Tag Archives: Joe Torre

Two Days with the Black Sox

There’s the minor league grind.

Then there’s the indy ball grind.

And then… on a whole other level… you have the Black Sox grind.

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I was fortunate enough to experience this first hand when I was invited to spend two days with the “Road Warrior” Black Sox.

The team, who is currently in the middle of their spring training schedule, played two exhibition games in Washington, PA (practically my “hometown”) this week.

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I’ve known Joe Torre, the Black Sox owner/manager, for many years thanks to this website and the fact that we generally run around with the same circles in baseball. He told me that he would love for me to come out, support the guys, and get the full Black Sox experience. The full experience, as it turns out, allowed me to be in the clubhouse and in the dugout during the games.

And what an experience it was.

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As we said our “see you laters” after the game yesterday, Joe turned to me and said, “Are you finally sold yet?”

I was always sold on the Black Sox idea. Their “change the culture” mentality is something that I want to see happen in indy ball. But I’ll admit that before the past two days, I had bought the product but still kept the tag and receipt. Now, I’m completely in. The tag and receipt have been thrown in the trash, and I’m not looking back now.

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If you’ve never read my previous post(s) or heard of the Black Sox, let me try to sum up who they are…

When you think of the Black Sox, think of a good old fashion barnstorming baseball team. The  team is made up of unsigned players who travel around the country playing various indy ball teams during their spring trainings.  Their hopes are that a manager somewhere along the way will like what they see and want to sign them for the upcoming season.

The Black Sox like to say “we are not for everyone” and that is absolutely true. The barnstorming life is brutal. Some times they are given a hotel to stay at when they’re in town, but other times they have to find their own place to stay, whether it’s with a host family, a friend they know, or paying out-of-pocket for a hotel room. The guys then drive themselves from city to city with their cars filled to the max with people and bags.

The guys played two morning games in Washington, PA (May 3rd and 4th) and then, when their game ended after 1 PM on Friday, they drove straight to Florence, KY (over a 4 hour drive) to play ANOTHER game starting at 7.

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They are the true definition of baseball grinders, but of course, it’s been that way for most of them their entire careers.

I could tell you their stories, everyone in indy ball has one, but they know that’s not important.  Failed draft picks, injuries, small town colleges, scammed indy leagues, near meaningless stats from low-level indy leagues… every guy has had something lead them to this team. No one is going to care about your story here.

The players all play with a chip on their shoulder and have an “us against the world” mentality. When you realize just how cutthroat indy ball is,  you can’t blame them. The Black Sox have an “NWO” wrestling theme. They want to come in, be the renegade group, take over, and succeed. They want to “change the culture” of what independent baseball is all about.

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In the highly competitive world that they’re in, it would be easy for the guys to care more about themselves than the team.  Essentially they ARE competing against each other for a job. But the guys know that they can’t think like that. You have to be a TEAM and put the team first before your own individual stats. Playing as a team will eventually bring the individual notoriety if you deserve it.

After spending the last two days with the team, I can honestly say that the majority of the guys understand that. They’re sold and have already thrown away the tag and receipt.  There are still a few that bought in, but aren’t completely sold yet. And the truth is, they’ll either figure it out, or they’ll eventually fail… at least in this system.

 

These past days have been an eye-opening experience to say the least. I’m sure on the first day, most guys had no idea why I was in the clubhouse and dugout. The few guys that I’ve known over the years welcomed me in with open arms, but the others were apprehensive. I was a bit apprehensive on that first day too. I layed low in the manager’s office in the clubhouse pregame and was more a fly on the wall in the dugout than a part of the team.

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But by the second day, I definitely felt like I belonged just a bit more. I started talking to the guys and got to know a little bit more of their stories. I could see the passion in their eyes when they talked about the game. I was standing on the railing with them and cheering for their victories, however small they were, during the game.

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Over the last three years, I’ve watched this team from the other side of the wall. The last two years were rough to say the least. They couldn’t compete, and they knew it. This year, however, I was able to see a team that was very much improved from the last few years. They came in and were competitive. They lost both games, 6-5 and 5-3, but they competed and really, that was a win itself. Players proved that they belonged on that field. They put themselves in a position to be seen, and that’s all they can ask for at this point.

Seeing them leave it all out on the field, coming in the dugout and the clubhouse giving each other advice, putting in extra work after games, watching video… that’s what sold me.

Guys, thank you for letting me into your world for the last few days, even though I know some of you probably didn’t think I should be there.

Please know that you guys have my utmost respect. It may have only been two days, but I want you guys to succeed more than most people ever will. You give it everything you have just for that chance to keep playing.

I see that. I believe in you.

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The Black Sox Road Warriors Are Back At It Again

The Black Sox are looking to “change the culture” in indy ball.

The team is mostly made up of players with pro experience who are still looking for a place to play for the summer as well as guys who are signed to leagues that start later (such as the Pacific Association or the Pecos League).

The “Road Warriors” travel around the country playing various independent teams in many different leagues during their respective spring trainings… think barnstorming teams of the past.

The players are hoping that just one of the teams take notice and sign them to play for them instead of against them.

It’s definitely a grind. Indy ball isn’t easy, and this is even harder. Guys travel with each other from city to city, paying for their own transportation while trying to find their own place to stay for the night. Some teams provide hotels, but most won’t pay for a team that isn’t officially part of any league.

It isn’t for everyone, but it could be worth it for the guys who grind it out. Owner/manager Joe Torre has a track record of getting guys signed to indy leagues. He uses his extensive connections and some tough love to get guys where they want to be.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to be working with a school that went to a school day spring training game featuring the Black Sox. The guys were amazing to my students and made it an enjoyable experience for all. You can check out that story here: Education Day with the Black Sox.

Indy Ball Island also invited two members of the Black Sox to write about their experience. You can check that out here: Guest Bloggers – The Black Sox. 

The team will be all over the country starting today… if they’re in a town near you, make sure you go out and support the guys if you can!

Road Warrior Black Sox Tour Schedule 2018 

Florence Kentucky will be home base for our 2018 Pro Spring Training Trip

4/20-4/21 vs Lancaster Barnstormers- Atlantic League (2gms)

4/21 vs Road Warrior Team (Atlantic League ) @ New Britain stadium (Back field)- driving back to Florence for Draft after CT game (possible PM CT tryout)

4/21 River City Rascals Tryout- Frontier League

4/21 Pacific Association Draft Tryout @ Albert Park San Rafael- Pacific Association

4/23-4/24 Frontier Draft in Florence Kentucky- Frontier League

4/24-4/27 @ USPBL Draft in Michigan 3 day event, players pay USPBL for tryout. Discount for players who attend Frontier Draft

4/26 vs Windy City Thunderbolts Double Header- Frontier League (2gms)- driving to Southern Illinois

4/26-4/27 vs Southern Illinois Miners -Frontier League (2gms)- driving back to Florence to recoup before the next trip

5/1  Road Warriors vs Florence Freedom 11am -Frontier League- driving to Washington on the 2nd

*5/3-5/4 vs Washington Wild Things  10am (School day games)- Frontier League (2gms)-driving to Florence/Normal, splitting the squads

5/5-5//6-5/7-5/8 vs Florence Freedom 3 games 2pm start 5/6 and 5/7. 12 pm start 5/5 -Frontier League (3 games)

⅚ vs Normal Cornbelters 10am- Frontier League

5/7vs Normal Cornbelters 9am- Frontier League

⅝ vs Normal Cornbelters (School day game) 10am- Frontier League- driving to Texas for American Association Series

5/9 vs Sussex County Miners (after the tryout)

5/10-5/11-5/12 vs Cleburn Railroaders/Grand Prairie Airhogs- American Association (6gms in 3 days)- driving ti Fargo after game on 12

5/14 vs Fargo Moore-Head Redhawks -American Association (1 gm)-driving to Sioux Falls after the game

5/15 vs Sioux Falls Canaries – American Association (1gm)-driving to California to get ready for May 20 first PAC workout

5/13–5/17- Pecos League Spring Training Starts

5/20-6/1 – Pacific Association Spring Training Games vs 6 teams games to be scheduled (Vallejo/Pittsburg/Martinez/Napa)

June 4-7 @ Empire League Spring Training

 

* Look for a special story about the Black Sox while they are in Washington, PA next month!

For more information on the Black Sox, please check out their official website HERE.