Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz
American Association players will tell anyone interested in listening that one thing they truly enjoy about the Independent game is that teams are out to win, not just to develop talent as is mostly the case in the affiliated leagues. This notwithstanding, the first message a manager might want to get out to his team when that first practice for the May 19 openers takes place is that more than 50 of the league’s previous players are wearing major league organization uniforms today.
Nearly two-thirds of those who show up in our private research are at one of the top three levels.
While only five, including two who are on the disabled list, are in the major leagues, another 19 of the 53 in the total count are only one step below the majors, playing in Triple-A. Eleven others are in Double-A leagues, where the majors also often go for reinforcements. That leaves 18 still developing in Class A or rookie leagues.
Twenty-four of the 30 major league organizations have at least one American Association player. View the full list.
How Much One Phone Call Can Mean
Hall of Fame candidates often talk about their nervousness as they sit by the telephone in January to see if they have received enough votes for election. The level may be different, but that one call is no less meaningful for players hoping to get their first professional opportunity. Just ask Matt Solter, who came off four years of pitching at Furman University but did not get drafted and opted for a summer with the Gary SouthShore RailCats (2-3, 3.81 in 18 relief appearances).
The 22-year-old right-hander got his call recently from the San Francisco Giants, and is starting his professional career in extended spring training in Arizona as he awaits permanent assignment.
“I told them that I’ve been waiting for this call my whole life,” Solter told the hometown New Bern (NC) Sun Journal. “I’ve always known it was going to happen, it was just a matter of the route. I feel like being overlooked in the draft like I was, that’s been a lot of motivation for me. My goal is to go out there and show that I am good enough.”
How Are They Doing?
James Hoyt (Wichita) and Patrick Johnson (Sioux City) were two of the most talked about former American Association players during spring training, Hoyt because he barely missed being part of Houston’s Opening Day roster after a second consecutive strong March and Johnson since the Miami Marlins gave him some major league exposure coming off of his brilliant 15-1, all-star season with the Explorers.
Both are doing well now that the regular season has started. Johnson is in the bullpen at Class AA Jacksonville and has won his only decision with a 1.59 ERA in three outings, giving up five hits and striking out the same number.
Hoyt, a big strikeout hurler, gave up two runs his last time out when his control was shaky (four walks), but still has a 3.38 ERA and two saves in five appearances for Fresno where he has fanned eight in only 5.1 innings. He made a key showing when the defending Triple-A champion Grizzlies opened their home season before a capacity crowd of 13,415. Hoyt worked a 1-2-3 ninth to save the 2-1 victory over the New York Mets’ top minor leaguers from Las Vegas.
Previously the chief spokesman for Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site as well as writing his own blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com.