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Independent Leagues Contribute to WBC

02/09/2009 9:29 AM -

(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes on Independent Baseball.  Fans may subscribe at www.WirzandAssociates.com,  enjoy his blogs (www.IndyBaseballChatter.com and www.IndependentBaseballClassifieds.com ) or comment to RWirz@aol.com.  The author has 16 years of major league baseball PR experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners and lives in Stratford, CT.)

At Least 51 Independent Players Headed to Major League Camps;
32 on Provisional World Baseball Classic Rosters

By Bob Wirz
  
 This may be my favorite column of the year.  I feel like a kid again as I pour through rosters in an attempt to track down every player who has stepped foot on an Independent Baseball diamond, and now is headed to a major league spring training camp.

 The second World Baseball Classic adds another dimension with Independent players also occupying a great many of the provisional roster spots for some of the 16 countries competing in this grand March event.

 Ready for the raw numbers?

 While more will unquestionably be added before spring training runs its course, today’s number is 51 onetime Independent players who will be in major league camps.    Sixteen of these men got their very first professional exposure in a non-affiliated league, and with very few exceptions they had to prove themselves every step of the way to reach The Show.

 The 51 players break down this way:  Twenty-three are on the coveted 40-man rosters of major league teams, and 28 are non-roster invitees.

 The Atlantic League, which caters to more established players,  and the Northern League lead the way with impressive counts of 19 and 16 players, respectively.  The Frontier League, which joined the Northern in ushering in Independent Baseball in 1993, is third with a dozen.

 The preliminary list we have put together for the World Baseball Classic has 32 current or former Independent players, top-heavy with 25 pitchers, although those numbers will be whittled down before the first game March 5.  Each country has a 45-man roster at this point, but must end up with no more than 28 by February 24.  

Non-roster players including major league affiliation and Independent cities and leagues:

 PITCHERS (15)—Bobby Brownlie, Washington (Newark, NJ, Atlantic League); Alberto Castillo, Baltimore (Schaumburg, IL, Northern League, and Camden, NJ, Newark and Road Warriors, Atlantic); Jason Childers, Tampa Bay (Richmond, IN, Frontier League); Seth Etherton, Arizona (Long Beach, CA, Golden League); Nelson Figueroa, New York-NL (Long Island, NY, Atlantic); Aaron Fultz, Cincinnati (Somerset, NJ, Atlantic); Danny Graves, Houston (Long Island, Atlantic); Lindsay Gulin, Milwaukee (St. Paul, MN and Lincoln, NE, American Association); *Chris Jakubauskas, Seattle (Lincoln, American Association; Fullerton, CA, Golden; Florence, KY and Ohio Valley, Frontier); Tom Martin, New York-NL (Long Island, Atlantic); Brian Mazone, Los Angeles-NL (Joliet, IL, Northern, and +Zion, St. George, UT, Western League; Adam Pettyjohn, Cincinnati (Long Beach, Golden); *Matt Wilhite, Los Angeles-AL (Kenosha, WI, Frontier); Jerome Williams, Oakland (Long Beach, Golden); Randy Williams, Chicago-AL (Edinburg, TX, Central League).
 CATCHER (3)—Eliezer Alfonzo, San Diego (+St. Paul, Northern); Cody Clark, Kansas City (San Diego, CA, Golden); Michel Hernandez, Tampa Bay (Somerset, Atlantic).
INFIELDERS (5)— *Tagg Bozied, 1B, Oakland (+Sioux Falls, SD, Northern); *Mike Cervenak, 1B-3B, Philadelphia (Chillicothe, OH, Frontier); John Lindsey, 1B, Florida (New Jersey, Can-Am League); *Brian Myrow, 1B-3B, Chicago-AL (Winnipeg, Northern); Corey Smith, 3B, Kansas City (Newark, Atlantic).
 OUTFIELDERS (5)—*Justin Christian, Baltimore (River City, Frontier); Jay Gibbons, Florida (Long Island, Atlantic); Mike Ryan, Florida (Somerset, Atlantic); Chris Walker, Philadelphia (Camden,  Atlantic); Jon Weber, Tampa Bay (Canton, OH, Frontier, and Fargo, ND, Northern).

 *Started career in Independent Baseball
 +St. George now plays in the Golden League, St. Paul and Sioux Falls in the American Association

Sherrill, Ziegler May Play for Team USA

 It will be a proud day for Independent Baseball if Team USA’s final roster for the World Baseball Classic ends up with George Sherrill and Brad Ziegler in the bullpen.

 Sherrill’s story, which we have told at various times in this space, is a great one in that the southpaw came out of Austin Peay State, and he spent four and a half seasons in Independent leagues before a major league team (Seattle) would obtain his contract.  He was not even a closer in the Frontier League (Evansville, IN) or in the Northern League (Sioux Falls, SD, now in the American Association, or Winnipeg).  Still only 31, Sherrill saved 31games for Baltimore last summer and was on the American League All-Star Team.

 Ziegler, who was nothing short of brilliant as he broke several rookie records in posting a 1.06 earned run average to go with a 3-0 record and 11 late-season saves for the Oakland Athletics, only played four Independent games with the Schaumburg (IL) Flyers in 2004.  Still, the Northern League stop was key to his success in that he pitched only three innings as a Philadelphia Phillies draftee before being released.  Four strong starts at Schaumburg (3-0, 1.50) were all he needed to get Oakland’s attention.

 Canada’s roster is once again loaded with Indy players (eight) as are the provisional lists from Italy and Canada, with six apiece.  Thirteen Atlantic League grads are listed, one more than the Northern League.  The Can-Am League has seven.

 PITCHERS (25)—Craig Anderson, Australia (Brockton, MA, Can-Am League); Barry Armitage, South Africa (Atlantic City, NJ, Newark, NJ and Lancaster, PA,  Atlantic League); Federico Baez, Puerto Rico (Camden, NJ, Atlantic);  Chris Begg, Canada (Johnstown, PA, Frontier League; Albany, NY, Northeast League; St. Paul, MN, Northern League; Quebec, Can-Am); Adam Blackley, Australia (El Paso, TX, American Association); Eric Cyr, Canada (Quebec, Can-Am), Mark DiFelice, Italy (Somerset and Camden, Atlantic), Bryan Dumesnil, Canada (Quebec, Can-Am); Nelson Figueroa, Puerto Rico (Long Island, NY, Atlantic); Tony Fiore, Italy (Long Island, Atlantic);  Donavon Hendricks, South Africa (Brockton and Atlantic City, Can-Am, and El Paso, American Association); Mike Johnson, Canada (Somerset, Atlantic); Wayne Lundgren, Australia (Brockton, Can-Am); Josue Matos, Puerto Rico (North Shore, Lynn, MA, Can-Am); #Brian Mazone, Italy (Joliet, IL, Northern, and Zion, St. George, UT (Western League); Damian Moss, Australia (Long Island, Atlantic, and Macon, GA, South Coast League); Chris Oxspring, Australia (Cook County, Crestwood, IL, Frontier); Juan Padilla, Puerto Rico (York, PA, Atlantic); Vince Perkins, Canada (Joliet, Northern); Edwar Ramirez, Dominican Republic (Pensacola, FL, Central League, and Edinburg, TX, United League); *Scott Richmond, Canada (Edmonton, Northern); *George Sherrill, United States (Evansville, IN, Frontier, and Winnipeg and Sioux Falls, SD, Northern); Mike Spidale, Italy (Kansas City, KS, Northern); R. J. Swindle, Canada (Newark,  Atlantic, and Schaumburg, IL, Northern); Brad Ziegler, United States (Schaumburg, Northern).
 INFIELDERS(6)—Sharnol Adriana, 1B, Netherlands (Newark, Atlantic, and Calgary, Northern); Edgardo Alfonzo, 3B, Venezuela (Long Island,  Atlantic); Stubby Clapp, SS, Canada (Edmonton, Northern); Ben Risinger, 1B, Australia (Gary, IN, Northern, and Springfield, IL, Frontier); Jack Santora, 2B-SS-3B, Italy (Newark and Lancaster, Atlantic);  Randall Simon, 1B, Netherlands (Newark, Atlantic)
 OUTFIELDER(1)—Mike Spidale, Italy (Kansas City, Northern)

*Started career in Independent Baseball
#Also is a non-roster invitee to spring training

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