Simply Baseball Notebook: Cover Stories

Borders' Journey

November 2004

For Love of the Game

40 something: Borders & Mulholland

The life of a professional baseball player is one of endurance, persistence, and perseverance. Often times, a player’s career is guided by events beyond their control; they are reduced to either a victim or benefactor of circumstance. Just when it seems like the game has given someone their last break – when they least expect it – one phone call could change everything. Just ask Pat Borders.

While sitting in the clubhouse of the Triple A Tacoma Raniers of the Seattle organization on August 31, Borders received what he described as a "pleasant surprise," – the veteran backstop was informed that he had been traded to the AL Central leading Minnesota Twins just in time to be placed on their post season roster.

"That’s the goal," the 41-year-old said of his promotion to the big leagues. "That’s why you keep plugging along, you want to play at the highest level you possibly can, whatever level that is."

With rookie receiver Joe Mauer lost for the season because of knee problems, the Twins found themselves in desperate need of a competent, experienced catcher. Henry Blanco, who was projected as a back-up, had spent the lion’s share of the season behind the plate and was wearing down. Borders was available and affordable, which met the Twin’s criteria.

A mainstay at the big league level for a decade, Borders has bounced around the minors since 1998, appearing in just 71 major league games during that span. "The fun of playing, the desire (kept me going)," he explained. "I enjoy playing the game, my kids enjoy watching me, my wife enjoys baseball; she enjoys watching me. All of them are totally behind me."

There are moments, however, when he’s wondered if it were time to quit, "On travel days, when you have to wake up at three o’clock in the morning after playing a night game, that part is tough," Borders commented, "but once you get out on the field, you lose that feeling real quick."

Way back in 1992, while with Toronto, Borders gained some national recognition when he hit .450 in the Blue Jays six game victory over Atlanta in the World Series and was named MVP of the Fall Classic. "I wasn’t even thinking about that really," the Florida resident said of the award. "When you get to the World Series, you concentrate on every game and you do everything possible to win at that moment, you don’t even contemplate (winning MVP)."

The Blue Jays of course, went on to win another world championship in 1993, but were unable to defend the crown when the strike wiped out the 1994 post season. Toronto has not been to the post season since. For those reasons, that great Blue Jays team has often been overlooked.

"I’m sure we get credit from people who watch the game and realize that we were a great team," Borders explained. "It’s not really important to me whether they realize it or not, I realize how good we were, and I’ll take the memories with me. If people remember, they remember."

In 2000, the two-time world champion had the unique honor of representing his country in the Olympic games. Sharing the catching duties with Marcus Jensen, Borders helped the US win gold in Sydney.

"Excitement wise they are similar," Borders said, comparing Olympic and World Series glory. "But, they represent two completely different things, so they totally incomparable – the Olympics are for a country; the World Series a city."

Interestingly, Borders nearly chose the gridiron glory over the diamond dreams. A highly recruited quarterback out of high school in 1982, he turned down a scholarship to the University of Miami before signing with Mississippi State. The Blue Jays however, made the prospective QB their 6th round pick two months later and the rest is history.

When asked if he could have played in the NFL had he chosen that route, Borders responded, "I didn’t think I’d make it to the big leagues in baseball, I just want to go out there and have much fun as I can for as long as I can."

Borders, who owns a 400 acre farm in rural Florida, was released by the Twins following their ALDS loss to the Yankees, but hopes to catch on somewhere in 2005, "I plan on (playing in ’05)," he commented, "but I don’t know who plans on playing with me."

-David Zingler

Borders' page @ Baseball-Almanac.com

Borders' page @ Baseball-Reference.com  

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