Some familiar faces back chasing their dreams
Originally Published: February 28, 2008By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- You see them roaming the baseball fields of Florida and Arizona every morning. Amazingly, no one ever calls security and chases them home.Maybe you've watched them. If you haven't gotten around to having Lasik surgery, you might not even be able to tell them from, say, Albert Pujols or Josh Beckett. But the Invited to Spring Training All-Stars are a different breed. Very different. Not necessarily a special breed. But definitely different. You can't find them on the regular old roster sheet -- not without a magnifying glass, anyway. Their numbers make most of them look as if they should be playing tackle for the Steelers. And if their names sound familiar, that may be only because you've been watching too much ESPN Classic lately. Hideo Nomo? Chan Ho Park? Esteban Yan? Matt Mantei? Kent Mercker? Brian Anderson? They're all in somebody's uniform this spring. But what are they doing here? Didn't they retire in, like, 1996? Are we sure they didn't just sneak into the clubhouse when nobody was looking? "I walked in," said Brian Anderson, the mysterious Tampa Bay invitee that he is. "And, honestly, I was just praying I had a locker. I was hoping nobody was at the door, taking tickets, because I obviously didn't have one." Tickets? Heck, that's nothing. He didn't even have an invitation. And that's a mystery we've been trying to clear up for years now. We saw his transaction with our very own eyeballs a few weeks back: TAMPA BAY RAYS -- Signed left-handed pitcher Brian Anderson to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. This, friends, is a concept we can all relate to. Sort of. We've all been invited someplace in our lives, right? To a wedding. To a bar mitzvah. To a Super Bowl party, at the very least. There's one major difference, however, between our invitations and the invitations received by the Invited to Spring Training All-Stars. (Well, there are two, come to think of it, if you count the fact that somebody actually pays them to show up.)
All-Invited To Spring Team1B: Doug Mientkiewicz (Pirates)
2B: Bret Boone (Nationals)
SS: Jose Macias (Pirates)
3B: Edgardo Alfonzo (Rangers)
LF: George Lombard (Dodgers)
CF: Alex Escobar (Nationals)
RF: Juan Gonzalez (Cardinals)
C: Javy Lopez (Braves)
DH: Matt LeCroy (A's) Starting rotation: Hideo Nomo (Royals), Chan Ho Park (Dodgers), Shawn Estes (Padres), Glendon Rusch (Padres), Scott Elarton (Indians). Bullpen: Brian Anderson (Rays), Kent Mercker (Reds), Chad Fox (Cubs), Tanyon Sturtze (Dodgers), Scott Williamson (Giants), Scott Strickland (Yankees), Matt Mantei (Tigers). Reincarnation taxi squad: Junior Spivey (Red Sox), Chad Hermansen (Angels), Dee Brown (Angels), Bubba Crosby (Mariners), Ben Davis (Orioles), Luis Rivas (Pirates), Damon Hollins (Royals).
It's an addicting thing. When you're younger, you think you're going to play and make some money, and then you're going to get out and go enjoy life. But when you get into your 30s, you don't think that way. You say, 'This is special. Not many people get to do this. ... And I just want to keep doing it.'