This is an exciting time of the year with the baseball playoffs on the horizon, football season starting, and further down the road college and professional hockey starting.

It's also a time to transition for me as a parent as I get my children ready for the upcoming school year. Once my kids are in school and we've settled into the fall season I'll be jump starting my blogging again with New York-Penn League playoffs, college & high school football, and NCAA and pro hockey.

Thanks for supporting my blog. Please take the time to read the previous posts I've done on my blog through the summer.

Here are photos from the game between the Somerset Patriots and Long Island Ducks on August 22, 2014 at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip, NY.

In a game that included seven errors, the Patriots put up six runs in the fifth inning and defeated the Ducks 8-3. 

Former big league pitcher, Mitch Talbot (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Brandon Bantz (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Jeff Dominguez takes a cut (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Cody Puckett makes the play (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Ty Wright (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Corey Smith breaks his bat (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Matt Zielinski (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Edwin Maysonet with a throw to first (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Fehlandt Lentini (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Jeff Dominguez (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Lew Ford (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Bill Hall takes a rip (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Luis Montanez (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Montanez rounding third after his home run (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Adam Donachie (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Brendan Harris makes a throw to first (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Brandon Bantz (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Cody Puckett with a cut (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Damaso Espino (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Play at second (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Puckett tries tot turn two (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Dan Lyons (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Fehlandt Lentini squares to bunt (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Ducks Manager Kevin Baez arguing a call at first (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Adam Bailey (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Bantz with a throw to second (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Joash Brodin (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Former big leaguer, Daryle Ward (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Talbot gets the hook (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Doug Arguello (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Brendan Harris has words with the first base umpire (Photo Credit: Howard Kaplan)

Bill Hall loses it after being ejected from the game (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Jan Vazquez (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Josh Lansford (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Adam Bailey (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Jan Vazquez (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Bob Zimmermann (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Former Minnesota Twin, Juan Rincon (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Fehlandt Lentini (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Evan Crawford (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Jason Lowey (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

The 2014 Albany Dutchmen season is over but it was a memorable one with the teams second consecutive trip to the PGCBL playoffs.

Like many college summer league teams, the Dutchmen will have a hard time retaining most of their players for the 2015 season. Most players in the PGCBL are in their freshman or sophomore years in college and once they get more playing time at the college level their stock usually rises, resulting in them going to other leagues around the country to gain more exposure in hopes of getting drafted and playing professional baseball.

With that being said, here are my top five prospects from the 2014 Albany Dutchmen to watch out for down the road.

#1 - Demetrius Webb (C - Indiana University) - Webb was the best defensive catcher in the PGCBL during the 2014 season. He seems to have to command of the game and his pitching staff. His arm put fear on base-runners eyes as he sniped off runner after runner who took a little much of a lead off a base. Many people would compare him to a young Yadier Molina. While his defensive skills are established, his offensive is still a work in progress. Webb should get a shot to play more at Indiana next spring and establish himself as one of the best catchers in the Big Ten.

Demetrius Webb (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)
#2 - Sean Aspinall (OF - Azuna Pacific University) - Aspinall was the most athletic player on the Dutchmen this season. His stats speak for themselves with a .336 batting average with 26 RBI, and 8 stolen bases. The 5-tool talent also displayed a rocket for an arm in the outfield.
Sean Aspinall (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)
 #3 - Austin Foote (LHP - Indiana University) - Foote was one of the better left-handed relievers in the PGCBL this past season. He's ability to work out of tough situations was impressive. He's composure is well beyond his years. He's still extremely young and can only get better as he pitches more in college.

Austin Foote (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)
#4 - Drew Tolson (RHP - Baylor University) - Tolson won't over power you with his stuff but he knows how to pitch and commands the strike zone.  His off speed pitches can be devastating at times. In 54.1 innings pitched he only allowed 6 walks.

Drew Tolson (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)
#5 - Cam Miller (C/1B - Baylor University) - Miller showed a lo of power this summer with a .350 slugging percentage. Like many of his teammates he is still young and learning the game. Once he learns to hit, his confidence will come and he'll be putting up even better power numbers.

Cam Miller (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

My keeper league team helmet, Halfmoon Howl
The fantasy football season is upon us and that means making my drops for the greatest keeper league ever...The Tri-State Football League.

Here's a cool snippet from the league's website (written by my brother Howie Mansfield) about the history of the league:

"Fantasy football leagues form in various ways. Some are created from a random smattering of national candidates; a few more are fans of one particular team. In those one-time leagues, you pick your players, run the league, win or lose, and walk away.

In a small demographic of leagues, there is something special going on. Keeper leagues are covering America, and their ties are more personally. Everyone knows everyone else somehow. You carry players from year-to-year and you care deeply about your franchise.

The Tri-State Football League was formed by Corey Mansfield, my brother, from a motley crew of sports fans that cover three states - Vermont, New York and California. Corey's idea is now in its fifteenth season, and growing. I have taken over as commissioner for the last five years, continuing the proud tradition that he started.

We don't just play fantasy football, we live it. All of our league owners are dedicated football fanatics, who spend just as much time worrying about their opponent's QB stats as they are on house chores. Well, maybe that's a bad comparison, but they love our league a lot!"

In our current format we keep 17 of the 22 players on our roster, drop 5 and then re-drafted a new 5. With that said here are my drops for the 2014 season:

David Wilson, Running Back - I drafted Wilson a couple years ago with my first pick with the hopes he could be my fantasy savior. He was a quick back with a high ceiling. He also walked into a great situation with the New York Giants. In 2013, he showed glimpses of greatness but a season-ending neck ended any  fantasy value. Fast forward eight months, and Wilson hurt's his neck again...ending his career. This broke my heart, not only as a fantasy owner but as a football fan.

Michael Bush, Running Back - Once a young stud in college Louisville, Bush was hurt in his final season with the Cardinals and his NFL draft stock plummeted. However, the Oakland Raiders took a chance on him in the 4th round of the 2007 NFL Draft (That same season I took a chance on Bush and he's been on my roster ever since) Bush sat out the 2007 season rehabbing his leg but returned in 2008 to rush for 421 years. Over the next four season his fantasy stats increased and hit their height in 2011 when he rushed for 977 years, and 7 TD's. However, the following season he signed with with Chicago Bears as a back-up role to Matt Forte and his career was never the same. Now at the age 30, Bush has no team going into 2014 season. I'm sure he'll eventually get signed but he has no fantasy value.

Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver -  Hill was suppose to be the big down field threat the New York Jets were missing after two trips to the AFC Championship game. Questions lingered about Hill's experience as a receiver since he came from a triple-option offense at Georgia Tech. I still selected him a few years ago hoping he'd be a sleeper. However, he's never lived up to expectations and is always hurt. The Jets reloaded this off season with new receivers and in predominantly running offense Hill has no value.

Stephen Hill at Jets training camp in 2013 (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)

Brandon LaFell, Wide Receiver - LaFell was never a fantasy stud but always put up decent numbers as a filler for "bye weeks." He had a pretty good situation in Carolina with the departure of Steve Smith that could have opened up the door to him being a number one receiver. However, he signed with the New England Patriots in the off season and his currently buried on their depth chart. Unless someone gets hurt, he has no fantasy value.

Chicago, Defense - The Bears defense was on my original 2001 roster but it's time to move on. The Bears organization is all about putting up points and less about preventing them. The team has no pass rush and their safety situation is a mess. In a loaded NFC Central with pass-happy offenses the Bears defense will probably get picked a part. They are nothing more than a bye week filler.

Later this week I'll be posting my current roster with my keeper picks as well as my pre-draft analysis.
On a clear summer evening in Troy, NY at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, Michael Mader makes his way through the crowd of fans to a seat behind home plate: a radar gun in his right hand, and a God given gift for an arm on the other side.

Like many minor league pitchers, the hard-throwing Mader has to chart the progress of his team's pitchers on his off days.

"Do people have season tickets here, or do you think we'll have to move?" Mader asked me about trying to find a seat behind home plate as he stopped to chat with me prior the game.

"I think they do but you should be okay," I replied.

"I'll come back later in the game and we can talk," he said.

Mader and a few of his teammates walked away nearly invisible to the fans surrounding them.  While Mader may be nearly invisible on this night, he'll be highly visible in the future. The Miami Marlins' 3rd round pick from the 2014 MLB Draft is also charting something else: a course to the major leagues.

Mader sits in the dugout prior to his start on August 1, 2014 (Photo Credit: Greg Bessette)
I first met Michael Mader at Duchess Stadium in Wappingers Falls, NY while he was videotaping the Muckdogs' pitchers during his off day against the Hudson Valley Renegades. In an odd coincidence, he sat down a few seats over from my friend and me. At the time I had no idea who he was but my friend started up a conversation with him while I went to get a soda. When I came back I joined in. After the game was over, Mader and I exchanged Twitter handles and parted ways. Over the next few weeks we exchanged messages and set up a time to do an interview.

After the top of the first inning Mader joined me in the stands down the first base line.

"What do you think of this stadium?" I asked Mader as the interview began.

"I can't believe this is a community college's field, we had nothing like this at my junior college," he replied.

Only a couple months ago he was pitching for Chipola College, a junior college in his hometown of Marianna, Florida with a ride to Florida State University all ready for him.

"Wasn't the plan for you to go to Florida State?" I inquired.

"Yes, that was originally the plan. The big thing was I got an offer out of 21st round offer out of high school from the Twins but I knew I wasn't ready. I had a really good freshman year at Chipola College... the coaches really worked with me. The Red Sox were very heavily after me and were going to offer me 5th round spot money but they thought I needed one more year and thought I'd be ready for sure. I thought physically I was ready but I had some downfalls mentally. This past year (at Chipola College) I got hit around a little bit, I needed to focus and get back in the strike zone. I needed to face reality: that was going to happen. After my sophomore year I felt like I was finally ready mentally and physically to make the jump to the professional baseball."

This past June, the Miami Marlins chose Mader as their 3rd round selection (105th overall) in the Major League Baseball Draft.  For Mader and his mother it was something special for him to get drafted by Marlins.

"What did it mean to you to get drafted by the Marlins, since you're from Florida?" I asked.

"It was really cool, it made my mom feel better because she'll be really close. She's only seven hours from Jupiter (FL), seven hours from Greensboro (NC), three from Jacksonville (FL), and five from New Orleans (LA). She's eight hours from Miami but it'll be a few years before we have to worry about that. This is good for her because she's used to going to every game. She was able to make it one game this season in Aberdeen but she's getting adjusted listening to the games on the radio. Also, Jeff Mathis (catcher for Miami Marlins) is from Marianna, Florida so it would be cool to make it there if he's still there and have him catch me."

As our interview progressed along Mader had to get up and head back behind the home plate to continue charting his teammates on the pitchers mound.

"I'll be right back and we can continue this, I just need to go back and chart these guys" said a very humble and apologetic Mader.

A few outs later, Mader shuffled through the crowd and returned to the seat next to me.

"How do you like playing professional baseball?" I asked.

"I'm lovin' it, I'm enjoying every minute of it. The bus rides are kind of a grind and you have to manage when you sleep and eat, but besides that it's been amazing. The fans have been amazing." replied Mader.

"What's the biggest thing you've learned playing professional baseball?" I asked.

"It doesn't really matter how hard you throw like it does in college. I could get away throwin' 91-92... Here the guys hit the ball more and make you pay for it. It really helps if you can throw your change-up, throw your curveball and off speed a lot more and let your defense work. I want to make my change-up a quality second pitch, I want to get a lot of hitters out with that pitch and get ahead with any of the pitches in my arsenal, and have a quality stat line," said Mader.

So far Mader has used this formula for success with the Batavia Muckdogs posting a 1.80 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 30 innings pitched. He was recently named to the New York-Penn League All-Star team.

As word of the young pitcher spreads through the Marlins organization it's only time before he's promoted and takes a step closer to the major leagues.

Mader pitching against the Vermont Lake Monsters (Photo Credit: Greg Bessette)
"There's been talk here and there about it from the players that if we don't make the playoffs players might get moved up. I think if we make the wild card then no one is moving up. They do have an innings cap on me of 30 innings but the coaches told me today that with my arm feeling good they may bump me up to 50 so that would give me a few extra starts instead of cutting me short," said Mader. "Hopefully I can do good and get called up."

As our interview ended we shook hands and Mader found his way back to his seat behind the plate, tracking his fellow pitcher.

Mader (orange shirt) and his teammates charting pitchers behind home plate on August 2, 2014 (Photo Credit: Corey Mansfield)
As a baseball player there is no ceiling for Michael Mader. At 20 years old he is still raw and learning to refine his craft. As a human being he is major league ready. While other players his own age may be changed by the prospects of stardom, the humble kid from Marianna, Florida just keeps on playing the game and charting his own course towards the major leagues.
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