Indy League Notebook

When it comes to wacky promotions–the kind that generate plenty of
publicity, raise eyebrows and ultimately bring fans through the
gates–the independent leagues have always been willing to push the
envelope.

Pigs have brought baseballs to the umpire, nuns have given massages
to fans, and a spot in the lineup for exhibition games has even been
auctioned on eBay.

But the Northern League, after originally giving its approval, has
decided that playing a video game as part of a regular season game goes
too far.

The Kansas City T-Bones had planned to have a pair of fans, selected
through a competition, play the first two innings of a game against the
Schaumburg Flyers on an Xbox video game system. The actual teams would
then take the field to start the third inning, with all the moves of
the first two virtual innings counting as part of the game. If one team
had lifted three pitchers, those pitchers would be done for the day.

The idea came from T-Bones community relations director Byran
Williams, who got it from his 6-year old niece. General manager Rick
Muntean got his manager, Al Gallagher, to sign off on the idea, and
then convinced Schaumburg general manager Rick Rungaitis and manager
Andy McCauley of the merits of the idea.

After getting the approval of Northern League commissioner Mike
Stone and the league office, Muntean began publicizing the game as the
first time when a video game would become a part of a real game.

At the time, Stone said because there would still be seven innings
of real baseball, he thought the promotion was acceptable. “It’s not
our intent to destroy the official rules of the game. It’s our intent
to involve fans in an active kind of way,” he said.

The announcement of the promotion generated ticket sales for the
T-Bones, but it also spurred complaints from others that the promotion
stepped over the line by potentially affecting the second-half playoff
race.

After thinking it over a few more days, Stone reversed his decision and announced that the game could not go on.

“I have decided that this concept as originally presented is not in
the best interest of the Northern League,” Stone said in a release.
“Any promotion that could affect the outcome of a regular season game
is not permissible. Ultimately, such an event could have an influence
on the final standings, and this certainly challenges the integrity of
the league.” Stone was out of town and could not be reached after the
decision.

The decision to approve the game and the subsequent reversal once
again brought up the question of how far is too far for promotions.
Muntean pointed out that just this year the St. Paul Saints had ESPN2
“Cold Pizza” anchor Jay Crawford pitch an inning (he allowed two runs
in a 6-4 loss to Kansas City), and the Flyers have used former
Budweiser pitchman “Leon,” whose real name is Nigel Thatch, who is 0-1,
16.88 in three appearances.

“We’ve got a guy from a TV show influencing a game, and a guy from a
beer commercial influencing games. What is the difference here?”
Muntean said. “Baseball is certainly reluctant to change. I think we
were a little ahead of our time here.”

Instead of having the Xbox game as part of the actual game, the
T-Bones will now have the fans play two innings after the game, with
the score set to whatever it was heading into the eighth inning. The
team also plans to play an entire video game for an exhibition game
before next season. Muntean said the team has already sold more than
6,000 tickets for the July 16 game and still expects the largest crowd
of the season.

“I’ve been a GM at every level of baseball,” Muntean said. “I’m a
purist as it goes, but there is a segment of the population baseball
has lost that we wanted to get back. We also want to sell tickets.”

INDEPENDENTS’ DAY

John Rocker’s Atlantic League stint ended quietly, when the
lefthander requested his release. Rocker said before the season that if
he was not back in the majors by July 1, he would quit. He wasn’t close
to the majors, as he struggled with his command, going 0-2, 6.50 with
28 walks and 19 strikeouts in 18 innings for Long Island. “After
pitching for two months with the Long Island Ducks, the consistency
required to pitch at the major league level, and the consistency I
demand from myself, are not where they should be,” Rocker said in a
statement. “As a result, I have elected to take a step back and
reevaluate the options available to me.”

• In what may prove to be bigger move for the Ducks, pitching coach Dave LaPoint stepped
down from that role, although he will remain as the team’s player
procurement director. He was replaced as pitching coach by Jeff Scott.
LaPoint said he wanted to devote more time to running baseball and
softball clinics and player showcases. In three years as Ducks pitching
coach, LaPoint helped 12 pitchers sign with affiliated clubs.

• The Kansas City T-Bones lost DH Eddie Pearson to the Mexican League, but quickly filled the hole by signing former big leaguer David Segui.
Pearson’s move to Mexico was made with the team’s blessing. He can get
a much bigger paycheck in Mexico, and is expected to be back when the
Mexican League season ends.

• Observers around the Frontier League agreed the player least
likely to remain in the league after the all-star break is Florence
outfielder Mike Galloway. Galloway was hitting .408-13-42 to
lead the league in all three categories. He had a 30-game hitting
streak snapped in late June. A former Blue Jays 14th-rounder who was
released in spring training, Galloway has impressed with his batting
eye and power. “I can’t imagine he’ll be in the league much longer,”
said one Frontier League coach. “He moves well for a big guy. He’s big
and strong and he’s playing in a park where the ball travels pretty
well.”

Minors | #2005 #Independent Audit

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