02/12/2012 4:15 PM
Potential Pacifics players tryout in the rain at Laney College, Oakland. Photo courtesy of Sarah Rice/S.F. Chronicle
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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. --
From the San Francisco Giants to the Atlanta Braves to the Washington Nationals to the ... San Rafael Pacifics?
"I climbed the ladder to the bottom rung," Mike Shapiro said, 'and I'm so happy. I love doing this."
California's only professional independent team is preparing for its inaugural season in the North American Baseball League, and its home is an unlikely one, a 6-decade-old, 750-seat facility called Albert Park in downtown San Rafael.
Shapiro, the Giants' former general counsel who has beefed up his pro sports resume since leaving the team in 1993, is the Pacifics' president, general manager chief organizer.
The Pacifics plan to play in a 10-team league, including six teams from Texas. Other sites are Yuma, Ariz..; Edmonton, Alberta; and Maui - yes, Maui. The season is 88 games and opens in May, and Shapiro hired a couple of former big-leaguers to run the team.
The manager is ex-Dodgers outfielder Mike Marshall, the pitching coach ex-Giant Mike LaCoss.
"We're going to surprise some people with the level of ball," Marshall said. "We're not affiliated with a major-league team, so we're not dealing with a high draft pick who's on a pitch count to be groomed for the next level. If we find a big hitter, we're going to put him in the middle of the lineup and ask him to hit home runs and bring people to the games."
Independent ball has been a part of Marshall's life - as a player, manager and executive - from when he was a Schaumburg (Ill.) Flyer in 1999 to stops in Albany, N.Y.; Fort Worth and El Paso, Texas; Yuma; and, most recently, the now defunct Chico Outlaws, who won the 2010 NABL title.
The Pacifics have three players under contract and could add a few more from a tryout at Oakland's Laney College on Jan. 22. More than 60 candidates braved the rain and cold to prove they're pro ballplayers - or perhaps guys with trouble throwing across the diamond.
Because the opener isn't until May, the Pacifics could add players dropped from big-league-affiliated farm teams.
"It's about finding a diamond in the rough," Shapiro said.
To read the rest of this article by the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea, click here.