Thursday, January 25, 2007


Headline-grabbing news helps any startup endeavor, and the Golden League is getting exactly that in the first week of its initial winter league season.

What could be better than to have its first player signed by a major league organization? I wouldn't think anything could top that for the players who have plunked down some cash for the opportunity to jump-start their professional career by playing in the month-long season.

Then throw in a no-hitter just six days into the season.

Neither player is exactly a professional neophyte, as many of the players are, but that probably is of little issue to either Golden League brass or the other players. Getting noticed is what is important to both the league and the teams.

Baltimore struck first with a signing, inking onetime Big Ten Player of the Year and 2002 San Diego third round draftee Kennard Jones. The 25-year-old, a left-handed centerfielder, started last season at Double-A Mobile, then was promoted to Triple-A Portland at the start of June. The onetime Indiana University star was under contract to Les Lancaster's Reno, NV Golden League club. The Golden League says the Orioles have given Jones permission to finish the winter league season.

While Jones's only Independent Baseball experience may well be the winter league, the no-hitter was thrown by Reggie Rivard, who has strung up a 12-10 record the last two seasons while starting for the Northern's League's Edmonton Cracker-Cats. Rivard, 28, was deprived of a perfect game by three infield errors. The righthander, who also has played as high as Triple-A, struck out five in the seven-inning complete game performance.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007


It won't exactly be balmy, but the 54 degrees predicted for Harlingen, TX Friday when the United League inaugurates its winter league season will feel good to these Texans who live in the southern most part of the state after what they have been through the last few days.

The near-freezing chill has been the coldest in the year newly-promoted President Craig Brasfield has been in the Lone Star State. What timing, with the four-team, Harlingen Field-based league opening play Friday on the same day as the Golden League opens its winter league doors in a warmer Yuma, AZ.

Brasfield, who has had various titles in the short life of the United League (started last summer), painted a mostly positive picture of the new winter league experiment when we talked earlier this week.

"We're right where we need to be," Brasfield said, while admitting another 20-30 players still would be welcome. He reported 48 players were on hand during the chill with several others having paid their fees but not yet on the scene. About one-third of the players already are under United League contracts, said the new president, whose sudden elevation into that role I will deal with in more detail in my regular Independent Baseball Insider column when it goes out later Thursday.

"There is a certain amount of buzz (for the winter league)," Brasfield said, as well as a "good feel" toward the possibility of a new stadium in 2008, which would allow Brownsville to join the league's summer season.

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Monday, January 15, 2007


Hungry for some January baseball?

The newest chapter in Independent Baseball launches Friday when the Golden League and the United League start their experiments with month-long pay-for-play winter leagues.

They start with several similarities, in addition to the same opening day. Each will have four teams playing at a single site, with their regular season managers in charge and a hope the undertakings will uncover some bright talent for the summer season or for major league teams or other Independent leagues who are openly invited to scout those who take the field.

The second year United League, which recently made one change by shifting its Friday and Saturday games from daytime to evening, will play its games at Harlingen Field in Brownsville, TX.

The Golden League, which will be in its third season this summer, has scheduled all of its games at Desert Sun Stadium in Yuma, AZ, where its Yuma Scorpions play during the regular season.

Both leagues hope to attract the northern snowbirds to their games, with the Golden taking the additional step of naming its teams Canada, Snow and Sonora in addition to Yuma. While most play in both leagues will consist of two seven-inning games, the Golden is going all out for opening night by bringing in the renowned San Diego Chicken to entertain, scheduling a post-game fireworks show and playing one nine-inning contest between Canada and Yuma.

Golden League officials, who had to turn down some hopefuls but still would accept a handful of additional pitchers, will trot out a good many former major league baseball players now on the management side, including Mike Marshall, Darrell Evans, Ozzie Virgil, Jr., Garry Templeton, Cory Snyder, Les Lancaster, Rusty Meacham and Garrett Stephenson.

Here's wishing a big success for both the leagues and the players.

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Friday, January 05, 2007


Some meanderings as I contemplate temperatures "soaring" into the 60s in the Northeast for part of the weekend.

The Philadelphia Eagles can count on one serious fan getting up at 4 a.m. in Vietnam in order to catch Sunday's playoff game against the New York Giants. That's what righthander Justin Knoff, who had a sterling August-September run for the Can-Am League's New Haven County (CT) Cutters, told me he would be doing in Saigon, where he will be visiting to attend a friend's wedding.

Knoff, who also has pitched for Winnipeg of the Northern League in addition to two major league organizations, is wintering in Thailand where he is teaching 12 to 17-year-olds. His offseason occupation fascinated me to the point I featured it in this week's Independent Baseball Insidercolumn. Knoff's hometown is Burlington, NJ so it is logical for him to be an Eagles and Phillies fan.

"I am a huge Philly sports fan and have been to more Phillies games than I can count," was one of his instant message emails this week. Quite a way to conduct an interview, but it worked.

D. J. Carrasco, who is one of the major league alums the Frontier League proudly claims (Johnstown, PA), has signed with Arizona, but so far has not gotten an invitation to the major league camp. He has a 14-15 career record for parts of three seasons with Kansas City, then spent last season at Fukuoka, Japan.

Among those invited to a major league camp recently is 32-year-old Chris Ashby, who hit .308 with 4 homers and 38 RBI in 198 at bats at Albuquerque last season. He likely is viewed as an added catcher, which all teams need in spring training, although Florida could see him as a potential utilityman and pinch hitter. The 6-foot-3 Ashby had a lofty .462 average (6-for-13) as a pinch hitter last season when he played first base and the outfield in addition to catching. Ashby has been in Triple-A eight of the last nine seasons with the exception being 2002 when he played for St. Paul, MN, then in the Northern League and now part of the American Association.

Nick Cafardo speculated recently in The Boston Globe that if either Sammy Sosa or Carl Everett, both of whom want to play, gets a chance this season it might be in an Independent league, Mexico or Japan. They obviously aren't getting much major league consideration right now.

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