Here at Bus Leagues, we do a lot of writing about top prospects, and with good reason: baseball fans want to hear about guys like Jay Bruce or Max Scherzer, kids with breathtaking talent who can be viewed for the cost of a $7 ticket.
It should be obvious by now, however, that I have a special affinity for the independent leagues, a lost segment of the baseball world that “top prospects” generally stay as far away from as possible. Sure, there’s the occasional Luke Hochevar or J.D. Drew, someone who uses the indies to his benefit while waiting out a desired contract, but those players are few and far between. For the most part, independent leagues feature the Crash Davises of the world, journeymen who made it to The Show for 21 days once and have spent a lifetime doing whatever it takes to get back.
Every so often, a big name with limited options heads into the independent leagues. They do so for varying reasons. Jose Canseco and Rickey Henderson wanted to get back to the majors. Dante Bichette wanted his younger son to see him play and to try his hand at pitching. Rich Garces…well, I don’t know what drives Rich Garces to keep playing in the independent leagues. All I know is that he does – and I’m continuing to reap the benefits.
When Garces played for the Nashua Pride in 2007, the news of his signing led me to write this impassioned rant. It promised to be one of the most exciting things to happen to the city of Nashua in quite some time – and that promise came true. I was at Holman Stadium the night El Guapo arrived, along with my friend Chris. The excitement that Chris and I felt was unreal, and it only increased when they brought Garces out on the maintenance tractor before the game and had him stand at the plate for the national anthem. Talk about your amazing evenings at the ballpark – I don’t even remember if we saw Garces in action, but I do know that by the end of the night, we had rechristened him with a nickname more befitting his still massive girth: “Dark Side of the Moon”.
The Pride announced a couple of days ago that Garces will join the team once again as it defends its Can-Am League title in 2008, which means that I will once again be making several trips to Holman Stadium (the chances of seeing Barack Obama remain slim, however) throughout the summer. I am excited.