Archive for the ‘Frontier League’ Category

ESPN’s E:60 to Feature a Bus Leaguer

faiola_thumbnail_largeGenerally speaking, I’m not a big fan of having my heart warmed. That usually means someone is going to toy with my emotions somehow. But I’ll make an exception for Josh Faiola, the Frontier League player who stayed in an old folks’ home this season.

ESPN will tell Faiola’s story on October 27 at 7pm, and they were kind enough to provide us with this dandy sneak preview:

“Assisted Living” Excerpt

I guess the Annie Savoy situation is just a fantasy.

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2009 Bus Leagues Independent Awards

Andrew approached me last week with a complaint: in compiling the list of nominees for the Bus Leagues Player of the Year award, I had neglected to include representatives from any of the independent leagues.

You could argue that this was an inexcusable offense for someone with my background; I prefer to imagine that it was my way of protesting the likely death of independent baseball in Nashua (note: it was the first reason).

In the end I figured it was worth it to go through each of the independent leagues that played in 2009 and try to find some of the top performers.  And was I ever glad that I did, because there were some crazy numbers posted around the independents this year.

(A note on the selection process: rather than pester the guys who voted for the affiliated Player and Pitcher of the Year awards, I decided to just make this call on my own, with some input from Andrew.  It just figured to be easier that way.  I also added a Reliever of the Year award as a nod to those who didn’t like the fact that all pitchers were combined for the affiliated award.)

Independent Player of the Year
Joey Metropoulos, Southern Illinois Miners (Frontier League)

joey metropoulosCutting the list of offensive players down to about ten names was easy.  Getting it to six was tough, but doable.  Picking a winner was damn near impossible.  Finally, in a fit of “I just don’t know what to do,” I decided to take drastic measures, reading each player’s name to my wife and grading based on her reaction.  The first few were lukewarm: “eh”, “maybe”, and one flat-out “no”.  Then I got to Joey Metropoulos, who was greeted with such an enthusiastic “YES!” that I was, quite frankly, a little concerned.

So Metropoulos had the benefit of having a great name, one that is strong and lends itself well to a variety of nicknames (the one I’m using right now is “Captain Metropoulos”).  That got things off to a good start.  As luck would have it, he also had a tremendous offensive season, hitting .317 with 31 homeruns, 82 RBI and a 1.061 (.651 SLG/.410 OBP) OPS.  Just for kicks, I figured out what his numbers would have been over the course of a 162 game season (he actually played in 96 games) – how does 52 homeruns and 138 RBI sound?

For Metropoulos’ troubles, he won the Frontier League’s Most Valuable Player award and earned a spot on Baseball America’s postseason All-Independent Leagues First Team.

Honorable Mention
Ernie Banks, River City Rascals (Frontier League): 24 HR, 75 RBI, .353/.668/.437
Nelson Castro, Calgary Vipers (Golden Baseball League): 11 HR, 81 RBI, 33 SB, .410/.647/.460
Jason James, Rockford Riverhawks (Frontier League): 14 HR, 48 RBI, .374/.571/.455, 40-game hitting streak
Charlton Jimerson, Newark Bears (Atlantic League): 21 HR, 62 RBI, 38 SB, .335/.567/.387
Greg Porter, Wichita Wingnuts (American Association): 21 HR, 86 RBI, .372/.617/.453

Independent Pitcher of the Year
Kyle Wright, Rockford Riverhawks (Frontier League)

kyle wrightKyle Wright was, after much deliberation, my first choice for Independent Pitcher of the Year.  Then new information came to light and I decided that he didn’t deserve the award.  Then I thought about it some more and realized that even though my original information was bad, Wright was still pretty good.  So he wins.

From the glazed look on the collected face of our readers, I gather that further explanation is required.  Very well – Wright’s season stat line went as follows: 10-6, 2.24 ERA, 129 strikeouts, and 144 innings in 20 games (all starts).  More digging revealed that he had enjoyed both a lengthy winning streak and a lengthy losing streak this season, so I found some box scores on the Frontier League web site and plotted out his game-by-game numbers.

I went over the numbers three times and arrived at the same result each time: Wright allowed 143 hits, 52 runs, and 41 earned runs in 2009.  His ERA was 2.56.  The problem is that those numbers differ from the ones on his “official” stat line: 140 hits, 50 runs, 41 earned, and a 2.24 ERA.  This discrepancy, which I can’t seem to figure out, significantly tightened the Pitcher of the Year race.  Wright’s closest competition, Ross Stout, was 13-5, 2.94, 138 strikeouts in 143 innings (assuming his dailies are more on the level than Wright’s).  10-6/2.24/129 seemed more impressive than 13-5/2.94/138; the ERA was what really did it for me.  The stat adjustment gave Wright a .32 increase in his ERA, which made me question just how significant the new gap was.

Got all that?

In the end I decided to keep Wright in the top spot, even though his numbers didn’t add up and he lost five decisions in a row to close out the season.  Fact is, he was 10-1 with a 1.74 ERA on August 5 and while he didn’t light the world on fire over the last month, he was good enough at times that his team could have put another victory or two on his resume.  That’s enough to keep him just ahead of the field, in my book.

Honorable Mention
Brian Barr, Texarkana Gunslingers (Continental Baseball League): 9-3, 2.54 ERA, 80 strikeouts, 88.2 innings
Jim Magrane, Somerset Patriots (Atlantic League): 15-4, 2.70 ERA, 134 strikeouts, 183 innings
Dan Reichert, Bridgeport Bluefish (Atlantic League): 14-9, 3.53 ERA, 126 strikeouts, 193 innings, 7 complete games, 3 shutouts, 21 hit batsmen, 10 wild pitches
Ross Stout, Windy City Thunderbolts (Frontier League): 13-5, 2.94 ERA, 138 strikeouts, 143 innings

Independent Reliever of the Year
Rusty Tucker, New Jersey Jackals (Canadian-American Association)

rusty tuckerTucker was the Can-Am League’s Reliever of the Year after a season in which he went 5-2 with a 2.40 ERA, 24 saves, and 56 strikeouts in 41.2 innings.  He was also named the league’s Pitcher of the Week twice.

2009 was Tucker’s third consecutive season with the Jackals, the first in which he didn’t spend some time with an affiliated organization.  This year was almost a disappointment compared to the previous two:

2007: 0-1, 1.48 ERA, 14 saves, 37 strikeouts, 24.1 innings
2008: 3-3, 1.85 ERA, 21 saves, 54 strikeouts, 47.1 innings

That’s 59 saves, 113.1 innings, and 147 strikeouts.  And he’s only still only 29, which means he could still be coming to an organization near you.  Not too shabby.

Honorable Mention
Hunter Davis, Pensacola Pelicans (American Association): 3-1, 1.79 ERA, 22 saves, 40 strikeouts, 40.1 innings
Justin Dowdy, Wichita Wingnuts (American Association): 0-4, 2.25 ERA, 17 saves, 52 strikeouts, 44 innings
Bret Prinz, Somerset Patriots (Atlantic League): 1-2, 2.04 ERA, 21 saves, 51 strikeouts, 39.2 innings
Kris Regas, Sioux Falls Canaries (American Association)
: 2-0, 1.19 ERA, 15 saves, 25 strikeouts, 22.2 innings

The Greatest Pitching Performance in History

What do you think it would be? I mean, Roger Clemens struck out 20 twice. Kerry Wood struck out 20 and nearly added a no-hitter to the equation. While these performances are admittedly great, there’s someone this decade who blew them out of the water.

Someone went and struck out 25 batters.

Photos of this event are admittedly sketchy, because this happened during a Frontier League baseball game. On June 5th, 2000, a pitcher named Brett Gray went positively nuts upon the bats of the Chillicothe Paints. A complete game three hitter. With 25 strikeouts. (And he struck out 4 in an inning. Twice.)

That was his debut for the London Werewolves in 2000. It got him a contract with the Reds two days later. His career with the Reds, for someone who never actually reached Triple-A? It was pretty good. He ended his run in the Reds organization with a 2.91 ERA working mostly as a reliever.

He ended his in game career in Schaumburg working double duty as a player coach. In 2005 he had his last professional in game action at Alexian Field. But his career did not end there.

Despite pitching with a shoulder injury? Gray helped lead the Canadian National team to the Olympics in 2008. I’ll leave Mop-up sports with the quote. (Left in Canadian English.)

“To go out there and throw four (innings) meant the world to me,” said Gray. “I’m a little banged up with my arm so my (pitches) weren’t all that good, but the defence played awesome and it just felt good to get out there and get another win.”

And that is why at BLB salute Brett Gray. Tough enough to pitch for national pride. Skilled enough to strike out 25 in a single game and get an ERA under 3 in the minors. He’s one of the unsung pitchers of the decade.

And before I forget? Yes, I know the story of Ron Neccai. He did strike out 27 batters in a game. That being said? How many people get the win, 25 strikeouts, and their best man all in one night? I didn’t think so.

Get Your Bus Leagues Eat On

Man v. Food samples the Homewrecker Dog (photo courtesy of Travel Channel)

Man v. Food samples the Homewrecker Dog (photo courtesy of Travel Channel)

The Travel Channel show Man v. Food is touring minor league parks tonight at 10pm ET. I talked to some of the people who make the food that host Adam Richman will sample tonight for an ESPN article, but the quotes I selected aren’t going to make it into the finished product, so I’m going to share them here.

The show visited the Yankees A affiliate the Charleston RiverDogs (home of the ambidextrous pitcher and owned by Bill Murray, Michael Veeck, and former AL President Gene Budig), the independent Gateway Grizzlies, and the West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit A). The show looks fun, so check it out.

Follow in Man v. Food’s Footsteps

Gateway Grizzlies
GCS Ballpark (2002) – 6,000
2301 Grizzlie Bear Blvd. Sauget, IL 62206
Frontier League, Independent

Signature Food: Baseball’s Best Burger. A standard bacon cheeseburger with a twist: the bun is a Krispy Kreme donut cut in half. Condiments are discouraged.

“The hardest part is convincing someone to try it,” says Grizzlies Events Coordinator Jeff O’Neill. “A lot of people will look at the idea and think it sounds disgusting. It is truly amazing to see the reaction once they try it. The combinations of the sweet bun, the saltiness of the bacon and burger and the bitterness of the cheese melt all together for a little taste of heaven.” 

West Michigan Whitecaps
Fifth Third Ballpark (1994). Capacity 10,071.
4500 West River Dr. Comstock Park, MI
Midwest League, Detroit Tigers Class A
Whitecaps in the Majors: Brandon Inge, Joel Zumaya, Cameron Maybin

Signature Food: The Fifth Third Burger. Five beef patties, topped with chili, nacho cheese, American cheese, salsa, sour cream, chips, and lettuce. One a one lb. bun.

Josh Kowalczyk is the Whitecaps promotions intern in charge of the massive burger. According to his meticulous records, nearly 2,000 Fifth Third burgers have been sold this season. 476 intrepid souls have attempted to eat it over the course of nine innings, and an amazing 298 of those succeeded in eating the whole… thing.

Kowalczyk remembers the scene when Adam Richman and the Man v. Food crew came out to the ballgame. “A lot of people found out he was coming, and it was absolutely crazy,” he recalled. “Our attendance that night was 7,921, but more people watched him than the ballgame. He talked to people everywhere in the stadium.”

Charleston RiverDogs
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park AKA “The Joe” (1997). Capacity 6,000.
360 Fishburne St. Charleston, SC
South Atlantic League, New York Yankees, Class A
Famous owners: Mike Veeck, former AL President Gene Budig, and comedian Bill Murray.
RiverDogs in the Majors: B.J. Upton, Rocco Baldelli, Delmon Young, Orioles Manager Dave Tremblay.

Signature Food: The Homewrecker Dog. A ½ pound frank is the palette. 25 potential toppings are your colors. The standard condiments are all here, but a true connoisseur will experiment with the likes of sweet-potato mustard, fried okra, and cole slaw.

“Mike Veeck firmly believes in the motto ‘Fun is Good’,” says team representative Andy Solomon. “Which means entertaining the fan from the time he purchases a ticket to the time he leaves the parking lot. Bill Murray sometimes attends games as an ordinary fan in the left field bleachers, with his hat pulled down over his eyes. Other times, he comes out on the field and takes part in the Sumo wrestling. You never know.”

A lack of predictable fare is part of the RiverDogs mystique. Just peruse the concessions board (), which features unique items like the Elvis (peanut butter and bacon), the Tijuana Tornado (a true “hot” dog), and Ye Olde turkey leg in addition to the Homewrecker.

Do You Have $1000 You Just Don’t Know What To Do With?

Now you do – buy stock in an independent minor league baseball team!

The Midwest Sliders of the Frontier League plan to sell bundles of 100 shares of stock at $10 per share to finance a $9.5 million ballpark project in Waterford Township, Michigan.  A maximum of 500,000 shares will be made available at a total cost of $5 million.

For now, the Sliders are calling Eastern Michigan University home.  The team is currently averaging 246 fans per game.

For the record, I asked my wife if we could spare $1,000 to buy stock in a minor league baseball team.  She said no.  But I would happily take part in a Bus Leagues conglomerate.   Come on, 100 readers, $10 per reader – how can it go wrong?

How to Become a First Round Pick

AaronCrowpitches

Listen. I’m not going to pretend I’m OMDQ up in this bitch. My research skills are mediocre at best. But I did spend five minutes making hashmarks on a piece of paper just to satisfy my own curiosity (look out, Baseball America!) Here’s a breakdown showing where our first-round MLB draftees last practiced their trade.

College – 13

High School – 16

Independent Ball – 1

My own home team, the Kansas City Royals, took the lone flyer on an Indie guy, drafting Aaron Crow. For what it’s worth, Crow was drafted last year by the Nats, and went to Indie ball because he didn’t like the pace of negotiations with Washington. So, he’s like better than you’d think, eh?

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

Cocoon14

Not much to add on my part, but this story that The Big Lead’s Cousins of Ron Mexico found yesterday is a must-read.  The Cliff Notes version: Josh Faiola is a pitcher in the Frontier League.  He lives with a “host family”.  His host family is an assisted living facility.

Faiola seems to be having a good time in his seasonal home, but is there any stranger place for a guy in his mid-twenties, in this situation, to live?  The best I can come up with is a jail cell.