How Is This as Handsome Reward for 19 Indy Grads? They Are on Pace to Top $37 Million in Majors
Does it pay for an aspiring major leaguer who goes undrafted or needs to re-energize his career to play in an Independent league?
And how! Think about earning salaries totaling more than $37 million for the regular 2013 season. Pay is prorated for most everyone, of course, so if a player is only in the American or National League for a portion of the season he will receive major league compensation only for his time at that level. But if the 16 active former Independent players on Opening Day rosters and the three on disabled lists maintain their status through September they will earn, yes, $37,171,100. Oh, incentive pay will be added on. Then, there are the marketing dollars they earn, endorsements for some of the top guys and postseason payouts.
The salary count would be even higher if veteran major league relief pitchers Tim Byrdak of the New York Mets (Gary, IN and Joliet, IL, Northern League) and George Sherrill of Kansas City (Evansville, IN, Frontier League plus Winnipeg, Canada, and Sioux Falls, SD, both now in the American Association after years in the Northern League) were not still working their way back from injuries.
The top salary belongs to shortstop Stephen Drew, who started out at Camden, NJ in the Atlantic League and opened this season with concussion-like symptoms on Boston’s disabled list, who will receive $9,500,000 this season. It was only eight years ago that he played his first 19 games for the Riversharks. But even the $491,000, barely above the major league minimum, reliever Brandon Kintzler, who pitched for current American Association teams in St. Paul, MN and Winnipeg, Canada, is earning is not exactly throw away money when many entire Independent league team payrolls will not reach $100,000 for the season.
Independent Baseball also can do a certain amount of bragging about its overall Opening Day contingent this season because the 16 active and three disabled players is a significant jump over one year ago when there were 10 players active and three disabled when the major league season started.
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A Special Souvenir From Rice’s Long-Awaited Debut
Scott Kazmir and longtime minor league southpaw Scott Rice have increased the list of players who have earned their way onto major league active rosters after playing in Independent leagues to 173.
Rice got to throw his first major league pitches in a swirling wind during the ninth inning of the New York Mets’ 11-2 Opening Day thrashing of San Diego Monday, but the weather conditions seemed a meaningless detail for the 31-year-old who worked through 14 minor league seasons, including appearances for three Atlantic League teams over a four-year period, to reach baseball’s top level.
“It’s one of the great stories,” Mets Manager Terry Collins told Newsday, and Rice had a big personal fan contingent including his wife, parents, sister and brother-in-law, their children and a former minor league teammate at Citi Field to see he first game. Rice’s dad, Dennis, who taught the now-6-foot-6 hurler how to throw in their Southern California backyard, will take a nifty souvenir—a game ball—when he takes another cross-country flight home. “He’s got a display case of all the leagues I’ve played in, which is a lot,” the pitcher told Newsday. “It’s actually turned into two display cases.” Presumably, the souvenirs include items from Rice’s Atlantic League days, which were at Long Island, NY in 2008, Newark, NJ a year later and York, PA, in 2011.
Greenberg at ‘Crossroads’, Still Awaits Another Opportunity
The overload of outfielders that pushed Lew Ford (Long Island, NY, Atlantic League) off the Baltimore roster late in spring training and sent this feel-good comeback hero of last season all the way to Class AA Bowie, MD to start the new campaign also seemed to impact Adam Greenberg’s chances of sticking in the Orioles’ farm system.
Greenberg, whose sentimental story after he was beaned in his first major league at-bat back in ’05 and resonated once again late last season when the Miami Marlins gave him one more plate appearance, was released on the final day of minor league camp despite what he said was a .355 batting average and .413 on-base percentage mostly with Triple-A Rochester, NY.
“I’m at a crossroads (career wise),” the 32-year-old Connecticut resident told me this week although he said his agent has gotten some encouragement for the future from two major league teams and a variety of Independent clubs have expressed interest. Greenberg is spending this week in Tampa, FL to see what develops, and if he elects not to continue playing can give full attention to the nutritional business (LuRong Living) he has going with former Bridgeport, CT (Atlantic League) teammates Danny Putnam and Josh Phelps.
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.)