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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

RiverHawks Trade Star Player

The Rockford RiverHawks announced Thursday that they have dealt all-star outfielder Jason James to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the American Association for pitcher Matt Zoltak, cash and future considerations.

James, the only four-time all-star in team history, says goodbye to the RiverHawks while in possession of nearly every major career hitting mark in the team's record books. 

"JJ will be missed dearly," said new RiverHawks manager Rich Austin, who played with James last season. "He had a great career with us and, like everybody in the organization and the community, it will be very hard to replace a player like that, but JJ and I talked and he felt that the American Association would be a better opportunity for him. Jason has done everything he can do in the Frontier League. He deserves the opportunity to play in a more experienced league."

Last season, James hit .283 with 10 home runs and 57 RBI and was a Northern League All-Star. He was a Frontier League All-Star in 2007-09. In '09, James had a 40-game hitting streak, a Frontier League record and one of the 20 longest in the history of the minor leagues. James hit a team-record .374 that year to win the batting title. Following the season, James signed with the Chicago Cubs and Baseball America magazine recognized him as a member of its All-Independent Leagues Team.

"Everyone that's been involved with the RiverHawks, (director of baseball operations) Dave Ciarrachi, Koop (former manager Bob Koopmann), has my thanks," James said. "I couldn't ask for any more from an organization. It goes a long way.

"There's a time and a place to move on. It's hard, but you have to."

James is the RiverHawks' all-time leader in batting average (.337), home runs (44), RBI (256), games (404), at-bats (1,555), runs (227), hits (524), doubles (110) and outfield assists (33). James has spent his entire career with the RiverHawks, with the exception of a spring-training stint with the Cubs last year. He played in a major-league exhibition game against Cincinnati.

Austin notes that James is following a similar route to his. Each played college ball at Lindenwood University and each went from the RiverHawks to Fargo. Austin spent 2005-07 with the RedHawks after three years in Rockford.

"We wish him the best of luck and I'm sure that all the fans that he has here will be keeping tabs on him, hoping that he gets another shot at affiliated ball," Austin said. "My bet is that he will."

Zoltak broke into professional baseball with the RedHawks last year. He was 1-2 with a 7.02 earned-run average in four appearances, including a seven-inning, four-hit performance in an 8-3 win at Winnipeg in his first pro start. The lefty averaged nearly a strikeout an inning, with a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, with Fargo. Zoltak pitched collegiately at Clemson and at Florida Southern.

"We're getting a good quality young pitcher," Austin said. "My former coaches, (Fargo manager Doug) Simunic and (pitching coach Steve) Montgomery, spoke highly of him and believe he will be able to have some success in this league."

The RiverHawks open their 10th season at 7:05 p.m. Friday, May 20, when they host Traverse City in Frontier League action. Advertising and ticket information is available by calling (815) 885-2255. Fans can also

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