Tag Archives: Empire League

The Pecos and Empire Leagues Were Built For This

We are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Sports as we know it are canceling and changing.  Who is going to save us from a summer without baseball?

Look no further than the lowest levels of independent baseball… the Pecos and Empire Leagues.

You may be wondering how these two leagues, that I just classified as the “lowest levels” of indy ball will be able to continue playing when even major league baseball is having difficulty figuring out their game plan.

It’s simple really… the Pecos League and Empire League were both built for this…  Barely (or not at all) paying players and playing in front of minimal crowds is what they are infamous for.

Prospective players pay hundreds of dollars to play in these leagues when they attend training camps and tryouts in the spring. Every year, this is where a substantial amount of revenue for the leagues is made.

It’s also where a good amount of the labor comes from as well.  The fields these leagues play on aren’t state-of-the-art facilities that require a grounds crew and workers to maintain. Most teams use their own players to take care of field and ballpark maintenance.

As for playing in front of no crowds with no gate revenue, during a “normal” season, crowds usually range in the very low hundreds if that. It won’t be too much of a change overall. 

Don’t get me wrong, I along with many Americans, will be very happy to still have baseball to follow. I will watch and support the players.  I hope that they will be able to have the recognition that they deserve for grinding through some of the roughest conditions in baseball, especially with the current world situation going on all around us.

Here are the official statements from the Pecos League and Empire League about their seasons: 

Pecos League

4/16/2020- The Pecos League is aware of the rapidly changing developments regarding COVID-19. The Pecos League was originally scheduled to have a 64 game regular season start on 5/27/2020 and end on 8/1/2020 with 12 teams in 6 states. This will not happen.

The Pecos League has adjusted its season to a 48 game season with a start date to July 1, 2020 with an end date August 16, 2020 assuming it is deemed safe by local governments to play with fans at this time.

The other option the Pecos League may have to consider is to have four teams play in one location. No travel, no hotels and likely limited fan interaction would occur. But the players who need to play in the 2020 season would be able to play.

“There are 12 cities in the Pecos League and there are 12 different opinions, two of the cities have said no baseball in 2020. We will adjust and if possible play a 48 game season beginning July 1.”

Empire League

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I do commend the Pecos League and the Empire League for attempting to play and bring baseball to players and fans who are greatly missing it.  The sacrifices these teams are all making to play at a time of such uncertainty should be recognized if they do indeed have a 2020 season.

No More What If’s – Kevin Belskie

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Kevin Belskie

The game of baseball creates the greatest memories of my life and teaches me lessons I can’t learn anywhere else. Growing up in the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown, PA, baseball became a huge part of my life by the time I could walk. The warmer months were occupied by little league games, travel team tournaments, and each night at 7:05, Harry Kalas called the Phillies game and I made sure not to miss an inning. This became a routine and I was hooked. My dad would tell me about the players he grew up watching and I would be glued to my seat listening to him. I’d beg my parents and my brothers to play catch with me all day, every day, because all I wanted to do was play baseball. While attending Norristown High, my passions persisted even though my freshman year left me with mediocre stats. I vowed to myself I’d keep practicing so eventually after high school I could pursue my professional dreams.

 

Senior year of high school was coming to an end when I got selected as an All-Conference Infielder and recruited by Albright College and Suffolk University. Given that Suffolk is in Boston and Albright’s only an hour away, I chose to stay close to home and go to Albright. The first year at Albright wasn’t what I expected after working so hard during my high school seasons. Something was missing, a connection wasn’t quite there, and I didn’t feel the same amount of passion from my teammates that I exerted. Without hesitation, I reached out to the coaches at Suffolk hoping to transfer by the following season. Coach Anthony Del Prete expressed “You have a spot on the team but playing time is earned not given.” It was from that point on I knew bumps in the road were just bumps and I couldn’t give up playing baseball.

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With some persistence and plenty of patience, the spot in the lineup was mine. My three seasons with Suffolk granted me with remarkable experiences as a baseball player, collegiate teammate, student, and friend. We won three straight conference championships and three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. I received multiple awards including two-time All-GNAC selection, GNAC Player of the Week, as well as a GNAC batting title in 2016, hitting .432. Then despite knowing being a part of the Suffolk Rams would eventually end, we lost the final game of the season in May 2017 on the day of our graduation ceremonies. Suffolk taught me the value of hard work, perseverance, and how to overcome any obstacle. Words cannot express how grateful I am for Anthony Del Prete, Cary McConnel, John O’Brien, Jhonneris Mendez, and the rest of Suffolk University’s coaching and athletic department staff. I’m certain I would not be able to continue this journey without all of their help and guidance.

When my college career ended, I felt hollow. I hadn’t played in any collegiate prospect summer leagues so getting drafted was never a thought that entered my mind. However, Indy Ball opportunities always appeared as an option to me. My “real career” in financial services started quickly after moving home holding very little interest in my life. Almost everyday in my cubicle, I would relish my college career and the feeling of being on the field everyday. This thought would always be followed with, “what if?”. What if I had attended every tryout possible and fought like hell to keep playing? My younger self would have kicked my older self’s ass for giving up and not exhausting every opportunity. 

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In March of 2019, almost two years removed from college, I decided no more what if. Inspired by reading The Alchemist, I signed up for the Empire Professional Baseball League tryout camp. I played in a competitive men’s league throughout my post-grad summers as well as practiced and trained consistently year round. I signed with the New York Bucks and played the 2019 summer in the Empire League. Even though my time in the lineup was less than I anticipated, I finished the summer slashing .319/.410/.458 and clubbed my first professional homer! 

Throughout my career I’m very fortunate to have the support of families, friends, and coaches. My mantra is always, “I am still here, I am still playing, and I am not stopping anytime soon!” I look forward to the countless memories, connections, and lessons I still have to make from this incredible ballgame!