Everyone will be pointing to Alex Rodriguez and to a lesser extent to Miguel Tejada as having big targets on their back when spring training gets into high gear in the next few days. This corner looks forward a great deal more to paying attention to a different type of player.
Virtually all of the 32 former Independent Baseball players we now can identify as non-roster invitees to the 30 major league camps have had to struggle to get where they are. Their God-given talent may not rank as abundant, but their grit more than makes up. So, I urge every fan--especially those disgruntled because of the problems created for the sport because of illegal substances--to turn their energy to pulling for this group, most of whom will not open the regular season in the majors. Some never will make it. Let them have their day in the sun.
The same can be said for a decent number of the 24 former Indy players who are on the more coveted 40-man major league rosters.
Mr. Independent Baseball, Kevin Millar, Charlie Zink and Brendan Donnelly are the latest additions we know of to the non-roster contingent. Millar, who came out of Lamar College and went straight to the St. Paul (MN) Saints in 1993, may feel somewhat out of sync as a non-roster player with Toronto in that he has been a major leaguer steadily (except for a brief rehab appearance) since 2000. A betting man would expect to see the 37-year-old back in the American League come April where he would extend the career that has already seen him collect 1,225 major league hits.
Zink also started his career in Indy baseball, playing for Yuma, AZ when it was in the now departed Western League. The Yuma Scorpions currently call the Golden League home. Donnelly has needed two tuneups in Independent leagues during his career, which is about to go into its 18th year.
The entire list of non-roster players, updated since we first revealed it in our January 22 Independent Baseball Insider column, including current major league affiliation plus the Independent teams and leagues in parenthesis:
PITCHERS (18)—Bobby Brownlie, Washington (Newark, NJ, Atlantic League); Alberto Castillo, Baltimore (Schaumburg, IL, Northern League, and Camden, NJ, Newark and Road Warriors, Atlantic); Jason Childers, Tampa Bay (Richmond, IN, Frontier League); *Gabe DeHoyos, San Diego (Schaumburg, Northern); Brendan Donnelly, Texas (Ohio Valley, Frontier, and Nashua, NH, Atlantic); Seth Etherton, Arizona (Long Beach, CA, Golden League); Nelson Figueroa, New York-NL (Long Island, NY, Atlantic); Aaron Fultz, Cincinnati (Somerset, NJ, Atlantic); Danny Graves, Houston (Long Island, Atlantic); Lindsay Gulin, Milwaukee (St. Paul, MN and Lincoln, NE, American Association); *Chris Jakubauskas, Seattle (Lincoln, American Association; Fullerton, CA, Golden; Florence, KY and Ohio Valley, Frontier); Tom Martin, New York-NL (Long Island, Atlantic); Brian Mazone, Los Angeles-NL (Joliet, IL, Northern, and +Zion, St. George, UT, Western League; Adam Pettyjohn, Cincinnati (Long Beach, Golden); *Matt Wilhite, Los Angeles-AL (Kenosha, WI, Frontier); Jerome Williams, Oakland (Long Beach, Golden); Randy Williams, Chicago-AL (Edinburg, TX, Central League); *+Charlie Zink, Boston (Yuma, AZ, Western).
CATCHERS (3)—Eliezer Alfonzo, San Diego (+St. Paul, Northern); Cody Clark, Kansas City (San Diego, CA, Golden); Michel Hernandez, Tampa Bay (Somerset, Atlantic).
INFIELDERS (6)— *Tagg Bozied, 1B, Oakland (+Sioux Falls, SD, Northern); *Mike Cervenak, 1B-3B, Philadelphia (Chillicothe, OH, Frontier); John Lindsey, 1B, Florida (New Jersey, Can-Am League); *Kevin Millar, 1B, Toronto (St. Paul, Northern); *Brian Myrow, 1B-3B, Chicago-AL (Winnipeg, Northern); Corey Smith, 3B, Kansas City (Newark, Atlantic).
OUTFIELDERS (5)—*Justin Christian, Baltimore (River City, Frontier); Jay Gibbons, Florida (Long Island, Atlantic); Mike Ryan, Florida (Somerset, Atlantic); Chris Walker, Philadelphia (Camden, Atlantic); Jon Weber, Tampa Bay (Canton, OH, Frontier, and Fargo, ND, Northern).
*Started career in Independent Baseball
+Yuma and St. George now play in the Golden League, St. Paul and Sioux Falls in the American Association