In the course of the Atlanta Braves’ 13-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Subject on Saturday, infielder Sean Kazmar Jr. entered the sport within the fifth inning as a pinch-hitter, noticed 4 pitches and grounded right into a double play. The three-minute look could not look like a lot, but it surely meant the world to Kazmar and his household. It was Kazmar’s first main league recreation since Sept. 23, 2008 — a span of 4,589 days.
“Positively every thing after which some,” stated a beaming Kazmar after the sport. “What a tremendous feeling.”
Kazmar’s story is one in every of relentlessness and optimism, and, as Braves Supervisor Brian Snitker stated, maybe befitting of a film or e-book. Kazmar first completed his dream, at 24, in 2008, getting referred to as up by the Padres to function a fill-in for the injured shortstop Khalil Greene. He performed in 19 video games, beginning in 11, and hitting .205.
Like all skilled baseball participant, Kazmar hoped to remain there. However as a substitute, in 2009, he was again within the minors, the place the travel and pay are a far cry from the constitution planes and millionaires of the large leagues. He spent two seasons with the Padres’ Class AAA workforce. He was with the Seattle Mariners’ AAA workforce in 2011, was within the Mets’ system and joined Atlanta’s AAA workforce in Gwinnett in 2013.
In all, Kazmar performed 1,106 minor league video games between his main league appearances. All through that point, he heard comparisons to Crash Davis, the participant who served as inspiration for the primary character within the film “Bull Durham.” However whilst Kazmar was caught within the minors, he said that month and a half in the majors had been the best days of his life and a part of why he was nonetheless going into his 30s.
“There may have been apparent occasions the place I doubted that this chance would ever come,” he stated on Saturday. “However actually, it by no means actually left my thoughts and particularly the previous few years, I nonetheless felt like I had the flexibility to play at this degree.”
In 2019, after re-signing a minor league cope with Atlanta, Kazmar, at 34, had one in every of his greatest seasons, hitting .270 with 12 dwelling runs and 61 runs batted in whereas taking part in throughout the infield.
Then the coronavirus pandemic struck in 2020. Kazmar stated he couldn’t search for a job outdoors baseball as a result of he was uncertain whether or not he would find yourself on an expanded main league roster, so he started receiving unemployment insurance coverage like so many minor league gamers. (The minor league season was canceled.) As a substitute of taking part in, Kazmar was along with his spouse and two younger boys at their dwelling in Arizona — time he wouldn’t have in any other case had whereas chasing his dream.
“I do know it drove him nuts final 12 months not being within the holy floor, and he most likely was the M.V.P. of spring coaching for just like the third 12 months in a row,” stated Snitker, who managed Kazmar for a number of years in AAA.
However when Atlanta suffered a sequence of accidents on Friday — second baseman Ozzie Albies was hit within the leg by a pitch and outfielder Ender Inciarte exited with a hamstring pressure — Kazmar lastly had a path again to the key leagues. Kazmar, who was on Atlanta’s pandemic reserve roster, stated he was at his lodge room watching the Braves play and he obtained a telephone name just a few hours after the sport.
“That was most likely one of many biggest moments I’ve had as a supervisor in any respect the degrees, fairly actually,” Snitker stated.
When Snitker was promoted from the Braves’ AAA workforce to be their main league supervisor throughout the 2016 season, he stated that one of many biggest issues that might occur to him was to have Kazmar alongside him. Though Snitker stated he wasn’t positive how lengthy Kazmar could be wanted on the big-league membership, he was thrilled that their aim got here true on Saturday.
The final participant with an extended hole between main league video games, based on the Elias Sports Bureau, was Ralph Winegarner, who went 13 years 14 days between pitching appearances for Cleveland in 1936 and the St. Louis Browns in 1949.
“It was definitely worth the wait, for positive, to get again and get in there to get one other,” Kazmar stated of his lone at-bat on Saturday.
Though Kazmar stated it felt like time had flown by, he was fuzzy on a few of his personal historical past. Requested on Saturday if he remembered the earlier time he performed within the majors, Kazmar confused it for the previous recreation. “That’s how lengthy it’s been,” he conceded with fun.
Just one different participant from Kazmar’s earlier big-league look continues to be within the majors: Wade LeBlanc, 36, who began for the Padres that day and is now a member of the Baltimore Orioles’ bullpen. The starters for the opposing Los Angeles Dodgers that day included Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra.
“You go from ’08 to ’21 in between, you bought to be kidding me,” Snitker stated of Kazmar. “To have the perseverance and the dedication and the drive — and he’s getting higher as a participant.”
Though taking part in minor league baseball wasn’t significantly profitable or steady, Kazmar stated he was additionally pushed as a result of he had cherished baseball since he was 4. He was born a Braves fan in Valdosta, Ga. It was the primary jersey he stated he ever wore, so donning it in a significant league recreation was significantly particular to him.
Kazmar stated his spouse and his mom dropped every thing to get on a red-eye flight on Friday evening to make it to Chicago in time to observe his lone at-bat. And throughout the recreation, Kazmar stated he was nervous and emotional.
“Clearly I wasn’t, after I first began this profession, attempting to play in Triple-A my entire profession,” he stated. “That’s simply type of the way it ended up. However on the similar time, I’d do it over again for a day like at the moment.”