In American Association Daily, the Minor League Sports Report’s Robert Pannier discusses how the Milwaukee Milkmen have already had two players contracts purchased before the team has even thrown their first pitch.
Building a Grade-A Reputation
Former UCLA head football coach Henry “Red” Sanders is credited with the phrase, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” What makes independent baseball more enjoyable than the minor leagues is that winning is what the games are all about. This is not about developing prospects or building a solid farm system. Teams are in it to win.
No doubt that the number of wins and post-season appearances a team has is what it is all about, but there is another way that a team can win – the number of player contracts that affiliate teams and foreign leagues purchase. This is nearly as important because it builds a reputation for helping players reach their dreams, which will inevitably make the team a winner on the field. It is the reputation that the Milwaukee Milkmen are quickly establishing even before they have thrown their first pitch.
Milwaukee Milkmen Deliver Two
When a player’s contract is purchased it is a really big deal. There are easily 120-plus guys who could be playing in affiliate ball right now, but it is all about needs, opportunity, and exposure. Even a little luck could be thrown in there.
Last season, the American Association saw over three dozen players have their contracts purchased but there have been years where just a handful returned or went to play in Mexico. There were great players in the league in those years as well, but there was not a need, an opportunity, or the right eyes on those players to get them that chance. This is why having players signed is a really big deal.
From the players’ perspective, a team that is able to get players signed is like gold. Players talk, and when they share their stories about how one manager or one club gave them the perfect opportunity to return to affiliate ball or to make money overseas, it becomes the greatest recruiting tool of all. It is akin to a college football program who is able to land more players in the NFL. He is going to have a much easier time recruiting blue chip prospects.
The hard part is that it can take years to establish that kind of reputation. A new independent club is an unknown commodity as players and Major League organizations are trying to figure out what direction the club is going to take and what kind of talent they are going to put on the field.
The Milwaukee Milkmen are bucking all these trends, however. With the 2019 American Association now less than 100 days away, the club has already had a player’s contract purchased by an affiliate team and another one is on his way to Mexico.
The Milwaukee Milkmen traded for catcher Skyler Ewing on October 8. He came in a six player deal with Florence (Frontier League), but would not be with the club for long. Roughly 10 weeks later, his contract was purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
Ewing had spent five seasons in the minors, starting with the San Francisco Giants back in 2014. He reached Mid-A Augusta with the Giants before joining the Miami Marlins in 2018. Last season, the catcher appeared in 31 games, 24 at AA-Jacksonville before his release. He immediately caught on with Florence, where he put up an all-star season, hitting .300 with 16 homers and 51 RBI in 61 games. Plus, he threw out 33 percent of would-be base-stealers.
Last October, the Gary Southshore RailCats released RHP Gabe Perez, who was signed by the Milwaukee Milkmen a month later. On February 1, Durango (Mexican League) purchased the right-handers contract, making two player contracts purchased in a month.
Perez pitched two seasons in the minors (2012 and 2014) before joining the independent leagues. He played two seasons in the Can-Am League before coming to Laredo in 2016. He pitched for Kansas City in 2017 before joining the RailCats last year. In 2018, Perez was 5-1 with a 3.47 ERA and 5 saves in 24 appearances. He allowed just 46 hits in 70.0 innings pitched.
It is unsure who is making the signings for the Milwaukee Milkmen. Shawn Kison is the team’s general manager, but it is unsure if he is one filling the roster. Whoever it is, he is doing a great job. This club is going to draw a lot of looks from former AA and AAA guys who want another shot, meaning the Milkmen could be a big surprise on the field in 2019.
By Robert Pannier