Let's Hear It for TD Bank Ballpark & Chien Ming Wang

Bragging rights can come in many forms.

The Atlantic League found this out again in recent days, first when Somerset's TD Bank Ballpark, which annually lures well over 5,000 fans a game, was crowned as the Best Ballpark in Independent Baseball by the website Ballpark Digest, and then via an elite performance by a star major leaguer, the type the league likes to have on its pitching mounds when a player is trying to regain top status.

The crowning glory for TD Bank Ballpark probably was that it won in fan voting over CHS Field the newly-opened $64 million playground of the respected St. Paul (MN) Saints of the American Association.

Chien Ming Wang was so outstanding as a major leaguer that he won 19 games in back-to-back seasons for the New York Yankees in 2006 and 2007.  He has a rare career winning percentage of .646 (62-34) in the major leagues although he has won only eight games at that level since '09.

Now 35, the Taiwanese native indicated he has more gas in the tank when he debuted with Freedom Division leader Southern Maryland Thursday days after being released out of Triple-A by Atlanta and took a 3-0 shutout into the ninth inning against York.  He settled for 8.2 innings and a 3-2 victory that kept the Blue Crabs' lead at five games with 11 to play in the first half of the split season.   It was the type of performance that could well have pitching-challenged major league clubs looking in his direction.

Chapman Missed All-Star Game Because of a Promotion

Jaye Chapman missed the Class AA Southern League All-Star Game with good reason this week after being selected to represent Milwaukee's farm club in Biloxi, MS.  The 2014 Bridgeport reliever (2-3, 3.86 in 50 appearances) had been promoted to the Brewers' top minor league team in Colorado Springs where the 28-year-old has saved four games in five opportunities and struck out 12 Triple-A hitters (one walk) in nine innings.  Chapman appeared in 14 games for the Chicago Cubs in 2012.

From Atlantic to Managing at Age of 32

Kyle Haines will not turn 33 until late next month although he has a decade of middle infield playing experience which topped out at Class AA and included significant time on Atlantic League diamonds from 2009-13.  The San Francisco Giants have given him an opportunity to manage their Northwest League team, Salem-Keizer, at Keizer, OR, which is 3-5 in the early going.   

"I can easily go back and relate to what they're (players) going through" in the short-season league that started play last week, Haines told in Salem.  "Whether they think the same way or not, I don't know, but I can definitely relate to them a lot easier than a lot of people probably could.  I think that's (age) a huge advantage.

"I definitely feel like I'm prepared.  People look at me and I look young, and I am young in coaching terms, but at the same time I feel like I've prepared as good as I can.  I've been blessed to have been around so many good people that have helped teach me."

Haines had well over 200 games combined for Camden, York and Lancaster, most recently with the Barnstormers two years ago.

Coming and Going

Onetime Southern Maryland hurler Jarrett Grube is back in affiliated baseball, having recently been signed by Cleveland.  He won his first start for Columbus, OH (Triple-A) with a five-inning outing in which he struck out seven and allowed only three hits and two solo home runs.

On the flip side, utilityman Mark Minicozzi (Camden) was released out of Triple-A by Washington and recent Somerset pitcher Mickey Storey was dropped from Class AA by the Los Angeles Dodgers, then quickly re-signed by the Patriots.

Previously the chief spokesman for Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about the Atlantic League and Independent Baseball since 2003.  He will be a frequent contributor to this site as well as writing his blog,

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