04/13/2011 8:15 AM -
Written by Bob Wirz
Appearances by rookies Tom Wilhelmsen and Aaron Crow, plus a re-appearance by Eric Almonte, who is at the game’s highest level for the first time in eight years, jumped the non-affiliated branch of baseball past the 150 mark in getting its players to the majors.
That is quite a feat in 19 years for the indy game, which many people in the upper ranks poked fun at in those early days in the 1990s before the hundreds of millions of dollars were committed to building new stadiums, and before eight million fans started trekking to independent games annually.
The count, compiled by the Independent Baseball Insider, now stands at 151 players who have been in one or more of the independent leagues and eventually reached the major leagues.
Crow, who seems pretty well entrenched in what Kansas City manager Ned Yost considers the top wave of the Royals bullpen, also became the 35th player whose first professional game was in an independent league (Fort Worth, TX, American Association) to reach the majors. The 24-year-old, pitching about an hour from his Topeka, KS birthplace, [posted] a victory and five shutout innings while working in three of the fast-starting Royals’ first six games. He [had] seven strikeouts [in that span].