Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I have had the good fortune of knowing Jackie Hernandez since we were with the Triple-A Denver Bears in 1967 and 1968. I was a starry-eyed young PR hopeful just starting my baseball career and Jackie was a flashy 20-something shortstop in the Minnesota Twins organization who was destined for a major league career.

Then we were reunited in Kansas City with the expansion Royals the next two seasons. In fact, Jackie’s every day play at shortstop—he appeared in 145 of the 162 games—was a major reason the Royals were respectable in their inaugural season of 1969. A guy by the name of Lou Piniella played leftfield and was Rookie of the Year.

So you can see why I was surprised—and had to offer my two cents worth here—when I first learned that old friend Jackie is taking on his first managerial job at Charlotte County, FL in the new South Coast League.

Why Jackie, was my first thought? This has nothing to do with Hernandez’s ability. But he has a nice pension from his nine seasons as a major league shortstop (1965-73), is old enough (66) to collect social security and is leaving what I would think, all things considered, was a cushy job as a coach for George Tsamis with the American Association’s St. Paul (MN) Saints.

Now in his 47th season of professional baseball the thin man from Cuba, who started playing the game for pay as a 20-year-old catcher in the Midwest League in 1961, is finally taking over managerial duties.

“I had opportunities (to manage) before but it was never the right spot,” the Saints’ media release quoted Hernandez. “This job is the only one that would get me away from St. Paul.” He pointed to the fact Port Charlotte is only a couple of hours from his longtime home in Miami, and while he did not say it the fact the Southwestern Florida community will average more than a few degrees warmer than most of the American Association cities in May and June might have been appealing. No more long johns, which Jacinto was known to wear even on milder spring nights in the leagues where he helped Tsamis wreak havoc on the opposition.

They first joined up in Waterbury, CT when that team was in the Northeast League, moved on to the New Jersey Jackals at Little Falls for both Northeast and Northern League titles in 2001 and 2002, and to St. Paul the next season. When the Northern League title is added from 2004 and the finals berth in the American Association this season they have had seven playoff teams in eight seasons.

Hernandez will have a leg up in recruiting on his South Coast League rivals for all the years past when he has so diligently worked with prospect after prospect around Miami during the off season.

The league will love his warm nature, and his major league credentials, including the 1971 World Championship in Pittsburgh when he threw out the final Baltimore hitter, will help build credibility.

P.S. More on this year's managerial changes plus an outline of new opportunities for players are included in my subscriber-based Independent Baseball Insider column.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Our milder-than-usual November temperatures--at least here in the Northeast--have kept me from starting my countdown of the number of days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training. We all know that is when spring arrives in our heart. But I have seen two indicators in Independent Baseball circles which tell me others have their countdowns to opening day started.

I first noticed it on the South Coast League's website ( where the webmaster has set up a clock which lets fans know down to the second how long it is until the first official pitch is thrown in the new league. The clock read 183 days, 23 hours, 34 minutes and 10 seconds when I looked at it tonight (Tuesday).

Oh, I also found out the six teams in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina signed 16 players out of the South Coast League's initial tryout camp in Bradenton, FL last Saturday. That is a very high count out of approximately 70 attendees, which the SCL reported.

The other site where a countdown is under way is with the American Association's St. Paul Saints. A media release 12 days ago reminded readers it was only 183 days until the Saints once again march into Midway Stadium. So that count would have been down to 171 days today.

Mild weather or not, these reminders make the heart thump just a wee bit faster.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006


What offseason?

With so many leagues these days, including the startups, and all the news they create plus the personalities who deserve attention, I find it impossible to do justice to some of the topics in my every-other-week Independent Baseball Insidercolumn. So you should be seeing more entries here on

Some of the nuggets I found interesting over the last few days that I did not get into last week's column include the stories that follow. Each represents something new.

A shortage of players wanting to break into the Independent Baseball ranks? I don't think so. The new St. George (UT) Roadrunners of the Golden League held a tryout camp, and 75 hopefuls from 19 states showed up. Manager Cory Snyder signed 12 of them, and used such terms as "pitching was superb" and "the passion and me great confidence" when the day was done.

Meanwhile, the United League, in addition to planning for its Winter League season, has announced its second summer campaign is being expanded from 90 to 100 games for each of its six teams. Byron Pierce's operation is really expanding its playoffs by going to two best-of-five sets in the first round and a best-of-seven for the championship round. No other league has a best-of-seven. Players can learn more about the pay-to-play Winter League at

And, the name of Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson will resonate in the Frontier League next season. That's because Bob's son Chris, who opted for college when his dad's St. Louis Cardinals drafted him out of high school, has signed to play the outfield for the Gateway Grizzlies. That's a great location for the lefthanded hitter since the Grizzlies play out of Sauget, IL, which is barely out of the shadow of St. Louis's Gateway Arch. I wonder if he will don uniform No. 45?

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Friday, November 03, 2006


I am proud today to let you know that our new book on Independent Baseball has been published. This is as much a labor of love as anything, especially to be able to have in print the new list we created of all former Independent players who made it to the major leagues. It is more than 100 names long. I hope we have not omitted anyone. The press release below tells the story for those of you who are interested.

The Independent Minor Leagues: 2006 Season in Review

Baseball fans seem to generally understand these days that Independent Baseball has given players who have been bypassed in the draft or need a second opportunity an alternative to the major leagues and their farm systems. Digging deeper into what the Independent leagues are all about is more of a puzzle.

A newly-published book of nearly 150 spiral bound pages helps unravel these details. Author and lifetime baseball professional Bob Wirz also has compiled lists not found elsewhere for this third annual publication: “The Independent Minor Leagues: 2006 Season in Review”.

It is difficult to imagine that the Independent Baseball industry, with seven leagues and two more scheduled to open in 2007, have produced more than 100 players who made their way from merely being non-affiliated minor leaguers to playing in the major leagues. 2006 Season in Review contains a list to prove it, including where they played in Independent leagues.

Another addition to this year’s book is a list of more than 100 non-playing personnel who were working in the major leagues or elsewhere in affiliated baseball jobs this summer. The range runs from umpires to broadcasters to scouts to a bevy of minor league managers.

The newly-published book contains a complete list of more than 200 active players who were under contract to major league organizations this summer. Thirty-one of them played in the majors, and some might never have gotten any professional opportunity if it wasn’t for the Independent leagues. This group includes such players as 33-year-old Philadelphia Phillies rookie Chris Coste, Josh Kinney, one of the youngsters who emerged to help St. Louis’s bullpen during the Cardinals’ surge to the World Series title, and Kevin Millar, who played in his 1000th major league game this summer.

Wirz, the onetime Director of Information for Major League Baseball, includes all 30 of his Independent Baseball Insider columns between February and October. They contain well over100 stories covering all aspects of the game, from the heart-warming side of human triumph, to the off-beat stories that make Independent Baseball an attraction a record of more than 7,500,000 spectators enjoyed in 2006.

The 2006 Season in Review includes an index that allows fans to easily find stories about their favorite player or team.

The Independent Minor Leagues--2006 Season in Review may be purchased at or by sending a check for $21 (including $3 for shipping and handling) to Wirz & Associates, 665-A North Trail, Stratford, CT 06614.

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