raise another trophy in September, this year's team has made marks that will stand the test of reflection many years down the road.
We pay attention to sports, after all, for the memories they create. Let's count a few the 2018 Redbirds have made (or are making).
• The highest two-year win total
— regular-season only — in Redbirds history is 159 (accumulated in both 2009-10 and 2010-11). After Sunday's win over Colorado Springs, the Redbirds have won 155 games since Opening Day 2017. So the team could theoretically break this mark with the entire month of August left to play.
• First-baseman Luke Voit became just the second Redbird to hit for the cycle
. . . and he needed two months to do it. Voit tripled and singled in a game at Iowa on June 30th before the game was suspended by a thunderstorm. The slugger got a good night's sleep, ate breakfast, then doubled and homered after the game was resumed on Sunday, July 1st.
• On May 9, 2017, Redbird pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon took a line drive to his head and suffered cranial damage so severe he wasn't sure if he'd be able to live normally again, let alone throw a baseball by professional hitters. On July 11, 2018, Poncedeleon struck out the side in his lone inning of work for the PCL in the Triple-A All-Star Game. Four days later, Poncedeleon became just the fifth Redbird to hurl a one-hitter
in a shutout of the Omaha Storm Chasers. He's scheduled to make his major-league debut Monday night for the Cardinals in Cincinnati.
• No Redbird has ever won the PCL's Pitcher of the Year award, but Dakota Hudson is the favorite
with a little over a month left in the season. The former Mississippi State Bulldog leads the PCL with 13 wins, ranks third with an ERA of 2.36, and became the fifth Redbird pitcher to start the Triple-A All-Star Game (and first since 2005). Two more wins will make Hudson the first Redbird to earn 15 victories in a season.
• Through Sunday, Memphis centerfielder Oscar Mercado leads the PCL with 29 stolen bases
. His next theft will make him only the fourth Redbird to steal 30 bases in a season and he has a chance to break Chad Meyers's franchise record of 43 (2002). Mercado is also second in the PCL in runs scored (67) with the franchise record of 92 (Scott Seabol in 2004) in sight.
• Outfielder Tyler O'Neill drilled three home runs to help the Redbirds beat Colorado Springs Sunday, his fifth multi-homer game of the season
. He's now tied atop the PCL with 23 home runs for the season. O'Neill needs 13 dingers over the Redbirds' remaining 39 games to match Kevin Witt's club record (set in 2004).