Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Thoughts from all around the Independent Baseball world...

How frustrating it must be for the Can-Am League to be back to six teams after shutting down Ottawa after one year and seeing Atlantic City, NJ pull up stakes. The silver lining, of course, is the fact six healthy franchises are better than eight with some weak sisters. The tough part is these developments come on the heels of a greatly improved box office season in Atlantic City, and Can-Am boss Miles Wolff had such high hopes for Ottawa, where he had visions of one day soon having Montreal, his Quebec franchise and Ottawa providing a nice three-city Canadian branch.


This corner frequently hears from players (or their family) about locating tryout camps. The best source I can recommend for anything close to one-stop-shopping is to visit Matt McDermott's www.IndependentMinorLeagueBaseball.com. For very few dollars, this ambitious bullpen catcher-turned entrepreneur has a list of tryout camps. An option is to search the Indy leagues one by one where a list of tryout camps or stories about them sometimes show up.

IndependentMinorLeagueBaseball.com also has a range of other information for active and retired Independent players as well as people wanting to work in the game. The possibilities range from finding playing jobs to post-playing career opportunities.


We continue tracking the fortunes of former Independent players hoping to have major league roster jobs when the season opens Sunday and Monday. We have been devoting considerable attention to specifics in our weekly subscriber-only Independent Baseball Insider, with some of the latest information telling us lefty Lindsay Gulin (his Indy stops were at St. Paul, MN and Lincoln, NE) won't be on the 25-man Milwaukee roster despite a good spring, but outfielder Jon Weber (Fargo, ND and Canton, OH) and southpaw Brian Mazone (Joliet, IL and St. George, UT) still cling to life with Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively. Their chances are enhanced for at least their first few days of major league time because of issues hanging over players likely to have the same roles for a greater part of the season. I would guess they will take whatever days they can squeeze in.

Southpaw reliever Randy Williams (Edinburg, TX) has had his current string run out with the Chicago White Sox and the same is true for right-hander Nelson Figueroa (Long Island, NY) with the New York Mets. Either one could come back later.

We've also been tracking a list of some of the former major leaguers who have signed with Independent teams, and will update it even more before Thursday's Insider. What fun lies ahead for fans in their leagues.


I cannot help but wonder how long it will be before any checks are written, but for now the Golden League can take some consolation from knowing it has won a $258,750 judgment from Jose Canseco for walking out on his obligations while playing for Long Beach, CA in 2006.

It seems unlikely Jose's tell-all books will get much shelf space in GBL gift shops.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009


One of the joys of writing this blog and my weekly Independent Baseball Insider column is the opportunity to keep in touch with so many baseball people, many of whom I have not met in person.

One such person is Mike Kashirsky, who I wrote about for the Insider last September because he had stepped up from bench coach to become manager of the Frontier League's Windy City Thunderbolts (Crestwood, IL) midway in the 2008 season. He took a 24-22 team, won 36 of the remaining 50 games, then led the 'Bolts to six more wins in seven games and the postseason championship.

Kashirsky, who played professionally in the Frontier League (Cook County) and in the Chicago White Sox system, moved on last fall to become Head Coach of Robert Morris College-Chicago, where he was an assistant on last year's injury-plagued 6-38 team.

Bingo! Robert Morris-Chicago is 16-5 so far this season, including taking three of four in the Metrodome in Minneapolis and five of six during a trip to Alabama.

Kashirsky's team also has worked its way into the national NAIA rankings, a first for the school.

Oh, he is headed back to Windy City this summer in his previous role as bench coach, this time under Tommy Thompson.

It is a nice success story.

Bob Wirz

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Friday, March 20, 2009


It is too bad there have to be two sides to most stories.

I wrote extensively in Thursday's Independent Baseball Insider column about Indy grads who are showing well in major league spring training camps. This is the flip side, those players whose time has ended in the major league camps--at least for this spring. All of these players have been reassigned to minor league camps unless otherwise noted. The former Independent affiliations are in parenthesis:

OFF 40-MAN MAJOR LEAGUE ROSTERS: P Travis Schlichting, Los Angeles-NL (Kansas City, KS, Northern League); P R.J. Swindle, Milwaukee (Schaumburg, IL, Northern and Newark, NJ, Atlantic League).

NON-ROSTER INVITEES: R Seth Etherton, Arizona (Long Beach, CA, Golden League); P Charlie Zink, Boston (Yuma, AZ, Western League); INF Brian Myrow, Chicago-AL (Winnipeg, Northern); P Adam Pettyjohn, Cincinnati (Long Beach, Golden); 3B Corey Smith, Kansas City (Newark, Atlantic); P Tom Martin, New York-NL (Long Island, NY, Atlantic); 1B Tagg Bozied, Oakland, (Sioux Falls, SD, Northern); P Jerome Williams, Oakland (Long Beach, Golden); P Gabe DeHoyos, San Diego (Schaumburg, Northern); P Jason Childers, Tampa Bay (Richmond, IN, Frontier League); P Bobby Brownlie, Washington (Newark, Atlantic).

Outfielder Jay Gibbons (Long Island, Atlantic) was released by Florida.

While these players hopes of being in the majors have been dashed this time just think how many other players would have loved the experience of at least being in a major league camp.

By our count, 42 other players with Independent Baseball experience remain in major league camps with a little over two weeks to go before opening day.

Bob Wirz

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Saturday, March 14, 2009


Any talk about World Series rings is virtually guaranteed to bring a smile.

That was the case this week when I raised the subject with the backup catchers from The Fall Classic of last October, Philadelphia's Chris Coste and Michel Hernandez of Tampa Bay, even though either one or both could have a new address by the time the 2009 season starts.

Hernandez, who was in the right place at the right time last August, broke into a huge smile when I asked him at his Charlotte Sports Park locker how it was going to be to put on his new jewelry. Words were unnecessary.

Coste, who obviously has advance information on the design of the World Championship ringS, joked that he might be able to lift weights with the new hardware.

Their careers have been unusual journeys in leading up to the World Series. It has been well documented that Coste, now 36, spent five years in Independent leagues, including four in his hometown of Fargo, ND (Northern League), before breaking into the majors with the Phils three summers ago.

Hernandez, who spent a month catching in the Atlantic League in 2007 (Somerset, NJ), still has only 10 games and four hits (in 19 at-bats) on his major league resume. He was with Pittsburgh's Triple-A team in Indianapolis until late last August when he was traded to the Tampa Bay organization. The 30-year-old did not even get into a game at his new destination of Durham, NC before being called to the American League when regular backup Shawn Riggans was lost for the season to an injury. In fact, the catcher told me in his broken English that he felt someone was playing a joke on him when they awakened him in Scranton, PA to tell him to report to the big league Rays. Hernandez reported barely in time to be eligible for the postseason.

He got into five games with Tampa, the same number he had been in with the New York Yankees in 2003, and was active but did not get called upon in the postseason. Now a non-roster player, Hernandez is no better than a long shot to stay with the Rays.

Coste's battle is with newly-acquired catcher Ronny Paulino, with both behind Carlos Ruiz.

Several major league teams are looking for catching so it would not be a shock to see either player in a new uniform by Opening Day.

The silver lining, of course, is no one can ever take away those shiny World Series rings.


I mentioned in this week's Independent Baseball Insider column that former Indy outfielder Jon Weber was leading Tampa Bay in runs batted in this spring. Little did I realize his 10 ribbies paced the entire American League at the time. The 31-year-old, who spent 2001 in the Frontier League (Canton, OH) and has played for Fargo in three different seasons, will be featured in our subscriber-only publication this week in his quest to break into the majors.


The court action in the prolonged United League dispute between the original founders and the recent owners has reached the stage where only Alexandria, LA will be joining the Continental League this season. Still, the CBL will have its biggest field with six teams, including a travel squad. This could open the door to some of the other UBL teams forming under another banner. It certainly would be a shame if such quality cities as Amarillo and San Angelo, TX do not have a chance to field teams.

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Monday, March 09, 2009


I cannot help but think what a helpless feeling it must be for some of the Independent Baseball players in major league spring training camps these days if day after day goes by, and they are only getting an occasional opportunity to play in Grapefruit or Cactus League games.

They have worked for years to get these precious invitations--some for the first time and most as non-roster invitees. But if they get only an infrequent opportunity to play and show what they can do...well, the handwriting on the wall will be indelible. It will be back to the minor league camp any day now; perhaps even an outright release.

Their dream of playing in the majors will have ended. At least for now, and perhaps forever.

Gabe DeHoyos already had his bubble burst. San Diego already has assigned the stocky righthander, who turns 29 April 14, to its minor league camp. He spent his first 2 1/2 professional seasons with the Schaumburg (IL) Flyers of the Northern League. He worked his way up through the Kansas City organization, came back from a year off to turn in a sparkling season in 2008 with San Diego's Double-A franchise in San Antonio, TX, striking out 11.8 hitters every nine relief innings. It was a 60-appearance season in which he went 6-4 with four saves and a solid 2.69 earned run average.

Some among the Padres brass had to be impressed. Still, DeHoyos got only two opportunities in "A" spring training games. A measly two innings in which he gave up four hits and three runs.

A helpless feeling.

John Lindsey (New Jersey Jackals, Can-Am League) has had only four times at bat in Florida's first 10 games with just a walk to show for it so far. He surely could have expected more from his new team up to this point after two huge seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers' farm system and an impressive Grapefruit League season for the major league Dodgers last spring. He may be beginning to see handwriting.

Bobby Brownlie, once highly touted when he came out of Rutgers, has gotten only two one-inning opportunities in the Washington Nationals camp so far. Two hits and one run hardly add up to failure for this former Newark (NJ) Bears Atlantic League hurler.

Cody Clark's name hasn't shown up a lot in Kansas City Royals games, limiting the opportunities for the catcher out of the Golden League (San Diego) to impress. The same has been true in that Arizona camp for third baseman Corey Smith, another Newark graduate, and for Independent Baseball original Chris Jakubauskas with Seattle. He has worked his way through Indy stops in the Frontier League (Ohio Valley), Golden League (Fullerton, CA) and American Association (Lincoln, NE) and a sparkling '08 campaign at all levels of the Mariners minor league system plus winter baseball to get to this point.

Something good still could happen for these players, but time dwindles down, day by day.

If there is a silver lining for those who do not make it to the top now or in the future it will be that one day down the road they will be able to talk with fondness of their time in a major league spring training camp, and sharing clubhouse space with the game's big names. But that time is well down the road.

For now, it is that helpless feeling of wearing a major league uniform in spring training and still not getting many chances to show what they can do.

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