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Baseball Analysis  Mike McCann / Minor Leagues

May 2003


By Mike McCann

Often times a bonus for those attending a minor league game is occasionally seeing a major league player on a rehabilitation assignment.  When a player is injured, teams will want to make sure players can handle game situations before putting them back on the active roster.  A pitcher may make a start or two and position players often play a series with a minor league team.  Often times, major league teams send a player to one of their geographically closer affiliates so they don't have to travel very far.  It's a nice chance for minor league fans to see some major league players.  Although some times it seems not to be quite the experience they had hoped for.

For fans in minor league towns, there isn't necessarily much of an opportunity to see a major league game that often.  Seeing a rehab assignment may be their only chance to see certain players at a game.  Minor league ballparks are always smaller and the fans can see the players much closer.  Some players will make an effort to sign autographs since they know that the fans don't often get to see major league baseball players there.

Personally, I've seen a handful of players this way, although no big names.  Red Sox SS John Valentin in Trenton, Padres P Tom Davey in Lake Elsinore, Mets OF Tsuyoshi Shinjo in Brooklyn and Indians P Jaret Wright in Buffalo.  It was a good experience to see these players in a setting where I wouldn't normally see them.

Normally, teams will only send players on rehab assignments to the minor league affiliates that are playing at home.  It is generally rare to see a major league player on the visiting team.  Recently, I did see A's OF Jermaine Dye do a rehab stint for Sacramento in a game at Oklahoma.  I would think that since they want him to face a high level of competition they would either send him to AAA or AA.  The AAA affiliate is Sacramento (close by), and the AA affiliate is Midland (not so close).  Sacramento was on a road trip so Dye ended up in Oklahoma.

This month, Yankees SS Derek Jeter had a rehab assignment in Trenton.  As soon as people heard about this, tickets sold very quickly.  He played in 5 games and they all sold out with roughly 8000 fans attending each one.  It's uncommon for a player of Jeter's caliber to be playing in a place like Trenton.

Needless to say, the place was a madhouse.  The team had to bring in additional security guards to handle the crowd.  The team had a real problem with parking since games didn't normally bring in this many fans. Despite these things, I'm sure most people had a lot of fun being able to see Derek Jeter play for their minor league team.

However, some people weren't really following proper minor league protocol.  I don't know if this really had anything to do specifically with Derek Jeter, but I'm sure that there were many people at the game who don't normally attend.  There is a certain etiquette that is generally followed at all games, and the chance to see a superstar makes people forget about these unwritten rules.  These include not blocking the view of other people, being respectful of other people around you, and don't ask the umpire to get a player's autograph for you.  I know I've seen instances these pretty much everywhere (except the umpire one, I had never heard of that before).  But a big name player brings bigger crowds and a bigger mob of people trying to meet him.  Unfortunately, not everyone will get their autograph or handshake and some will end up disappointed, but it's still a special experience to see a game like that.

Having a big name player brings a lot of attention to a minor league team.  Often times, it will get people out to the ballpark and remind them how fun games are to see.  It can get people in the routine of attending minor league games regardless of which players are going to be there.  

I am always looking for topics to write about, so please send me an email and let me know what would be interesting reading for you. Feel free to ask any questions or give an idea for a column.

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