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March 12, 2008 – Chad Ehrnsberger Talks March 12, 2008

Posted by atlanticleaguenews in Uncategorized.
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Interview Plans: It looks like Scott’s got Dave Veres for you tomorrow. I just got off the phone with Camden’s Aric Leclair, and we’ll have him and hopefully Kevin Haverbusch either Friday, this weekend, or when I get back from vacation on Monday.

Ehrnsberger Excited For Atlantic League Debut: Some guys get it, and some guys don’t. Heck, some teams get it, while others don’t.

Chad Ehrnsberger gets it.

The only thing difficult about dealing with him is double and triple checking to make sure I spell his name right when it’s in a story.

He’s a guy who understands that being a professional baseball player isn’t just swinging a bat and throwing a ball.

It’s signing autographs.

It’s being visible in the community.

And especially at this level, it’s about doing everything you can to help your team and help the league.

It doesn’t seem like the expansion Southern Maryland Blue Crabs have a face of the franchise just yet…or maybe they do, but they just don’t know it.

“I love to be in the community,” Ehrnsberger said.

“I’ll be the first guy signing autographs, and I’ll be the last guy signing autographs.”

Ehrnsberger is also trying to work with team officials to cooperate with his charitable organization, Hometown Homers.

“I’ve been friends with other players who have done stuff like this,” he said.

“This is a way that I can help out financially, as well as giving my time. I’ve played with a lot of players that can help out with getting signed memorabilia, and we’re looking to do a golf tournament as well.”

The 30-year-old Ehrnsberger is a breath of fresh air, legitimately excited to have an opportunity to play in the Atlantic League.

“I’ve wanted to get there for a while,” said Ehrnsberger of his quest to play in the AL.

“But it’s tough to get there unless you have a lot of Double-A, Triple-A or big league experience.”

Ehrnsberger credited St. Paul Saints manager George Tsamis for finally getting him his opportunity.

“He knew I wanted to get to the Atlantic League, and he went out of his way to help me get there,” Ehrnsberger said.

“He traded a pretty good player for me to get my rights, all with the sole purpose of trading me to the Atlantic League.”

Ehrnsberger, who frequently checks various independent baseball websites (including checking out the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs webcam several times a day to see how the stadium is coming along) has played in the Northern League for the past three seasons, but has always had his eye on the Atlantic League.

“It’s the place you want to be if you want to move up in the baseball world,” he said.

“In lots of indy leagues, there are some older guys, and in some cases, the guys play there to keep playing.”

But Ehrnsberger knows what it takes to get picked up, with the undrafted infielder having his contract purchased by the Seattle Mariners midway through the 2003 season. But you won’t believe what he had to say about that experience.

“At the time it happened, I was ecstatic,” he said.

“But probably about a week after I got picked up, I was ready to go back to independent ball.”

Ehrnsberger told me that the manager of that team told him that he didn’t want him, and that he wasn’t going to play there. But things picked up once the Cardinals purchased his contract from the Mariners about two months later, and he advanced as high as Double-A with them before going back to independent ball for 2005.

Having already been picked up once, Ehrnsberger knows it’s a realistic possibility to happen again. But he also knows he won’t be the only player who falls into that category.

“My goal is to play as well as I can and help the Blue Crabs win,” he said.

“If I get picked up, I get picked up. But if I don’t, hopefully it opens up some opportunities for me, whether it be in the Atlantic League, or overseas.”

Versatile enough to have done everything but catch during his career, Ehrnsberger told me that after initially thinking he’d be playing third base this year, a conversation with manager Butch Hobson has Ehrnsberger penciled in at second base, where he says he’s the most comfortable.

“Hey, as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter where I’m at as long as I’m out there,” he said.

“As long as I’m out there, I’m fine.”

One spot you won’t see Ehrnsberger this year is on the mound, although he joked he’d love to get back out there after his lone pro appearance as a pitcher in 2004.

“I like to hit and play every day, I don’t think I could sit in the dugout not knowing whether I’d get in the game or not,” he said.

Knowing that he’ll be a part of the inaugural season of Blue Crabs baseball is also important to Chad, as he enjoyed being a part of the first seasons of the Washington Wild Things and Kansas City T-Bones.

“It’s a blast to be on those teams,” he said.

“Everyone’s so excited, from the players to the fans. There’s a just a newness about it, and everyone’s attitudes are great. I’m really looking forward to that part of it.”

But how successful the Blue Crabs will be in the first season remains to be seen. Traditionally, expansion franchises in the Atlantic League haven’t done well in their first year, but Ehrnsberger seems to disagree with a certain writer who predicted inaugural season struggles for his new ballclub.

“They say it all the time, it’s a cliche, but talent takes you only so far. And to get to this level, you’ve got to have some talent,” he said.

“The players I know we’ve signed so far, I know they all approach the game the right way. We want to show we belong at this level.”

Off the field, Ehrnsberger has clearly shown he’s above this level. It’s on the field where the questions remain for him and some of his teammates, and only time will tell if Butch Hobson and Chad Ehrnsberger can lead the Blue Crabs to the playoffs in their first season.

Note: For more on Chad, you should go to…where else? ChadEhrnsberger.com

Bears Sign Three
: (PR) The defending Atlantic League Champion Newark Bears announced today that they have signed three local New Jersey players to contracts for the 2008 season. Infielder Tim Sweeney, right-handed pitcher Patrick Stanley, and catcher Scott Knazek will take part in a chance to be on the Bears roster this season.

Sweeney, the Sparta, NJ resident and former Rutgers University standout, is a versatile player, who has played all nine positions during his professional career. Originally selected by the Montreal Expos in the 20th round of the 2002 draft, the 27-year-old played two seasons in the Expos chain before missing three seasons due to injury.

Returning to action in 2007 for the Aiken Foxhounds of the South Coast League, Sweeney posted his best career numbers. He hit for a .297 batting-average in 64 games, with 165 at-bats, 29 runs-scored, 49 hits, 5 home runs, and 24 RBI.

At Rutgers, Sweeney was a teammate of former Bears All-Star righthander Bobby Brownlie.

Stanley, the Lakewood, NJ resident and former Pace University star, is battling for a spot on the Bears pitching staff this year. Originally selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 16th round of the 2004 draft, the 24-year old is no stranger to Independent League baseball, having spent the last two seasons playing in the Frontier League with the Washington Wild Things. In 2006, the right-handed pitcher had his best season with an 8-4 record in 22 starts, and a 2.72 ERA in 135.2 innings pitched.

Stanley led the Frontier League in strikeouts (111), was 5th in shutouts (1), 3rd in innings pitched, and 2nd in games started while playing for the Wild Things in 2006. Last season, Stanley appeared in only four games before undergoing season-ending rib surgery. Over his career, Stanley has a 12-9 record with a 3.98 overall ERA in 64 appearances with 235 innings pitched.

Knazek, the Eastampton, NJ resident and former Rider University catcher, is entering his first season with the Newark Bears and third in professional baseball. The 23-year old Knazek has spent most of his professional career in Single-A playing in the Pioneer, California, Midwest, and Arizona Leagues, and is entering his first season in Atlantic League with the Bears. He impressed the Bears coaching staff at a recent tryout for the Philadelphia Phillies, earning a contract for the 2008 campaign.

Mr. Bergstrom’s Back In Bridgeport: (PR) Bridgeport, CT – March 11th – The Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball announced they have come to terms with right-handed pitcher Rafael Bergstrom for the 2008 season.

Bergstrom was a member of the 2007 Bluefish team after being signed in late August from the Israeli Baseball League. In six appearances (four starts) with the Bluefish last season he struck out 18 batters in 29 innings while only walking six.

Bergstrom will continue his professional career in America that began with the Bluefish last season. The University of California (San Diego) product became the first player from the IBL to sign a pro contract in the United States. After playing in college and being named team captain and MVP, Bergstrom played in leagues in Munich, Germany for two seasons followed by one season in Brisbane, Australia before winding up with the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox of the IBL.

The 6’5, 225 lb pitcher had a career season with the Blue Sox on their way to a league championship. In 56 and 2/3 innings, Bergstrom fanned 51 batters and posted a 2.44 ERA to accompany his 7-2 record. He finished off the regular season with a complete game shutout and eight strikeouts in the championship game.

“Rafael did an outstanding job for us at the end of last season,” said Bluefish General Manager Todd Marlin. “We are happy to bring him back and see what he can do for an entire season with some time to learn the league and players.”

Bergstrom is the first pitcher, second player, signed to the 2008 Bluefish roster.

Hill Feature: As a part of my weekly Atlantic League coverage for the Democrat, here’s what you’ll see in tomorrow’s paper about one of the newest Newark Bears, Bobby Hill.

Back in 2000, when Bobby Hill couldn’t agree to terms with the team that drafted him, the Chicago White Sox, he made the Atlantic League’s Newark Bears his first professional team.

Eight years later, and Hill’s hoping that the Bears aren’t his last professional team.

The road seems longer than just a few years short of a decade for the former University of Miami standout, who took the independent route rather than sitting at home after seeing what it did for J.D. Drew, who played for the Northern League’s St. Paul Saints in 1997 and 1998.

“J.D. and I always talked when we played against each other in college,” said Hill from his Arizona home.

“At the time, independent baseball was up and coming. I knew it was out there, I just didn’t know much about it. I’m not sure how much J.D.’s success had to do with my decision.”

And just like his former college counterpart, Hill’s independent experience paid dividends, helping him sail through the levels of the affiliated minors, reaching the big leagues just a year and a half after last suiting up for the Bears.

“Getting to the big leagues was always a goal of mine,” Hill said.

“To get there with the Cubs as quickly as I did was a real accomplishment for me.”

After spending most of the following season in the minors, Hill was traded to the Pirates for Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton.

Little did Hill know, but it was around that time where he developed a fracture in his lower back that he’d play with for the next three seasons.

Despite the injury, Hill played on and spent two more seasons in the big leagues with the Pirates before playing in the minors for all of 2006 with the Padres organization.

Back in Cubs camp in 2007, it was only then that the true extent of the damage to his back was discovered, and Chicago voided his contract. Hill elected to have surgery on March 27, 2007, and his baseball career appeared to be in serious jeopardy.

“My doctor told me that there was a greater than 50 percent chance that I’d never play baseball again,” Hill said.

Working with John Fierro and Heidi Beasley of Fierro Sports and Accelerated Rehab in Chandler, AZ, Hill worked tirelessly to get back on the field, and left his doctors “absolutely amazed” that he was baseball ready after just six months of rehab.

“No one expected me to be ready when I was,” Hill said.

“I’ll be 30 in April, and I know I still have a lot left in the tank. I know that I belong in the big leagues, and the teams we talked to this off-season want to see that I’m healthy and see that I can play. But I’m 100 percent, and I’ve been taking ground balls this winter. I haven’t felt this good since I left college.”

Even feeling as good as he did when he first played for Newark despite being less than a year removed from major surgery, Hill also knows that his return to affiliated baseball isn’t a given.

“I’m not going to be the only guy in the Atlantic League trying to get back to the big leagues,” Hill said.

“I’d love to say that I’ll be there for one, two, three or four weeks, but I don’t really have a timetable or anything like that.”

But if Hill can even come close to matching his 2000 performance with the Bears, where he hit .326 with 13 home runs and 81 RBI, it seems crystal clear that his encore with Newark will be just as successful as his debut.

Guarente – Pats Have Early Edge: Over at Barnstormin’ (part of the inspiration for my intentionally vague “other venture,” by the way) Barnstormers beat writer Jason Guarente takes a look at the Patriots early signings and gives Somerset the early edge over the other seven teams. Why? You’ll have to click the link to find out…

Unnecessarily Breaking Down The Signings: If you’re in the market for some needless, and utterly useless information about the league’s 2008 signings, then boy are you in for a treat.

Players (officially) signed to date: 76
New to the league: 35
Major Leaguers: 12
Major Leaguers new to the league: 6
Total Games of MLB experience: 1,369
MLB teams represented: 20 (CIN, CHI (N), PIT, MIN, TOR, NY (A), ARI, CHI (A), OAK, LAA, SD, STL, HOU, MIL, SF, ATL, TEX, CLE, MON, COL)
Player with most MLB time: Dave Veres, 605 games
Team with most players signed: Southern Maryland, 15
Team with fewest players signed: Bridgeport, 2
Team with the most big leaguers: Somerset and York, 4
Team with the fewest big leaguers: Bridgeport, Camden, Lancaster — 0

Macho Camacho News: You remember Juan Camacho from the Road Warriors, right? Sure you do. He hit .189 with two home runs and seven RBI in 14 games in 2004. I see you nodding your head, now you remember him.

Well, the millions and millions of “Macho” fans will be thrilled to know that he’s signed with the American Association’s Sioux City Explorers. He joins fellow former Atlantic Leaguers Alex Llanos and Dusty Bergman, who I will forever remember for dousing me with a bottle of champagne in the Bears clubhouse during their championship celebration.

You tend not to forget people who give your clothes that special stink you can’t get out for weeks provide such an interesting moment in your career.

Comments: For as much as I complain when we don’t get comments on the site, I don’t thank people enough when they do write in. So, thank you. I can’t always answer all your questions, but I do try, and Scott and myself always welcome any sort of AL related discussion. – Mike Ashmore

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Comments»

1. Dave - March 12, 2008

The Patriots have re-signed Brandon Knight.

2. Mike - March 12, 2008

That and a Camden signing were added to the site last night, so it’s on yesterday’s page…

3. Anonymous - March 12, 2008

I am upset that Bobby Brownlie is not getting a more serious liook from the Nats. I thought he had a shot at number 5 but he has only been given one inning of work this spring.

4. AtlanticLeagueBaseball.com - March 12, 2008

Brownlie got sent down to minor league camp the other day. No word on where he’ll ultimately end up.

5. Kevin - March 12, 2008

Wow, Ehrnsberger really sounds like a great guy. Kind of brings to light one of the big debates of independent baseball, do you want your players to make the move to affiliated ball or stay where they’re at so you can root for them?

6. Anonymous - March 12, 2008

I read that Brownlie got a good look at he could be up with the team sometime this year…it was in the Nats mailbag on Monday.

7. AtlanticLeagueBaseball.com - March 12, 2008

Ehrnsberger heard a lot about the Atlantic League from another one of the good guys, Patriots hitting coach Kevin Dattola, who gives lessons at the same facility he does.

I’d have to imagine the various directors of player ops have a similar dilemma: Do we sign the best available guys, knowing some of them will be gone within the month…or do we sign guys we know can help us for a longer period of time?

I’ve asked that question numerous times, and the answer has always been that they’re going to sign the best player out there…but I wonder if the thought at least crosses their minds.

8. BoosterBabe - March 12, 2008

Did you get the Bluefish newsletter today?
I knew about the signing on Sunday but promised to keep my mouth shut–not easy for me!


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