Tag Archives: MiLB

Royals Organization Releases Matt Fields

matt fields

*UPDATE* Matt has announced that the Arizona Diamondbacks have offered him a contract! Congratulations Matt and best of luck in the next chapter of your baseball story! 

Back when I first started Indy Ball Island around 9 months ago, I was really worried about how I would be perceived by players when I asked for an interview.

One of the first players I wanted to write a blog post about was Matt Fields. I had seen him play in the Frontier League a couple years ago, and I knew Matt had an interesting journey that I really wanted to capture.  His story of perseverance is what Indy Ball Island is all about.

Through a connection I had with his manager in the Frontier League, I was able to get in touch with Matt in November and hear him tell his story. (I highly recommend giving it a read if you haven’t already. You can see that post HERE.)

Matt was awesome to work with. He gladly agreed to help with my post and encouraged me to stick with the writing. We’ve kept in touch, and I was really enjoying following him with the AAA Storm Chasers this season.

Despite having a decent year so far – batting .244 with 4 HRS this season – the Royals organization decided to release Matt after the game on July 3rd.

I just wanted to write a post on here to personally thank Matt and all that he has done for me.  He will never know how much he helped me out in a time when I wasn’t too sure of what I wanted to be doing with this blog. That’s the thing with baseball… It really is a small, close-knit community. Through baseball and an awesome mutual friend, I was blessed to have Matt come into my life in a time when I needed it the most.

Thank you, Matt. I wish you nothing but the best in whatever is next!

Below is his own blog post on his “Next Steps”:

On Friday, July 3rd, I played what will likely be my last game of professional baseball.

After the game, we were auctioning off our special jerseys before the fireworks started. I signed my jersey for the winners, then made my way up to the clubhouse. The bus was leaving for the 8 hour trip to OKC shortly, so I was getting ready to shower before the trip.

As I started to get undressed, the clubbie came in and told me my manager wanted to speak with me. There are really only two reasons your manager calls you in after the game. You’re either getting called up, or you’re getting released.

So many feelings flashed into my mind all at once. I haven’t been performing like myself. Baseball is a business, and I’ve seen the moves being made. Though this is how it’s been my entire career, I’ve never really been on this side of the mirror. But even before I walked into my manager’s office, I knew what was likely coming.

I braved myself and stepped inside. He asked me to close the door. He explained it simply, that these were some of the toughest days he has, that there were moves that needed to be made, and that the club just didn’t have room for me any more.

With that, I was officially released by the Kansas City Royals.

I thanked my manager and went out to say goodbye to my coaches and teammates. I’ve built amazing bonds with these people over the last few years. Truthfully, they’re all family. Just like in any family, there are ones you like and don’t like, but I love them all.

I packed up my bags, walked out the clubhouse, turned around and said “thank you” before driving off.

Every player knows that there will be a day when they have to hang it up. I expected to be filled with sadness when it came. Certainly, I had many emotions running through in the moment. Truly, I feel a profound sense of excitement. I am grateful for all the chances I had to play the game I love. Now, I will allow God to continue to lead the way. Only He truly knows why we are here and what comes next, but I’m looking forward to the journey ahead.

I intend to work hard, stay open, and move forward with the next chapter of my experience. I’ll be sharing it here as well, and I hope you’ll stay with me.

(http://www.mattlfields.com/next-steps/)

You can also check out his other posts about baseball and life on his website. You won’t be disappointed.

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Why I Love Independent League baseball

I am asked fairly often why I enjoy watching independent league baseball as much as I do. The simple answer is that I just love baseball, but the answer is actually a lot more complex than that.  The indy ball ranks is where you find guys who truly love the sport. These guys play for the love of the game and the off-chance that they may be found by a big league organization to further their careers and dreams away from “Indy Ball Island.”

They sure don’t do it for the money or fame.  Most players live with host families and can make a minimum of $600 a month. Games are rarely televised anywhere and are often played in front of crowds in the low thousands or even hundreds.  A lot of the players are guys who never got drafted out of college or, for one reason or another, didn’t make it in affiliated ball after being signed.  For most, “Indy Ball Island” is their last stop in the baseball world, and they never manage to get off the island.  For others, it catapults them into affiliated ball with a new chance to prove themselves on the diamond.

THIS is why I love independent baseball. These guys show true heart and dedication to the game.  I love the fact that the crowds are so small.  The ballpark is intimate, and you can have a real connection with the players. Connections that, for me, have lasted well after the players leave the diamond for the last time.

As a season ticket holder for the Washington WildThings, an independent club in the Frontier League, I have seen many players come through Consol Energy Park. Some have stayed for a few weeks, and others have stayed for a few years, but all have had some impact on my life. I’ve seen losing seasons and winning seasons, playoff games and games where we fought for last place. I’ve witnessed my first perfect game and Frontier League record-breaking nights. I’ve watched careers come to an end and careers take off, first professional hits and last professional hits. Independent baseball is truly unique.

I’ve helped cook them breakfast before road trips and dinner after games, brought candy for bus rides and good luck gum before each home start. In need of high socks? We’ve got those for the boys too. Want a stuffed animal to bring with you on road trips? Just show up at “the jungle”, and we’ll hook you up with one of those. Section 101 in Washington, PA is not just a group of ordinary fans… we truly care about these boys and their careers. We support them as much as possible because we know it’s not easy being away from your family while trying to live out your dream. We are there for every win and every loss. We ride this roller coaster of a season with them every step of the way.

While the Frontier League isn’t the lowest of the low in independent baseball, it is pretty darn close. For an eye-opening look of something a little bit lower, I suggest a look at “The Pecos League” which is also a reality show that was shown on Fox Sports (and a possibility for another post.) It gives a pretty good insight into what these guys go through just to live out their dream.

Even through all the ups and downs, one of the coolest things about indy ball is seeing your boys succeed and see that dream become a reality. This year, Washington had a few guys who we had to say “happy goodbye” to. Getting picked up by an affiliated team is always the goal, and as fans we are always prepared for it to happen. You want it to happen, but it’s still hard.

During the season, we said goodbye to two of my closest friends in the WildThings Organization. Outfielder Stewart Ijames (undrafted after his senior year in college) was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks (and went on to play for the Missoula Osprey and Hillsboro Hops where he won a Championship Ring.) Another outfielder, CJ Beatty (former St. Louis Cardinals prospect), was signed by the Chicago White Sox organization (where he played for his hometown Winston-Salem Dash.)

During the off-season, pitchers Al Yevoli (who spent time in Spring Training with the Braves and played in the Cubs organization) and Troy Marks (who spent spring training with the Phillies) were also signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks… Looks like there will be a WildThings reunion in AZ during Spring Training!!

Al and Troy are the 41st and 42nd players to be signed out of the Frontier League this year, setting a new record for the league. Stories like this are all over independent baseball leagues around the country.

If you were to write-up a script to explain what the independent leagues are all about, you would tell the story of current Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher John Holdzkom. Here is a guy who was drafted in the 4th round by the New York Mets, had a rough 4 seasons in their organization (mixed with a Tommy John surgery that took 2 years to recover from), returned to college for a semester, had a brief stint with the Cincinnati Reds organization, played baseball internationally with the New Zealand team and in Australia, before landing back in the US to play independent ball for two years.

One night, a scout who was actually about to leave the game watched him pitch and was impressed with what he saw. He called the Pirates who signed him and added him to their AA roster in June. After just 4 games, he was moved up to AAA. The Pirates selected his contract, put him on the 40 man roster, and called him up with September call-ups. He pitched in 9 regular season games and in the NL Wild Card game. Going from a top prospect, to a struggling minor leaguer, to an independent ball player is a story that is often told. But Holdzkom’s story is special. With just a few small adjustments in indy ball, he propelled himself to the major leagues in just a couple of months. He was rescued from indy ball island and never looked back.

It’s all about first, second or even third chances. It’s about teaching everyone to never give up, and it’s all about heart and dedicating your life to live out a dream. Stories like these are exactly why I love independent ball as much as I do.