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August 18, 2005

Posted by atlanticleaguenews in Uncategorized.
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Patriots Bombshell: Geoff Mosher of The Courier News reports that P Scott Sobkowiak is about as close as it gets to leaving to pitch in Taiwan.

He also reports that P Tim Christman is set to join the team and that Patriots officials will also be auditioning ex-Bluefish and Rivershark P Scott Forster. But the real story here is with Sobkowiak.

The Atlantic League All-Star, currently 8-7 with a 4.06 ERA, told the paper that the move would be for financial reasons only. “Definitely a lateral move, definitely not promoting my career,” he told The Courier News. “It’s not a step up from this league, it’s actually a step down, but financially it allows me to do this again next year.”

In-Depth Ashmore Analysis: You can’t blame a guy for wanting to make things better for himself and for his family. Sobkowiak would be signing a contract that would earn him three times as much in one month than he’s made with Somerset all season. But as far as playing in independent ball next season, I do have opinions there.

First off, playing in Taiwan is nobody’s dream scenario, I think Sobkowiak would be the first to tell you that.

I asked former Atlantic Leaguer James Lofton about his time in Taiwan.

MA: I know you played in Taiwan for a short time a few years back, but that didn’t really go all that well for you. Tell me a little bit about that…

JL: “(Laughs) I was there for the big earthquake, and I’m from California…but the earthquakes (there) when you’re that far from home, and the way they put the houses and stuff up over there, it’s a little different. (Laughs) But I had fun over there, that was the one bad thing. But other than that, I did well and I thought that maybe I would go back but for some reason I didn’t and I try not to dwell on that and keep doing what I can do.”

MA: What made Taiwan a place that you wanted to play in?

JL: “Well, Taiwan was one of the only places overseas that I could get to, internationally I should say. It was an experience, let’s just say that, it was an experience. I went to Mexico also, and it was a big difference from Mexico to Taiwan. Why, I don’t know, but just the environment and the way they went about baseball was totally different.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Put perhaps the most telling tale came from 2002 AL Pitcher of the Year Lincoln Mikkelsen.

“In Taiwan, it’s a little bit of a culture shock when you get there. It’s dirty, very polluted over there. Some days they don’t even let you outside, they tell you not to. There’s gambling, which I’m sure everybody in the states knows by now. Things can happen over there. They think they know baseball and that Americans don’t know baseball when you get there, and that was the part that really shocked me. When I first got over there, I went there in ’94, and I didn’t pitch a game for 38 days because they didn’t think I was ready. So people don’t speak English, my coach was Japanese so he had an interpreter who came out and had to talk to my interpreter, who talked to me. So that was kind of weird too. They just have a lot of different ways to do things over there…the people were good, the people were nice over there, that wasn’t a problem. Just the biggest thing was how polluted the place was. But there’s 22 million people on the island and it’s smaller than Rhode Island.”

Will Pennyfeather shares his thoughts about his time in Taiwan:

“The baseball’s different. They’re gambling over there and you’re trying to play to win and you’re wondering why they’re booting balls. It’s different, it wasn’t very much fun on the field.”

Denny Harriger, who left the Nashua Pride before the 2004 season to pitch in Taiwan, didn’t like it either…

“I was miserable. That’s why I’m back here, I didn’t like it. I don’t like the way they play baseball; it’s not baseball the way we’re used to seeing it played.”

Outside of Joe Strong picking up some green tea while pitching in Taiwan, all of my material that I looked through showed that guys really disliked pitching there.

As for Sobkowiak thinking he’d have to return to independent ball next season, I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Before his stats started to tail off in the second half, a lot of teams were calling about him and he was pretty close to being able to leave a few times. He’s a big, young guy with an above average fastball. If he were to stick out the whole season with the Patriots, I think the odds are very solid that he would be able to get a Spring Training invite for 2006. Considering the team is already in the playoffs, if he could could put together a good outing there, his chances would be greatly increased.

When you head overseas, you’re a forgotten man. Scouts aren’t coming there, and I’m really concerned about the rumors of gambling and iffy environment that Taiwan seems to offer. Scott’s a great guy, and I’ve had the opportunity to speak with his family on a few occasions as well…all great people. I’m just hoping for his sake that going to Taiwan now doesn’t hurt his career later. I wish Scott nothing but the best of luck in wherever he goes.

Pride Clarification: Although P Brian Looney will be heading back to college, he will not be leaving the team. It is believed he may miss a start or two on the road, but that appears to be the only time he’d miss. My apologies to Tom King for misreading his piece.

Gomes Retires: The closers in this league are dropping like flies. The Camden Courier-Post reports that Wayne Gomes has retired. He had 17 saves for the team.

Camden signs pitcher: The Riversharks signed RHP Carlos De Los Santos today. The best I can tell, he has six years of experience in the Pirates system and has never advanced higher than A-Ball.

Sadler to the GBL: Former Patriots and Ducks pitcher Carl Sadler has signed with the Yuma Scorpions of the Golden Baseball League.

I think a lot of people underestimated the impact that this league would have on the ability of Atlantic League teams to sign players. The GBL and rise of the Mexican League have made position players and especially pitchers incredibly difficult to find. Players familiar with the West coast are going to be more inclined to play over there as opposed to coming all the way over here, even if the level of play appears to be better. But, for the moment, a lot of Atlantic League teams are pulling out all the stops to try and add some spare parts or even an impact player for the playoff run. – Mike Ashmore

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