Above: Caleb Thielbar, a member of the independent St. Paul Saints in 2010, now pitching for the New Britain Rock Cats in the Minnesota farm system (Photo courtesy MiLB.com). Front: Josh Colafemina of the Quebec Capitales. (Photo courtesy le Soleil)
Heading into Memorial Day weekend, independent baseball leagues across the country have all thrown out their first pitch for the 2012 season. Independent leagues are circuits unaffiliated with Major League teams and/or their Minor League affiliates. Currently, there are six professional independent baseball leagues – the American Association, Atlantic League, Can-Am League, Frontier League, North American League and the Pecos League. Among all of the players in those leagues, there are 26 with ties to teams in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.
Jeff Vincent (Watertown 2004), Laredo Lemurs
Jacob Wiley (Watertown 2006, 2008), Kansas City T-Bones
Dan DeGeorge (Glens Falls 2007), Somerset Patriots
Derrick Gordon (Amsterdam 2004), Sugarland Skeeters
Shea Harris (Saratoga 2005), Camden Riversharks
Alex Bardeguez (Little Falls 2006), Newark Bears
Keith Brachold (Schenectady 2002), Rockland Boulders
Josh Colafemina (Amsterdam 2004), Quebec Capitales
Chris Cox (Watertown 2010), Quebec Capitales
Quentin Davis (Amsterdam 2003), Newark Bears
Will Hassett (Glens Falls 2006, 2008), Rockland Boulders
Tony Patane (Amsterdam 2009), Worcester Tornadoes
Rye Davis (Elmira 2008), Windy City Thunderbolts
Brian Erie (Elmira 2010), Lake Erie Crushers
Ryan Ferguson (Elmira 2009-2010), Joliet Slammers
Ken Gregory (Glens Falls 2007), Southern Illinois Miners
Sean Gregory (Amsterdam 2008), Florence Freedom
Brian Heere (Watertown 2007), Traverse City Beach Bums
Matt Howard (Cooperstown 2010), Traverse City Beach Bums
Sam Mahoney (Watertown 2008), Gateway Grizzlies
Ryan Quigley (Watertown 2007), Southern Illinois Miners
Keli’i Zablan (Watertown 2008), River City Rascals
NORTH AMERICAN LEAGUE
Derek Marshall (Wat. 2008/Amsterdam 2009), Forth Worth Cats
Blake Nation (Glens Falls 2008), Fort Worth Cats
Jordan Stouffer (Albany 2010), White Sands Pup Fish
Andrew Wall (Elmira 2010), Alpine Cowboys
Current affiliated players Caleb Thielbar (Little Falls 2007) and David Valesente (Elmira 2007) used their success in the independent leagues in 2011 to sign contracts with Major League teams. Thielbar began last season with the American Association’s Saint Paul Saints. The 2009 Milwaukee Brewers draft pick struck out 62 batters in 49.2 innings and went 3-3 over 43 appearances. Before the end of the season, Thielbar was signed by the Minnesota Twins. He closed out 2011 with the Advanced-A Fort Myers Miracle of the Florida State League. Caleb pitched in a Spring Training game for the Twins two months ago and he is currently with the Double-A New Britain Rock Cats of the Eastern League.
David Valesente (Elmira 2007) went undrafted out of Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) University. The four-year starter for the Hawks of the Atlantic-10 finished his college career with a .323 batting average, 216 hits and 124 RBI. David graduated in 2010. He began his professional career last summer with the Alpine Cowboys of the Pecos League. David was a Pecos League all-star. He belted out 40 hits in 43 games and compiled a .292 batting average. Three months ago, the Lansing, N.Y., native was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates. David is expected to play for the New York-Penn League’s State College Spikes beginning next month.
NOTES: Josh Colafemina (Amsterdam 2004) has been a part of three straight Can-Am League championship teams with the Quebec Capitales. Les Capitales have advanced to the league championship series in each of his four seasons with the team…Keith Brachold (Schenectady 2002) was a Can-Am League all-star last season with the Brockton Rox. Brachold, now with the Can-Am’s Rockland Boulders, drove in 80 runs and launched 18 home runs a season ago…Like David Valesente and Caleb Thielbar, Keli’i Zablan (Watertown 2008) parlayed independent league success into a contract with a Major League team. Zablan won a Frontier League championship with the River City Rascals in 2010. He was signed after the season by the Seattle Mariners. The Ewa Beach, Hawaii, native spent all of the 2011 campaign in the Mariners farm system with Class-A Clinton and Advanced-A High Desert.