Tag Archives: Atlantic league

Guest Bloggers – The Black Sox Series

Recently, Indy Ball Island introduced our readers to the Black Sox after they participated in an Education Day game.

Now, members of the Black Sox are jumping on board as guest bloggers.  The players who travel all across the country just hoping for a chance are ready to share their stories with you… every step of the way.

Black Sox members, Bobby Orozco and Alex Fishberg, sent in a part of their stories to start the Black Sox series.

Battered Bastards are Back

Black Sox Professional Baseball

Road Warriors

A guy walks into a bar and the rest is history. Baseball is the game of life – It is the only sport you will fail in; but will you respond. For a professional baseball player, there is only one life; baseball. Growing up, every boy in America wants to be in the limelight. They want to be seen at 7:05 pm every night. They want to sign the baseballs and take pictures with the fans. They want the opportunity most well never get.

Being a professional, not just a professional baseball player goes deeper than what is seen at 7:05. Most never see, Mike Trout, Kris Bryant, Derek Jeter, guys who know to arrive at the ballpark at 9 in the morning for a game that starts at 7:05, after a three hour game. Maybe five if they go into extras. It is ambition, grit, and finding a way to stay humble when they are making thousands of dollars per pitch and the guy in the locker next to him has to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because he is happy to be in the clubhouse.

Professional baseball, that most folks see on television is a long bumpy road, filled with pot-holes that you can drown in, then dry off, climb Mt. Everest, twice, and still not see the sun. MLB is the throne, but players must first prove themselves in: A (single-A), AA (double –AA), and then finally AAA (triple-A). There are a select few who get to jump levels because our Father blessed us with attributes they embraced. They spent the long days and late nights perfecting their craft. Then there are the guys who get wrote off before they were even given a chance.

That’s us. Blacksox. The quiet storm that rolls into your town and beats the guys who were given an opportunity. We’re here to take your job and we have no problem doing it. We take pride in it.

Sadly, the Blacksox do not even get the opportunity to play against MLB affiliate teams. We play against the Independent leagues across America. The Atlantic League, The Can-Am League, The American Association, The Frontier League, The Pacific Association, and the Pecos League.  These leagues are funded on their own money to build cathedrals for fans to come watch no name players who are given the opportunity to become the next Mike Trout, Kris Bryant, and Derek Jeter. Players in these leagues can make anywhere from thousand dollars a month to fifty-six dollars a week. How can a human-being survive off fifty-six dollars a week? Ambition.

Players in Independent baseball know what they are getting into. They know they are leaving they’re family, friends, girlfriends, wives, kids, and life back home. There is no more comfort zone. There is sleeping in a hotel with eight guys and two beds. Believe me its possible. Arriving to the next town at ten in the morning, after traveling sixteen hours with those comrades; to be on the field at two in the afternoon to be ready for a game at 7:05. They are doing this all on less than a teacher’s salary. But that’s what it takes for the guys who were written off – and we the Blacksox make it happen.

It is a very low standard of living – a very humble journey. It is not the driving, the traveling, or taking care of business on the field – that we do, and we do it well. Because we are not associated with any of these Independent leagues. We are Independent. We are baseball. These battered bastards save up money in the off-season to drive themselves on their own dime, across the country to win in these Independent leagues and earn a job.

For instance, this year the Blacksox began their spring-training trip April 14th against the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League managed by Ross Peeples. They then stayed in the Atlantic League to face-off against the New Britain Bees on April 17th , managed by Stan Clibrun. Directly after that they embarked on an eleven hour drive to Florence, Kentucky, where out of the kindness of his heart, Manager Dennis Pelfrey of the Florence Freedom (Frontier League) allowed the Blacksox, managed by their fearless leader Joe Torre, to spend two weeks to stop, rest their heads, get on his field, to prepare before the real grind begins.

Joe Torre will take these misfits from across the country, which most have never met before in their lives, and find a way to win with men he has sometimes never met as well. He might hear about you from someone else who heard about you from someone else, but he is willing to invest in you if you are willing to invest in yourself. Baseball is a business and if anyone knows this, The Godfather of Indy Ball, Joe Torre, knows it like your grandma’s sauce. Joe is from New Jersey, a true Brooklyn Brawler. He is in your face, not to scare you, well maybe a little bit, but it is because he knows what it takes to achieve your goals. Joe is the Owner, General Manager, Skipper, player and clubbie. He is our Jackie Moon. It is a good thing we do not have a washing machine because he would trade it for a player. This guy could sell sand to a camel. He took over the Blacksox name 15 years ago, which started as a Men’s league team in New Jersey with a group of guys who still loved the game. They loved it. The Blacksox name is legendary in The Garden State, and Joe has been able to take the pride and soul of the Blacksox across our country and pass it on to the youth, because, Wu-tang is for the Children.

The Blacksox grind starts in Pennsylvania, then to Kentucky, to Illinois, where the team splits into two. Some will head south to Texas, then to North Dakota while the rest will travel back to Kentucky and continue to New York, until they all meet back up in the beautiful California sunshine. Joe guides these lost souls to where he knows they have an opportunity to gleam in the limelight.

Alex Fishberg, RHP, whom just signed with the 2017 Normal Cornbelters, Normal, Illinois, is one of the hundreds of players Joe has showcased and moved on to the next level. This is just a small part that goes into what it takes to be signed. These are his words.

 

Alex Fishberg
RHP
BlackSox Spring Training Trip 2017

Goals:

-Sign a contract in 1 of 4 main Indy leagues (quickest way to Affiliated ball)

-Maintain velocity while filling up k zone

-Improve with sliders for strikes, already know I can throw it where I want in 0-2, 1-2 counts

-Throw splitter where I can show for 3rd pitch

-Get ahead, get lead off out

 

 

April 14th
(3 1/2 hour drive)
Lancaster Barnstormers-Atlantic league
Manager- Ross Peeples
Pitching coach- Scott Patterson
1 inning, 1k, lineout, groundout, 0 bb, 0 h
Velocity – 91 – 95 mph

Threw strikes while rearing back, got ahead, stayed ahead. Strikeout was on 1-2 slider. They took my name and number.

April 17th
(1 hour 45 min)
New Britain Bees- Atlantic league
Manager- Stan Cliburn

1inning, 3 k, 0 bb, 0 h
Velocity – 90 – 93 mph
Came back in full count against 1st batter with strikeout on fastball. Got ahead of 2nd batter and struck him out on high fastball, 3rd batter had 11 pitch at bat, kept fouling off fastball and slider, struck him out with fastball chest high.

April 18-22
(11 hour drive)
Travelodge $60/night 5 nights
Florence Freedom workout – Frontier League
Manager – Dennis Pelfrey
Pitching coach – Brian White

Day 1 – 19th
Faced mix of Freedom hitters and our guys
2 k’s, 1bb, broken bat – groundout
Velo – 91

Day 2 – 20th
2 k’s, 2 bbs, groundball, hit to right field off shortstop
Velo- 88-90
-not as sharp as first day, but have thrown 4 to7 days now
-Pelfrey would like to see front leg more direct to plate, make adjustment to throw inside to righties

Day 3 – 4 – light toss, flat grounds, bands, running

April 24 – 25
(4 1/2 hour drive)
Doubletree $100/night 3 nights (4 guys)
Frontier League Draft

Day 1
8 pitch pen, hit spots with fastball and slider
Velo- 91

Day 2
Game-time – start with a 1-1 count
Walked first batter and was all over, came back with 2 strikeouts, error on fly ball to rightfielder, then another strikeout
Velo – 93, 77
-not drafted but content with how I threw and came back after 1st batter. Out of my hands. Time to shove in BlackSox spring training games

April 27
(2 hour drive)
Motel 8 $67/night 1 night (3 guys)
Normal Cornbelters workout – Frontier League
Manager- Brooks Carey
– 40 degrees/windy and throwing against normal in games on Tuesday.
– Brooks wants to see 2-3 innings of consistency

-later in day offered contract to united shore professional baseball league by Shane Mccatty
-could be development I need to move to higher league, waiting it out
-offered $650/month
-had Joe talk to coach

April 28
(2 hour drive)
Mansion $25/night 2 nights
Windy City Thunderbolts – Frontier League
Manager- Ron Biga

.2 ip, 2k in a row
Velo- 91-93, 78

-first batter got into 3-1 count, came back and struck him out with fastball. 2nd batter I got ahead 0-2, threw best slider I’ve thrown on trip. Hard low slider that batter swung over. Remember that feel- grip and rip mentality. Focal point was batters hip.

Game 2- rainout
April 30 – 31
Travelodge $60/night 2 nights
Florence Freedom

Game 1
1ip, 2 bb, 1 k
Velo- 87-92

-worst I have felt on spring training trip. Rushed in bullpen to get loose and carried it out to the mound with me. Need to find a way to slow down even if I have to get hot fast. Move on and learn from it.

Game 2 – down

May 2
(4.5 hour drive)
Motel 8 $67/night 4 nights
Normal Cornbelters

Game 1
1 ip, 3 k, 1h, 0bb, 0r
Velo- 91-94, 78

-shoved. Consistently threw to glove, slider was nasty. Normal scoreboard was amped up and had me 95-96, hit 97. Awesome feeling
Game 2
1 ip, 2 h, 0 bb, 0k, 0r
Velo- 88-91

-not as sharp but got it done

SIGNED by Normal Cornbelters Wednesday May 3, 2017.

For more information on the Black Sox, please check out their official website HERE.

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Introducing Coach Billy Horn

As the Atlantic League’s spring training gets underway, we want to introduce you to our newest guest blogger, Billy Horn.  Billy is the pitching coach for the Long Island Ducks. He will be guest blogging about life as a coach in the Atlantic League this season.

Here is his first introductory blog.

billy horn.gif

Billy Horn – Blog # 1

Background

   I was born & raised in the Bronx, NY and always wanted to play in warm weather. In HS I played 3B, however never seeing 90+ helped me segway into becoming a pitcher down the road.
   I played at Division II powerhouse Lynn University in the Sunshine State Conference from ’98-’01. My freshman year I couldn’t hit 90+ plus AND I KNEW IT.
   Luckily I had a cannon for an arm so I decided to try pitching. I was only low – mid 80s after college and thought it was over and took “a real job”.
   I was playing in a men’s league and started throwing upper 80s. I had an opportunity to go to Italy and play in 2003. I was there 2003-2004 and played for the San Marino Titans. I was nothing special 88-91, with a plus curve – in my mid 20s and no real experience.
   Missing the Olympics that season due to injury, I came home and pitched in the Golden Baseball League for the Long Beach Armada in 2005. Having suffering a torn rotator cuff – it was all over.
   Working regular jobs and such, I hated it. Then I turned to coaching HS, then was the pitching coach in 2009 for my alma mater, Lynn University, winning the 2009 NCAA D II National Championship.
   Now doing lessons on the regular, I had to throw and long toss with the kids and I found myself 87-89 mph. In 2010, mid life crisis at age 29 kicked in and I went back to Italy to prove to myself I can do anything. Statistically it was a mess, but I showed myself what I needed to see.
   As you can see below, my career statistical totals are nothing special, but never stopped me from trying to coach.
G   GS   W – L   ERA    INN    H       K     BB   WHIP  HBP
47  27   9-12    4.40    184  193   143   64     1.39   15
   That was my last season and then a few seasons later, the Pecos League came calling for a coaching opportunity……….

Why Coaching?

   I got a call in winter of 2011 about a possible coaching opportunity while I was working a “real job”. I hated it and was “flipping boxes” in south Florida. I was selling copiers, business – business and it was the worst – we were lower than used car salesmen with cheesy 80s mustaches, fake leather booths and a real bad afta-shave! Our own clients hated us.
   When the opportunity came to fruition, I decided to say goodbye to being a nobody anymore and start signing autographs again — at least that’s what I thought.
   The Pecos League, 2012…………. Say what you want, but it has been a long standing league that has given many players opportunity in this game – and it saved my life and put me in the position I’m in today.
   I had fun there but knew that wasn’t the top stop for me. With nothing on the horizon of an upward move, I stared with the lessons and HS gig again, and of course, got tired of parents. They are the worst at the HS level – everyone’s son is the next MLB star and the coach is always wrong.
   Around that time, now long time friend, Brooks Carey, manager of the Normal Cornbelters in the Frontier League, knew Hal Lanier was looking for a pitching coach for the 2015 season for the Ottawa Champions in the CanAm League.
   Having been Hal’s pitching coach a few years prior, he knew what kind of guy Hal needed and he called Hal and said this is your guy – hire him. And of course Hal’s reply was “who the hell is Billy Horn?”
   This of course goes back to me never playing with an organization and only 4 short years of independent ball / Italian Baseball League under my belt.
   Of course we met and Hal offered me the job about a month later.
   2015, the inaugural season, despite not making the playoffs, was a personal success. Having a lot of leeway come towards the latter part of the year, Hal was teaching me about managing in independent baseball. Player procurement. Player procurement. Player procurement.

   What I learned most was this —

“When coaches are being seeked-out, a manager needs to know ONLY 3 things :
1) Can he get players
2) Can he throw BP
3) Can I live with this guy for 6 months”
That’s it! Doesn’t matter in independent ball where you played, where you coached, but if you can get players, throw BP and people like you, you’ll get a job!
   2016 was a story book season. Here, we won the CanAm League Championship, Hal was named MOY, I was of course making all the mound visits, BUT I WAS ALSO taking guys out of games, doing the plate meeting before games with the umpires and opposing manager, writing he occasional lineup, doing pregame interviews everyday and sometimes coaching 3B. All managerial duties.
   Hal was very gracious in teaching me and showing me the ropes – it was the best on-the-job training anyone could ask for – by an MLB Manager of the Year Award winner. It was a great 2 years and I’m going to miss Ottawa, the organization and my man Hal.

How Did I Get to Long Island?

   With all that being said, I knew I had hit my ceiling in the CanAm League and one afternoon I decided to “test the waters”.  Being that I was handling part of the procurement duties, I developed relationships with managers, coaches and GMs with every single club in all of Indy ball – from the Pecos / United Shores developmental leagues all the up to the Frontier, AA and The Atlantic League.
   While interviewing for an AA managing job, I thought ‘why keep all my eggs on one basket’?
  A simple text to Long Island Ducks GM changed everything.
  “Hey Mike (Pfaff). Hope all is well. If there become any openings for a pitching coach in the Atlantic League, please keep me in mind. Thank you.”
   A few moments later he replies :
“Send me your resume. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
   I was excited and thought maybe one of the other clubs maaaaaay have an opening. When he called and said Long Island was looking for a pitching coach I knew this was the opportunity for me that I was looking for.
   After a lengthy interview process, I got the call. At the beginning it was mixed emotions – leaving Hal in Ottawa but he gave me his blessing and told me this isn’t something to pass up.
   Now, about a month away from spring training, I’m really looking forward to getting there and getting to work. Long Island is also about an hour away from my hometown. Being able to coach close to home and family is also a major plus.
   I try to explain the path of coaching to young independent players that themselves and myself are in the same boat – were both trying to make it to the big leagues someday – however, if we both make it, you’re going to make a lot more money as a player than I would a coach!
   With that being said, just being in the game of baseball as a profession and not doing the “suit and tie thing” is big league enough for me.

Billy will be guest blogging all summer long about his season in the Atlantic League.

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