With the start of independent minor league baseball right around the corner – the Atlantic League opens in ten days, on April 25 – the time seemed right to finally bust out that Indy Spotlight for which regular readers of this site have surely been clamoring. That was clamoring I heard, was it not?
For this week’s inaugaral segment, I decided to look at something that has always been of interest to me: big name managers of independent minor league teams. There have always been a surprising number of managers with significant professional playing experience and name recognition kicking around in independent ball, especially when we take into account that the level of play is often considered to be a very short leap above the semipro ranks (an unfair characterization, but one that pervades the psyche of the casual fan).
In all actuality, the fact that most of the players aren’t big names explains why many of the managers are. Minor league baseball is a transitory product at any level; I could go to a game tonight and another one next month, featuring the same teams, and see a number of different players. Because of that, teams have to sell other things. Promotions and mascots are two of the big ones, but managers can also be a drawing card, especially if they have some sort of local connection. I worked for the Nashua Pride for two seasons when Butch Hobson was the manager, and I can’t tell you how many times we put out press releases featuring the words, “Red Sox legend Butch Hobson.” We were located less than an hour from Boston, where Hobson had starred in the late 1970s, so we played up that connection like nobody’s business.
Some of the more interesting current independent managers are listed below, but I first wanted to throw out a plea: if anyone knows what Bert Pena is doing these days, can you please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com? Pena was, quite simply, one of the nicest guys I ran across during my time in baseball, which is ironic because, as manager of the Atlantic League’s traveling Road Warriors, he probably had the toughest job of anyone I met. Without knowing all the details, I’d say it’s sad the way Pena was treated by the Atlantic League – he skippered the Road Warriors for several seasons, always with young players and virtually no hope for being competitive, yet the best they could do when the Lancaster Barnstormers entered the league in 2005 was give him a job as the team’s hitting coach. More than just about anyone, Pena deserves the opportunity to run a decent team. If he has received that at some point recently, drop me a line.
Now, on to the fun stuff…
Grand Prairie AirHogs – Pete Incaviglia
Lincoln Saltdogs – Tim Johnson
Shreveport Sports – Terry Bevington
Atlantic League of Professional Baseball
The Atlantic League has always featured the best players and managers of any independent league, and this season is no different. Every manager played in the majors – even Ferguson and Krenchicki, probably the two least recognizable names, stuck around for a combined 22 seasons.
I’m not gonna lie: seeing Von Hayes’ name made me chuckle out loud. I have no idea why, except maybe because I own about 700 copies of his 1988 Topps baseball card.
As I remember it, Krenchicki was pretty decent (he managed the Riversharks when I worked for Nashua), Lyle could be ornery but never a total dick (at least not to me), and Hobson was phenomenal. The Blue Crabs are lucky to have him, because he will do just about anything to help promote the team. It actually got to the point in 2004 that I felt bad about calling him for interviews because he so rarely said no.
Bridgeport Bluefish – Tommy John
Camden Riversharks – Joe Ferguson
Lancaster Barnstormers – Von Hayes
Long Island Ducks – Dave LaPoint
Newark Bears – Wayne Krenchicki
Somerset Patriots – Sparky Lyle
Southern Maryland Blue Crabs – Butch Hobson
York Revolution – Chris Hoiles
Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball
Gedman’s name makes me think of an interesting tidbit. My old boss in Nashua, Todd Marlin, originally went to Worcester before ending up back in the Atlantic League with the Bridgeport Bluefish. Those are his only three minor league jobs and he’s worked with Butch Hobson, Rich Gedman, and Tommy John as his managers.
Atlantic City Surf – Cecil Fielder
Nashua Pride – Rick Miller
Sussex Skyhawks – Hal Lanier
Worcester Tornadoes – Rich Gedman
Continental Baseball League
McKinney Blue Thunder – Curtis Wilkerson
Texarkana Gunslingers – Steve Trout
Golden Baseball League
This just doesn’t seem true: Gary Carter as the manager of an independent baseball team? Wikipedia confirms, however, so I’m staying with it. Leonard and Snyder are just cool, late 1980s-era icing on the cake.
Orange County Flyers – Gary Carter
Reno Silver Sox – Jeffrey Leonard
St. George Roadrunners – Cory Snyder
Joliet JackHammers – Wally Backman
United League Baseball
There was a 1988 Topps baseball card for Doc Edwards in which he looks at first glance to be about 80 years old. I know now that he was about fifty, making him seventy today, but it was still surprising to see his name listed.
San Angelo Colts – Doc Edwards
Next week: Big name players who are slumming it in the Indies this season.