Saturday, April 20, 2013



I had it reinforced one more time the depth of impact Independent Baseball players make on virtually any major league-affiliated game when I took my three grandsons to an Eastern League game this week.

We did not single out this game in order to see former Independent players; it so happens the New Britain (CT) Rock Cats, the Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, are the closest to us. It turned into an 11-inning dandy, too, on a sunny day for this 10:35 a.m. school day game. No less than four former Indy stars took part, three of them as starters. Perhaps the most surprising part was that all are position players since pitchers seem to be in the spotlight most often.

I was especially excited to see New Britain first baseman Curt Smith, who had played in both the American Association (Lincoln, NE) and Atlantic League (Lancaster, PA) and was signed by the Twins shortly after his dominant bat played a major role in getting The Netherlands to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. I had written about him more than once in this space as well as in my weekly Independent Baseball Insider column.

Smith turned in a very professional game with two singles, one driving in the Rock Cats’ first run in a two-run bottom of the ninth that sent the game into extra innings, playing a solid first base and exhibiting great hustle. I could see the latter in the way he went after foul balls down the line even if he could not get to them. He is making an impact, hitting .343 after eight games with three doubles, a homer and five runs batted in.

Antoan Richardson (Schaumburg, IL, Northern League) was the leadoff hitter and centerfielder and Reynaldo Rodriguez (Yuma, AZ, Golden League) entered as a pinch runner in the eighth and stayed in to play left. For New Hampshire, Toronto’s No. 2 farm club, Amadeo Zazueta played very solid shortstop and had a hit. Like Smith, he had played at Lincoln and the switch-hitter was with Sugar Land, TX in the Atlantic League part of last season before his contract was sold to the Blue Jays.

What a nice day for all of us.
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