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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

Florida Instructional League ( FIL )

The league was founded in 1958 and initially consisted of 4 teams ( Athletics, Braves, Cardinals & Yankees ). The concept has not changed ... it’s an introduction for newer players as to what is to come in the following year’s spring training while allowing a coaching focus on honing the players’ skills, it’s also a place where experienced players might come to rehabilitate from injury or perhaps learn a new position.

The current day emphasis is on training and not so much game action against other clubs (the Phillies played 12 games this past fall ) and the length of the camp has drastically shortened over the years ... this year’s Phillies instructs camp was about three weeks ... many clubs have chosen to discontinue the process replacing it with either multiple mini camps or else hold a pre spring training camp for selected players in January/February.

In 1963 the FIL played a formalized 52 game schedule. Ten teams participated with the Tigers posting the best record at 36-16. The following year 8 teams played with the White Sox recording the best mark at 37-14, in 1965 the Orioles had the top mark at 34-17. The Red Sox went 31-20 in ‘66 to lead the eight team pact that year, in 1967 the Phillies participated for the first time in the league as they posted a 25-26 record ... the Tigers led the 12 team loop with a 31-20 record.

Formalized tracking of the standings seemingly ended after the 1968 season when the Mets went 30-12 to lead the league, the Phillies were just a 1/2 game behind them in second place with a 30-13 mark. Baseball Reference does have individual player stats for the 1969 squad that played 40 games ( 25-15 ) ... Don Money, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Denny Doyle, Joe Los, Bob Boone and John Vukovich were on that squad ... 31 year old Chris Short even appeared in one game - Lou Kahn was the skipper. After that finding statistical records is not an easy thing.

Andy Seminick and Larry Shepard managed the ‘67 Phillies squad with Al Widmer at the helm in 1968. The Phillies weren’t void of a Fall League team prior to 1967 however, they sent a team to the Southern California Winter League in 1957 and were an annual participant in the Peninsula Winter League held in San Francisco from 1959 ( Frank Lucchesi was the skipper ) to 1968 when it disbanded after the season. They then cut over exclusively to the FIL beginning in 1969.

Perhaps given today’s circumstances of the pandemic the FIL or a version thereof comes back into play this Summer/Fall as a formalized league for not just newer minor leaguers but at all levels ... at least for one season 🤔

Till tomorrow ... Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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