Sam Fuld has quickly made Tampa Bay Rays fans forget the sudden retirement of Manny Ramirez. With spectacular catches, and timely hitting, Fuld looks like he could be a mainstay in the Rays outfield. Selected by the Cubs in the ’03 MLB draft out of Stanford, Fuld spent the summer of ’03 playing for the Hyannis Mets of the Cape Cod Baseball League, where he was an All-Star. That summer was of course when we filmed Touching the Game, The Story of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Check out this scene from the film with Sam Fuld as he ponders whether to sign with the Cubs, or return to play at Stanford.
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We usually do a “Where are they now?” on the players in our Touching the Game films twice a year, at the start and finish of the baseball season, but this winter has been a busy one for some of the CCBL alumni. Here’s who will be wearing new caps this spring. Sam Fuld has been traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of the big Matt Garza deal. Justin Maxwell has been traded to the New York Yankees. Maxwell had a few chances to break into the Washington Nationals outfield the past couple seasons, but injuries and hitting slumps have hindered his progress. Maybe a change of scenery will get him going. Andy Laroche ran into the same issues (injuries and hitting) for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. He has signed a minor league deal with the Oakland A’s and will be at their big league camp. Jeff Frazier who made it to the majors last season in Detroit, has signed with the Washington Nationals. Brandon Boggs has moved on from Texas to Milwaukee, signing a new deal with the Brewers, and Matt Macri who was in the Minnesota Twins system, has signed with the Colorado Rockies.
The upcoming 2011 ABL season schedule can be found here. The Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks will be playing a shortened schedule this year due to financial issues, but the Midnight Sun Game will always be played. This years game is on June 21. Check out the schedule of all six teams. Those wanting a true baseball experience will not be disappointed by traveling to Alaska this summer to see the ABL!
The Alaska Baseball League is well-represented on the 2010 American League Champion Texas Rangers. Starting 3rd Baseman Michael Young, and starting pitcher C.J. Wilson both gave us interviews for Touching the Game, Alaska. Here are some of their comments about playing summer baseball in the 49th state.
If anyone is looking for proof that the Alaska Baseball League still produces top notch talent, they can just purchase a copy of our Touching the Game, Alaska DVD. Many of the players featured in the film had terrific seasons in 2010. As far as the Alaska League players we talked to and followed during the summers of 2006 & 2007, we had our first one make it to the Major Leagues. Pitcher Robbie Weinhardt who played for Athletes-in-Action in ’06 was called up to the Detroit Tigers in mid-season and appeared in 27 games. Most of the other players are at the AA level, but are moving up. Former Goldpanner Beau Mills who we featured in the film had an up and down 2010. Playing for (AA) Akron, Beau got off to a poor start at the plate, then after an injury and some off the field problems, rebounded to finish the season strong. Look for him to be at (AAA) Columbus next year. Beau’s former high school and Panner teammate Chris Schwinden made a big jump to (AA) Binghamton this year and was one of their top starters. 2006 Midnight Sun Game winner Chris Kissock also made the jump to (AA) Reading. He was also selected to play in this year’s prospect-rich Arizona Fall League. A couple of Peninsula Oilers who appear in the film have also reached the AA level, pitcher Andre Lamontagne with (AA) Huntsville and infielder Jake Kahaulelio with (AA) Carolina. Kahaulelio, who lead the Oilers to the 2006 ABL title, is making the switch from SS to 2B.
Some of the Alaska League alumni in Touching the Game already in the Major Leagues had huge years in 2010. Congrats to former Goldpanner Michael Young and former Anchorage Buc C.J.Wilson, as they were significant parts of the AL West winning Texas Rangers. Wilson has become one of the Rangers top starting pitchers. A couple more former Bucs had terrific seasons as well. Jered Weaver has become the ace of the Angels staff and was second in the ML in strikeouts, and Heath Bell had a monster season as the Padres closer with 44 saves and an ERA under 2.00. Finally, it’s great to see former Mat-Su Miner Jed Lowrie back playing with the Red Sox. After a year and a half of injuries, he’s looking again like the prospect the Sox drafted out of Stanford.
Any fan of baseball or documentary films in general will love our inside looks at two of the most significant amateur baseball leagues in the U.S. The Cape Cod Baseball league and the Alaska Baseball League have been providing starting grounds for countless Major League stars. See what the leagues are all about, and hear from those Major Leaguers who experienced them. “Touching the Game, The Story of The Cape Cod Baseball League” and “Touching the Game, Alaska” are both feature-length documentaries that bring you to parts of the country where summer baseball is a tradition. Meet the people and watch the players that make these leagues a true slice of Americana. Both DVDs also contain many “extra” features you will enjoy as well. You can order either DVD individually, but the best deal comes if you order both Touching the Game films. Right now, you can purchase both DVDs together for just $34.95. Just go here, to give the gift of baseball this holiday season!
It is always fun to check up on the players we followed in the summer of 2003 on Cape Cod. Not every Major Leaguer shoots through the minor league system in a couple years. For some, the journey to the majors is a long and arduous, taking many years to get there. Some players have great minor league careers only to hit that glass ceiling of becoming a regular MLB player. That seems to be the point that many of our guys are at now 7 years after playing in the CCBL. Here’s an update on some of the guys who appeared in Touching the Game, The Story of the Cape Cod Baseball League: Andy Laroche began 2010 as the Pittsburgh Pirates starting 3B. He hurt his back and while on the DL, lost his starting job to Pedro Alvarez. He has not played much since, and rumors are the Pirates might be looking to deal him in the off-season. Pitcher Dave Purcey started the season at (AAA) Las Vegas as the Toronto Blue Jays are making him a middle relief pitcher. He is now back with the Jays, and is doing well in that role. Justin Maxwell had been penciled in to start in the Washington Nationals outfield, but a poor spring training sent him to (AAA) Syracuse where he also struggled at the plate. He is now up again with Nationals trying to crack their lineup. Outfielder Trevor Crowe has had a good year for the Cleveland Indians batting around .250. He should be a fixture there in the coming years. After a poor start, Sam Fuld ended up batting .272 for (AAA) Iowa. Unfortunately the Chicago Cubs have no room right now in their outfield for Fuld. Jeff Frazier had a terrific season at (AAA) Toledo, and made his first Major League appearance with the Detroit Tigers in August in a game at Fenway. He too has a bunch of people in front of him in Detroit with no where to go. After spending 2009 in Independent League ball, Cesar Nicolas returned and had a good season for (AA) Erie, but had to shut it down early due to a knee injury. Tommy Manzella who began the season as the Houston Astros starting shortstop, also struggled at the plate and dealt with injuries. He is now back playing for the Astros. After batting .267 with 15 HR’s at (AAA) Lehigh Valley, John Mayberry is a September call-up with the Philadelphia Phillies, as is Brandon Boggs with the Texas Rangers as they head towards the playoffs.
Jeff Frazier, one of the players we focused on in Touching the Game, The Story of the Cape Cod Baseball League has been called up to the Detroit Tigers. He will be in the lineup when they face the Red Sox at Fenway Park tonight. Frazier was a 3rd round pick by the Tigers in 2004 out of Rutgers. In the summer of 2003, he played for the Chatham A’s. In our film, we spent time with Jeff both on the field and with his host family, The Galops of Chatham. It’s been a long haul for Frazier, but this season in AAA Toledo it all came together for him as he had 23 HRs and 68 RBI. Congratulations to Jeff!
Long time college and Alaska Baseball coach Ed Cheff retired after 34 years at Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho. Cheff was one of our stories in Touching the Game, Alaska. We had the rare opportunity to put a microphone on him during a game, and he did not disappoint! He is definitely a one-of-a-kind individual and coach, and one of the best! More on his retirement can be found here.
When filming Touching the Game, Alaska, we spent July 4th, 2007 in Anchorage for the annual doubleheader between the Anchorage Bucs and the Anchorage Glacier Pilots. The fireworks alone make this a great event, but it is also terrific baseball as these two arch rivals go at it. You can see our video for the the event here. Other parts of the day appear in the film itself. It was a fun way to spend the holiday.