Can-Am League Welcomes Second French City As 32 More Independent Baseball Teams Start Season
Thirty-two of the 46 Independent Baseball teams in the five most established leagues start their season within the next 24 hours or so, but it is difficult to imagine any one place where the initial intrigue will be any higher than at venerable Stade de Quebec.
The Can-Am League has had to settle for one Canadian team in recent years, and now there is a second; even better, another French-speaking city with the Trois-Rivieres Aigles restoring a professional team to the community no more than 90 minutes from Quebec for the first time since the Class AA Eastern League departed after the 1977 season except for one, brief time when the Canadian League tried to play in 2003.
Two familiar names will immediately make fans comfortable since Stade Fernand-Bedard in Trois-Rivieres, built to almost identical specifications as Stade de Quebec at the same time (1938-39) although newly upgraded, including a brand new infield, for entry into the Can-Am League. The other well known monikor is the team nickname of Aigles (it is easier for some to say Eagles or the more specific EGG-l), which was maintained even for most of the years when a professional team was missing for a team in the amateur Quebec Elite League.
One more name known to baseball fans is that of Pierre Luc (Pete) LaForest, the 35-year-old native of the Province, a catcher, who made it to the major leagues with Tampa Bay, San Diego and Philadelphia and represented Canada in the Olympics.
In what probably is a vast understatement, LaForest bluntly told me this week “I am excited”. Why not, he is the Aigles’ manager, his first such undertaking, after spending the last four seasons helping the Quebec Capitales to back, to back, to back, to back Can-Am crowns. He did much of the catching the first three seasons, although he split 2010 with the Somerset (NJ) Patriots (Atlantic League), and last season was the Capitales’ hitting coach.
LaForest also likes the “good attitude” of his players, emphasizing “it (attitude) is the most important element” for winning teams, an ingredient he has a right to know after playing for nine championship teams in his career, including back to back titles with the 2002-03 Triple-A Durham (NC) Bulls.
American Association Could Have New Record for Mound Victories
The American Association and Frontier League also had their initial games scheduled for tonight (Thursday) and the re-built United League opens in another week. One early highlight could come in Sioux City, IA where Ben Moore, returning after a season in the Atlantic League (Southern Maryland), could become the American Association’s career leader in wins. Back with Sioux Falls, SD, where he toiled from 2008-11, Moore was due to start for the Canaries and try to break the record of 39 wins he shares with former St. Paul, MN star Charlie Ruud.
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Sales to Major League Systems Adding Up
The major leagues have been buying contracts of Independent players at a steady pace again recently with most of it coming out of the Atlantic League where the season started four weeks ago. York, PA has been targeted three times already this month, most recently when right-hander Matt Fox joined the New York Mets organization, but it should be no surprise the Revolution have been hit since they have had three players reach the major leagues since last June, including first-timer Scott Rice, now being worked heavily out of the Mets bullpen. In addition, veteran major league outfielder Jason Repko retired from York, telling The York Record/Sunday News “I had a hard time getting that desire to be at the ballpark every day.”
Somerset, NJ lost outfielder Mike Wilson to San Diego and right-hander Erik Arnesen to Oakland, Camden, NJ third baseman Tommy Mendonca was sold to Philadelphia and the red-hot Sugar Land (TX) Skeeters, now 22-4 after losing their first home game of the season Wednesday, saw Sean Gallagher leave for the Colorado farm system. The starting pitcher was the first player to depart this season after the Skeeters lost 13 in similar moves one year ago.
The American Association sold contracts of two right-handed pitchers before its season started with Shane Dyer taken by Cincinnati from Laredo, TX and Dan Carela by Philadelphia from Sioux City, IA. Carela was with Joliet, IL (Frontier League) last season.
By BOB DUTTON The Kansas City Star
(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 added stories on the 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.)