MINOR LEAGUE NOTEBOOK / MIKE DiGIOVANNA : Shockey Forced to Leave Modesto
Scott Shockey was tearing up California League pitching like that fateful slide into second base tore up his knee in 1991, but going into last week, the former El Toro High School and Pepperdine first baseman had no desire to leave Class-A Modesto for bigger and better things.
“The player development director was here, but I told him I would just as soon stay here the rest of the season--it has been good for me,” Shockey said last week from Modesto.
“A lot of people say I’m doing well and should move up. They say, ‘What are you still doing there?’ But I’m having fun, and fun to me is the most important thing.”
But to the Oakland Athletics, player development is the most important thing. Despite Shockey’s desire to remain in Modesto, his numbers there--.319, 19 home runs and 81 runs batted in--were impossible to ignore.
The organization promoted Shockey on Wednesday to triple-A Tacoma, where he played briefly in 1990 before a torn anterior cruciate ligament derailed his career in 1991.
Shockey, playing for double-A Huntsville, Ala., was attempting to break up a double play when his foot got stuck in the ground and his knee gave out.
Total reconstructive surgery was required, and doctors gave him a 50% chance of playing again.
“You can tell someone the odds, but you can’t tell how much desire they have,” said Shockey, 26. “I don’t like being told I can’t do anything.”
That attitude has helped sustain Shockey through a year of rehabilitation, and those efforts are being rewarded this season. Splitting time between first base and designated hitter, the left-handed hitting Shockey has shown excellent power and made steady progress.
“I’m still not 100% back,” he said. “But every day, it seems like it’s getting better.”
How much better Shockey gets will determine his future with the Athletics.
“At times he really shows signs he’ll hold up; other times, he’ll swing and the knee will give out,” said Keith Lieppman, Oakland’s director of player development. “There are a lot of issues that have to be cleared with him before we think he can make it.”
Talent is not one of the issues. Lieppman said Shockey, a seventh-round pick in 1989, was considered the organization’s top hitting prospect before he got hurt, and should have no problems hitting at the triple-A level.
“It’s all health,” Lieppman said. “No. 1, can he go out and play and run effectively? He has been timed at five seconds flat to first when he’s not feeling well, which is well below average, and the most consecutive starts he has made in the field is three.
“We normally don’t develop designated hitters in our system--you need someone to play the field--but if he hits enough and his leg holds up, he may be a rare exception.”
Shockey’s future is not only in Oakland’s hands. He’ll have some say in it, too.
“I’m thinking of going back to school and getting my degree. I’ll have to evaluate it during the off-season,” Shockey said. “I’m a lot smarter than a lot of the younger guys. When you first come up, you think, ‘If I do this and that, I’ll make it.’ But I’m 26 now and know that things don’t always work out that way.
“Whether I’m good enough to make the big leagues or not, I don’t know. But I have a lot of satisfaction knowing I came back when they (doctors) weren’t sure if I could.”
Who’s not on first? Ryan Klesko figured he’d be playing first base for the San Diego Padres by now. Virtually every trade rumor involving then-Padre first baseman Fred McGriff and the Atlanta Braves included Klesko, one of the Braves’ top minor league prospects, going to San Diego.
But when McGriff finally went to the Braves July 18, Klesko remained at triple-A Richmond, Va., while three other Atlanta minor leaguers moved to San Diego.
At first, Klesko was mad.
Now he’s glad.
“I’m not going to lie--I was real hot about it when it first happened,” said Klesko, the former Westminster High standout who is batting .298 with 19 homers and 62 RBIs. “I’ve been putting up good numbers and felt the (Atlanta first base) job would be mine next year. Now, with McGriff there, that’s in question.
“But then the Braves expressed to me that I was part of their future, that I was highly thought of, that if they didn’t think that much of me they would have traded me. That made me feel good. . . . And to tell you the truth, I want to be with the Braves. They’re going to win for a long time. San Diego might not win for a few years.”
Since the McGriff trade, Klesko has been playing left field, a move the organization made in hopes of finding Klesko a spot in Atlanta. There has been speculation that Brave left fielder Ron Gant won’t be re-signed next season.
“I know my time in the minors will be limited,” Klesko said. “I’m not being cocky, but the way I’ve been playing, if I finish with a good year, I feel I’ll be ready for the major leagues.
“A lot of coaches have told me that. I’m only 22, but I’ve been hearing, ‘You’re young,’ for four years. This is my fifth season in pro ball. If I have to continue to wait, it will concern me.”
Klesko, who had one home run in 13 at-bats during a month-long stint at Atlanta in April and May, has minimal outfield experience, playing there for a time during the 1990 winter season in Puerto Rico. But he has been getting a crash course-literally--for the past two weeks.
“He’s killing himself out there,” said Eric Johnson, Richmond’s public relations director. “He’s running into fences, diving into artificial turf, he hit his head on a fence in Toledo. He looks a little uncomfortable, but you can tell it will come in time.”
First baseman Bob Hamelin, a former player at Irvine High, Rancho Santiago College and UCLA, was the first Omaha Royal player fined for violating the minor league ban on tobacco.
Hamelin was notified by the commissioner’s office that he had been seen using a tobacco product July 14 when the Royals were playing in Indianapolis. He was informed he would be fined $300 for violating the ban instituted June 15.
Hamelin wrote to thank the commissioner’s office for its concern for his health but pointed out Omaha didn’t play in Indianapolis on July 14; that was the day of the triple-A all-star game in Albuquerque, N.M. He admitted he probably did have a “big dip” of chewing tobacco in his mouth on that day while he lounged around a pool in Omaha.