Night At The Ballpark
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
We're keeping track of two minor league baseball players this summer. These are guys who are trying to make it to the big leagues. Today, we're checking back in with Reid Gorecki. We first met him while he was teaching at a baseball academy out on Long Island.
REID GORECKI: Beautiful.
GREENE: That's where you told us about his time playing for minor league teams affiliated with the Cardinals and Yankees. And he even played in the majors, briefly with the Atlanta Braves.
GORECKI: It's unbelievable, you know, being a part of that for the first time was just fabulous. Everything that I hoped and imagined it would be, it was.
GREENE: And Reid wants one more crack. Now, to get a major league club's interest, he has to have an incredible season with his new ballclub, the Long Island Ducks - an independent team. We catch Reid this time on a game night in Central Islip, New York.
(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Ice cold beer.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: And now, on this Thursday night, here is the starting lineup for your 2012 Long Island Ducks.
GREENE: And we're at the stadium. It's about an hour before the first pitch. And we're in the laundry room, some washing machines where they do all the uniforms and everything. And we're...
GREENE: There goes one of the dryers right now. And they say we might get a chance to talk to Reid before he heads out on the field.
(SOUNDBITE OF A HANDSHAKE)
GREENE: How is it going Reid? Good to see you, man.
GORECKI: Great. You doing all right?
GREENE: Yeah, we'll we good. How have you been?
GORECKI: Pretty good.
GREENE: Yeah? I see the beard. Is that baseball beard?
GORECKI: A baseball beard.
GREENE: Before the season you didn't have it.
GORECKI: Yeah, I've never been allowed to wear a beard. This is, you know, I like...
GREENE: Who set those rules?
GORECKI: The Cardinals, the Yankees and the Braves. It's customary that, you know, only mustache - can't go past the ears.
GREENE: Really? Some teams do that. I didn't realize that.
GREENE: So since I saw you, you went through some injury problems.
GORECKI: Yeah, not some - I had one. I had a groin injury so a little bit tough to deal with. You know, the second game of the season, I was released excited to start playing. And we're only 20 games in. My team is playing pretty well, so they didn't miss me too much.
GREENE: I'm sure they did. Is it feeling good tonight?
GORECKI: Feeling good tonight, playing right field. So hitting in the seventh spot in the order and we'll see - see what happens.
GREENE: A couple of teammates I know already called up to the major league organizations this year. Does that give you some hope that...
GORECKI: Definite hope. You know, I'm getting a feel for the game again and that's really all it is, you know. Once I get that feel, I should be able to compete with those guys again.
GREENE: Good luck. Have a good game. We'll talk to you afterwards.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "STAR SPANGLED BANNER")
GREENE: Reid talks about getting a feel for the game again after taking last year off. At 31, he is doing some soul searching. He knows the end of his baseball career is getting close. Bracing for that, Reid recently took a New York Firefighter's entrance exam.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Popcorn.
GREENE: But for now he's here. Speakers are blasting the song "Somebody That I Used to Know" from Gotye; Reid picked it for his at-bats. Kids in the stands are blowing their Long Island Duck kazoos.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Hitting seventh for Long Island, right fielder, number 7, Reid Gorecki. Number 7.
PRESSLEY MINERVA: This game seems pretty cool and all my friends are here.
GREENE: That's Pressley Minerva. She's 11 years old at the ballpark with her dad for the first time in her life.
MINERVA: On TV it looks really boring. But it's actually not. Hey, I know that girl.
GREENE: So, Reid, this player for the Ducks that we're watching, he just got thrown out at second base. What do you think of that?
GREENE: He was trying to steal.
MINERVA: Maybe he could do better - practice, practice, practice.
GREENE: I think that's good advice.
(SOUNDBITE OF A BUGLE "CHARGE")
GREENE: So I walked with the general manager of the Ducks, Mike Pfaff, out to near right field where Reid is playing.
And, Mike, tell me about Reid as a player.
MIKE PFAFF: Well, Reid is a guy that's got major league experience. He has got a very good swing. He's somebody that I think Kevin Baez, our manager, is going to be able to rely on as long as he's healthy.
GREENE: A year off baseball, was that a risk in signing him since he took all that time off?
PFAFF: We mitigate the risk knowing that he's a local player. So it's not like we had to purchase a plane ticket for him to fly home. But while he hasn't been, you know, in complete health, we're excited with the glimpses that we've seen so far.
GREENE: You know, he spoke with us about the possibility of having one more shot at getting to the majors.
PFAFF: There's no question. If he produces at this level, he will get signed. Lou Ford just got signed by the Baltimore Orioles.
GREENE: One of your players.
PFAFF: And he's - one of our players, one of our outfielders, and he's four years older than Reid.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out to the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Last call for peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
GREENE: So, Reid comes up at a big moment in the game for the Ducks. Down 5-3, late, there are two outs, the bases are loaded. And...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Gorecki swings and launch one into left field, base hit. It's a score (unintelligible). Esquivel only held up at third...
GREENE: Reid smacks the ball into left field, base hit, single, and now he's on first base. And it's 5-4 now, so he got them a little bit closer.
(SOUNDBITE OF RHYTMIC CLAPPING)
GREENE: But that's as close as the Ducks would get. They lost a nail-biter, 5-4, to their rivals, the Bridgeport Bluefish. After the game, I saw Reid signing a few autographs for some kids right near the dugout. And then he hurried upstairs to see his biggest fan, Susan Gorecki.
So how do you think e played tonight, Mom?
SUSAN GORECKI: He played well. I always worry, you know, when they come back from an injury. You worry until they're settled. But he was right back where he belongs.
GREENE: What's it been like seeing him go from, you know, little guy on the field - little league years to, you know, standing next to here in a present...
GORECKI: You know, we can remember his very first game because he had an older brother. His brother is eight years older. We remember his first game because he knew all the positions. And you have to remember they're 5 and 6 years old. So the balls would get hit here and he would run wherever the ball went. He went all over the field.
GREENE: All over the field, just running the ball down.
GORECKI: And we never forgot that.
GREENE: Well, thanks for talking to us. We really appreciate it.
GORECKI: Thank you for it...
GREENE: I'll try to talk to your son here for a second or two, if he has time.
Got a little dirt on the uniform.
GORECKI: Yeah, a little dirt tonight, not bad.
GREENE: So I thought you hit that ball, the bases loaded, it was going to tie it up.
GORECKI: Oh, I wish. I hit it a little too hard.
GREENE: But now that you're back and healthy and out there, I mean does that feel a little like you have some more baseball left in you?
GORECKI: Definitely. Definitely. I love this game. This is my life. It's been my life for my life, so I would like to stay a part of this game with whatever it takes. And, you know, we'll see if I can do it as a player. If I can't do it as a player, I'd like to, you know, help younger guys.
GREENE: Reid, thanks so much.
GORECKI: You're welcome.
GREENE: We'll see you some time later in the season.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMEBODY THAT I USED TO KNOW")
GREENE: And we definitely will be checking in with Reid Gorecki later this summer. He's one of two minor league ball players we are following this season. This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.