Thursday, September 27, 2007


I have a new pen pal, and I have to admit she has stolen my heart.

Don't worry, my wife will not be jealous.

All of the Independent Baseball world needs to know about Victoria Glidden. Many know about her already.

Victoria is 9, and she is crushed that the North Shore Spirit, the Can-Am League team in Lynn, MA, will not be playing again. Owner Nick Lopardo, who poured a great deal of money and energy into the Spirit for five seasons, has closed up shop. He has not said it in so many words, to my knowledge, but the Spirit apparently did not receive the support they needed from the City Hall or the business and fan base to stop the financial losses.

"The Spirit is the best part of living in Lynn and it's being taken away from us," Victoria wrote in her first email to me. "We love the Spirit. I'm just a kid but I want to help find a way to keep the team in Lynn."

But unlike so many people who might say something similar, Victoria Glidden is not stopping with a few emails. She started a petition, and the last I knew she had collected 447 signatures. She got 209 from the internet and 238 from "talking to people". "I want a million (signatures)", she wrote, and she may be well on her way by now.

Victoria's plight has been on television and in newspapers in Massachusetts although she admits Mayor Chip Clancy, the primary target in her effort, has not responded.

"One of the things I want to do when I have enough money is buy a baseball team," Ms. Glidden told me in her most recent message. "The kids could always go to games and I'd give free tickets to the poor kids too so everyone can have fun."

Victoria's grandmother, Debra, told me "she (Victoria) is a wreck over the Spirit leaving. Spirit games are the highlight of her life. She has been to almost every game for five years."

"I'm so sad thinking I won't be able to go to any Spirit games next summer," was the most heartfelt of all of her lines. "It makes me want to cry."

Victoria even asked me if I would buy the team. I am afraid I remain powerless in this situation, Victoria. Maybe your message will get through to someone who can help. And regardless, Victoria, your determination will win out in life.

Readers can learn more, including the petition, by visiting her blog,

Picture from

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007


With Jose Herrera playing the role of Reggie Jackson to perfection, the minor league baseball season ended triumphantly in Newark, New Jersey, Tuesday night.

People in these parts--and much of the country, for that matter--still remember that night in 1977 when Reg-gie, Reg-gie, Reg-gie blasted three home runs in one World Series game at Yankee Stadium.

I could not help but notice as I watched what turned out to be the final game in minor league baseball this season how the Newark (NJ) Bears had gotten so far into the Atlantic League's championship series with only one left-handed hitter in the batting order.

It turned out that southpaw hitter, 35-year-old Jose Herrera, crashed three homers, the last a three-run jolt in the Bears' eight-run, come-from-behind eighth that carried Wayne Krenchicki's Bears to a 13-7 win over Sparky Lyle's Somerset (NJ) Patriots. Somerset had a 7-3 lead behind venerable Lincoln Mikkelsen after 5 1/2 and a 7-5 lead into the bottom of the eighth as the Patriots tried to claw their way to a 2-2 series tie.

The mild September night with a bright and full moon overhead brought out a crowd of 3,152, which was noisy every time the Bears gave them reason, and frenzied during the lengthy eighth in which Mikkelsen tired and three relievers could not help out.

What a way to end the first minor league season in which attendance topped 50 million during the regular season, including 8.4 million who witnessed Independent Baseball games.

It was as much a joy to be there as to be able to share some of the happenings with you.

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Friday, September 21, 2007


What exciting times in baseball.

My daily world continues to include both the major leagues and the Independent scene, with attention largely to those with Indy ties who are helping to make the final weeks of the season so appealing.

I do not know exactly where Joe Thatcher stands in relation to being part of San Diego's postseason roster, but the rookie reliever certainly is doing his part in making the Padres' brass take notice. It must mean something that Thatcher was used seven times in one recent 11-game stretch.

The lefthander, who spent his first year and a half as a pro in the Frontier League with River City in O'Fallon, MO, turned in two important scoreless innings in one of San Diego's tight victories over Pittsburgh earlier this week. In the process, he lowered his earned run average to 0.64.

Thatcher's most important role when he was traded from Milwaukee to the Padres during the summer was expected to be to face lefthanders. The 26-year-old is getting righthanders out, too, almost more easily.

"His fastball that cuts is effective against right-handed hitters," Manager Bud Black told Corey Brock of recently. He's equally effective against both."


Lincoln Mikkelsen is one of those rare players who has been a fixture in Independent Baseball from the time it started.

I thought he might be done when he had not shown up on an Atlantic League roster for most of the year, then he made three starts late in the regular season for Somerset, NJ. Results were okay, but not dazzling. Recently turned 40, Mikkelsen won two of the three starts, but his ERA was a modest 4.24 and opponents hit .313 against him.

Now it is playoff time. Mikkelsen hurled Sparky Lyle's Patriots right into the championship series Thursday night, throwing seven innings of a deciding 13-4 win over Camden, NJ. He allowed only one walk, six hits and three runs.

When Camden won the opener of the best-of-three set I was about to anoint the Riversharks's Joe Ferguson as the genius of the dugout. He had gotten together with former Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Tommy John, who manages Bridgeport, CT, and lured Matt Beech to the Camden staff for the postseason. Beech, who was the intended victim the night Jose Offerman took his bat to the mound, was 12-8 for a struggling Bridgeport team this season. Even though he had not pitched for Camden, he was given the ball for the first game of the playoffs and turned in eight innings of two-hit, one-run work. He did not get the victory, but he kept the Riversharks in position, and they won that night, 4-1.


News crossed my desk this week that the Italian National Team still was searching for three starting pitchers plus a catcher and centerfielder for the World Cup in Taiwan next month. They prefer players who have at least reached Class AA, and anyone can be eligible for consideration if one of their great grandparents or a more recent generation was born in Italy.

Not a bad gig, it seems, with a salary and all expenses paid. Those interested should reach out to or 847 781-8039.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007


It is only on rare occasions when I get personal on this blog. Oh, I offer opinions and certainly try to give you insight on Independent Baseball. Today, I am making an exception, perhaps to tell you a little more about the guy at the keyboard.

I had a birthday recently, and my wife (Maybeth), who has this wonderful talent of putting words into rhyme, did me high honor to the tune of the "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." I'm not certain I am worthy, but the words certainly hit the old nail pretty squarely on the head.

Some people probably say "Grow up". There are much more important things in life than the National Pastime. Anyway, I decided to share her work, thinking you might get a moment of joy and keep your mind off the bigger issues of the day.

Here goes, with a slightly shortened version, but you must remember the tune is "Take Me Out to the Ballgame".


Bob Wirz really loves baseball, he’s obsessed with the game!
The strike-outs the hits and the RBIs;
statistics line up to put stars in his eyes!
So it’s read, read, read all the box scores,
that come in the paper each day.
And he know, knows, knows all the numbers,
In his head they stay!

Bob Wirz really loves baseball, he’s obsessed with the game!
It’s three-three in Boston, six two in L.A.
With so many scores, he keeps busy all day.
So he’ll watch, watch, watch on the TV,
or tune in XM in the car.
And he’ll search, search, search for those numbers,
wherever they are!

Bob Wirz really loves baseball, he’s obsessed with the game!
He loves keeping score with his pencil in hand;
his happiest moments are in the grand stand!
He will mark, mark, mark all the plays down,
and keep track of all of the game!
And he loves, loves, loves knowing
it’s never the same!

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Thursday, September 13, 2007


With modern day Independent Baseball only 15 years old there aren't many times when we get to go back into the sport's rich history. The recent American Association championship series, which will be one of my featured topics in this week's Independent Baseball Insider, created an exception because it came down to another battle royal between Fort Worth, TX and St. Paul, MN. Fort Worth's continued brilliance with its back to the wall is the theme in my column.

The Cats' president, John Dittrich, put together a point by point recap of some of the similarities in the storied history of the championship combatants, so with his permission, I want to share the details with those who journey to this blog. Here are the points he made:

***Both cities were long-time Brooklyn Dodgers farm clubs. Fort Worth was a Dodgers Class AA affiliate, feeding hundreds of players to Triple-A St. Paul, including pitcher Carroll Beringer and catcher Mike Napoli, both of whom still reside in Fort Worth and attend every Cats game.

***Both teams were members of the “old” American Association in the late 1950’s.
Baseball legend Wayne Terwilliger has coached first base for both teams. (He is currently the Cats’ first base coach and managed the Cats to the Central League title in 2005 at the age of 80.)

***Cats shortstop Mark Mirizzi is a St. Paul legend, hitting a walk-off homer to win the 2004 Northern League championship for the Saints.

***Both cities have become model franchises for the development of modern Independent Baseball both on and off the field with great attendance records as well as championship traditions.

***Both cities are “major league” markets in and of themselves. St.Paul is home to the NHL’s Minnesota Wild and the Twins, Vikings and Timberwolves are just minutes away in Minneapolis. Tarrant County (Fort Worth) hosts the Texas Rangers and will soon become home to the Dallas Cowboys, both facilites less than 20 miles from the Cats' LaGrave Field.

***Both cities, although major North American cities themselves, are in the shadows of and share an airport with other major cities, Minneapolis and Dallas.

***Both cities are connected by the longest North-South interstate highway in the mid-continent, Interstate 35.

***Both teams won back-to-back division championships in the American Association's reincarnation in its first two seasons to qualify for the title series.

While it took dramatics each time, Fort Worth emerged as the winner both years.

Adding a personal postscript to the series, this writer hired both managers to lead the Waterbury (CT) Spirit when that franchise played in the Northeast and Northern Leagues. Fort Worth's Stan Hough was the manager in 1997-1998 and St. Paul's George Tsamis followed in 1999-2000.

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Friday, September 07, 2007


Some odds and ends after another week of finishing the Independent Baseball Insider column.

It is difficult for this corner to realize that with Kansas City pitcher Luke Hochevar and Milwaukee outfielder Mel Stocker now in the major leagues for the first time, the number is up to 112 of players we can identify who have climbed to that level after playing in an Independent League. As Dick Vitale would say, "Awesome, Baby"!

Top draftee Hochevar was with Fort Worth in the American Association early last season and Stocker, a speedburner, played for Long Island, NY in the Atlatic League one year ago. Stocker was in the top five in five different offensive categories while playing for the Ducks after five years in the Kansas City farm system in which he did not climb above Class AA.

The duo are among five Indy players added to major league rosters so far this month.


It probably went largely unnoticed the way Boston's 7-6 win played out in Baltimore Thursday night, but the player who broke rookie Clay Buchholz's no-hit skein was the O's Tike Redman, who played in the Atlantic League (York, PA) for a short time this season. Buchholz threw the no-no last Saturday against the Orioles in Fenway Park, in only his second major league start

With the Red Sox pretty well stocked with starters, his first appearance since that time was out of the bullpen in the sixth inning of a 6-6 game. After Brian Roberts walked, Redman hit a clean single to halt the strike of no-hit innings. It was the only hit the young phenom allowed in his three innings, and when Boston scored in the top of the ninth his record was pushed to 3-0.

As an aside, this inquisitive mind can't help but wonder how long it has been since a no-hit hurler did not make his next appearance in another starting role. I hope we get that answer.

Redman also was a main culprit in ending Tim Wakefield's run of 22 scoreless innings when he singled, stole second (his third of the season) and came home on Miguel Tejada's single in the first inning. Redman would seem to be getting a full head of steam up for 2008 since he hit in the No. 2 slot, played centerfield and went 3-for-5 to elevate his batting average to .357.


When Milwaukee picked up catcher Mike Rivera's contract from Nashville to give the parent Brewers a backup, the moved also helped a second Independent player. Milwaukee promptly signed Brian Munhall from Edmonton of the Northern League to replace Rivera for the Pacific Coast League playoffs. Munhall, who hit .261 in 85 NL games and drove in 38 runs, caught Thursday night (0-for-3) when Nashville dropped its second straight in the best-of-five set against New Orleans.

His batterymate, ironically, was another former Independent player, the Golden League's Adam Pettyjohn, who went 12-4 (3.87) in the regular season. Pettyjohn had played in the GBL for Long Beach, CA.

Rivera played his Independent Baseball for Atlantic City, NJ before the Surf left the Atlantic League for the Can-Am.

Yes, Independent players seem to pop up everywhere. And, we like it.

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