Archive for March, 2008

Spotlight on A Ball – 3/31/2008

aquasox_logo.gifWith 300+ minor league teams in these United States, OMDQ and I will need some way to focus our energies, and this is one way we figured to do it. Monday is “A” ball day. That will include Rookie League and every form of A ball. Wednesday we’ll check out the AA clubs, and then on Friday on up to AAA. We’ll also develop a few weekly features to slot in on the other two days in the rotation.

So, for today, here’s the A News:

The Danville Braves of the Appalachian League are preparing to enter 2008 with a new manager. Former coach Mel Roberts passed away on September 1, 2007, just one day after his club finished their season. Roberts was 64 years old, and had coached at every level in the Braves’ minor league organization. The Braves have turned to a familiar face – new coach Paul Runge led the Atlanta affiliate to an Appy League championship in 2006.

In happier news for the Appy League, the Mariners have brought baseball back to Pulaski, VA. The Blue Jays pulled out of Pulaski before the 2007 season, leaving the league with an unbalanced schedule for one year, but the Mariners have filled that void.

The Casper Ghosts (Rockies) of the Pioneer League are offering Glow-in-the-dark caps this season.

The Midwestern League’s Beloit Snappers (Twins) will welcome 7’1″ Dutch prospect Loek Van Mil to their roster this season. The righty moved up from the Rookie League this season to become the tallest player on a pitching staff that boasts exclusively six-footers and above.

The Greensboro Grasshoppers (Marlins) of the South Atlantic League have an impressive new presence on the web. Sports writer and season-ticket holder Will Brinson will be covering his hometown team at the new site GrassBloggers.

The Lancaster JetHawks are ready to fly in 2008. The Red Sox A-Advanced affiliate has a full-size FA-18 outside their stadium, and it’s pointed at the sky.

You have to love a Fan Festival hosted by Warthogs. This will be the Winston-Salem (White Sox) club’s last opening day at Ernie Shore Field, as they look forward to a gleaming new downtown stadium in 2009.

In listing their Ten Names to Know, the A-Advanced Florida State League included the awesomely-named Razor Shines, manager of the Clearwater Threshers (Phillies). Aside from his name, the guy can obviously coach, and we might see him in the bigs someday soon.

The State College Spikes are the Short-Season A affiliate for Pittsburgh. Which explains the excellent motto “The Bucs Start Here”.

And just allow me to close by saying I love the Everett Aquasox (Mariners) frog-based logo. If I had to pick one item to buy via internet, I think it would be, well, the socks.

That’s the news I was able to cull by randomly dropping by the league sites. If you are a fan of a team, and would like to let me know about something great going on in your town, drop me a line or a link at busleagues (at) gmail (dot) com.

Advertisements

Fare Thee Well, Elliot Spitzer Night

Earlier this month, team officials for the Macon Music, a participant in the independent South Coast League, announced plans for “Elliot Spitzer Night” at the ballpark, to be held June 13.  The idea took advantage of Spitzer’s disgrace to draw the team national attention at both the mainstream media and blogosphere levels.  EVERYONE was talking about it.

Unfortunately, I’ve fallen behind in my reading recently, so it was only today that I stumbled upon two very sad factoids:

1) On May 22, the Music announced that in light of fan dissatisfaction, they were canceling the event.  A poll on the team’s Web site showed that 55% of respondents were in favor of letting Spitzer off the hook, which surprises me because I didn’t think anything in the event description was too ridiculous; it’s not like they were giving away coupons for free hookers at the gates or anything (although it should have been a lock for sponsorship by any motels with questionable reputations in the area).

2) Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that the South Coast League was suspending operations for the season due to “unrest throughout its organization and weakness in the economy”.  They had already pared the league down to four teams: the Music, South Georgia Peanuts, Anderson Joes, and Aiken Foxhounds.

Unless some funding magically appears, the SCL is probably no more (it’s bad enough when single teams have to shut down for financial reasons; when entire leagues go that route, it’s not good news), but that has turned into the secondary point here.  The real question is this: what happens to Elliot Spitzer Night?

Sadly, it has probably gone the way of dinosaurs and dodo birds.  Mildly offensive though it was, this was one of the more interesting minor league promotions that I had seen planned for this season, but the Music screwed it up by coming up with it and not following through, thereby ruining it for any other team that might have had the creativity and wherewithal to put together a truly outstanding night.  No one wants to take sloppy seconds on an idea as cool as this.  So sad

Where Can We Find Top Prospects In 2008?

One of Extra P’s stated goals for this season is to track some of baseball’s top prospects as they play minor league ball and try to get to The Show.  On that note, here are the Top 10 prospects according to Baseball America and their initial destinations for 2008:

1.  Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds – Louisville Bats (AAA)
2.  Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays – Durham Bulls (AAA)
3.  Joba Chamberlain, RHP, New York Yankees – New York Yankees (MLB)
4.  Clay Buchholz, RHP, Boston Red Sox – Boston Red Sox (MLB)
5.  Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis Cardinals – Memphis Redbirds (AAA)
6.  Cameron Maybin, OF, Florida Marlins – Carolina Mudcats (AA)
7.  Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers – Jacksonville Suns (AA)
8.  Franklin Morales, LHP, Colorado Rockies – Colorado Rockies (MLB)
9.  Homer Bailey, RHP, Cincinnati Reds – Louisville Bats (AAA)
10.  David Price, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays – Vero Beach (Advanced A) – Price is also expected to miss the first six weeks of the season with a strained muscle in his forearm
11.  Travis Snider, OF, Toronto Blue Jays – New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA)
12.  Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles – Frederick Keys (Advanced A)
13.  Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox – Boston Red Sox (MLB)
14.  Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates – Indianapolis Indians (AAA)
15.  Jake McGee, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays – Montgomery Biscuits (AA)
16.  Brandon Wood, 3B/SS, Los Angeles Angels – Salt Lake Bees (AAA)
17.  Wade Davis, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays – Montgomery Biscuits (AA)
18.  Mike Moustakas, SS, Kansas City Royals – Burlington Royals (Rookie)
19.  Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers – Frisco RoughRiders (AA)
20.  Fernando Martinez, OF, New York Mets

I live in New Hampshire, so you can probably look forward to reading a post or two about Snider – unless he gets called up to the big club before I can see him, which seems unlikely.  He is battling a sore elbow, so we’ll see how that effects his early usage.

If you’re interested in the breakdown by level, that’s four major leaguers, six AAAs, six AAs, two Advanced As, one Rookie, and one undetermined (my assumption is that Fernando Martinez will start the season in Triple A, but there was no evidence to support that). 

Interesting to note, on the heels of the “Is Evan Longoria Ready For The Majors” debate, that three of the four major leaguers play for the Red Sox or Yankees.  The Rays, on the other hand, had four names listed in this particular Top 10 list…and all will start 2008 in the minors, three of them at AA or lower.

Reliving the Summer of Baseball

Last summer I took my son to nearly every minor league ballpark in our home state of Virginia. I called it “The Summer of Baseball”, and published some of my photos on this blog. I ended up writing an article about it for Camperways magazine, which runs destination features for fans of RV travel. At the time we had seven teams active in the area.

Since then, the Atlanta Braves have announced that they will be moving their AAA affiliate from Richmond to the Atlanta suburbs, and the Rookie level Pulaski facility, which had its Blue Jays affiliation yanked before I could visit, is now back in the game as the lowest level of the Mariners organization.

The article was published tabloid-style, so I had trouble scanning single pages – hope you can stand to read the giant .jpgs I made instead.

vabaseballpage1.jpg

vabaseballpage2.jpg

vabaseball5.jpg

I love going to games, and I love to write about it, but I don’t know jack about making readable internet files.

How to Make the Show as an Umpire

umpire

That guy who calls your kids’ Tee-ball games? He might be in the majors some day. The Rocktown Weekly out of Harrisonburg, VA interviewed a minor-league ump and found that these guys have big league aspirations. But you don’t just apply to MLB, an official has to work his way up just like any other prospect.

Here’s how it worked for Minor League ump Tom Honec:

Honec heeded the call and headed to Jim Evans’ Academy of Professional Umpiring in Kissimmee, Fla., for a five-week training course. Every morning, a hundred ump-wannabes packed into a classroom to study the rulebook. Then they headed out under the hot Florida sun for on-field demonstrations, situations and positions.

Both schools — the other is Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires in Ormond Beach, Fla. — send 20 potential umps to a one-week evaluation course in Cocoa Beach, Fla. The Minor Leagues offered jobs to 15 of those.

Honec, “one of the lucky 15,” went pro last spring as a rookie league umpire, and moved up to short A in July.

[Rocktown Weekly]

The article does not reveal when the ritual blinding takes place, but we think it’s safe to assume that a true prospect couldn’t get past AA with full sight.

[Association of Minor League Umpires]

You Can Adopt a Red Sox Prospect

Yet another glimpse into the not so glamorous life of minor league baseball players; the Portland Sea Dogs, Boston’s AA team, are asking for an interesting favor from families in the Portland, Maine area.

Have you ever wanted to live with a professional baseball player? Here’s your chance…the Portland Sea Dogs, Double-A affiliate of the World Champion Boston Red Sox, are in need of host families for the 2008 season. Host families are asked to house a Sea Dogs player for little or no rent throughout their time in Portland. The Sea Dogs season runs from April through September with the players spending half that time on the road. While at home, most of the time is spent at the ballpark.
The players usually involve their host families in many of the team functions including tickets to the games. You could be living with the next Jonathan Papelbon or Jacoby Ellsbury!

There are many factors one needs to consider before making such an important decision:

Pros: 

-Conversation starter

-Could end up with someone like Sox #3 prospect Justin Masterson (SP) or #6 prospect Michael Bowden (SP), get a ton of merchandise signed and sell itwhen they make it big

-Get on the good side of Sox/Dogs management, recieve season tickets and team related merchandise for life

-Tell player to get the word out about hall of fame potential, which leads to major $$ after signing with Scott Boras

-Get a chance to pester him with questions after a game: “remember when you hit that double…that was awesome!”

-You assemble the best wiffle ball team on the block

-Or you hate the Red Sox and take the opportunity to sabatoge them once and for all, so that your favorite team can regain supremacy in the American League

Cons:

-Could get stuck with a player que no habla ingles

-Player gets injured in your house, making you a wanted man/woman/family in the eyes of management. No season tickets or merchandise

-Potential headcase/control freak

-Humiliation by friends and neighbors years down the road if you house the next Carl Pavano instead of the next Johnathan Papelbon

Godspeed to everyone in Portland who is actually going through with this. If you have a story to tell, send it to us, we’d love to hear it.

Want to Live with a Sea Dog? [Portland Sea Dogs]

Finally, the NCAA Tournament and MiLB Come Together

First off, I should probably introduce myself. I’m Sam and Eric and OMDQ have been generous enough to let me join the crew here at the Bus Leagues. I’ll be giving insights on the Eastern Leauge (AA).

Considering that March is synonomous with all sports fans to college basketball, I figured that it would be fitting to link that with this site. For the second year in a row, the Trenton Thunder are running an NCAA Bracket Challenge at CBSSports.com. First place recieves a luxury suite for a night, which includes 25 tickets. Second place recieves 2 half season tickets (36 games) and the third place finisher recieves 2 10 game pic-a-plans. The entry deadline is noon on Thursday, which is when the tourney tips off for those not in the know.

I actually think this is a really good idea to grow interest as the season opener nears (April 3rd for EL teams). So if you live close to Trenton and enjoy minor league baseball and also think you have the perfect bracket, why not kill two birds with one stone?

2008 Thunder Bracket Challenge [Trenton Thunder]