Could it be that this is turning into one of Independent Baseball's most magical years for getting players to the major leagues?
Thirty-seven onetime Indy players were active on major league rosters all of last season. The count for 2019 already has climbed to 35 with several weeks to go, including the September opportunity with expanded rosters still to play out.
Even if the count does not get much bigger because of the challenge of finding open spots on 40-man rosters, the year has considerable magic. Check out these reasons:
1. Eight players have made their major league debut this season.
2. Three of them are greater prizes since they started their professional career in an Independent league.
3. Three others already have experienced the rarity of playing in an Indy circuit and then in the majors in the same season.
Oh, and it is not just the Fab Four of established leagues (Atlantic, American Association, Can-Am, Frontier) getting the thrill of seeing their players reach The Show. The United Shore, Pacific Association and Pecos League all have contributed.
The Pecos League could smile once more today when right-handed pitcher Eric Yardley, who turned 29 only three days ago, got his first major league call to join the San Diego Padres. Yardley came out of Seattle University in 2013, and when offers did not come along from a major league organization the Richland, WA native joined Taos and Trinidad for three and four-game stints, respectively. The Padres made him part of their organization later that season, and the 6-foot hurler started making his way up thru the farm system where he toiled every season. His debut Wednesday afternoon became a struggle when he was charged with three runs (only one was earned) in one-third inning of relief in which he was tabbed with the 4-2 loss to Cincinnati, but he now will be listed in every future Baseball Encyclopedia regardless of what the rest of the season involves.
Righty Randy Dobnak took a similar route from Division II Alderson-Broaddus College in West Virginia to the Utica Unicorns of the young United Shore League two seasons ago, and the 24-year-old progressed through three levels of Minnesota's farm system this season to join the postseason-likely Twins for a short time this month. He got into only one major league game before being optioned to Triple-A Rochester, but with four scoreless innings against rival Cleveland it would seem he will be back before long.
The third--and most successful of the three who started in Independent play and debuted in the majors this season--is still another right-hander, Nick Anderson, who started with Miami before being dealt to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline. He now ranks highly in the Rays' prized bullpen, which may well pitch them into the American League playoffs. Anderson appeared in his 54th game Wednesday afternoon, working a scoreless inning for his ninth hold as the Rays edged Seattle by a run. Anderson has gaudy strikeout numbers with 87 in 52.2 innings while compiling a 4-4 record and 3.25 ERA for the season. The Frontier League was his launch site as he worked for the traveling Frontier Greys as well as for Rockford.
The others making major league debuts this season have been infielder Ryan Court and pitchers Zac Grotz, Parker Markel, Chris Mazza (San Rafael, Pacific Association, in addition to Southern Maryland of the Atlantic League) and Tayler Scott.
Court and pitchers Tim Melville and Ross Detwiler have made the climb from the Atlantic League to the majors this season. Court was with Sugar Land, Detwiler with York and Melville joined Colorado after earlier playing for Long Island.
Melville, who has five previous major league appearances in other seasons with three other teams, appeared well on his way to his first career victory as this post was being written. He had given up only one run and two hits in seven innings and also had driven in two runs as the Rockies were winning handily at Arizona, 7-1.
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Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Former chief spokesman for Major League Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth. Six years as publicity director for the Kansas City Royals, and a background in newspaper, radio and television. Started Wirz & Associates, a sports PR and consulting firm, in 1985. Has written extensively on Independent Baseball since 2003.