Welcome back to the “Fast Lane.”
Last week we talked about the coaching changes here in our little community. This week I’d like to look out a little at the national scene that could play a major role in a few potential athletes in the area.
Last year Logan County and Russellville baseball teams got to see a MLB draft choice live and in person in Mark Biggs. A tall power throwing righthander, Biggs was selected in the top ten rounds by the Toronto Blue Jays. He is getting ready to start his professional career this season in rookie ball.
Let’s first look at the sub levels in the minor league system. There is a hierarchy of the minor league system that you may know where there is the Major Leagues, the Cardinals, Rays, Brewers, etc. but in the minor league there are seven levels of minor league systems.
There is AAA, which is the level directly below Major League. I was lucky enough last season to go down to Nashville and cover a Nashville Sounds game. The Sounds is the triple ‘A’ affiliate to the Milwaukee Brewers and they show cased the almost ready talent to the majors. Here at this level the “prospects” would be basically getting more chances, more at bats, more innings to practice against potential major league talent. This is basically the closest thing to major league baseball without actually being the major leagues.
Then directly below that is AA. This past weekend I was able to travel to my home state of Missouri and go to Springfield to cover the Springfield Cardinals, the double ‘A’ affiliate to the Saint Louis Cardinals. First off I have to say that Hammons Field, the field and stadium that the Springfield Cardinals and Missouri State Bears baseball teams play in, is by far the nicest stadium I’ve been in that is not a major league stadium. The facilities on the field were just top notched, the stadium itself was incredibly beautiful from the gates all the way down to the field. Double ‘A’ teams are jammed packed with supremely talented players that are ready to make that leap into triple ‘A’ or need that extra coaching to refine their talent. A thrower who in high school could get by on throwing his 95+ mph fastball right by hitters but didn’t really know where it was going can be turned into a pitcher in double ‘A’. A hitter who has the supreme power to crush fastballs but was fooled by the off speed pitches can be tweaked with here. The double ‘A’ level is where athletes either make that next step to show that they are major league step, or they show that they need more refinement.
Below AA is A, advanced level. But below that is A ball. Just right down the road there is the Bowling Green Hot Rods ball club that is the single ‘A’ affiliate to the Tampa Bay Rays. Single A is the first real level that players get a taste of the major leagues. The long grind of a season, the day in and day out of games, practices, conditioning over and over. A good minor league system called ‘the farm system’ always starts out at the single ‘A.’ If there was any questions on if the single ‘A’ matters, just look at how successful the Tampa Bay Rays are. They compete with the big powers in the AL East such as the Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees with a payroll a fraction of the cost as those two teams. That’s because of the strong farm system that Bowling Green starts with their single ‘A’ team.
Below that there are three levels of rookie ball and that’s where Mark Biggs finds himself now.
This leads me to think that there are plenty of potential major league talent in this area and in the neighboring Bowling Green. Next season we could potentially see a few names that are familiar to us pop up on the MLB draft.
Wouldn’t that be exciting?
Next week I think it’s finally time to start talking about the college conference realignments. We will look at how the Big Ten changed everything with their network that kicked off this frenzy of potential ‘Super-Conferences.’
But that’s next week. Until then enjoy being in the “Fast Lane.”