Last week, I was lucky enough to visit a couple of spots in the Appalachian League, and I kinda fell in love. The idyllic nature of the league, with small parks and communities of fans seems ideal to me. Granted the ammenities aren’t too fancy, and the parks aren’t built for interaction between players and fans, but each fan is very close to the action.
Now the Appalachian League is very remote, and very community based. The teams sit in clusters, and fans move between the fields of the all the teams located in their cluster. They also all know each other, and notice when someone is late or misses a game all together. Its a little like Bull Durham, with some characters surrounding the players. It also is for many players, their first shot a professional baseball. Some of these players were drafted a year earlier, but for whatever reason (injury, surgery, maturation, college language barriers) didn’t start playing in pro-ball last season. Many of these guys won’t make it to the big leagues, but a few will. And their journey starts right here.
The two parks featured in these very short videos are about an hours drive apart, on the Virginia/West Virginia border.
The first is the rookie affiliate of the Seattle Mariners home, in Pulaski, Va.
The second is in my top places to watch a game at the minor league level. I hope you can see just how beautiful Bowen Field in Bluefield, WV is. This is a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate.
I’m a little late here- mostly because I couldn’t figure out what to say or what to write that wasn’t already written. Gwynn was impressive in a way that many many players wanted to be but aren’t.It took me awhile to find something to share that I felt added something or shared something that you couldn’t see in an obit. This Keith Olberman monologue may just do him justice. “What you hoped Tony Gwynn was, he was.”
As you may have seen, Johnny Manziel was drafted in the 28th round of MLB’s amateur draft by the San Diego Padres. According to tweets from Padres President Mike Dee, Manziel was the best athlete on the board. That statement is probably true.
However in choosing the Cleveland Brown quarterback, they insult 1000’s of young men who actually would grind it out as a minor league baseball player for the Padres willingly. They also insult everyone taken in rounds 29-40. Manziel will never sign. He will never play a day of baseball. He might show up at spring training a couple of times, give some pep talks, but he won’t fill out a roster, and wont be a part of the grind that every other player taken before him and after him will feel.
Now there is value to having a guy like him affiliated with the organization. But does he need to be drafted? Can’t you just pay him some sort of fee to come each spring? Instead, it looked like an attention getting move (and it worked) and it looked self-serving only.
I thought perhaps the Organization was looking to save some money that they could use elsewhere in the draft to sign players. Josh Byrnes did say to ESPN that they really liked their 27th round pick so maybe some of the money from Manziel’s spot will go towards signing him.
On the face, though, it doesn’t benefit the organization or its Player development program in any way. Now one can argue that the kid that would be taken first in the 41st round, if there were such a thing, will probably be signed as an undrafted free agent by some team, but that isn’t the point.
The beautiful part of the draft is that baseball is played in all corners of this country, and little boys dream of being picked to play pro-ball. Not many if any from the 28th round or after will make it to the Major Leagues, but in reality that doesn’t matter. Playing at any level of the pros is rare, and should be considered an honor and a gift. The Padres forgot what a gift they had to give.
Baseball lost a lot yesterday with the passing of Don Zimmer. The obits are numerous. But what to me was quite moving as I was reading through the tweets of players I am paid to follow, is how much this younger generation knew and cared about a man that many grew to know only as the Yankees bench coach and Derek Jeters lucky totem. Zimmer was much more than that through his 60+ years on the field. He was the last Brooklyn Dodgers still donning a uniform. One tweet put out said, “he met Babe Ruth, played with Jackie Robinson, coached Derek Jeter and tried to fight Pedro Martinez.” That is quite a life, even if that last one was not one of his proudest moments.
Here is a link to Bill Madden’s fine obit.
I have a photo of me doing an interview on a Rays field with Zim in the back. Hope I can find it to add to this post.
RIP Mr. Zimmer. You will be missed.