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Last night the Rangers defeated the Swinging A’s 5-1 in Oakland. Pitcher Martin Perez continues to shine running his record to 9-3 and winning his sixth straight game for Texas. Also Rangers batting stars were Mitch Moreland and Alex Rios who both had home runs to help aid the Rangers victory. The big W for Texas broke an American League West Division tie and now the Rangers are atop the ALWest all by their lonesome.
But to me the story of the week is still unfolding. My attention was heavily focused on a rather unique talent that struck out in the ninth inning. An unknown player who has exactly two at bats in the Major Leagues. His name is Jim Adduci.
After 10 years of toiling on the Minor League circuit spread out between three different organizations, Adduci made his MLB debut on Sunday. He wasted no time collecting his first big league hit on the first pitch he saw. It was a magical moment for him and especially his father who struggled himself many years ago between the majors and minors. Truly a ‘feel good’ story at the ol’ ballpark.
The young Adduci was drafted by the Florida Marlins in 2003. He didn’t hear his name called till the 42nd round.
“I know the minors very well”, says Adduci when asked if he was satisfied with his long struggle and Major League journey. Traditionally a player drafted that late has a minimum chance of making it to ‘the show’. The average minor league stay is between 3-5 years. Adduci spent the entire aforementioned decade on trying to get to the top. Ten long years of life in the minor leagues ain’t no easy picnic. Adduci tallied 889 games of grind-it-out minor league ball. That is a baseball eternity for most players. And most give up the big league dream long before that many seasons on the minor league grind. Adduci, who is now still relatively young at 28 years old, is not a young buck by major league standards, however he showed the poise, patience and maturity as he bid his time wisely – hoping for that one chance. One shot at the big time.
He finally made it!
The Rangers took a big chance on Adduci by signing him to minor league contract last year; allowing him to spend a full solid year in the Texas Rangers celebrated young farm system. He then put up great numbers so Texas tapped him again and brought him back up to fill out the final roster spot at Triple A Round Rock. He responded like a champ by hitting .298 while knocking in 16 Home Runs an impressive 65 Ribbies. Very good numbers but once again as he says, “I know the minors very well”.
Minor League baseball is a hard grind with not much payoff if you fail to get that all-important call up. The travel (mostly by bus) is beyond brutal. Fifteen hour trips are generally the norm. And usually if a player hasn’t advanced to Major League quality after five years, he is often let go.
Organizations know you can play, but as you add stats to your minor league career and add more years to your life, the teams’ patience level tends to fade and brass eventually have to make space for new talented, up-and-coming younger prospects. Adduci however was never really a prospect. He is what baseball insiders call minor league fodder. Certainly good enough for Triple A but just shy of the essential talent level needed for MLB.
But he hung in there. He never gave up his ambition of playing on the highest level of baseball in the world. Numerous relocating for him and his family. Low pay. No benefits. No union protection. It’s as if teams are using this as a barometer to gauge your willingness to pay the price. Adduci had paid plenty, and the organizations paid very little.
The average salary in MLB is just a tad over $2 million dollars. Rookie minimum is $400K per year. Triple A players (of which Adduci played for six years) is around $2500 per month. And remember, the Minor League season is only five months long. Most, if not all minor leaguers work a second job in the off-season.
Not the cushy life of his brethren in the BIG leagues.
Let’s take a look at the per diem gap. Major leaguers receive $98 a day while on the road. This is often called meal money but players are free to spend it as they choose. Per-diem in the minors is $35 per day. So I guess that’s a message telling the minors that they’re not worthy of eating like a real big leaguer. As stated earlier, it’s a rough life. That’s why this is so fascinating to me.
Manager Ron Washington has encouraging words for the ballplayer saying he likes what he sees already and that Adduci will definitely get his chance to play. He is a left handed outfielder and hitter. He can play all outfield positions. He also has wicked fast speed. He had an impressive 32 stolen bases at Round Rock this year alone. Ol’ “Wash” says that the struggling of Ranger David Murphy this season will help a lot to open up some playing time for Adduci. His versatility will also allow Washington to use him in a variety of situations.
So as you watch the Rangers for the rest of the season, be sure to keep an eye on number 35. He will be the guy with the biggest smile on the field. A guy that has paid his dues. A guy that deserves this chance. It’s all right in front of him. He has finally made it! How can you not pull for this guy?
After Sundays game where he made his Major League debut he was asked what was the best thing about the experience? Without hesitating he said ‘the spread in the clubhouse”. That means he enjoys the enormous buffet feast available to all players after each game. “And also, I don’t have to use my meal money”. Good for him.
Spoken like a true Big Leaguer.