Mitchell Walding found his hitting stride with the Reading Fightin’ Phils, which resulted in an invitation to the Eastern League All-Star Game and Home Run Derby.

Walding, a former Cowlitz Black Bear infielder, is hitting .232 with 23 home runs and 60 RBI, ranking him third in the AA league in home runs and 19th in RBI. At the time of the Home Run Derby, Walding had hit 20 round-trippers and was named the league’s player of the month.

“It’s been kind of a roller-coaster year so far,” Walding said in a story on the website. “I’m just looking forward to continuing what I’ve been doing of late. I think this year it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a new experience.”

Walding hit .187 in the opening months of the season before catching fire with a .337 batting average. As for the league’s Home Run Derby, he has eliminated in the first round.

“I think it’s something that you look forward to, have a little fun,” he said of his All-Star and Home Run Derby experiences. “Sometimes, during the course of the season, things get pretty serious. ... It’s a good time to be with friends, have some fun out there, play against some of the best guys in the league. It’s nice to meet some of the guys that you play against and see how talented other people are as well.”

Two other ex-Black Bears — lefty pitchers Cole Irvin and Damon Jones — are also having success in the Phillies’ organization.

Irvin, a teammate of Walding’s in Reading, is 5-3 with a 4.19 ERA. In a recent 6-3 victory over the Erie SeaWolves, Irwin scattered six hits and struck out 10 in 6 1/3 innings.

Jones, with the Williamsport Crosscutters in the short-season A New York-Penn League, is 2-3 with a 5.48 ERA. In a recent 8-2 win over the Auburn Doubledays, Jones scattered two hits and struck out five in 3 1/3 relief innings.

M’s own three ex-Bears

Two former Cowlitz Black Bear pitchers and an outfielder have found mixed success toiling in the Seattle Mariners’ farm system.

Left-hander Chris Castellanos has made appearances at AAA Tacoma, the short-season A Everett AquaSox, and the Mariners’ entry in the Arizona Summer League. Castellanos opened the season in Arizona, where he was 0-1 with a 2.53 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 21 innings. In early August, he made the leap to Tacoma, where he went 0-1 with a 27.00 ERA, allowing four hits in a relief inning. He has since moved down to Everett, where he is 2-0 with a 3.09 ERA.

Outfielder Austin Grebeck started the season in Everett, where he hit .227 with two homers, 27 RBI and seven stolen bases in 54 games. In early August, Grebeck was promoted to the Advanced-A Modesto Nuts, where he’s hitting .128 in 16 games.

Righty pitcher Brian McAfee is also with Everett, where in 18 innings spanning five starts he’s 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA.

Also on the farm

Former Lower Columbia College pitcher Hunter Wells was putting together a solid season in the Miami Marlins’ organization before hitting the disabled list in July.

Wells, a right-hander, was 0-2 with a 2.35 ERA, allowing nine hits and striking out seven through eight innings with the Class A Greensboro Grasshoppers in the South Atlantic League before his undisclosed injury.

Former Black Bears’ right-hander Shane Bieber has toiled with three teams in the Cleveland Indians farm system this summer. He was 2-3 with a 3.10 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 29 innings with Lake County in the A Midwest League; 6-1 with a 3.10 ERA and 82 whiffs in 90 innings with Lynchburg of the Advanced-A Carolina League; and was 2-1 with a 2.83 ERA with 36 strikeouts, four walks and 46 hits with the Akron Rubber Ducks of the AA Eastern League.

Ex-Bears’ catcher Caleb Hamilton is hitting .217 with nine homers and 39 RBI for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, a Minnesota affiliate in the A Midwest League. Hamilton has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, including a 2-5 effort with a triple and an RBI in a 12-2 drubbing of the Beloit Snappers.

Infielder Chris Iriart and lefty pitcher Domenic Mazza are also having solid seasons in the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants minor league system.

Iriart started the season with the Stockton Ports of the Advanced-A California League, where he hit .202 with eight homers and 25 RBI before making a trip to the disabled list in late June. He has since recovered and is toiling in the Arizona Summer League, where he’s hitting .212 with two RBI through 10 games.

Mazza began the season with the Augusta GreenJackets of the A South Atlantic League, where he was named to the All-Star team. He went 7-9 with a 3.01 ERA in 120 innings before earning a promotion to the San Jose of the California League. He’s 0-1 with an 11.81 ERA, and has allowed 12 hits and struck out one in five innings.Rick McCorkle can be reached at 360-577-2529. Follow him on Twitter @TDNRickMc

Rick McCorkle can be reached at 360-577-2529. Follow him on Twitter @TDNRickMc


Rick is a 29-year veteran of The Daily News, and the lead Lower Columbia College athletics reporter. In addition, he tracks former area prep athletes and assists several other beats. He is a Mark Morris grad with a business management degree from LCC.

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