On this site, I have written about why I love independent baseball so much. I have highlighted some of my favorite indy ball stories and also covered some rough conditions when I exposed what happens in the Pecos League.
This time, I want to let the players tell you why they love indy ball. Why are the long bus rides, little pay, bad food, and rough conditions worth it?
They’ll all be the first to tell you…. it’s for the love of the game, but it’s also so much deeper than that.
My words will never be able to truly convey what it’s like to play independent baseball. I didn’t know how I wanted to put this together, but then I realized that their stories tell it best. That is why I’m turning it over to the players.
I reached out to independent players from leagues all across the country (and world) with one simple question – Why do YOU love indy ball?
These guys represent every independent league in America (North Country, Pecos, Pacific, Frontier, Can-Am, American Association, and the Atlantic League), and some players have even played in baseball leagues across Latin America, Europe and Australia.
I’ll keep it short. I love indy ball because it keeps the dream alive. That’s what we all play for.
You get to keep playing. There’s nothing better than playing baseball… just being able to play is the joy. Yeah being around the guys is cool, but playing is the top – that would be #1. Then traveling to different parts of the country and getting to meet new people and see new cities. Independent baseball and the players are really like the island of misfit toys because everyone could probably play affiliate but only few get the shot.
Once Travis used the term “misfits”, I decided I had to put my drawing skills to work!
The Island of Misfit Players – Indy Ball Island
Okay, well what I love is that it gave me another chance at pursuing my lifelong dream after my college baseball career ended last year. I love the grind day in and day out, going through the good times and the bad times with your teammates as well as the memories we make when we go out after a big win or even go out to wash away a tough loss. I feel independent ball brings people together with a special bond because everyone has been rejected by this game, and we’re not willing to give it up just yet.
I love indy ball because it’s a web that catches all the players who fell through the cracks, and all the players have one thing in common. Where in affiliated ball they are all told you have what it takes to make it, the indy ball guys were all told you’ll never make it. It’s a bunch of Rocky Balboas playing together, enjoying together, loving together all hoping for the chance to get in the ring with affiliated guys. Indy guys were defeated and rose back up. Those are the kind of guys that you want on the field playing for a World Series. They play for the love not for the money.
My favorite part about indy ball was getting to meet guys from all over. In college, most of the guys are from that state because of the way recruiting works. In indy ball, I maybe had 2-3 guys I played with from VA, NC, or SC (states I went to school in). My best friends I made out there ended up being from Miami, Indiana, California and Alabama. So I can definitely credit indy ball for making me work on getting flights out to see all those guys.
Being the test dummies for a new independent professional baseball league (North Country Baseball League) was not easy. I’ve always heard indy ball was difficult but hadn’t experienced it completely until this summer. Sleeping in vans, on the floor of our opposing team’s clubhouses, and even once outside in my hammock. Being the permanent road team took its toll on myself and my teammates. In fact, there was one time that we finished a late game and had to drive through the night and play the next day at noon. Keep in mind, we weren’t provided a team bus. Almost everyone drove their own cars, packed to the top with bags and gear. We showed up to the field with less than 3 hours of sleep, and I just so happened to pitch my first ever 9 inning complete game while winning 6-1. I couldn’t have been more proud of my teammates. They fought to stay awake and fought even harder to back me up and win a game that had all the odds against us. This was just one of the reasons I thought we had the best team in our league.
We were the only road team in all of independent professional baseball to maintain the first place spot for over a month. We went on a 10 game winning streak and even picked up a 38 year-old rookie with more passion for the game than anyone I’ve ever seen. Bryan Hoover is living proof that no matter your age or background, if you set your mind to something and go after it with everything you’ve got, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.
Playing ball with these guys this summer has changed my life. Pushing through adversity at almost every corner, we stuck together and played our hearts out all the way to the end. We may have lost the playoffs, but we gained so much more. We’ve got 22 brothers from all over the world. Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas, and Venezuela. We spent all summer fighting for each while also fighting for a promotion since we had no home field to call our own.
I may not continue my career, but the memories I made from playing independent baseball will forever remain with me.
I love indy ball because I don’t want to go home to the reality of life. It’s like a fairy tale when playing professional baseball. You wake up, go to the gym, and then spend all day with your teammates who basically become family. Then you go to war with them every night for 3 hours. You do this everyday for 5 months and it becomes a drug, an addiction that you can’t shake. It takes over your life and when the season is over you are just left so empty.
I really like the fact that indy ball exist so that guys who have been in affiliated ball that have been released are given another shot to continue playing in hopes of giving themselves another shot in an organization back in affiliated ball.
So I think my favorite part of playing indy ball is the opportunities it brings. I was released from Joplin right before a game, and when I checked my phone in my locker I had messages from four other managers. Also the knowledge the coaches and some of the more experienced players have helps out the younger/more inexperienced players like myself. I also feel it is more relaxed. Your day isn’t on a minute to minute schedule once you get to the ballpark. Almost every ex-affiliated player said they like it better in indy ball because it isn’t as strict. You get your work done and that’s it.
I love indy ball because of the camaraderie. The will to win is much better in indy ball than it is is affiliated… At least from my experience. Indy ball is about W’s while trying to develop, but affiliated ball is mostly about development and not much about winning. In indy ball, you have more of a ‘family’ type of feeling. I also love the fact that if you play well you’re going to create a lot of opportunity for yourself vs affiliated you can be playing amazing and somebody who is struggling with a bigger signing bonus than you will always have an opportunity over you.
The game was more about baseball, and less about business. There are no “prospects” or “developmental” guys in indy ball… The best guy played. Believe it or not, in my experience, politics were not as abundant in indy ball. In affiliated, I saw guys, who had no business in pro ball, be drafted early, sign for a lot of money, and play everyday, just because of who their dad was. Indy ball was more pure. No money babies. No demanded innings or at bats by the front office. We were paid to win. Exactly how the game should be played.
Mike Pinto (manager of the Southern Illinois Miners – Frontier League)
The best part about independent baseball is that its the truest form of the game. As a manager, we don’t care what round a guy was drafted in or what his signing bonus is. The best players play, and we play to win every single night without a farm director setting who plays and who doesn’t. Independent teams can have true chemistry because the guy next to you isn’t your competition to move up. You can both move up to any of the 30 major league clubs.
Edgar Lopez Aviles
I love indy ball because of the opportunity to play, put numbers, and prove that I can play in the show. I’m gonna make it no matter what. Everyday you learn something from this game, the focus & confidence is what gets you to the Big Show, and that’s where I’m headed.
I love indy ball because of how hungry every player is. Everyone has the same goal, and you can really see how passionate everyone is about this game. Another reason why I love indy ball is because it gives players that went to smaller schools a chance to play against ex-big leaguers and very talented ball players. The biggest reason why I love it though is because it gives me a chance to live my dream and play professional baseball.
Indy ball is a tough life on the players, but the experience is very rewarding. Indy ball has taught me to stay dedicated and disciplined to my craft. Whether it be getting in that extra ground ball rep, extra workout, sticking to a balanced diet, getting that extra hour of sleep, etc. We, as indy ball players, need to take advantage of the small things. You learn to sacrifice just to chase a dream. We learn to be humble on the field when we realize there are thousands of other crazy good talents, whether it be in the league we are in or at the next level.
It becomes easy to show respect to your teammates and coaches. The thing with indy ball is that everyone is excited when someone does get promoted because you think “hey if he can do it, so can I.” Instead of a team being very individualistic, you will also see some teams with great chemistry. So many friendships are made, and it’s great to see where some of your teammates starting at that low of a level can end up. But even at these low levels, little kids still marvel over our autographs. All of these important traits that we learn on the field and experiences we gain through indy ball transcend off the field to the people we are today. We become better people, and that’s what makes indy ball great.
I saw your post and thought I would comment my thoughts now as a retired indy and international minor league player. The fact that kids and adults actually pay money and idolize you and want your autograph on a piece of memorabilia is priceless. Once you’re out of the game you realize it more, but it is truly one of the best aspects of how someone is so dedicated to you and your team even though in your mind it’s just indy ball. It was my best experience overall to give away a pair of batting gloves or an old glove or broken bat to a kid or fan, and it just makes their day. That is what it’s all about.
And finally, the one guy I know that will tell it like it is and paint the perfect picture of why players love indy ball…
I starting playing ball at five years old and ever since it has been my one true love. The dream of playing ball in the states was a goal that in my late teens turned sour so to speak. Any chance of that was crushed due to me having some bad attitude and bad temper moments. They made me miss what shot I may have had, and not going to college was a big regret for me as who knows what would’ve happened. But with me and my school grades not seeing eye to eye, it was really tough, so I continued to play at the highest level possible for me. When my summer team here invited a great young man by the name of Casanova Donaldson to come to play out here, he stayed with me and my family and told me about the Pecos League. He said that even at my ripe old age of 28-29 that I still had plenty of talent to compete at that level of indy ball. So with a lot of skeptics and people telling me I was too old, I contacted Andrew Dunn and was on a plane to Houston for the spring league where I was on my own – no one I knew… just me and my baseball gear.
I had the best time and to top it off, I tore up the spring league with who would end up being my future room mate and close friend, Frank Florio. We lead all offensive categories in the spring and went on to sign with the Trinidad Triggers. With some help from another new friend, Ryan Parent, vouching for us, we had our first season of indy ball set in stone. For me it was a dream come true as people know from the TV Show, The Pecos League. It was a chance for me to live out my childhood dream of living and playing in the states. As the TV show showed, my passion for our great game may be seen as a little to hot headed at times, but others can see that I just give my all each day and want to win at all costs!
Indy ball, as a lot of people say, gives kids one last shot. But as most of the realists know, the chance of going higher or especially back to or to affiliated ball is slim, yet I personally love the fact that America has so many leagues like this where the true lovers of the sport can see a good level of ball in towns that may not be close enough to other teams to watch this level. All in all, my two years playing indy ball may not have been the greatest results for some, but I had the best time of my life and will never regret or forget any of it. I would play every single day until my body wouldn’t let me if I had the opportunity, and for a few seasons I got to do that.
The local fans at each city/town show their true love for the game and from seeing the smile on kids’ faces and parents talking with us after the games, I think without independent baseball in America, we would only lose fans of our great game as a whole. Me being a foreigner and having a so called “funny accent” helped me with fans and teammates alike, but as I said I would never trade it for the world. Yeah it may have been minimal money and shitty broken down bus rides, Motel 6 stays, and pb&j lunch spreads, but it’s for the love of the great game. That’s why we do it. The people we meet along the way are irreplaceable in my heart, and I miss it everyday. This is why I personally love indy ball! I wish I went and did it at a younger age! I would give anything to play ball every day for no money just a place to lay my head and put my cleats on every day! There are a lot of religious people in this world, and I personally am not one of them. But in my eyes there is a heaven, and it’s between the white lines under those bright lights day in day out. If I die tomorrow, I would die a happy man, and I owe it to indy ball!!!
I just want to say a big THANK YOU to all of the players who have helped out and told your stories! I hope this gives readers a better understanding of why you continue to play the game that you love!