I cannot help but think what a helpless feeling it must be for some of the Independent Baseball players in major league spring training camps these days if day after day goes by, and they are only getting an occasional opportunity to play in Grapefruit or Cactus League games.
They have worked for years to get these precious invitations--some for the first time and most as non-roster invitees. But if they get only an infrequent opportunity to play and show what they can do...well, the handwriting on the wall will be indelible. It will be back to the minor league camp any day now; perhaps even an outright release.
Their dream of playing in the majors will have ended. At least for now, and perhaps forever.
Gabe DeHoyos already had his bubble burst. San Diego already has assigned the stocky righthander, who turns 29 April 14, to its minor league camp. He spent his first 2 1/2 professional seasons with the Schaumburg (IL) Flyers of the Northern League. He worked his way up through the Kansas City organization, came back from a year off to turn in a sparkling season in 2008 with San Diego's Double-A franchise in San Antonio, TX, striking out 11.8 hitters every nine relief innings. It was a 60-appearance season in which he went 6-4 with four saves and a solid 2.69 earned run average.
Some among the Padres brass had to be impressed. Still, DeHoyos got only two opportunities in "A" spring training games. A measly two innings in which he gave up four hits and three runs.
A helpless feeling.
John Lindsey (New Jersey Jackals, Can-Am League) has had only four times at bat in Florida's first 10 games with just a walk to show for it so far. He surely could have expected more from his new team up to this point after two huge seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers' farm system and an impressive Grapefruit League season for the major league Dodgers last spring. He may be beginning to see handwriting.
Bobby Brownlie, once highly touted when he came out of Rutgers, has gotten only two one-inning opportunities in the Washington Nationals camp so far. Two hits and one run hardly add up to failure for this former Newark (NJ) Bears Atlantic League hurler.
Cody Clark's name hasn't shown up a lot in Kansas City Royals games, limiting the opportunities for the catcher out of the Golden League (San Diego) to impress. The same has been true in that Arizona camp for third baseman Corey Smith, another Newark graduate, and for Independent Baseball original Chris Jakubauskas with Seattle. He has worked his way through Indy stops in the Frontier League (Ohio Valley), Golden League (Fullerton, CA) and American Association (Lincoln, NE) and a sparkling '08 campaign at all levels of the Mariners minor league system plus winter baseball to get to this point.
Something good still could happen for these players, but time dwindles down, day by day.
If there is a silver lining for those who do not make it to the top now or in the future it will be that one day down the road they will be able to talk with fondness of their time in a major league spring training camp, and sharing clubhouse space with the game's big names. But that time is well down the road.
For now, it is that helpless feeling of wearing a major league uniform in spring training and still not getting many chances to show what they can do.