By Bob Wirz
It does not take a rocket scientist to understand why talented young baseball players will do most anything to achieve that all-America goal of playing major league baseball. The excitement of the bright lights of the best stadiums and the rich salaries–the major league minimum is $550,000–tells it all.
So few succeed, even those right on the brink. Onetime American Association players Tim Adleman and Ryan Court are among those with the kick-in-the-teeth feeling these days after being released by the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs, respectively.
While a mostly established eight former American Association talents gave the league a nice presence in the “bigs” and more than any other Independent league when the 2019 season started Thursday, Adleman and Court must try to start over in new organizations while others who went into spring training hopeful of making 25-man rosters have to grind it out one more time in the minors and keep trying to reach the promised land of the majors.
This group includes former Kansas City T-Bones lefty Mike Kickham, who the Miami Marlins elected not to keep with the parent club despite his miniscule 1.29 spring training earned run average. He held hitters to a .160 average for his eight appearances (7.0 innings).
Adleman only got one inning with the parent Reds in spring training even though he started 20 times for them in ’17 before going to the Samsung Lions in Korea for a year, where he threw 171 innings. Court hit .250 (six RBI) in 19 games with the Cubs, one year after a brilliant Cactus League performance.
Court held his head high as proven by this Instagram post: “Cubs, thanks for the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream of playing for my hometown team. Wish you the best. Now on to the next chapter in my life…and hopefully that chapter involves wearing another MLB UNIFORM.”
The Charmed Eight from the league who are in the major leagues: Arizona cleanup-hitting outfielder David Peralta (Amarillo and Wichita) and pitchers John Brebbia of St. Louis (Sioux Falls and Laredo), Junior Guerra of Milwaukee (Wichita), Brandon Kintzler of the Cubs (St. Paul, plus Winnipeg when it was in the Northern League), Chris Martin of Texas (Grand Prairie), James Paxton of the New York Yankees (Grand Prairie), Chaz Roe of Tampa Bay (Laredo) and Max Scherzer of Washington (Fort Worth). Martin, Paxton and Scherzer all started their career in the league.
Organizations always have to release a number of players as major and minor league spring training ends. Other recent American Association victims include pitchers Sebastian Kessay (Fargo-Moorhead) by Arizona, James Dykstra (Sioux City) and Nick Lee (Kansas City) by Cincinnati, and infielder Dylan Tice by the New York Mets. Kessay and Tice have already agreed to return to their previous American Association clubs.
Nogowski Appears With St. Louis
Add first baseman John Nogowski, who blistered American Association pitching at a .402 clip (.482 on-base percentage) during a 34-game stint at Sioux City two years ago, to the list of the league’s former player who got the taste of major league spring training. Only 26 and ticketed for St. Louis’s Triple-A Memphis this season, the onetime Florida State player doubled in his only at-bat (two games) with the parent Cardinals.
Dutch Catcher Draws Praise
Curacao does not contribute many players to professional baseball, but one on the island’s landscape is catcher Dashenko Ricardo, who played the last two years in Lincoln, hitting .269 during his 142 games with five homers and 35 RBI last season before being traded to Sioux Falls.
Ricardo, who played in Dutch leagues for three seasons before joining the Saltdogs, has now signed to play in the Tampa Bay Rays farm system. It is his first time with a major league organization since 2013, and he draws praise from his homeland. The Dutch Baseball Hangout describes the 29-year-old as “one of the most complete players that has ever played in the Dutch hoofdklasse (league).”