I know I’m lucky. I have spent nearly two decades immersed in baseball every day while working for Baseball America.
I’m convinced I wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity without spending years down on the farm.
In my first job out of college, I was a sportswriter for the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph.
One of the best assignments I had was the chance to cover the Macon Braves, Atlanta’s low-class A affiliate in the South Atlantic League from 1991 to 2002. Future Braves Andruw Jones, Rafael Furcal and Jason Marquis played for Macon during my tenure. So did a steady stream of great minor leaguers who taught me that not all Class A stars go on to further success.
Being a 20-something watching baseball daily was formative. I don’t think I’d be at BA without spending 70 nights a year in a musty press box that hung from the roof of 60-year old Luther Williams Field.
And then, the team was gone. Just as I was getting ready to leave Macon for BA, the Braves moved upstate to Rome, Ga.
This offseason, a lot of cities and fans are getting ready to go through what fans in Macon went through nearly 20 years ago. The Appalachian League, which had operated at the Rookie-level since 1963, has already announced that it’s going to be a summer college wood bat league next year. Other leagues will almost assuredly follow suit. More than 40 clubs are expected to be dropped from affiliated ball as part of Major League Baseball’s plan to reorganize the minor leagues.
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Over the past few years, the Indians have mined the Northeast for talent. The 2020 team got big-time contributions from former college righthanders Aaron Civale (Northeastern) and James Karinchak (Bryant). Waiting in the wings are three more prospects from the region, all from high school: third baseman Nolan Jones (Bensalem, Pa.), catcher Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) and righthander Lenny Torres (Beacon, N.Y). All five of those players were signed by area scout Mike Kanen, a former Baseball America intern. BA recently spoke with Kanen about his first impressions of those players. The interview is edited for brevity.
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