After a week in which there were major developments off the field for Independent Baseball, the attention is turning back to the diamond early in this week when pitchers and catchers start reporting in droves to major league spring training camps.
Edgardo Alfonzo should be giving the Atlantic League a deep bow of gratitude because he pumped life into his fading career by playing every infield position--especially shortstop--for the Long Island (NY) Ducks, and now has signed to play for the famed Yomiuri Giants where a Japanese contract should be well above anything the 35-year-old could earn in the minor leagues in this country.
It will be interesting to see how the former National League All-Star fares in Japan. Although he has a .284 career batting average for 1,506 major league games, Alfonzo has not been in the majors since 2006 and has not hit his weight since '05 with San Francisco.
Alfonzo, who now makes his home on Long Island (Little Neck), hit a robust .329 with eight homers and 27 runs batted in in 59 games for the Ducks last season. He hit .280 in 55 games in the Triple-A Mexican League. Alfonzo also was with Long Island all of 2007, and he was with Bridgeport, CT of the Atlantic League briefly in '06.
ANOTHER WHO STARTED IN INDY BASEBALL TO PULL ON MAJOR LEAGUE UNIFORM
We had not seen any additions to the list of 28 non-roster players invited to major league camps since we first published it in our January 22 Independent Baseball Insider column. That is until San Diego finally revealed its full contingent of invitees Monday, even though the Padres had been saying for days they would have an unusually high count of 35 pitchers.
The great news for Independent fans is that strikeout machine Gabe DeHoyos, who will play most of this season at 29, finally is getting an opportunity to show his stuff in the Cactus League.
I do not recall that DeHoyos, who played his first two and a half seasons of professional baseball (2002-04) for Schaumburg, IL of the Northern League, has ever had a previous major league spring training opportunity.
The Padres obviously took note of his 110 strikeouts in only 83.2 innings (71 hits) during 60 relief appearances for Double-A San Antonio, TX last season. The stocky righthander allowed only two home runs and held Texas League hitters to a .228 average while compiling a 6-4, 2.69 record with four saves. He had spent three and a half seasons in the Kansas City chain after having his contract purchased from Schaumburg where he was a combined 8-3 with an ERA well under 3.00.
53 INDEPENDENT PLAYERS HEADED TO BIG LEAGUE CAMPS
We can account for 53 players who have been under Independent Baseball contracts who will be in major league camps, and all-time Indy great Kevin Millar, a free agent, surely will end up somewhere.
Five of the 29 invitees and 10 of the 24 players on 40-man rosters got their start in Independent leagues.
MATOS SHARP IN CARIBBEAN WORLD SERIES
I believe Josue Matos may be a free agent, but that may not last long because of the five innings of two-hit baseball the 30-year-old righthander turned in for struggling Puerto Rico in the Caribbean World Series.
He blanked the Dominican Republic in that stint and got a 3-0 victory for the previously winless Puerto Ricans, even though he did walk six. Matos, who is on Puerto Rico's early roster for the World Baseball Classic, pitched for North Shore (Lynn, MA) in the Can-Am League and Alexandria, LA of the United League in 2006.
COSTNER, CONTINENTAL LEAGUE AND EDMONTON IN THE NEWS
In case you missed any of last week's headlines, which we explained in detail in last week's Independent Baseball Insider, the Northern League struck paydirt by announcing plans for a new stadium and team in Zion, IL with actor Kevin Costner in a lead role. The Continental, which had only four teams its first two seasons, swelled to eight and will have four or five of the former United League teams. And, the Golden League's Edmonton Cracker-Cats will have a strengthened marketing position after they were sold to Daryl Katz, who owns the NHL's Edmonton Oilers and heads up a huge drug store chain. The Oilers' front office will jump in in an effort to build Edmonton baseball attendance.