Tag Archives: CWL baseball

Mining the CWL

Casey Dill, the scouting and player acquisition coordinator for the Southern Illinois Miners, has been hard at work coaching in the California Winter League (CWL) this off season.  In addition to leading the Palm Springs Power, he is actively searching for players to sign for the Miners’ upcoming season in the Frontier League.

“Coaching in the CWL is a great resource for the Southern Illinois Miners organization,” Dill explained. “It gives me the opportunity to see how players carry themselves and prepare playing a minor league style schedule playing everyday. It gives me the opportunity to see things in players that may not show in a one or two day tryout. It also allows me to maximize the scouting report I provide to Mike Pinto (manager of the Southern Illinois Miners) when deciding which players are the best fit for the organization.”

Pinto loves that Dill knows exactly what he’s looking for while managing in the CWL.

“Finding rookies that can impact your organization is one of the keys to success in our league, but it’s also so important to find players that fit the culture of your organization. Many times we are looking at numbers, where a guy has played, against what competition and you do your best to get some reports on them as a player and person,” Pinto said.

“With Casey out there in the CWL, it gives us the opportunity to see players with multiple lenses.  We can certainly see their history through numbers, but Casey also gets to see them from a scouting perspective, and more importantly, sees what kind of fit that they would be for us.  History has shown us how critically important that is to our organization,” he explained.

 “With my position also running the business aspect of our organization and not able to be at the CWL like some managers are, Casey gives us the chance to not only see players up close in the CWL, but also run a tryout for players on the West Coast who we might not be able to see and have access, eyes and information on some potential college players following the draft.” 

So far, Dill has found three players who fit the Miners mentality:  RHP Adam Falcon, RHP Payton Lobdell, and C Brandon Oliver. 

Dill and the three newest members of the Southern Illinois Miners family recently sat down for an introduction and to discuss the CWL and their expectations for the upcoming season.

Meet the Miners

(Adam Falcon, Casey Dill, Payton Lobdell, and Brandon Oliver)

Adam Falcon

“Adam Falcon stands out as soon as you look at him, in baseball we say ‘he passes the eye test'”, said Dill. “He has a tremendous work ethic off the field and in the weight room. He’s a big strong physical presence on the mound, he has a bull dog / no fear approach to pitching, he wants the ball with the game on the line. He is a power arm that can top has high as 94 mph with his fastball with a plus slider he can throw for strikes in any count. Depending on how he does here in the CWL and in spring training, I think he is a great power arm option out of the bullpen that will help us win games.”

Adam, how did you get to the point where you are now in your career?

A new Independent Fall league called The Desert League started up in Yuma, Arizona and held tryouts in Chandler, AZ on September 15-20, 2016. I wanted to tryout to see if I could get picked up by a professional team. I ended up making one of the teams called the Yuma Hammers, and two days later, our season started. It was my first ever experience as a professional baseball player. After about a month, our season ended and our coaches from the Hammers got a couple of my teammates and myself a tryout in Palm Springs for some Independent and International teams.

What led you to the CWL?

I had signed with the Southern Illinois Miners after the October 30 Palm Springs tryout. Southern Illinois Scouting Supervisor Casey Dill kept in touch with me and suggested I participate in the CWL to get reps in and get scouted much better. I was already familiar with the layout of the field and the area, and thought it would be a good experience for me to play here.

How are you liking it so far?

I’m enjoying myself out here in Palm Springs. I’m just happy to be out on the field competing, and I’m very pleased with the way the league in run. The coaches and staff run the show very professionally and work hard for us everyday.

What part of your game are you focusing on while you’re there?

I’m looking to develop my off-speed pitches into better put out pitches, keep walks and runs low, and build up some more velocity on my fastball.

How did it feel to sign with the Miners?

I couldn’t be more happy to sign with such a quality team and organization. In the Palm Springs tryout, it was my goal to get signed with a Frontier League team, and I was so glad to achieve that goal.

What are your expectations for your first pro season in the Frontier League?

I expect to be part of a winning ball club, I expect to develop even more as a pitcher, I expect a whole different ball game in the Frontier League, and I expect to face very tough competition. I couldn’t be more excited to get out and compete.

Payton Lobdell

“Payton Lobdell has 4 pitches he throws for strikes. His fastball tops at 92 mph and usually sits between 88-91. His best secondary pitch is his splitter that he locates down in the zone and forces consistent bad contact from hitters,” Dill explained. “Payton is very mature on the mound, plus pitch ability, he knows how to use all of his pitches to maximize his effectiveness. He doesn’t look to strike everyone out, he looks to force bad contact and trusts the defense to play behind him.”

Payton, what led you to the CWL?

Playing with for Casey Dill with the Palm Spring Power last summer really led me to trying out and showcasing myself in the CWL.

How are you liking it so far?

These last few weeks have been a blast, and I love the guys/teammates that I’m making out here.

What part of your game are you focusing on while you’re there?

I’m really focusing on getting ahead and staying ahead of batters while I’m out here, while also working on my secondary pitches.

How did it feel to sign with the Miners?

It was an experience that I’ll never forget. It was my first pro contract so it is something that I’ll always remember. I couldn’t ask for a better organization to play for to begin my professional career.

What are your expectations for your first pro season in the Frontier League?

I expect to do everything I can to help the Miners win a championship, and I expect to have a great time getting to know my teammates and coaches. I’ve heard nothing but great things that come from the frontier league and I can’t wait to find out.

Brandon Oliver

“Brandon Oliver is a plus defensive catcher that has to potential to control and shut down opposing teams running games,” Dill pointed out. “He receives and blocks the ball very well behind the dish. Perhaps most impressively, Oli knows how to manage and work with the pitching staff, his communication and leadership with our pitchers here at the CWL has been phenomenal, for a rookie he has a veteran presence, he batted .351 at Western Oregon University as a senior so he also knows how to handle the bat well.”

Brandon, what led you to the CWL? 

I had heard of a California Winter League but knew nothing about who it was for or why it was there. I met Miners Scout Casey Dill at a tryout last fall, he thought it would be a good opportunity to play in front of him and other professional coaches and scouts for an entire season. He said it was a place for guys like me to get signed.

How are you liking it so far?

It’s been awesome. I’ve met some great people out here. From the staff to the coaches to the players, I really like it.

What part of your game are you focusing on while you’re there?

I take a lot of pride in my defense I’ve work behind the plate, but my main focus will be offensive. I’ll be focusing on getting my timing and rhythm down.

How did it feel to sign with the Miners?

It felt great. I feel as if a huge weight has been lifted on my shoulders, and I can use the rest of the winter league to fine tune my game, as opposed to trying to get every scout to see me on a daily basis.

What are your expectations for your first pro season in the Frontier League?

I expect to win a championship.

Pinto is also looking forward to seeing what the newest members of his team can do. “I really like what I have heard about Adam, Payton and Brandon. Casey has seen them up close and I am looking forward to seeing them compete for important roles with us this spring.”

For more information on the Southern Illinois Miners, visit their official website HERE.


Q & A with the California Winter League


Recently, the General Manager of the California Winter League (CWL), Peter Wagoner, reached out to me to discuss their upcoming season.

To clear up any questions and concerns potential players had, we decided to do a Q & A for Indy Ball Island.

Below are some frequently asked questions gathered from potential players along with the General Manager’s answers.

When did the league begin?

The first California Winter League season was in 2010.

Where is the league held?

The league operates in Palm Springs, California.

When will the league take place this year?

The 2017 California Winter League runs from January 16th until February 12th.

How many teams/players are there?

The amount of teams depends on how many players we have. We try to stay to about 20-22 man rosters. This year we will be around 250 players and therefore a 12 team league.

How many games does each team play (average amount of ABs or IPs per player)?

The number of games is also impacted by the amount of players/teams we have in the league. This year, we have 16 regular season games and at least one guaranteed playoff game. We do mix in off days during the league. This helps keep pitching fresh but also allows for instruction as well as networking between players and coaches/scouts.

What is the cost for each player?

The total cost of the league is $3500 (price has not increased in the 5 years I’ve been here). We do offer various discounts depending on player experience and when they register. For example, if a player registers before June, the cost is $2500.

What all is included in that cost?

The price includes housing (timeshare condos primarily and then hotels), two meals a day (breakfast and lunch), transportation while in Palm Springs (we hire a bus company to shuttle players to and from housing, the facility and…), a gym membership, equipment (bats, baseballs, uniforms, etc.). The price also includes field rentals, insurance costs as well as instructor fees since we do have to pay coaches and scouts to be a part of the league.

Who are some of your instructors and scouts and what teams/leagues are they affiliated with?

We have our 2017 instructor list posted on the website (you can see the list HERE). We work with every major independent league. That includes the Frontier League, American Association, Can Am, Atlantic League, the United Shore Professional Baseball League as well as the Pacific Association. We also have 10+ affiliated organizations here every year as well.

How many players are signed (on average) out of your league each year?

This number can change year to year depending on how many players are in the league and the quality of the players but we’ve been consistently between 75 and 100 players the last few years.

What exactly is the extent of your deal with the Frontier League?

Our relationship with the Frontier League (FL) is a mutually beneficial one. It provides the FL with a way to see a large number of players, particularly rookies, they might not otherwise. They have a rookie requirement of 11 players, which is a large portion of their roster. The majority of our players are recent college graduates, or have minimal professional experience, so it’s a good pairing for both the FL and the player. The FL has taken 98 players from the CWL in the last two years.

A lot of guys get signed to spring training contracts, but it’s much harder to stay on a roster afterwards. Is it really worth it as a player to spend the money to go to a winter league such as yours? Which players benefit the most from attending?

That is the nature of baseball for sure. Nothing is guaranteed. However, the CWL puts players in the best position to succeed. In 2015, the CWL gave you the best chance of playing in the FL. There were more guys from the CWL that played in a regular season game than players drafted at the FL open tryout or that were brought in by coaches. When our players do get released, they often get picked up by another one of the coaches that instructed in our league. And for the guys that do get released without playing a game, most likely they were afforded an opportunity that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. With that being said, we’ve had roughly 500 contract offers in 7 years from 18 different affiliated organizations and various independent leagues. We had 10 guys playing in affiliated ball last year alone. The league is worth it for anyone that is interested in playing professional baseball. We can be your foot in the door or the means to get you to the next level.

Winter ball is not for everyone. There are costs associated with putting on a league of this magnitude and not every player is going to be able to afford it. For those that can, we offer the best winter baseball experience in the country hands down. It’s run well and it shows. I know through the conversations I have with former and prospective players as well as indy and affiliated organizations that people believe in what we do, and more importantly, in how we do it.

Last year, Indy Ball Island followed players signed out of the CWL. You can see the original signings HERE and our Mid-Season update HERE

We also plan on following the 2017 signings in the upcoming months. Please subscribe to avoid missing out!