Friday, October 10, 2014

TOP SHELF INDY GRADS MARTE, FEIERABEND LOOKING FOR NEW OPPORTUNITIES

A great number of former Independent players with major league organizations will be looking for new contracts once the World Series is over, but two of the record 41 players who were active in the big leagues this season have gotten a jump by declaring free agency. Both played their Indy baseball at York, PA (Atlantic League).

Third baseman Andy Marte logged a few days with Arizona this season, and had a banner year with the Diamondbacks’ top farm club in Reno, NV. Lefty Ryan Feierabend spent most of the year with Texas’s Triple-A club in Round Rock, though he also logged time with the parent Rangers.

Right-hander Bo Schultz got his first taste of the majors during a couple of stints with Arizona (four appearances; eight innings), and was 10-8 at Reno. He was picked up via waivers this week by Toronto where he will try for a slot next spring.

FRESH START IN TRIPLE-A FOR THIS CATCHER

Ryan Eigsti, at one time with Frontier League power Southern Illinois (Marion), has seen his fortunes change. Kansas City signed the catcher and placed him on the roster of its top farm club in Omaha, NE.


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Monday, October 06, 2014

LIKE MAJORS, IT TOOK 413-PITCH MARATHON TO DECIDE ATLANTIC LEAGUE

Major League Baseball does not have anything on the Atlantic League when it comes to exhausting postseason games.

The season finale in the Atlantic, which ended up with Lancaster, PA winning its second championship, included back-and-forth leads between the Barnstormers and Sugar Land (TX) Skeeters over 13 gripping innings that required four hours and 40 minutes to play. Gabe Jacobo’s walkoff home run in the bottom of the 13th won it to the delight of most of the 6,084 fans, giving Lancaster a three-game sweep.

Fifteen combined pitchers three 413 pitches (225 by Sugar Land) with 30 hits, six home runs, 12 walks and 22 strikeouts. Twenty-eight runners were left on base in the 8-7 contest. Jacobo had a double in addition to two homers and drove in four runs. Delwyn Young homered twice for the Skeeters.

INDEPENDENTS MAY GET SHUT OUT IN LCS AND WORLD SERIES

Unless Washington can reel of three consecutive wins to erase its 2-0 deficit against San Francisco or Kansas City elects to activate reliever Aaron Crow (Fort Worth, TX, American Association) for the American League Championship Series against Baltimore, not a single Independent Baseball player will get to experience a League Championship Series or World Series this year. Tanner Roark (Southern Illinois, Frontier League) carries the current Indy hopes with Washington. Max Scherzer (Fort Worth) was the Game 1 starter for Detroit in its Division Series loss to Baltimore. Scott Kazmir (Sugar Land) of Oakland and John Holdzkom (Amarillo, TX, and Sioux City, IA, American Association, and San Angelo, TX, United League) of Pittsburgh had their hopes of going on dashed in the wild-card games.

95 WINS FOR INDY HURLERS

The final tally for onetime Independent hurlers in the major leagues during the regular season showed 95 victories and 73 defeats with Scherzer on top with 18 wins followed by 15 for both Roark and Kazmir.

‘PERCEPTION OF AGE’ NOT HELPING JASON LANE

One of the many players whose future is an unknown is Jason Lane (Sugar Land and Southern Maryland, Atlantic League), but the outfielder-turned-pitcher seems to carry an extremely positive attitude as he prepares for the winter season in Venezuela.

Lane won praise this summer when he became a rarity at the age of 37 to make his first major league mound start and held Atlanta to one run in six-plus innings for San Diego. “It’s the perception of age that works against me,” the California native told The Santa Rosa Press Democrat recently. “But the odd thing is that I’ve only been pitching for a few years (starting, primarily, at Sugar Land in 2012). My arm is really like a 27-year-old.

“I’m just very thankful for the Padres organization giving me a shot for the short time I was up there (10.1 innings, 0-1, 0.87 over two times called up).” Lane, who said he is open to most any offer the team makes but insists “I’ll fight to get back there (majors)”, also pointed out he never missed a start at Triple-A El Paso, where he went 9-9 with a 4.15 ERA.


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Thursday, September 25, 2014

INDEPENDENT HURLERS COMBINE FOR 91 MAJOR LEAGUE WINS

Nineteen former Independent pitchers have earned at least one win this major league season (through Wednesday, September 24), with a total of 91 victories. The list:

•Detroit’s Max Scherzer, Fort Worth , TX, American Association, earned 17 wins.
•Washington’s Tanner Roark, Southern Illinois, IL, Frontier League, earned 15 wins.
•Oakland’s Scott Kazmir, Sugar Land, TX, Atlantic League, earned 14 wins.
•Kansas City’s Aaron Crow, Fort Worth, TX, American Association, earned 6 wins.
•Philadelphia’s Jerome Williams, Lancaster, PA, Atlantic League, and Long Beach, CA, Golden League, earned 6 wins while pitching for Houston, Texas and Philadelphia.
•Seattle’s James Paxton, Grand Prairie, TX, American Association, earned 6 wins.
•Arizona’s Brad Ziegler, Schaumburg, IL, Northern League, earned 5 wins.
•Milwaukee’s Brandon Kintzler, St.Paul, MN, American Association, and Winnipeg, MB, American Association, earned 3 wins.
•Seattle’s Tom Wilhelmsen, Tucson, AZ, Golden League, earned 3 wins.
•Toronto’s Steve Delabar, Brockton, MA, Can-Am League, and Florence, KY, Frontier, earned 3 wins.
•Arizona’s Vidal Nuno, Washington, PA, Frontier League, earned 2 wins while pitching for the New York Yankees and Arizona.
•Boston’s Craig Breslow, New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls), now in the Can-Am League, earned 2 wins.
•Los Angeles (AL) Joe Thatcher, River City, MO, Frontier League, earned 2 wins while pitching for Arizona and the Los Angeles Angels.
•Minnesota’s Caleb Thielbar, St. Paul, MN, American Association, earned 2 wins.
•With one win apiece were Atlanta’s Ian Thomas, Winnipeg, MB, American Association, Cincinnati’s Dylan Axelrod, Windy City, Crestwood, IL, Frontier League, Los Angeles Angels’ Yoslan Herrera, Lancaster, PA, Atlantic League, the New York Mets’ Scott Rice, York, PA, Atlantic League, and Newark, NJ, Can-Am League, and Pittsburgh’s John Holdzkom, Amarillo, TX, and Sioux City, IA, both in the American Association.




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Monday, September 22, 2014

AFTER SIX-GAME SERIES, YORK AND SUGAR LAND NOW SQUARE OFF IN ATLANTIC LEAGUE PLAYOFFS

The York (PA) Revolution should have a pretty good idea of the best restaurants near their hotel in Sugar Land, TX.

Mark Mason’s gang got to Sugar Land last Tuesday (September 16) to begin a season-ending six-game series against the Skeeters, and now the Revolution are there for the first two games of the best-of-five Freedom Division playoff series starting one week later (Tuesday, September 23). Playing long series in Sugar Land is one of the quirks in the Atlantic League schedule until it can add more teams in that region.

Sugar Land confidence should be running high since the Skeeters won four of six from York (four of the last five, actually) to capture the second half divisional title. For anyone scratching their head to figure out how Sugar Land won the half-season championship when it actually finished tied with Lancaster, PA, the answer is that the Skeeters won five of nine second-half games from the Barnstormers. The two teams split 20 decisions over the entire campaign.

Lancaster’s prize for becoming the wild-card entry in the four-team playoffs is to open with Games 1 and 2 against Somerset, NJ for the Liberty Division title at home. Somerset, which won both halves, will have the remaining games in the five-game set back in New Jersey.

RUCINSKI GETS LENGTHY STINT FOR ANGELS

New major leaguer Drew Rucinski, who spent all of 2012 plus parts of ’11 and ’13 in the Frontier League (Rockford, IL), got an extended outing from the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend. The 25-year-old out of Ohio State hurled four innings at home against Texas, allowing three hits and a walk plus two earned runs. The right-hander struck out five.

Rucinski, 10-6, 3.15 in 26 starts for Class AA Arkansas this summer, also faced Texas in his only other major league appearance so far, giving up two runs in an inning of work back on July 10.

GREAT POWER SEASON FOR MATT FIELDS

Matt Fields, a onetime Independent Baseball player at Southern Illinois (Marion) of the Frontier League, has pounded 59 home runs the last two seasons in the Kansas City farm system without getting any time with the parent Royals. A first baseman-designated hitter, the 6-foot-5, 235 pounder, hit 28 homers and drove in 81 runs for Omaha this season, then helped the Storm Chasers all the way to the Triple-A championship. He was 1-for-4 in the 4-2 win over Pawtucket, RI (Red Sox) in the title game between the two AAA league winners. The 29-year-old Fields improved his average by 40 points to .262 at Omaha after a 31-homer output when he hit .222 for Double-A Northwest Arkansas one year ago.


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Friday, August 29, 2014

RECORD CROWD SAYS GOODBYE IN ST. PAUL; MORE PETE ROSE SIGHTINGS PLUS AFL ASSIGNMENTS

Leave it to the St. Paul (MN) Saints. They played their 999th and final game at Midway Stadium Thursday night as they prepare to move into a sparkling new home for American Association games next season, and a franchise record 9,455 fans turned out.

The Saints have been a big draw since their very first year (1993) in the Northern League, and this crowd brought the season home total to 248,106, their best since 2009. The fans had to have a nostalgic feeling for Midway because the team is out of playoff contention. Incidentally, St. Paul was beaten by playoff-bound Winnipeg, 4-3.

PETE ROSE BACK IN DEMAND FOR TWO INDY APPEARANCES

The major leagues’ all-time hit king, Pete Rose, has been booked for two more visits to Independent Baseball stadiums before the season ends, following up on his one-day stint earlier as guest manager for the Bridgeport (CT) Bluefish of the Atlantic League.

Rose will even step into the batter’s box as the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the first inning for the Florence (KY) Freedom of the Frontier League on Tuesday (September 2). He will be introduced, then a pinch hitter will replace him and Rose will coach both third and first base for some of the remaining innings.

On September 14, he returns to Bridgeport once again in a guest manager slot to take part in Ken Shepard Day activities as the team honors its general manager, who is leaving after the season to continue his fight against Stage 4 kidney cancer.

INDEPENDENT PLAYERS, FIELD STAFF HEADED TO ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

Two players are among a contingent of at least five people with Independent Baseball credentials headed to the prestigious Arizona Fall League. All represent major league organization now.

Right-handed pitchers Brandon Cunniff and Alex Smith are on the rosters announced to this point. Both spent time in the Frontier League. Cunniff, who played for Southern Illinois and River City and now belongs to the Atlanta Braves, will pitch for Peoria. Smith, out of River City and currently in the New York Yankees system, will be with Scottsdale.

Onetime Frontier League Manager Andy Haines (Windy City, Dubois County), who has worked his way all the way up to managing Miami’s top minor league club in New Orleans, will lead the Salt River team. Peoria’s co-pitching coaches are Jason Simontacchi and R. C. Lichtenstein. Simontacchi, now coaching in the minors for St. Louis, played for Atlantic League teams in Lancaster, PA, Long Island, NY and Bridgeport as well as for Springfield of the Frontier League. Lichtenstein, a Tampa Bay minor league coach, was involved with Dubois County (and possibly other Indy teams).


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