Tag Archives: independent baseball stories

Indy Ball – The British Are Coming

About a month ago, I met Joey Mellows through twitter (@BaseballBrit).

He mentioned that he has a new love for baseball, specifically independent baseball, even though he has never seen an indy ball game in person… yet.

Here is his story:

Indy Ball: The British Are Coming
by Joey Mellows
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@BaseballBrit on Twitter

 

In June 2018 I intend to fly 6,515 miles from Seoul to Kansas to watch a baseball game between the Kansas City T-Bones and Lincoln Saltdogs. I have never watched an independent league game before but want to learn more about baseball that is played and operated outside of the monopolistic Major and Minor Leagues.

 

At the age of 32 I have decided to roll the dice with my life (and career) and have informed my current employer of my intentions to leave my steady, well-paid job, in June 2018 so that I can watch, document and write about the current state of independent baseball within the USA.

 

I am also a Brit, with little experience of baseball except for three recent summers spent following the Orix Buffaloes in Japan, the LG Twins in Korea and the Texas Rangers in the MLB. My upbringing is similar to many from the UK with soccer, cricket and rugby dominating my early sporting interactions growing up in England.

 

The plan at present is still highly flexible, and that is where I hope, you, the readers of Kayla Thompson’s excellent Indy Ball Island website, can help contribute as I travel throughout the USA in 2018 and 2019 following players, teams and stories around the various traditional summer independent leagues.

 

I would love to hear from you via a direct message to @BaseballBrit on Twitter or joe_mellows@hotmail.com if you wish to contribute or be included in my research and travels.

I am particularly interested in the joys, frustrations and day-to-day lives of people associated with Indy Ball.   

 

This is especially true if you are a:

  • fan of a specific team
  • player (current, past or aspiring)
  • coach/ manager
  • front-office worker (intern, part-time or full-time)
  • broadcaster/ podcaster
  • scorer/ statistician/ historian
  • owner
  • local resident from a town/city with an Indy Ball team
  • local resident/ business owner from a town/city where an Indy Ball team has sadly left

 

I intend to chronicle the stories, eccentricities and business elements of independent baseball – particularly geographical regions of the country that have been overlooked or ignored until the arrival/departure of independent ball.

 

Recommendations on ballparks, the independent baseball life, famous fans, books, websites, and people to follow on Twitter would be gratefully received and I hope to hear from many of you before next summer – so please get in touch!

 

About Joey Mellows (@BaseballBrit)

 

I caught the baseball bug whilst attending my first game in Osaka, Japan as a means of keeping my visiting British parents occupied for the evening. Since then I have spent the majority of my free time watching, reading, discussing, and travelling to baseball games with an assortment of characters with a shared passion for the KBO, NPB, MLB and SABR.
I am also intent on helping to further baseball interest among British fans with a group of podcasters from www.batflipsandnerds.com and run the UK fan accounts for the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers on Twitter.

 

I encourage all of you to help out Joey on this adventure in any way that you can!

 

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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.

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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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