Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Ups And Downs Of Baseball

One thing about being a fan of minor league baseball is that players come and go a lot. A lot. The whole purpose for the players is to make it to the Major Leagues. Which means that a player on the Columbus Catfish really doesn't want to be there. He wants to play for the Dodgers. In Los Angeles.

Of course, same for all the teams. Someone playing in Rome wants to play in Atlanta. Someone in Savannah wants to be playing in Washington. Someone in Augusta wants to be playing in San Francisco. And so on.

Since the RedStixx left Columbus in 2002, we've had the Catfish. They were the South Georgia Waves their first year here, in 2003, then changed their name to the Columbus Catfish in 2004.

Since the Catfish (or Waves) came to town, the Wife and I have attended most home games. Well, I've been to more than she has, but you get the idea.

During this time, we've seen lots of good players on the field. And most of the best players left during the season. But not all. Some really good players were there the whole season ... or at least finished the season with the team.

For instance, for the Waves, some of the outstanding players were Joel Guzman, who played shortstop, and Russell Martin, who caught, as well as pitcher Jonathon Broxton. Those players are currently on the Dodgers roster. That's the Los Angeles Dodgers. Other Waves players we noticed included SAL All-Star Delwyn Young, who's still in the minors, playing for the Huntsville Stars, and Sergio Garcia, who's playing for the Las Vegas 51s.

In 2004, we saw some great players including OF Matt Kemp, who's also currently on the Los Angeles roster, as well as 3B Andy LaRoche, little brother of Braves 1B Adam LaRoche, and who's playing in Jacksonville, and P Marcos Carvajal, who played for Tampa Bay and Seattle, but is back in the minors pitching for the Montgomery Biscuits.

Last year, Travis Denker was possibly the best player on the team, leading in most stats, as well as playing excellent at second base, plus making the SAL All-Star team.

We've seen other players that we enjoyed watching play ... or that we met that we really liked as people in addition to as players ... that have left the Catfish.

Not all have been promoted. Many have. Lots of players make the jump from Columbus to Vero Beach, to Jacksonville, to Las Vegas, and even to Los Angeles. But, while some do make the jump to one or more of those teams, most don't make it all the way to LA. Or to other Major League teams. Most finish their career in the minors.

Our favorite Waves player, C Mike Nixon, made it to Las Vegas. That's AAA ball. Just a step away from the majors. But he probably won't play in the majors. He quit baseball this year ... and is going back to college. And playing football for Arizona State.

One of our players the Wife and I sponsored last year was Dan Batz. Just before this season started, he was released by the Dodgers. But he hasn't quit baseball. He's playing for the North Shore Spirit of the independent CanAm League.

Being a fan of Minor League baseball is sort of like being a parent. For example, you see young players grow and develop ... and when they grow and develop enough ... they move on. Sometimes, they come back. Like Travis Denker, who was promoted to Vero Beach last year, and has played in 54 games for Vero Beach this season. But he's being sent back to Columbus.

On the one hand, I'm looking forward to seeing him play again. He's a heckuva ball player. But on the other hand, I'd be happy to see him advance to Jacksonville, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. He's a good player ... and probably will.

Still, mixed emotions when players come and go.

Life's like that. And so is baseball.

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