The Back Stories That Make the Fall League Special

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Of course we would have preferred to watch a game today after taking the 30 minute drive to the Dogs’ home stadium in Glendale, and they did charge us the usual $6 to enter, a dollar for the lineup, and players were warming up on the field when we arrived, but it was not a good sign that the grounds crew was trying to dry out the damp field after yesterday’s all day downpour.

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I should have suspected there would be no game when the scouts section was empty.  Then the announcement came about 10 minutes prior to start time, when the four umps would normally stroll in, that the game had been cancelled due to wet field conditions.  You can bet that if there were a few thousand instead of a few hundred expected for the game, they would have figured out a better way to get the field prepped for play.  But …

… that left just a handful of serious fans and family acquaintances to chit-chat with players as they made their way back to the clubhouse.  Two of those family members were Nicholas and Paul Jannis, two brothers of my generation who seems like a sweet pair of guys with baseball in their blood.

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Nicholas, on your right, is a retired high school teacher who did some scouting for the Phillies.  His brother, Paul, played baseball internationally.  Nicholas and his wife loved baseball so much that they named their son Mickey, knowing the odds were against him in becoming a major league ballplayer.

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But here stands Mickey Jannis, in front of his locker, now property of the New York Mets – and according to pundits potentially going down the same road as R. A. Dickey.  He’ll be 28 years old next month, which makes him the oldest player on the Salt River Rafters, but knuckle ballers can enjoy effective careers well into their ‘30s and even their ‘40s.  Mickey was originally drafted by the Tampa Rays in the 44th round in 2010 but was released in 2011.  Determined to succeed, Mickey elected to pitch for the Lake Erie Crushers of the Independent Frontier League, working behind the scenes to hone his knuckleball.  I’m shortening the whole story, but suffice it to say that his work paid off, and this year has been a whirlwind.  Mickey started the year with the Independent League’s Long Island Ducks where he caught the eye of the Mets organization.  He pitched well enough for their single A club, the St. Lucie Mets, that he was promoted to double A Binghamton after only 8 games, but AA was more of a challenge.  Hence the Fall League for his next test, where he has done well.

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Looking to get an autograph on an action shot we took for our local Met fans, we had no clue that Mickey was Mickey since the players donned their jackets for windy mid 50s Glendale afternoon.  Perhaps we’ll ask Mickey to sign his photo tomorrow afternoon, but signatures by Dad Nick and Uncle Paul already led to an eye-opening conversation that is part of the charm of the Arizona Fall League’s field of dreams.

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About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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