By Alan Eskew
September 17, 2002
The reporting dates for fall instructional league camps for each organization (games begin about a week after the reporting date):
KANSAS CITY–While a threatened strike was aborted at the final moment, the Royals’ fall instructional league program became a victim of the labor negotiations.
The Royals canceled their plans for instructional league, where young prospects spend about six weeks of concentrated tutoring after the season and play other teams in a competitive-but-relaxed atmosphere, where there is no official scorekeeper and standings are not kept.
Six other organizations–the Angels, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Expos, White Sox and Yankees–also planned to forego instructional league as well (see chart).
With Royals owner David Glass projecting the club to lose about $20 million in 2002, the club decided to ditch fall ball as a cost-cutting move.
“With the labor negotiations and the uncertainty of a strike, we had to take a look at not having it,” said Royals assistant general manager Muzzy Jackson.
Jackson estimated with 35 players for six weeks, plus staff, transportation, housing and meals that instructional league “could run $200,000.”
“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Jackson said. “Obviously, I would like to see these guys play, but we can’t do that this year. I would have loved to have an instructional league team if possible.”
Instead, Jackson said the Royals would invite some minor league players, probably mostly pitchers, about two to three weeks earlier than normal to a mini-camp next February at Surprise, Ariz., the club’s new spring-training site.
Those players would work out in the afternoon with the big league club, practicing in the morning before games begin, which would allow manager Tony Pena and his staff time to work with the prospects.
“It will be different,” Jackson said. “We’ll do a lot of individual work.”
Jackson, who was with the Reds’ front office in 1997-99, said Cincinnati used the early spring mini-camp to accelerate the progress of players making it to the big leagues. “I thought it was real beneficial,” he said.