I couldn’t tell you how many times it’s been rumored to be the final season for the Atlantic League’s Bridgeport Bluefish. I could tell you that it happened often enough that I stopped believing the rumors because they were always wrong.
Former New York Mets outfielder Lastings Milledge signed a contract to play for the Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers this season. While Milledge spent 115 games with New York, 171 with Pittsburgh, 145 with Washington and two with the Chicago White Sox, he played in 255 games for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball is a league of second chances.
Minor League Baseball teams are affiliated with Major League Baseball teams. New Jersey’s Trenton Thunder are a New York Yankees’ farm team, while the Lakewood Blue Claws are affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies. These major league clubs supply the players and coaches to staff the minor league teams. If you go to see them, you’ll be able to watch a handful of players the big league squads consider as prospects as well as a larger number of “organization guys” that are needed to complete the roster.
Each year, some of the “prospects” lose their shine and some of the “organization guys” get pushed out by someone younger or more talented. Independent baseball teams like the ones in the Atlantic League give these displaced players another shot to prove their worth to one of the 30 big league team. Sometimes, it works out — before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he pitched in the playoffs in 2016, Rich Hill spent a summer with the Long Island Ducks. More often, guys just get to keep playing for an extra season or two.
The Long Island Ducks defeated the Somerset Patriots tonight, earning the 2016 Liberty Division Championship title and the right to play the Sugar Land Skeeters this week for the Atlantic League Championship.
The Ducks became just the second team in league history to rally from an 0-2 start to win a best-of-five playoff series. (The 2001 Patriots were the first to pull it off, defeating the Newark Bears.)
I’m hoping that Chavez can get back to the Major Leagues, and failing that, at least play well enough that he can feel like he’s walking away from the game on his own terms… whether that happens this year or two or three seasons from now.
And I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get my photo of The Catch signed by Chavez at some point this season.