In the 2014 AL Wild Card Game, when the Royals were running crazy off of Jon Lester, I remember thinking that Lester could learn a thing or two from Alan. Alan had a fantastic pick-off move. I watched him work on it during practice and heard multiple coaches comment on how good it was. But watching a southpaw on his move didn’t help me with my move at all. Some things are hard to translate between a lefty and a righty.
Alan had the discipline to work hard on that move and on his game and it got him within a breath of breaking in to The Show. After being “my teammate” at Kickapoo (he was varsity, I was junior varsity), Alan pitched at Three Rivers Community College for two years followed by one year at University of Arkansas. He was drafted by the Twins in 1995 and worked his way through the system, playing for the following teams:
1995 – Elizabethton Twins
1996 – Fort Wayne Wizards
1997 – New Britain Rock Cats / Fort Myers Miracle
“It was the grind of the minor leagues. That’s just the way it is. It’s a grind to live out of your suitcase, always on the road.”
In the winter of 1997, Alan was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 draft. He spent Spring Training 1998 in the major league camp.
He pitched against:
Ken Griffey, Jr. – “He popped up.”
Frank Thomas – “Lined out to right.”
Albert Belle – “Lined out to center.”
Alex Rodriguez – “Struck him out.”
Friends all over watched him pitching on WGN. He stayed with the team until the last day of Spring Training, then was cut and sent back to the Twins. He went on to pitch two more seasons in affiliated baseball, one in AA and one in AAA, and one season of independent baseball in Connecticut and then retired.
“I had a lot of my best days on the field. From the time I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I was doing what I wanted to do, chasing that dream, and did everything I could to make it. I got the chance to pitch against some of the best in the game and have no regrets.”
Alan has since coached and taught pitching lessons, working with 7 players who did make it to the major leagues including Dallas Keuchel, Dean Deetz, Scott Elbert, and Lucas Harrell. More than 75 of the players Alan’s coached have played collegiately.
And on Christmas Eve, he was back in Springfield playing catch with me at Kickapoo.
I made a couple bad throws when I attempted his two-seam change-up. Again, lost in translation. But, the most important lessons are the same, no matter which team you play for, no matter which hand you throw with, no matter if you make it pro or not.
“This game is about doing the hard work you can do and staying humble. You simply never know how things will play out.”
This time last year, I never would have imagined how 2018 would have played out.
From the Daytona Tortugas to the Field of Dreams.
From playing catch with heroes of the game of all ages to re-connecting with teammates and old friends.
Of course it’s been hard and at times it has been a grind, but this year ranks up there with the 2014 AL Wild Card game as the best sports experiences of my life. Thank you so much to all who have been part of the quixotic Catch 365 quest.
Hat tip to the former Twins player who became a Royals player and had a crucial hit in that Wild Card game, only Josh Willingham number of catch playing days left.
Photo credit to the University of North Alabama Lions.