Minor League Spotlight: Golden Baseball League

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

The last Minor League Spotlight focused on a baseball league that plays throughout the state located to the farthest reaches north. This week, the focus shifts to a baseball league that stretches as far north as Canada, south to Mexico, west to Hawaii and at one time even had representation from further beyond in Japan. Though just entering its sixth season, the Golden Baseball League has already left an indelible mark on the baseball community in the United States, North America, and beyond.

This past week, the Golden Baseball League kicked off its season with a matchup between the Edmonton Capitals and Tucson Toros, and it ended up being a Walk Off win for the Tucson Toros. In a game that featured several former big leaguers, it showcased exactly the kind of exciting talent to be expected in the Golden Baseball League.

On May 22nd, the league made history when they featured games being played in three different countries on the same day. The league played games in Canada, the United States and Mexico. Having teams representing several countries is nothing new to the league. In the inaugural season, the Japan Samurai Bears were a traveling team comprised of mostly Japanese born ballplayers. For the 2010 season the Na Koa Ikaika Maui, which means “Strong Warriors of Maui”, are the first professional baseball team to play in the state of Hawaii since the Hawaii Winter Baseball League folded in 2008.

The historic season of firsts for the GBL will continue, as Japanese sensation Eri Yoshida is expected to make her debut for the Chico Outlaws on May 29th. The 5’1 18 year old knuckleballer will be the first woman to play professional ball for the Golden Baseball League, and the first woman since Ila Borders pitched with the Zion Pioneerzz of the Western Baseball League in 2000. Yoshida was signed by the Outlaws after her stint in the Arizona Fall League where she had a 1-1 record with a 4.79 Earned Run Average over a 10 game span.

Throughout its history, the Golden Baseball League has blended their rosters with legitimate major league talent, and those who are dedicated to showcasing their talent in a competitive league in hopes of catching their big break. Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson may be the most famous of all former GBL players, but along with Yoshida there is a growing number of former MLBers and those working towards reaching The Show who are choosing to bring their game to the west coast.

Former All-Star closer Byung-Hyun Kim recently signed a contract with the Orange County Flyers after being released by the San Francisco Giants during spring training. The two-time world series champion’s first appearance of the season was a scoreless inning against the St. Georges Roadrunners on May 22nd. Also playing against the Roadrunners was Keith Ginter, a six year Major League veteran who has spent the last few years with several organizations playing at the Triple A level in the International League.

A former Chicago White Sox first round draft pick made an impressive GBL debut for the Chico Outlaws on May 23rd when he threw a no hitter in the first game of a double header against the Tijuana Cimarrones. Kris Honel struck out 10 over 7 innings in his no-hitter to start his season. Honel’s no-hitter is just the second in league history, and he got more support than he needed as the Outlaws offense clobbered the Cimarrones 20-0. He received support from J.J. Sherrill, Mitch Einertson, and John Urick among others. Those three players have worn the uniform of several minor league affiliates.

There are many stories of players who have worn MLB uniforms, and many still who will one day don the uniform of a major league team. The players referenced above are just a snapshot of what the Golden Baseball League offers its fans. To help follow these teams and the players of the GBL, there are websites linked below for each of the teams and their various social networking sites.

Northern Division

Southern Division

During the GBL season, the Minor League Spotlight will follow along and report some news coming out of the league. If the first week is any indication, the 2010 season of the Golden Baseball League is going to be unforgettable.

Previous Spotlights:

Ask The Clubbie!

During the 2010 season, the Minor League Spotlight occasionally features a Q&A with Jeff Perro, the Clubhouse Manager for the Birmingham Barons, the Double A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.

BaseballDigest.com: How is Opening Day for you as a clubbie? Are there certain things you need to prepare that might differ from the daily job?

Jeff Perro: Getting ready for Opening Day is a huge challenge! Working an off-season job leading up to the start of the season meant working nights at the stadium. The Hoover High School football team plays its home games at Regions Park after our season concludes and they use our clubhouse as their locker room, which means that all of our equipment has to be locked away. With the help of a few friends, it took an entire day of moving couches, trainer’s tables, stair steppers, tables, bats, balls, and probably over 3000lbs of free weights back to where they are set up for the season. That was quite a task. There is also the duty of wiping down each of the lockers, vacuuming, scrubbing toilets and bathroom floors, rewashing towels, and just getting the clubhouse clean. It took four trips to Wal-Mart to stock up on the supplies a clubbie needs to run a clubhouse. It was all worth it though! Opening Day was very exciting!

Next Week: New York City is home to two of the most celebrated baseball teams in Major League Baseball, the New York Yankees and the New York Mets. The next Minor League Spotlight takes a short trip west of New York City to examine the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League. A team stacked with talent that include some that have played for and against both of the powerhouses to the east, the Newark Bears have provided a great source of entertainment and a glimpse of players trying to make their way to MLB, just minutes from the bustle of New York City.

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