I am a huge fan of unaffiliated, or independent, professional baseball. This is, no doubt, rooted in a heavy anti-authority streak that causes me to want to root against the Goliath of organized baseball that is Major League Baseball and it’s less Goliathy but still damn humongous son, Minor League Baseball. Well, not root against, that’s a bad way of phrasing it because baseball is still baseball. I don’t root for the success of MLB or MiLB because they aren’t organizations I feel comfortable rooting for. All the same, I do find myself rooting for the success of the Frontier League or the Australian Baseball League because they are the little engines that want to. Pro ball is pro ball, and I get just as much entertainment from watching the Milwaukee Milkmen and St. Paul Saints match up as I do the Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins.
I’ve been paying close attention to unaffiliated ball for some time now and even I will admit that it is hard to follow. Some leagues make it easier than others, and some writers/reporters cover unaffiliated ball at a level where it becomes much easier to follow. That isn’t always the case though. Some leagues are terrible at promoting themselves. Other leagues suffer because there aren’t any reporters/writers covering those leagues who have made themselves known enough to attract anything beyond a local audience. There are other reasons as well, but I want people to know that unaffiliated leagues exist and there are ways to follow them.
What follows next is the first in a series of articles breaking down the people you want to follow if you have an interest in unaffiliated baseball, certain players who have found their way to unaffiliated leagues, or are someone who soaks up baseball no matter what. I’ve broken down the people to follow into regions and then finally by country. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and if there is someone on here that you feel I am missing then, please, let me know.
First up on the docket is the region of Australasia.
AJ Mithen – @AJMithen
AJ writes mainly for the official ABL website. That doesn’t exactly make his work easy to find because the ABL is pretty bad about promoting their own stories. However, during season play his Twitter feed is a good resource for the happenings around the ABL.
David Penrose – @David_Penrose
David also writes mainly for the official ABL website. However, his Twitter feed is also very active and in or out of season he is a good follow for keeping up on the happenings in the ABL.
China Baseball League
Will – @ChineseBangqiu
The CBL is, well, a bit of a mystery. They have no website, as far as I can tell, nor do they have a Twitter. They do exist, I’ve seen pictures and the like, but they are a very hard league to find information on, for obvious reasons. The one exception is Will, who is a fan who has a website with more information on the league than you will find anywhere else. His Twitter feed is also a great source of information, with regular updates on the league, its players, and a general window into a league that sees no need to promote itself outside of China.
Baseball Challenge League – @bcl_staff
Farm Championship Game
Japan Women’s Baseball League (Website in English) – @JWBL_official
Nippon Professional Baseball (Website in English) – @npb
Shikoku Island League Plus – @Shikoku_IL_Plus
Jim Allen – @JballAllen
Jim has been covering baseball for years now, with his main area of focus being NPB. On his website, he does a daily game and news recap for NPB, including tidbits from the often hard to find info on NPB farm teams from the Western League and Eastern League. He writes regular columns for Kyodo News as well as feature-length articles on his personal website that are of great value. If you are thinking about digging deeper into NPB then Jim is an absolute must follow.
Jason Coskrey – @JCoskrey
Another American expat who has been covering NPB for a few years now. Jason writes regularly for The Japan Times, and his Twitter feed is chock full of game info, recaps, live thoughts on games, interviews, and more. Jason represents yet another absolute must follow if you have any interest in NPB.
NPB Reddit – @NPB_Reddit
I’m not sure who exactly runs the NPB Reddit website or Twitter, but they are responsible for much of the information I gather about NPB. They do a tremendous job of aggregating articles about NPB, produce their own stats that are easily available, and their Twitter account gives live game accounts and suffers right alongside every other Tokyo Yakult Swallows fan.
Kazuto Yamazaki – @Kazuto_Yamazaki
I’m including Kaz here, not because I know him, but because he is easily the best mixture you will find of thoughts and opinions on NPB and the various other Japanese unaffiliated leagues. The other Japan centered folk I have mentioned are great follows, but they pretty much exclusively focus on NPB. With Kaz, you will get NPB thoughts, but also the occasional ruminations on a BCL or SILP game. He’s also devoted a majority of his writing at Baseball Prospectus to covering NPB, so there’s no way to go wrong with Kaz.
There is baseball in North Korea, including that which is professional in nature from what I have heard from some old friends who spent time in or near the country. I just can’t give you any info about the baseball taking place in the upper of the Koreas, or people to follow, because there isn’t any and there aren’t any.
Sung Min Kim – @sung_minkim
My first exposure to the KBO was through stumbling upon Sung’s Twitter profile. It was a great discovery because Sung is a wealth of knowledge and information on baseball in Korea. Whether it’s his regular work at FanGraphs or his occasional features for other websites, Sung has become the person to seek out and follow if you’re looking for KBO analysis.
Dan Kurtz – @MyKBO
Through Sung I found out about Dan, and boy am I glad I did. In terms of straight information about the KBO, Dan is the be all and end all. Player movements, game results, highlights, pitching matchups, and so much more is available on Dan’s website and sprinkled throughout his Twitter feed. I can honestly say that without Dan, his website, and his amazing phone app I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the KBO in anything resembling a knowledgeable fashion.
Jeeho Yoo – @Jeeho_1
Unfortunately, Jeeho isn’t active on Twitter anymore, but he still writes regularly for South Korea’s Yonhap News. He covers the KBO and Korean players in other leagues. I’m not super familiar with Jeeho, but in scanning through a number of his articles he is knowledgeable and provides news updates as well as thoughtful analysis and opinions on performances throughout the league.
Rob – @GOCPBL
If one were to be called the Godfather of bringing others into Taiwanese baseball it would be Rob. I consider myself lucky to know Rob and rest easy in the knowledge that when I need to know something about my favorite foreign league, the CPBL, he can answer my questions. His website is invaluable to both the present day Taiwan baseball scene and to years past. Rob’s website does fantastic work with stats, and Rob’s Twitter feed is an endless resource for any and all baseball being played in Taiwan.
Tom – @Chapeltom
I just started reading Tom’s weekly CPBL recaps a month or so ago, but they have already become indispensable. In one post he details the past week’s action from every team’s vantage point and hits all the biggest stories of the week as well as what to watch for moving forward. His Twitter feed tends to focus mainly on his favorite team, the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions, but overall is still a worthwhile follow for anyone interested in someone who breaks the CPBL down regularly.
Lead photo courtesy of RunBIRD-23 – flickr