Snowy days have to be good for something, right?
This anxious-for-spring-training typist is looking ahead to what I feel may be two prime battles for backup catching jobs. Naturally, both involve former Independent Baseball players.
One would hope Chris Coste (Fargo, ND, Northern League) is set to return to the World Champion Phillies to back up Carlos Ruiz, but the "33-Year-Old Rookie" (that's his book, you will recall) turns 36 next week (February 4). Philadelphia picked up Ronny Paulino during the offseason, and he doesn't turn 28 until April 21.
Paulino even has more major league experience since he was in 129 and 133 games for Pittsburgh in 2006-07 before slipping to only 118 at-bats last season when Ryan Doumit hit .318 with 34 doubles, 15 homers and 69 RBI.
Shifting from Florida to Arizona, onetime St. Paul (MN) Saints backstop Eliezer Alfonzo seemed to be a good bet to back up young Nick Hundley at San Diego when he signed on this winter. Then, the Padres picked up veteran Henry Blanco. While Alfonzo probably has more power these days and Blanco will turn 38 before the season ends, Blanco's 700 games of major league experience and his defensive skills might be a solid fit for a young pitching staff.
Both of these battles could be interesting, and tough on the nerves for Coste and Alfonzo.
KUDOS TO THE FRONTIER LEAGUE AND LANCASTER, PA
The Frontier League deserves credit for lining up Comcast Sports Net Chicago to televise the league's July 15 All-Star Game from Rockford, IL. This is the first time the FL classic has been on TV live, with fans in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin able to watch on the night after the major league All-Star Game.
We must tip our hat to the Lancaster Barnstormers because the Ice Park at Clipper Magazine Stadium attracted more than 1,500 skaters in the four-day period January 22-25. That was the largest weekend turnout in the three years of the Ice Park although more than 2,700 skaters showed up in the week between Christmas and the start of 2009.
If others teams would like to follow the Atlantic League club's venture into such an offseason attraction, consider that 25,000 skaters took the ice the first two winters. The Barnstormers believe they may have the biggest single season turnout this winter. Nice promotion for the baseball team, and hopefully some black ink on the ledger.