All posts by IndyBallIsland

30. Baseball fan. I prefer indy ball and the minors over the majors. If it's summer, you can find me at a ballpark. The Washington Wild Things and the Pittsburgh Pirates are my "hometown" teams, but I'm always up for taking a baseball road trip! Follow me on Twitter: @kmthomp29

2021 The Summer of Signings

Major League Baseball organizations are signing independent players at an alarming rate this summer.

Baseball America has reported that 150 players have been signed from the MLB Partner Leagues (Atlantic League, American Association, Frontier League, and Pioneer League) as of their article on June 25th.

With the reduction in minor league affiliated teams, it makes sense for the MLB Partner Leagues to act as true feeder leagues to major league organizations. On top of that, the summer off for most players last year also has to be attributing to the injury-riddled rosters.

And while the number of contracts purchased gives indy ball players hope, it is starting to affect the level of play (especially pitching) for those still within the partner leagues.

If you’ve watched any game from a Partner League this season, you may have noticed that the level of play is down from years past. That was evident in the beginning of the season, but even more so now that their rosters have all been poached for talent to fill spots. Specifically, there is a huge drop in the level of pitching. Teams are really just trying to find arms to fill spots and eat up innings. Throwing strikes with some sort of velocity is a plus, but even that is getting harder and harder to find.

So if the major league organizations find players in the partner leagues, where do the partner leagues go to fill their depleted rosters?

Of course, the normal college grads are always an option but…

There are various true independent leagues running around the country that each have a goal to get players the game reps they need to be seen and hopefully move up to a partner league.

Right now, the Yinzer League (based in the Frontier League Washington Wildthing’s ballpark in Pennsylvania) are playing games every day. This league, ran by Joe Torre and the Black Sox (you may be familiar with them if you’re a reader of this site), has worked hard to get guys seen and signed this summer. Players have gone to each partner league in the month that they have been playing.

The USPBL (which also runs out of a single stadium in Utica, MI) is another option for players who need a spot to play.

Likewise, the Pecos League in the southwest and the Empire League in the northeast are giving players opportunities to play, gain stats, and hopefully move up to a team that is looking for a player who is already game ready.

If you’re sitting at home but want to get back in the game… there ARE spots available. A LOT of spots. It may not be easy finding them. It may be a true grind once you get there. But teams are looking.

My Reflections As An Indy Ball Lifer (So Far)

Many years ago…

Before this site became the “dirt sheets” exposing poorly ran leagues…

Before this site became a trusted source for news and tryout information…

This site was a blog written by a fan who wanted to share her experiences with the world.

Tonight, as I arrived home 14 hours after I first left it this morning, I found myself reflecting on the THREE baseball games I attended today and the impact that both baseball and this blog have had on my life.

First off, I’ve been a fan of independent baseball since I was a teenager. The WildThings (the closest professional baseball team to my hometown) were formed when I was just 12 years old. I’ve grown up at the ballpark, and in turn, I’ve watched a lot of players grow up around me.

Tonight, the WildThings welcomed back members of the All-Decade team from the 2010’s. These guys were integral parts of teams that I saw every single home game for… and plenty of road trips as well. They were a part of a history making perfect game, league records, a wild card playoff win on the road that I will NEVER forget, and so many more summer night memories.

We’ve all grown up since those nights. I got to meet their babies while we talked about those games and what we’re all doing now.

Then one player asked me if I still write my blog. He mentioned that the team loved reading everything I would write when I was just figuring out what this site was all about. He also told me that he still has the drawing I did for him hanging up in his office. Comments like those mean the world to me.

But tonight’s game was just the finishing touch on a really great day.

The day started out at 10 AM. Same WildThings stadium; however, it was a totally different team and atmosphere. If you are unfamiliar with my posts about the Black Sox, I encourage you to check them out HERE and HERE. It was Day 2 of the Yinzer League with the Killer Bee’s taking on the Brilliance Baseball Sox.

In a nutshell, the Yinzer League is made up of four teams of players who are all free agents looking to play games, get reps and hopefully move up and sign with a higher independent league.

Those guys are the true grinders of indy ball. They play games in the mornings and hold jobs running the concession stands, door dashing or giving baseball lessons in the evenings.

I’ve been around the Black Sox organization for many years now. I’ve watched guys come and go. I’ve seen players move on to bigger and better things and flourish. And I’ve also seen guys hang them up and put their playing days behind them.

I’m drawn to players who work hard. I love to see guys who are driven and push themselves to be better. To make it with the Black Sox, you have to have those qualities. It’s why I gravitate towards them. Over the past few days of hanging out with them, I’ve heard from countless guys that Indy Ball Island helped them at some point in their career.

It’s humbling to know that I can be even a small part of someone’s success in baseball. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of players I’ve met through just the Black Sox alone, but I can tell you that these guys have all changed my life.

They make me want to continue this site… to help them find teams… to encourage them and watch their games even if they’re at 10 AM in 80 degree heat for almost 4 hours. Their drive and determination keep me going, not just to run this site, but in life as well.

After the Killer Bee’s got the W, I met up with a friend and went into Pittsburgh to watch the Pirates battle the Marlins from the club level.

We had great seats and an amazing view of the field and the city but something was missing. Now back in college, the Pirates (who were terrible – this was even before the wild card win) were a huge part of my life. I had season tickets by the bullpen, would go to all the charity functions, knew every player and followed the minors religiously. I met players who are still great friends. A few guys I even considered to be my brothers as they grew up through the minor league system. I was at PNC Park for so many major league debuts. It really was a time in my life that I cherish dearly.

But I really just didn’t feel “at home” anymore. After stopping by to see my favorite bullpen coach, Herbie Andrade, in the Pirates bullpen, we left the game in the 8th inning (the game ended with a walkoff in the 12th). My friend didn’t mind since the Marlins were winning when we left (he’s originally from Florida), and I didn’t mind because we were heading back to Washington.

Which leads me right back to where this post started, Washington vs. Quebec for All-Decade team night. Speaking of the Pirates and Quebec, Gift Ngoepe – a former Pirates player that I have known for ten years since he was in the minors – is now playing on the team representing Quebec. Talk about a night that really went full circle for me!

See, it’s not about the level of play. Baseball is baseball. Sure there are small differences depending on what level you’re watching, but the game is really the same.

It’s just a game.

What makes baseball so special is the people involved. It doesn’t matter what time, what weather, what stadium or even what league or team I’m watching… what matters is the people on and off the field that I surround myself with.

They’re what keeps me going.