August 23, 2019

Triple-A Veteran Ed Nottle’s Willingness to Move In ’93 Was an Early Sign Independent League Baseball Would Work

May 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The 20th season of modern day Independent Baseball gets going full steam tonight (Thursday) when the Frontier League, American Association and Can-Am League join the Atlantic League, which has a three-week head start.

Miles Wolff and Ed Nottle, two of the prominent names in the business which currently has 50 teams and annually entertains from six to eight million customers, have somewhat different yardsticks which told them this concept of professional baseball without major league-affiliation was going to work.

For Wolff, often referred to as the father of the game since he pulled the Northern League, the Independent game’s first power, together in 1993, it was when Sioux City, IA Owner Bill Pereira talked Nottle into managing the Explorers.

“I said ‘he (Nottle) would never come to Indy ball’, “he was a Triple-A manager”, Wolff recalled of his conversation with Pereira at the 1992 Winter Meetings. Nottle had been leading teams one step below the major leagues for eight years at that time, and had barely missed out on the Boston Red Sox’s American League job.

A couple of hours later, or something like that, Pereira had hired Nottle.

“That was one of the first indications we can make it (work)”, Wolff recalled this week. “Him being there gave us credibility.”

“I remember thinking that first week (of training camp) with the talent we had” the Independent concept could succeed, said Nottle, who was still hospitalized in his hometown of Evansville, IN when we talked but was riding an understandable high since he had just been told chemotherapy would not be necessary as he recovers from his third surgery in three weeks, this one removing two-thirds of a lung.

“It (the Independent experience) was pretty exciting”, said Nottle, 72, as he began to rattle off names of the quality Sioux City players, starting with Tom Carcione, “the best defensive catcher I ever had”. Carcione had just finished a five-year stint in the Oakland farm system. “From the start, two or three teams (in the Northern League) could have held their own in Double-A”.

Nottle, who was to manage at Edinburg, TX (North American League) this season until felled by leg issues which led to an aneurysm (and two surgeries) followed by the lung disease and still expects to be back in uniform next season, believes two fundamental factors led to the success of the Independent leagues.

He explained it this way: “One, the amount of guys who made it back to organized baseball” got everyone’s attention, and secondly it was the way Indy teams became vital parts of their communities, with players, often led by Nottle himself, visiting everywhere from nursing homes to schools to the town’s business leaders.

Down 15 pounds and without cigarettes for the first time in nearly 60 years (“I haven’t even thought about it”), Nottle says all he needs now are “a few Coors Lights and to get ready for next season”.

Red Sox, Reds Now Believe In Nava, Costanzo

Boston outfielder Daniel Nava and Cincinnati third baseman Mike Costanzo were barely on their parent team’s radar as recently as spring training, yet they are wearing major league uniforms.

Nava is an Independent original, starting his pro career as an undrafted free agent in Chico, CA (Golden League) in ’07, the summer after he finished at Santa Clara. He worked his way to 60 games with the Red Sox two summers ago, including that unbelievable debut when he smacked the first major league pitch he saw for a grand slam. Yet, he did not play a day in the majors last season, and was not even a non-roster invitee to camp this spring.

But the switch-hitting 29-year-old has given the Bosox a big boost by hitting safely in all seven games since he came up from Triple-A Pawtucket, RI, going 9-for-19 (.474) with four doubles, a homer and an important seven RBI while getting on base at an amazing .643 clip. “We called him up at the end of spring training and he played really well (6-for-14 with a .467 on-base percentage for eight games),” Manager Bobby Valentine told The Boston Globe.

Costanzo’s story was similar with a solo home run his only hit in three games (1-for-5) in spring training with the Reds. The lefty-swinging 28-year-old had not worn a major league uniform in the regular season before or after his 16-game comeback performance in 2010 in the Atlantic League (Camden, NJ) when he refused Baltimore’s urging that he switch to pitching and was released. That changed last weekend when veteran Scott Rolen was disabled. Costanzo got the call after six homers and 24 runs batted in in 34 games split between the Reds’ top two farm clubs this spring. He picked up a sacrifice fly on a deep drive to left in his very first major league appearance as a pinch hitter Sunday, and has appeared in a similar role in five consecutive games (0-for-4), including Thursday.

(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.)

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