Why, you ask?
The manager of the Dominican team, which also was the host country, recently signed on as a coach for the Bears, who will play their second season in the Can-Am League this summer.
He is a big name, too.
Ken Oberkfell, who has been a major league coach or Triple-A manager for the last eight seasons, is so popular in the Dominican that he sometimes is referred to as "The Leones' magician", according to an elaborate feature story on MLB.com.. This comes about because of the way the 55-year-old has handled the reigns with Escogido, the country's representative in the Caribbean Series. He has now become the first manager ever to lead Escogido to two Caribbean Series titles. He did not even take over this season in the baseball-crazed country until Thanksgiving.
The Dominican team won its first four games in the Caribbean Series, then lost its last two after the championship already was won.
"Oberkfell is (the) type of manager the players love playing for," praised Escogido President Luis Manuel Bonetti in the MLB.com story. "He's the type of manager that lets them play. He doesn't put (on) any restrictions, and really understands the culture that we have here."
Oddly enough, Oberkfell never played winter baseball along the path that saw him spend 16 seasons in the major leagues as a player. He got into 1,602 major league games, all but 41 of them in the National League. An infielder, he had a career average of .278
The Illinois native is returning to Independent Baseball for the first time since 1995-96 when he managed Mohawk Valley and Elmira, NY, in respective Northeast League seasons. He was bench coach for the New York Mets in 2008 and again last year.
FORMER NEWARK OUTFIELDER TOP HITTER IN SERIES
Another significant tie to Newark in the Caribbean Series was that of Dominican outfielder Pablo Ozuna, who led all hitters in the six-game set with a .421 average (8-for-19). He hit .294 in 119 at-bats for the Bears in 2010, their last season in the Atlantic League.
The biggest surprise among all players with at least 10 at-bats was probably veteran infielder Edgardo Alfonzo of Venezuela. He had the fourth best average of .364 (4-for-11) in the pitching-dominated series. Listed at 38, the longtime major league standout infielder is not believed to have played baseball in the United States in the summer since 2008 except for 26 games and a .154 average for Newark in 2010. He played briefly at Bridgeport, CT in the Atlantic League in '06 and was in a combined 164 games for the Long Island (NY) Ducks in the same league in '07-08.
Venezulan teammate Cesar Suarez, an outfielder who played for four different Indy teams in 2009-10, was right behind Alfonzo at .360 (9-for-25).
We identified 29 players with Independent playing time on the four Caribbean Series rosters.
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