Archive for the ‘Atlantic League’ Category

Indy Spotlight – The Ballparks

Minor league ballparks have always been a source of fascination for me.  One of the most interesting things about working for the Nashua Pride (how many more mentions can I make of that job before the hate mail starts rolling in?) was “Historic” Holman Stadium, a city-owned ballpark that played host to a number of amateur activities (including, for many years, high school football) as well as the various professional baseball teams that rolled through the area over the years. 

Holman Stadium was, by far, the oldest ballpark in the Atlantic League; I’m fairly certain that the league’s six other venues were all built in 1998 or later.  But one thing that I always liked about Holman, and this may just be the home team bias talking, was the history that had taken place there.  It was the place where Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe had played in 1946, to become the first black ballplayers to see action for a professional team based in the United States.  Sure, the layout is terrible – the field of play isn’t visible from the main concourse, for example, so on a busy night, you could go for a hot dog and miss three innings – but there was, and still is, a certain charm to the place. 

But don’t take my word for it.  I still get all misty when I visit Fenway Park.

There are 62 independent teams in action this season, 61 of which have home stadiums.  Wikipedia lists the cost information for 20 stadiums, the year opened for 55 stadiums, and the capacity for 60 stadiums.  Using that, I put together a few lists – oldest and youngest ballparks, biggest ballparks, most expensive, yadda yadda yadda.  It’s interesting stuff, but take it with a grain of salt.  For one, the information is from Wikipedia, and two, the listed capacities aren’t always accurate.  For instance, Lancaster’s Clipper Magazine Stadium is noted as having a capacity of up to 7,500.  On Opening Night, however, they set an Atlantic League record by packing 8,485 fans into the place.  Obviously, there’s a slight difference there, probably due to standing room, but still – grain of salt.

Five Oldest Independent Ballparks
Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field (Worcester Tornadoes, Can-Am League) – Opened in 1905
Bosse Field (Evansville Otters, Frontier League) – Opened in 1915
Bringhurst Field (Alexandria Aces, United League) – Opened in 1933
Lawrence-Dumont Stadium (Wichita Wingnuts, American Association) – Opened in 1934
Holman Stadium (Nashua Pride, Can-Am League) – Opened in 1937

Four Newest Independent Ballparks
QuikTrip Park at Grand Prairie (Grand Prairie AirHogs, American Association) – 2008
Regency Furniture Stadium (Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, Atlantic League) – 2008
Sovereign Bank Stadium (York Revolution, Atlantic League) – 2007
Rent One Park (Southern Illinois Miners, Frontier League) – 2007

Five Most Expensive Independent League Ballparks
U.S. Steel Yard (Gary SouthShore RailCats, Northern League) – $45 million
Sovereign Bank Stadium (York Revolution, Atlantic League) – $32.5 million
Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium (Newark Bears, Atlantic League) – $30 million
Haymarket Park (Lincoln Saltdogs, American Association) – $29.53 million
Silver Cross Field (Joliet JackHammers, Northern League) – $27 million

Five Largest Independent League Ballparks (in terms of capacity)
Desert Sun Stadium (Yuma Scorpions, Golden Baseball League) – 10,500
Ottawa Stadium (Ottawa Rapids, Can-Am League) – 10,332
Telus Field (Edmonton Cracker-Cats, Golden Baseball League) – 10,000
Cohen Stadium (El Paso Diablos, American Association) – 9,725
Haymarket Park (Lincoln Saltdogs, American Association) – 8,500

Oldest Average Ballpark Age By League
United League Baseball – 41.4 years
Can-Am League – 37.375 years
Golden Baseball League – 30 years
American Association – 26.2 years
Frontier League – 21 years
Northern League – 7.83 years
Atlantic League – 5.875 years
Continental Baseball League – 5.5 years

Largest Average Capacity By League
Northern League – 6,078
American Association – 5,833
Atlantic League – 5,678
Golden Baseball League – 5,367
Can-Am League – 4,866
United League Baseball – 4,840
Frontier League – 4,647
Continental Baseball League – 2,107

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Indy Spotlight – Holding the Flavor of the Month’s – Ahem – in the Bus Leagues

When I promised last week to provide a relatively accurate list of former major leaguers that are currently listed on independent rosters, I had no idea what a task it would become.  Did you guys know there are like eight independent leagues out there?  Eighty or so teams?  Somewhere in the vicinity of 1,600 players?  That’s a lot of players.  Throw in a vicious flu/bronchitis that hit on Monday morning and it’s a miracle we’re here today, only one day behind schedule.

The list below isn’t perfect.  There have been some signings since I copied all the rosters into Word, the most obvious of which I accounted for, but I didn’t go through and enter every name into BR to see if somebody had four games of experience in 1999. 

Not surprisingly, the Atlantic League dominates this list, with 56 former big leaguers under contract thus far.  The ALPB has been one of the top independent leagues in the country for ten years now, the place where high-level talent goes when they have something to prove.  In 2001, Jose Canseco started the year with the Newark Bears (including a record crowd of over 4,800 on Opening Day in Nashua) before finishing the year (and his major league career) with the Chicago White Sox.  Two years later, Rickey Henderson took the same route, playing for Newark (literally an hour into my first day as an intern with the Pride, I tagged along with another intern who had been assigned to meet Henderson at his car) before the Dodgers came calling for the last thirty games.  And my personal favorite?  Dante Bichette, who joined the Pride in late July of 2004 after skipping two full seasons, took about a week to shake the rust off, then put on a clinic over the final month.

Will any of the guys on this list follow in the footsteps of Canseco, Henderson, Brendan Donnelly, or any of the other guys who used the independent leagues to get one more shot at the big time?  Too early to tell, but we’ll try to keep an eye on it as the season progresses.  (Some of the more interesting names are in bolded italics.  Guys that I’m not 100% certain about are listed as “possible”.)

American Association (A – AA)

Lincoln Saltdogs
Felix Jose (OF) – 1988-95, 2000, 2002-03 – Jose was the Atlantic League’s Co-MVP with the Nashua Pride in 1998.

Pensacola Pelicans
John Webb (P) – 2004-05

Sioux City Explorers
Dusty Bergman (P) – 2004

Sioux Falls Canaries
Pat Mahomes (P) – 1992-97, 1999-03

Wichita Wingnuts
Kevin Hooper (IF) – 2005-06
Dustan Mohr (OF) – 2001-07

Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (AA – AAA)

Bridgeport Bluefish
Adam Greenberg (IF) – 2005 – Greenberg had one of the craziest careers ever, taking a pitch off the head during his first major league at-bat.  He left the game and has not appeared in a big league uniform since.
Alex Prieto (IF) – 2003-04
Tim Drew (P) – 2000-04 – The middle of the three baseball-playing Drew brothers, Tim and J.D. played together on the 2004 Atlanta Braves.
T.J. Tucker (P) – 2000, 2002-05
Eric Dubose (P) – 2002-06
Matt Ford (P) – 2003

Camden Riversharks
Kevin Walker (LHP) – 2000-05
Jason Phillips (1B/C) – 1999, 2002-03
Josh Rabe (OF) – 2006-07
Mike Vento (OF) – 2005-06

Lancaster Barnstormers
Matt LeCroy (C-1B) – 2000-07
John Nelson (SS) – 2006
Sendy Rleal (P) – 2006

Long Island Ducks
Tom Martin (P) – 1997-07
Jason Simontacchi (P) – 2002-04, 2007
Joe Valentine (P) – 2003-05
Brent Abernathy (IF) – 2001-03, 2005
Donaldo Mendez (IF) – 2001, 2003
Pete Rose, Jr. (IF) – 1997
Carl Everett (OF) – 1993-2006
Damian Rolls (OF) – 2000-04
Jamal Strong (OF) – 2003, 2005

Newark Bears
Bobby Hill (IF) – 2002-05
Ramon Castro (IF) – 2004
Randall Simon (IF) – 1997-99, 2001-06
Cory Aldridge (OF) – 2001
Keith Reed (OF) – 2005
Ruben Mateo (OF) – 1999-2004
Jose Herrera (OF) – 1995-96
Al Levine (P) – 1996-2005
Benito Baez (P) – 2001
Edwin Almonte (P) – 2003
J.J. Trujillo (P) – 2002
Will Cunnane (P) – 1997-2004

Somerset Patriots
Michael Ryan (OF) – 2000-05
Jeff Duncan (OF) – 2003-04
Brandon Knight (P) – 2001-02
Scott Wiggins (P) – 2002
Bret Prinz (P) – 2001-05, 2007
Andy Van Hekken (P) – 2002
Brian Reith (P) – 2001, 2003-04

Southern Maryland Blue Crabs
Jeff Farnsworth (P) – 2002
John Halama (P) – 1998-2006
Adam Johnson (P) – possible – 2001, 2003
Jason Pearson (P) – 2002-03
Carlos Perez (P) – possible – 1995, 1997-2000
Dan Reichert (P) – 1999-2003
Damian Jackson (IF) – possible – 1996-2006
Greg Blosser (OF) – 1993-94 – Anyone else surprised that Blosser only played 22 games in the majors?
Eric Crozier (OF) – 2004

York Revolution
Wayne Franklin (P) – 2000-06
Pete Munro (P) – 1999-2000, 2002-04
Aaron Myette (P) – 1999-2004
Aaron Rakers (P) – 2004-05, 2007
Corey Thurman (P) – 2002-03
Dave Veres (P) – 1994-2003

Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball (A)

New Jersey Jackals
Joel Bennett (P) – 1998-99
Luke Allen (OF) – 2002-03

Ottawa Rapids
Napoleon Calzado (OF) – 2005

Sussex Skyhawks
Yohanny Valera (C ) – 2000
Walter Young (1B) – 2005

Golden Baseball League (AA)

Edmonton Cracker-Cats
Augustine Montero (P) – possible – 2006
Hector Ramirez (P) – possible – 1999-2000

Yuma Scorpions
Pascual Matos (C ) – 1999

Northern League (A-AA)

Gary SouthShore RailCats
Tony Cogan (P) – 2001

Joliet JackHammers
David Moraga (P) – 2000
Juan Carlos Diaz (INF) – 2002

Schaumburg Flyers
James Lofton (INF) – 2001 – I have an absolutely awesome story that features Lofton as the central figure.  I’ve been meaning to write it up for about two years now – maybe this blog will give me the momentum to do so.
Rontrez Johnson (OF) – 2003
Jermaine Allensworth (OF) – 1996-99
Bo Hart (INF) – 2003-04

United League Baseball

Laredo Broncos
Edgard Clemente (OF) – 1998-2000

San Angelo Colts
Matt Duff (P) – possible – 2002

Two Roads Diverged

On a shelf in my parents’ living room, there is a baseball signed by every attendee of the 2004 New Hampshire Baseball Dinner. Some of the names are starting to fade, but most are still clearly visible. Jim Rice. Johnny Pesky. Rick Wise. Butch Hobson. Bill Monbouquette. It’s one of those items that is pretty cool to have, even if the actual monetary value is probably nonexistent.

In addition to some of the big name stars who signed balls for fans that night, there were a couple of relative nobodies, minor leaguers who had played their high school ball in New Hampshire and were now working their butts off for the opportunity to play in the major leagues.

Manchester’s David Williamson (for some reason, all the stats sites refer to him as “Willie” Williamson) was a former seventh round pick by the Cardinals out of UMass-Lowell who was starting to run into some serious and confusing trouble. Like Steve Blass, Mark Wohlers, and others before him, Williamson was a pitcher with immense physical talent who, somewhere along the way, had forgotten how to throw strikes. In 2002, with the Low A New Jersey Cardinals, he appeared in six games, all starts, posting a 2.25 ERA, 10.13 K/9, 7.13 BB/9, and a 1.29 WHIP in 24 innings pitched. His line the following year? 17 games, four starts, 9.90 ERA, 7.20 K/9, 15.30 BB/9, 2.45 WHIP in 20 innings pitched. In 2004, he ended up at the end of the world, in Nashua, pitching for the Pride, hoping to figure out the problem and capitalize on his potential. Didn’t happen. I distinctly remember watching him in one of the three games he pitched – he got two quick strikes on one of the hitters he faced, then hit the backstop on the fly with his next pitch. He ended up appearing in a total of eight games between Nashua and Pennsylania (the league’s traveling team, which really WAS the end of the world for most guys), walking 31 batters in 7 2/3 innings. Just like that, his career was over.

The other minor leaguer at the dinner that night was Litchfield’s Kyle Jackson, a 32nd round selection by the Boston Red Sox in June 2001. Unlike Williamson, Jackson has achieved limited success at the minor league level; for awhile, he was even included on Boston’s 40-man roster. He suffered a setback in 2007, however, going 4-9 with a 5.99 ERA in 42 relief appearances at AA Portland. Now 25 and in his seventh minor league season, Jackson’s career is at a critical stage. Will he finally follow in the footsteps of Charlie Zink and Chris Smith (Portland’s “Governor” and “Mayor”, respectively, as Kevin Gray tells us at the beginning of a story on Jackson in today’s Union Leader), who left the Sea Dogs after a combined nine seasons with the team, moving down the highway to AAA Pawtucket? Or does Jackson’s story end before he walks down the tunnel, through the dugout, and out onto the impossibly green grass of Fenway Park? At this point, only time will tell.

Independent League Opening Dates

Opening dates for the eight independent leagues currently scheduled to operate in 2008:

Atlantic League – April 25

American Association – May 7 (Sioux City @ Wichita only); full schedule begins May 8

United League Baseball – May 13

Northern League – May 15

Frontier League – May 18 (Washington @ Chillicothe only); full schedule begins May 21

Canadian-American League – May 22

Golden Baseball League – May 22

Continental Baseball League – May 23

Interns Wanted for York Revolution

york.gifIf you’re interested in working in the bus leagues, the York Revolution are currently seeking an intern. As always, flexibility is key, salary is low, and the future is dim. But it’s baseball, and if you’re young and single, you can afford to give it a shot and try to work your way up.

Although every Revolution intern can count on getting a well-rounded experience, each intern will be assigned to a specific area of the operation as their primary focus. The potential areas of concentration are:

  • Season Ticket and Plan Sales
  • Group Ticket Sales
  • Box Office Operations
  • Public Relations
  • Marketing
  • Community Relations
  • Corporate Partnership
  • Stadium Operations
  • Baseball Operations

  • [Keystone Baseball]

    I think my friends who have done this type of job (including OMDQ) can agree that sales is a pretty big part of the gig. But there’s a lot of fun involved, too, along with a chance to move up in the ranks. Can you make it to the show as an intern? Probably not, but maybe you can lay the foundations.

    We Now Have a Role Model

    OMDQ and I often joke about how we’re going to become famous for our travels in search of minor-league baseball. Apparently, it’s already been done, but it only made one man Lancaster-famous.

    LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. – A love of America’s Pastime, a chance to see the country and some downtime after his manufacturing company stopped production were the key factors in guiding Chuck Barrage’s minor-league baseball journey this season.

    Barrage, of Honey Brook, has visited 84 minor and major league parks since the beginning of 2007, seeing every home team play in four leagues and collecting a variety of memorabilia along the way.

    [Lancaster Intelligencer]

    He traveled as far north as Maine and as far south as Mexico, and he has the memorabilia to prove it.

    But he doesn’t have a blog, so we’re still one step ahead.

    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.