Not to sound cocky or anything, but I think my journey to the big leagues shows kids that perseverance pays off. It shows that a good work ethic can help you accomplish anything.
There are independent league teams all over the place now. There are teams outside of Chicago. There are teams in California. They are everywhere in between. I played a couple of years in Evansville, Ind., a year in Sioux Falls, S.D., and a year and a half in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
You have to take a bus everywhere. Some of the stadiums are nice, but some are outdated and in need of improvement. You get anywhere from a couple hundred fans to a few thousand at any given game. There's good talent there. The lifestyle can be rough, though, with the travel and pay. You really have to love the game to be able to stick it out in the independent leagues.
I think that to most of the younger players in the independent leagues, the thought of the Major Leagues seems very far away. In essence, it's really not. I got picked up in 2003 and was in the big leagues in 2004. As it turned out, I was just a year away.
It just depends on the player and his makeup. I think a lot of it has to do with how hard they want to work at it and how long they are willing to stick it out. Anything's possible.
Some Major League teams are starting to scout the independent leagues very well now. Some of the gems that get picked up by big league teams add to the core of those teams, which in turn leads teams to invest more time and money into scouting efforts there.
The independent leagues are starting to get recognized more. I believe more and more guys will get picked up from those leagues now.
The independent leagues may be the best option for those guys who come out of high school undrafted or who are not going to college. That's the route I had to take.
It worked out for me. Nobody really looked at me out of high school. I played at a junior college. I didn't get much attention there, either. I still wasn't drafted after college, so I went to the Frontier League as a free agent.
Left-hander George Sherrill was a key ingredient in one of the American League's top bullpens last season, pitching in a personal-best 72 games and compiling a 2-4 record, a 4.28 ERA. The six-foot, 225-pound native of Memphis made his debut with the M's in 2004.
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