Thursday, June 22, 2006


Some encouraging news is coming out of Pensacola, FL where paralyzed Pelicans pitcher Rusty Begnaud is now nearly a week into his recovery from a broken neck suffered while diving into a teammate's swimming pool. He suffered paralysis from the chest down, but the word we are getting is he has some feeling in his hands and a little more mobility. We view any improvement as encouraging news, no matter how small it may be in the long scheme.

The Begnaud family will have Rusty moved to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta to continue his rehabilitation as soon as a bed becomes available.

Meanwhile, what a job the Pelicans and the Pensacola community have been doing in leading fundraising for the Rusty Begnaud Benefit Account. The American Association team reports fans donated nearly $10,000 during their homestand. The Pelicans Booster Club has gotten involved, all tips from concessions stands have been donated, businesses in town are stepping up and other teams in the league are helping out.

Fans can assist Rusty's rehabilitation by making a donation in his name through People’s First Bank in Pensacola at (800) 807-7227. The Gulf Breeze Branch of the bank, where donations are received, and Cat Country 98.7 radio are holding a cookout from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. this Friday (June 30) to raise still more money for the young pitcher, who was leading the American Association in wins at the time of the dreadful injury.

On the field, Pensacola also has rebounded from two losses right after the injury to three consecutive wins against first place Coastal Bend (Robstown, TX). Another Aviators loss Monday dropped them into a tie with Pensacola. We will have more to say about Pensacola's season in our weekly Independent Baseball Insider column which comes out Thursday.


When we featured former Independent Baseball personalities who now earn their paychecks from major league organizations in last week's Independent Baseball Insider column we overlooked a few more minor league managers, including two who are handling Triple-A teams.

Credit Can-Am and American Association Commissioner Miles Wolff with bringing our list up to date, starting with the addition of Stan Cliburn at Rochester, Minnesota's top farm club, and Ken Oberkfell, who guides the New York Mets' Triple-A shuttle from Norfolk. Cliburn spent time in the Texas-Louisiana League at Alexandria, LA and Oberkfell managed in the Northeast League.

Other current affiliated managers we overlooked with their 2006 team and affiliation with the Independent background in parenthesis: Jay Gainer, Yakima for Arizona (Northeast League); Rouglas Odor, Mahoning Valley for Cleveland (Texas-Louisiana); Bill Plummer, Tennessee for Arizona (Western League); Duffy Dyer, Erie for Detroit (Bridgeport in Atlantic League); and Daren Brown, San Antonio for Seattle (Texas-Louisiana).

A Full Summer of the Independent Baseball Insider…Only $35

Request a Free Week of the Independent Baseball Insider

Monday, June 19, 2006


When I saw that Baltimore called up Howie Clark over the weekend, it reminded me of how often players are in the major leagues well after their Independent leagues have disappeared.

The Western League played its last games in 2002, yet three of its alums are on major league rosters today. Clark, who made his 2006 debut with a pinch single Sunday, and disabled Kansas City lefty Bobby Madritsch both played for Chico, CA, which is in the Golden League today. Both were with Chico for brief times in 2001.

Ken Ray, who continues to be one of the few bright spots for the Atlanta Braves, played for Yuba-Sutter, CA in 2002.

Other examples of players from leagues no longer around include San Diego reliever Brian Sweeney with Lafayette, IN of the Heartland League, disabled Indians reliever Matt Miller of Greenville, MS of the Big South League and Philadelphia catcher Chris Coste, who was with Brandon, Manitoba, of the Prairie League. All three of those leagues have been gone at least eight years.

Coste, who finally got three starts within seven days, picked up his first two elusive major league hits and his first RBI Friday.

I did not include the major leaguers who played in the Texas-Louisiana, Central or Northeast Leagues since many teams in each of those circuits merely moved to a new league such as the American Association, United or Can-Am.

A Full Summer of the Independent Baseball Insider…Only $35

Request a Free Week of the Independent Baseball Insider

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Arguably, the hottest pitchers in the all of Independent Baseball are Ryan Bicondoa, Erik Dessau, and Joshua Beshears. Bicandoa has a perfect 4-0 record, the others are 3-0 and each sports an ERA under one.

Bicondoa, who pitches for the North Shore Spirit (Lynn, MA) of the Can-Am League, hurled a two-hit shutout at Quebec Thursday night, winning 1-0. The 6-foot-3 righthander has not allowed an earned run and has surrendered only 11 hits while striking out 33 in 30 innings.

Dessau, another righthander, has blown away 26 in his 26.1 innings. The Gateway Grizzles (Sauget, IL) starter has held Frontier League opponents to a .194 average, while posting a 0.68 ERA.

Beshears has gone a different route than his fellow righthanders. The Winnipeg Goldeyes hurler has allowed more walks (18) than strikeouts (17), but his .150 average against with runners in scoring position helps keep his Northern League- leading ERA at 0.56.

A Full Summer of the Independent Baseball Insider…Only $35

Request a Free Week of the Independent Baseball Insider

Monday, June 12, 2006


Our thoughts and best wishes go out to onetime major league manager Tim Johnson, whose Lincoln Saltdogs have a four-game divisional league and the best record (21-8) in the American Association.

Johnson is with Lincoln for the start of a crucial series at St. Paul, MN Monday night as he awaits results from bone marrow tests. The Lincoln Journal Star says the tests are to "check for causes into a chronic fatigue problem that Johnson has been battling for a few months."

Johnson returned to the dugout Sunday after missing home games against St. Paul and Coastal Bend.

A Full Summer of the Independent Baseball Insider…Only $35

Request a Free Week of the Independent Baseball Insider

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


The buzz should be terrific at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, PA Tuesday night, and not just because of the battle between the Atlantic League's two division leaders, the visiting Long Island Ducks and the Barnstormers.

Two-time American League MVP Juan Gonzalez will be making his long-rumored debut with the Ducks. He is scheduled to be the designated hitter in all three games in the series, the Barnstormers say.

Although limited to 48 games the last two seasons because of injuries, the 36-year-old slugger still seems certain to bring butterflies to Manager Tommy Herr's Lancaster pitching staff because of the 434 major league home runs he has launched since 1989.


Stubby Clapp and his Edmonton Cracker-Cats won the personal and team battles over Harry Berrios and host Winnipeg over the weekend. Edmonton won two of the three games with their star shortstop helping out by going 6-for-12 plus four walks, scoring six runs and banging a home run. Berrios was 4-for-13 with a run and an RBI for the Goldeyes.

A Full Summer of the Independent Baseball Insider…Only $35

Request a Free Week of the Independent Baseball Insider

Sunday, June 04, 2006


The St. Paul (MN) Saints, who almost certainly have had more of their former players reach the major leagues than any other Independent Baseball team, added another graduate Saturday. In fact, catcher Eliezer Alfonzo may have made the most dramatic debut.

Ten years of minor league duty, including a .300 season for the Saints in 2003, paid off when the 27-year-old Alfonzo blasted a two-run, sixth inning home run off Orlando (El Duque) Hernandez to power San Francisco from behind to a 5-4 lead and eventual 6-4 victory over the New York Mets in the opener of a rain-delayed Shea Stadium doubleheader. Alfonzo's homer spoiled El Duque's first game back in New York, where he had previously starred for the Yankees.

Alfonzo, who saw considerable spring training play with the Giants, had just been recalled from Class AA Connecticut. He went 1-for-4 in the game, and got into the nightcap as a defensive replacement.

A Full Summer of the Independent Baseball Insider…Only $35

Request a Free Week of the Independent Baseball Insider

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Congratulations to Jermaine Van Buren on his first major league victory!

The former Fort Worth Cat pitched an inning of relief to pick up the win for the Boston Red Sox last night over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Van Buren pitched for Fort Worth (Central League) in 2003 compiling a 9-4 record with a 3.07 ERA and 113 K's.

Van Buren entered the game with a one run lead, a runner on third base, and one out in the fifth inning. He got the next two batters to ground out, stopping the Blue Jays rally and preserving the lead.

In three appearances for the Sox, Van Buren is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA over 6.1 innings. He’s struck out two, while holding opponents to a .200 average.


Wouldn't it be something for Independent Baseball if Ken Ray, who was in the Can-Am League as recently as last season, turned out to be the key to the Atlanta Braves winning their 15th consecutive divisional title? It could happen.

With their bullpen woes a primary concern the first third of the season, Ray could be the stabilizer. He closed out another victory Wednesday night with a two-strikeout, no-hit inning, but did not get a save since Atlanta had a 9-3 lead. He already saved two games in less than a week to move toward the regular closer's role, which we will be featuring in this week's Independent Baseball Insider column as part of a story on four Can-Am pitchers who have ascended from an Independent league one season to the majors the next.

Ray was with North Shore for part of the '05 Can-Am season. He also has Independent experience with Long Island (Atlantic League) and in the former Western League.

Bobby Cox has not committed to Ray as his closer--at least publicly--but the 31-year-old Atlanta native has won over Mark Bowman, who covers the Braves for "Through the first two months of the season, he's been as good as any reliever in the National League," Bowman writes. "So, obviously, my decision (to close) is Ray, who I propose should be called 'The Stinger' in reference to a sting ray."

A Full Summer of the Independent Baseball Insider…Only $35

Request a Free Week of the Independent Baseball Insider