Put yourself in this man’s place.
You’re a baseball player, soon to be 28 years old. You’ve been up to the major leagues four times. But three of those times were just for cups of coffee, as they say in baseball. Your longest sting in the majors was the year you were 3-8 with the Texas Rangers. That was three years ago. Your most recent stint was last year when the Kansas City Royals had you in for four games in which you pitched four innings and gave up four home runs, ten hits and ten runs. You went back down to the minor leagues with a 22.50 ERA.
But you’ve persevered. This year you are 12-5 in AAA ball with a 2.18 ERA. You are scheduled to pitch in the AAA championship game for the Omaha Storm Chasers of the Pacific Coast League against the Columbus Clippers of the International League. It’s a one game deal for the championship of all of Triple-A.
Then the Royals call. They want you to pitch for them tonight. And you’ll probably get a second start before the end of the season.
If you were Luis Mendoza, lifetime major league record of 4-9 with a lifetime 8.43 ERA, would you rather pitch for the AAA championship or would you rather pitch in The Show?
Our sports director, Bill Pollock, brought that up this morning.
It was unanimous. All of the guys in the Missourinet and Brownfield farm network newsrooms would go to Kansas City to live a boy’s dreams of playing in the big leagues. One of the women felt it would be more loyal to stay with the Omaha team for the championship game.
Those who dreamed the dream as kids from the days they stood in right field and closed their eyes and stuck out their gloves in hopes the ball would fall into it when a fly ball came their way have no doubts. Most of those who begin playing the game like that and who play the game into their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s never lose the dream of trotting onto the field in a major league game just once. Just once to feel the murmur of a crowd engulf you. Just once to know you’ve been among the best in the game. Just once.
Pitch for Omaha tonight? None of us at the Missourinet would, none of us who will never get the smell of diamond dust and Rawlings leather out of our memories.
For Luis Mendoza it’s one more chance at an age when chances are dwindling to make a major league roster.
If you have any doubt, ask yourself this– What would I rather tell the grandchildren: I pitched in a Triple-A Championship game or I was in the major leagues?
Yeah, we’d take it. You bet we’d go to Kansas City.
Remember Crash Davis? “Yeah, I was in the show. I was in the show for 21 days once – the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.”
Luis Mendoza, we hope you do well tonight in Kansas City. We hope you do well enough to stick with the team for a good career.
My God! We wish we were you.