"It was like a John Wayne movie", Philadelphia's Independent Baseball scout Mal Fichman told me Monday. And he was only talking about the preparationS for Sunday's second and final day of the Phillies' invitation only tryout camp for 75 hopefuls in Clearwater, FL.
He went on to describe the scene of eight grounds crew members, including those from the major league camp, descending on the minor league complex in the pre-breakfast hours to make certain the fields were ready after a heavy downpour had washed out half of Saturday's action. And it tells something of the Phillies' commitment to such a camp, almost unmatched by major league competitors as they turn over every stone in looking for talented players.
General Manager Pat Gillick, Assistant GMs Ruben Amaro, Jr. and Mike Arbuckle, Senior Advisor Dallas Green and Minor League Director Steve Noworyta were among the many officials who took in at least part of the camp, which resulted in two signings and "eight more on a maybe list" when room opens up in the minor league system.
Independent Baseball talent scouts also came out in droves since about half of the players are free agents. "Every time you would go in a different direction you would run into an Indepedent leaguer", Fichman said. He listed the American Association, Atlantic League, Can-Am League, Frontier League, Northern League and United League as being represented although it was not known if any of the teams signed players right away.
Philadelphia signed 6-foot-6 southpaw Jared Locke, who worked in 21 games (1-1, 2 saves, 3.42 ERA) for Traverse City, MI in the Frontier League last summer after spending 2006 and the start of last season in the Texas Rangers system. The Phillies also inked righthander Charles Vartanian out of Wofford College in South Carolina.
WINTER LEAGUE MVP AWARD SHOULD HELP ELIEZER ALFONZO
An injury helped limit onetime Northern Leaguer Eliezer Alfonzo to 26 major league games last summer, but if the San Francisco Giants were not already convinced the 29-year-old catcher should back up Bengie Molina with the parent club this season his 15home runs which helped earned him Venezuelan League Most Valuable Player should be of value. Alfonzo banged nine homers when he was with St. Paul, MN in 2003, before the Saints moved to the American Association.
Alfonzo will be among the nearly 50 Independent grads we will be keeping our eyes on when we start our extended major league spring training Monday-Wednesday-Friday coverage on this site Friday. It so happens the Giants' first exhibition game is Thursday.
Monday, February 25, 2008
PHILLIES OUT IN FORCE FOR INVITATION-ONLY TRYOUTS
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.