Just When We Thought We Had Gotten Our Last Lineup Card In 2017…

The “holy grail” for our lineup card collection has been a Major League Baseball dugout lineup card.

It’s not that they are difficult to find.  There are plenty available…for sale.  Let me know if I am wrong, but I don’t think any MLB managers give out dugout lineup cards any more because the teams sell them, sometimes for hundreds of dollars each.

The problem is that we’ve never paid for a lineup card (aside from the cost of travel and tickets to a game), and are trying to keep it that way.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote to someone affiliated with MLB to see if they might be able to help us out.

On Friday, a box showed up with a Mets-Nationals lineup card from September 2009!

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Very cool!  Both the Mets and Nationals were awful in 2009, but there are still a few notable players, including Ryan Zimmerman, David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Carlos Beltran, Adam Dunn and Gary Sheffield.

More importantly, we can add an MLB dugout lineup card to a collection that already includes MLB bullpen (including one from a 2017 ALDS playoff game), WBC, minor league, NCAA and college summer league lineup cards.

This is, I believe, the seventh lineup card we have from a game we did not attend.  In a couple instances, we got cards from a previous day’s game.

It is also the oldest card, by five years, in our collection.  We are counting it in our 2017 total as that is when we got it.

2017: 36 lineup cards (21 dugout/bullpen; 15 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup” card)

Lifetime: 158 lineup cards (108 dugout/bullpen; 47 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)

Leagues: MLB: American League; National League; 2017 ALDS.  MiLB: International League (AAA); Pacific Coast League (AAA); Eastern League (AA); Southern League (AA); Carolina League (A); New York-Penn League (A), including 2017 NYPL ASG. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association; Frontier League. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).

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10/8/17 – Playoff Prize To End Our Season

Our luck started about 24 hours before the ALDS Game 3 between the Astros and Red Sox.

I had never been to an MLB playoff game, had nothing going on for Sunday, and had been watching ticket prices on re-seller websites for a few days.  The lowest prices were generally in the $80 – $90 range, and for standing room only tickets, rather than seats.

I patiently waited until Saturday, when prices started to fall a bit.  Early that afternoon, I saw a pair of tickets go up for sale on SeatGeek for $63/each.  And they were for actual seats, not standing room only.  So I quickly bought the tickets for Sean and me.

It rained steadily for the 2-hour drive to Boston on Sunday morning.  We got to Boston around 11:30 am, with gates scheduled to open shortly after Noon, and the game to start at 2:38pm.

We were early enough that we were able to park on the street about a 7-8 minute walk from Fenway.  The rain became more of a mist on the walk.

We were among the first hundred people into the stadium.  With the rain, there was no batting practice, a major bummer but expected given the weather.  Sean had one chance at a warm-up ball used by the Red Sox catchers in the bullpen, but it went to the only other boy in the area.  It was not a 2017 Playoff ball, so it was not a huge loss.

We killed time until first pitch by walking around the stadium, visiting the souvenir shop, getting something to eat and taking pictures.

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Our seats were in Section 37, essentially under the scoreboard, one row from the top of the stadium.

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You’d like to be a little closer to the action, but as small a stadium as Fenway is, the seats were fine.

In the picture above, do you notice the black image in the roof to the left of the home plate facade, almost directly below the “Optum” sign?  Here is a close-up:

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It is a policeman/sniper.  There were four of them, at least that we could see, keeping an eye on nearby buildings.  I am sure this was in response to the recent Las Vegas shootings.

There was a nervous energy in the stadium to start before the air was taken out of the stadium with a 3-run Houston top of the first. It nearly became 6-0 in the second if not for Mookie Betts preventing a 3-run homer with a catch at the right field wall.

The Red Sox got one run in the second, and took the lead for good on a Rafael Devers 2-run blast in the third inning.  It brought the Red Sox crowd of 38,000 to back to life.

The Sox blew the game open with six runs in the 7th inning, turning the end of the game into a party.

We were enjoying the game, save for the four knuckleheads to our right.  In their early 20s, they were on there way to be drunk when they got to their seats just before the game, each double-fisted.

They talked and acted like most drink 20-year olds do, which was less than ideal.  If the game hadn’t been packed, I would’ve looked for two seats elsewhere.  But that was not really an option with a full house.

Shortly after they came back with two more beers each three innings later, the guy two seats from me passed out.  He stayed that way for about an inning, until two security guards came up and made him come to.  They told him that if he continued to appear to be passed out, he would be removed.  They then left.

So, his friends made him stand up so he wouldn’t get kicked out.  He was clearly incapable of standing , and sure enough, he threw up moments later.

Thankfully and somehow miraculously, he didn’t throw up on anyone.  But the stench was awful.

I immediately took Sean and headed down to the concession area to get away from the scene.  We stayed down there for an inning.   When we went back, the guy had been removed.  The vomit had been cleaned up, but we still couldn’t sit in our seats due to the residual stench.  We had to sit/stand on the top stair between sections 37 and 38 for the rest of the game.  It wasn’t ideal, but so it goes.

Before the game, we had scouted the Astros’ bullpen, but didn’t see a lineup card there.  We could see one in the Red Sox bullpen.

I had low expectations.  One, it was still packed at the end of the game.  Two, I didn’t think they would give away the bullpen lineup card, as MLB teams seem to sell anything that is worth something, and I’m sure the Red Sox could sell the bullpen lineup card from an ALDS victory for a few bucks.

But we gave it a shot, getting into a great spot behind the Red Sox bullpen immediately after the final out.  I loudly asked bullpen coach Dana LeVangie given the noise in the stadium, and I thought he nodded yes but I wasn’t sure.  Half-a-minute or so later, he emerged from the bullpen dugout and handed the lineup card to me.  Someone tried to grab it but luckily I got my hands on it first.

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Thank you, Dana!  Having the Red Sox bullpen lineup card from our first-ever playoff game, and a Red Sox victory, will always be special.

What a way to wrap up the season!

2017: 35 lineup cards (20 dugout/bullpen; 15 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup” card)

Lifetime: 157 lineup cards (107 dugout/bullpen; 47 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)

Leagues: MLB: American League; National League; 2017 ALDS.  MiLB: International League (AAA); Pacific Coast League (AAA); Eastern League (AA); Southern League (AA); Carolina League (A); New York-Penn League (A), including 2017 NYPL ASG. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association; Frontier League. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).

September Recap

The highs were high and the lows low in September.

I’ll start with the highs:

  • We found an Arizona League ball behind New Britain Stadium.  It was the only current MiLB ball we were missing from our collection.  It is not in great shape, but very cool that we found it after trying to trade for one for the last couple years.

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  • We got our first Connecticut Tigers’ dugout lineup card.
  • We got a Sugar Land Skeeters lineup card.  We had gotten two a couple years ago, but it was still nice to get another.
  • Sean and I went to the last-ever Bridgeport Bluefish game at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.  We didn’t get a lineup card, but we got our final Atlantic League 20th Anniversary ball, and Sean got a game-used hat from Bridgeport’s Daniel Fields.

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  • I went to the Triple-A National Championship game.  Again, no lineup card, but more important, I got a National Championship baseball, and a first: a cork from a celebratory bottle of champagne after the Durham Bulls won the title.

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On the lower side of things:

  • I was shut out for the first time this season at a Rays @ Orioles game on September 21.  I was hoping to get a better OACY 25th commemorative to replace the one I got earlier this season with a big scuff on the logo.  But it didn’t happen, nor was I able to get a lineup card.

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  • As mentioned above, we failed to get lineup cards at the last-ever Bridgeport Bluefish game or the Triple-A National Championship game.  I knew going in that those of those would be tough, and I was right.
  • I had tickets for Sean and me to go to the penultimate Red Sox game of the regular season, but we had to back out due to a medical emergency (thankfully, everything worked out OK in the end).

As I write this, I am holding out hope of possibly going to one Red Sox playoff game in October.  Otherwise, aside from watching my nephew play some a couple of Junior College fall scrimmage games, our season is done.

9/19/17 – Triple-A National Championship Game

Triple-A is the only MiLB level to hold a “National Championship” game, pitting the International League winner against the Pacific Coast League champ.

The championship has gone through various iterations in the past, but is currently a one-game deal at a site chosen well before the season starts.

This year’s game was held at PNC Field in Moosic, PA, home of the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Railriders, about 3 hours from me.  I knew a special ball would be used for the game, so it was an easy decision to take the afternoon off and make the trip.

My luck started a few days before the actual game when the Durham Bulls beat the Railriders for the International League title.

Had the Railriders won, I am sure 10,000-seat PNC Field would have been a mad house.  It was still fairly crowded even without them, as Triple-A made this single game championship into an event with “celebrities” such as Reggie Jackson, Allen Iverson and Bucky Dent in attendance.

I got to the stadium about an hour before gates were to open at 5:30pm.  One of the first things I saw was Allen Iverson showing up and entering away from the crowd.

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In the picture above, Iverson is dressed all in black, between the police officers.  The guy in the red shirt tried to approach him to either meet him or get his autograph, but was quickly moved back by one of the police officers.

I was the first one in line to get into the stadium.  This was my view.

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I had done some research and found out that it was unlikely that the National Championship ball would be used during BP/before-the-game warm-ups.

When I got into the stadium, the Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals’ affiliate) was still taking BP.  A father-son got a toss-up, and I asked them to see the ball.  It was a fairly beat up International League ball as I had expected.  I didn’t try very hard for a ball, nor did one come near me.  The Redbirds only hit for a short period of time while I was in the stadium.

With the Railriders not playing, there was a nice crowd, but the stadium was nowhere near full, as you can see in this 1st inning picture I took.

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I was able to move around easily, and even get down near the dugouts.

When the Durham Bulls (Tampa affiliate) took the field in the top of the 1st, I decided to try for the warm-up ball, hoping to get a National Championship ball right away, but also knowing they might not be using National Championship balls for infield warm-ups.

I got Durham bench coach Ozzie Timmons to toss me the ball, but it was an International League ball.  I gave it to the nearest little kid.

I had no luck the next few innings, but noticed the Memphis bat boy gave a couple balls away.  So I headed over there in the 5th inning.  The bat boy shot down my initial request, but I stayed there.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  Two kids, maybe 9 years old, saw me try to get a ball and then came up and said they could get me a ball.   I had brought 2 Atlantic League 20th balls, and told them I’d give them each a ball if they could get me one.  They disappeared.  One showed up an inning later and asked if the other had given me a ball yet.  I said no.  The next inning, they both come back and go to the Memphis bat boy, and they clearly knew him (I guess he was a local just wearing the Redbird uniform).  They asked him for a ball, and he gave them one.  They in turn gave it to me and I gave them the two Atlantic League balls, so everyone was happy.

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Mission accomplished!

The next inning, all the kids — the ones I had traded with and 2 others — had cleared out of the area.  The ball boy had given away at least two or three more balls to adults in the 1st row.  So I asked him again, not knowing if he knew the kids had traded me.  I guess he didn’t, because he gave me one!

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This is where I was able to get 2 Championship balls

In the game itself, Durham overcame 2-0 and 3-1 deficits with a Kean Wong grand slam to make it 5-3.  That would be the final score as the Bulls took the title.

I was in perfect position for an umpire ball, and the only one asking, but the umpire shook his head no.  I then asked for the lineup cards and he shook me off on that, too.

I tried to get the Memphis lineup card, but was told the manager had ripped it up.  It wouldn’t have been the first ripped lineup card I got, but no one was going to help me try and get the pieces, so I gave up on

So I headed over to the Durham dugout for its celebration.  I tried to get a hat, and a couple were given away, but not to me.  I asked for the lineup card but as expected I got ignored.  I did get the cork from one of the champagne bottles, though.  I didn’t ask for it.  A police officer on the field motion to me to come toward him at one point, and he gave me the cork.  I wasn’t going to say no.

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All in all, it worked out pretty well!

 

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9/17/17 Farewell, Bridgeport Bluefish and the Ballpark at Harbor Yard

The Bridgeport Bluefish played their last ever game on Sunday, September 17th, 2017.

Based on what I’ve read, the Bluefish got kicked to the curb by the city of Bridgeport.  It’s sad, but not that surprising as the Bluefish were not drawing well.

But losing a team is one thing; losing a stadium is another.  Bridgeport has decided to transform the Ballpark at Harbor Yard into an amphitheater, at a cost of about $15 million.  I’m not a concert-goer, but I find it hard to believe people want to go to outdoor concerts in Bridgeport where Harbor Yard is located.  Here is some of what you are looking at/breathing:

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In the picture above, the building beyond the left field wall is the Webster Bank Arena, which seats 9,000 and goes largely unused by mid spring and through the summer.  It would seem to be a great place for concerts, and wouldn’t require a $15 million makeover, but what do I know.

I guess the city of Bridgeport and/or the Bluefish stopped caring about the field (see picture above).  It was a disgrace that professional players at any level would have to play on a field in such poor condition.

The game itself was lackluster.  The visiting Somerset Patriots took it to the Bluefish early and often, coasting to a 9-2 win.

We got one final Atlantic League 20th ball that Sean took a picture of.

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After the game, Sean was going after a Bluefish hat, while I went for a lineup card.

I decided to try for Somerset, thinking it would be unlikely to get anything from Bridgeport in their last game.  I knew Somerset manager Brett Jodie would not give me his dugout card, but he had given us the official batting order cards in the past.

I think it was the right game plan, but it didn’t work.  Jodie said he gave the batting order cards to one of his players, so that was that.

Meanwhile, Sean first tried to get a hat from someone in the Bridgeport bullpen.  The problem was, there was only one player left by the end of the game, and he said no.

So we both headed to the Bridgeport dugout, but still had no luck.

I told Sean to be patient, that the players would almost certainly come out again.  And they eventually did, lining up in a concourse area to meet fans and sign autographs.

Sean asked a few players on their way to the concourse without luck before finally some luck with outfielder Daniel Fields, who had played one MLB game with the Tigers two years ago.  Fields told Sean to hang out and he would hook him up.

So Sean (and I) waited, but there were a lot of people waiting to meet the players.  Sean finally went back to ask Fields again, and this time, Fields gave him his hat!

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It was the 5th hat we have gotten from a Minor League player.  The previous hats were two New Hampshire Fisher Cats’ hats, one Connecticut Tigers and one New Britain Bees.

CT Tigers 2 (Sept 5, 2016)

Three of the other hats we have been given

A special thanks to Fields, who certainly did not need to give his hat to Sean.

Farewell, Bridgeport Bluefish and the Ballpark at Harbor Yard!

9/10/17 – A Small Piece of Arizona Made it to Connecticut

Kate was given free tickets and food vouchers for Sunday’s New Britain Bees’ home finale, so it was a no-brainer to go.  And it would get better while we were at the game itself.

It was a beautiful day for baseball and New Britain drew the biggest crowd I’ve seen at a Bees game this season.  Not the 3,625 listed in the box score, but maybe 1,200 people at the game.

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After getting our free lunch and watching a few innings of the game, Sean and I took our usual walk around New Britain Stadium, as we almost always find one or more balls beyond the outfield fence.

We found one pretty quickly, in a wet area behind the right field wall.  Sean immediately noticed it had just red laces, which is unusual at Bees games as they have almost always used red-blue-laced Atlantic League balls.

I picked it up, and it was an Arizona League baseball!

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That probably wouldn’t be overly exciting to just about anyone other than Kate, Sean and I.  It so happens that for at least a year, we have needed just one ball complete our collection of current MiLB league baseball, and that ball was an Arizona League ball!

The good news/bad news is that the ball was wet, but not saturated.  It dried out fairly quickly, but the ink on the ball has become fainter now that it is dry: You have to look real close to see that it is an Arizona League ball.  But we will take it.

As an aside, never knowing what you might find when ballhawking is a major part of the fun.  Here are some of the unique baseballs we have found in surprising places:

  • 2011 MLB ASG ball at a Brown @ Central Connecticut State baseball game two years ago.  Brown had a bucket of them as practice balls.
  • Blue Jays’ 40th Anniversary baseball at a Junior College baseball game in Connecticut in 2017.  The ball, pretty beat up, was beyond one of the chain link outfield fences all by itself
  • Pecos League baseballs: The University of Hartford’s baseball team uses them as practice balls.

Back to the game, the Skeeters broke a 3-3 tie with three runs in the 7th and added 1 in the 9th for a 7-3 win.

Sean wanted to try for Sugar Land’s lineup card.  We tried twice two weeks ago: he got shut down once and the second time, he got the card but the Skeeters were using a Bees’ card since they had run out on a longer-than-expected road trip.

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Sean waiting to ask for Sugar Land’s lineup card

Sugar Land’s acting manager Raffy Montalvo initially told Sean “no” because he had some notes on the card, but when I explained the situation, Montalvo was nice enough to copy his notes (pitch counts for his 5 pitchers) and give Sean the card.

Sean was also thrown a ball by a Sugar Land player while waiting at the dugout.  It will likely be our last “Atlantic League 20th Season ball.”  It’s been a lot of fun having a commemorative ball being used in our backyard.

Meanwhile, Kate had planned to ask New Britain manager Stan Cliburn for his lineup card, but another boy got there first.  That’s fine, we have gotten more than our share of Bees’ lineup cards the last two seasons.

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2017: 35 lineup cards (20 dugout/bullpen; 15 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup” card)

Lifetime: 157 lineup cards (107 dugout/bullpen; 47 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)

Leagues: MLB: American League; National League. MiLB: International League (AAA); Pacific Coast League (AAA); Eastern League (AA); Southern League (AA); Carolina League (A); New York-Penn League (A), including 2017 NYPL ASG. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association; Frontier League. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).

 

 

9/4/17 – Ace’s Wild

You are probably thinking that the headline is grammatically incorrect.  It almost always would be, but not in this case.

“Ace” is Ace Adams, pitching coach for the Connecticut Tigers.  And Ace was wild during the first game of yesterday’s Tigers-Brooklyn Cyclones doubleheader at Dodd Stadium in Norwich.

The scene: Top 6, Tigers down 2-1.  Cyclones have a runner on second base with one out.

The Brooklyn hitter fouls a ball off down the left field line, so we are watching that.  Next thing we know, Tigers manager Gerald Laird is in front of home plate umpire Kyle Nichol, with Adams right behind him.

As it turns out, Laird was running interference for Adams, who was hot.  We were sitting behind the Connecticut dugout and don’t know what precipitated this.  Adams was thrown out of the game, presumably before he ran out of the dugout onto the field.

After a couple minutes of jawing with Nichols, the fun began with Adams returning to the dugout only to start throwing stuff on the field.  First was a clipboard with some papers flying around.  Next came his hat, a towel and finally an empty, or mostly empty, water bottle.

It was fairly mild in terms of coach/manager tantrums.  Even Laird appeared to be smiling at one point during the event.

I wish I had been quicker to get my phone out to take pictures or video.  By the time I did, Adams was essentially done.

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In the picture above, you can see some of the papers, towel and navy blue hat thrown by Adams.  The umpires and Laird appear to be watching Adams in the dugout.

In the picture below, Laird and a bat boy are cleaning up the mess left by Adams.

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Adams apparently headed into the clubhouse, and that was it.

It was Adams, coincidentally, who gave Sean his Tigers’ hat after Connecticut’s final game of the season last year, which was incredibly nice of him.

CT Tigers 3 (Sept 5, 2016)

Flashback to Labor Day 2016.  Sean wearing the CT Tigers hat given him by Tiger pitching coach Ace Adams

The Tigers had a couple chances late but were unable to tie the game, losing 2-1, and seeing their slim playoff hopes end.

I tried for the Cyclones’ lineup card after the game, while Sean tried for Connecticut.  We both failed, at least initially.  Brooklyn manager and former New York Met Edgardo Alfonzo ignored my request for his lineup card and apparently took it with him.

Sean didn’t have any better luck at the Connecticut dugout, but I took a look from the far end of the dugout and could still see the lineup card.

Long story short, we had to wait until shortly before game two of the doubleheader when Laird came back to the dugout, but he did give us the game one card.

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The card is clearly black-and-white, either a copy of a blank card with the date and players printed afterward, or it was just printed using black-only ink.  Whatever the case, it’s a bit disappointing, but still better than leaving with nothing.

2017: 34 lineup cards (19 dugout/bullpen; 15 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup” card)

Lifetime: 156 lineup cards (106 dugout/bullpen; 47 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)

Leagues: MLB: American League; National League. MiLB: International League (AAA); Pacific Coast League (AAA); Eastern League (AA); Southern League (AA); Carolina League (A); New York-Penn League (A), including 2017 NYPL ASG. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association; Frontier League. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).