Someone just posted a comment to a piece I wrote about the Independent A leagues back in April of last year. I wrote a long response, which I’ve decided to turn into a blog post of its own.
Living in the center of the San Francisco Bay Area, I watch mostly major league baseball, live and on TV — the Giants and the A’s. I have nothing against the minor leagues, as my many previous posts likely show, but the Majors are the best ball anywhere, and it’s fun to watch the best do what they do, even if the games and concessions have gotten ridiculously expensive.
Also, having major league teams in the area pushes out most minor league teams. I’m just not willing to go to Sacramento or Fresno solely to see the A’s and Giants’ AAA teams, although I’d certainly go to a game, if I was in town already and had an evening to kill. I might be willing to drive the 45 miles south to see the Class A+ San Jose Giants play, but I’ve just never gotten around to actually doing it.
As a result I’ve only attended two minor league games in my life. Around 2000, I went to see the Sonoma County Crushers of the Independent A Western Baseball League in lovely Rohnert Park (it’s just south of Santa Rosa, which is 60 miles north of San Francisco). The weather was great, and I had a good time, but the baseball was definitely inferior. Every once in awhile something would happen to remind you that these guys were professionals — one long home run and one great diving stop by one of the infielders, but these guys were definitely a long way from the Show.
In early May 2007, I was in New Orleans to visit an old college friend and to go to JazzFest, but we also caught a New Orleans Zephyrs’ game (the Zephyrs were then the Mets’ AAA team) against the Iowa Cubs. It was a great game.
The quality of baseball was much higher, very close to MLB. The Iowa Cubs had a young pitcher from the Dominican Republic who I’d never heard of before starting, but he had some serious stuff.
The Mets were expecting to contend that year, so the New Orleans team was loaded with former major leaguers, including Fernando Tatis, Andy Tracy, Rickey Ledee and Mike DeFelice, in case someone at the major league level got hurt. The Iowa Cubs were younger.
The young Dominican breezed through the first three innings against the Zephyrs. However, in the 4th, Tracy and Ledee hit back-to-back solo HRs. I’ve watched enough baseball (and these were “the best seats in the house” directly behind home plate and only three or four rows back — we could have sat closer but we were happy where we were — for $10 a head) to tell that the two veteran hitters were both sitting on a certain pitch and didn’t miss them when they got them.
The Young Dominican made some adjustments, shut down the Zephyrs through the rest of the first seven innings, and the Cubs won 3-2.
It turns out that young Iowa Cubs’ ace was Carlos Marmol. Here’s the box score. He was still a starter then, but he was called up later that year and stuck in the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen. The rest, as they say, is history.
It was a very enjoyable evening, not the least because the Zephyrs’ park served up double Jack Daniels’-and-cokes for a not outrageous $8 a pop.