Magazine article Information Today

Out to the Ol' Ball Yard

Magazine article Information Today

Out to the Ol' Ball Yard

Article excerpt

Now that things have thawed out up north, you-all can enjoy what we've been doing down here in South Texas (motto: "Global Warming 'R' Us") for the last several weeks: getting out to the ol' ball yard.

The youngsters in the bigger minor leagues (and yes, even the majors) have been kicking it around since the first week of April, but in May the annual crop of independent teams sprouted around the country.

Just a bit of background here. Minor-league baseball essentially is divided into two camps: affiliated teams and leagues, in which everyone is supplied players from a major-league organization, and independent teams, in which everyone is fair game.

Affiliated leagues are the big ones, like the Pacific Coast League, the Texas League, and the Florida State League. Members of those teams play at the whim of their big-league owners, and they can be moved from one club to another on a moment's notice.

Independent league teams keep their players until they can't play anymore (and then they become either coaches or mascots) or their contracts are sold to affiliated teams.

As a consequence, the indies tend to spur a lot more passion in their fans. Take for instance the Northern League Fan's Guide (http://www.nlfan.com). The Northern League, which is the oldest of the current crop of independent leagues, has spawned fan passion with things like tailgate parties. (The site includes complete instructions for hosting your own event outside the home of the St. Paul Saints, the acknowledged leader in indie fan-friendliness.)

Each team has a page with info on tickets, parking, atmosphere, and what to do when you're not out at the park either slathering on sunscreen (day games) or pulling on your jacket (the rest of the time). A truly dedicated fan probably could plan a tour of the entire league from the Northern League Fan's Guide, although the site doesn't really warn you that it's nearly 900 miles from one end of the league (Gary, Ind.) to the other (Winnipeg, Manitoba).

Speaking of Winnipeg, there's a guide for Americans who want to venture into the Great White North for a game, although the Webmaster notes that he is "neither a government official nor [an] extensive resource for this subject."

If your adventures are of a more Midwestern bent, there's the Frontier League, which fields teams from Kalamazoo, Mich. (the alliterative Kings), to Springfield, Mo. (the Ozark Mountain Ducks, and don't even ask). There's a dedicated fan page at http://www. …

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