Simply Baseball Notebook straight from the source June 2003

Todd Sears Can't Catch a Break

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photo by Michael Vicklund

Being in the right place at the right time; a young ballplayer often needs that kind of luck to crack the big league roster and stay there.  Just ask Todd Sears.  Despite producing in the minor leagues and playing well during a short stint in the majors, circumstances beyond his control have landed him in AAA once more.

A third round pick by the Colorado Rockies in 1997, Sears became property of the Twins organization in a July 2000 trade.  He was stuck behind All Star Todd Helton in Colorado, so getting traded wasn't surprising. The fact that the Twins gave up two established major leaguers to get him, however, was.

"I knew the chance of getting traded was pretty good, and I got traded for Todd Walker and Butch Huskey.  That was kind of surprising, it really opened my eyes to the business side of baseball," the rookie explained.

Sears adapted quickly, hitting .314 in 40 games at AA New Britain before a promotion to AAA Salt Lake.  He continued to progress in 2001, posting a .311 average and 13 home runs at AAA Edmonton (the Twins switched AAA affiliates prior to the 2001 season).

The 6-5 215lb first baseman broke out in a big way in 2002, hitting .310 with 20 home runs and 100 RBI at Edmonton, and earned a trip to the AAA All Star Game.  Despite those impressive numbers, Sears didn't crack the big league lineup until the team expanded its' roster in September.

The 27 year old entered Spring Training this year on a mission, hitting over .300 and leading the team in home runs.   However, the roster was basically set going into the exhibition season, leaving Sears as the odd man out.

"It was obviously disappointing to come so close, and then get sent down at the last possible hour - it was disappointing." Sears said of his demotion this spring. "Going into Spring Training, I didn't think I had the best chance of making the team because Doug (Mientkiewicz) is at first and Mathew (LeCroy) is catching and DHing.  So going in, my expectations weren't so high, but to come so close is disappointing."

He even began to wonder if his chance would ever come. "I am getting kind of old in baseball years; you just hope you get a break somehow -- a chance." the 6-5 215lb first baseman said on May 27th.

Sears finally got that chance on April 29th, when the team placed infielder Denny Hocking on the Disabled List and gave him a promotion.  The Iowa native did his best not to squander that opportunity, collecting at least one hit in his first five starts.

When the teams' regular first baseman, Doug Mientkiewicz, twisted his ankle on May 18th, Sears played so well that teammates began referring to Mientkiewicz as "Wally Pipp" in reference to the former Yankee first baseman that permanently lost his job to Lou Gehrig due to a headache.

Sears, however, says that Mientkiewicz was nothing but helpful during his May stint in Minnesota.  "He's helped me out with just about every aspect of my defense," Sears explained.  "I always come in and ask him 'what should I have done here' or 'how should I have done that.'  He always the first one to tell me what to do and what not to do -- he's been awesome."

Sears' first extended big league action included several highlights, including a walk-off home run on May 13th.  His first major league home run came off three time Cy Young Award winner, Pedro Martinez four days earlier.

"It was exciting, Pedro is one of the best pitchers in the game and to get my first home run off him is memorable and exciting," Sears commented.  "Plus, it helped our team win, so that was even better."

Although Sears performed well, hitting .278 with 2 HR and 11 RBI in 54 at bats, he was sent to AAA Rochester on May 28th.  With Mientkiewicz fully healthy and OF Bobby Kielty unable to throw because of a rib cage injury, manager Ron Gardenhire felt he needed more outfield depth and called up OF Lew Ford.  Once again caught up in a numbers game, Sears was the odd man out.

If history is any indication, Todd Sears won't let the demotion get him down.  Look for the resilient slugger to keep producing and eventually work his way back to the big leagues where he belongs.

-David Zingler

Sears' page @ Baseball-Almanac.com

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