Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Maui Awarded GBL Expansion Team

The Golden Baseball League announced on Wednesday that Maui has been awarded an expansion team for the 2010 season. The team will be owned by XnE Inc. The company also negotiated a Territory Operating Rights agreement for $800,000 USD which will allow it to add another three GBL teams in the state of Hawaii. According to the company's web site, "XnE’s core business is to own and operate independent Minor League Baseball franchises throughout the United States, also, to operate a ticket/sponsorship sales division, promotional division and a concession division".

XnE Inc. also owns the St. George Roadrunners in the GBL. For obvious reasons, all professional leagues that I am aware of have clauses in their constitution that prevent a person or corporation from owning more than one team. However, it appears that XnE Inc. could end up owning five teams in the GBL some day. This could lead to some very interesting trades in the future.

Other tidbits from the GBL press release included:
  • Additional expansion teams will be announced in the coming months. Hopefully, at least one of those teams will be located in British Columbia.

  • The GBL 2010 regular-season schedule will be released in early December.

  • The Maui team name and manager will be announced in the near future.

Ichiro “Iron” Maehara Memorial Stadium, new home of the Maui team.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Isaac Hess is a Newark Bear

Shortly after the Calgary Vipers wrapped up the GBL championship, Isaac Hess was signed by the playoff-bound Newark Bears of the Atlantic League. The Bears are the third independent team for Hess in 2009, after playing most of the season with the Seals and then participating in the GBL playoffs with Calgary.

Hess picked up a three-inning save in his only regular season appearance with Newark. On Friday night, he was given the start in Game 2 of the Freedom Division Championship Series after his team dropped the opener to the Somerset Patriots. Hess took to the mound in front of an Atlantic League playoff record crowd of 7,647 fans and he pitched a great game, giving up only 1 earned run and 2 hits in 6 1/3 innings. Unfortunately, Hess was given no offensive support and he took the loss in a 5-0 decision to the Patriots.

The Bears rallied from a 9-run deficit on Saturday night to avoid elimination and win 13-12. Game 4 of the best-of-5 series goes Sunday. If the Bears can come back to win the series, Hess will pitch into October in the Atlantic League's championship series.

The Newark Bears are managed by ex-Expo Tim Raines and they recently announced the hiring of Dwight Gooden as Senior VP. The Bears also feature ex-major leaguers Carl Everett and Rob Mackowiak.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Seals President Named GBL Executive of the Year

Darren Park, President of the Victoria Seals, has been named Executive of the Year by the Golden Baseball League. Congratulations, Darren!

A portion of the press release from the Victoria Seals is included below.

Victoria, BC – The Victoria Seals are proud to announce that President Darren Parker has been selected as the 2009 GBL Executive of the Year. His efforts and vision brought the joy of a full season of professional baseball back to the capital city of British Columbia after a quarter of a century of absence.

Parker was selected for this award based on his drive to successfully launch an expansion team in a great sports town that had not seen a season of professional baseball for over 25 years and for his efforts in capturing the hearts and minds of baseball fans and the community who adopted the Seals as their own from opening night.

"It is very difficult to launch an expansion professional sports team in any sport and any location," said GBL Commissioner Kevin Outcalt. "And it is extraordinary what Darren has accomplished in Victoria with the Seals and the support and excitement he has generated from the community, business partners, and fans. His success is
a blueprint for sports ownership and will undoubtedly be used as a model in the industry."

The Seals worked closely this year with the City of Victoria to renovate and improve Royal Athletic Park, were very active in the community with appearances and fundraisers, and treated fans to great baseball and a fun and friendly night out every evening the Seals played. In one season they became more ingrained in the fabric of their community than many pro teams are able to accomplish in decades of play.

"We are very proud of how the Seals quickly became such a great asset and an integral part of the wonderful city of Victoria,” said Golden Baseball League CEO David Kaval. "Given Darren's background of having grown up with and worked for years with the Calgary Cannons, owned by his family and considered one of the premier sports organizations in Canada, I am not surprised by his success and look forward to more great things from him, his team, and the fans of the Seals.”

When notified of the award last night, Parker placed all the credit on his employees and the fans and businesses supporters of Victoria, stating, “Congratulations to all our partners in the Golden Baseball League for a successful 2009 season. Thank you, this is a tremendous honour and one that I proudly accept on behalf of our
entire organization.” He added, “Our staff worked tirelessly all summer to bring
professional baseball back to Royal Athletic Park and couldn't have done it
without the tremendous support from our fans and business partners. We look forward to many more summers of providing fun, affordable family entertainment to Greater Victoria!”

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Are Jamar Hill and Josh Arhart Gone for Good?

On August 29th, the Seals traded Jamar Hill and Josh Arhart to the York Revolution of the Atlantic League. At the time, details regarding the trade were sketchy. The York Revolution web site indicated that the players were traded for future considerations and Seals fans were left to speculate as to what that really meant. The trades that sent Sergio Pedroza, Wilver Perez and Isaac Hess to the Calgary Vipers were allegedly temporary, with the three players coming back to Victoria before the start of next year (along with additional Vipers to be named later). Many fans assumed the same was true for the deal that sent crowd favourites Hill and Arhart to the Atlantic League.

Following the Revolution's last home game on Wednesday, some troubling quotes from new manager Andy Etchebarren, who was hired on August 14th, appeared in the York Daily Record. From the way Etchebarren was talking, he has every intention of bringing both Hill and Arhart back to York next season.
"Everything I'm doing is aimed at next season," Etchebarren said. "I've
been impressed with some of the guys I brought in. I liked (Aharon) Eggleston in
center and (Liu) Rodriguez at shorstop. ... I'm looking at (catcher Josh)
Arhart. It doesn't seem like he's getting a real good hold on the ball when he's
throwing, but I think I can help his catching if we put in a lot of work in
spring training. So I think we'll have a catcher who can hit 15 to 20 home runs
next year. And I'm really happy with (Jamar) Hill. He can play left and right
field, and he runs hard."

Etchebarren has a philosophy. He wants flexibility on the roster,
players who can play multiple positions. And he's determined to stock his lineup
with right-handed pull hitters, the type of athletes who can take advantage of
the short dimensions in left field.

"We're going to put a winning team on this field next year,"
Etchebarren said.

This would seem to imply that there is no agreement to return the two players to Victoria for next season. This is all starting to add up. It didn't make sense to loan these two players to York for the remainder of the season (in return for cash) with that team languishing in last place unless the Revolution intended to keep them around in 2010. It looks like we may have seen the end of Jamar Hill and Josh Arhart at Royal Athletic Park, but let's hope that's not the case.

You can read the full article here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Calgary Wins Championship; Pedroza Series MVP

The Calgary Vipers won their first ever Golden Baseball League Championship on Saturday night by defeating the Tucson Toros 18-10. The Vipers took the series 3 games to 1. Not surpisingly, Sergio Pedroza was named the MVP of the series. Pedroza went 3-for-6 with 6 RBIs in the final game. In the playoffs, he hit an amazing .405 with 4 homers and 17 RBIs in only 37 at-bats.

According to an article in the Calgary Sun:

Right-fielder Sergio Pedroza had a grand slam in the sixth inning and
finished with six RBIs to lead the home side. Pedroza was named the final series
MVP for his effort, and he was saluted with chants of 'Ser-gio, Ser-gio' as the
team celebrated on the mound in front of 2,212 fans at Foothills Stadium.

Wilver Perez went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored on Saturday. He hit .333 with 2 homers and 11 RBIs in the post-season.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Calgary Sun Article on Sergio Pedroza

See here.

Perez and Pedroza Lead Vipers to 2-0 Series Lead

The Calgary Vipers are one win away from becoming GBL champions, thanks once again to the late-season pickups from the Victoria Seals. The Vipers defeated the Toros 11-4 on Thursday night to sweep both games in Tucson.

Ex-Seal Wilver Perez led the way for Calgary once again. He went 2-for-5 with a homer and 5 RBIs on the night. Perez is hitting .345 with 2 homers and 9 RBIs in six playoff games with the Vipers. Sergio Pedroza also had a good game at the dish, going 3-for-6 with a homer, 3 runs scored and 2 RBIs. Pedroza is now hitting .393 with 3 homers and 11 RBIs in the post-season.

Amongst GBL hitters, Wilver Perez is second in homers and RBIs in the playoffs. Sergio Pedroza leads the league in both of these categories, making it quite likely that one of these Ex-Seals will be named Series MVP (Isaac Hess is also 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA). In any event, the Seals organization better have been well compensated in the late-season deals for these three players. In addition to the cash that changed hands, lets hope that Über closer Mac Suzuki is in a Victoria Seals uniform in 2010.

The Vipers and Toros play game three in Calgary on Friday night. The Snakes can clinch their first ever GBL championship by winning just one game this weekend at home. If necessary, Game 4 of the Calgary-Tucson series will be played on Saturday and Game 5 will be played on Sunday if Tucson can rally to push the series to the limit. Calgary joined the GBL in 2008 and won the North Division Championship that year, only to lose to the Orange County Flyers in the fifth and deciding game of the GBL Championship Series.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Austin Bibens-Dirkx's season is over. The Peoria Chiefs were swept in two straight by the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the Western Division Semifinals in the Midwest League playoffs. On Thursday, the Chiefs were eliminated after dropping another heartbreaker -- this time a 9-8 walk-off loss in the bottom of the ninth. The Chiefs had led 8-7 going into the bottom of the final frame before blowing their first lead after 8 innings since July 2006. Bibens-Dirkx had an outstanding season with the Chiefs and will likely be moved up by the Chicago Cubs to Advanced A or AA baseball next season.
  • Jamar Hill has done well since joining the York Revolution of the Atlantic League. He's hitting .310 with 2 homers and 3 RBIs in 42 at-bats. Josh Arhart has not fared as well; he's hitting .192 with 2 homers and 9 RBIs in 26 at-bats. Hill and Arhart are batting 6th and 7th in the Revolution lineup, respectively.
  • Ex-Seal Travis Wade has been an asset to the York Revolution since joining the team. He has a 3.18 ERA in 5 2/3 innings pitched and opponents are hitting .280 against him. Another ex-Seal, Roberto Sotolongo, has not performed that well; he's 0-2 with a 5.04 ERA. It will be interesting to see if Victoria is compensated by the York Revolution with players next season in return for the four Seals. The Revolution is in last place in the "Freedom" Division of the Atlantic League, but is fourth in the league in attendance with an average of 4,085 fans per game.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Vipers Take Opener of GBL Championship Series

It wasn't pretty, but Ex-Seal and current Viper Isaac Hess picked up the win in the opening game of the Golden Baseball League Championship Series, as the Calgary Vipers defeated the Toros 9-8. Hess gave up 4 earned runs and 8 hits in 5 2/3 innings pitched. He walked four and struck out four while raising his post-season record to 2-0.

The Vipers were led offensively by Wilver Perez. Perez scored three runs and went three-for-five with a pair of RBIs. Sergio Pedroza went two-for-four with a stolen base and a run scored. Pedroza's post-season average is .364, while Perez is hitting .333.

Game two of the best-of-five series will be played Thursday night in Tucson.

Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx took a no-decision in Game 1 of the Western Division Semifinals in the Midwest League playoffs. His Peoria Chiefs fell 6-4 to the Cedar Rapids Kernels in extra innings to drop the opener of their best-of-three series. Bibens-Dirkx left after 6 innings on the mound trailing 4-2. The Chiefs rallied to knot the game at 6-6 in the bottom of the ninth, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion in the tenth inning. Bibens-Dirkx gave up 4 earned runs in 6 innings of work. He gave up 7 hits and uncharacteristically walked more batters than he struck out (two BB's versus only one K). The Chiefs must now win the next two games in Iowa (Thursday and Friday night) to advance. If they fail to do so, Austin Bibens-Dirkx's season will come to an end.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hess and Bibens-Dirkx Start Respective Game 1's

Tonight, Ex-Seal Isaac Hess will take to the mound for the Calgary Vipers in Game 1 of the Golden Baseball League Championship Series against the Tucson Toros. Meanwhile in Peoria (Ill.), Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx gets the start in Game 1 of the Western Division Championship Series in the Midwest League. It would have been impossible to envision such a scenario playing out at the beginning of the Victoria Seals' season.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Final Thoughts

Well, so endeth the inaugural season of the Seals. It had a bit of everything - Seals being 2nd in league attendance, installation of a nifty new scoreboard, the smashing of the 2nd inning score on said scoreboard, foul balls littering the streets, Seymour, Elvis impersonators, and the list goes on.

I learned a lot about the GBL this year. I learned they used the DH. I learned that players for non-playoff teams are effectively rented out at the end of the year to contenders in a number of leagues with the strong hope (by me!) that they will return. I learned that Major League teams are skittish about a good character guy with a bad hip but have no problem letting bad character guys wander their fields, tainting their game. I learned that a warm night at the field in Victoria means one less layer of fleece. Most importantly, I learned that baseball belongs in Victoria so for you faithful, be sure to tell 2 friends. And then they'll tell 2 friends. And so on...and so on...

All in all, a successful debut season, I'd say, and I am optimistic that Victoria will continue to embrace the team in its sophomore year. In the words of the Governator I hope you'll join me in saying "I'll be back".

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bibens-Dirkx Likely to Start Game 1 for Peoria

On Friday night, Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx had his first bad outing since joining the Peoria Chiefs in early July. Bibens-Dirkx gave up 4 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings and took the loss against the Kane County Cougars. His ERA "rose" to 2.04 on the season, while his record fell to 7-2.

In his 70 2/3 innings since joining the Midwest League ("A" ball) team, Bibens-Dirkx has struck out 50 and only walked 9 batters. Opponents are hitting a paltry .215 against him.

Bibens-Dirkx will likely start Game 1 of the Western Division Championship Series against the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Wednesday September 9th.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Capitals Avoid Elimination in NDCS

A late rally allowed the Edmonton Capitals to avoid elimination at the hands of the Calgary Vipers on Friday night. The Capitals, who trailed 5-3 after six innings, scored 10 runs in the final three frames to defeat the Vipers 13-6. Calgary leads the best-of-five series two games to one.

Sergio Pedroza continued to hit the ball well, stroking his second homer of the series. Pedroza hit a solo shot and knocked in another run on a fielder's choice. He now has 8 RBIs in the first three games of the series and has hit .357. Wilver Perez went 1-for-4 on the evening and committed an error at third base.

The Capitals' win spoiled the night for the 4,859 fans in attendance. The mark set the all-time single-game attendance record for the Vipers franchise.

Game 4 of the series will be played in Calgary on Saturday at 3:00 PST. If a fifth game is necessary, it will be played on Sunday afternoon (also at the Snake Pit).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hess Outpitches Lima in NDCS Game 2

Forget "Lima Time" -- it was "Zack Time". For the second consecutive night, an Ex-Seal led the Calgary Vipers past the Edmonton Capitals in a North Division Championship Series game. The Vipers now have a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series after defeating the Capitals 7-3 on Wednesday night in Edmonton. Isaac Hess rebounded from a string of poor starts and only allowed five hits and one earned run in six innings pitched to pickup the win for the Vipers. He walked three and struck out seven Capitals.

Ex-major-leaguer Jose Lima did not fare as well as Hess. Lima gave up 9 hits and 4 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings. It was also the second consecutive night in which the hard-hitting Vipers defeated an ex-big-league starter for the Capitals (World Series Champion Lou Pote took the loss in game 1).

Sergio Pedroza went 1-for-4 on the night and knocked in a run, giving him a total of 6 RBIs in this short series. Wilver Perez went 1-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and a stolen base.

The series now shifts to Calgary for game three on Friday night. If necessary, games four (Saturday) and game five (Sunday) will also be played in the Snake Pit. It's highly unlikely that the Capitals will be able to sweep the powerful Vipers in Calgary. Last season, the Vipers swept the Capitals three straight in the NDCS.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sergio Pedroza Leads Vipers to Game 1 Victory

Ex-Seal Sergio Pedroza continued his hot hitting in Game 1 of the North Division Championship Series on Tuesday night, leading the Calgary Vipers to a 15-4 rout of the Edmonton Capitals at Telus Field. Pedroza, who finished the season with a .332 average, 20 homers and 81 RBIs, went 3-for-5 with 5 RBIs and was a triple away from hitting for the cycle. He homered, doubled, singled, walked and even stole a base in the game.

Wilver Perez played third base and batted fifth for the Vipers. He went 1-for-6 and scored a run.

Edmonton starter Lou Pote, who went 9-3 with a 3.98 ERA in the regular season, was tagged for eight earned runs in four innings of work and took the loss. Calgary's ace of the starting rotation, Joe Sergent, earned the victory by giving up four earned runs in seven innings.

Game two of the best-of-five series goes Wednesday night in Edmonton. The Tucson Toros and the St George Roadrunners kick off the South Division Championship Series that same night in St George.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Tucson Toros infielder Skip Adams played all nine positions in Monday night's season finale. The team clinched a playoff berth on Sunday, so nothing was at stake. Adams took to the pitcher's mound in the 9th inning and only gave up a walk in 2/3 of an inning. He also struck out Chase Leavitt of the Roadrunners -- a .310 hitter in the regular season!