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August 10, 2007 – Part 3: Leaving The A.L. August 10, 2007

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Leaving The A.L.: Part 3: Here’s the final part of a three-part weekly series investigating why players in the independent Atlantic League are leaving for non- affiliated clubs. It appears in the Hunterdon Democrat newspaper. – Scott Stanchak (Read Part 1Read Part 2)

Each season, players sign a one-year contract with one of the Atlantic League’s eight teams. Once the season ends, they’re free to go wherever they’d like. The A.L. makes money when a major league team picks up one of their players – usually between $1000-$5000. But when a player signs elsewhere, usually no funds are exchanged. So for a place that depends on its players to play well so it can make money in the end, why not pay one a higher salary to not sign elsewhere and both sides end up happy?

“I don’t begrudge any player for leaving to make more money, especially the ones who’ve been in the minor leagues for many years,” Atlantic League President Joe Klein said. “I do consider it career suicide though.”

“The good players want to stay here and get picked up,” Camden Riversharks G.M. Adam Lorber said. “Personally there is parity in the league and you can’t fault a guy who decides he only has a couple of years left and goes to another country for pay increase.”

One general manager says that league officials have discussed making it mandatory for other leagues, in addition to affiliates, to pay for their players. That same G.M. says that it’s also been talked about that players who leave and return from other countries would be penalized with a “mandatory suspension and/or fines.”

There have been recent incidents – seven this season in fact — where players have left to go overseas and that league, in turn, paid the Atlantic League. In fact, one agent told me that he’s negotiated several deals in which the buyouts were similar to what major league teams pay — buyouts which sometimes the player pays himself.

Aside from the financial reasons, are there any other justifications that would lead one making no more than $3000 per month to sign with a team where the exposure is at a minimum and a language barrier has just been added into the equation?

Just ask former Bridgeport Bluefish pitcher Pat Ahearne. The former Detroit Tiger recently had his contract sold to the Macoto Cobras of the Chinese Baseball League for “several thousand dollars.” One team official said he was excited about the deal because it gave him more money and, because he had a passion for traveling — it was a perfect fit.

A former player who spent several years in the league added: “If owners want to provide the highest level of competition outside of affiliated ball and keep players from going elsewhere, they should reach into their pockets a little more.”

Patriots manager Sparky Lyle recently said that he doesn’t see any reason why the league shouldn’t increase a player’s salary to more than it is now. After all, it’s been that way for 10 years now. Players agree, most others involved with the league don’t.

“I don’t think we need to raise salaries,” Klein said. “Players here have the advantage of being scouted by 30 teams instead of going elsewhere where there’s often roster problems.”

Said one G.M.: “There’s no need to increase salaries in the states – there are enough solid players out there.”

Who’s to say those “solid players” won’t one day be faced with the predicament: more money or a chance to get back to the big leagues.

Redman To Baltimore (Ashmore Photo)

Tike Redman Called Up: Just a few months after you saw him in the Atlantic League, you’ll be seeing him in the big leagues. Former York Revolution OF Tike Redman has been called up by the Baltimore Orioles.

“At first, when you’re in the big leagues, you say to yourself, you’ll never go to independent ball. But stuff happens,” Redman said in an AP article.

“It made me humble. It’s been a journey, but I made it back.”

Redman appeared in Baltimore’s 13-8 loss to Seattle last night, but did not record an at-bat.

Earlier this season, Redman and I sat down for about five minutes to talk about his career. I asked him how long he expected to be the Atlantic League, and here’s what he told me…

“I don’t know, but truthfully, I don’t want to be here too long. If I am, then so be it. I’m still going to play this game until my legs give out.”

At the time, Redman hadn’t heard anything from affiliated teams.

“There’s a team out there that would want me, and if they want me, come get me. I’m ready, and I’m going to play as hard as I can. Just pick me up.”

Looks like Redman got picked up and then some…

Moss To Lancaster: Jason Guarente is reporting that the Lancaster Barnstormers have signed P Damian Moss. Moss, who has experience with four big league teams, also pitched for the Ducks in 2006. I saw him start in the only game I’ve covered in Long Island.

He wasn’t good.

He is probably best remembered for being suspended for failing a steroid test.

Wiggins To Make First Start In Six Years: I spoke to Somerset P Scott Wiggins, who will be making his first professional start in six years tomorrow night in Somerset against the Road Warriors.

On how he feels about making his first start in six years…

“I’m excited more than anything. Being away from the game for a while, it was a really a treat to get out here the other night and throw and feel so good. I’ve been throwing for a while, and getting back into shape. I was really anxious to see how I felt when I got back there, and it felt like I’d never left.

On if this is a spot start, or if this is a long-term thing…

“I think it’s a necessity for the team right now. Just this start alone, it’s kind of filling a spot right now. As far as any long-term thing, nobody’s spoken to me about that. I feel like it’s more doing something that the team needs at this point. With Cahill throwing four and a third the other night, that kind of takes him out of the mix for Saturday, so I think it’s more out of necessity than it is making any judgements. I’ve only thrown one time this year, so I think to get a read on if I’m going to fill the role would be a little crazy at this point.”

On how long he expects to pitch in the start…

“Brett and I talked about it yesterday, and we’re going to play it by ear. The other night, I felt so good. I’d been throwing simulated games at home against a college summer league team that I was coaching, and I was throwing a lot of pitches. So to go out there for the two and two thirds that I went out for, I came out feeling great. There wasn’t any soreness the next day, more tightness than anything. I feel like I could give them quite a few innings.”

On what he’d been up to since 2004, which was the last time he’d pitched…

“Going to school and coaching a college summer league team. My son’s doing great now, and I feel confident in the situation at home, so I was really ready to get back into it.”

(Wiggins left the game to take care of his son, who was ill at the time…)

On what made a return to the game appealing to him…

“More than anything, the healthy of my son, my oldest. I was feeling kind of guilty in ’04, when I was away and my wife was dealing with a lot of issues with our son and his illnesses. Now, he’s doing great. There’s nothing holding me back. I’m healthy, and I’m still relatively young for the game. I feel like there’s no reason not to be playing.”

On how he ended up in Somerset…

“I played with Brett, and I had my agent on alert as far as possible jobs. We’d talked about the Atlantic League, and I just so happened to stumble on the fact that Brett was coaching up here. I gave him a call, and said I was ready. I told him I wouldn’t b.s. him, and that I was ready to go and ready to throw the ball. It’s not one of those things where I’m still me, but I’m not ready to go…I’m ready to go.”

On if he had any hesitation about coming to independent ball…

“No, not at all. Especially in being away from the game for a few years, there was no hesitation at all. Playing baseball and doing something you love and getting paid for it is huge for me, I love it. I had no hesitation whatsoever.

Road Warriors News: I spoke to Road Warriors manager Jeff Scott before tonight’s game in Somerset, and he said that P Chris Flinn is expected back shortly, and his arm is pretty much ready to go…but he injured his hamstring throwing, and that’s delayed things a bit.

The Mike Garcia I had guessed had signed with the team is who’s on the roster. He isn’t at the ballpark yet, but I’ll talk to him in a little bit.

Bears Release Kimbell: It was a great story while it lasted, but the Bears have released P Matt Kimbell. Kimbell went from the grounds crew to the pitching staff, but Jeriome Robertson and Donaldo Mendez came back, and a roster move needed to be made.

Speaking of History: You might remember that former Patriots P Dave Elder was on the mound for Rafael Palmeiro’s 500th home run. Here’s an excerpt from our 2004 interview about that…

A lot of people probably remember your name from the game in which Rafael Palmeiro’s 500th HR. Knowing that you’d probably be facing him, were you thinking about that at all when you were in the bullpen or on the mound?

“No. Actually, they had mentioned that to us. The reporters had kind of bombarded us in Anaheim before we had went over to Texas and they were asking all the bullpen guys what it would be like to give up Palmeiro’s (500th) and we were we going to pitch him any differently. And we were like no, we were going to pitch him according to the situation and score. And of course they asked me what it would be like to give up the home run to a former teammate. And I’d never been in the big leagues with Texas but I’d been on the roster so I’d met Raffy a couple of times.

“I’ll tell ya, it was a moment. Not a happy one for me, but I faced him that Friday, I gave up the home run on a Sunday. But I faced him that Friday in a 16 pitch at-bat and the one hit the home run (in) was like an 11 pitch at-bat. So, he wasn’t going away quietly. When I gave up the home run I didn’t make my pitch, I was trying to come in with a fastball and left it over the middle of the plate and he had 499 other reasons why you don’t leave the ball over the middle of the plate.” – Ashmore

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Comments»

1. Scott Stanchak - August 10, 2007

Thanks, that’s why there’s editors…

2. tec48 - August 10, 2007

You know, if the players could get organizes a bit they might be able to get the salaries up. Maybe the prospect of empty ball parks may get some attention.
The suits in this league are laughing all the way to the bank.

3. BoosterBabe - August 10, 2007

There are plenty of empty seats in Bridgeport and I’ve heard, also in Newark. Doesn’t seem to be making an impact on the players salaries so far. I honestly don’t understand it. It’s good baseball and it’s good family entertainment. Whichever you are looking for, it’s there at Harbor Yard, 76 days a summer. WHY DON’T PEOPLE SHOW UP??? It’s a mystery to me.

Some of these guys are so eager to play and get noticed by scouts, they’d play in a beer league for free if it would help. Higher salaries would attract a better caliber of player…maybe that would draw a bigger crowd.

4. fishyfan - August 10, 2007

just an FYI.. Ahearne went to Taiwan not Mexico

5. BoosterBabe - August 11, 2007

Hiya Fishy….that’s what I thought, too. But I figured I had him confused with someone else. so many comings and goings….

Do you stay in touch with Pat?

I should bake tonight…it will take the chill out of the apartment! But it’s the perfect night to curl up on the couch under a blankie with the cat and watch a movie. Might just do that and maybe whip something up for the boys tomorrow morning!
I have Bobby Malek’s mom’s recipe for peanut crunch bars…..I promised Bobby I’d make them for them, at least once.

ANyone know the reasoning behind not making up tonight’s game tomorrow as a double header? THey are holding off until 8/23. Only thing I can think of, maybe it has to do with the pitching rotation?

Porzio seems to have disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle….maybe we’re short one man in the pitching rotation but something is in the works for next week????

Where oh where is Brian Boehringer when we need him???? (I know, he’s in St Louis, rehabbing his elbow, but shouldn’t he be ready by now??)

6. chuckerd58 - August 11, 2007

Just wanted to mentioned my trip to Lancaster and Camden. Both are awesome parks. I love the fact Lancaster actually shows the game hi-lites on the scoreboard during the game. The Lancaster game was tuesday night’s slugfest in the heat of central Pa. Wild game where both The Warriors Gabe Suarez and the Stormers Jeremy Todd where both tossed from the game for arguing called third strikes. It was pretty funny seeing them have to trudge out to the clubhouse entrance out in right field. Clipper Magazine stadium is a little different than the other AL parks with their picnic area’s and outfield clubhouse. The Camden game was also fun,especially getting to see the Duck’s win on the road. Cambell’s field was everything i had heard of, it was very cool to see the Bridge out in left field after seeing pictures of it.Another hot day,glad that the Sharks gave out sun block for the fan’s. Great seats between third and home,but no foul balls. Anyway,both parks where great,the people i dealt where all friendly and helpfull.I hope to visit both again in the future.

7. chuckerd58 - August 11, 2007

Also,i haven’t heard anything on Duck catcher Jarrod Price who was beaned in the head. It made a sickening thud off his helmet,and he left the field very wobbly.

8. mnlem - August 13, 2007

Excellent article by Scott. I assume the AL not being competitive with the foreign league salaries is a coherent business decision. Presumably attendance would not be helped if these players were retained?


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