Minor league baseball is my true love. I'm a Red Sox fan and always love to watch them play, but to be truthful I'd rather watch a minor league game than a major league game. I know most people think that is weird. The big leagues is where the stars are, have the better stadiums, and bigger crowds. But to me there is just something so pure about minor league baseball. The guys who are playing because they love the game and not because they are getting several hundred thousand dollars per game to play. The crazy mascots and promotions. The gatekeepers who greet you by name as you walk through the turnstile. I think part of it is the fact that I love underdogs. Wally Z. and Valpo anyone?
I was reminded of this twice today. First was after reading TR Sullivan's article on Kevin Richardson and his Crash Davis experience. Kevin is the epitome of what minor league baseball is about. He shows up everyday with a great attitude and plays hard. He is great with fans and players alike. The chance that he'll stick with a major league team as anything than a temporary injury replacement is slim and none, but he loves the game and plays every day like it may be his last. How can you not cheer for someone like that?
Right after reading TR's blog entry, I read the new blog entry by ex-Hawk (and ex-Red Sox) Beau Vaughn. To call Beau controversial is an understatement, and he didn't disappoint this time either. His whole blog is about performance enhancing drugs and what may drive a player to use them. Ironically, he is almost accepting of a minor leaguer using them, while calling out the established stars using them. He also talks about how tough it is trying to live on a minor league salary ranging between $800-2100 per month (and only getting paid 5 months of the year).
What's spring training without an injury report? Josh Hamilton is playing through a sore shoulder while Derek Holland is throwing again after spraining his knee. Omar Poveda is apparently going to have TJ surgery and Warner Madrigal is experiencing soreness in his forearm and near his elbow.
The Rangers have signed Wes Bankston to a minor league contract. Ex-Hawk Nick Beirbodt is giving it another shot and signed a minor league deal with the Rockies. My 2008 favorite RedHawk, Tug Hulett, turns 27 today (thanks to my friend Teddy for sending the Boston Globe article to me about that!). Two of my favorite ex-Hawks, Ron Mahay and Hank Blalock still remain unsigned. Casey Benajmin and Ben Harrison will be playing for the same indy league team in Maryland (thanks Jeff!). Marshall McDougall left a couple days ago to play this year in Taiwan. The Indians signed ex-Hawk Jamey Wright while the Marlins inked minor league deals with Mike Lamb and ex-Round Rocker Mark Saccamanno. I think I already mentioned that Joaquin Benoit signed with the Rays.
As we always do this time of year, Jeff and I are throwing around our guesses for the RedHawks roster. This is what we came up with:
Kasey Kiker (yay!) and Guillermo Moscoso
Jeff thinks they will be joined by Derek Holland, Eric Hurley and Matt Harrison while I am guessing Blake Beavan, Martin Perez and Mike Ballard.
Impossible to guess at this point. I would think Ben Synder (if they get him through waivers), Willie Eyre, Pedro Strop, and Clay Rapada. I'd like to see Brennan Garr and Andrew Laughter, but I am not optimistic.
Kevin Richardson, Max Ramirez (if not traded), and Emerson Frostad. I had thought Toby Hall, but Jeff said he isn't supposed to be ready to start the season.
Me: Matt Brown, Esteban German, Marcus Lemon, Justin Smoak, Wes Bankston, Ray Olmedo (or Guilder Rodriguez if Olmedo is in Texas). Jeff's is pretty much the same except he replaces Brown with Johnny Whittleman.
Brandon Boggs, Mitch Moreland and Craig Gentry. I thought that Endy Chavez would be the 4th OF but Jeff doesn't think he'll be ready to start the season so he is guessing Chad Tracy.
Wild guesses at this point. It will be interested to see how close we came when the rosters are announced in a month. Anyone else have any thoughts?