So the season’s over, and my boys finally get some rest, right? I always thought the off-season was just that – off. Meaning they get to go to wherever it is that they live and relax for a while, enjoy their families, take vacations, sign some autographs, etc. – basically take it easy. Recently I’ve found this is not always the case. I’d like to share what I’ve learned about what some of those boys are actually doing during the off-season, and it has nothing to do with being off! During the September 28th Giants game telecast, Amy Gutierrez of Comcast SportsNet mentioned that some of the boys would be doing Fall and Winter Ball. I had never heard of these, so I decided to learn more.
Fall Ball refers to the Arizona Fall League. The season started on October 4th and ends November 17th. The games are played in nine of the Spring Training stadiums. Each major league team sends six top prospects to the league, and they form six teams that compete, kind of like an all-star minor league. Most players are from the Double A and Triple A Minor League, but each team can choose one additional Single A player for a total of seven. The Giants players will play on the Scottsdale Scorpions (love that name). The purpose of the league is for these players to hone their skills so that they can potentially jump a league next season. They also use this league to give new managers and umpires some experience. Brandon Crawford and Gary Brown (a fabulous Single A centerfielder who I got to watch in action at the San Jose Giants game I went to) will be part of the Arizona Fall League this season, as well as four minor league pitchers (Austin Fleet, Stephen Harrold, Daryl Maday, and Seth Rosin), and minor league shortstop Joe Panik. I’m hoping that Brandon can beef up his batting average there. Hey Ginny – maybe you need to take another vacation next month to Arizona! Actually, after reading about how skilled these players are, I might like to do the same!
Winter Ball refers to the Caribbean Baseball Leagues. There are four individual leagues: Dominican, Mexican Pacific, Puerto Rican, and Venezuelan. These leagues run from October 11th to December 30th. The Caribbean Series occurs in February after all the leagues have finished play, and the four champions from each league participate in this tournament. Winter League teams usually have agreements with one or more major league teams to take on their players. Both Major League and Minor League players can choose to play winter ball. A team can suggest that a player participate in winter ball, but they can’t force them. A team can also prevent a player from playing if he had 520 or more at bats during the regular season and they feel he might get injured or too exhausted. This league is extremely competitive, so younger guys are not usually sent due to the overwhelming pressure to win. If you didn’t know already, baseball is huge in Latin countries, and this league is a big deal for them. Many Latin players in the Majors feel it an honor to represent their country during the Winter League. Some benefits to playing Winter Ball are the extra practice, they do get paid, and they can experience the culture of another country. You can read more about the Winter Ball experience from an actual player, Tim Kester, here. From the Giants this off-season, Brett Pill will be going to play for Mexico, and Brandon Belt will play for the Dominican Republic. It will be Brandon Belt’s first venture out of the country – I hope it is a positive experience for him (one article I read mentioned that he wasn’t super excited about the idea). And I hope these kids have some coaches there looking out for their best interests, making sure they don’t get overworked.
My brother, Paul, forwarded to me a letter from Larry Baer (Giants President and COO) to Giants fans that mentions the Hot Stove League. I thought this might be another playing opportunity for guys in the off-season. It turns out that Hot Stove League has nothing to do with actually playing baseball, but it refers to all of the player transactions that occur during the off-season, including free agent signings and trades (and all the rumors surrounding these). The Hot Stove part refers to the fact that this takes place in the winter, where fans can gather around the “hot stove” and discuss potential team changes.
I learned something new about post-season play the other day. I listened to part of the first Rangers vs. Tigers playoff game on the radio, and the game went into rain delay. The announcer mentioned that all post-season games have to go the full nine innings. During the regular season, a game is official if it has gone at least 5 innings.
I also found a great baseball lingo site while doing my research. You can check it out here. Some of my favorites are Bronx cheer, can of corn, fungo (that is just a very silly word), rhubarb, seeing-eye single, and yakker. I’m going to start using these in my baseball discussions, just because they crack me up. Maybe I’ll just throw them into my every day language. For example, “Quit that rhubarbing!” I’m sure the kids would love that.
Haven’t heard any other rumors yet. Remember – if you do, please share them. Hope my boys are doing well in their post-season play and not getting hurt. I’m finally planning on going to see Moneyball with Donna this weekend. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll post a review afterwards. GO GIANTS!