August 3, 2021

Another Indy Milestone Achieved With 150th Major Leaguer

April 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

     Independent Baseball reached another impressive milestone shortly after the major league season opened.      

      Appearances by rookies Tom Wilhelmsen and Aaron Crow plus a re-appearance by Eric Almonte, who is at the game’s highest level for the first time in eight years, jumped the non-affiliated branch of baseball past the 150 mark in getting its players to the majors.

      That is quite a feat in 19 years for the Indy game, which many people in the upper ranks poked fun at in those early days in the 1990s before the hundreds of millions of dollars were committed to building new stadiums and before eight million fans started trekking to Independent games annually.

      The count, compiled by the Independent Baseball Insider, now stands at 151 players who have been in one or more of the Independent leagues and eventually reached the major leagues.

      Crow, who seems pretty well entrenched in what Kansas City Manager Ned Yost considers the top wave of the Royals bullpen, also became the 35th player whose first professional game was in an Independent League (Fort Worth, TX, American Association) to reach the majors.  The 24-year-old, pitching about an hour from his Topeka, KS birthplace, already has a victory and five shutout innings while working in three of the fast-starting Royals’ first six games. 

       Wilhelmsen, making the jump to Seattle only three seasons after ending a five-year hiatus from the game by pitching in the Golden League (Tucson, AZ), has one quiet inning so far for the Mariners.  Almonte is 1-for-9 in six appearances as a pinch hitter, outfielder or first baseman for Milwaukee, but the one hit was a home run which was struck on the eighth anniversary (April 2) of his only other major league round-tripper. 

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Contrasting Nathanson, Howell to Lead Road Teams

      One of the greatest challenges in Independent Baseball has to be the planning and execution of travel teams.  They allow the other teams in a league more home dates and provide about 25 more jobs for players on each team, but they also set up a full summer of living out of a suitcase.

      It is fascinating to see how the managerial roles have unfolded for the Atlantic and Can-Am League teams that will play this season as the Road Warriors (Atlantic) and the New York Federals.

      The Federals’ manager is Scott (Skip) Nathanson, a 5-foot-2 ½-inch bundle of energy who “spent a lot of days at Yankee Stadium” while growing up in Brooklyn with second baseman Bobby Richardson as his favorite player.  He did not play the game professionally, but has been coaching at various levels for 40 years.

      The Atlantic League chose Roy Howell, who was the fourth overall selection (Texas) in the 1972 free agent draft and went on to hit .261 in 1,112 major league games with the Rangers, Toronto and Milwaukee.  He was primarily a third baseman.                    

        (This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball.  Fans may subscribe at, enjoy his blogs, and, or comment to  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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