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 Milwaukee Brewers have released former New York Mets pitcher Pat Misch from a minor league contract to allow him to pursue an opportunity in Japan with the Orix Buffaloes, the team announced via Twitter.
Edit: YakyuBaka reports that the Orix Buffaloes have announced an agreement with Misch, with a press conference scheduled for Feb. 24.
Misch, now 34, last pitched in the majors with the Mets from 2009-2011. Since leaving the Mets, he has pitched for two area teams, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Triple-A, Philadelphia Phillies organization in 2012) and the Lancaster Barnstormers (independent, in 2015.)
Misch has also played in more exotic locales, such as Santurce in the Puerto Rican Winter League in 2014 and Lamigo in the Chinese Professional Baseball League last season.
Baseball America‘s John Manuel spoke with Misch about the memorable way he finished the season. Misch appeared in four of the seven games of the championship series, and threw a no-hitter in the final game.
“They asked me after the game if I could start Game Seven,” he said. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I couldn’t sleep that night. My body felt great; my arm felt great. I just kept thinking, there’s no way we’re losing this game. I had no thought to pace myself. I just felt so good.”
“Absolutely, it was the best game I’ve ever pitched.”
It’s going to be tough to top that, but I hope Misch continues to enjoy success in 2016.
I’ve been going to baseball games for around 25 years, but I still see new things. Last night, I got to see my first cycle (not counting games on TV.)
(Gabe Jacobo hits a first inning grand slam on his way to a cycle – video by Mike Ashmore)
Lancaster Barnstormers’ first baseman Gabe Jacobo accomplished the feat, though I must admit I didn’t realize it until I was alerted to the fact an inning later.
Jacobo told MyCentralJersey.com reporter Mike Ashmore that this was the second time he had hit for the cycle in his career – the first came in 2009 when he still played in affiliated baseball.
- Jon Niese got a clean bill of health after his MRI Monday and could still make the Opening Day start for the Mets even though he’s been limited to just four innings in Grapefruit League play this spring. Joe Janish of Mets Today has some ideas about how Niese can correct his pitching mechanics to avoid future problems. (via NJ.com)
- Ex-Met Justin Turner, now a Los Angeles Dodger, criticized his old team for anonymous comments made attacking current and former players. He’s right – people should either go on the record or keep quiet. (via Capital New York)
- Bill Shea, David Cone and Ed Coleman are three of 13 people on this year’s ballot for the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame. (via MetsPolice)
- A one-of-a-kind ticket to the 1867 meeting where the decision was made to exclude African-American players from the National Association of Base-Ball Players is going up for auction tomorrow. (via Sports Collectors Daily)
- Former Boston Red Sox outfielder Bobby Kielty, a member of the 2007 World Series team, has signed a contract with the Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers. (via team)
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The Long Island Ducks shut out the Somerset Patriots 4-0 on Saturday night to clinch the final spot in the Atlantic League playoffs.
The Division Championship Series will begin on Tuesday, with the Sugarland Skeeters hosting the Patriots.
On Wednesday, the Skeeters and Patriots will play game two of their series, while the Ducks will host the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the first game of theirs at 6:35 p.m.
Thursday, the Ducks and Blue Crabs play game two, again at 6:35 p.m., while the Skeeters and Patriots have a travel day.
On Friday, Somerset will host Sugarland at 7:05 p.m., and the Blue Crabs will host the Ducks as each series moves to game three.
Saturday and Sunday will be games four and five, if necessary, in each series.
The Atlantic League Championship Series is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Sept. 25, hosted by the winner of the Long Island vs. Southern Maryland series.
The Somerset vs. Sugarland series may not be the championship series, but it is a match up of the Atlantic League’s two best teams. Heading into the season’s final day, the Skeeters have a 94-45 record and the Patriots are 90-48. They are the best and second best records in Atlantic League history.
By contrast, Southern Maryland is 64-74 (37-32 in the first half when they won the Liberty Division title) and Long Island is 62-77 (32-37 in the second half.) The Lancaster Barnstormers have a 72-66 record, but by virtue of the division structure and Atlantic League playoff format, they will be finished for the season tomorrow afternoon.
The Long Island Ducks won their second Atlantic League championship on Sunday, beating the Lancaster Barnstormers 3 games to 2.