October 16, 2019

Which Independent Players Will Make It to Opening Day? 51 Have Been in Major League Camps

March 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

One year it was Chris Coste, another Jon Weber and last season Scott Rice and Chris Colabello.

The names change, but the stories are similar.  Players who have devoted years of determination and grit to beat the odds of climbing all the way from Independent Baseball leagues, through the affiliated minors and perhaps…just perhaps…squeezing their way onto a major league roster where the respect and financial rewards are so much greater.  Some make it; others never do.

It will be another agonizing three or three and a half weeks before we know who–if any–surprise the major league talent judges and are on 25-man Opening Day rosters this year.

Brock Peterson, Andy Marte, Mark Minicozzi, Anthony Seratelli, Kris Johnson and Bo Schultz, the latter pair pitchers, are among those to watch this spring.

We know this much, 51 players who have toiled in Independent leagues have been dressing in major league clubhouses, and even more will get at least a one-day pass from the minor league camp, hoping to make a lasting impression.  The 51 equal the second highest count for any season since modern day Independent leagues started in 1993, three below last year’s record.

Thirty-seven onetime Indy players were in the majors for at least part of last season with 12 of them making their debut at that level.

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 On the Minicozzi, Peterson Watch

Versatile Mark Minicozzi, who has drawn a ton of feel-good press in the San Francisco Giants camp this spring, and first baseman-outfielder Brock Peterson, whose power intrigued Washington sufficiently during the offseason to get a minor league contract and major league invite, are a pair putting up impressive numbers during the first week of exhibition games.

Minicozzi still faces an uphill battle to break camp with the Giants, but this 31-year-old, who spent two full seasons in the Can-Am League and another in the American Association plus a short stint in the Atlantic League, has five hits (he homered on his first at-bat) and two walks in his first 11 plate appearances.

“To be here, I can’t even describe how awesome it is,” the East Carolina University product told The San Jose Mercury News.  “Every day I come to my locker at 6:45 a.m., and I can’t stop smiling.”

Peterson has put up impressive home run numbers throughout his 11 previous professional seasons, including 25(86 RBI) at Triple-A Memphis last season, and while he has not gone yard yet in a Grapefruit League game he is 4-for-6 plus a walk and has driven in two runs and scored three for the Nationals.  St. Louis gave the 30-year-old his first 26 major league at-bats late last year, primarily as a pinch hitter, only one year removed from two seasons and a combined 32 homers for Bridgeport, CT (Atlantic).

Umpires Prospering

Kevin Winn, who handles umpires for the American Association and Can-Am League, happily points out all five of the AA umpires who attended the professional baseball evaluation system this offseason have been hired to work affiliated minor league games later this season.  Three of Winn’s arbiters are now working major league games with Adam Hamari and Will Little both out of the Can-Am and Nick Bailey a grad of the American Association.

 (This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes annually on Independent Baseball.  Thirty-six columns are planned during 2014.  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.)

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