New ‘Prospect Tournament’ Ticketed for St. Petersburg: A Refreshing Opportunity for Independent League Players
Every once in a while a really novel idea comes along; something with benefits for everyone.
That would seem to be the case with the plan longtime Independent Baseball talent scout Nick Belmonte is hatching immediately ahead of minor league spring training camps opening.
Belmonte, who says he has been involved in the signing of about 1,600 players in the last two decades, is putting together what he calls the Independent League Prospect Tournament for February 25-March 4 at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, FL, where major league teams such as the Yankees and Cardinals played their exhibition games for decades. The 80 or so players will train prior to the start of games at another St. Pete facility well known to baseball people and now called the Walter Fuller Complex.
He emphasized the tournament is for “very good players; the prospects from Independent Baseball”, with early acceptances from three of the top seven players Baseball America tabbed recently as the players from the non-affiliated leagues most likely to get an opportunity in one of the 30 major league organizations.
Belmonte, who is putting the event together along with the St. Petersburg Baseball Commission, expects the four teams will be loaded with players from the Can-Am League as well as the American Association, North American and Frontier since the other Indy league, the Atlantic, is dominated by older players and normally does not have as many of its players signed that early.
The tournament is being set up by what Belmonte describes as “real scout friendly”, and seems certain to be attractive to major league organizations, not just those who train in the area, because the players will be in one location instead of scattered across the United States and Canada.
Each team will play from eight to 10 games, and the tournament will finish with a championship game and the naming of certain award winners such as a most valuable player.
Wait Continues for More Atlantic League Teams
With the Atlantic League introducing its first team west of Pennsylvania, the Sugar Land (TX) Skeeters, next season, the question continues as to when and where the other teams in what is targeted to be an eventual four-team division will emerge.
We put that question to Peter Kirk, who heads up the Sugar Land ownership for Opening Day Partners, which also has the league’s two Quaker State franchises in Lancaster and York plus Southern Maryland (Waldorf). He is confident the Houston area is “big enough for two, maybe three teams” but does not expect any firm developments for some time because everyone “wants to see Sugar Land first.”
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New Chisox Bench Coach Remembers Indy Days Fondly
New Chicago White Sox bench coach Mark Parent is another long-time professional who has not forgotten a lesson he learned while managing in Independent Baseball.
“It brought back the feelings for me and the passion that I had for the game when I was first starting out, and it was a great thing to see,” the 13-year major league backup catcher told The Chicago Tribune of his years (2005-07) managing the Chico (CA) Outlaws, a North American League team last season.
(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball. Fans may subscribe for the remainder of 2011 and all of 2012 at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy his blogs, www.AtlanticLeagueBaseball.com and www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, or comment to RWirz@aol.com. The author has 16 years of major league baseball public relations experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners and lives in Stratford, CT.)