After Six Indy Division Titles and Two League Championships, Brendan Sagara ‘On Cloud Nine’ With Marlins Job
Hawaiian native Brendan Sagara had barely gotten his first managerial job after nearly a decade building a successful resume as a pitching coach in four different Independent leagues, but he knew he had to give up the opportunity to lead Na Ikaika Koa Maui when the Miami Marlins offered him a job.
“It (minor league pitching coach) was absolutely what I’ve been wanting for a long time,” Sagara said from his home in Honolulu. He had “thought it out”, planned for this type of opportunity, even though it meant giving up a chance to build a roster in Maui (North American League) that might be 50 per cent Hawaiians. He also was giving up his part-time scouting job with the Atlanta Braves.
Independent Baseball “gave me an avenue to try to make a career (in the game)”, the 38-year-old added. “I’ve been on cloud nine. It is the beginning of a dream come true.”
While Hawaiian natives have been successful in the major leagues for years, Sagara was a rarity for any form of advanced baseball play, a 5-foot-7 pitcher. He managed to pitch for four years at Division I University of Hawaii-Hilo, including something like an 8-2 record on a team that was 14-31 in his final season. He flirted with Independent opportunities in both the Western and Texas-Louisiana Leagues, and actually got in a few innings for Greg Tagert’s Evansville (IN) Otters in the Frontier League in 1999. That was the end of the playing dream.
Sagara’s fortunes began changing when Tagert, whose own resume has produced consistent contending teams, not the least of which is his current team in Gary, IN (American Association), invited him to become pitching coach for Dubois County (Huntingburg, IN) in the Frontier League in 2001.
With the exception of 2006 when he devoted his time to being an associate scout for the New York Mets, Sagara has racked up 10 seasons as a pitching coach, with six years of divisional titles and league championships in the Northern League (Gary) in ’05 and the Frontier League (Windy City, Crestwood, IL) in ’07. The last two divisional crowns came the last two seasons under Cory Snyder at Maui (its last year in the Golden League) in 2010 and for Rick Forney at Winnipeg (American Association) last summer.
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College Leagues Grabbing Struggling Franchises
One fact is more obvious than ever for struggling Independent teams. College leagues, where player salaries and costly workman’s comp are not issues for operators, are more than willing to offer a less expensive option. Both Shreveport-Bossier, LA (American Association) and Pittsfield, MA (Can-Am League) have gone the collegiate route for 2012 with Brockton, MA (Can-Am) likely to follow although the city council has put off a decision until early March.
In all of these situations, established Independent operators will be involved in running the new teams, which will play only about half the number of games as in the Indy leagues.
It is apparent to this typist this is not the last of these moves in years to come.
Standout Mound Performances in Winter Playoffs
Philadelphia spring training invitee Raul Valdes (New Jersey Jackals and Nashua, NH, Can-Am League) led a trio of outstanding pitching performances by former Independent players in winter league playoffs this week. The southpaw hurled a complete-game five-hitter (one run) in the Dominican Republic.
Austin Bibens-Dirkx (Victoria, Golden League), signed recently by Washington, allowed only one hit in seven shutout innings in Venezuela and Mike Loree (Long Island, NY, and Newark, NJ, Atlantic League) surrendered only one run in five innings to even the Puerto Rican League championship series. Loree is in the Pittsburgh farm system.
(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball. Fans may subscribe for 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.)