As Director of Baseball Operations for an independent baseball team, my job description involves recruiting players who are sometimes just hours past hearing the news of their release from an MLB organization. These conversations have a vast range in both depth and duration according to the fragility of the player’s current mental mindset, but my ability to help turn around their attitude relies on such evidence as provided by independent blogger Bob Wirz, who recently reported that over 40 players with independent experience are currently participating in Major League spring training camps. Of course, not all of those 40 players will break camp with their Major League club at the end of March, but times are changing, and independent baseball can often provide a backdoor to the big leagues when the front door is shut in your face. Pictured is the Pittsburgh Pirates RHP Chris Jakubauskas, claimed off waivers this off-season from the Seattle Mariners. He spent a full season in the big leagues in 2009, including significant time in the Mariners starting rotation – his first professional baseball experience? Getting drafted at the Frontier League Tryout Camp in 2003 by the Florence Freedom, who, get this, released him in 2004. He spent three more seasons in Indy ball before being picked up by the Mariners in 2007, making his big league debut in 2009. Read more for more information on the ex-Indy players in camp with MLB teams.
While this represents a drop off from 50 under similar qualifying criteria one year ago, it still is a significant contribution out of the non-major-league-affiliated ranks. Based on recent years, several more players probably will experience at least brief exhibition game opportunities. Twenty-one players are on 40-man rosters with the other as 19 non-roster invitees.
The players in major league camps, including their team and Independent cities. Non-roster players are designated with an “n”.
PITCHERS (25)—CRAIG BRESLOW, Oakland (#New Jersey, Northeast League); Tim Byrdak, Houston (Gary, IN and Joliet, IL, Northern League); Alberto Castillo, Baltimore (Schaumburg, IL, Northern, and Newark and Camden, NJ, and Road Warriors, Atlantic League); *Aaron Crow, Kansas City, Fort Worth, TX (American Association); Brendan Donnelly, Pittsburgh (Ohio Valley, Frontier League, and Nashua, NH, Atlantic); Nelson Figueroa, New York-NL (Long Island, NY, Atlantic); nJohn Halama, Milwaukee (Southern Maryland and Long Island, Atlantic); *Luke Hochevar, Kansas City (Fort Worth); *Chris Jakubauskas, Pittsburgh (Lincoln, NE, American Association; Orange County, Golden League; Florence, KY and Ohio Valley, Frontier); *Josh Kinney, St. Louis (River City, Frontier); n*Pete Parise, St. Louis (Slippery Rock, Frontier); nOneli Perez, St. Louis (Newark); nVince Perkins, Chicago-NL (Camden and Joliet); Edwar Ramirez, New York-AL (Edinburg, TX, United League, and Pensacola, FL, American Association); *Scott Richmond, Toronto (#Edmonton, Alberta, Northern); *Max Scherzer, Detroit (Fort Worth); n*Tanner Scheppers, Texas (St. Paul, MN, American Association); Travis Schlichting, Los Angeles-NL (Kansas City, KS, Northern); *George Sherrill, Los Angeles-NL (Evansville, IN, Frontier, and Winnipeg, Manitoba, and #Sioux Falls, SD, Northern); nR. J. Swindle, Tampa Bay (Schaumburg, and Newark); *Joe Thatcher, San Diego (River City); Randy Williams, Chicago-AL (#Edinburg, Central League); Clay Zavada, Arizona (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Brad Ziegler, Oakland (Schaumburg); n*Charlie Zink, St. Louis (#Yuma, AZ, Western League).
CATCHERS (5)—nEliezer Alfonzo, Seattle (#St. Paul, Northern); nCody Clark, Kansas City (San Diego, Golden); *Chris Coste, New York-NL (Fargo, ND, Northern; Brainerd, MN, North Central League; Brandon, Manitoba, Prairie League); nMichel Hernandez, Baltimore (Somerset, NJ, Atlantic); nMike Rivera, New York-AL (Atlantic City, NJ, Atlantic).
INFIELDERS (5)–n*1B-3B Mike Cervenak, New York-NL (Chillicothe, OH, Frontier); *SS Stephen Drew, Arizona (Camden); n1B JOHN LINDSEY, Los Angeles-NL (New Jersey, Can-Am League); n*1B Kevin Millar, Chicago-NL (#St. Paul, Northern); n*1B Brian Myrow, Pittsburgh (Winnipeg).
OUTFIELDERS (5)—nCory Aldridge, Los Angeles-AL (Newark); *J.D. Drew, Boston (#St. Paul, Northern); nJacque Jones, Minnesota (Newark); nMichael Ryan, Los Angeles-AL (Somerset); nJon Weber, New York-AL (Canton, OH, Frontier, and Fargo).
*Started career in Independent Baseball
#New Jersey now plays in Can-Am League, St. Paul and Sioux Falls in American Association, Edmonton and Yuma in Golden League and Edinburg in United League