500 Non-Roster Invitees

There are over 500 "non roster invitees" in major league spring training camps in Florida and Arizona fighting for a precious few spots on opening day rosters. About 25 per cent of the non roster players are up and coming minor leaguers still in their baseball infancy and according to the rules not required to be placed on the protected 40 man roster or else be eligible for free agency.

Players like the Dodgers Joel Hanrahan who will get a close look in Vero Beach but more than likely will wind up in Las Vegas for most of 2006.

Perhaps 75 of the other non roster invitees are almost guaranteed to be in the big leagues when roster protected players with options remaining get sent to triple or double A teams for further seasoning.

Players like the Dodgers newly acquired Ramon Martinez, a spare infielder, who can play part time while future players like Willy Aybar get a chance to play everyday in Vegas.

Maybe a hundred of the nonroster invitees would have to have a player in the big leagues break a leg, God forbid, to have a realistic chance to play in the bigs - players like veteran up and down third baseman Chris Truby who would have to have injury sideline Bill Mueller.

There are a whole bunch of veteran non roster invitees like the former Dodgers catcher Ken Huckaby who have been through the experience multiple times, who are almost certain to be back in the minors, but who for a week or a month will get called up during the year.

Huckaby was a young up and coming player at 20, playing every day in Vero Beach - at least until the June amateur draft when the Dodgers took a lefty hitting catcher by the name of Darrin Fletcher. Huckaby was way ahead of Fletcher for the first month, but the two were platooned. By the end of that class A year,

Fletcher was on the fast track to a big league career that lasted seven or eight good seasons. He's been retired for several years now, but Huckaby, now past 35, is a baseball lifer with more ups and downs than a yoyo.

Huckaby will be a coach or manager in a few short years and a name we will hear in the future when Fletcher's is forgotten.

Many of the good managers were not sure fire players or considered "major leaguers", guys like the Orioles Earl Weaver and the Dodgers current manager Grady Little.

There are a bunch of former Dodgers players in the non roster invitees around big league camps: Terry Mullholand, Marquis Grissom (Cubs), Matt Herges (Marlins) Jose Lima (Mets), Terry Adams, Gio Carrara, Jose Hernandez and Mike Edwards (Pirates), Andy Ashby (Padres), Pedro Astacio (Nationals) and a dozen or so others.

When opening day around April 1 comes around, some will be wearing big league uniforms, some will be back in the minors, a handful will be kept dangling on the "injured list" but a larger number of once familiar names will be consigned to unwilling and unwelcome retirement, leaving a game meant for boys and headed for who knows what.

For the older players, it will be a short wait before big league retirement checks can start. For others, it will be time to belatedly start some kind of career where they can start working on a retirement plan. For non US citizens, and there are bunches, it means a return to the islands of their youth.

The struggle of these players in the later categories to hang on to the easy life is truly interesting. Even in the early days of spring training, there are announcements of a player who has left camp perhaps for the last time, like the one about former ace reliever Troy Percival.

Dodger Blue Notes-- The last financial link of the Fox empire with the Dodgers ended this week when a piece of Boston harbor real estate was transferred. It was a short venture into big time American sports for the Murdoch empire, a venture that was frankly a loser for everybody all around. …With the addition of Bill Lajoie as a front office advisor, the Dodgers lack only a fourth senior citizen of 70 or older (Lajoie, Scully and Lasorda) to be able to field a Dodgers septuagenarian entry into bridge tournaments. …Derek Lowe and Odalis Perez threw Wednesday and looked strong. They will see their first action Sunday. …An open tryout at Dodgertown drew 50 hopeful prospects, including one from Japan. None were signed but three will be followed up by the Dodgers. …Jamie Jarrin will be featured on broadcasts, Charley Steiner and Steve Lyons will do XM radio during the semi-finals and finals of the WBC tournament and Fernando Valenzuela will help coach the Mexican team. …Dodger minor league pitchers and catchers arrive in Dodgertown tomorrow. …The first player move was made Wednesday when OF Tydus Meadows, rehabbing from an operation, was sent to minor league camp, leaving 57 still in competition for the prime 24 spots when the season opens. …L.A. hosts Atlanta Thursday in the first game of the official exhibition season. Brad Penny will start and be followed by Aaron Sele, Lance Carter, Kelly Wunsch, Tim Hamulack and Danys Baez. Friday Brett Tomko will start against Atlanta in Orlando.