Sunday, February 28, 2010

SPS 2/28/10: Loek Van Mil – RHP

I’m leading the SPS off with the one prospect I MUST see play at some point this season. Why? Well because Mr. Van Mil is a 7’1” pitcher! Sure, he has other qualities that make him worth checking out, but seeing a dude that tall coming off a mound, throwing gas, has got to be other-worldly. It’s like watching someone with the height of Shaq pitch to batters. Of course Shaq has a hundred pounds on Loek, but I’m betting Loek has the better slider.

Van Mil made a name for himself during the 2007 Baseball World Cup when he pitched the Netherlands national team. He was also selected to the 2008 Summer Olympics squad for the Netherlands, but a torn ligament in his pitching arm kept him from participating.

His heater is clocked in the mid-90s and he has hit 99 mph on the gun at times. Loek also has a more-than-capable slider and a decent change-up to mix things up. He is a “potential impact reliever” according to Baseball America, which lists him as the 29th best prospect in the Twins system.

Loek started last season with High-A Fort Myers before he made the move up to AA New Britain. He made 8 appearances with the Rock Cats, earning a 1-1 record with 1 save and a 2.45 ERA. It looks as if Loek should be back with the Rock Cats to start the season, barring any set-backs with prior injuries.

Based on his potential, his name and of course his height, I am officially declaring the “Loek Look” here at Beyond Fenway. I intend to follow the big man closely this season and the “Loek Look” will provide us with all available updates and stats for Van Mil. According to the “experts”, he is not the best prospect in the land, but he is the “most intruiging player to see in person” for Beyond Fenway.

Sunday Prospects Series

Today we are kicking off our Sunday Prospects Series (SPS) where we will showcase players that will likely be on a New England ball club at some point this season. We’ll try and pump out a few of these profiles each week so that you can get a better idea of the great talent that you can get out and see this season. Today we will focus on the following up-and-comer:

Loek Van Mil – P (Minnesota Twins/New Britain)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rock(Cats) Fest…

Can’t wait for the season to start? Can’t make it down to Spring Training? Yearning for a chance to actually get out to a ball park and get that baseball “feeling” in your cold bones?

If you answered YES to these questions then mark your calendar for Saturday, March 6th and head on down to New Britain Stadium for the 11th annual Rock Cats’ FanFest. Gates open at 10am and the event rolls on until 2pm. Complimentary coffee and breakfast in the morning is a nice start, then as the day rolls on they will serve hot dogs, peanuts and crackerjacks to all attendees. Just listing those foods has my mouth watering for the ball park!

The day will also be filled with events for the whole family. They have a kid-friendly zone set up which will include a moon bounce, face painting, arts and crafts and of course all of the wacky Rock Cats mascots. Also, all visitors to the park will get a “back stage” tour of the park, including a visit to the press box, a luxury suite, the clubhouse and even the Rock Cats dugout.

The event also signifies the opening of the box office for the upcoming season. Fans will be able to purchase individual game tickets and group tickets starting on Saturday. The event is free of charge to all who attend and the Rock Cats are asking for donations towards two separate charitable causes – The Fairy Godmother’s Initiative and CREC, Capital Region Education Center.

And how about this for a kicker (as if you actually need one at this point); if you bring a donation of beauty supplies or baseball equipment (or both) to help these causes out, the Rock Cats are going to repay your generosity on the spot with two FREE tickets to Opening Night on April 8th. I told you earlier to mark your calendar!

For more information on what is sure to be a fun day for all, click here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Did you know that…

…the New Hampshire Fisher Cats were originally named the Primaries?

When it was announced back in 2003 that the city of Manchester, New Hampshire was getting a minor league baseball team, it was also announced that they would indeed be called the Primaries. Of course the name was based on the notoriety of the New Hampshire primary which kicks off the Presidential election every four years. They even had two logos ready to go. The above logo was the main logo of the team, featuring the symbols of the Democratic and Republican parties. The alternate logo featured an Uncle Sam back-dropped by the state of New Hampshire, calling his shot. Unfortunately some fans thought this name to be too “political” and a week later it was announced that a “Name the Team” contest would take place. New Hampshire Fisher Cats won the contest with 24.5% of the votes, just nipping out Manchester Millers which got 24.1%. The name Primaries was also a choice on the ballot, but only received 9.7% of the votes. However there is some good news for the Primaries, as each year the Fisher Cats pay homage to their original moniker with a promo “turn back the clock” day. Just an FYI that their online store sells Primaries hats with the normal Fisher Cat “NH” on the front and the Uncle Sam logo on the side, in the original red, white and blue color scheme.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A change in direction…

The Eastern League, of which we have three teams we will be following, has shaken things up a bit with regards how their divisions are shaped. What were formerly the Northern and Southern divisions are now the Eastern and Western divisions. “After a thorough review by the league in which a number of options were taken into consideration, we have come to the conclusion that this divisional alignment will be the best option for the league moving forward,” said Eastern League President Joseph McEacharn.

The realignment doesn’t change much except for the Reading Phillies moving from the Southern division to the Eastern while the Richmond Flying Squirrels move to the Western division after leaving Connecticut behind. As far as we are concerned, New Hampshire, New Britain and Portland all stay in the same division (Eastern).

Also the playoff format will not be affected by these changes. So the top two teams in each division will play a best-of-five game series with the winners of each divisional series playing each other in the best-of-five Eastern League Championship. So go West(ern)…and East(ern) young men, and we’ll catch you somewhere in the middle.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Within Fenway…

Although the aim of Beyond Fenway is to highlight the minor league baseball that happens in the region outside of the walls of Fenway Park, I am happy to pass along word of the fifth annual Futures at Fenway. This event features a day of Minor League Baseball played at the old ball yard.

The Red Sox have announced that on July 10th, Fenway Park will host two of their Single-A teams when the Salem Red Sox and Lowell Spinners play a double header. Lowell will play the Jamestown Jammers starting at 12:05pm and Salem will follow up that game when they take on the Potomac Nationals.

Tickets start at $5 for the bleachers and range up to $30 for tickets in great spots like the Monster seats and the EMC Club. So this is a great chance to catch not one, but two games featuring future Sox for a cheap price. Try finding a halfway decent seat for a regular Sox game at $30 in June, good luck. This is a great take for everyone and is perfect for any fan who can’t make it out to the other parks around New England or those of us that can’t afford the outrageous prices a regular day at Fenway would require. Tickets are now on sale through

Did you know that…

…McCoy Stadium and the Pawtucket Red Sox hosted the longest game in professional baseball history? On April 18, 1981, the PawSox started a game against the Rochester Red Wings which would eventually end in the 33rd inning some two months later. The game was suspended at 4:07am in the 32nd inning with both teams tied at 2. They resumed the game on June 23rd and it only took 18 minutes to come to a conclusion with Pawtucket plating a run in the bottom of the 33rd for the 3-2 victory. During the April 18th marathon, only 19 fans remained in the ball park when the game was eventually suspended. Those fans received lifetime passes to McCoy Stadium. The game is also notable for featuring two future Hall of Famers in Wade Boggs (Pawtucket) and Cal Ripken Jr. (Rochester). Both men combined for 6 hits in 25 at-bats.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Important Dates

In the aftermath of the “storm that wasn’t", I sit and ponder the impending season. My new Baseball America Prospect Handbook arrived the other day and the overplayed news story about the Red Sox equipment truck leaving Fenway for Fort Myers is mere days away. So to prep for what's ahead, here are some upcoming dates that you may find helpful:

February 17-18 – Pitchers and catchers begin reporting to Spring Training
Tuesday, March 2 – Mandatory Spring Training reporting date for all players
Sunday, April 4 – MLB Opening Day – Yankees vs. Red Sox, Fenway Park
Thursday, April 8: Season Openers
Pawtucket Red Sox vs. Rochester Red Wings, McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket, RI
New Britain Rock Cats vs. Manchester Fisher Cats, New Britain Stadium, New Britain, CT
Portland Sea Dogs vs. Reading Phillies, FirstEnergy Stadium, Reading, PA
June 7-9 – First year player draft
Friday, June 18: Season Openers
Lowell Spinners vs. Vermont Lake Monsters, Centennial Field, Burlington, VT
Connecticut Tigers vs. Tri-City ValleyCats, Joe Bruno Stadium, Troy, NY
Wednesday, July 14 - AAA All-Star Game (International League vs. Pacific Coast League), Coca-Cola Park, Allentown, PA
Wednesday, July 14 – Eastern League All-Star Game, Metro Bank Park, Harrisburg, PA
Tuesday, August 17 – New York-Penn League All-Star Game, Richmond County Bank Ballpark, Staten Island, NY

These dates will give us something to look forward to for now. We will cross the playoff bridge when we get to it. In the meantime, if you are a pitcher or catcher, start oiling up the glove because you have 6 days to go!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Play Ball!

Let us start off the first inning by checking out the local teams that we will be following all year long. This will just be a brief run-through to give you an overview of the teams and once the rosters are set we can get our hands dirty and go more in-depth with individual team breakdowns. You can check out the links on the right side of the page as well to get direct news and info from the teams themselves.

Pawtucket Red Sox – The Paw Sox are, of course, the AAA affiliate for the Boston Red Sox. Located about an hour south of Fenway, just outside of Providence, the Paw Sox play their home games at the 64 year-old McCoy Stadium. They are the longest tenured minor league team in New England as they enter their 41st season in Pawtucket. Contrary to popular belief, Pawtucket Patriot is NOT served at the stadium.

Portland Sea Dogs – Head north of Yawkey Way to check out the AA farm team for the Sox. The Sea Dogs are one of 3 New England teams who play in the Eastern League. They take up residence at Hadlock Field which features a full scale replica of the Green Monster in left field. If you make the near two hour trip from Boston to check out the Sea Dogs, be sure to keep your eyes open for the rising lighthouse behind centerfield after a Sea Dog homer.

Manchester Fisher Cats – Manchester also plays in the Eastern League, as the AA affiliate for the Toronto Blue Jays. The trek from Fenway to Manchester will put about 50 miles on your car and take a little over an hour. The Cats play at Stadium which has an adjacent hotel that overlooks the field, just past the left-centerfield wall. The team was initially slated to be named the “Primaries”, but some people thought it was a bit too political.

New Britain Rock Cats – The third of the 3 Eastern League teams in New England use New Britain, Connecticut for their home base. The Rock Cats have been the AA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins since 1995. These Cats play at New Britain Stadium which is a two hour drive from Fenway and a bit over 100 miles. There can be up to 8 mascots running around the stadium at any given time including 3 cats, a lion, a dog, an eagle and of course a walrus.

Lowell Spinners – The closest team to Fenway just so happens to be the big club’s single A affiliate in the New York – Penn League. About 30 miles northwest of Boston sits the always packed LeLacheur Park. The Spinners have been a huge hit since moving to Lowell in 1996 based on the obvious Red Sox affiliation and the selling out of 346 straight games and counting! The UMass Lowell baseball team also calls LaLacheur field home…plenty of great seats still available to see them play.

Vermont Lake Monsters – The longest trek to make from Boston to a minor league team in New England is the one you make to Burlington, Vermont to see the Lake Monsters. I assure you this is a ride worth taking if you love scenic New England, with a nice little baseball reward at the end. The Lake Monsters also play in the New York-Penn League as the A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. Centennial Field, the home of the Lake Monsters, was named one of the “top 10 ball park destinations in the U.S.” by’s Jim Caple.

Connecticut Tigers – At this time there is not too much information available on the Tigers since this will be their inaugural season. We do know that they will play in Norwich, Connecticut which will require a 100 mile drive southwest of Landsdowne Street. The Tigers will ensure that baseball goes on at Dodd Stadium as they fill the void left by the Connecticut Defenders who fled south to Richmond, Virginia. The A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers will be participating in the short-seasoned New York-Penn League. A “name the team” contest is slated for the Tigers following the 2010 season, so this will be the only year they intend to use the same name as their parent ballclub.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A trip to the mound…

From time-to-time here at Beyond Fenway we will divert just a little bit from the "Minor League ball in New England thing” to provide you with some baseball info that we think you may need. Nothing major, just a brief stop off between batters to keep you informed.

Today’s trip to the mound is to let you all know that baseball is actually in full swing right now! That’s right, live baseball action can be seen twice a day on MLB Network thanks to the Caribbean Series. Live games are on the network all week long at 3:30pm and 7:30pm (EST), with the final games being played Monday, February 8th.

The Caribbean Series is now in its 52nd year of action and features the winning teams from the winter leagues played in Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Every team is full of great talent, including major and minor league players who use this time to get ready for the upcoming seasons. So if you have an itch for some red hot baseball action, the Caribbean Series is here to scratch it. Check your local listings for the MLB Network in your area.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch…

Somewhere not too far from the shadows of the Green Monster there are small baseball gems hidden along the paths of New England. In total seven Minor League Baseball teams call the region home. Unfortunately many fans in New England are unaware of the excitement, entertainment and talent that lies in their own backyard. For those of you who fall into that category, you are in the right place.

Minor League Baseball is a great take! For the cost of the average ticket to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park you could take a family of four to see some great baseball action. Minor league parks and teams gear more towards a family friendly environment and experience, so you won’t have to worry about the slurring, swearing, sweaty drunk guy next to you and your family. There is also the opportunity to see that “next big thing” at a park that holds 4,000 fans instead of 35,000!

Here at Beyond Fenway the goal is to keep you informed and up-to-date of all things Minor League Baseball in New England. We’ll take an in-depth look at each team leading up the start of the season. We’ll check out the parks to see where we have to go, how much we have to pay and what we can expect once we get there. We’ll look at the “next big thing” prospects that we have playing nearby and let you know when any big name prospects from other teams are coming through. We’ll provide constant updates so that we can follow the action as we do with our favorite big league teams.

Despite the fact that the weather around here doesn’t seem to be getting any warmer, just keep in mind that pitchers and catchers begin reporting to Spring Training in only 16 days. From there it’s all sunshine and roses…and baseball of course!