Jesse Hoorlebeke Independent All-Star

The independent leagues are to baseball what the appeals courts are to the judiciary system. If you don't like a decision rendered in your case, take it there and see if you get a better ruling the next time around. There are six such leagues now outside what is termed "organized ball" and all are liberally stocked with players who have been released by major league organizations.

Some go back and and forth on a regular basis. Baseball America just released its Independent Leagues All-Star team and the the first baseman, for example, is Jessie Hoorelbeke. You remember Jessie, whose younger brother Casey pitched for Las Vegas this summer. Like Casey, Jessie is hulkish huge. Put some body paint on him and he could be one one of those comic book heroes proliferating movie screens these days.

But Jessie leaves the show business side of the family to his dad Peter who, using the stage name "Peter Rivera" is the lead for the rock group Rare Earth. What Jessie does is hit home runs in bunches.

He did that while in the Dodger system but he was 25 when he signed so it was a situation of having to rush him through the system. When he stopped doing that, he was released. He's still very much doing it in indy ball, though, making that all-star unit by sending 33 out for Bridgeport in the Atlantic League.

Since first being released by the Dodgers Jessie got several shots at returning to organized ball, signing at various times with the Cardinals and Cubs among others only to get his release each time. So, it's back to the indy route to appeal again.

It's not like this is is his only hope in life. He's a trained computer programmer but baseball's what he loves to do. Still, he's 30 now, ready for an AARP card as far as big league teams are concerned.

Not independent ball, though. There it seems to be never too late. Darryl Bronkly hit .400 for Calgary in the Northern League and he's 38. He once had a Dodger trial in spring training a few years back but never made it to the regular season before being released. He's never had a day in the big leagues, either, for that matter.

He's on that all-star team. Ivan Nacarrata isn't although he compiled a .321 mark for Quebec in the Can-Am League. Ivan began the year in the Dodger organization, signing with them after being released by the Mets as an infielder. The Dodgers made him a catcher but when sent to Ogden they were so crowded at that position the only way he got some playing time was at second base. Got into a few games, then was cut so nothing for it but to try indy ball.

His teammate at Quebec, Eddie Lantigua, was a third baseman in the Dodger chain at one time. He was once the Independent Player of the Year but here he is still hoping. Still hitting, too as his .312 mark this year demonstrates.

So, for that matter, is infielder Nelson Castro, who compiled a 323 mark as Brinkley's teammate with Calgary. He played for Jacksonville a few seasons ago.

Like all big league teams the Dodgers regularly scout such leagues and every so often pick up a player to see if he can fit in. And that as much as anything keeps them going onward. That and a love of the game for the pay in such leagues is barely enough for sustenance, especially if you have a family as so many do.

And, if like Hoorlebeke the Elder you can hit enough balls out of sight, somebody may beckon and you'll get that life renewed. Maybe even Jessie at 30 will begin a new adventure.

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