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 ESPN3.com. 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 ESPN3.com. 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.