Our notebook keeps filling up, thankfully with items other than the Mitchell Report, where only two players (Brendan Donnelly and Howie Clark) who have been in Independent leagues got any mention. This is some of what has been crossing the desk.
GIVE 'SCOUT' JOE KLEIN CREDIT
One of the countless stories I have found amusing in Tim Kurkjian’s memories-filled book “Is This a Great Game, or What?” is about cunning Kenny Rogers, who recently signed for another year with Detroit.
As ESPN’s Kurkjian relates it, Rogers was a 135-pound lefty outfielder-shortstop when, at age 17 in 1982, he was discovered in Plant City, FL. “…but because he is left-handed and had arm strength, Texas selected him late in the draft as a pitcher on the recommendation of Joe Klein, their Director of Player Procurement and Development. In his first training camp, Rogers was asked to pitch from the stretch. “I don’t know how to do that,” Rogers is quoted as saying.
Now fast forward 25 years. Rogers, now 43 and with more than 200 major league victories, is one of the best around at picking runners off base. He learned very well.
And Klein, the Atlantic League's first and only executive director, still has scouting in his blood, as evidenced by the fact he annually chairs a Winter Meetings event which honors the Scouts of the Year.
One more note on scouts while we are at it. Praise is due the Goldklang Group for creating a tribute to that hard-working and sometimes unheralded group with all six minor league teams they own or help operate, including their banner franchise at St. Paul, MN in the American Association. The Goldklang operation, headed up by Marv Goldklang and Mike Veeck, has management contracts with Brockton, MA in the Can-Am League and Sioux Falls, SD in the American Association.
TRUJILLO PART OF TWO CHAMPIONSHIPS
The first time my path crossed with reliever J.J. Trujillo it was to honor him with the Rolaids Relief Man award for the entire affiliated minor league system. That was in 2000, and the second year of his professional career which started in Indy baseball with the Frontier League's Johnstown (PA) Johnnies.
Phillies Independent scout Mal Fichman believes Trujillo was part of something never accomplished previously this past September. Returning to the mound after rehabbing some arm woes, the righthander started this season with Newark, NJ in the Atlantic League. Eventually, the Phils jumped in and signed the now 32-year-old, and he worked for both their Double-A team at Reading, PA and Class A Clearwater, FL, where he was part of the run to the Florida State League championship.
"Because we worked so closely with Newark all year," Fichman wrote in an email, "we released J.J. (after the FSL ended) so he could finish the season and playoffs with them (the Bears)." As we know, Newark won the Atlantic League playoffs, giving Trujillo what Fichman said were the first two championships of his pro career. And it all took place in September.
THREE INDEPENDENTS PART OF BASEBALL AMERICA CALENDAR
It seems to me the norm in Baseball America's annual Great Parks Calendar has been to feature one Independent Baseball stadium.
But three have made it for 2008. The Brockton (MA) Rox's Campanelli Stadium is featured from the Can-Am League, U.S. Steel Yard, home of the Northern League's Gary (IN) SouthShore Railcats, is singled out and LaGrave Field in Fort Worth, TX (American Association) made the calendar. LaGrave has the added distinction of being included for the second time in the last six years.
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