Many readers have been asking about various winter leagues that will be taking place after the season. One league that has been coming up in recent discussions has been the newly revamped South Florida Winter League. I have interviewed Dennis K, the VP of Baseball Operations and Player Development, to clear up any questions prospective players may have about the league.
Who are some of your directors, advisers, and coaches for the league?
- Mel Stocker, 9 years MLB/MILB Outfielder, will do a outfielder and professional conditioning clinic, addressing both during season and off season conditioning.
- John Nestor, Clemson Grad/AA Padres and Wichita Wingnuts, will do a catchers clinic.
Kevin Hooper, MLB Detroit Tigers Infielder and current Wichita Wingnuts manager, will speak to all players on career advancement and also do an infielder clinic.
Head Independent Scout for the Baltimore Orioles.
- Director of Scouting for the Baltimore Orioles.
- Associate Scout for the Atlanta Braves.
- Steve Shrenk, Philadelphia Phillies roving pitching instructor.
- Jim HIckey, MLB Pitching coach for the Tampa Rays.
- Reggie Jefferson, 10 year MLB player and now Agent for Reynolds Sports Management and agent for Tori Hunter and Justin Upton http://www.reynoldssports.com/, will be educating players on what agents are supposed to do, how they conduct themselves, and the process of choosing a agent.
- Brooks Carey from the Normal Cornbelters
- Hal Lanier from the Ottawa Champions
- Director of Scouting for the Baltimore Orioles
- Wade Guinn, Manager of the newly formed and NCBL Champions, the Newburgh Newts.
- Danny Acosta, Area Scout for the Texas Rangers and Sports Psychologist
And not announced yet due to contractual obligations to their current teams are:
- 2 coaches from the American Association, 2 separate teams represented.
- And there could also possibly be additional coaches and representatives from the newly formed and only successful “start up” Independent league this year the NCBL either coaching or there to evaluate and sign new players.
Is this league pay to play?
Yes, this is a pay to play league – there is no doubt about that. It will be $800 if registered before Sept 15. After that, it will go up to $1000 because of having to add accommodations to the agenda.
What are the players getting for their money?
- 40 games and their housing, (not food)
- Professional Coaching staff, facilities and training
- Uniforms – including pants, jerseys, hats, BP Shirts and practice shorts
- (Players will be required to return the pants and jerseys, but they will keep hats and BP/practice stuff).
- Exposure to some of the best managers and coaches in independent baseball who will be on hand, either the entire time or at multiple times during league play. The managers of the teams will be there all the time, and other managers are planning to attend to conduct a clinic or speak to players in a conference setting about career advancement.
Where will the league be taking place?
We are playing at the former Cleveland Indians spring training facility in Florida. We will be using the entire facilities, clubhouse, locker rooms, training areas, laundry facilities etc.
(Stadium can be seen in the header photo courtesy of littleballparks.com)
We are also very excited to have Vernon Koslow, the club house manager for the Sussex County Miners, as our club house manager for the entire league.
How many games are on the schedule?
There will be 40 games for each team. There will also be no releases or trades. Once you are there, you are there for all 40 games.
What types of players are you looking for to participate in this league? Is it just for rookies or can players with pro experience also attend?
One of the things that makes this a much different winter league is that you have to be referred into the league by a current professional coach/manager (independent or affiliated coach) or an affiliated scout. We are not just going to accept money from anyone who can pay. We want players who legitimately have a chance to play at a higher level than they were at last year, whatever that level was.
We DO NOT guarantee any players future contracts, but we feel that with our coaching staff and people involved, they will get more attention/exposure than any four hour tryout they have ever been to. Our opinion is that four hours or even two weeks is not a fair sampling of what a player can do. 40 games equates to 140-180 at bats for every day players and roughly 20-30 innings for pitchers. We will not let any pitcher throw more than 4 or 5 innings depending on pitch count per day, as we do not intend to risk any players futures. Our goal is to keep them in shape and hopefully help them improve.
Do you have a limit on how many players will be in the league?
Right now, there are 5 teams on the schedule with 24 players per roster, as there will need to be extra pitchers so no pitcher will have to over work their arms. However, one of the teams is owned and advised by a MLB Director of scouting. They will have their own team, and we have no say in who joins that team. You have to try out or contact them separately from the other teams
Do you believe the players will have a legitimate chance to sign a professional contract after playing in the league?
All of the managers are current coaches or managers in the Frontier, American Association, or Can Am leagues, so each of the leagues are represented. It is our intention to keep every single players’ information available to every manager, coach or scout. So just because players are not “signed” immediately from the league or right after, we want to be the first call the teams make in the event they lose a player to promotion or, God for bid, injury.
We only want players who have that legitimate opportunity to play in the Frontier, American Association, Can Am, or affiliated rookie to high A level. We do have some guys transitioning from Double AA affiliated into independent baseball leagues who are registered already and will be coming to stay in shape and continue to improve. We will not accept players based on the sole fact they have the ability to pay.
What separates you from other pay to play winter leagues?
We believe the line that sets us apart is the fee – $800 for 40 games, which includes players’ housing. Yes, I said housing and NOT food, but there will be opportunities for players to take advantage of sponsor deals. We are not doing this to make money off of players who still have dreams. We are doing this to keep players in shape and to give the inexperienced players an opportunity to get experience. Plus, who does not want to come to Florida in October and November when its starting to get cold everywhere else?!
Where can players register/tryout if they would like to participate?
On our website www.southfloridawinterleague.com. They can also follow us on Twitter @SFWLbaseball or on Facebook, South Florida Winter League.
I just wanted to thank Dennis for taking the time and answering questions!