Archive for September, 2007

Looking for a Baseball Vacation? Try the Arizona Fall League.

arizona_fall_league.gifThe Arizona Fall League is one of the best-kept secrets in baseball.  It’s a six-team instructional league that plays in… um… oh yeah, Arizona!  It allows some of the top prospects the chance to play baseball into October, in the nice weather and relaxed atmosphere of cities like Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, and Peoria.  Games are dirt cheap, and graduates of the AFL are frequently All-Star selections when they make the Show.  So why not catch them on the way up?

MLB.com writer Jonathan Mayo loves the AFL, and he detailed the charms of the league in an article on the site:

“Obviously, the weather is so ideal and I don’t know if you ever get too many chances to see that many players of that caliber on the field at the same time,” said Pirates prospect Neil Walker, who should know considering he played in the league in 2005 and 2006. “I loved going out there. I was hoping to go out there again. Living out there for a month and a half, it’s a nice getaway.”

That’s what baffles me. Who wouldn’t want an AFL getaway? Usually the hardcore baseball fan ferrets out all the cool things to do, hidden diamonds and obvious stops. Yes, Spring Training tends to be the time baseball fans make trips for terrific access and good weather. And, truth be told, you won’t see the Vladimir Guerreros of today if you go to Arizona now like you would if you went in March. But you may see the Vladdy, or Albert (he’s an AFL alum, by the way) of tomorrow.

And it’s dirt cheap. For a family pass — that’s for up to six family members — it’s only $105 for the entire six-week season. Are you single? Only $75 gets you to as many AFL games as you can handle for the season (hurry, though, the season pass is on sale only until Oct. 16).

[MLB.com]

I’m becoming more and more convinced that an enterprising baseball fan could cobble together a schedule that would allow him or her to remain immersed in the game nearly year-round.  With the AFL finishing up in early November, and NCAA ball cranking up in early February, the mega-fan really need only take a short break to spend holidays with the family before soldiering on.

And, even while you’re gorging on turkey at the grown-ups’ table, Bus League Baseball will still be here to keep you informed.

O’Conner Poised for Presidency of MiLB

We wrote a few days ago about Mike Moore stepping down as President of the Minor Leagues after a very successful 16 years at the helm. After a week of deliberations, the Board of Trustees of MiLB has winnowed the four-man field of potential replacements down to one man – Moore’s top VP, Pat O’Conner.

O’Conner had already been the odds-on favorite for the job, having served as Moore’s right-hand man for much of his time as president. O’Conner’s current title is vice president, administration and chief operating officer for MiLB. The other candidates are Dave Chase, who has worked in baseball for more than 30 years and is currently president and general manager of the Memphis Redbirds; Philip Evans, a lawyer who has no baseball experience and worked for the NBA Developmental League from 2001-07; and Jeremy Kapstein, a special adviser for the Red Sox who was noted as one of baseball’s first powerful agents in the 1970s.

(A)ny of the three remaining candidates is free to vie for the job at the Winter Meetings in December, when nominations can be made from the floor during the election process.

[Baseball America]

This has to be one of the most underrated jobs in sports. First of all, I doubt many people know it exists – I didn’t until this week. And only four people applied. One of whom had no experience in baseball at all. I guess running the Minor Leagues still sounds like settling to some executive-types, or else they knew O’Conner was the likely nom and didn’t even feel like challenging, but I’d think if one was president of, say, the Carolina League, one might want to shoot for the next rung up the ladder.

Anyway, we’ll keep an eye on this process, and hopefully, when the dust has settled, we can land an interview with the new Poobah.

Screaming At Players Is Probably Not The Best Way To Get An Autograph

Throughout the 2007 season, San Diego Padres minor leaguer Dirk Hayhurst contributed a “Non-Prospect Diary” to Baseball America, dealing with such topics as autograph requests, the first day of spring training, and bus trips.  The stated goal was to “delve into the side of the minor leagues fans seldom see,” and he accomplished that through a series of well thought out, enjoyable articles.

My personal favorite was the most recent, an entry dated September 25.  Because it was written long after the end of the minor league season and Hayhurst is not on San Diego’s major league roster, I don’t know if it’s an actual true story or a piece of fiction he pulled out of the ether just because he felt like writing.  Either way, there are certain elements included – the behavior of baseball-seeking children, first and foremost – that anyone who has worked around minor league baseball and its fans have to acknowledge are more or less accurate. 

I’ve seen such behavior firsthand, directed at one of the greatest players in baseball history.  Back in 2003, Rickey Henderson spent some time with the Atlantic League’s Newark Bears in the hopes of keeping his skills sharp while waiting for the call from a major league team.  As luck would have it, his first trip to Nashua, New Hampshire coincided with my first day as an intern with the Pride; it’s hard to explain how awesome it was to find myself, about three hours into a brand new job that I knew was going to basically be the hardest work I’d ever done, standing five feet away from Rickey Henderson as a coworker welcomed him to town.  Completely surreal.

That year, the Atlantic League All-Star Game was held in Nashua, and of course Rickey was there.  Prior to the game, as I was running around the field trying to get the media stuff in order (and failing miserably – there are reasons I don’t work in minor league baseball anymore), I saw Rickey standing in left field, about thirty feet away from the railing separating the bleachers from the field – and he was being flat-out hassled by about twenty kids, all looking for a piece of him.

I’ll say it now: I’m all about autographs.  I think they’re great.  My son has signed pictures of Roger Clemens and Carl Yastrzemski hanging in his room, and there will always be a special place for the 1991 Score card that Tony Fossas signed for me at a baseball dinner when I was 12 (he was worried that the pen he was using might damage the card – imagine the shock to my system, at 12 years old, to hear a major league ballplayer expressing concern over my possessions).  I don’t actively pursue such things anymore, but it’s mainly because I’m still fairly shy and am never quite sure how to ask someone to sign something for me.   It’s difficult.

The problem with these kids in the bleachers was their disrespectful tone – the same one mentioned by Hayhurst in his Diary.  They weren’t asking politely for Rickey Henderson (or Mr. Henderson, as you might expect a 12-year-old kid to address a 44-year-old man) to toss them a ball or sign their hat – they were DEMANDING that he do those things, that he comply with their wishes.  If he did, he was alright; if he didn’t, he was a no-good jerk who didn’t care about the people who paid his salary.  How ridiculous is that?

Needless to say, none of those kids got a ball from Rickey.  And every one of them, to this day, probably tells people about the time they saw Rickey Henderson play in Nashua and he wouldn’t even take a second to sign his name for them.  They probably DON’T mention that their request failed to include the word “please.”

Anyway, this turned out to be longer than I expected, so I’ll leave you with a piece of advice: when you ask for an autograph at a game, just be nice.  Yeah, the players are there for your entertainment, and your purchased ticket helps pay their salary, but those aren’t valid excuses for treating them with blatant disrespect.  If you handle yourself well, the majority of players will respond in kind.

Photos: Mahoning Valley Scrappers, courtesy of MCBias.

Today we’ve been set up with a handful of photos via our good friend in blogging, MCBias.

If you like your writing to approach the status quo with a healthy dose of skepticism, MC is your man. He has definite ideas about how blogging should grow, and how it should be conducted from an ethical standpoint. His most recent interview is a two-parter with WNBA star Erin Beuscher. If that’s up your alley, check him out at Moderately Cerebral Bias.

But I’ve made him sound like a wonk. He’s also a lot of fun, as these photos of MC and friends at a Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Indians Short-Season A) game will attest.

scrappersfriends.JPG scrappersfriendsmascot.JPG scrappersmascotlove1.JPG scrappersfield.JPG scrappergrabsmaller.JPG

Looks like a good time, MC. To us, this is what the Bus Leagues are all about.

If you want to share your photos, contact us at busleagues (at) gmail (dot) com.

MiLB Execs Not Content to Rest on their Inflatible Bouncy Balls

milbpromoseminar.PNGIf you’ve ever wondered where minor league teams come up with those wacky on-field promotions and bobble-head nights, I think we may have found the answer.

Apparently, Birmingham, Alabama (The Magic City) plays host to the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. Execs from every level of baseball come to learn the latest innovations in air-guitar contests, bat-spin races, and pie-eating competitions. The event started today and runs through the weekend. Check out this pull-quote from “The Emperor”:

The 2006 promotional seminar was the first that I had the opportunity to attend. I loved the fact that all of the vendors’ booths and team attendees were in the same room. This really fostered a culture of camaraderie and sharing that I have never seen in any other sports marketing seminar. Not only did I get the opportunity to meet with virtually every one of my clients in Minor League baseball but those meetings were relaxed, informal and proved more fruitful because of it. Hats off to the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar staff for their hard work and vision! I will see you in 2007.”

David Raymond
Emperor of Fun and Games
Raymond Entertainment

[MiLB.com]

Birmingham, lock up your daughters. The Minor League Baseball Executives are hitting town on Friday night! Seriously, though. I would be like a kid in a candy store at this thing. I love minor league promotions. Looks like we’re too late to get in this year, but maybe OMDQ and I can put on our mascot suits and attend in 2008.

Chinese National Team to Play in Arizona Fall League

chinabaseball.jpgHere’s a thought that never even occurred to me – If China is hosting the 2008 Olympics, do they have to compete in every sport? Whether they have to or not, apparently they want to. And one of the sports they’re not so good at is baseball. So, apparently, we’re helping them out a bit, by letting their team barnstorm and train a little bit in the U.S. Specifically, the Arizona Fall League.

The Chinese National Team, hosted by Major League Baseball, begins a 16-game schedule of Instructional League games against Minor League players on Tuesday, in preparation for the six contests in the AFL. This trip will mark Team China’s fourth stint in Instructional League. Former Major League manager Jim Lefebvre and pitching coach Bruce Hurst lead the Chinese team on the field. Team China is training at the complex of the San Diego Padres in Peoria, Arizona.

[The Biz of Baseball]

Apparently Barry Larkin will be providing some coaching assistance as well.  I know the U.S. and China have some issues to work out between us, and China has a horrible human rights record, but a big part of me still likes to hear about these kinds of things.  Because the more that Chinese citizens find out what we’re all about, the more likely there is to be a change some day.

Plus, there has to be some seriously goofy baseball going on.

Michael Jordan: Making Life More Comfortable for the Less Fortunate Since 1993

One of these days I’ll get around to matching Extra P’s productivity and writing something that contains actual literary stuff like “complete sentences” and “paragraphs”. Until then, you’ll just have to be content with this enjoyable tale of Michael Jordan’s days as a Birmingham Baron and the good deed he did to help out his considerably less wealthy teammates.

Oh, and I don’t want to scare anyone, but that IS Terry Francona discussing the smells and stinks that are usually found on minor league buses. And he has hair. My world has officially been turned upside down.