Sunday, July 01, 2007

The South Coast League: Two steps up, one step back

The Dugout has been critical of the South Coast League a couple times this season. It's time for a pat on the back.

Slowly but surely the SCL seems to be getting some of its Web issues under control. The Dugout is pleased to announce that the South Georgia Peanuts are currently the league's top team. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, fans couldn't find this information on the league’s site.

In addition, fans can now find up-to-date scores and statistics. It's good to see the league making strides in its accessibility.

The SCL appears to have had its first player signed to an affiliated team’s contract. South Georgia's Jon Zeringue was plucked by Oakland and is expected to report to the A's Class A team in Stockton. Two other SCL players, Macon's Josh Thompson and Bradenton's Tim Bascom, were selected by major league organizations during the recent first year player draft.

To be viable, independent leagues must be able to return a reasonable amount of players to organized baseball. While the short term effect of losing a star player can hurt the team he's leaving, it ultimately raises the level of play in the league. The more players the SCL sends to organized baseball, the better caliber player the league will be able to attract in the future.

The news has not been all good for the SCL, however. The league announced last week it was relocating its Bradenton team to a yet-to-be-determined city for next season. The Juice hoped to play next year in the Pirates spring training complex, but that deal fell through. They’ve already spent the last month playing on the road at other SCL team sites after their temporary deal with Manatee Community College fell apart.

While it's tough for a six-team league to potentially lose one of its franchises, it is certainly not debilitating. The Atlantic League, for example, has been playing the last several years with a travel team called the Road Warriors. Every year they thought that team would be unnecessary, only to see the likes of Nashua and Atlantic City change leagues. It’s a growing pain that is almost unavoidable for a new league.

One other SCL note: Cecil Fielder is now managing the Charlotte team. It will be interesting to see how long this lasts and what affect it has on the Redfish food budget.

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