Todd Sears Can't Catch a Break
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
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
"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."
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.
Sears' page @ Baseball-Almanac.com
Simply Baseball Notebook