It is easy to congratulate manager Joe Calfapietra for guiding the Kansas City T-Bones to the American Association championship. The 46-year-old Calfapietra has long been respected throughout much of the Independent Baseball world where he has been leading one team or another for the last 19 seasons.
Digging deeper, the fact the T-Bones, who play out of Kansas City, KS and across the river from the major league Kansas City Royals, won their very first league title becomes a much greater feat. Consider these facts:
--The franchise, which was created 16 years ago (2003), had not even made it to the playoffs in the ever-competitive American Association since 2010 and Calfapietra was only in his second year at the helm.
--Kansas City only placed one player on the 11-man postseason league all-star team (outfielder Todd Cunningham).
--The equivalent of more than one-third of the 22-man roster had their contract purchased by a major league organization. The league-leading eight departures included four pitchers, two infielders, an outfielder and a combination infielder-outfielder. The losses in the last month and a half while the T-Bones were striving to even make the postseason included their starting shortstop (Taylor Featherston) and leadoff hitter (Dylan Tice).
Selling players to major league organizations always brings a source of pride to the entire league, but they also create gaping holes in the roster, which often has no more players on the bench than a second catcher and one other position player. Everyone says they want to see their players get affiliated opportunities, but some managers and player personnel bosses (often the same person) are not so eager to promote such opportunities because it hurts the team at that time.
Calfapietra never seems to flinch.
That attribute alone could be a factor in him winning Manager of the Year honors in the Northern League, Northeast League, the Can-Am League and this season from his peers and the media in the American Association.
For good measure, the Royersford, PA native and two-time All-America selection while playing first base at Eastern College (St. David's, PA) helped Kansas City post a team record 62-37 (.626) regular-season mark and build his all-time regular-season managerial record to 966-819 (.541).
SUGAR LAND ON BRINK
If the Sugar Land (TX) Skeeters win the title in the playoffs that are only beginning in the Atlantic League they also will have overcome major sales of their players to major league organizations. The Skeeters' count, for the longer 126-game season, stands at 11.
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Tuesday, September 18, 2018
THE STORY OF T-BONES' TITLE GETS EVEN BETTER
Former chief spokesman for Major League Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth. Six years as publicity director for the Kansas City Royals, and a background in newspaper, radio and television. Started Wirz & Associates, a sports PR and consulting firm, in 1985. Has written extensively on Independent Baseball since 2003.