SCHAUMBURG – When the Frontier League’s River City Rascals drafted catcher and Sycamore native Anthony Foulk on April 30, it fulfilled the 22-year-old’s longtime dream to play professional baseball.
Although it was a low minor league squad, he embraced the opportunity. All he had to worry about is playing baseball.
“It was always a dream, so I’m trying to live it up,” Foulk said after the O’Fallon, Mo.-based team’s recent 3-2 loss to the Schaumburg Boomers. “There are so many people that play little league and then they drop off after high school and after college, but I never gave up.”
Foulk grew up playing for the Sycamore Sidewinders club team and Sycamore High School. After graduating in 2008, he moved on to North Greenville University, a Division II Baptist college in South Carolina. He batted .284 with 13 home runs and 133 RBIs during his college career.
Foulk graduated in 2012, but he wasn’t ready to give up on baseball and headed to the Frontier League Draft in downstate Sauget this spring. River City manager Steve Brook drafted him on the second day, and he signed with the Rascals on May 1. Even before playing a game, it was clear to him how different the Frontier League would be from college.
“All you have to do is worry about playing baseball,” Foulk said. “You don’t have to worry about anything else. If you went to college and played, you’ve got to worry about class, making sure you’re here for this and here for that. These guys get here, we get our work done, play a game, and that’s all we have to worry about.”
Life for a player on an independent minor league club doesn’t include the luxuries of the majors. Each Frontier League team has a salary cap of $75,000 for a 24-man roster, which doesn’t translate to much per player.
Each Rascals player receives between $600 and $1600 each month, based on age, experience and ability. However, the players aren’t expected to live on those wages alone.
“We give them meal money on the road,” Brook said. “We give them a full gym membership at our location. Guys get fed after every game, so the money that they’re making is all take-home, for the most part.”
Players are also receive free housing through a host family program. The system is used with almost all of the players in the Frontier League. On the day that Foulk was drafted, he was told to go straight to his new home. It was an odd process, but one he has come to embrace.
“[Our relationship] is pretty good,” Foulk said of his host family. “It’s always kind of awkward at first, but I’ve gotten to know them pretty well. I got to know the kids and helped out with their baseball practices a few times.”
It’s usually his own team that Foulk has to worry about. The players have most Mondays off, but apart from that, the Rascals play almost every day. During road trips, all expenses are paid for by the team.
River City has a record of 18-26 on the year. The Frontier League is an independent league, meaning the teams are not affiliated with MLB franchises. Brook says this leads to more of a team-oriented system, although promotions are always in the back of players’ minds.
“They’re not in it for the money,” Brook said. “They’re just out here playing hard and trying to get ahead and win games, win championships, but trying to get picked up at the same time.”
Around three or four players from the Rascals are moved to affiliated baseball each year, but that number is all based on the success of the team and its individual players.
For Foulk, the future is unpredictable. He is aspiring to make it to a larger league, but he is just a rookie, and he has no idea where the next destination will be.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “This could be the peak. This is professional, so I have reached my dream, but I’m going to keep working. I know there’s quite a few guys that get picked up out of here by Major League teams and get put into their farm systems, so there’s a chance, but I’m going to keep working and busting my butt here. I love it.”