Tag Archives: Dennis Pelfrey

Celebrating (the Florence) Freedom This 4th of July Weekend

I’ve been to hundreds of baseball games in the past few years. Players, on teams both home and away, come and go constantly in this sport.

As an advocate for indy ball and minor league baseball, I’ve seen plenty.

However this weekend, I was able to meet up with a team that made me feel as if I’ve known all of them since the beginning of their careers. This might sound a little crazy, especially since I had only met two of the guys previously, but sometimes, that’s just how it happens in baseball. When you get a group that gels so well together, it’s easy to come in and feel as if you belong.

The Florence Freedom of the Frontier League came into town this Friday to play a three game series against my “home team” the Washington Wildthings. From the coaching staff (Pelf, AJ, Sean, and Brian) to the players (especially the fantastic bullpen), everyone welcomed me like I was coming to their home stadium, not the other way around!

The Freedom haven’t gotten off to the best start in the league – they’re currently in last place in the West division – but that hasn’t stopped their drive, determination and great attitude. While they have a tall mountain to climb, sweeping the Lake Erie Crushers last week and going 8-2 in their last 10 games shows that they are moving steadily in the right direction.

For the most part, the Freedom are a true indy ball team. The majority of the players have been around indy ball their entire careers with only a handful of players that have had any affiliated experience. For more than a few guys, including two players who just concluded their college careers, Florence has been their only professional experience.

In a league where affiliated cast-offs have become more the norm than the exception lately, this team has committed to having a roster full of true independent players.  That may be why I’m so partial to this group.

The indy ball life is tough, but for 80% of the team, that’s all they’ve ever known.

Friday, I was able to make their stay in Washington just a bit easier.  After catching up with a player I’ve known for the last few years thanks to this site, outfielder/DH Austin Newell, I passed out as many 20% off Denny’s restaurant coupons as I could collect so far this season.  A 20% off coupon may not seem like much (and in the grand scheme of things I know it isn’t!), but the guys were all more appreciative than I could ever have imagined.

Me with Austin Newell after giving him his drawing!

During the game, I also got a chance to talk to their bullpen and get to know them. As far as indy ball bullpens go, this one is full of the characters you would expect. They have the veteran indy ball guy, a couple of affiliated guys – one vet spending his last days in pro ball and a rookie trying to fix some things to eventually get back, true rookies, and guys at every step in-between of their careers. They’re the perfect balance of being loose and having fun while getting down to business late in the game. They instantly won me over.

Me and my favorite group of pitchers!

I did happen to notice that their bullpen snack bag was lacking a bit during the game. So naturally, I decided to take on the challenge to make them a better one for the next day. Saturday morning, I went shopping for whatever snacks, candy and pizza thingys/bread things (the name used by Bubba and the others who have never experienced the greatness of pepperoni rolls) could fit in the Leonardo Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles backpack I bought – they clearly needed an upgrade over the Disney Princess backpack they’ve been carrying!

Leo packed and ready to join the bullpen

If you love independent baseball and want to help the guys but don’t know how, may I suggest doing something similar for a team.  Seeing the looks on guys’ faces when they are handed a cartoon backpack filled with treats is really something special.

As it turns out, the guys had a surprise for me as well! During the exchange after BP, the bullpen handed me a ball signed by the entire team and before the start of the game, AJ their hitting coach came out with a brand new Florence Freedom bat signed by everyone.

Honestly, I don’t do what I do for anything. I write this site and help players when I can because I truly love this sport and the guys that play it. But with that being said, it is incredible to be treated the way I have been by this team. I was absolutely blown away by this group of guys and how supportive they are of me and the site. It was nice to be able to explain to them what Indy Ball Island is all about too!

To the Florence Freedom players (especially my favorite group of pitchers who put up with me hanging around the bullpen – TJ Bozeman, Jeremy Hutchinson, Pete Levitt, Davis “Bubba” Adkins, Tanner Kiest, and  Tony Vocca) and the coaching staff: Dennis Pelfrey, AJ Cicconi, Sean Repay, and Brian White, THANK YOU for a perfect weekend of watching indy ball. Just know that you all have a fan for life no matter where you go! Good luck for the rest of the season and beyond!

AlphaEvolve – Changing the Way Players Think About the Game

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A new business, AlphaEvolve, is looking to change the way players think about baseball.

I recently talked to one of their Certified Mental Coaches, Cameron Monger, to learn all about the business and how they plan on changing the game.

AlphaEvolve was formed by coaches Dennis Pelfrey and Chad Rhoades, current manager and pitching coach for the Florence Freedom in the Frontier League. Both were Texas high school baseball coaches at South Grand Prairie, an area that isn’t known for producing elite athletes, when they decided that they wanted to find new ways to get a competitive edge over their opponents both physically and mentally.

The coaches, along with Monger, Coleman Stephens, and Jake Liedka, ultimately created their program that they called Foundation.

The program consists of a workout that starts with a 5-10 minute mental lesson followed by a 45 minute workout and then ending with another mental lesson. The South Grand Prairie Warriors went three rounds into the playoffs before losing in three games to the eventual State Champions.

“The program was something unparalleled by anything that’s currently being done at the high school level and after seeing it’s success we all wanted more,” Monger said. Their main question became “how could we reach more people and help them evolve into the best version of themselves?”

Monger, a baseball traveler himself, knew he wanted to jump on board and help from the beginning.

“I came on board because I knew Chad & Pelf. I played for them in Fort Worth in 2013, so I already knew them pretty well. When you match up from a mental mindset, it’s easy to jump on board together. You can just feel an energy when we all talk about the company and our vision.”

Monger’s baseball journey highlights why he’s a perfect candidate to help athletes strengthen their mental approach to the game.

“I was drafted in 2009, dabbled with the Padres, Royals and A’s for just two years and never even made it to the low A level. A knee injury sent me out of affiliated baseball and into the Independent ranks. From there I frantically tried to get back into affiliated baseball. I was constantly asking people what I needed to do to appease the scouts and get picked back up. I’m seven years into my career now, and I’ve learned that I need to spend less time chasing those answers and more time just getting better.

“The past year I spent overhauling my swing for more power because that seems to be a way to grab people’s attention. Other than that I’m still the same guy. I play the game with passion and do my very best to lead by example. One thing that is unique about Independent baseball vs. affiliated is that you always have a handful of “salty vets” on the team who can give the younger players lessons for their career (if they choose to take it).

“Each year that goes by makes it more and more likely that I become viewed as such a player. I know that this gives me a unique opportunity to positively impact some players careers because they will listen to what I have to say. This is a responsibility that I don’t take lightly, so any player that comes to me for advice is always going to get everything I can offer them.”

He takes the responsibility so seriously that he became a certified mental coach this off season in order to help players to the best of his ability. So, what is a mental coach and why are they so important to baseball players?

“They are someone who specializes in the mental side of the game, and their focus is to help players use mental skills to unlock their full potential and to help them perform more consistently to the best of their ability” Monger explained.

“With baseball we have pitching coaches, hitting coaches, strength coaches, and every good player has been involved with a good coach or two throughout his career. In a game that’s such a mental grind it just makes sense to have a mental coach, too.  The benefits are so unique to every individual. Some players don’t have any skills in their memory bank to help them and these are the players that can see huge jumps in performance once they start.

“Others might need some refinement on a few areas such as confidence, controlling the moment, proper goal setting, etc. Regardless of the extent, every player will see an improvement in their game by working at it with a mental coach. I’m a Certified Mental Coach myself and I still work with other coaches to work on my game.”

Now, players from all over the country will be able to tap into the benefits of the AlphaEvolve team and their cerebral conditioning. They currently have sessions available in person as well as through phone and video calls.  Players can be assured that the coaches will tailor their one-on-one sessions to help them make the most of their time and money.

“I care about giving back to players because I believe it is the right thing to do,” said Monger. “I love this game, and if I only play it for myself then I’m being selfish. If I can help anyone to enjoy their career that much more by finding more success then that to me is what’s important. That’s what I’m hoping to create with AlphaEvolve – an outlet for players to reach their full potential and be satisfied with their career no matter the outcome.”

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To learn more about AlphaEvolve or to book a session, you can visit their website: AlphaEvolve.com

You can also check out Cameron Monger (@cameronmonger) on Twitter and Instagram where he posts daily inspiration, motivation, and tips to becoming a better athlete and all around person.