Notes from the Minor Leagues

The Lakewood BlueClaws (Single A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies) took on the West Virginia Power (apparently not a utilities company but the Pirates’ Single A team), in a matchup of two…teams. I don’t know where they are in their league at this point of the season, and I don’t really care. Not because I don’t have a favourite of the two (BlueClaws), or because I’m not into winning (Charlie Brown said it best: “Winning may not be everything, but losing isn’t ANYTHING”).

No, the reason I didn’t much care who won is that I was more interested in seeing if any of these kids might be in a position to help to produce at the major league level in the next few years. Of particular interest was 19-year old Maikel Franco from the Dominican Republic, whom some have pencilled in for the Phillies 2015 opening day lineup based on, well, not a great deal actually, but he looked good for a few months last year and the Phillies’ front office speak highly of him so they must have seen something.

As it turned out, Franco turned in an unexceptional 1-hit day and was decent in the outfield. Pirates 1B Jorge Sosa showed the most impressive bat in the game and will be worth keeping an eye on. He doesn’t turn 20 until the end of the year and has been progressing quickly in the minor leagues for the last couple of years after signing on as an international free agent aged 16 in Venezuela for next-to-nothing. He didn’t hit a home run in this game, but looked in command of every at-bat and the double he hit to centre field was crushed.

Other highlights: BlueClaws’ Designated Hitter Chris Duffy looks as unathletic as any professional baseball player I’ve ever seen, with more pounds on his frame than are strictly necessary, and a very awkward gait. He’s an interesting dude because he’s the kind of guy you think MUST be there not because he has dreams of making it to the big leagues, but because he just loves playing baseball. After all, he’ll turn 25 this year (making him the oldest guy on the team), the Phillies are four levels above the league he plays in and when he was promoted earlier this season he could hardly buy a hit.

There are others whom just think are unlikely to rise much higher. Brock Stassi played 1B for the BlueClaws, is 23 years old and doesn’t seem to hit for a great deal of power, has an average average, and is slightly built without having much speed. But he was in his local press again recently reaffirming his hopes and dreams of making it to the majors. Him and the 100+ players ahead of him in the Phillies’ organisation with that same dream.

At some point in the next few years, probably 90+ of them will adjust to the reality that they will never be good enough for the majors, and they’ll move on with their lives, forever able to say that they were part of a major league organisation, even though the never so much as sniffed the ‘Show’. Some of them will make it after 10 years of grind, like recent Phillies call-up Erik Kratz, who’ll never be a star but has achieved a life’s ambition by just getting to where he is.

And as a surreal backdrop to these hopings and dreamings of would-be major leaguers was mascot race between innings late in the game. I’ve always liked these, partly because they look daft, and partly because I like to see the infielders try to maintain their professional poise while practicing their throws to first base as 8-foot costumes of (in this case), cheese, egg and tomato run past them.

It’s a serious thing, professional sports. But not THAT serious.

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