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Movie Review – Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey

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Bill Lee may be known as the Spaceman, but you could very easily call him Mr. Baseball. Lee has a passion for the game that really comes out in the film Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey. Bill Lee joins a team from San Diego on a trip to Cuba for a little barnstorming trip.

It’s an interesting ride in that you not only get to see a different side of Bill Lee from what you might see on TV in interviews, but you get to see a small insight on baseball in Cuba.

Nobody on the trip to Cuba from the US was ever paid to play baseball with the exception of Bill Lee. This is a group of adults who love the game. Traveling to a game on a bus and getting off together as a team is their major leagues. To do that in another country  has to be an absolute thrill. Throw in that you are doing it on an island that is baseball crazy and it has to be a trip of a lifetime.

All of the Cuban players are older adults who have played their entire lives, and it shows. They play good baseball and put the American team to the test in each game. Not only do the players show a love of the game, but you see people showing up to games as fans to watch that love it. Some show up to practice their English, some show up to see the former major leaguer play, and others simply want to watch baseball.

Everywhere the players go they are greeted by friendly people and most are fans of the game. It’s an amazing insight, albeit small, into a culture that has almost been closed off completely to Americans. The opposing teams and people on the streets are interested in talking about the old guys who played with Lee, and they know them. They remember Fred Lynn, Luis Tiant, Fisk, and others.  It’s amazing how much the casual fan knows there.

Another aspect of the movie that is interesting is seeing the fields they play at. Of course, they are all older but the field itself always looks like its in pretty good shape. You see some nice fields with makeshift fences at times or old concrete stands that were erected in the 50?s or earlier.

A lot of the movie is about Bill Lee and his history which is pretty interesting. I enjoyed it especially since I only know Lee from what I have read because he was out of baseball before I can remember watching. He had a lot of interesting things to say and was quite a character. I can easily see how he got the nickname Spaceman, but don’t get fooled into thinking he isn’t an intelligent man. He reminds me of a baseball version of Dennis Miller. He uses a lot of references that most people won’t understand which to me makes him even more interesting. In the day of internet and Google, you can actually search some of the references with the click of a mouse.

He’s also part Satchel Paige in that he is still playing into his 60?s (I believe he was 58 at the time of the film). He talks about Paige in the film as well saying he is his idol for having played so long at such a high level. The both have some interesting quotes as well.

You get some insight on Bill from some of his contemporaries and others that he was around in the game of baseball. Fred Lynn, Dick Williams, Luis Tiant, and others are interviewed about Bill Lee. They all have something interesting to say and when you combine that with some old interview footage it makes for an interesting look at the man himself.

This film has made me more of a fan of Bill Lee and has made me want to read some of the books he wrote. You can also catch Bill on another trip to Cuba in the Film Gift of the Game

I highly recommend watching this film. It’s only just over an hour long so its not a huge time commitment, but it’s extremely interesting. Take an inside look at baseball in Cuba, if only for a minute. And get a look at Bill Lee and you can’t help but love his love of the game whether you are a Red Sox fan or Yankees fan or anyone in between. I give it a rating of 4 gloves.


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Book Review: Deadball by David B. Stinson

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Nostalgia is a part of baseball that stays with us as we get older. I can remember watching games as a kid at old Arlington Stadium that is now a parking lot. When I go back to Arlington and visit The Ballpark, I think back to when I was a kid watching games with my dad and brothers. But what if I could get back to Arlington Stadium just once more to sit in the bleachers like I did when I was a kid. This is the thought and feeling I got when reading David Stinson’s Deadball: A Metaphysical Baseball Novel.

In this novel, Stinson tells of a former minor leaguer, Byron “Bitty” Bennett, who’s love of the game extends past the history of his beloved Baltimore Orioles, but to the old parks that once served as the stage for some of the greatest players and teams to have ever played the game. However, his connection to the game is more than that of just a former player. It’s more spiritual than that.

Bennett does his best to study the history of the game in Baltimore, but he does more than just read. He uses his knowledge and old photos to try and visualize the places where the game he loves so much was once played. Visiting these ballparks he is introduced to and slowly incorporated into a society of believers that resembles something out of Field of Dreams.

As he ventures around to various old stadiums in Cleveland, Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore, he slowly sees more and more of something he can’t quite explain. Slowly he sees more at each stop. He starts by having conversations with players that he thinks are either ghosts or someone playing a practical joke. He isn’t quite sure.

Slowly he sees more and more as he continues his journey. He begins to see the stadiums as they were during their hay day. But it is more than the stadium. He begins to see the ticket takers, fans, and vendors even conversing with a few over time. He struggles with what he sees and the conversations he begins to have with people. He isn’t quite sure if what he is seeing is real or just a dream.

The few people he tells of these visions don’t believe him only furthering his frustration and struggles with reality. However, Byron continues looking for answers from the present and the past.

This book did a great job weaving the present with the past. It’s entertaining, and keeps the reader guessing what will happen in the end. I was actually surprised in the end in a good way.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It has increased my interest in the parks that have long disappeared, and took me back to my childhood to the park where I grew up watching games that is long gone.  It’s a journey to the past that engages the reader opening your mind to possibilities that are often overlooked.

I would highly recommend this to anyone. Baseball fans will love the history that is incorporated into the story, but I think anyone would enjoy the book for the story of Byron and his struggles with reality. I can only hope Mr. Stinson decides to write another book.

In the Baseball Journeyman rating system, I give this book a full 5 gloves. Pick it up and I think you’ll find yourself rooting for Byron “Bitty” Bennett like I did.


*In full disclosure, I was given this book by the author to read, but all my opinions about the book are mine and mine alone. Any items given to me for review purposes are always fully disclosed, but in no way does that mean a positive review will be given. As well, my reviews contain affiliate links. If you click and then purchase an item I will receive a small commission. Thanks for your understanding.


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Interview: Filmmaker John Fitzgerald

Filmmaker John Fitzgerald brought us The Emerald Diamond, about the Irish National Baseball Team and Baseball Ireland. He also brought us Playing for Peanuts, a 10-episode documentary on a minor league baseball team. Recently, he took some time to answer a few questions for us. Here is what he had to say.

Your first baseball documentary was “The Emerald Diamond” about the Irish National Baseball Team and Baseball Ireland (the governing body). What was your inspiration for making the film?

At the time, I was working as a Production Assistant on some big budget  movies and TV shows – Ladder 49, NYPD Blue, etc. – but I wanted to do my own stuff. I also wanted to play baseball for Ireland. Because I wasn’t eligible to play for Ireland in the European Championships, I decided to make a documentary instead to help them get their story out there.

How much did you know about Irish baseball before taking on the film project?

I probably knew about half of the story that ended up in the film. I had already had several conversations – via phone and email – with the players and coaches. At that point, I was still hoping to play for Ireland, so I wasn’t asking questions with the intention of making a documentary. I just thought the story was fascinating and I couldn’t believe I had never heard the story before, since I’m a huge baseball fan and I’m of Irish descent.

The film has received a lot of critical acclaim, yet I have read you had never produced a documentary before. What was it like to do it for the first time? Did you have experience with shorter projects?

It was alot of work. I had directed a short film and I had worked in film/TV production before, so I knew how to manage a project – budgets, logistics, that sort of thing. My good friend Bill Winters is an accomplished cinematographer, so he was able to help whenever I ran into difficulty. Besides that, it was mostly a trial and error process. But I learned alot! And quickly!

Your next baseball project was “Playing for Peanuts” where you followed around the minor league team the South Georgia Peanuts. Where did you get the idea to do this project?

I wanted to do a story similar to The Emerald Diamond, but this time I wanted to follow a team somewhere in America. Much of the themes in the two documentaries are the same – the love of the game, playing for little or no money and learning to overcome long odds to succeed as the underdog.

You produced a 10-episode series. How much of the season did you spend with the team?

I was with the team for about 75 games of a 90-game season. We had a small crew of camera operators and we also worked with the local news station to make sure we had all our bases covered, so to speak.

How much access were you granted by the manager, former big leaguer, Wally Backman?

We had total access from Wally and from the league. I think they both understood that they had nothing to gain from limiting our access.

What kind of feedback have you gotten on the series? Did you get any feedback from the guys on the team that are in the series?

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. And it continues to this day, in large part due to the fact that the league folded after one season. So Playing for Peanuts sort of stands as the definitive look at a baseball league that otherwise would’ve disappeared from people’s memories. When you think about it, there must be some amazing stories of leagues, teams and players that have simply been wiped from history because nobody was there to document it. It’s kind of sad in a way. I’m just glad that we were able to capture something that will never happen again.

Can you tell us a little bit about the production process of a documentary? For instance, how many hours of film go into an hours worth of finished product?

That really depends on what is being filmed at any given time. For instance, whenever Wally Backman was ejected from a game, we knew we would be using virtually all of the footage. But then there are times when we would film an entire 3 hour game and none of the footage would be used because nothing interesting happened. But that didn’t happen often because we always had Wally Backman and a few of his players wearing microphones during the game. It’s very easy to get interesting footage when players and coaches are mic’d up! Something as seemingly mundane as a manager visiting the mound to change pitchers can be very entertaining.

Your new baseball project is Baseball United. Can you tell us a little bit about what you are trying to do?

Baseball United is a social network and statistics website for amateur baseball teams. After making The Emerald Diamond and Playing for Peanuts, I realized two things: 1.) making films costs a lot of money that I don’t have and 2.) There are too many great stories to cover – there just aren’t enough camera crews in the world to do it!So I created Baseball United as a way for teams to tell their own stories through the videos, photos and comments that they post. And part of the website is a statistics software that lets them keep track of stats. Most importantly, there will be a way for teams to accept donations through the website. I think that will be especially helpful for international club teams and national teams in places like Europe. I encourage all players to sign up at And coaches can get their teams on the site too.

Lastly,  do you have any words of advice for an aspiring documentary filmmaker?

The landscape has changed so much in the past few years. If you want to make a documentary, get a cheap digital camera and go shoot it! But keep things small until you know what you’re doing.Practice by shooting interviews and B-roll footage. Post it to YouTube. Start conversations with other aspiring filmmakers on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Learn from your mistakes and from the feedback you get online. And don’t quit your day job. If you really love doing it, you should love doing it for no money. If you wind up making some money off of it, that’s great, but documentary filmmaking isn’t very profitable to begin with. So do it for the love of doing it. Sort of like the people in The Emerald Diamond and Playing for Peanuts.

We’d like to thank John for taking the time to answer some questions. If you haven’t seen either film, you should pick them up today. Both are well put together and well told stories. You can visit to order the videos or you can find them on sites like Amazon as well. You can also see video clips from Playing for Peanuts on YouTube. Don’t forget to check out John’s new project over at Baseball as well. You can find more info on FaceBook too.

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Interview: White Sands Pupfish Coach Ryan Parent

Today we talk with the first base coach of the White Sands Pupfish of the Pecos League Ryan Parent. Ryan was kind enough to answer some questions for us about his playing days and now his venture into coaching.

Can you tell us a little bit about your baseball career before joining the Marines?

Well prior to Joining the Marines my baseball career was mostly high school. I had a couple of Jr Colleges that were interested
But i didn’t have the money to attend the schools. I had been living on my own since I was 18, so at that time money was tight. I was playing some adult ball at the time and was spotted by a scout from the White Sox, but again lack of money got in the way.

During your time with the US Marine Corps you played for the “Heroes of the Diamond” (the US Military All-Star Team). What was that experience like, and what teams would you play?
That was probably one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. The coaches on that team are second to none and Terry Allvord runs a great program and puts on a wonderful show for a great cause and I am very grateful to have been a part of it. Due to being on Active duty my unit would not allow me to travel with the team so i was only allowed to play when they were in the area. One of the teams we played were the SO. MD Blue Crabs, and with the help of one of the Military coaches I was able to get the gig as the Blue Crabs bullpen catcher.

During the 2010 season you were apart of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League as a bullpen catcher. What was that experience like?
To get a chance to catch for guys who have been in the show and guys who had high professional experience was great. The coaches were awesome there too.I was treated like a member of the team. I owe a lot to Butch Hobson for allowing me to be able to come out and Jeremy Owens for working with me. Jeremy will make a great coach when he is done playing. They were very classy and fun group to be around and I am forever thankful for that experience. But due to my active duty work schedule my time with them was cut short but I was grateful for every moment of it.

A lot of us saw the article about you in the Yuma Sun newspaper. At that time you were playing in the Arizona Winter League trying to catch on with a team. You fought some injuries during that time. Can you tell us how your time went in Arizona?
Yeah I was fighting an elbow strain and it turns out I probably need Tommy John surgery, so since the rehab takes a year and im getting too old to be chasing playing dreams anymore so I decided to give coaching a shot, but my time in Arizona was a blast. I met some great guys who a lot of them I still keep in touch with. The coaching in that league was top notch. We were able to get a lot of attention from the coaches and they were willing to work with you to help you become a better player. My coach Benny Castillo was a great coach and helped me out a lot and spent many hours in the cages with me helping me with my swing. He knows a lot about the game of baseball and was teaching me the coaching side of the game at the end of the season. He even let me manage our winter league team for the last two games of the season and was helping me understand when to make certain moves and to look at certain situations that i might not have ever thought of as a player.

You signed on to be a coach with the White Sands Pupfish of the Pecos League. Was this a product of your time in the Arizona Winter League?
Honestly I don’t know. I would like to hope so. Half way through the AWL when i decided that playing pro ball just wasn’t in the cards I started to pick the brains of Benny and Brooks Carey, who was another coach in the AWL, but anyways i started to gain a passion for the other side of the game and they were able to teach me a lot about coaching and managing a team and a game. Since I love to teach others I thought it was a better fit. But the ironic side of it just happened that I was able to catch the attention of Chris Paterson this past winter and he was willing to offer me a coaching job for the summer and I am honored to be able to be a part of a new league and a great team.

Can you tell us a little bit about your duties for the Pupfish?
To do what the Manager tells me to do… ha.. Well I will have many hats this summer for the Pupfish. But as of right now i am slated to work with the catchers and to serve as the first base coach. But seeing that the town is located next to a big air force base they are hoping that I can use my military back ground to help us with the mostly air force population and to earn a good relationship with the base. I will also be helping run clinics for the youth on the base.

You are going to be learning under one of the best young managers in the independent leagues. Do you hope to find yourself in a managerial position in the future?
I would love to have my own team one day, but for now I’m just hoping to be able to learn from Chris as best I can to help set me up to manage my own team one day god willing. Chris is a very wise baseball man and I couldn’t be in a better situation to help start my baseball coaching career. I hope after a year or two I can find a club that’s willing to give me a shot a being the manager. But I still have a lot of learning to do and I am sure that Chris can help prepare me to one day manage my own team. My goal is to maybe one day be able to get a coaching job in affiliate ball, but at this point in my career I’m not picky, as long as I can continue work in the game I love and to be able to teach skills to players then I’m very happy. Although I am now a reservist in the Marine Corps so I hope that I will be able to work with my Coaching Career and still be able to serve.

But I would like to say that I am very blessed to have been given this chance to coach in professional baseball and to be a part of a great new league. I had a chance to fly out to New Mexico a couple of months ago and had a chance to meet the league head, Chris Paterson and our Booster club president Wally Anderson and I can say that this league and our team have a big future ahead of them and I am very happy to be a part of this season and I hope I can help us win and have successful season.

For those who would like to follow us this season you can go to our website at or can follow us on face book by searching pupfish booster club.

We’d like to thank Ryan for taking some time to answer questions for us, but we’d also like to thank him for his continued service to his country in the Marine Corps.  We wish him and his team the best of luck this season. Join us in following Ryan’s team by visiting the Pupfish’s website at or join the conversation on Face Book at the Pupfish Booster Club.

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Posted in News, Interviews & Reviews, Minors1 Comment

Book Review: Out of My League by Dirk Hayhurst

Former MLB pitcher Dirk Hayhurst made a splash in the book industry with his first best seller The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran which talked about life in the minor leagues. Now he is back with his second best seller, Out of My League.

Out of My League is about Dirk’s ascension to the big leagues. The book takes you through the twists, turns, and turmoil of a minor league pitcher trying to make his way into Major League Baseball.

Hayhurst may not be a future hall of famer, but he definitely delivers with this book. Dirk’s humor shows through right away from the first few pages where he had me laughing right away. He takes you through an off-season of a low-paid minor league pitcher who not only has to work out and stay sharp but also has to find an off-season job to keep himself afloat.

From the hi-jinx dealing with his grandmother, to finding a car that he can afford that will run long enough to get him back to baseball, to some spring training humor this is a great book.

However, this book is about more than just baseball. It’s one man’s journey on and off the field in the pursuit of his lifelong dream of pitching in the major leagues. During the time before making it to the big leagues, Dirk meets his wife. He tells of this courtship which adds to story as he is trying to keep the chase alive but at the same time making someone apart of his life.

Through his new wife and the struggles he has with making her apart of his life, we see another side of the game that is overlooked all too often. Dirk struggles with planning a wedding and trying to make the jump from AAA to the big leagues. It’s an interesting and emotional ride.

Dirk shows us a different side of the Major Leagues. It’s not an inside look at the underbelly of the league or an expose on the things that go on into the clubhouse, but a look at rookie struggles. We forget sometimes that there is a pecking order that needs to be followed in the game, and Dirk does a good job of showing us just how difficult falling in line can be.

Most people see making the big leagues as the ultimate prize with nothing but gold paved streets. Sure there are five star hotels, and Dirk gives us a brief look at that, but his journey is more than that. It’s more on the mental side of things for a struggling rookie just trying to stay afloat. Making the big leagues is one thing, but staying there is a completely different deal and this is what Dirk shows us.

He gives us an inside look at rookie hazing, relationships with managers and players for a rookie, but he delves deep into the self-doubt and paranoia a rookie can experience while at the same time realizing his dream. It’s a mental struggle that many can’t handle, and Hayhurst shows us why. He shows us the cold side of baseball where if you don’t produce they don’t have sympathy for you. We are shown how a few words from the right person can tear you apart mentally and put enough doubt in you that can be hard to overcome.

But as quick as you are torn down, someone can see something in you that picks you right back up. It’s a rough business and the ups and downs can be brutal on a person’s pysche.

Through it all you find yourself rooting for Dirk to do well, even if you know how things turned out. The self-doubt and loathing that he goes through puts a new spin on life in baseball and makes for an interesting read.

If you read The Bullpen Gospels, you’ll definitely want to pick this one up. If you haven’t read The Bullpen Gospels, what are you waiting for. Go pick up both books. They are both great reads. Out of My League is a great insight to the struggles and mental side of the game that is rarely seen. Pick it up today.

Next I’ll be reviewing Deadball: A Metaphysical Baseball Novelby David B. Stinson, so stay tuned for that in the coming days.

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Interview: Robert Breisacher from Baseball Dreamin

Originally posted on

Today we talk to Robert J. Breisacher from Baseball Dreamin. Robert is going on a trip to all 30 MLB stadiums this summer, but before he leaves he took some time to talk to us.

How long have you had this dream to see every MLB stadium?
I’m not exactly sure when I got this idea in my head.  I think just being so far away from home during the summer made me miss watching games.  I love being able to catch a game anytime of the day, any day of the summer.

What did your friends/family think when you told them what you were doing?
My family is very proud of me for chasing a dream like this.  They do think its rather ambitious and they are concerned about the financial toll it will take on my wallet.  Other then that they are just happy to see me go after something like this.

I see you have your schedule planned out, how long did it take you to make?
The schedule was not easy to plan out.  I can’t tell you how many times I made it through and came to the conclusion that that particular schedule wasn’t going to work out.  I had schedules for different times of the season starting in different areas of the country.  Ultimelty I decided that I wanted to start the trip as soon as I could.  Patience is a virtue that I could work on and I think the excitment of the season starting and me not on the road would drive me crazy.

Will you see only 1 game at each stadium or is there time for an extra game here and there?
Right now I have only planned on one game in each park with the exception of Comerica Park which is where I will be starting and ending my trip.  Any additonal games that I see will be a decision I make on the fly.  There are a few gaps in my schedule where I will be in a paticular city for an extended period of time such as NY, LA, and Chicago.  I’m pretty sure I will end up seeing more then the scheduled games in those cities.

Where will you stay on your journey? Hotels, camp sites, couchsurfing?
I will be doing a little bit of each of the following options.  I would like to keep the costs as low as possible seeing as gas prices have the potential to get a bit out of hand this summer.  I want to find unique and interesting local places to stay whenever possible.  The ballpark chaser communtiy is a tight knit group.  Since finding websites such as several fellow chasers have offered to let me crash at their places.  Also being a former member of the military I have friends all over the country and they have offered to let me stay with them.

Have you contacted the teams to let them know what you are doing? If so, how receptive have they been to providing assistance?
Yes, While I was still in Afghanistan I sent emails and formal mail to every single one of the teams in Major League Baseball.  At this point I have heard back from about half of the teams and most have offered to extend complimentary tickets and or parking passes.  A few teams have gone above and beyond.  The Cleveland Indians gave me four tickets for the April 9th game and are allowing me to sit in the “Social Media Suite” while I am attending a game there.  The Indians staff has been absolutely amazing to me from the very first time I contacted them.  The New York Mets have a program where the welcome home a veteran at every home game of the season.  While I am attending the game there I will recieve four tickets in the front row right behind the Mets dugout.  They will introduce me at the end of the third inning and show pictures I provided them on their jumbo screen.  Interesting enough the only non American team in Major League Baseball, The Toronto Blue Jays, offered me four tickets and free blue jays caps when I come visit them.  I am going to try to send out one last ditch email to the teams I have not heard from.  Today I recieved a voucher for two tickets to a St. Louis Cardnials game, I had previously heard nothing from the Cardnials so I’m wondering if other teams will be doing the same.

What stadium or team are you most excited to see and why?
The stadium I am most excited to see is Fenway Park.  I will be there for opening day during their 100th season at Fenway.  I am so excited to be apart of this history and see where so many legends have thrown around a ball.  I was also excited about seeing Wrigley Field.  So much so I couldn’t contain my excitement and went out to Chicago this past weekend and got a tour of the park, It was everything I thought it would be and so much more.  I can’t wait to a game there.  I’m also excited to see Comerica Park because its my home town field and is always a pleasure to see a game there.

You plan on seeing other things along the way besides MLB stadiums. What are you most excited about seeing or doing along the way that might not have anything to do with baseball?
I’m excited about seeing the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in Cleveland, Niagra Falls on the way to Toronto, and I’m hoping to be able to fit a stop by Las Vegas into my budget.

Are you going to try and stay on or off the interstate highways for most of your journey?
I will be sticking to the highways most of my trip unless I hear about something I have to see off the beaten path.  Some of my games are kind of pushing it when it comes to time so I will be looking for my fastest way between those parks.

What is the best advice someone has given you about your trip so far?
The best advice I have recieved was from one of my best friends, Melissa Craley, gave me the idea for my blog.  I was home on leave from Afghanistan and met up with her for dinner.  I told her about my trip and she told me I should document every aspect of it.  I thought that was a wonderful idea and clearly I have ran with it.  Melissa has been an incredible supporter of me on this project and will be attending a few games with me.  I would like to thank Melissa for coming up with awesome ideas and helping me out every step of the way!  I honestly could not of done this with out her.

I’d like to thank Robert for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. I am looking forward to following along with his journey as he travels across the US. You can follow along as well on his blog Baseball Dreamin, on Face Book, or on Twitter @BaseballDreamin.

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Help a Baseball School in the Philippines – Donate Today

I don’t normally do this, but I feel this is a good cause. So, I am asking the readers of BaseballdeWorld to help out our friends at the Future Stars Baseball School in the Philippines.

Marvin Moore has continued to be a great asset to this site writing articles on European leagues. He is now running a baseball school to benefit the children of Bohol Island in the Philippines. With the help of his wife and others on the island, Marvin has created a school where kids can learn English, get a meal, and learn the great game that we all love. But running a baseball school like this is not easy or cheap.

So that is why I am writing you. I am asking that you do what you can. Every dollar, euro, pound, or won helps and it goes straight to the kids. With the little league season fast approaching (yes Marvin has started a summer league program as well) the kids could use your help.

So go on over to Future Stars Baseball School and click donate. Even if it’s $1 or $5, the kids will benefit.

We here at BaseballdeWorld are donating all of our ad revenues to the school as well.  It’s our little way of saying thanks to Marvin and his crew for doing a great job in bettering the life’s of young children.

So help us out. If you are unable to give at this time, please spread the word. Tweet, re-tweet, email, share this on Face Book, or your own blog and let’s see if we can raise some money for the school.

Our goal is to raise $1,000. If you donate, comment, send us an email, a tweet, or Face Book message and we will include you in our Thank You message when we reach $1,000. When donating if you could please include a small note that you are donating through BaseballdeWorld so we can keep track and hopefully reach our goal.

If you would like to do more, please contact Marvin Moore through the Future Stars Baseball School. I know he will be more than happy to work with anyone who would like to donate equipment or anything that can be used at the school.

You can also keep up with the school on their Face Book page and on Twitter.

Thanks to all our readers for their help and generosity.

Eric Bynum
Managing Editor

Posted in Asia, Europe, Latin America, Oceania, Tournaments, News, Interviews & Reviews, College, MLB, Minors1 Comment

Book Review: The American Dream by Nicholas H.W. Henning

Originally posted on

Recently I read the story The American Dream: From Perth to Sacramento about a young ballplayer named Damian from Australia who is signed and plays ball in the minor leagues in the US. I really enjoyed the book for several reasons.

The writer, Nicholas H.W. Henning, is Australian so the language used is different than what you would hear from an American writer. I found this interesting just for the simple fact of seeing how they would describe players and their abilities using different words. It made the book just a little more interesting in that respect for me. Then again I am fascinated with the game in other countries.

Speaking of which, you get a little insight into the game in Australia. The story takes place back in the early 1990’s before there was an Australian Baseball League so the set up of the game in the country was different then. It provides a little insight into the structure of the leagues and major tournaments that laid the groundwork for the 2nd coming of the ABL.

You also get an insight on what it’s like to be a player from another country coming over to America. You are right there along side Damian as he tries new things like Creole food, driving a stick shift, and even driving on the right side of the round. All things that one might take for granted if they are from the US in the first place.

There is humor in the book as well that is written quite well. The joke that the players play on one another during their medical check up in spring training is hilarious, and it’s easy to see players actually doing something like this as well.

There are just so many sides to the story that are interesting and that’s what kept me reading. Sure some of it is devoted to Damian’s love life which is interesting from the long distance stand point. But then you add in the groupies that are around the players and more hilarity ensues.

You are also given a glimpse inside the life of a player dealing with relationships, and relationships that may not last a long time. Players get traded, released, or injured and they aren’t around for anymore for a number of reasons. You see the difficult side of dealing with these relationships and how they can affect you in the short and long term.

I really enjoyed reading the book and think you would as well. It’s an easy read that keeps you entertained. I like the view point of the foreigner coming to America to play the game and the obstacles he goes through in order to chase his dream like thousands of others.

You can find all of Nicholas R.W. Henning’s book on Amazon and you can follow his blog at would highly recommend picking up one of his books as I thoroughly enjoyed mine.


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*In full disclosure, I was given this book by the author to read, but all my opinions about the book are mine and mine alone. Any items given to me for review purposes are always fully disclosed, but in no way does that mean a positive review will be given. As well, my reviews contain affiliate links. If you click and then purchase an item I will receive a small commission. Thanks for your understanding.

Posted in Interviews & Reviews0 Comments

Interview with Schwaz Tigers Player/Coach Adam Sowell

Adam Sowell is a veteran of the European baseball leagues having played in Sweden (where he was MVP), Belgium, The Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and now Austria. So we asked Adam to tell us a little bit about life in Europe as an American player.

You initially went to Temple College in Texas out of high school. What was it like playing for former MLB pitcher Craig McMurtry?

Probably the scariest coach I’ve played for, lol. I remember after an away game watching Coach McMurtry turn a trash can round to hide the huge hole he put into it from beating it with a bat after something went wrong during a game. I was with him
in his first 2 years as coach, I enjoyed playing for him and I always try to check up on the Leopards to see how they are doing.

After college you signed with the Rivercity Rascals in the Frontier League. What was the biggest difference in playing in the minors and college ball?

In college if you don’t run hard in practices, the coaches are yelling at you. Once you get to the pros, the coaches don’t watch you anymore, you’re on your own.

You quickly found a home in the leagues of Europe jumping around from Belgium (Hoboken Pioneers), to Sweden where you were the MVP, to a short stint in the Dutch League, and so on while playing in the Czech Republic last season. Why do you keep returning to Europe?

I enjoy seeing new countries and learning new cultures. Little responsibility, some monthly cash, a free apartment and lots of baseball…. I guess I’m just a big kid at heart.

What has been your favorite place to play in Europe?

 The Czech League. The weather there wasn’t as cold and rainy as the other countries I’ve played in. The Eagles complex was also very impressive.

What about your favorite city to live in or visit?

So far it has been Karlskoga, Sweden, a small town with a population of about 27,000. The people in the town were very friendly, spoke pretty good English and it was easy to get around. I enjoyed going to the night club Stat and hanging out at Cafe Paris, a popular coffee shop in the city center. Okay who am I kidding, the girls are hot and my exact type. I’m considering returning to Sweden at some point to play for a team.

How would you rank the leagues in Europe against say college or the independent leagues in the States?

I’d say if you took an average independent league team and put them up against one of the better teams in Europe, for one game, it would be close. Teams in America have a lot more depth and the gap between the best college teams and the worst college teams are much smaller than the best and worst in Europe.

Aside from playing ball in Europe, what was the best part of living there as an American?

 I feel like I continue to improve and grow as a person as I learn and experience the non-tourist cultures of every new country I  live in. Most Americans rarely travel outside of America and when they do, it’s only for a short time in a touristy area where everyone speaks perfect English.

You are currently in Thailand, but are you looking to return to the diamond somewhere in Europe for the 2012 season?

Yes, I just committed to the Schwaz Tigers in Austria today as the new player/coach. They are in the process of getting the contracts together so it hasn’t been official announced yet. I chose the Tigers because the town and the club reminded me a lot of the Karlskoga Bats in Sweden in which I enjoyed greatly.

With your experience and success, have you ever thought of trying to make it either back in the States in the minors as a player or coach?

I haven’t really given it too much thought. It might be something I’d look into further down the road, but for now I’m looking into crossing off a few more European countries on my baseball list over the next few years.

I’d like to thank Adam for taking some time to answer a few questions for us.

You can follow Adam and his adventures overseas on his blog at AdamVanWildest and on his YouTube page. Right now you can check out some videos on living in Thailand and hopefully soon some videos on life in Austria.

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Website of the Week: Stadium Journey

Need to find some info on a stadium you are going to visit? This is the place to go. The guys over at Stadium Journey have put together an amazing list of stadiums that get reviewed. Whether it is a MLB stadium, minor league stadium, college park, or even if you want to check out a football, basketball, or soccer game they have the stadium covered.

The list of places reviewed is impressive, and they continue to add stadiums on a daily basis from all over the world.

They also released their very first issue of Stadium Journey Magazine which will be a bi-monthly publication.  Their first issue focuses on the South Eastern Conference but you can be assured that they will be covering issues you’ll want to know about.

So head on over to and check out the reviews. You can ask questions and find all sorts of info on different stadiums around the world. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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Website of the Week: Replacement Level Baseball

I found this site from a post on Facebook by a friend, and I am glad I did. Replacement Level Baseball is a nice site filled with a lot of good anaylisis. Chase, Jeff, and Jessie cover the world of baseball in an interesting and entertaining way. While the site is filled with good commentary, my favorite part is the podcast.

I am always looking for a good baseball podcast that covers the entire world of baseball and not necessarily one particular team. They have hit a home run with theirs as well. What really turned me on was a recent interview done. Jeff and Chase interviewed Corey Conflenti, center fielder for the Lodi Old Rags of the Italian Serie B League. It’s a great interview that everyone would enjoy.

Each brings a different talent and personality to the table and its a great combination. While I have only recently found this site, I am going back to read and listen to some of their old work, and I suggest you do the same.

Each of them can be found on Twitter and the group can be found on Facebook as well. But above all, don’t forget to check out their entertaining and thought provoking podcast on iTunes.


You can also find them on Facebook.

And lastly, don’t forget to check them out on iTunes.

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Interview: Paul Perry – Manager of the Buenos Aires Shankees

How did the Shankees get started?
I had been playing on local Argie teams for about five years when one day I was sitting in a gringo bar watching the Phillies. 

Where did the name Shankees come from?
Ever since I arrived to this country, back in 1990, people have be calling me a yanqui (pronounced shanki) …so, being from Philly and raised carrying a shank, I thought it appropriate.

Can you tell us a little bit about the league you play in? How many teams? Season length?
You can get league info off the league site ( there are a bunch of teams and divisions…which date back to the ’80s…but it’s worth mentioning that baseball was much popular than soccer during the ’30s and ’40s, and during WWI WWII. There are three tournaments a year…Summer,  Fall/Winter (optional), and  Winter/Spring.

You also mentioned there are other teams fielding foreigners either from the US or from Asian countries. How much of the league is made up of imports from baseball playing countries?
We are the only USA team…but we have many Venezuelans on our team…as well as a Brit, and a German…last season we had two Taiwan dudes. There are two Japanese teams and one Korean team…as well as one Cuban team.

What is the level of play like in your division, and the division above it?
Our division is equivalent to high school….the one above college level.

Is the game of baseball catching on in Buenos Aires? What about outside the city?
Yes, thanks to the Shankees.

Are there ample fields around town for game play and practice?
Now there are…We have our own field now. We are taking over the baseball scene. I won’t be surprised if the Shankees rule the baseball scene in a couple years.

On your website you say anyone in the city for a short time can play, providing they pay the proper fees, how often do you get or lose players during a season?
I get new players and lose players every weekend…never know who will show…it’s cheap and stress free to be a Shankee.

When does the season run in Argentina?
All year round…by way of tournaments.  I aim to propose one year long season with a winter break for the all star game…just like in the USA.

You mentioned in a previous email that there is little to no press coverage. Do you see this changing anytime soon or does soccer have such a strong foothold in the country that it is going to be difficult for anything else to gain ground?
Argies are afraid of any sport that interferes with soccer. Soccer represents everything that is screwed up in this country. That is why they embrace it. Suicidial tendencies that make up part of life here.  They can’t handle the discilpline that comes from a great team sport such as baseball.  Politicians need soccer. The poor need soccer, but baseball is growing eventhough it will never surpass soccer…it pisses me off!

How have the Shankees fared over the years?
Great…since it’s all about having fun and  making new friends in a foriegn country…it’s been an awesome experience becuase everyone who has passed through the shankee ranks has taken a memorable experience home with them…not to mention, relived that unique baseball feeling that takes one back to childhood.  to add, we got awesome pitching these season…all we lack is a title to make it perfect. 

I’d like to thank Paul for taking the time to answer some questions about baseball in Argentina. We love to hear about the great game continuing to spread around the world. If you would like to learn more about the Shankees or baseball in Argentina, visit their website at Shankees Baseball Club.

So far this season the Shankees are

If you, or anyone you know, coach or play baseball outside the USA, we would like to talk to you. We can always be reached by email at info AT

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Website of the Week: Baseball Mexico

Mexico has a long history of the great game, and nobody covers it like Bruce Baskin at Baseball Mexico. He covers it all from the Mexican League in the spring and summer, to the Mexican Pacific League in the winter.

Bruce has been covering baseball in Mexico for years. He started Baseball Mexico in 2009 after writing for other publications previously. He gives an insight that is not seen elsewhere, and he does it in English.

So head on over and see what’s going on in the world of baseball in Mexico. If you want to stay up to date, you can email BaseballMexico AT to be added to the weekly newsletter. You can also find Bruce doing his great work on Facebook.

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Episode 1 – Interview with Tom Treutler, Founder of the Hanoi Youth Baseball Club

A few weeks ago we ran a story about the Hanoi Youth Baseball Club in Vietnam. They had a great showing at a Pony tournament in Seoul, South Korea, and today we wanted to share a little more about youth baseball in Vietnam.

In our first venture into the podcasting world, I talk to Tom Treutler, founder of the Hanoi Youth Baseball Club. Tom, and others, are doing some great things for the youth in Hanoi, and I was happy to have him as our first guest on the Baseball de World podcast.

So give a listen. I think you will enjoy what he has to say about the good things going on in Vietnam. I want to thank Tom again for his time and for everything he and the others are doing to not only spread the great game but to enrich these young boys lives. The things they will learn through the game of baseball will be priceless in the future.

Please forgive the audio quality. This was my first venture into podcasting. Also feel free to leave a comment, suggestion, or critic below in the comments section or you can email us at info AT

Thanks for listening

Tom Treutler Interview – Founder of the Hanoi Youth Baseball Club

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Interview: Author Adrian Burgos Jr.

Adrian Burgos Jr. PhD is Associate Professor, teaching US Latino History at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  One area of specialty is Baseball, in specifically Latin Americans in the Sport of Baseball.  Your’s truly was given the honor to interview Burgos when he did his first book “Playing America’s Game” Baseball, Latinos, and the color line”(A book I strongly recommend highly!) During the interview he talked about his next project a book on Negro League baseball owner/pioneer Alex Pompez.  Many youngsters who want to have a clear picture as to the Latino contribution in the Negro Leagues, his relationship to Latin Baseball Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, his residence in Harlem, New York, The New York Cubans, Number’s game, just read this well written biography on this gentleman.  Who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame 2006.  We both sat down for 15 minutes before the book signing event which took place at the bookstore
Hue-Man located at 2319 Frederick Douglass Blvd, Harlem NY while sipping on coffee.



1-Is it true that other owners of Negro league teams were also numbers racketeers, had ties with the criminal underworld. It wasn’t just Alex Pompez.

Just about every Negro League team, especially those in the Negro National League that was formed in 1934, had connection to the numbers world. Pompez was not alone in his involvement in the numbers: Gus Greenlee (Pittsburgh Crawfords), Rufus “Sonnyman” Jackson (Homestead Grays), Abe Manley (Newark Eagles), and James “Soldier Boy” Semler (NY Black Yankees) were all numbers men. However, Pompez was the most successful of the entrepreneurs who operated in the numbers and then got involved in Black baseball. Moreover, the way the numbers were viewed in the African American and Latino community was different than in the white mainstream: one’s reputation as a community figure or a criminal/gangster was based on what you did with the money, did you recycle it through the community through other businesses (such as a baseball team or restaurant) or did you take it out of the community (as Dutch Schultz would do to Harlem after his takeover of Harlem’s numbers scene.

2-Now here’s the thing Pompez was involved in some illegal things yet he’s in the Hall of Fame not Pete Rose or “Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Being involved in the numbers was not against the rules of Black baseball or the Negro Leagues; the capital that came from the numbers was arguably what made having a Negro League possible during the Depression as it was one financial industry that really didn’t suffer like others. Moreover, the numbers operations did not involve gambling on the outcome of baseball games—there was no “throwing” of games in order to achieve a certain score or victory/defeat. In that regard, there was a difference between what Pompez did and what Pete Rose did or what Joe Jackson was accused of having done.

Additionally, Pompez’s involvement in the numbers racket ended in 1937. After he turned state evidence in testifying against Tammany Hall political fixer Jimmy Hines there are no more arrest for numbers violation; he reinvents himself as strictly a baseball man, as a talent evaluator of the highest order and we witness the greatest fruit of that when he works as a scout for the NY/SF Giants.

3-Can you tell us about this testimony against Dutch Shultz. In doing this wasn’t his life threatened?  Now this was the time of the famed “Murder Inc” true?

Actually Pompez did not testify against Schultz (who had already been killed in October 1935 in Newark by his fellow mob associates). Instead Pompez testified against Democratic political fixer Jimmy Hines who had the connections within the judicial and law enforcement community to protect Schultz’s operations from full prosecution. As Pompez’s testimony about Schultz’s operation after his takeover of Harlem’s numbers revealed, Schultz funneled tens of thousands of dollars from the numbers banks into the coffers of political clubs under Hines’ control. This was to try to influence both political elections and to have channeled to judicial and police officials for ‘protection.’  There was not much loyalty to Hines from those who were in Murder, Inc. because he was Schultz’s guy and not theirs.

4-Focusing in Harlem: I understand where he lived, ran the NY Cubans team and from I’ve read he help renovate a park on 204th street Dyckman.

Pompez was a Harlem man. He first settled in a section of Harlem in the lower 110s between 7th and 9th Avenue that was called Little Ybor by the Afro-Cubans who relocated there from Tampa in the 1910s. This area was also where he would have the headquarters for his Cuban Stars then NY Cubans baseball operations, (84 Lenox Avenue). In fact, Pompez never lived in what becomes known as Spanish Harlem. As he became more successfully he kept moving north in Harlem and ultimately taking up residence on Sugar Hill, a two-floor apartment at 409 Edgecombe.

5-The New York Cubans (of which I myself have been fascinated with) was a team composed of players from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Afro-Americans which one the 1947 Negro League World Series Championship it’s sad hardly no mention of this team? Why is that?

The NY Cubans were by far the most diverse team in the Negro Leagues with players from throughout the English and Spanish-speaking Americas, a reflection of Pompez’s scouting reach and personal qualities (a bilingual speaker).

The Cubans had the misfortune of reaching the pinnacle of Black baseball in defeating the Cleveland Buckeyes in the Negro League World Series in 1947 of all years. That triumph received little attention in the Black press much less in the white dailies, and baseball fans failed to come out in significant numbers to the World Series contests. This is because Pompez’s Cubans achieved their greatest triumph directly in the shadow of the two major league teams that would tussle in its World Series (Yankees and Dodgers) and of Jackie Robinson’s successful debut as the Majors’ first integration pioneer.

6-Now this team had some fine all around players Tetelo Vargas(Dominican), Martin Dihigo(Cuban), Francisco Coimbre(Puerto Rican), how well they would’ve done if given the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues in the United States?

Indicative of his greatness and his travels, Martin Dihigo is in the Hall of Fame in five different countries (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, and the United States). Dihigo was a phenomenal player wherever he played and would have been so in the Majors. Vargas and Coímbre would have likewise been stars. Tetelo with his blazing speed and amazing hitting abilities, he won the batting title in the Puerto Rican league three teams and led the Dominican league in batting in 1952 (.350) at the age of 46! Coímbre was another great hitter who would have thrived. He was by far the hardest hitter to strikeout of his time; during the 1940-41 winter seasons in Puerto Rico he not only batted .401 but did not strike out a single time (not once).

7- Orlando Cepeda (Puerto Rican) and Juan Marichal (Dominican Republic) in the book they give a lot of praise to Pompez. True.

The Latino players Pompez signed and helped as they rose through the Giants farm system to the big league club were quite univocal in their praise of Pompez. Felipe Alou spoke of the lessons about being black and Latino in the United States to his young charges. Manny Mota said “He was king to us.” Cepeda stated that Pompez made sure that the Latino players got a fair shot at the spring training minor league tryouts; the Giants were ready to send him back to PR after what some of the Giants personnel deemed a weak try-out but Pompez insisted on their signing Cepeda. Julio Navarro marveled at the way Pompez sought to protect the young Latinos from the harsh realities of Jim Crow that was pervasive in the minor leagues (many of the minor league teams were based in the South, unlike the big league teams which were in the North).

8-Despite all the negatives does it surprise you he got elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame? Why did it take the fame so long after his many contributions not just the Negro Leagues but baseball in general? 

I was indeed pleasantly surprised that he was elected. Not because of who was on the Negro League special committee, but rather because of the obstacles that had been put before consideration of his candidacy in the past. However, no other Negro League owner made as smooth a transition from the era of segregation into the integrated era like Pompez. And no other Black baseball figure made a greater impact on the era of integrated baseball than Pompez: he opened the Dominican talent pipeline into the majors (as he had done in the Negro Leagues); he also brought the greatest talent from out of Latin America into the US professional baseball world when one considers his time in the Negro Leagues along with his work for the NY/SF Giants.

Courtesy Ishmael Nunez

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Interview: UWF Argos Pitcher Philip Ebert

Originally posted on

Since the original interview posted, Ebert and the UWF Argos were crowned Division II National Champions. Congratulations to both Philip Ebert and the UWF Argos

Recently I was able to have a chat with Philip Ebert, a pitcher with the #1 ranked West Florida Argonauts. Philip was an outfielder his first 3 years in school (1 was a red-shirt) and had now converted over to the pitching staff. Philip has been writing a popular blog throughout the season over at and can be found tweeting about his time in college at @PhillyBert36.

I’d like to thank Philip for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions.

You were an outfielder the past two seasons. Why the switch to the mound this year?

-I actually have been an outfield at UWF for the past 3 seasons.  I was red-shirted my freshmen year.  After a year of a consistent slump all year at the plate, I knew that I needed to do something different. I made the decision to go to Coach Jeffcoat and talk to him about the idea of being a sidearm pitcher.  He was completely honest with me, and I knew what he was gonna say before he even said it… He told me realistically I wasn’t going to play for the next two years unless there was some type of injury.  We had a grad-assistant last year who was a senior when I was a freshmen, David Pedro, and he was a sidearm pitcher while at UWF.  I went to him and asked if he would teach me the basics and help me learn to pitch.  The main reason for the switch was that I wanted to help contribute to the team more on the field than being a cheerleader for two more years.  If it didn’t work out, I could hold my head up high knowing I tried everything I could.

Did you pitch any in high school?

-I actually never had pitched before last year… and I started pitching around the last month of the season.

Did you get a bigger rush in your first inning on the hill, or your first at bat in college?

-Definitely first inning on the hill!!  It was against Columbus State, and we were winning 24-12 or something and coach told me in the 8th to go get loose..  It was just great having all of my teammates that I endlessly support everyday to give back the same support to me.  My first at-bat I was a lot more nervous… On the mound I feel a lot more calm and feel like I can compete better than at the plate.  I will say though, one of the good things I did at the plate was a game winning hit that helped us make the conference tournament, and that was a great feeling.  Its two separate situations, but I like the control of being a pitcher and working on repeating something over and over and knowing I’m trying to throw a certain pitch and being able to execute it.

You are playing with the #1 team in the nation. What has it been like to be the one with the target on your backs this season with the #1 ranking?

-This is the 5th week we’ve been #1, and since we made it to the top the bulls-eye has been on us… We’ve gotten every teams best game, and none of them have come easy!  We know how it is, because we’ve played a #1 team before… Its just a different feeling being able to knock off the team that noticed as the BEST in the country.  People are trying to get their name on the map every game they play us, and it has forced us to be more competitive and keep our intensity up.

You have some guys on your team having some pretty special seasons both at the plate and on the mound. What has it been like seeing this on a daily basis?

-This team is very very close, and its always an interesting day when we all get together.  For me personally, being around a pitching staff with as much experience we have, and the ability we have, its been very helpful.  There are still things about pitching that are new to me and it helps having guys that have been out there doing it consistently to help.  From an offensive perspective, Greg Pron is having one of the most unbelievable year I have seen.  He’s very humble and a funny guy that brings 4 years of experience, and when he says something, people listen.  Practices are always competitive, because with the amount of depth we have, someone is always nipping at the starters heels.

You are writing a pretty popular blog over at How did that start, and how has it been this season writing?

-When the website was previously PingBaseball I would always read the weekly blog about the DII week preview.  It was also one of the main ranking sources.  I’ve always been a good writer so I emailed College Baseball Lineup and told them I was interested in blogging for them.  I told them we had a good team with a lot of potential, and I wanted to help get the name West Florida Argonauts out to a national audience.  The writing has been fun… I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from parents and other supporters.  I always try to write each entry in a way so it would almost seem like I was talking to the reader face to face.  Its not meant to be a baseball weekly report, but just of the everyday life that a DII baseball player lives and especially coming from the eyes of a guy who doesn’t start and is working to find any way onto the field.

I loved your Senior Week video where some players insisted they didn’t speak English. Have your teammates given you any grief, or tried to influence you in any way about what you write?

-The videos have been fun to make, I usually bring out my Flip Camera once a week.. It was just something else that was going to be funny that I could add to the blog and YouTube to increase our exposure.  No one really influences me about what to write, but I do get some grief if I make a mistake during practice.. usually its something like “you should blog about that error” because of the weekly pitching updates I give in the blogs.

What are your plans for next season? Will you stay on the hill or will you move back to the field?

-I am a full time pitcher now for UWF… I gave up the bat when I went to coach last year!  I’ve gotten 2 innings this year, threw strikes, and I have all the confidence in the world right now.  I’m working hard everyday to find more consistency, but I’m LOVING pitching!!  I’m going to San Francisco to play summer ball where I intend to eat up a lot of innings and come back in the fall ready to compete!  I want to be the guy that the team wants out there to get a big out when we need it!

What are your plans for after graduation?

-I’m going to be graduating with a Dual Major in Elementary Education and Special Education.  Ideally, I would like to teach 4th or 5th grade.  I know I’m destined to coach baseball… Where?? I’m not sure.. I have so many baseball connections throughout the country that if I was offered a graduate position, I would probably take it and get my masters degree.  Realistically, I’m going to worry about finding a good teaching position, and coach high school.  Don’t be surprised if you see me coaching in the College World Series though… It’s been my dream to be a college coach at a big school.

I’d really like to thank Philip for taking the time to answer some questions for me. Currently the UWF Argos are getting ready for the NCAA Div II Regionals. As a former resident of the Pensacola area, and the son of a UWF Alum, I wish them well. I’ll be following them to see how they do from Korea, and you can to at And don’t forget to follow his blog at

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Movie Review: Gift of the Game

Originally posted at

In 1980, writer Randy Wayne White was in Mariel Harbor, Cuba to help a friend retrieve his family during the MarielBoatlift. After the week plus that he spent under armed control in the harbor by the Cuban military, he swore he would never go back.

Twenty years later, White set out for Cuba to try and resurrect a children’s baseball league founded by Ernest Hemingway many years before. He set out to find a team to go with him to bring equipment to the kids where Hemingway taught the game years prior. His team would include a priest, his son, and along with many others two former Major Leaguers in Bill “Spaceman” Lee and Jon Warden.

It took them a year to get the people and equipment in place, not to mention talking the American government into allowing them to go. But with equipment in hand, they set off for Cuba and what took place showed how great this game is.

The original plan was to go to the same area where Hemingway lived to seek out the old players from Hemingway’s Gigi Stars team and try to resurrect the children’s league. Things don’t always go as planned, especially when you are in a place like Cuba.

After first arriving, they were denied by the Cuban government help in finding the former players and were told they couldn’t even play a pick up game. So White, with names of the old players in hand, wonders the streets looking for them and finds some of them. They are greeted by smiles and hugs from Hemingway’s former players who are eager to talk about playing baseball with the great writer. They meet with several of the team members and agree to return in 5 days with the equipment to give to the children and hopefully restart the league.

Back in 1980, White had heard about a pitcher nicknamed “the man with 100 moves” and he was anxious to see if he could find him, so he set off to see. Finding the area where he lives, White was told he was not home but to come back the next day. Little did he know that would not be necessary as Perfidio (sp?) Perez would come find him after hearing they were looking for him.

Throughout their trip, White and the guys saw kids playing baseball everywhere with homemade bats and balls. The bats would be hand carved out of tree limbs and they would fashion balls out of anything they could find. It was amazing to see the love of the game there. They don’t have cable TV, Nintendo, and things like malls that take up so much of the attention of kids in other parts of the world. Seeing the looks on the kid’s faces when the guys would stop their bus and hand out equipment was priceless. Holding a real ball or bat in their hands their smiles would light up the night sky.

Twice White, Lee, Warden, and the rest of the guys play pick up games. They were usually out manned but everyone involved always had a great time. After every game a party would spring up and dancing, eating, and drinking would spring about. Just the simple happiness seen in the people of the land was infectious. But it wasn’t always the case.

In downtown Havana things were quite different. There people were much more aware of the police presence around them and were quick to quiz the Americans if they were some sort of police. On one hand you can see the passion for the game and the pure simple joy they get out of it, and the next minute you can see the oppression and fear that these people experience on a daily basis.

Perhaps the best example was from the former players themselves. After returning to hand out the equipment, they were told there would be no game and no party. The joy in their faces had gone and they were very serious. It turns out that higher ups had deemed it wasn’t going to happen and they had no choice but to follow suit. A compromise was soon had that there would be no game, but there would be a party.

The government had allowed the guys to play one sanctioned exhibition game with the Cuban Over 40 team. These were all ex-players who could still play a bit. While the game highlights and banter were fun to watch, the real excitement came after the game. This is when a government official came with armed soldiers to take all the equipment they had brought. They took everything from the bus that they had on them. Luckily they were smart enough to pay someone to hide a lot of the equipment for the kids so when it came time to give it out it was there.

I really enjoyed this film. Bill Lee is always fun to watch. He is a great ambassador for the game and always funny. I was not familiar with Jon Warden but the grew on me very quickly. He is a fun-loving and funny guy who just wants to make people smile. But the best part of the film was the kids. They benefited in the form of equipment and were very excited anytime a hat, ball, glove, or bat was handed out. It’s a shame that they are unable to get the proper equipment needed for the game. There is, and always has been, a wealth of talent there.

I highly recommend anyone who is a baseball fan to watch this film.

If you enjoy this film, you might also want to check out Bill Lee’s journey to Cuba to share the game in Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey.


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Interview: Author Nicholas R.W. Henning

One of the great things about baseball is the people who you come in contact with. Over the winter I have been able to talk baseball with Australian author Nicholas R.W. Henning who has written a couple baseball novels. Recently Mr. Henning was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about Australian baseball. Here is what he had to say:

Among other works you have published two baseball novels (Boomerang Baseball and The American Dream: From Perth to Sacramento). I read and enjoyed Boomerang Baseball. It seemed like it could have had a little autobiography in it.  Can you tell us a little about your baseball background?

Yes, Boomerang Baseball is very autobiographical. I saw the film Major League when I was 12-years old and became addicted to the game. From the age of 12 to 16 all I wanted to be was a professional baseball player. But my talent didn’t match my aspirations. It wasn’t until I was 25-years old that I tried my hand in the Sydney Major League competition. It’s probably a fair assessment to say that I over achieved by getting a lot of time in first grade. There I pitched to Australians who were playing in the U.S. Minor Leagues and College Baseball. There was also many former Australian Baseball League players, and plenty of young talent. I pitched to Glenn Williams and Trent Oeltjen who both went on to play U.S. Major League Baseball. Williams crushed me, but I had some luck against Oeltjen. The biggest thrill though was pitching to Brendan Kingman who is my all-time favourite player, and throwing with Brad Thomas. Kingman was once on the 40-man roster for the Mariners and won a silver medal at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Thomas is currently playing MLB with the Detroit Tigers. He also had some great years playing in Japan and Korea, and played baseball at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. As a baseball player I feel like I got to play beyond my actual ability, and this happened when I was just playing for fun.

Baseball is big business here in the United States and while it continues to grow in Australia, it still lags behind other sports. How has it changed over the past few decades, and do you feel it will continue to grow in popularity?

Well, baseball was actually more popular in Australia in the mid-1990’s. Since 1999, which was the year the previous Australian Baseball League folded the sport has declined in Australia, in terms of fans and participation. The 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympic Games helped the sport stay on the peripheral of Aussie baseball fans, and the Australian sports public, but the last five years have been hard times. Yet, even though the sport has suffered a decline, the Major League Baseball Academy on the Queensland Gold Coast has provided a wonderful service. More Australians have signed professional contracts between 2000 and 2010 than from between 1989 to 1999. I actually believe that the MLB Academy was the unofficial life support for professional baseball in Australia, as it gave aspiring players a target, as we didn’t have a professional league from 1999 to 2009.

The ABL returned this season with some very exciting baseball. What was your take on the league this year, and where do you see it headed in the future?

The re-born Australian Baseball League has helped the sports popularity, but it’s going to take quite a few years for the sport to built itself up again. The level of playing talent is an all-time high and this is baseball’s trump card in Australia. Essentially baseball needs to survive professionally in Australia for it to really become popular. I believe for this to happen the ABL needs to establish itself as a highly desired winter (your winter) baseball league, with continued investment from MLB and new investment from baseball powerhouses such as leagues from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. The sports market in Australia is stretched, and professional baseball’s long-term survival here will always require overseas investment.

Many people may not be aware of the fact there are many Australians playing professional baseball abroad. I have noticed in other countries that fans don’t follow them unless they reach the Major Leagues. What is the overall situation in Australia? Will the Australian media follow players in the minors, or someone like Travis Blackley playing in Korea?

The Australian media infrequently follows local or overseas (Australian) baseball stories. However, in the 1990’s baseball did get some coverage in terms of highest paid Australian athletes, and quite a few stories were done on Dave Nilsson. Also, Graeme Lloyd participating in the 1996 and 1998 World Series was a good news item, as was Grant Balfour playing in the 2008 World Series. In recent times what has made the news is guys like Balfour signing an $8,000,000 multi-year contract. U.S. sports in Australia capture attention because the player salaries are much higher than what we pay professional rugby league or Australian Rules Football players. The Australian players in the U.S. are the ones that infrequently make the news here, and usually in print media. Players like Jeff Williams in Japan, and Travis Blackley in Korea have a much harder time getting Australian media coverage. Most fans of baseball rely on Internet sources to keep up to date with Australians playing overseas.

How has the media dealt with Major League Baseball in the past? Are there more games being shown on television now with the likes of Grant Balfour, Peter Moylan, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Trent Oeltjen, and more playing?

In the 1990’s MLB games used to get free to air coverage, but Australian Cable Television changed that, which was a real shame because in Australia cable television is second to free to air. The Australian Government has passed legislation to keep certain sports and certain sporting events on free to air. Unfortunately baseball was not on the list, which means that to watch MLB games you must have cable television. Cable television does provide quite a few games a week, and if we’re lucky we get to see a game featuring an Australian. As Fox (Foxtel) is the number one cable provider in Australia we get games that are part of their programming. Cable television has certainly increased the number of MLB games available for Australian viewers, but the free to air market is very thin in terms of coverage. Digital television networks in Australia are also planning to provide some baseball coverage too.

What about the media coverage for the ABL? I was able to watch many games online through a few different webcasts. Did the league receive a lot of TV coverage?

The ABL Grand Final Series was covered by Foxtel, which I felt was to a decent standard. The ABL is hoping to gain a television deal with Foxtel for the entire 2011 / 2012 season. This would be a huge breakthrough for baseball in Australia to have games televised during the whole season. Highlights of ABL games did get featured on some television news networks throughout the 2010 / 2011 season, and the ABL had a catchy television advertisement going into the season, which helped generate talk.

The ABL reformed with 6 teams. To an outsider like me that seemed like a great place to start. Do you see any potential expansion in the coming years if the league can become or stay (I don’t know the financials) profitable? If so, where might they expand?

The only expansion I am in favour of is bringing in some teams from Asia and elsewhere from abroad. It would be a perfect opportunity for clubs from Japan and Korea to assess player resources going into their seasons. Ideally, I would like to see a team from Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. If the ABL can establish itself as a highly desired winter baseball league, then the opportunity to field teams from all over the world is a possibility. The ABL needs a global vision to grow and to be financially viable indefinitely.

Once again I would like to thank Mr. Henning for taking the time out of his schedule to answer some questions. Australia is an intreguing place where baseball could potentially grow quite big. It’s not going to happen overnight but if the ABL can survive and flourish, look for more players from Australia to land in the Major Leagues.

You can also find Mr. Henning’s books on Amazon. Check out Boomerang Baseball and The American Dream: From Perth to Sacramento. You can also check out our review of Boomerang Baseball here.

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Interview: Raul Gonzalez – Assistant GM of the Estrellas Orientales

By Keith Winters

The Dominican Baseball Guy recently had the chance to interview Raul Gonzalez, assistant general manager of the Estrellas Orientales in the Dominican Winter Baseball League.  The Estrellas had a great year this year, making it to the final series of the Dominican Winter Baseball League (LIDOM) before being eliminated.

The Estrellas are located in San Pedro de Macoris, the town that many consider to have the best baseball talent in the world.  It has been called the Mecca of Baseball and the Craddle of shortstops, due to all the shortstops that come from the city.  Alfredo Griffin, Alfonso Soriano, and Robinson Cano are some of the most famous players to come out of the city recently.

Raul is a great addition to the Estrellas staff.  He is highly knowledgeable and has experience working in the Major League Baseball office in the Dominican Republic, as well as in the Nationals organization in Washington D.C.   Raul has also worked with Licey Baseball Club in Santo Domingo.  Here is the transcript:

Assistant General Manager is an important position.  How did you get involved with the Estrellas at such a young age?  Are you a former baseball player?

  • Well it’s an interesting story: I started playing baseball when I was 7 years old.  After a long time playing and acquiring knowledge of the game I decided to stop playing at the age of 19.  My dream at that time was to get a full scholarship to play baseball in the states and receive a good education along with playing baseball.  It didn’t happen, but I got into law school in the Dominican Republic and things started happening.  I met Mr. Juan Puello Herrera who is the commissioner for Caribbean baseball and he valued the persistence that I had in entering the baseball world.  He recommended me for an internship in the Major League Baseball office in Dominican Republic.  After I did my internship, he recommended me for a baseball operations internship with Licey Baseball Club of the Dominican Winter Baseball League (LIDOM).  I learned a lot from different baseball people, but I also discovered Dominican baseball is not as easy as people think.  I had the honor of traveling to the states, specifically to Washington DC, and did a summer internship in baseball operations with the Washington Nationals organization.  I had a real learning process of how the big league world works, and I also matured a lot in the aspect of scouting, player development, stats, draft preparation, and creation of projects.  After that I came back to the Dominican Republic, and due to inconvenient circumstances I stoped working with Licey.  A couple of months later I joined Estrellas Baseball Club under the recommendation of Mr. Jose Mallen who is the team president.  He decided to give me an opportunity to be a member of his baseball operations staff.  The years have passed quickly, and I’m in my third season with Estrellas (first as a full time assistant general manager).  The success of the club has been something special due to all the hard work made by Mr. Eddy Toledo, general manager for the Estrellas, and the opportunity he has given me to be by his side learning in day-to-day operations.

What are your duties as Assistant GM?

  • The position consists of assisting the general manager in day-to-day baseball operations including the following: structure of the club, salary negotiations, hiring and releasing import players, evaluation of the whole staff and the club’s native players, preparation for the rookie draft, and the creation of a baseball project for every year.

In my opinion, and many others, San Pedro de Macoris has the most baseball talent in the world.  What is it like living and working with baseball in a city that people call the best baseball city in the world?

  • It’s a special feeling to wake up every day having a job like this one.  You see all the people in the streets asking you questions about the team, players and everything related with the structure of the organization. The fans are unique because they spend the whole year waiting for the season to start, talking about the history of the club, and hoping for a championship every day.  It’s a tough task to talk about breaking 43 years tradition of no championships, but it’s not impossible, and this season we have showed that we can do it when hard work is done.

Do people from the city follow players from San Pedro de Macoris more closely than other Dominican players?  Does everyone know which players are from San Pedro de Macoris?  Who are the most popular players from the city?

  • Yes everybody in the city follows the performance of the native players.  San Pedro De Macoris has a longtime tradition of producing big league shortstops (Alfredo Griffin, Manny Lee, Tony Fernandez, Manny Alexander).
  • Past players: Ricardo Carty, Alfredo Griffin, Rafael Ramirez, Rafael Batista, Tetelo Vargas, Silvano Quezada, Bell Arias.
  • Present players: Alfonso Soriano, Robinson Cano, Fernando Tatis, Johnny Cueto.

Is it important for the Estrellas to have players from San Pedro de Macoris?

  • It’s part of a longtime tradition that the team’s in the league have players from their respective regions, but the league has changed so much in the last few years that the rookie draft is a pool where you pick what we call the future of your franchise, and in some cases players that have the ability to make an instant impact on your club’s success.  Every year the rookie draft is held with the new Dominican players available from Mid Class A or higher with the condition of not being picked by another team before.

How does the city change during the baseball season?

  • It changes dramatically.  The streets change colors from everybody wearing different clothes, you start seeing the green shirts, hats and flags of the club, players posters, fans talking about the names of the imports that are coming and the dates in the season where the different players will start seeing action with the team. The people in the streets start talking about the team and they analyze the team with the others.

And how does it change when the Estrellas are in the playoffs and finals?

  • The whole town goes crazy, party every night, the stadium is sold out early in the morning, the fans and the press feel identified with their club, and they glorify and criticize the moves, players, games and staff every day.  There is an old phrase in San Pedro De Macoris that says, “Everybody has a PhD in baseball down here.”

The Estrellas have not won LIDOM since 1968.  Why?

  • Good question.  If you ask the town and the people that live here they will mention everything from curses to bad luck, but the reality is that the team has not established a front office and permanent coaching staff until now.  The results have been probed and now we can say that Estrellas has become a contender in the Dominican winter League.

What will it mean to the city if they can win the LIDOM title?  The champion teams are remembered forever right?

  • Yes they are, especially if they have so much time waiting for this opportunity.  This is maybe the most important moment in the fan’s life because of the time that has passed since going to a final series and having a contending team to a championship like they have now. This season will be remembered always because of the results and the comeback the team made during all year.

Keith Winters, also known as the Dominican Baseball Guy, is a Latin contributor to BaseballdeWorld. You can find more of his work on his blog The Dominican Baseball Guy. Be sure to  follow him on Twitter, and visit his Facebook page for more information.

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Book Review: Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit

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Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit, by Matt McCarthy, is a tale about a Yale graduate spending a year in the low minors.  It captures the essence of the game played out of the spotlight and headlines of the major leagues and gives an insight to the life of a minor leaguer.

McCarthy was a left-handed pitcher who played for some of the worst teams in Yale history. He starts briefly with his days in high school in Orlando. He talks about his days at Yale playing with his friend and future major leaguer Craig Breslow, and chronicles his year in rookie ball in Provo, Utah.

Playing in rookie ball is one thing.  Playing rookie ball in Provo, Utah is a whole other experience. With the strong Mormon presence, and the fact they play their home games at BYU, they are unable to do certain things like have home games on Sundays. It’s an interesting and entertaining look at the lives of minor league players.

From roommates to host families, Matt does a great job showing what the life of a struggling minor leaguer is like. The low pay, sometimes bad living conditions, trying to make it in a very competitive environment where your roommate might be fighting for the same job as you, to long bus rides to the middle of nowhere Canada, this book delivers. If you want an honest look at the life of a minor leaguer straight out of college learning the ropes of being a professional ball player, this is the book for you.

McCarthy does a great job throwing names you will recognize. He played with future major leaguers and even a future NFL wide receiver. The stories about the players and their sometimes crazy coach will keep you laughing. I couldn’t put the book down. Matt does a great job telling the story in an easy to read, understandable (after all he is now a Yale and Harvard Medical School graduate), and entertaining way. The stories and characters are memorable and likable at the same time.

The book was released several years after Matt’s year in the minors. There have been questions raised about the validity of some of the stories and/or quotes. I think when reading this type of book it is important to remember that some things might be embellished. Not everyone in the book is presented with a glowing seal of approval. There are talks of racist teammates, steroids, and a circus like atmosphere led by their coach. Do I believe everything in this book to be 100% true? No, but I don’t believe that in any book I read. Do I think everything I read could have happened? Yes, and I doubt that the stuff that was disputed might not have been far from the truth. Anytime someone is not painted in a pretty picture, they are going to fight it. All in all I think this book is a great read.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a baseball fan. The stories are enlightening and funny, and I loved the inside look of the low minors where you can be unemployed as quick as the wind changes direction. So do yourself a favor and pick this book up. It’s been around awhile so it is affordable and a great easy read. You can pick it up at Amazon – Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit or anywhere where good books are sold.

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Movie Review: Time in the Minors

Time in the Minors

I have watched a lot of documentaries on baseball. My favorite ones deal with what minor leaguers do in order to reach the major leagues, and Time in the Minors delivers.

Time in the Minors is a film by Tony Okun that follows two minor league players in their quest to reach the major leagues through the 2006 season. The best part of this film is that it follows two players in different times of their career. The first was a 6th round pick out of one of the best college baseball programs in the country in Stanford named Tony Schrager. By this time, Schrager had been in the minor leagues for 8 years and had reached the AAA level, but had not reached the majors. The other player followed is a high school player drafted in the 1st round by the Cleveland Indians in John Drennen. With a million dollar bonus, Drennen heades to low A ball as he starts his professional career.

With each player you get to see different aspects of minor league life, the breaks you need to advance through the levels, and the hard work that has to go in everyday.

Minor League Life

Whether you are a 1st round pick that got a million dollar signing bonus or a 6th round pick who only got an $87,500 bonus, life in the minors is going to be similar. No matter where you get drafted, you aren’t going to make a living playing single A baseball. Pay is just not that much. In 1998, rookie league players got paid $850 a month. By 2005, rookie league players were only up to $1175 a month in pay. Then take in the fact that you only get paid during the baseball season, you aren’t talking about enough to make a living through the year. Plus they do not get paid during spring training. This is something that is often overlooked in different documentaries covering minor league baseball, so I was glad to see it addressed in Time in the Minors.

It’s a difficult time for the players, but also for their loved ones. At one point, Tony Schrager and his wife talk about some of the things they went through. I was glad this was included in the film because its the little things like this that are too often overlooked. At one point in the year, Tony was playing with Carolina but was promoted to AAA Albuquerque. He had to jump on a plane and get to the Salt Lake City where Albuquerque was on the road and leave everything behind. So his wife was given the task of driving from their home in Arizona to North Carolina, pack up everything, and drive it back to Arizona. This isn’t they type of thing that you hear about often if at all. But it gives you more insight of the difficult things a minor leaguer, and his family, can be put through.

Being a professional baseball player isn’t always glamorous. Most people see the Major Leaguers and see the glamor that goes along with it, but life in the minors isn’t so glamorous. Between the long bus rides, low pay, old ballparks, cramped dressing areas, and sometimes living with a lot of teammates or with a host family, life in the minors takes a tough willed player to keep going.

John Drennen

John Drennen with the Akron Aeros

Catching Some Breaks

Every year, 1500 players are drafted into the minor leagues. That means a lot of players are going to lose their jobs to newer younger players. You don’t make it to the big leagues without talent, and you might not make it without catching some breaks. But in the grand scheme of things, those breaks can go against you.

That is what happened to Tony Schrager in 2005. Schrager worked hard and made his way through the minor league system. Having made it to AAA with

the Dodgers organization, he was invited to spring training and told he was one of 35 guys they thought could help them in the big leagues that year. Tony got sent down to AAA to start the season but felt this was his year to be called up. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I don’t want to giveaway everything that happens, but as someone who dreamed of playing major league baseball as a kid, it’s a little hard to watch as Tony get past over after many solid years in the minors.

It just goes to show that the breaks don’t always go your way. Less than 10% of the players that play minor league baseball will make it to the major leagues. Sometimes it takes more than simply talent to make the big leagues.

Tony Schrager

Tony Schrager with the Carolina Mudcats

Work Hard Everyday

Perhaps the greatest part of this documentary is the inside look at just how hard you have to work everyday in the minor leagues.

When a player reaches the minor leagues, playing everyday might be the most difficult thing for him to overcome. John Drennen went from high school to the pros and you got to see his struggles which was an interesting inside look at a top prospect. Injuries, the daily grind, and simply learning how to prepare to play everyday are things that get shown in the movie. Drennen’s manager Lee May Jr. talks about the challenges that players go through. Learning how to pace themselves is key to becoming a better player. Drennen is a player who goes hard all the time, but learning how to pace himself to make it through that daily grind was one thing that he talked about.

Too many people think that being a professional player is just sleeping late, showing up to play a game, and partying all night. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The ones that work hard everyday are the ones that have a better chance to continue the climb through the minors. The documentary does a great job conveying that each time a player moves up they have to prove themselves again.

The documentary also shows the mental side of the game, which is one thing that is so attractive about the film. This might be the part of the game that separates the cream of the crop from the everyone else. Tony Schrager talks about have a bad day in the baseball business and the possibility of losing a job. That is not something that is apt to happen in the rest of the business world. If you have a bad day at the office chances are you will come back the next day without fear of losing your job. That’s not the case with a minor league player. On a whim a player can have a job one day and not the other.

Filmmaker Tony Okun talks with some big whigs from the baseball world which was a nice added touch. Getting to hear the insight of people like Indians Director of Player Development (now the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays) or advanced scout for the Chicago Cubs Brad Kelley was very interesting. These are the people making the decisions on who to sign, who to cut, or who to promote/demote in their systems. But one of the people in the film that I really enjoyed listening to was Kenneth Ravizza, PhD. He is a Professor of Sport Psychology from Cal State Fullerton University. He was able to talk about the challenges that players face playing everyday and some of the things that they must overcome in order to continue to advance through the minors. It was very interesting to hear from a professional point of view.

I think the quote from the beginning of the movie sums up a lot of things dealing with minor league life.

Every day is an opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” Bob Feller – Hall of Fame pitcher, Cleveland Indians (1936-1956)

This is by far one of my favorite documentaries on minor league baseball. The contrasts from a player working to make the majors in his 8th season to a young kid straight out of high school makes for a great film. I would highly recommend to anyone who is a baseball fan to check out this film. It’s a great look at what it takes to make it to the big leagues. Life isn’t always sun and fun in the minors, but those that are mentally tough, willing to learn, and work hard have the upper hand to make it to the show.

You can purchase the film Time in the Minors here and you won’t be sorry you did.

Check out the trailer on YouTube –

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Movie Review: Road to the Big Leagues

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Road to the Big Leagues (Rumbo A Las Grandes Ligas)

Besides the United States, more big leaguers come from the Dominican Republic than any other country. For many in the poor country, baseball is their life and their only way off the island. This movie is a look inside the the world of baseball in the Dominican Republic.

Kids here learn baseball from an early age. They will play anywhere they can find a stick and something to swing at. In the movie, the game of choice was “vitilla” which was a form of stick ball, except there was no ball. Instead, they used the plastic cap from a water bottle. A “safe” hit was one where the fielder could not pick up the cap before it stopped moving, whereas an “out” was when they could pick it up as it still moved.

The kids would play anywhere they could. Many had practically nothing but lived with the dreams of making the big leagues. A glove or jersey was a prized possession, and a chance to play ball is all they wanted.

The film followed a few players for a while. One was Juan Cabrera. He was a 17-year-old kid who dreamed big. He followed the circuit of tryout camps hoping to get signed. And even though he showed some talent, it took him some time before he was finally signed.

Many of the major leaguers return home during the off-season to live and workout where they grew up. They showed two of these stars as they worked out with kids from their neighborhoods. The first was David Ortiz. He is from Santo Domingo, and he would return home during the winter months to work out. The man who trained him when he was 15 was training Cabrera, so we got to see what Ortiz thought of the young talented player. It was an interesting look at the hunger displayed by someone who is trying to make it, and at the same time the hunger and drive of someone who had made it but wanted to stay at the top of his game.

The movie also showed a bit of the ugly side of baseball in the Dominican as well. There are many players who try to use fake documents to show they are younger than they really are in order to get signed. One of those players was showcased in this film.

The player in question was the cousin of a major league star and was talented in his own right. However, he was caught lying about his age (saying he was 21 instead of 24) after he had signed a contract with the Red Sox. If someone is caught, they are immediately released and banned from the game. So here was this young kid who tried to cheat the system. He was out of baseball, had no job, and was hustling to make it day to day. It’s a sad reality, but one that does exist.

The film also showed life inside the academies of the Dominican. When players are signed, they are assigned to that teams academy. There they are trained as ballplayers. They eat, sleep, and drink baseball. But they also learn another important aspect for many of them, English. Here the players will compete with one another to improve enough to be assigned to a minor league team in the United States. From there they will begin their journey to the big leagues.

There are a lot of success stories from these academies, and this is why they run them. In the film, one of the big prospects at the Mets academy was Carlos Gomez who is now a major leaguer having played 2010 with the Milwaukee Brewers. There are countless stories of kids coming from poor backgrounds to the majors, and this is what motivates and drives these young kids. They see the success stories, and they want to fulfill that dream.

The academies are realistic though. They know not everyone is going to make it, but they are hopeful that they are around the average which is about 5 players in 100 reaching the majors. That’s not a great percentage, but its enough to keep the kids playing hard and the teams looking for more talent.

It’s a never ending cycle it seems but there is a lot of talent to be found. Players coming out of the Dominican Republic are some of the best in the majors. They are aggressive (the other MLB player highlighted might be the most aggressive in Vladimir Guerrero), and as the old saying goes, you can’t walk off the island.

I really enjoyed this movie, and would recommend it to any baseball fan out there. It is only 52 minutes long, so it is not a huge time commitment. I was able to stream it on Netflix, so check that out if you have it. Or you can pick it up on Amazon Road to the Big Leagues (Rumbo A Las Grandes Ligas).

It’s a good film to see, but it just doesn’t go into a whole lot of depth an any one subject which is really the only complaint I have.

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Movie Review: Touching Home: Baseball in the Bushes

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Noun 1. bush league – a league of teams that do not belong to a major league (especially baseball)

Touching Home, Baseball in the Bushesis a short documentary about life in the minors and the 2004 Chillicothe Paints.

Located in Chillicothe, Ohio (population 25,000), the Paints are one of the founding members of the Frontier League (the team is now apart of a top collegiate summer league). The area in Ohio has a long history of baseball, and this documentary brings that out which was very interesting. Using old photos and newspaper articles, they show baseball stories going back to the beginning of baseball in Chillicothe in 1884.

The makers of the movie did a great job blending the rich history of Chillicothe into the modern day team. The chronicled some of the older players whose numbers had been retired for various reasons over their 14 year history. Talking to some lifetime fans in the area who had seen it all was a very nice touch. You got stories from someone who was there and new most of the players instead of just someone who had heard stories.

What I really liked about this movie was how they took you behind the scenes of the club and talked to you about some of the financials dealing with an independent minor league team. For instance, each team in the Frontier League had to carry 11 rookies, and each rookie was to be paid $600 a month. That is not a lot of money to live off of which is why the team has to rely on host families to provide the players with meals and a roof over their heads.

Chillicothe was the smallest market in the league, and was the only remaining original member. They were able to do this because of things like the league salary cap. MLB could learn a thing or two from this. Veterans were paid up to $1200 a month. This was for someone who had a few years of affiliated ball under their belts which wasn’t the case for most of these players.

Leagues like the Frontier League are always bringing in new players. A slump in a league like this could cost you your job and perhaps a chance to make back to or into affiliated ball. So players play hard because they know they are always close to being cut which makes this level of play, while not the highest in professional ball, some of the more interesting. There are no bonus babies who let their ego go to their head. Those players wouldn’t cut it at this level. They would be cut before they knew what hit them. Hustle is key, and to me that always makes for good baseball no matter what the talent level.

There were 3 players that they talked to. You got a good feel for their stories and lives in the minors which was nice, but I would have loved to have seen a little bit more actual baseball action. Most of that was done in the background of the stories they were telling. I understand this can be a difficult balancing act, and I am not one easily pleased when it comes to a baseball documentary. But with all that said, I really enjoyed this movie.

Sure it would have been nice to hear from more players but they did include the manager, the pitching coach, the general manager, and some long time fans which was a nice touch. Overall I thought they did a really good job with it. It’s short, but I am always going to want more no matter how long or short it is.

I would definitely recommend watching this, especially if you like minor league baseball. You get a little feel for the history of baseball in the area, and you get a good look at what life can be like for a struggling independent league ball player.

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Movie Review: Bottom of the Ninth

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I try to watch any and all documentaries on baseball especially ones about minor league baesball. I found this one on the web some time ago but never pulled the trigger on getting it. Recently I found it on Netflix, so I had to get it to watch.

I have seen some good ones of the years on minor league baseball. I am fascinated by the life the guys in the minors go through on their journey to the majors or obscurity. So when this one came in the mail, I immediately sat down to watch it. I think my expectations were a little too high though, and I was disappointed.

Bottom of the Ninth tells the story of the 2001 season of the New Jersey Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League. There are a lot of characters on the team managed by the great Sparky Lyle, who is a character himself. There are some former major leaguers on the team like pitcher John Briscoe. Through in some guys who put up amazing stats some years (Billy Hall stole 104 bases in 2000 with 66 in a row without being thrown out) and you have a great cast of characters. But the story was lacking with life in the minors.

The movie talked more about their run for the championship, which in itself was interesting, but I was really looking for more on life in the minors. The best part of the movie was the championship series which really was thrilling, but I wanted to see more about the players lives and how many of them have adjusted to play at the lowest level of professional baseball.

I would not say don’t watch this, but I would not recommend spending $25 to purchase it. Instead, if you have Netflix toss it in your queue and watch it when it comes. But if you are like me and have seen several of the other really good ones, don’t get your hopes up. But if you go into it knowing that it is good for other reasons, you will really enjoy it.

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