Monday, December 31, 2007


Death would not ordinarily be something we would expect to "celebrate" as we end 2007and head into a new year full of hope. But Kash Beauchamp, recently named manager of the new Wichita (KS) Wingnuts of the American Association, reminded this corner there has been a celebration of sorts with the passing of his father, onetime major league first baseman-outfielder Jim Beauchamp during the holiday season.

"The outpouring of support has truly made this a joyous event," Kash said in an email. We must realize Jim Beauchamp had been ill for some time. "Dad fought a great battle, outliving expectations by months. He passed peacefully...which was my prayer."

The Beauchamp family has had an impressive baseball history. Jim, only 68 at the time of his death, played in 393 major league games over an 11-year span (1963-73), finishing with the New York Mets in the World Series of '73 where he went 0-for-4. He was Field Operations Supervisor for the Atlanta Braves up to the end of his life.

"His two proudest (baseball) moments," Kash said of his father were having a new high school baseball diamond in his hometown of Grove, OK named after him, and helping raise money for Southwest Christian Care, which helps handicapped children and provides hospice care.

Kash did not reach the majors as a player although he was the first Independent Baseball player signed by a major league organization (Cincinnati) in the startup year of 1993, and he has earned his stripes as a successful Independent manager as well as in coordinating player acquisitions in recent seasons for both the Golden League and the South Coast League.

The younger Beauchamp believes his father, "Shootfire" as he called him, is in a better place and once again hitting "fungoes", which any baseball man would like to be doing.

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Friday, December 28, 2007


How about some real baseball news as we head into this final weekend of 2007?

The winter leagues always give me the feeling a new season will be here in the good old USA before we know it, and this December is no exception.

One non-roster invitee I am going to be keeping my eyes on come March is former All-Star Edgardo Alfonzo, who recently signed with Texas after a summer in the Atlantic League. Now 34 but out of the majors for nearly two seasons (he did play in 30 games between the Dodgers and Blue Jays in 2006), the onetime prized third baseman of the New York Mets, is hitting .343 (59-172) in his native Venezuela. He has a solid .912 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

Edgardo, who played briefly at Bridgeport, CT in the Atlantic League in '06, was at Long Island, NY all last season, hitting .266 with five homers and 56 RBI in 105 games for the Ducks. He continues to walk about the same amount of times as he strikes out with 16 of each in his first 48 games this winter.

Meanwhile, San Francisco catcher Eliezer Alfonzo, seemingly no relation, is playing virtually daily in the Venezuelan League. He continues to show power, too, with 13 homers in 51 games, while hitting .261. The Sporting News predicted in its December 24 issue that Eliezer and Guillermo Rodriguez "should have an intriguing battle for the backup catcher spot" in 2008. Eliezer, who once played Independent Baseball for St. Paul, MN, was limited to 26 major league games--and 18 in Triple-A--when slowed early by injuries in 2007 while Rodriguez also split time between the parent club and Fresno. They are of similar age and both bat righthanded.

Rightie Cory Bailey, who also has played at Long Island, has a solid 3.19 ERA for 13 starts in Venezuela although his record is only 2-5. In the Dominican Republic, venerable Jose Lima, another former Atlantic Leaguer (Newark, NJ, 2003), is an impressive 3-2, 2.84 for 10 starts, and lefty Derek Lee (Texas) is 2-2, 3.72. He was at Somerset, NJ in the Atlantic a good part of 2005.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007


This is a great time of year to hand out some awards, even if this batch is merely hypothetical.

I believe it is safe to say virtually every Independent Baseball team deserves some credit for its charitable undertakings. Two prime examples during the holiday season come via the Atlantic League. The Lancaster (PA) Barnstormers' mascot, Cylo, was on the go for 10 days up to Christmas delivering toys--and joy--to the needy. Money came out of the Cylo Fund accumulations of the regular season where revenue came in in exchange for video board messages, and K-B Toys lent a helping hand by discounting prices on its merchandise.

In Bridgeport, CT, the Bluefish provided storage at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard during November and December so the Evergreen Network, Inc. could assemble food and gift baskets which were eventually distributed to nearly 100 families affected by AIDS or other major diseases.

Proof that holiday joy can come in a number of forms.

On the field, we counted up 33 players deserving of added respect because they played in every one of their team's games in 2007. The American Association was tops with 12 such players, the Northern League had nine, the Frontier five and the United four.

The most interesting of the group might have been 26-year-old Adam Shorsher in that he is primarily a catcher, baseball's most challenging defensive position. Catching 75 per cent of the games is pretty good. Now some eager beaver may tell us Shorsher missed a game somewhere because he was traded June 29 from Edmonton to Fargo, both in the Northern League. But I am giving him credit since he was in 95 games, the same number played by Fargo.

The toll of being behind the plate every day appears to have been pretty significant in lowering his batting average. Shorsher hit .303 in his 39 games for Edmonton--all as a catcher--but he slumped to .165 in the last full month of August. The only relief he got from being behind the plate was through spotty duty in other roles--pinch hitting once, being DH another time, playing first base on one occasion and appearing in the outfield three times.

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Monday, December 17, 2007


Our notebook keeps filling up, thankfully with items other than the Mitchell Report, where only two players (Brendan Donnelly and Howie Clark) who have been in Independent leagues got any mention. This is some of what has been crossing the desk.


One of the countless stories I have found amusing in Tim Kurkjian’s memories-filled book “Is This a Great Game, or What?” is about cunning Kenny Rogers, who recently signed for another year with Detroit.

As ESPN’s Kurkjian relates it, Rogers was a 135-pound lefty outfielder-shortstop when, at age 17 in 1982, he was discovered in Plant City, FL. “…but because he is left-handed and had arm strength, Texas selected him late in the draft as a pitcher on the recommendation of Joe Klein, their Director of Player Procurement and Development. In his first training camp, Rogers was asked to pitch from the stretch. “I don’t know how to do that,” Rogers is quoted as saying.

Now fast forward 25 years. Rogers, now 43 and with more than 200 major league victories, is one of the best around at picking runners off base. He learned very well.

And Klein, the Atlantic League's first and only executive director, still has scouting in his blood, as evidenced by the fact he annually chairs a Winter Meetings event which honors the Scouts of the Year.

One more note on scouts while we are at it. Praise is due the Goldklang Group for creating a tribute to that hard-working and sometimes unheralded group with all six minor league teams they own or help operate, including their banner franchise at St. Paul, MN in the American Association. The Goldklang operation, headed up by Marv Goldklang and Mike Veeck, has management contracts with Brockton, MA in the Can-Am League and Sioux Falls, SD in the American Association.


The first time my path crossed with reliever J.J. Trujillo it was to honor him with the Rolaids Relief Man award for the entire affiliated minor league system. That was in 2000, and the second year of his professional career which started in Indy baseball with the Frontier League's Johnstown (PA) Johnnies.

Phillies Independent scout Mal Fichman believes Trujillo was part of something never accomplished previously this past September. Returning to the mound after rehabbing some arm woes, the righthander started this season with Newark, NJ in the Atlantic League. Eventually, the Phils jumped in and signed the now 32-year-old, and he worked for both their Double-A team at Reading, PA and Class A Clearwater, FL, where he was part of the run to the Florida State League championship.

"Because we worked so closely with Newark all year," Fichman wrote in an email, "we released J.J. (after the FSL ended) so he could finish the season and playoffs with them (the Bears)." As we know, Newark won the Atlantic League playoffs, giving Trujillo what Fichman said were the first two championships of his pro career. And it all took place in September.


It seems to me the norm in Baseball America's annual Great Parks Calendar has been to feature one Independent Baseball stadium.

But three have made it for 2008. The Brockton (MA) Rox's Campanelli Stadium is featured from the Can-Am League, U.S. Steel Yard, home of the Northern League's Gary (IN) SouthShore Railcats, is singled out and LaGrave Field in Fort Worth, TX (American Association) made the calendar. LaGrave has the added distinction of being included for the second time in the last six years.

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Friday, December 14, 2007


Anton French had to keep his suitcase handy during his 15-year playing career in that his resume runs all of 25 lines, and he never spent more than two years wearing the same team's uniform. He still cannot unpack for very long in that he just signed on to become Philadelphia's minor league bunting and baserunning instructor.

Only listed at 32 years of age, the 5-foot-11 product of Chicago certainly seems suited for that job. He has 476 stolen bases to his credit, but Anton may well have decided it was time to use his talents other than as a player since he never made the major leagues and found himself wearing four different sets of flannels in '07. He played 36 games in Winnipeg (Northern League) and 37 split somewhat equally among Somerset, NJ (Atlantic League), North Shore (Lynn, MA., Can-Am League) and Tijuana in the Triple-A Mexican League.

French was part of five Independent leagues in all, including the Northeast League (Massachusetts, Quebec and Allentown, PA), where he was one of that circuit's most exciting players in 1999 and 2000. His high-water mark in steals (61) came in 2002 when he was in the Western League (48 for Sonoma County, Rohnert Park, CA) and 13 at Trenton, NJ, then a Boston farm club.

Other Indy personnel hired recently by major league organizations include Andy Haines, who has gone from being the winning manager in the Frontier League this summer (Windy City, Crestwood, IL) to a Gulf Coast League coach for Florida, and Chris Hook, who has moved from being pitching coach at Florence, KY in the Frontier League to a minor league coaching position for Milwaukee. Carlos Pulido, who once pitched for Somerset and in the majors for Minnesota, has become a minor league pitching coach for Texas.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007


Every baseball fan should experience attending the Winter Meetings, which, of course, my boss and new Hall of Fame electee Bowie Kuhn used to remind me are a mere memory by the time the calendar gets us officially to winter.

It is not easy for a fan to attend because the event is so large it probably would be necessary to stay off site. But just to roam the hallways of the official hotel would be a joy because there would be sightings of Hall of Fame members, managers, general managers and baseball media who come into the living room nightly at most every turn.

The Opryland Hotel in Nashville, where this year's sessions were held, is a myriad of walkways, canals, lobbies and ballrooms so large it is difficult to comprehend. Still, once Joe Fan got accustomed to navagating his or her way around they could have evesdropped on the ESPN TV and Radio broadcasts, or those of or XM Radio, which have glamourized the setting.

I don't mean to be a name-dropper, but I have been to virtually every one of these gatherings since 1967 and have seen tremendous growth. It was fun even to a "seasoned" participant like myself to run into Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark at breakfast, to sit across from Cal Ripken, Jr., to watch another Hall of Fame member, Al Kaline, strolling along almost unrecognized and to run into--and have a conversation with--Lou Piniella. I've had the benefit of knowing and working with most of these men, but I don't see them all that often these days. My newer associates from Independent Baseball also were in evidence throughout each day, even though not all of them are as recognizable.

The casual fan would see all these personalities, too, and many times would be able to say hello, even though these are not intended to be autograph parties. Las Vegas gets the traveling circus of 3,000 or so participants next December.


A couple of weeks back while praising the American Association's development, I noted that the two-year-old league would get more attention if it could start getting players to the majors, where the Atlantic and Northern Leagues dominate with the Independent grads who are in The Show today. The American Association did have Luke Hochevar with Kansas City late in the season.

Now no less a source than Baseball America believes Max Scherzer, a fellow righthander who also played for the two-time champion Fort Worth (TX) Cats in the American Association, could play for Arizona in 2008. Scherzer only signed with the Diamondbacks in May, but he dazzled in three starts in Class A and held his own in Double-A, then fanned 18 hitters in 13 innings for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League. BB-A correspondent Jack McGruder reports "his rapid ascension makes him a candidate for the major league roster in 2008".


The first official major league spring training invitation that this corner has seen for '08--there will be many more--went to Jeff Harris, now 33, a starter most of this season (6-9, 4.68) at Buffalo. It is good to see Cleveland wants the righthander back in its major league camp once more. Harris pitched in 14 games (2-5, 4.26) for Seattle in 2005-2006, shortly after the second of his two appearances in Indy baseball at Quebec. He also worked for Chico, CA, now a Golden League city, when it was in the Western League in 2001-2002.

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