Simply Baseball Notebook's Straight From The Source

Jesse Orosco

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J.C. Romero
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Todd Sears
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Jesse Orosco
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photo by S. Vannavong

On April 5, 1979, 21-year-old Jesse Orosco made his major league debut for the New York Mets.  Bill Buckner, then with the Chicago Cubs, was the first batter he faced.  Ron Hodges was flashing the signs behind the plate. Buckner retired in 1990 and Hodges last appeared in the big leagues in 1984.  Orosco is still pitching.

Originally drafted in the second round by the Minnesota Twins way back in 1978, Orosco played rookie ball at Elizabethon that season.  He showed promise, posting a 1.13 ERA in 40 innings.  In December 1978, the Twins acquired pitcher Jerry Koosman from the New York Mets for a player to be named later.  In February that player became Jesse Orosco.

During his time with the Mets, Orosco saw a team rise from the dregs of the National League to become one of the best in history, culminating with a World Championship in 1986.  "I basically came up with the Mets organization after I was traded from the Twins after just one season in the minors," he explained.  "I came up with the Mets when we were at our worst; we lost 100 games a couple of times.  We grew from the worst team to the best team."

Orosco played a significant role during the Mets championship run, winning three games in the NLCS and saving two in the World Series, including Game 7.  After leaving the Mets in 1987, he made stops in Los Angeles, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Baltimore, St. Louis, San Diego, and another in New York, with the Yankees.

On August 31, 2003, the Twins, in desperate need of a left-handed reliever, reacquired Orosco from the New York Yankees for, coincidentally, a player to be named later.  It was the second time that season the veteran had been traded.  After 24 years, Jesse Orosco's career had come full circle.

"When I left San Diego, I got an opportunity to go play for a contender (in New York)," Orosco said.  "I was very excited about that, and even though it didn't work out, I'm back in that same spot again.  There's nothing to feel sorry for me about.  I am right where I want to be."

Twins manager, Ron Gardenhire is roughly six months younger than Orosco.  He made his major league debut in 1981 with the New York Mets and appeared in 285 games over the next five seasons with the club.  He last played in the big leagues in 1985.  Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson made his major league debut in 1986 for the New York Mets.  Anderson's major league career ended in 1988.  He is actually older than Orosco, but only by six months.

photo by S. Vannavong

"Over the past four or five years, I've been running into (former) teammates," the 46-year-old explained.  "If you play long enough, you are going to have things like that happen."

"Everybody is kinda freaked out that I have been playing this long," Orosco went on to say.  "A lot of my former teammates have marveled at what I've done.  I guess it's a compliment."

On August 17, 1999, Orosco appeared in his 1,072nd game, surpassing Dennis Eckersley as the all time leader.  His opponent that night?  The Minnesota Twins.  For all he has accomplished in the game, Orosco feels that record defines his career.

"It's a trademark that I'll have from here on," he commented.  "It's nice to own a record like that.  I am sure that's how Cal Ripken feels about his records.  We all strive to get the best out of our careers, and that record signifies that I had an iron-type arm."

While the mark never received much play in the media, Orosco says it has earned the respect of his peers.  "As I continue playing now," the two time All Star said, "I have more and more pitchers coming up to me and saying 'I think it's amazing that you've pitched in that many games.'"

Orosco often gets bombarded with questions concerning his retirement, but for now he remains noncommittal.  "I don't know (how much longer I'll play)," he said.  "I am having too much fun to think about that right now."  He doesn't however, plan on taking the mound at age 50.  "I feel like I am a publicity stunt at 46," he joked. "People look at that like 'Whoa, that's weird.' I can't imagine what it'd be like at 48, 49."

During his long career, Orosco has played on a World Series winning team, appeared in an All Star Game, set an all time record, and made several million dollars.  Why then does he keep playing?  The answer is simple: "The grass.  The mound.  The competition.  I love it."

-David Zingler, November 2003

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