Jackfish sign MLB veteran Alberto Callaspo
By. Ken Pagan
WELLAND - The Welland Jackfish will welcome the most accomplished batter in Intercounty Baseball League history in 2021.
Alberto Callaspo, a 37-year-old from Venezuela who played 10 major-league seasons from 2006-15, has reached an agreement to join the Jackfish.
Callaspo was a starting MLB infielder for six seasons from 2009-2014 with the Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A’s – he had his best season in 2009 with the Royals, batting .300, with 173 hits, 41 doubles and 73 RBIs.
In total, Callaspo amassed 941 hits and a .265 average over 3,556 at-bats with six MLB teams.
Since 2015, he has been playing in his native Venezuela and Mexico, as well as spending 2017 with the independent Atlantic League’s Bridgeport Bluefish, where he batted .344.
In 2021, he will share a dugout mostly with former minor professionals and collegiate players looking to stay competitive, and a handful of fellow imports.
Locking up Callaspo is a massive acquisition for both the Jackfish and the IBL, which suspended play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, the Jackfish finished fourth in the eight-team IBL with a 19-17 record, while averaging 836 fans per game at 2,340-seat Welland Stadium.
Jackfish VP of Baseball Operations & General Manager Jason McKay said the league’s growing reputation among international players (IBL clubs are allowed four import players) as a destination for high-calibre baseball was a factor in the acquisition. As clubs bring in more international talent, the word is starting to spread among players and agents.
“As of late, players themselves are reaching out directly to the teams in the IBL,” McKay said. “Oftentimes, the player’s accomplishments are impressive enough that you want to start communications, but then you get a player like Alberto Callaspo to reach out and you see his accomplishments, his resume and think, ‘Why?’”
In his 10-year MLB career, Callaspo earned nearly $19 million, which shows that Callaspo is still gearing up for the pure love of the game.
“The man just loves the game, he’s reached heights and accomplished more than the vast majority of players ever do and he still loves the game so much he'll bring it to a small town in the Niagara region,” McKay said.
“This is when you feel excited about what it can do for your team as well as the fans. Imagine sitting in a dugout beside a guy who has over 3,500 MLB at-bats, who is willing to share what he knows, his knowledge, and do so sincerely. That is an opportunity you cannot pass up.”
The IBL has attracted former MLB players in the past, most notably Hall of Fame hurler Fergie Jenkins, who spent 1984 and 1985 with the London Majors. Pitcher Paul Spoljaric spent five seasons in the major leagues (1996-2000) before splitting nine IBL summers with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Barrie Baycats.
Former Blue Jays outfielders Rob and Rich Butler spent time in the IBL with the Maple Leafs when their MLB days were done.
The most similar comparison to Callaspo would be former Atlanta Braves infielder Scott Thorman of Cambridge, who hit 16 home runs in 415 at-bats with the Braves in 2006-07 before helping the Brantford Red Sox win IBL championships in 2012 and 2013.
Callaspo’s last MLB game was with the 2015 Los Angeles Dodgers, who called up rookie Corey Seager two weeks after Callaspo was released. Seager was the MVP of the 2020 World Series for the Dodgers.
The Welland Jackfish are a member of Ontario's most elite baseball league, the Intercounty Baseball League. The 100-year old summer league is one of the oldest baseball leagues in the world, with the league established in 1919, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. For more information, visit www.wellandjackfish.com or follow the Jackfish on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @wellandjackfish.