Sunday, July 30, 2006


What a treat it is to open my Sunday newspapers and pour over the weekend in sports.

As is the case for me so often, the baseball boxscores drew my initial attention today. This was an especially joyful morning for checking up on a number of the Independent Baseball grads now in the majors.

My friend Joe Yotch had tipped me off that Curtis Pride, a three-time member of the Indy Nashua (NH) Pride who I had written about in last week's Independent Baseball Insider column, had homered for the Angels Saturday at Fenway Park. Sure enough, Pride's two-run, seventh inning blast had given the Angels a temporary 5-3 lead. It was the 37-year-old's 20th major league homer, but his first since July 6, 2003 when he got a round-tripper for his only hit in 12 at bats for the New York Yankees.

Saturday's blast had put onetime Atlantic League (Camden, NJ) product Jered Weaver in position to run his major league record to 8-0. Alas, the lead did not hold up.

Another note about Pride, which I did not get to in the column. Curtis, who was born 95 per cent deaf, and his wife, Lisa, now have a charitable foundation called "Together with Pride", partly in tribute to their one-year-old daughter Noelle Angel, who has the same degree of deafness as her dad.

Now back to the boxscores.

Chris Coste, who is getting more key playing time with Philadelphia now that former backup catcher Sal Fasano has been shipped off to the Yankees, had another big day in the Phillies' 12-3 home romp over Florida. The onetime Prairie (Brandon) and Northern Leaguer (Fargo, ND) had a single, double, walk, run and two runs batted in. His average is up to .339, which is an unbelieveable feat for the 33-year-old rookie because of his slow start.

Sticking with catchers, Eliezer Alfonzo (St. Paul, Northern League) drove in his 24th run and kept his average at .300 even though his Giants lost to Pittsburgh. And Mike Rivera (Atlantic City, NJ, Atlantic League, and Springfield, IL, Frontier League), also is at .300 after his pair of singles and an RBI helped Milwaukee double up the Reds, 6-3.

Brothers J.D. and Stephen Drew were hitless, but their Dodgers and Diamondbacks, respectively, turned in victories. J. D. had played at St. Paul and Stephen at Camden.

And so it was, just another day in baseball paradise for these onetime Indy leaguers. What fun for us fans, too.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Let's see, we have already had 94-year-old baseball icon Buck O'Neil, NBA star Troy Murphy and 24-year-old Indy racing darling Danica Patrick in Independent Baseball activities this month. A tip of the hat to those celebrities and the people who made the events take place as bonuses for the fans.

Several others celebrity sightings will liven up games this week.

I especially like what the Florence (KY) Freedom are doing Thursday night (July 27). That nickname, Freedom, really telegraphs this story. The Frontier League team has invited SPC Jeffrey Hawk, an area soldier who recently returned from his tour of U.S. Army Reserve duty in Kuwait and Afghanistan, to throw out the ceremonial first ball prior to the game against Chillicothe, OH.

"I am proud and honored to know that there are people that still support us and what we are doing by letting me be the guest at one of my hometown baseball team's home games," said Hawk, who has been a soldier for 3 1/2 years.

Olympic skier Bode Miller will don a Nashua (NH) Pride uniform on Saturday for a one-game stint in the Can-Am League. At least $5,000 in game proceeds will funnel through his Turtle Ridge Foundation to help the crusade against cancer as the onetime New Hampshire high school tennis champion makes his appearance.

And in Joliet, IL that same night such former major league standouts as Bill Madlock, Carlos May, Vida Blue, Bert Campaneris and Bobby Thigpen will be part of the Budweiser Legends Game at the Northern League JackHammers' Silver Cross Field.

In case you missed Murphy's appearance, he was third base coach for a night for the Newark (NJ) Bears in an Atlantic League game. "It's fun eating sunflower seeds, wearing the uniform and doing the signs," said Murphy, now with the Golden State Warriors. He is a native of Morristown, NJ.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Including the All-Star oddities of 94-year-old Buck O'Neil taking two trips to the plate and Jose Canseco impressing with his bat and failing on the mound, it has been a busy few hours in Independent Baseball topped by the fact recent Atlantic League grad Jason Shiell is stepping into the rotation--at least for a night--for the suddenly sizzling Atlanta Braves.

Left nearly for dead in the post-season chase, the rejuvenated Braves have become the first major league team since the 1930 Yankees to score 10 or more runs in five consecutive games. Now the Braves turn their wild-card fortunes over to 29-year-old righthander Jason Shiell Wednesday night, facing Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter in St. Louis.

It was less than a month ago (June 22) when Atlanta bought Shiell from Somerset (Bridgewater, NJ) of the Atlantic League where he was pitching for the first time in three seasons after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery. He was 3-2 with a 2.92 ERA in nine starts for the Patriots, then went 1-1, 2.14 in three starts for Triple-A Richmond.

With the Braves adding Shiell and Boston recalling reliever Jermaine Van Buren from Pawtucket, RI the roster of former Independent players in the majors has swelled to a season-high 21, including eight Atlantic Leaguers. We will have more to say about Shiell's bounceback season in our weekly Independent Baseball Insider column which comes out Thursday.

In All-Star activity Tuesday night, onetime Negro League star O'Neil became the oldest player ever to appear in a professional game when he walked twice--once for each team--in the Northern League game played in his hometown of Kansas City. Canseco hit nine home runs in two rounds to win the Golden League's home run derby at Chico, CA, but his first mound appearance of the season in the All-Star Game was not as successful. He was touched up for three hits and four runs in only one-third of an inning. The American Association rallied for a 5-3 win over the Can-Am League at El Paso, TX, before an impressive crowd of 10,102.

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Monday, July 17, 2006


What fun it would be to be in Chico, CA, El Paso, TX or Kansas City, KS Tuesday. Those are the sites as Independent Baseball puts a wrap on its mid-summer All-Star Games.

The Golden League has center stage at Chico while Northern League All-Stars will do battle at Community America Ballpark in Kansas City. El Paso, which is part of the new American Association, hosts the game in which the AA entertains the Can-Am League.

Jose Canseco will be spotlighted during Golden League festivities, which we originally reported as scheduled for last night (Monday). The onetime major league star will pitch for the first time this season, working at least one inning and utilizing his recently-discussed knuckleball. He also will take part in a home run derby. After a slow start with the bat, Canseco has homered twice and driven in seven runs in his last five games with Long Beach.

Cristian Mendoza of the Quebec Capitales and the contingent representing the New Haven (CT) County Cutters will win the long distance award since those two teams will pick up on the regular Can-Am schedule in Quebec Thursday night.

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Friday, July 14, 2006


Making sense of my desk at the end of some split season mayhem and during the All-Star Game frenzy is a challenge, but there are a few notes I wanted to share which arrived too late or did not make my weekly Independent Baseball Insider column.

The best news in All-Star land probably was the telephone call Craig Breslow received. The former New Jersey Jackals lefthander was not used in the Triple-A All-Star Game, but he is now wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform. We hope Terry Francona can give this Yale grad a good look. Breslow logged major league time with San Diego last season.

Aaron Herr, who had signed to play for his dad, Tommy, in Lancaster, PA in the Atlantic League before Cincinnati signed him in 2005, did not appear in the Southern League All-Star Game as scheduled because he had been promoted to Triple-A Louisville.

Among the Independent Baseball grads who played in affiliated All-Star Games, Nate Field (Sioux City, IA) worked a scoreless inning in AAA while Corey Thurman (Florence, KY, Frontier League) hurled two scoreless frames with three strikeouts in the Southern League game and James Johnson (Canton, OH, Frontier) got in one scoreless inning in the Eastern League contest.

One highlight from an Independent All-Star Game was the continued performance by San Angelo, TX second baseman John Anderson in the United League game, which was played before a standing room-only crowd of 6,212 in Edinburg, TX. Anderson, who as we pointed out in this week's Insider leads all of Independent Baseball with his .389 average, hammered a three-run homer to help the All-Stars beat up on Edinburg, 12-2. Anderson had that record-setting 31-game hitting streak earlier.

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Monday, July 10, 2006


It is doubtful the Can-Am League could envision this when it elected to go with one division this season.

Entering play Monday and with only three days remaining in the first half of the split season, six of the eight teams were within one game of first place. I cannot help but wonder if this has ever happened previously in an Independent or affiliated league.

The only unfortunate part of it is that with several teams forced to cancel one or more games, a team could win based strictly on percentage points, but tied in the games-behind column.

The first place team qualities for post-season play while everyone else will need to fight for the second half crown or to have one of the best full season records. Four teams will get into the playoffs.

Sussex, NJ, with three games remaining, and Brockton, MA, which has four, shared the lead at 23-19 (.548). North Shore (Lynn, MA) and New Jersey (Little Falls, NJ) were one-half game off the pace at 22-19, with New Haven County, CT (23-20) also trailing by one-half game game. Worcester, MA, the defending champion, trailed by one game at 22-20.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006


I woke up this morning not knowing exactly what I wanted to write about, but The Sunday New York Times made it an easy decision.

Splashed across the front page of the Sunday Business section was an impressive feature on the Golden League. These guys really know how to garner the publicity.

I didn't find much new about the story because the Golden League has been featured numerous times in west coast publications, but the mere fact The Times devoted more than half the front page and an entire inside page certainly deserves the attention of any Independent Baseball fan. I also enjoyed seeing the photos to get a look at the Chico, CA ballpark, and some of you will just enjoy seeing photos of founder David Kaval and Commissioner Kevin Outcalt.

The Times recently featured the zany ideas created by the Can-Am League's Brockton (M
A) Rox. Both stories represent wonderful, free publicity for the Independent game.

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Monday, July 03, 2006


A little potpourri of baseball to talk about while you wait for the Fireworks Show to begin at your favorite Independent stadium this Fourth of July week.

The TV crews figure to be out in full force at Chico, CA tonite (July 3) when designated hitter/knuckleball pitcher Jose Canseco makes his first competitive appearance since 2002 for the Golden League's San Diego Surf Dawgs. Canseco, said to be down 30 pounds to 230, brings 534 professional home runs into his first appearance for Manager Terry Kennedy. Seven of those were struck for Newark in the Atlantic League in 2001 in his other Independent Baseball stint while 462 came while wearing major league uniforms. As for being part of the San Diego pitching staff, a wait-and-see attitude may be the best approach. His next mound victory will be his first.

The Golden League is going all out, also entering into a marketing agreement with Canseco, who turned 42 Sunday. The agreement is said to include a special Jose Canseco apparel line "and interactive events with fans and kids at all of the League's ballparks." We will no doubt have updates in this week's Independent Baseball Insider column.

Have you noticed Chris Coste's recent success with the Phillies? He has three multi-hit games in his last four appearances in which he has had more than a single at bat, and has raised his National League average to .294 by collecting eight hits in his last 18 at bats (.444). What's more, this Independent Baseball original may be in for a heavier schedule with Sal Fasano listed as day-to-day after being injured in a play at the plate Sunday. Coste pinch ran in the fourth, then singled, doubled, scored twice and drove in a run in Philadelphia's 11-6 win at Toronto.

As for the auto racing, NASCAR standout Matt Kenseth is making an appearance at Joliet, IL (Northern League) Wednesday, and Indy darling Danica Patrick will be at Rockford, IL (Frontier League) July 18. Ms. Patrick, who grew up in the area at Roscoe, IL, and the RiverHawks are teaming up for an auction to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

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