Tag Archives: Washington Wild Things

My Reflections As An Indy Ball Lifer (So Far)

Many years ago…

Before this site became the “dirt sheets” exposing poorly ran leagues…

Before this site became a trusted source for news and tryout information…

This site was a blog written by a fan who wanted to share her experiences with the world.

Tonight, as I arrived home 14 hours after I first left it this morning, I found myself reflecting on the THREE baseball games I attended today and the impact that both baseball and this blog have had on my life.

First off, I’ve been a fan of independent baseball since I was a teenager. The WildThings (the closest professional baseball team to my hometown) were formed when I was just 12 years old. I’ve grown up at the ballpark, and in turn, I’ve watched a lot of players grow up around me.

Tonight, the WildThings welcomed back members of the All-Decade team from the 2010’s. These guys were integral parts of teams that I saw every single home game for… and plenty of road trips as well. They were a part of a history making perfect game, league records, a wild card playoff win on the road that I will NEVER forget, and so many more summer night memories.

We’ve all grown up since those nights. I got to meet their babies while we talked about those games and what we’re all doing now.

Then one player asked me if I still write my blog. He mentioned that the team loved reading everything I would write when I was just figuring out what this site was all about. He also told me that he still has the drawing I did for him hanging up in his office. Comments like those mean the world to me.

But tonight’s game was just the finishing touch on a really great day.

The day started out at 10 AM. Same WildThings stadium; however, it was a totally different team and atmosphere. If you are unfamiliar with my posts about the Black Sox, I encourage you to check them out HERE and HERE. It was Day 2 of the Yinzer League with the Killer Bee’s taking on the Brilliance Baseball Sox.

In a nutshell, the Yinzer League is made up of four teams of players who are all free agents looking to play games, get reps and hopefully move up and sign with a higher independent league.

Those guys are the true grinders of indy ball. They play games in the mornings and hold jobs running the concession stands, door dashing or giving baseball lessons in the evenings.

I’ve been around the Black Sox organization for many years now. I’ve watched guys come and go. I’ve seen players move on to bigger and better things and flourish. And I’ve also seen guys hang them up and put their playing days behind them.

I’m drawn to players who work hard. I love to see guys who are driven and push themselves to be better. To make it with the Black Sox, you have to have those qualities. It’s why I gravitate towards them. Over the past few days of hanging out with them, I’ve heard from countless guys that Indy Ball Island helped them at some point in their career.

It’s humbling to know that I can be even a small part of someone’s success in baseball. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of players I’ve met through just the Black Sox alone, but I can tell you that these guys have all changed my life.

They make me want to continue this site… to help them find teams… to encourage them and watch their games even if they’re at 10 AM in 80 degree heat for almost 4 hours. Their drive and determination keep me going, not just to run this site, but in life as well.

After the Killer Bee’s got the W, I met up with a friend and went into Pittsburgh to watch the Pirates battle the Marlins from the club level.

We had great seats and an amazing view of the field and the city but something was missing. Now back in college, the Pirates (who were terrible – this was even before the wild card win) were a huge part of my life. I had season tickets by the bullpen, would go to all the charity functions, knew every player and followed the minors religiously. I met players who are still great friends. A few guys I even considered to be my brothers as they grew up through the minor league system. I was at PNC Park for so many major league debuts. It really was a time in my life that I cherish dearly.

But I really just didn’t feel “at home” anymore. After stopping by to see my favorite bullpen coach, Herbie Andrade, in the Pirates bullpen, we left the game in the 8th inning (the game ended with a walkoff in the 12th). My friend didn’t mind since the Marlins were winning when we left (he’s originally from Florida), and I didn’t mind because we were heading back to Washington.

Which leads me right back to where this post started, Washington vs. Quebec for All-Decade team night. Speaking of the Pirates and Quebec, Gift Ngoepe – a former Pirates player that I have known for ten years since he was in the minors – is now playing on the team representing Quebec. Talk about a night that really went full circle for me!

See, it’s not about the level of play. Baseball is baseball. Sure there are small differences depending on what level you’re watching, but the game is really the same.

It’s just a game.

What makes baseball so special is the people involved. It doesn’t matter what time, what weather, what stadium or even what league or team I’m watching… what matters is the people on and off the field that I surround myself with.

They’re what keeps me going.

Brilliance Sox Win Empire Playoff Series, Look Ahead to 2021

In an effort to save the 2020 baseball season, the Empire League sent two teams to Washington, PA to play two teams fielded by the BlackSox baseball organization. The one month series ended with a two day playoff series to determine a champion.

The regular season series ended on September 25th with the Road Warrior Black Sox taking the number one seed for the two day playoffs.

The Brilliance Sox ended up as the second seed, with the Empire teams the Tupper Lake Riverpigs and Saranac Lake Surge taking third and fourth respectfully.

On Monday, the Brilliance Sox defeated the Tupper Lake Riverpigs in the first game of the series to move on to the championship game.

And in an upset, the fourth seeded Surge defeated the Black Sox in extra innings to advance to the finals.

Tuesday, the Riverpigs defeated the Black Sox in the consolation game to finish the finals in third place.

The championship game between the Brilliance Sox and Surge was a pitchers duel that went into extra innings. After a homerun by the Sox in the first, the game went scoreless until the Surge were able to answer with one run of their own in the 8th. In the end, the Brilliance Sox were able to walk it off in the bottom of the 12th inning to become the 2020 Empire League Series Champions.

Other awards given out at the conclusion of the season included:

In addition, multiple players from the series were able to sign contracts to higher independent leagues for the 2021 season.

Looking ahead to next season, the Empire League is hoping to return to their usual season in the Northeast of the country. The league, which focuses on developing rookie level talent, is looking forward to being able to have a full season again. Check out more information about the Empire League HERE.

The BlackSox will once again be moving ahead with their development of players through exposure events, spring training games and the newly established Yinzer Baseball Confederacy.

This league will consist of 4-6 teams playing 50-60 games at a Frontier League ballpark (at Wildthings Park in Washington, PA) from June-September in front of professional managers and scouts. The Black Sox Organization plans to continue being the feeder system for all of independent baseball.

This season, the league provided 72 opportunities to play among their two teams. Since 2018, the Black Sox have helped promote 188 players.

More information can be found on the Black Sox official website HERE.

On behalf of myself and the players, I would like to give a shout out and thank you to the Washington Wild Things organization for the use of their facilities, Eddie Gonzalez with the Empire League and Joe Torre with the Black Sox for giving these players a safe chance to play baseball during a summer of cancellations and concerns surrounding the pandemic. I know the players will be forever grateful for the opportunities given to them this season.

On a personal note, I would like to thank Eddie and Joe for being so welcoming to me whenever I was at the ballpark.

To the Black Sox boys… many of whom I’ve known for the majority of your careers, congratulations on finishing up this season. I am so proud of you all and love your drive, determination and dedication to the game of baseball. Thank you for always welcoming me in as part of the team. You made an otherwise boring summer a lot of fun. Best of luck in the future! You guys know you always have a home on Indy Ball Island.