Lowell, Massachusetts is the likely landing place for former Shepherd first baseman Nathan Minnich’s debut in professional baseball.
Lowell was once in the forefront of the nation’s textile industry. Factories for workers as young as eight and nine years of age furnished New England families with jobs in their sweat shops.
The textile industry has long faded from the landscape in New England.
But Lowell remembers its significance in the town’s past by calling those years to mind with its short-season Rookie League team in the New York-Penn League.
Massachusetts is not New York nor Pennsylvania . . . but the Lowell Spinners are a long-time member of the New York-Penn League just the same.
Minnich, the newly minted Tino Martinez Award (symbolic of the nation’s best NCAA Division II player) recipient from Shepherd, was the eighth-round selection by the Boston Red Sox in the recent major league draft of amateur free agents. Minnich was the 271st player taken overall in the draft.
Speculation has centered around where Minnich will begin his professional career. It could be that the 6-foot-3, 240-pound first baseman reports to Lowell and plays for the Spinners.
The New York-Penn League is labeled a short-season league because it doesn’t open until June 18 and completes play around Labor Day.
Also in the New York-Penn League is Aberdeen, an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Aberdeen is just north of Baltimore and has the nickname “IronBirds”. That team is owned by Cal Ripken, Jr. and is the closest city in distance in the league when focusing on the Eastern Panhandle.
Aberdeen expects another season of complete sellouts. The IronBirds have had sellouts (6,560 a game) of their entire seasons since coming into existence.
Lowell’s only trip to Aberdeen comes in late August and has the Spinners facing the IronBirds on August 21, 22, and 23 with all three games to start at 7:05 p.m.
The other teams in the Rookie league are Williamsport, Vermont, Tri-City, Staten Island, State College, Mahoning Valley, Jamestown, Hudson Valley, Connecticut, Brooklyn, Batavia, and Auburn. Staten Island averaged 5,664 fans a game last year. Brooklyn averaged 7,002 and Lowell averaged 4,645 per game in 2011.
Minnich will be 22 years old this summer. With four years of college baseball behind him, he could begin things in Lowell and then be advanced ahead before the entire group of minor league seasons is completed. If the Red Sox like what they see, Minnich could go to an Instructional League in either Arizona or Florida in the fall.
A rung up Boston’s minor league ladder is Greenville (South Carolina) in the South Atlantic League. The South Atlantic League is the home of the Hagerstown Suns.
Greenville does not visit Hagerstown again this season.
June 18 is the likely starting date of Minnich’s professional career. And the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League are his likely team when his games-for-pay life begins.