After the conclusion of the Arizona Fall League in mid-November, professional baseball took a hiatus in the United States. That is not the case elsewhere in the world. Winter baseball began in full shortly after the end of the MLB season.
For many minor league players winter ball is the perfect opportunity to get a few more at bats or repetitions at another position. For American-born players winter ball can be somewhat of a cultural shock.
Many of the facilities are poor or run down but crowds flock to these games and players are treated as rock stars. For some foreign born players this is an opportunity to play in front of hometown fans.
After the season the Arizona Diamondbacks in conjunction with outfielder Conor Jackson determined a stint in winter ball would be the perfect opportunity for him to try and regain his strength and make up for a lost year.
Jackson played well giving him and the Diamondbacks confidence that he will return from valley fever. Jackson did so well that his team asked if he would return for a longer period of time. The Diamondbacks were not about to over work their young star and Jackson returned to the states before the holidays.
Another Diamondbacks player who decided to play winter ball was outfielder Eric Byrnes. Byrnes has struggled the past two seasons with various medical injuries and felt winter ball would help prepare him for the upcoming season.
Given the play of Gerardo Parra and the return of Jackson, Byrnes needs to report to Tucson fully healed and prepared to challenge for a roster spot. Byrnes chose to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic for the Tigres del Licey.
In five games Byrnes has gotten 16 at-bats and has a batting average of .250. All five of the games he has played in were during the second week of December. His legs seem to have healed as he has gotten two doubles.
With such a small sample I am not sure whether to suggest winter ball actually helped Byrnes this off-season. It looks as though we’ll have to wait until he reports to Tucson before determining if he will return to his 2007 form or if 2010 will be like the previous two seasons.