Sunday, May 17, 2009

Independent Leagues Begin

All photos of UWM-Butler game at Miller Park available on Flickr.

Mid-May is around the time every year when I really get excited about the baseball season. After Opening Week, of course I watch a lot of ball...but it's still cold, there are a ton of rainouts and a lot of off days in April, and the NFL Draft, NBA & NHL playoffs, and even horse racing dominate Sportscenter. Memorial Day to Labor Day is undeniably baseball time though. The sun is out, the grills are fired up, and it's the start of independent league baseball.

The Northern League and the American Association started play last week, the Frontier League begins on Wednesday, and college summer leagues and other lesser semi-pro leagues all start in the next couple weeks. I'm very excited to attend a bunch more Mallards games this year, as well as some games in the Northeast Wisconsin League, which Erik and I just discovered recently. Independent League and minor league baseball has been my favorite kind of baseball for the last several years, and if Milwaukee didn't have a pro team I would probably rarely attend any other kind of games. The games are cheap, there's tons of entertainment, and most of all, the players are dedicated. Most of these players, especially those in the independent leagues, make only enough money to buy food and are riding on buses to podunk towns all across America for 4 months, just to play the game that the love. These players and their families sacrifice and get by on $400/week and second and third jobs just to make ends meet, and I really admire the dedication. So, whenever I get the chance, I like to support these players and teams, and it's no coincidence that my minor/independent league posts are always the most energetic. Erik and I look forward to visiting cities all across America for some new semi-pro experiences every summer.

Speaking of dedicated players, Erik and I attended a UW-Milwaukee game at Miller Park on Thursday. They played after a Brewers' matinee sweep of the Marlins. Honestly, not the greatest crowd, and I'm not a particularly huge NCAA baseball fan, but it was free and there's nothing better than weekday afternoon ball. UWM actually played Butler in two games, but we could only stay for one, as I had a softball game to attend. The Panthers swept the doubleheader, thanks in large part to the energy of their recently renamed mascot, Pounce (Victor E Panther was way better). As far as the game we saw, UWM scored two in the bottom of the 9th to win 6-5 over the Bulldogs. Starting pitcher Tim Lusti gave up 5 earned over 7 and LF Tim Patzman went 2-4 with a HR for the Panthers, and Jeff Sinkiewicz gave up 3 earned over 6 and RF Colin Ziegel was 2-3 with a HR and a walk for Butler. And by the way, in doing the stats research for this post, I discovered that the Horizon League's website has a neat little videogame-like feature where you can watch a play-by-play reenactment of any game that is worth checking out.

Brewers 23-14, +1.5 (makeup game @ Cardinals, 3 @ Astros, 3 @ Twins)
Reds 20-16, -2.5 (3 v. Phillies, 3 v. Indians)
Twins 18-20, -3.0 (3 @ White Sox, 3 v. Brewers)

Erik - 12 (+ 8 worked)
Peter - 17

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