Orioles Emphasize Scouting Independent Leagues And It Is So Evident in Their Minor League Camp
The best place for an Independent Baseball fan to hang out this month—at least aside from a major league spring training site where many a hopeful is playing—might be at the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex on the south side of Sarasota, FL.
At one time, this same site hosted the Kansas City Royals’ innovative Baseball Academy. Now, it is the Baltimore Orioles’ minor league spring training camp, where well over 20 products of the Independent leagues are trying to claw their way up the baseball ladder. More than half of them have joined the Birds’ nest since the end of last season.
“We have placed an emphasis on Independent Baseball, and acquiring players from Independent Baseball”, Executive Vice President Dan Duquette told The Baltimore Sun during the winter meetings last December. Last season’s signing of veteran outfielder Lew Ford (Long Island, NY, Atlantic League), who helped the major league club late last year and into the postseason, may have inspired them. They also brought veteran Indy scout Mal Fichman in, and they have dipped into seven different current or former leagues with seven players having experience in the American Association and at least three each in the Atlantic, Frontier and Can-Am Leagues.
Each player—whether new to the Baltimore system or already established—has his credentials, of course, with left-handed pitcher David Quinowski, righties Tom Boleska and Stu Pomeranz, catcher Zane Chavez and veteran outfielder Adam Greenberg high on this typist’s radar.
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A Look at the Northern League and Atlantic League-2
The resurrection of the Northern League surfaced once again this week when veteran major league executive Dan Evans was announced as commissioner, and the proposed second-tier Atlantic League may have hit a bump in the road when a current owner expressed his opposition.
Evans, who started in baseball as an intern with the Chicago White Sox while still in school at DePaul in 1981 and two decades later was general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers (2001-04), said all the right things when I reached him between games of a day-night scouting mission in Arizona, to discuss his appointment by DC Sports and Entertainment to start up a new Northern League by May, 2014.
“Play around 100 games between Memorial Day and Labor Day”, said the 53-year-old professional scout and crosschecker for the Toronto Blue Jays. He also stressed the need for strong ownership groups, being good community citizens, spending wisely and affordable family fun. Each of these factors always looms large for successful Independent teams.
I’ve known Dan a long time, and have no doubt about his qualifications and sincerity. I especially like the fact Toronto supports his involvement, which could help build Major League Baseball-Independent Baseball relations and his pledge “to make sure we are developing players, field staff and executives” from the minority work force.
What remains to be seen—a tall task, perhaps—is how to find enough sizeable markets and stadiums to bring this once venerable league back to life.
Steve Kalafer, who has owned the five-time champion Somerset (NJ) Patriots since the Atlantic League was formed, threw some cold water on league Founder Frank Boulton’s plan to start Atlantic League-2 next season. “There is no value at this time to a feeder league sanctioned or supported as a short-season version of the Atlantic League,” Kalafer said in a statement, according to The New Jersey Herald. Kalafer’s comments came as he refuted the potential of the proposed new league placing a team in Sussex County (Augusta, NJ), which has been the site of previous teams, most recently the Can-Am League. If started, Atlantic League-2 and the Can-Am, which currently has only five teams, likely would go head to head for some cities.
(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball. Forty columns are planned during 2013. Fans may subscribe at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy the blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, which has supplemental stories, 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.)