The highlight so far in the relatively young Independent season has to be the run by major league organizations to grab an abundance of talent, especially from the Atlantic League and the American Association. It reinforces--if that is needed--just how much the majors look these days to the non-affiliated leagues for players who have escaped their watchful eyes or need a renewed opportunity to prove that they can play at a high level.
But I must admit another of the joys of doing this blog and writing about Indy players is seeing new barriers reached.
This happened again in this month of June when 27-year-old right-handed pitcher Tayler Scott became the very first native of South Africa to pitch in a major league game.
Scott, who spent a sizeable part of 2016 pitching for the Sioux City Explorers, did not have much upper level impact in the major league system until he had been in the American Association. One season after he turned in his tidiest earned run average (1.88) in his 23 games for Steve Montgomery's club he reached Triple-A for the first time for the Texas Rangers.
Now, two years later the 6-foot-3 Johannesburg native has "major leaguer" by his name, even though the baptism for Seattle saw him give up three earned runs in 2.2 relief innings against the Los Angeles Angels.
"It's been a big accomplishment to be the first pitcher from South Africa (in the majors)", he told that country's The South African newspaper. "It's pretty amazing".
Infielder Gift Ngoepe is the only other South Africa native to make it to the majors, playing for both Pittsburgh and Toronto and a current Philadelphia minor leaguer.
"When he first signed, he (Ngoepe) was 16 so I was (two years) younger", Scott told the newspaper. "It kind of opened my eyes that you were able to do that and go play baseball in America. We came up to a baseball camp when I was 15, and from then on, I realized that's what I wanted to do".
Three players from the Independent ranks have played in the majors for the first time so far this season with another Sioux City pitcher, Parker Markel, also debuting with the Mariners. A third right-hander, Nick Anderson, who broke into pro baseball in the Frontier League (Rockford and the traveling Frontier Greys), has been with Miami all season. He is 2-2, 4.39 for 27 appearances.
Hectic Pace of Signings by Majors
An unofficial count shows 21 players with time in the Atlantic League and 13 with American Association experience have had their contracts purchased by major league organizations since the end of March with the Frontier and Can-Am Leagues also contributing to the impressive list.
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