The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Sports

April 7, 2014

George Bremer: Spring brings renewed hope

Bobby Abreu laced a line drive single into right-center field Thursday night. Not really a noteworthy feat for a 17-year Major League Baseball veteran with 2,437 career hits.

But the venue was unique — Cashman Field in Las Vegas, home of the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s.

Abreu, who hasn't played in the majors since 2012 with the Dodgers, later reached second base after a wild pitch. An infielder for the visiting Fresno Grizzlies walked over moments later and took the opportunity to shake Abreu's hand.

This is a sight only possible in baseball. The NHL has a robust minor-league system, but veteran players don't often appear in it. The NBA's developmental league is exclusively for young players, and the NFL has no formal minor-league structure.

Aging baseball stars, however, routinely hang around at the Triple-A level hoping for one more shot at The Show. It allows the next generation to test itself against players who already have been to the mountaintop and learn how they measure up.

Three former Madison County high school stars will continue doing just that this summer.

Former Pendleton Heights star Brock Huntzinger went 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 13 saves last season at two stops in the Red Sox's organization. He signed with the Orioles as a minor-league free agent during the offseason and opened this year at Triple-A Norfolk.

If he isn't called up to the big club first, Huntzinger will make a stop at Victory Field in Indianapolis from May 9-12.

Anderson's Michael Earley also got a taste of Triple-A last season in the White Sox's organization. He opened the season at Double-A Birmingham, where he collected a Southern League championship ring alongside his teammates before an exhibition game with Chicago.

Earley's younger brother, Nolan, hit .310 in his first professional season with the White Sox's rookie league team in Bristol, Va., and looks to have a bright future in the organization.

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