Thanks to this job, I’ve had some satisfying and enlightening conversations with baseball players, and a bunch of pretty boring ones, too. But I’ve never had a conversation with any player more awkward than the one I shared with Ike Davis after the cameras stopped rolling on this interview a couple of weeks back.
Davis seems like a real nice dude, but I wound up lying to him. And I think I bummed him out, too.
Some background: On the Friday before Independence Day, a well-built guy around 25 and a pair of pretty young women in tank tops sat down across the aisle from me on the Metro-North train.
“Did you hear about Pat?” the guy asked the girls.
“No,” one responded.
“He got cut from his Independent League team. Like not even a real, affiliated Minor League team this time; he got cut from this, like, semi-pro team he was on.”
“Oh my God, that sucks… Have you talked to him?”
“Nah,” he said. “I called him when he got cut by Seattle, but he never called me back. I don’t think he –“
“How’d you find out?”
“My dad just told me. He sent me this thing, from their website — from the team’s website — that said he’d been released.”
“So what’s he gonna do?”
“I don’t know… I guess, I mean, they say it takes 12-to-14 months to recover from that surgery, but if he can’t throw his pitches… his career… I don’t know.”
Their conversation changed course and drifted away from baseball, so I stopped paying attention. I’m hardly a serial eavesdropper, plus I was using my phone to search for information about some pitcher named Pat who had been cut by an Indy League team that day. I don’t know why I was so eager to know.
The only Pat I could find who had pitched in the Mariners’ system anytime recently was a guy named Patrick Ryan, who was indeed now pitching in Indy ball. But Ryan’s stats with the Bridgeport Bluefish were excellent and I couldn’t find anything on the team’s site suggesting he had been cut. Plus Ryan was from Illinois, so it seemed unlikely he’d have a trio of old friends riding Metro-North on a Friday afternoon.
But since I was already at the Bridgeport website, I clicked the only story that had been published that day, a press release about the acquisition of a catcher named Tom Pennino. The last sentence said this:
The Bridgeport Bluefish have also activated pitcher Luis Arroyo from the disabled list and, to make room on the roster, have released pitcher Pat Bresnahan.
Oof. Bresnahan was not the guy I was looking for, but he was clearly the guy in question. Indeed, further searching revealed he was born in Connecticut, had Tommy John surgery in April 2009 after a few seasons in the Pirates’ system, then got cut from the Mariners’ extended Spring Training camp this year.
The Bluefish signed him on June 25 and cut him on July 1. Sorry, dude, we know you just got here, but we’ve got to make room for 36-year-old Minor League lifer Luis Arroyo on the roster. You’re not allowed to play alongside Wily Mo Pena anymore. Not if you can’t get the ball over the plate.
And sure, you’ve got family and friends and even the families of friends tracking your career, and we know they all probably said you were headed for the Majors back when you were dominating Little League, but well, that’s not really our problem. Luis Arroyo’s got family and friends, too. Thanks for playing.
I noticed that Bresnahan played with Ike Davis at Arizona State, so for some silly reason I asked Davis about him after that interview. He smiled and said, “Oh yeah, Pat! How do you know him?”
I said Pat Bresnahan was a friend of friends, that I didn’t know the guy but I knew some people who did. That’s how I lied to Ike Davis. Then I told him that Bresnahan had just been cut by the Bridgeport Bluefish, a little over a year after Tommy John surgery. That’s how I bummed Ike Davis out. Terrible. Davis has been around the professional game more than most guys his age and certainly knows the way it goes, but his whole body language changed: his shoulders slumped and his head tilted downward.
Like I said, it was awkward. So then, mutually sensing that awkwardness, Davis and I started feeding each other half-hearted optimism.
“I mean, a lot of times guys come back even stronger from that surgery,” I said. “It just takes time.”
“Oh yeah, I’m sure he’ll be back to throwing his mid-90s heat in no time,” said Davis. “If I know Pat, he’ll catch on somewhere.”
Maybe he will. And look: I wouldn’t know Bresnahan if he punched me in the face, and I doubt he wants or needs my pity. The guy got a $200K signing bonus from the Pirates, plus the opportunity to play baseball professionally for several years. I’ll never get either of those things. Maybe Pat Bresnahan has no regrets, understands the way it shook out for him, and is perfectly satisfied with the spoils of his baseball career. What the hell do I know?
I caught part of the Triple-A All-Star Game on MLB Network on Wednesday. During the game, a 30-year-old catcher in the Pirates’ system, Erik Kratz, got the call to the Major Leagues for the first time. When asked about his initial reaction to the news in an interview just moments later, he choked back tears and said he just wanted to call his wife. It was a stunning, heartwarming, beautiful moment.
But it strikes me as funny or strange or at least too often left unvoiced that for every feel-good story, every Kratz or Jesus Feliciano or Dirk Hayhurst who toils in Minor League obscurity and finally gets the call — and heck, every Ike Davis who flies through the Minors, too — there are hundreds of men who commit their youths to the game, and who shoulder the massive expectations of friends, teammates, relatives and entire towns, only to be reduced eventually to a single line in an Indy-ball team’s press release and a crestfallen did-you-hear-about-Pat.