November, for the most part, was pretty easy. Major League Baseball’s postseason gives you a lot of innings for your buck, and it takes a good two to three weeks to get over the buzz of the World Series, come to terms with the fact that the season’s over.
But once Thanksgiving’s out of the way, it really hits you–there’s no baseball, and there won’t be, for quite some time. For some, the place that baseball had in their lives all Spring and Summer is taken in the Fall and Winter by hoops or football, in their pro or college incarnations. But I’m a baseball-only sports addict–by mid-December, I usually find myself trying to Christmas shop while going through withdrawal.
For the dedicated baseball junkie, the methadone clinics that can tide us over are the various winter baseball leagues. Baseball’s going on, in places like Arizona, Hawaii, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic pretty much continuously from the end of the World Series until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.
Getting to enjoy or even follow winter baseball can be a challenge. The official minor league baseball site, for example, will list a minor leaguer’s current winter league stats on his player page, and will list the day’s games on the site’s scoreboard–but there are no links for winter league teams, standings, or boxscores, aside from the Arizona Fall League. Baseball America, which used to be the resource for winter league info in the pre-Internet days, now only has coverage of the Arizona and Hawaiian leagues in its “Winter” section, ignoring the latin american leagues, so far.
Despite the fact that MLB.tv carried last year’s Caribbean World Series, MLBAM isn’t carrying video of any Winter League action, so far (the exceptions being the Arizona Fall League’s championship game, and the MLB/Japan exhibitions last month). If your cable or satellite provider carries ESPN Deportes, you’re in luck–they regularly carry Dominican, Venezuelan and Mexican Winter League games. Sadly, Deportes hasn’t reached the level of ubiquity of the Worldwide Leader’s other offerings, and is not carried by a large number of cable systems, even in areas with big Hispanic populations–like New York freakin’ City.
Frustrated in my efforts to find baseball action on the ‘net or the tube, I started looking forward to my upcoming trip to Puerto Rico. Sadly, it’s harder to get information on the Puerto Rican Winter League than it is to discover the Pentagon’s top-secret war plans. I’m both bilingual and more than a little bit obsessive-compulsive, so I eventually found a website that sells tickets, but you have to wonder if a lot of sports fans looking for an easy baseball fix wouldn’t just throw up their hands when a couple of simple google searches won’t reveal updated team websites or ticket information.
Still, for the diligent, there are sources of information on the winter leagues. Here at BP, Carlos Lugo does a great job of covering the Dominican Winter League beat. The Dominican, Mexican, and Venezuelan leagues all have well-maintained web presences, as do many of their teams. The sites are almost all in Spanish, but they have boxscores and stat sheets that usually don’t need much translation. What’s more I haven’t given up on the idea of catching some winter league action over the next couple of months, and when I do, there will be special editions of Prospectus Game of the Week forthcoming. Watch this space for more details.