Former New York Mets outfielder Lastings Milledge signed a contract to play for the Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers this season. While Milledge spent 115 games with New York, 171 with Pittsburgh, 145 with Washington and two with the Chicago White Sox, he played in 255 games for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball is a league of second chances.
Minor League Baseball teams are affiliated with Major League Baseball teams. New Jersey’s Trenton Thunder are a New York Yankees’ farm team, while the Lakewood Blue Claws are affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies. These major league clubs supply the players and coaches to staff the minor league teams. If you go to see them, you’ll be able to watch a handful of players the big league squads consider as prospects as well as a larger number of “organization guys” that are needed to complete the roster.
Each year, some of the “prospects” lose their shine and some of the “organization guys” get pushed out by someone younger or more talented. Independent baseball teams like the ones in the Atlantic League give these displaced players another shot to prove their worth to one of the 30 big league team. Sometimes, it works out — before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he pitched in the playoffs in 2016, Rich Hill spent a summer with the Long Island Ducks. More often, guys just get to keep playing for an extra season or two.
The Milwaukee Brewers have released former New York Mets pitcher Pat Misch from a minor league contract to allow him to pursue an opportunity in Japan with the Orix Buffaloes, the team announced via Twitter.
Edit: YakyuBaka reports that the Orix Buffaloes have announced an agreement with Misch, with a press conference scheduled for Feb. 24.
Misch, now 34, last pitched in the majors with the Mets from 2009-2011. Since leaving the Mets, he has pitched for two area teams, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Triple-A, Philadelphia Phillies organization in 2012) and the Lancaster Barnstormers (independent, in 2015.)
Misch has also played in more exotic locales, such as Santurce in the Puerto Rican Winter League in 2014 and Lamigo in the Chinese Professional Baseball League last season.
Baseball America‘s John Manuel spoke with Misch about the memorable way he finished the season. Misch appeared in four of the seven games of the championship series, and threw a no-hitter in the final game.
“They asked me after the game if I could start Game Seven,” he said. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I couldn’t sleep that night. My body felt great; my arm felt great. I just kept thinking, there’s no way we’re losing this game. I had no thought to pace myself. I just felt so good.”
“Absolutely, it was the best game I’ve ever pitched.”
It’s going to be tough to top that, but I hope Misch continues to enjoy success in 2016.