I am feeling somewhat like an expectant father these days, times which I thought were long past. This anxiety--only a bit of an overstatement--comes about as Grapefruit and Cactus League play begins, and we wait to see how the 47 Independent Baseball alums in major league camps fare. One can only imagine the increased pulse rate for the players themselves, starting with the 32 who are non-roster invitees.
But I also find myself fascinated with how many new signings from the Independent ranks are coming in even as the affiliated minor league camps swing their doors open. The talent level the Independents offer cannot possibly be lost on the major league scouting departments.
I can count 14 additions in the last three weeks to the master roster we keep of the onetime Independent players now toiling for the 30 major league organizations, and all of the news may not have even reached this cluttered desk.
The Phillies alone signed four players from among 74 who attended their first ever tryout camp for largely Independent players last weekend. All four were pitchers although several position players are among the 14 recent signees. One of the Philadelphia foursome had only college experience, but three were from the Indy ranks--Mike McTamney, Cory Willey and Jason Wylie. Technically, the trio all came from the Can-Am League, which could be causing some button-popping in the Durham, NC league office.
McTamney played in the Golden League last season, wearing both Fullerton, CA and Reno, NV uniforms, but he had recently been moved to the Can-Am's Brockton, MA franchise. Willey pitched for New Haven County, CT in '06 while Wylie was with both Brockton and the New Jersey Jackals.
The Philadelphia camp was run by Mal Fichman, the onetime Northern League manager who has been signing Independent players for years for the San Diego Padres.
Another signing which has peaked this corner's interest was veteran major league reliever Rich Garces joining the Can-Am League's Nashua (NH) Pride. Garces, who turns 36 in May, has 287 major league appearances, all out of the bullpen, and a 23-10 record, but I do not believe he has pitched professionally since 2002.
My Independent Baseball Insider column Thursday will include a spring training chat with Tagg Bozied, the onetime Northern Leaguer who is trying to make the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals roster this spring after the misfortune of a serious injury from a homeplate celebration after one of his walkoff home runs. He is a great hometown story, just like Philadelphia's Chris Coste (Fargo, ND), with Bozied being the pride of Sioux Falls, SD, which now is in the American Association.
WINTER LEAGUE AND EXPANSION TIDBITS
It is encouraging that both the Golden League and the United League were sufficiently pleased with their winter league seasons that they will do it again next January. One other winter league is on the drawing board, possibly in Florida, although as best we know it is not directly affiliated with any league. And, the new Continental League was scheduled to unveil its last 2007 franchise in League City, TX (near Houston) today. It will be called the Bay Area Toros. The league's fourth entry, largely a traveling team, will be known as the Texas Heat. We understand it may play games in one or more prospective future cities. Tryout camp information for the Continental League is available at www.cblproball.com.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
PHILLIES WEIGH IN AS INDEPENDENT SIGNINGS CONTINUE TO EMERGE
Former chief spokesman for Major League Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth. Six years as publicity director for the Kansas City Royals, and a background in newspaper, radio and television. Started Wirz & Associates, a sports PR and consulting firm, in 1985. Has written extensively on Independent Baseball since 2003.