A Key Acquisition From Independent Baseball Gets Attention Right Before All-Star Game
It was only a couple of hours before Tuesday’s All-Star Game in the massive tent outside of Kansas City’s handsome Kauffman Stadium where the official pre-game party was held when Royals Hall of Famer Art Stewart was remembering the important role Jose Lima played for the American League team after his contract was purchased from the Newark (NJ) Bears, then in the Atlantic League.
As the longtime Royals scouting director and current senior advisor recalled, seemingly like it was yesterday instead of in 2003, Kansas City suddenly found itself without a starting pitcher for the next day. Stewart contacted Executive Director Joe Klein in the Atlantic League office regarding the dilemma, and Klein said Lima, 30 at the time and well known in major league circles because of his 21 and 16-win seasons for Houston, had been pitching well (6-1, 2.33 in eight starts) for Newark.
“We gave them a couple thousand dollars,” Stewart said (it probably was the regular fee of $3,000, in actuality), and Lima got to Kansas City in the wee hours prior to the game.
The moral of little tale is one more re-affirmation that it is difficult to go anywhere in baseball circles these days without running into stories of appreciation for the Independent game and the talent that is available to help the 30 major league organizations on either a short or long-term basis.
Lima’s case was somewhat extreme because he ripped off seven consecutive victories for the Royals, and accounted for a cover page headline in USA Today’s Sports Weekly which proclaimed “Jose Lima fires up a pesky bunch in Kansas City”. Lima, who suffered a fatal heart attack in 2010, went on to compile a 26-28 record with KC, the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets after his foray into the Independent ranks to resurrect his career.
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Onetime Atlantic Leaguer Has Big Role in Triple-A Star Classic
Onetime Camden (NJ) RiverSharks (Atlantic League) slugger Valentino Pascucci only has three major league home runs on his 16-year professional resume—two with Montreal in ’04 and one with the New York Mets late last season—but the 33-year-old first baseman-outfielder stole much of the show as the Triple-A All-Stars showed off their skills the last two days.
It did not hurt that the 6-foot-6 Pascucci, known affectionately by ‘Big Poppa’ music every time he steps to the plate and by the nickname of Scooch, plays for Buffalo, where fans packed 18,000-seat Coca-Cola Field on consecutive days. But the right-handed-hitter won the home run derby one night, including 13 bombs in one of the rounds, then doubled off the leftfield wall and walked the next three at-bats as the DH in the 3-0 Pacific Coast League triumph over the International League in the nationally-televised game Wednesday night.
Jakubauskas, Kazmir in News
With its major league starting staff still struggling with injuries, Toronto added Indy veteran Chris Jakubauskas to its minor league system (Double-A New Hampshire) shortly after Arizona released the 33-year-old righty from Triple-A Reno, where he was 2-3 with a 4.18 ERA in 51.2 innings. Jakubauskas has already pitched in the majors for Seattle, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, going 8-10 in 69 games, including 15 starts. He was an Independent standout at both Fullerton, CA (Golden League) and Lincoln, NE (American Association) after starting his pro career with two teams in the Frontier League.
A major name to follow in the second half of the Atlantic League season that is to start Friday night is that of two-time major league All-Star Game southpaw Scott Kazmir. The 28-year-old started for Sugar Land, TX and allowed two runs in an inning in his first game in more than a year, throwing 22 pitches. “We look forward to seeing his stuff in action out on the mound with the track record he brings,” Skeeters Manager Gary Gaetti told The Sacramento Bee. Kazmir won at least nine major league games for six consecutive years (66-61 overall) for Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Angels before virtually disappearing last season.
(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball. Fans may subscribe for 2012 at reduced rates at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy his blog, 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.)