Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Kerry Ligtenberg, 2004 Topps #71

Nothing has ever come easily to Kerry Ligtenberg in baseball. In the early 1990s, he made the University of Minnesota baseball team as a walk-on. There were no major league scouts beating down his door, so he graduated with a degree in chemical engineering and kept his baseball dream alive by catching on with the Minneapolis Loons of the now-defunct Prairie League in 1994. The Mariners purchased his contract during the players' strike the next Spring, but released him four days later. Those four days as a replacement player would cost him membership in the players' union. He went back to the Loons and went 11-2 with a no-hitter, but was ready to call it quits until the Braves signed him in January of 1996. He pitched well and quickly moved through the farm system, getting the call to the bigs the following August. By 1998, Kerry was the Braves' closer, saving 30 games and posting a solid 2.71 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. But the next spring, he injured his elbow and missed the whole season with Tommy John surgery.

Ligtenberg bounced back in 2000; though he lost his ninth-inning role, he compiled a 3.21 ERA with Atlanta and Baltimore. He moved on to Toronto in 2004 and was awful (1-6, 6.38), and seven even worse outings in Arizona in 2005 spelled the end of his major league career. He pitched two seasons at AAA and finally seemed through with baseball after a knee injury cut short his Spring Training stint in Cincinnati in 2007. He started looking into work as a financial planner.

But Kerry Ligtenberg is back, in a manner of speaking. Now nine days short of his 38th birthday, the righty is making a run at the ninth-inning job for the St. Paul Saints, one of the better-known independent baseball clubs. He hit his spots and showed good movement during a 10-minute live session earlier this week, and got the invite to camp. Kerry summed it up pretty well:

"I might be old and gray," Ligtenberg said. "But I still love to play."


MattR said...

Degree in Chemical Engineering? Smart dude!

jacobmrley said...

While I always dreamed of being a baseball superstar and hitting the game winning home run in the world series (like every other kid), I knew early on (like age 8) that wasn't going to happen. I always joined little league, then pony league and they got me into games in right field. Then I grew 10 inches in a year and suddenly I was a pitcher. While I kept score for my freshman HS team, I also pitched batting practice and caught the kids warming up. I made the JV my sophmore and junior years, and even played a little. Senior year my elbow hurt and I decided not to play. For the first time since I was 5 i didn't play baseball. It was a shock to my system. I made up for it by playing for my crappy division III college team (the mightly Emerson Lions!) we even won 2 games! (by forfeit! the Mass College of Pharmacy always had a hard time finding 9 guys to play...)

So, this long rambling post has a point, which is, when I read about baseball players, I don't care about the A-Rods or Pujols (or Mantles...) of the world, I like the super fringe guys like Lightenberg who just like to play baseball and will do it no matter what and that passion got them to the Majors. The fact that he is still playing makes my black little heart beat for a moment. I like to think if I had any ambition (and about 1000x more talent than I had) I could have been on of those guys.

Kevin said...

Matt - Yep, puts an English and Drama major like me to shame.

Max - Yeah, the "ham-n-eggers", as Bobby Heenan would have said, tend to make for much more interesting stories. Like Travis Driskill, the 30-year-old rookie who started 5-0 for the Orioles in 2002.

SacBunt said...

Damn, I got goose bumps, you gotta root for the guys that would play the game for nothing...