Saturday, April 14, 2007


It is always difficult for me to see on the release list the names of some of the Independent Baseball players I have tracked for years. I feel like I know each of the players personally, even though that frequently is not the case.

Two such players who showed up recently were Howie Clark and Shawn Wooten, both cut loose by San Diego. The handwriting may have been there all along since neither of these veterans who have logged major league time were even non-roster invitees to the major league camp. Wooten did get into at least one game, probably on one of those days when the manager needed some extra men from the minor league camp.

And, it doesn't help that Wooten, a catcher-infielder, is 34; Clark, primarily an infielder, is 33.

Now maybe they will sign with another organization, but if that does not happen at least both of these players got the chance to taste major league life. Many players are not so fortunate.

Wooten was in 267 big-league games, virtually all with the Angels and he hit .272 with 18 home runs and 86 runs batted in. He played in another 1,006 minor league contests, hitting 114 homers, so that's not bad when the grandchildren one day want to know about gramps' playing days.

Clark's career started back in 1992, and he got into 99 major league games (.273-3-23) with Baltimore, Toronto, and the Orioles a second time for seven games last season. He played in 1,224 minor league contests, with 69 homers and 485 RBI.

Clark's Independent experience came pretty much in the middle of his career (2001) when he played in four games for Chico, CA. This Golden League city had a team in the Western League at the time. That brief experience certainly did not hurt since Howie's very first major league games were the next season.

Wooten needed the Independent experience to get another chance after Detroit released him from its minor league system in 1995. He played a year and a half in the defunct Prairie League (Moose Jaw) before the Angels gave him the opportunity to prove himself.

Almost as difficult as seeing Clark and Wooten get their releases was learning that 34-year-old Indy vet Chris Coste, after that remarkable second half at Philadelphia in which he hit .328 and became the favored catcher for some of the starting staff, was sent back to Triple-A (Ottawa). His injury and strep during spring training didn't help, but it seemed he was almost doomed from the day the Phils picked up the veteran Rod Barajas to share the catching with rookie Carlos Ruiz. I think Coste's hustle will get him back, but how soon is another question.

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