One such example this season was the St. Paul (MN) Saints' junket to Cold Springs, MN, where the population is about 2,500. Nearly half the town (1,200, I was told) turned out, and $15,000 was raised with most of that money no doubt going back into the ballpark or for youth baseball.
It was "perhaps the largest baseball crowd in Cold Springs in 25 years", The St. Cloud Times reported. "The giant throng enjoyed 70-degree, sunny weather and came to watch perhaps the first pro team to play in the vintage 1940s-style ballpark."
The story proudly pointed out that the Saints, who defeated a collection of Central Minnesota all-stars 8-1, had four former major league players, including outfielder Jonathan Van Every and hurler Robert Manuel, both of whom played for the Boston Red Sox as recently as last season. Former Kansas City Royals outfielder Shane Costa whacked a three-run homer.
PECOS LEAGUE UNDER WAY
The American Association started its new schedule this week, joining the Atlantic League as the most well known of the Independent leagues to begin the 2011 season. Also launching was the six-team Pecos League.
I applaud some of the Pecos efforts, especially its web site, which is full of news and photos and easy to navigate to find box scores. Some of the more established leagues could take notice. But it is going to be difficult for this corner to give equal attention to this Texas-New Mexico-based league since some of the players are not being paid. That has not been the case, to my knowledge, with any of the mainstream Independent leagues, dating all the way back to the start in 1993.
WILY MO PENA EARNS SECOND PLAYER OF WEEK HONOR
Arizona has not yet given hefty Wily Mo Pena a major league opportunity this season, but it is not keeping the 29-year-old from continuing to punish opponents.
Pena, who spent about half of last season with the Atlantic League's Bridgeport (CT) Bluefish, leads all of minor league baseball with 13 home runs in just 29 games for Reno, and the Aces star has been rewarded with his second selection of the young Pacific Coast League season as Player of the Week.
The right-handed hitting slugger, who likely is somewhat handicapped since he is not outstanding defensively at either first base or the outfield and the National League does not use the designated hitter, is hitting .366 with 34 runs batted in. He is making southpaws pay to the price of a .444 average although eight of his home runs have come against right-handers.
Maybe the start of major league inter-league play will help Wily Mo. Hmmm!
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