For a couple of days, the Camden Riversharks managed to put together
a 2004 draft class that would make any scouting director happy.
When righthander Jared Weaver joined shortstop Stephen Drew on the
Riversharks roster, Camden became the only pro club to have two of last
year’s top 15 picks on its roster. And it didn’t take lengthy
negotiations because both Weaver and Drew were playing for standard
contracts and no signing bonuses.
Camden got a month’s worth of work out of Drew before he signed with the Diamondbacks, but fans never got a chance to see Weaver pitch in a game before he signed with the Angels.
Riversharks general manager John Brandt said that the brief
publicity was a perfect opportunity for the Atlantic League club. By
having Drew and Weaver, the Riversharks got plenty of attention from
the Philadelphia media, adding to the team’s name recognition across
the river in Pennsylvania.
During Drew’s stint with the team, he quickly proved himself to be
the league’s best middle infielder. When he signed with the
Diamondbacks, Drew led the league in batting (.427), on-base percentage
(.484) and slugging percentage (.744). Only one other Rivershark was
hitting above .300.
“I think everybody was surprised,” Brandt said. “I thought we get a
guy who would struggle, because of the transition from metal to wood
(bats). I didn’t expect him to hit for the power he did. He was every
bit and more than anyone expected.”
Camden didn’t have to work hard to land the two high-profile draft holdouts.
“The simplest explanation to how we got Stephen was we needed a
shortstop. The call came in (from Bob Brower, a representative of the
Scott Boras Corp.), and I said yes,” Brandt said. “Quite honestly that
was all it was. It was the right place at the right time. We didn’™t
have a returning shortstop. It was a great opportunity for us.”
Once Drew signed, Weaver was an even easier addition. After another
phone call, Camden added him to the roster. He threw a pair of bullpens
and was scheduled to make his first appearance in a relief role less
than 24 hours after he agreed to terms with the Angels.
Although the Riversharks are again in need of a starting shortstop,
the short-term rental could have residual benefits. Brandt said he
hopes that the Riversharks would be an option for future holdouts if
the need arises.
“There is no doubt that our hope is that they look at Camden they
say ‘Hey they treat people well.’ That’s our hope with everything we do
here,” Brandt said.
Little Unit Returns
Ryan Anderson, once one of the top pitching prospects in baseball,
will attempt to get his career back on track in the Brewers system,
thanks in part to a short detour through the Golden League.
The Brewers purchased Anderson’s contract from the Surprise Falcons,
where Anderson had worked a single inning in an exhibition game. When
he showed off a 93 mph fastball and a solid breaking ball, he was
Anderson struck out two batters in a perfect inning of work for high
Class A Brevard County in his first appearance with his new club. It
was his first official appearance since he threw two innings against
Salt Lake on Sept. 4, 2000, while pitching for the Mariners in Triple-A.
Anderson was on the cusp of a promotion to the majors when he went
down with a torn labrum during spring training in 2001. He spent the
next four seasons on the disabled list, enduring three labrum surgeries.
Anderson was released by the Mariners this spring, but the Falcons
quickly signed him, giving him a second chance that resulted in his
return to affiliated ball.
Gary Wendt knows he faces a skeptical public when he says the
Mid-Missouri Mavericks should be better than they have been in past
After all, it would be hard to be worse. In their first two seasons,
the Mavericks were 61-123 and finished in the basement of the Frontier
League’s Western Division twice. But Wendt, the team president, hopes
to generate enthusiasm for the club with a bet that better times are
“We’re putting our money where our mouth is. If we don’t finish .500
or better, we’ll give season-ticket holders half their money back,”
Wendt said. “Last year whatever could go wrong, did go wrong. I had to
do something, and I felt like this is the best thing to do.”
Based on last year’s sales, Wendt said the team would be out roughly
$50,000 if it doesn’t reach .500 for the first time in team history.
While the bet did stir interest, season tickets were still down 25
percent from last year’s totals. Wendt said he has high hopes because
the team was able to turn over its roster during the second half of
last season, finding players who should form a strong nucleus this year.
“If there was a little silver lining, it’s that once we figured out
it was a train wreck–and that didn’t take long–we started shuffling
the deck,” he said. “We were able to come up with some decent
ballplayers, so we have a core group of players we are confident can
compete on this level.”
The Mavericks lost their first five games this season, but
considering they were close losses, Wendt said he wasn’t ready to start
signing checks: “Are we going to be the 1929 Yankees? No, but I think
we’ll be fine at end of the year.”
• Righthander Matt Harrington, the Rockies’ first-rounder in
2000 who has been drafted in each of the past five drafts, looked
unlikely to make it No. 6 this year. Harrington, who had been pitching
for Fort Worth (Central) last year when the Yankees picked him in the
44th round, was sidelined with a shoulder injury, which quickly cooled
the Yankees’ interest. As with each year before, Harrington didn’t
sign. He has not returned to action this season, and was on Fort
Worth’s inactive list. According to the Cats player-development
director Barry Moss, Harrington has been throwing on his own
since April. Harrington would be free to sign with any major league
club as a free agent if no one takes a shot on him in this year’s
draft, but with his reduced velocity and injury problems, he’ll never
approach the seven-figure offers he turned down in 2000.
• The Northern League’s Schaumburg Flyers have added “Leon” to their roster. Nigel Thatch,
who played the egotistical athlete in a series of beer commercials,
made the club’s roster as a relief pitcher. He didn’t allow an earned
run in his first two innings of work, though he did give up three hits.