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Jason Botts will play for the Skeeters

Another Atlantic League slugger will be suiting up for the expansion Sugar Land Skeeters.  Former Rev Jason Botts has agreed to a contract, joining 2008 Atlantic League MVP Josh Pressley in suburban Houston after his long run with the Somerset Patriots. 

The reasoning for Botts and Pressley joining the Skeeters is very similar; wanting to play close to home and/or family.  Although Pressley is from Florida, he cited his desire to play in front of family in the Houston area as the reason to leave Central New Jersey for this season.  Botts, a California native, has a home in the Dallas/Fort Worth area after his time playing in the Majors with the Texas Rangers from 2005-2008.  While it’s a drive from DFW, Botts is much closer to his wife and children than he was playing in the Northeast last season.  Botts was quite impressive in a brief stint for the Revolution at the beginning of last season, belting four homers and driving in 13 runs in 14 games, hitting .370.  Those first two weeks propelled him to a contract with the New York Mets, where he finished the season on the roster of the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons.  After a hot start in Buffalo, injuries and various periods on the DL slowed what began as a promising season, one that looked as if it might end with a call-up to the Mets.

Botts defected to York after beginning the 2010 season with Camden, before sigining with the Washington Nationals and finishing last season healthy in Triple-A with the Syracuse Chiefs.  Despite what by now must be a profound love for the New York State Thruway, his heart is obviously in Texas.  Botts played parts of four seasons in the bigs with the Rangers.

Of course if Botts were offered another spot in an MLB organization, he’d be gone from Sugar Land on the first thing smokin’ back to Triple-A.  But as long as he has the opportunity to choose, he’s choosing Texas.  And so my fears about a possible competitive advantage for Sugar Land are beginning to be realized.  It’s of little dispute that the Atlantic League is the top independent circuit.  With the players in the league having a large amount of freedom to decide where they play, having just one team in that part of the country could very well turn out to hurt the pool of players wanting to play for the other seven in the Northeast.  If there were more teams in our league down that way (and there will be in the future), then Sugar Land wouldn’t have first dibs on everyone that wants to play at this level and in “Big 12” country rather than the American Association, which also has a footprint on that part of the map.  It’s a slam dunk for guys like Pressley, who specifically want to be close to Houston.  But we’re seeing the advantage the Skeeters have extend to guys like Botts as well.  While Dallas may not be close to Houston in a relative sense, it’s a lot closer than York.  A few hours in the car sure beats getting on a plane or two to see husband/dad/friend play, both in terms of price and convenience.  Don’t be surprised if more quality players end up with the Skeeters under the “Sugar Land is closer to INSERT HERE than Bridgeport” clause.

Not a knock on Sugar Land at all, who can blame them for using any advantage they can to put the best team together possible.  I believe it certainly is a distinct advantage they have though.  The Revs begin the season with a four-game series at Sugar Land April 26-29, and the first of the Skeeters 10 games in York this season are May 21-23.  They make return trips June 18-20 and September 3-6.

-Paul Braverman

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