Sunday, January 27, 2008


Have you ever attended at baseball tryout camp? To test your skills? To watch?

Tryouts normally only attract the players, but Independent Baseball fans who cannot get enough of the National Pastime might enjoy spending an hour--or several--sitting in the bleachers or on their own folding chair to get a better feel for the demands on young men hoping to catch on with a professional team and to extend their youth.

Be warned in advance, concessions stands won't be open and there won't be anyone on hand to greet you. This is a business day for both managers and players, but it can be fun to watch.

In Independent circles, many leagues schedule tryout camps, then have a draft of the top talent. A lot of teams also hold their own tryouts as the season gets closer, and there are a few businesses that run tryouts where all teams interested can check out the talent.

We can pinpoint the tryout plans of four Independent leagues as of now:

ATLANTIC LEAGUE: February 1-2-3, Detroit Tigers Complex, Lakeland, FL. Information available at

SOUTH COAST LEAGUE: February 3, Houston, TX. Information at The SCL also will hold several other camps approximately monthly and throughout the United States through June.

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION: March 27-28, LaGrave Field, Fort Worth, TX, with pre-registration required at

FRONTIER LEAGUE: May 4-5, Rent One Park, Marion, IL. Pre-registration is required, and information will be available at

The Golden League has another avenue for finding talent by hosting its second annual pay-for-play Arizona Winter League, with games scheduled in Yuma and Blythe, AZ, and Palm Springs, CA from next Friday (February 1) through March 1. The 150 players, who are said to come from 35 states and four countries, were due to report to Yuma today (January 27). More than 50 of last year's players came away with professional contracts which encouraged enough signees to fill six teams (instead of four) this winter.

And you thought the reporting of major league pitchers and catchers was the first sign of spring.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008


An unsolicited endorsement of Independent Baseball plus a few rambling thoughts from your humble typist, as I catch up from some recent travels.

No less a respected baseball figure than Bill James predicted a bright future for the Independent game when our paths crossed during a Boston Chapter SABR meeting earlier this week. I had not seen Bill in some time, but the words of praise for this recognized industry were the first ones out of his mouth when we were greeting each other. James's appearance helped draw a packed crowd--80 or so--at The Baseball Tavern, which is located across the street from venerable Fenway Park.

James continues to be a trend-setter in the baseball statistical and publishing worlds even though he has moved to Boston as part of his role as Senior Baseball Operations Advisor for the Red Sox.

Red Sox VP of Media Relations John Blake also stopped by the SABR event. One of the best in his field, Blake never hesitates to think back to the days not so long ago when he was Chief Operating Officer for the Northern League.

The SABR people gave me the opportunity to talk about some of the Indy game's best major league prospects as I discussed my Independent Baseball Insider column as well as our fourth annual book, The Independent Minor Leagues: 2007 Season in Review.

Other notes which have caught our eye:

The Atlantic League has another of its former managers in a prominent major league job today. Mike Easler, who led Nashua, NH in 1998, is the Los Angeles Dodgers' new hitting coach. He replaces Don Mattingly, who had to request a reassignment of his duties because of a family matter. Easler was hitting coach at Las Vegas, the Dodgers' Triple-A club, last season. He had a .293 career average during a 14-year major league playing career.

The South Coast League cannot be happy with the fact Atlanta's top farm club, forever at Richmond, VA, soon will be moving to Gwinnett County. The SCL had hoped to pluck that heavily-populated suburban Atlanta territory, which could have given the second year league solid infiltration into that area.

The SCL has officially added Jackson, MS to its six-team lineup for 2008, replacing Bradenton, FL. Jackson was in the Central League as recently as 2005.

With Mississippi and Maryland included on the Independent map for 2008, 29 states will have teams. Waldorf, MD will be the home site of the new Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League.

Condolences go out to United League President Craig Brasfield on the loss of his father, Joe.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008


At its peak last summer there were 74 Independent Baseball teams spread over 10 leagues. There have been a few cities drop out of the picture for 2008 as always is the case, but it appears there will be at least six cities on board for 2008 that were not included one year ago.

Major additions include two sizeable cities moving over from the affiliated ranks--Wichita, KS in the American Association and Ottawa, Canada, to the Can-Am League. This corner also expects that one new Texas entry, Grand Prairie in the American Association, and Southern Maryland (Waldorf) in the Atlantic League could be two of the best stories of the year. Both will have fancy new digs when they open.

Texarkana, TX has joined the second year Continental League, and various news reports have Jackson, MS re-emerging on the Indy landscape as part of the second-season South Coast League. Either or both of those leagues could still have other changes as they attempt to grow.

ON THE HORIZON in our Independent Baseball Insider this Thursday will be an early look at the former Indy players who have non-roster invitations to major league spring training camps. It is a developing--and impressive--list.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008


My Tip of the Day today goes to the Golden League's Orange County Flyers.

If James Denton--you know, Mike the Plumber on Desperate Housewives--is going to stand behind John Edwards when he makes his post-election speeches as he did last night in New Hampshire, couldn't the Flyers talk the actor and their investor into wearing a Flyers cap?

So much for my two cents worth of advice.

On a more serious note, if Adam Pettyjohn is to become the first Golden Leaguer to reach the major leagues as a player, he now will try doing so for the Cincinnati Reds. Now 30, the lefthander inked a Triple-A contract (Louisville) recently and was invited to major league spring training. This is the latest effort by the onetime second round choice of the Tigers (1998) to get back to the majors after escaping a near-death illness experience a few years ago. After pitching for Long Beach, CA in the Golden League all of 2005 and for a time the next season, Pettyjohn was a combined 16-6 for Milwaukee's top two farm clubs last summer.

Another lefthander whose stock seems pretty decent is 24-year-old Jon Connolly. Detroit re-signed him, prompting's Jason Beck to note "Connolly's return comes on the heels of a 2007 season that helped regain some momentum in his career". Described by Beck as a "finesse" pitcher, Connolly, who hurled one game for Nashua, NH in the Can-Am League in 2006, was 7-7, 4.58 in primarily a starting role for Double-A Erie, PA last summer and was 1-1, 3.91 with a complete game shutout in four starts for Triple-A Toledo, OH.

Had Jeffrey Leonard's appointment as the new Reno, NV manager in the Golden League been made a few days ago instead of yesterday he likely would have made the mythical all-star team of former major leaguers managing in Independent Baseball in 2008 we selected in last week's Independent Baseball Insider column. Leonard's 1,415 major league games and his two All-Star Game selections would have had him in the outfield where we had named Von Hayes (managing at Lancaster, PA in the Atlantic League), Rick Miller (Nashua, NH, Can-Am League) and Pete Incaviglia (Grand Prairie, TX, American Association).

Leonard's appointment brings the total of former major leaguers leading Independent teams this summer to 31. Pretty impressive, huh?

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