Archive | February, 2011

Manic Monday: Offseason Baseball Leagues

I follow a lot of people on Twitter (you can follow me @baseballjourney) and have been reading a lot about when pitchers and catchers report. Everyone is talking about when baseball season starts or when spring training starts, and I think a lot of people are missing out on some good offseason baseball. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are only 7 days till pitchers and catchers report and to me that is always a big deal as it is a signal that spring is coming and baseball is almost here. But there is baseball being played NOW!

Perhaps I am too hung up on watching baseball as some of those who know me might say. I couldn’t really argue with that, but I love to watch baseball. I love the smells of the game, the sounds, the atmosphere, and the competition. And there are some really good leagues that play during the MLB offseason.

First of all, there is the Arizona Fall League. Now I don’t know if any of these games get televised, but this year you had the chance to follow some of the big up  and coming talent. Ever hear of that Bryce Harper kid? He is pretty good. Granted he didn’t play everyday in the AFL, but he did get some playing time and helped his team win the title this year.

But perhaps the player to watch in the AFL this year won the MVP and that is Dustin Ackley. This kid could hit in blindfolded in a closet. In his 20 games in the AFL he had 28 hits (.424 average) with 10 doubles and 4 home runs. I don’t know if Seattle will have him starting at 2B this season, but I don’t think it will be long before he is up with the big club if he starts the year in AAA.

But there were more players to watch. First baseman Brandon Belt (SF/.372), second baseman Cord Phelps (.367), Adam Loewen (TOR/.355), and Mike McDade (.372) are just a few of the hitters that had a great AFL season. A few pitchers showed some promise too. Eric Hurley (TEX/3-0/1.82), Marc Rzepczynski (TOR/4-0/1.16), and Ryan Verdugo (SF/4-1/2.45) all had a great season.

In addition to the Arizona Fall League, there are leagues all through the Caribbean with great baseball. Each winter the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico play a league that culminates with the Caribbean Series. Here you can find a lot of MLB and MiLB talent.

Right now the Caribbean Series is coming to an end. ESPN has been showing a lot of the Dominican league games and the Caribbean Series on So there is an opportunity to watch some great baseball even though it is “football season” in the USA. I have had the chance to see some really good games this offseason through I know last year MLB Network showed the Caribbean Series so maybe they will do the same again next year.

Another league that is coming to an end right now is the new Australian Baseball League (ABL). The MLB and the Australian Baseball Federation have partnered to bring back the ABL. I have been really impressed with the level of play and pleased to find many of the games broadcast online. Now these are the greatest of broadcast, but they are still fun to watch.

The ABL Finals are about to start this coming weekend and so far the playoffs have been exciting. The last game of Round 2, with the winner going to the finals, went 15 innings and was some of the most exciting baseball I have seen all year. In Game 1 of the same round, Australian David Welch threw a no-hitter. It doesn’t get anymore exciting than that. You should be able to catch the finals online at the ABL website.

So all in all, there is a lot of good baseball to hold over any fan during the offseason. I am looking forward to the ABL Finals, the last day of the Caribbean Series, and in 7 days pitchers and catchers reporting. You can never get enough baseball.

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SABR Day 2011 – Nashville, TN

For years I have thought about joining the Society for American Baseball Research or SABR. But in the end I always talked myself out of it because I don’t consider myself a “stats guy”. I, like many people, had a misconception about what SABR was about.

Sure there are the Sabermetrics guys out there or “stats guys” if you will, but SABR is much more than that. I only wish it didn’t take me this long to find that out.

I am more interested in the history of the game, and that was just what I found when I went to my first SABR meeting on SABR Day last Saturday. Since I live near Nashville, I met up with the Grantland Rice-Fred Russell Chapter for breakfast, and I was glad I did.

What I found was a group of baseball fans that were interested in different aspects of the game which made for an interesting breakfast. Some members were interested in minor leagues while others were interested in how geography affected the game. That was something I never really thought about, but it was interesting to hear someone knowledgeable talk about.

Members of the chapter came from all over the area. There were folks from Birmingham, Chattanooga, Nashville, and even Bowling Green, KY. But we all had one thing in common and that is a love for the game.

I heard a lot of interesting stories. We even got the story on how the Nashville Sounds came to town from their first general manager Farrell Owens. I found that interesting, and it was nice to hear the story from someone who had a great deal in baseball returning to Nashville after a 14-year absence. It’s the behind the scenes history of teams like that which make this game so interesting off the field, and SABR is just the place to find that and much more.

I wasn’t sure how I would be accepted at the meeting having not known anyone prior, but everyone was more than welcoming. They were even interested in hearing about baseball in Korea, which I found a little relieving since I wasn’t sure what else I would talk about. It really couldn’t have been a better first meeting for me, and I owe all of that to the group that was there.

I met some amazing people, who I hope to be in contact with in the future even though I am moving half way around the world. I know I can learn a lot from them about the game I love, and in the end that is why I joined SABR.

All in all it was a great time. To top it off I got to briefly meet Dwight Gooden. The Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association had its yearly banquet the night before at the hotel where we met for breakfast. Their speaker that night was Gooden, and the next morning he was eating breakfast with some of the members of the Association. He was kind enough to take a picture with our small SABR group giving me a memory I will long remember.

So thanks to Skip, Joe, Clarence, Gerald, Peggy, Dan, and Dwight (I hope I am not forgetting anyone) for making my first SABR meeting one to remember. If you aren’t a member and have a love of the game whether it is for stats or the history, I would highly suggest joining and participating in events to meet fellow lovers of the game.

SABR Day 2011
SABR Day 2011 – Nashville, TN

Photo courtesy of Skip Nipper

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Book Review: Boomerang Baseball by Nicholas R.W. Henning

I am always looking for books on baseball to read, but rarely do I run across one that is fiction. That was the case when I came across Boomerang Baseball.

With the Australian Baseball League (ABL) restarting this year, I got hooked on trying to watch some of the games online. It has been a great way to get my baseball fix during the winter, and the ABL has been a lot of fun to follow.  While doing a little reporting on the ABL at Baseball de World I was able to meet, through his comments, Mr. Henning. This has been a blessing as it has not only introduced me to baseball fiction, but Mr. Henning has provided a lot of insight on the league.

When I found out Mr. Henning was an author, I was anxious to read one of his books. So I picked up a copy of Boomerang Baseball. I read about half of it on my trip to Charlotte late last year, then lost the book on the flight home, so I picked up another copy.

The book is about the early life of Trent McKnight. Told in an autobiographical style, it’s an interesting ride as Trent battles with his on-again, off-again relationship with baseball as well as the little problems that each of us go through during our formidable years.

I picked up this book mainly because it dealt with baseball, and I hoped to see some insight about a country, Australia, where baseball isn’t played as much as other sports. And I wasn’t let down. I really enjoyed reading about Trent taping baseball shows on TV and watching them over and over. This brought back a lot of memories of when I was young and staying up late, with the volume nearly all the way down as to not wake my parents, to watch baseball on ESPN. Or Trent finding somewhere to buy baseball cards or find equipment. I grew up in a small town and can remember the days when I got to go to a bigger city to a large sporting good store. Seeing all of that baseball equipment was like Christmas all over again.

But the book is more than baseball. Being a bit older now, I can look back on Trent’s struggles knowing I went through a lot of similar things. Ever since I can remember I wanted to play professional baseball and there comes a time when you find out that that dream just isn’t going to come true. That isn’t an easy thing to deal with. Trent goes through this same ordeal over the years as he struggles with finding out he isn’t the elite player required to continue on with a baseball career. But that’s not all he struggles with.

I think I can safely say we have all had issues with the opposite sex, and Trent is no exception. Seeing him go through different phases of becoming a man was really entertaining. He struggles with playing baseball with girls, and then later going through a lot of the normal growing pains of a teenager/young adult. There are a lot of other issues Trent runs into like overcoming self-doubt, a temper, bullying, and failure. These are things that everyone must deal with at one point, and Mr. Henning does a great job incorporating all of this with Trent’s baseball life.

I also learned a lot about Australian baseball. There are a handful of Aussies that have made the major leagues like Grant Balfour, Damian Moss, Peter Moylan, and David Nilsson. But did you know Graeme Lloyd was the first one to win a World Series title with the Yankees in 1996? I didn’t until I read the book.

The ending was perhaps the best part of the book. I don’t want to give it away, because I think you need to go out and read this book. It’s a feel good story of a kid who goes through his struggles and successes. But the book is more than just baseball, it deals with life too. I really enjoyed the book and think you will too. So go out and pick up a copy. I got mine off of Amazon.

Mr. Henning also has a 2nd book that deals with baseball. The American Dream: From Perth to Sacramento is a story about an Australian ball player traveling to the US to pursue his baseball dreams as he plays in the minor leagues. After reading Boomerang Baseball, this has gone into my “must read” list.

You can find all of Nicholas R.W. Henning’s book on Amazon and you can follow his blog at I would highly recommend picking up one of his books as I thoroughly enjoyed mine. In my own personal way of rating, I would have to give this book 5 gloves.

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There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971


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