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.
-- Crash Davis, Bull Durham
They say no one wants to have the minor league career record for home runs, because it means year after year you fell short of your big-league dreams. In the movie Bull Durham, Crash Davis was in his 12th season in the on the small stage when he set the record and retired.
Catcher Maxime St. Pierre was chasing a feat of his own. After making his debut for the Tigers' Gulf Coast League team in 1997, he racked up 978 games of professional baseball played without so much as a day in The Show. He's had brushes with it. Each February, he dutifully reported to big league camp. Not because he was one of the Tigers' top two options behind the plate. No, it was because anyone with a catcher's glove has value to the organization in February and March.
St. Pierre rubbed shoulders with the stars. He saw career arcs from afar. He watched as players a few years older than him lived out their dream. Then a few years younger than him. Now, kids barely out of their training pants when he made his professional debut were being called into the manager's office with the good news: They were major leaguers.
All the while, St. Pierre was a 30-year-old French-Canadian falling short of his dream. He never got the news they heard, the news he ultimately wanted to hear. Not until last night in Toledo, anyway, when manager Larry Parish pulled him from the game in the fourth inning.
Congrats, Max. The long bus rides, the cheap hotels, the lifetime of small stadiums, small crowds and smaller paychecks, they were worth it.
Félicitations, Maxime St-Pierre! You made it. You earned it. You're going to The Show. It's going to be the greatest day of your life.
How long is 14 years? Just look at this. Don't just skim over it. Actually read it, row by row. It might take you a minute, but it took St. Pierre a career.
Max. St. Pierre's minor league career
|2002||22||3 Teams||3 Lgs||AA-A+-AAA||DET||116|
|2008||28||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AA-AAA||DET||86|
|2009||29||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AAA-AA||DET||61|
|2010||30||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AAA-AA||DET||59|
|AA (8 seasons)||444|
|AAA (5 seasons)||205|
|Rk (2 seasons)||51|
|A+ (2 seasons)||154|
|A (1 season)||73|
|A- (1 season)||51|
Here we are, Sept. 1. The Tigers are not playing meaningful games. We're celebrating the callup a career-.251 minor leaguer catcher. You could look at this as proof of how poorly this season has turned out for the Tigers.
But isn't this exactly what enjoying sports is all about?
It's taken for granted we all want to see the team win a World Series, or even a division title. Years before that, we were kids, swinging a bat, putting on a glove, collecting baseball cards, dreaming how cool it would feel to be the one on the card. To be in The Show.
For 14 years, St. Pierre was one of us. Except he was even closer. A Quebecois, he overcame the odds just to play professional baseball. Slowly, and not without setbacks and knockdowns, he climbed the mountain. He could see the promised land. But he couldn't step out onto it.
For some, sports is about the results. Players are merely animatrons that help you achieve the satisfaction when the home team wins. Step back and enjoy the stories, and the results mean all the more.
St. Pierre has lived the story.
"I have chill bumps all over," St. Pierre told the Toledo Blade. "My whole career I've been working hard to get to the major leagues, and now I'm going there. I'm speechless."
Congratulations, Max. You made it.