It's a natural partnership — the Mexican League regular season ends in the middle of July, just when American Association teams are looking for upgrades for the stretch run.
Until this season, the Wingnuts haven't had an obvious connection to the Mexican League, which is roughly equivalent to Triple-A but isn't affiliated with the major leagues.
But during his 14-year playing career, Wichita hitting coach Jose Amado has formed friendships with several Latin players who spend the spring playing in Mexico.
The Wingnuts have used that connection to improve their team, bringing in hitters Jorge Delgado, Raul Gonzalez and Carlos Rivera. Gonzalez and Rivera, natives of Puerto Rico, both spent time in the major leagues.
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"The time that I spent there and the guys that I know, that's how I found those guys," said Amado, who was born in Venezuela and played three seasons in the Mexican League. "I know when they're done over there around July 20, they still want to play one more month or a month and a half before they start playing winter ball, because they want to stay in shape."
Amado was added to the coaching staff during the offseason strictly for his ability to connect with hitters and help them improve.
The Wingnuts didn't foresee the roster overhaul that has taken place this season, but when it became clear changes needed to be made, Amado's relationships with players in the Mexican League became a valuable resource.
"The plan was, when we first got the team, we expected the best," Amado said. "A couple of guys didn't work out and we needed help for the offense, so that's why we did it. It's not like it was planned or we were counting on it. We were lucky, too, that these guys wanted to keep playing."
Many Mexican League players play almost year-round. They move from Mexico to winter ball, which starts in early October, and often onto the Caribbean Series in February. If they're invited to a major-league spring training, that grind begins in early February.
That's why independent baseball isn't an attractive option to many players who are looking for some time away from the game.
"The Mexican League, it's pretty tough," Amado said. "Conditions, like in the clubhouse, are not very good and travel is heavy. Some of the guys are really, really tired. But as a baseball player you always want to keep playing and make a little bit more money."
Amado points out his close relationships with players such as Gonzalez, Rivera, Delgado and Cesar Suarez, who the Wingnuts acquired in a trade with Fort Worth, isn't the biggest reason those players have been added.
If they weren't obvious upgrades, Amado and the Wingnuts would have kept looking for help. Gonzalez, Rivera, Delgado and Suarez have all performed well in brief tenures.
"The reason that I kind of got them here is not because they're my friends," Amado said. "It's that I know how they play ball. I could have gone to find somebody else, even if it's not my friend or guys that I know."
Fallen Angelle — Wingnuts left-hander Kevin Angelle is still coming to grips with his release from the Philadelphia Phillies organization last week for disciplinary reasons.
Angelle's emotions range from anger to bitterness to regret to acceptance over the release, which came after three separate incidents that even his stellar numbers couldn't offset.
"The stuff I did was stupid," Angelle said. "To me, I thought it was very minor compared to what other people in the organization have gotten away with. But it was stupid for me to do, definitely."
Angelle's first offense was a verbal confrontation with a waitress in Florida during spring training. After the waitress was promoted to manager a few weeks later, Angelle said she banned him from the restaurant and wrote a letter to the Phillies outlining his behavior.
Angelle won't discuss the second incident, and his release came after a disagreement with his host family in Williamsport, Pa. He was suspended twice by the Phillies this season.
"Every incident that I had, my word didn't mean anything," Angelle said. "I wasn't allowed to defend myself. The stuff I did was stupid. But for the reason that I got released, I just feel like I got totally screwed."
Angelle is approaching his time with the Wingnuts as a fresh start. The 22-year-old, drafted out of Lamar in the 32nd round in 2009, was 6-4 with a 1.65 ERA in 20 starts in the Phillies' organization, though he never pitched with a full-season affiliate. He earned a loss in his Wingnuts debut on Wednesday, allowing six runs in 4 2/3 innings against Lincoln.
"I messed up, I know that, and I learned from what I did," Angelle said. "I learned that every little thing you do can come back and bite you on the butt. I hope I get picked up again. It would suck if I didn't, because I would regret this probably for the rest of my life, especially as well as I was doing."