Jerome Williams (Three-Hit Shutout), Jered Weaver (No-Hitter) Strut Their Stuff With More Than 100 Others at MLB Doorstep
My intention this week was to talk up the fact more than 100 Independent Baseball players now populate the rosters of the top two levels of major league-affiliated minor league teams, and while I will get back to that point it is impossible to overlook the masterful shutout turned in by Jerome Williams, who still is less than 11 months removed from pitching for the Lancaster (PA) Barnstormers.
The Atlantic League hierarchy goes to great lengths to emphasize to anyone who will listen that it has players ready to step into major league roles. That was never truer than in the case of onetime top prospect turned flop turned Barnstormers-produced Jerome Lee Williams.
“Jerome was awesome,” teammate Torii Hunter told The Los Angeles Times after the 30-year-old Williams stifled the Minnesota Twins, 4-0, with a three-hitter for the struggling Los Angeles Angels. ”He was in and out of the zone with his sinker and cutter, he went hard, soft and worked fast. He looks good, confident, polished.”
That certainly was true for a team needing a pick-me-up as the then 8-15 Angels did. Williams started 11 hitters 0-and-2, only allowed five balls to leave the infield and pushed his record to 2-1. The Angels would only have four wins for the first four weeks of the American League season if not for Hawaiian-born Williams and no-hit ace Jered Weaver, who also trained in the Atlantic League (Camden, NJ) before starting his professional career back in 2005. Weaver followed up on Williams’s gem with a no-hitter 24 hours later over the Twins.
55 Indy Grads in Triple-A, 53 in Double-A
It is difficult to project who the next player will be to come out of an Independent league and stand out in the major leagues, but there are no less than 108 candidates at the top two levels of the affiliated minor leagues, the Independent Baseball Insider’s annual update shows.
Fifty-five players who have worn Independent uniforms—nearly two for every major league organization—are currently in Triple-A leagues and another 53 in Double-A. Our study shows 14 Indy players are in the majors (three are disabled) and 158 more in the minor leagues.
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www.AtlanticLeagueBaseball.com ADDED TO www.IndyBaseballChatter.com
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Top Indy Find Ligtenberg Back at St. Paul
How nice it is to see that one of the best players to work his way from an Independent beginning to major league stardom has returned to his roots.
Kerry Ligtenberg, who went from the Minneapolis Loons (North Central and Prairie Leagues) in 1994-95 to a 30-save season (34 opportunities) with the Atlanta Braves in ’98, will be the St. Paul (MN) Saints’ (American Association) pitching coach this summer, replacing Jason Verdugo, the new athletic director at Hamline University.
Ligtenberg won 17 games (20 losses) and saved 48 in eight major league seasons from 1997-2005, then capped his career off with 15 saves for the Saints in ’09. George Sherrill is the only hurler who started in the Independent ranks with more major league saves (56).
(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.)