IT LOOKS LIKE SPRINGTIME IS FINALLY HERE. I see robins and cardinals and they don’t look worried about frostbite. There are giant Vs overhead going north and there are new baseball stars on the horizon.
Major League Baseball teams have been heavy into Spring Training for over a month and just like the new flowers that pop up in the spring so do new young players.
When the teams start working out every February, along with the returning veterans, there are gaggles of young players who have been slaving away in the Minor Leagues. Having shown promise these players are invited to come and play with the Big Boys and vie for a spot on the 25 man roster that will head North like the geese and start the Season in early April.
I heard a statistic the other day that got my attention and made me put down my coffee. I was listening to the Giants play somebody in Arizona. Mike Krukow, former Major League pitcher, said that only 1% of all the Minor League players ever make it to the Majors. The other 99% just fade away.
The lineup in that game was a mixture of experienced players getting in shape and a collection of “Non-Roster Invitees” struggling to make a good impression so that they might be in that 1%.
These hopefuls have been playing ball in small towns learning their craft. Some of them have been there for years hoping for that call from “The Bigs.’
There is no mountain of money playing for the “Lansing Lug Nuts” or the Richmond Flying Squirrels.” Even Terre Haute (That’s French for “There are no left-handed catchers.”) has a Minor League team – The “Terre Haute Rex.” They are playing for the love of the game and for the future.
Most of these players are young, many of them still teenagers, but there are others who have been knocking around for years, enduring those 14 hour bus rides to their next game. There are 35 year old players who have never made it to “The Show,” and never will. Then there are some who were called up for a cup of coffee in late September when the rosters were expanded to 40 players, and then sent back to the “Toledo Mud Hens, “ or the “Montgomery Biscuits.” They had tasted life in the Majors and were hanging on hoping for another shot at it all.
When I heard Krukow talk about the unlucky 99% I thought about how they will never get their names into the “Baseball Encyclopedia.” They will never be introduced anywhere as “…and a former Major League Player.”
Those 99% are some of the most anonymous people in the world, but in their anonymity they share a name – a catchall name that answers a hundred questions.
The young players and the 35 year olds who never make it to “The Majors” are all one person. They are “Joey Bagadonuts.” They are Baseballs equivalent to the Theater’s “George Spelvin” and the Coroner’s “John Doe.”
The name is said with affection and respect because it is the Joey Bagadonuts who keep Baseball alive and pass the love of the game on to the next generation of hopefuls.
“Now batting – Joey Bagadonuts!”
A true All Star.