Thursday, October 22, 2020


Tampa Bay reliever Nick Anderson is the only player with Independent Baseball experience in the World Series. He would have been joined by two other pitchers, Chris Martin and Tyler Matzek, had Atlanta been able to get past the Dodgers in the final game of the NLCS. 

Anderson is a more than worthy candidate to carry the flag for the 270 other Indy grads (Source: IndyBaseballChatter) who have made it to active major league rosters.  

The 6-foot-4 bearded right-hander was declared the winning pitcher Wednesday night when the Rays evened the World Series against Los Angeles at one win apiece for stopping a potentially devestating fifth inning rally. 

But his standing on behalf of all those who toiled before him in non-affiliated league play is greater because Minnesota native truly came up through the ranks. He spent his first three seasons as a professional after coming out of unheralded Mayville (ND) State and dealing with alcohol and anger-management issues in the longest-tenured active Independent League. 

He was a struggling 6-14 with earned run averages of 7.71 and 6.42 at Rockford, IL of the Frontier League in 2012 and 2013. After a summer of only amateur baseball play, he re-emerged in '15 and proved himself as a reliever (2-0, 13 saves and a 0.65 ERA plus well over a strikeout per inning) for the road-only Frontier Greys so well that the Minnesota Twins purchased his contract for the last month of the season even though he had already turned 25 and had dealt with his personal issues. 

Anderson barely started a game after that (four times with Triple-A Rochester in '18) as he worked his way through the Twins farm system as a big-time strikeout artist, topping it off with 88 K's and only 49 hits allowed in 60 innings for the Red Wings. 

He was traded in the offseason and broke into the majors with the Miami Marlins when the 2019 campaign started, then really started drawing raves after moving to the Rays in a trade-deadline deal. His ERA with Miami was a decent 3.92, but it dipped to 2.11 with Tampa Bay, followed by a tiny 0.55 in 19 regular-season outings this year. By season's end, he had struck out 136 batters and only walked 21 in 81.1 career major league innings. 

Anderson did surrender a solo homer in the sixth to Will Smith, but by that time Tampa Bay had a 6-2 lead and the now 30-year-old had more than earned his keep by striking out Justin Turner to end the previous inning when the Dodgers power guy represented the tying run. That inning had started with what appeared to be a giant 5-0 lead the Rays could not afford to get away and dump them into a two-game deficit. 

From all indications, Anderson will continue to be one of the main keys--if not THE primary one--in Tampa's deep bullpen for the remainder of the World Series. 

The story has a nice ring to it, especially for the Independent Baseball world.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020


Both the NL Division Series between Atlanta and Miami and the ALDS tussle featuring Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees are terrific showcases for the type of relief pitchers Independent Baseball can brag about these days. 

The Braves and Marlins both have a pair of bullpen stars with Indy experience. With Atlanta holding the upper hand entering play Wednesday, southpaw Tyler Matzek and righty Chris Martin are key pieces for getting crucial outs. Matzek was with the Texas AirHogs in the American Association as recently as last season, harnessing his control and preparing for a comeback in the majors after a five-year absence. He struck out three in a row in a key spot for Atlanta in its Game 1 win after being among baseball's busiest relievers during the regular season. 

The same is true for the 6-foot-8 Martin, who started his professional career in the same location although the team was known in those days as the Grand Prairie AirHogs. 

On the suddenly impressive Marlins, Brandon Kintzler (St. Paul, American Association, and Winnipeg when the Goldeyes still were in the Northern League) is the closer. Another right-hander, James Hoyt, has finally started earning important innings after previously struggling to get enough outings during stints with Houston and Cleveland. He also pitched in the American Association (Wichita) although his pro career started in another Indy circuit, the North American League. 

The third reliever in the postseason who got his very first professional opportunity in a non-major league-affiliated league is looking like he could become the best of the group. Right-hander Nick Anderson is being called on whenever the Tampa Bay Rays face their toughest challenges regardless of the inning. Such was the case in Tuesday's second game against the Yankees when the Rays virtually had to win. 

Anderson entered the game with the tying run at the plate in the top of the seventh and promptly struck out Gary Sanchez, DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge. He also pitched a 1-2-3 eighth in the 7-4 victory. 

He was a Frontier League find, pitching for the road-only Frontier Greys as well as Rockford, IL.  

Umpire, Broadcaster Also Step Up 

The Independent Leagues have contributed others to the postseason including umpire Will Little and TV broadcaster Adam Amin. The latter, who gets important play-by-play roles regularly in both football and basketball for ESPN, spent years learning his trade with the Somerset (NJ) Patriots of the Atlantic League. He called Game 1 between Atlanta and Miami.