The small town of Catasauqua, PA is back in the major leagues. Catty High product, Anthony Recker, will be called up by the Oakland Athletics tomorrow as the A’s begin a series against the Yankees in New York. It’s a fitting place for Recker to begin his major league career since it’s where Pat Kelly, the last Catasauquan to play in the majors, began his.
If you’re from the Lehigh Valley, you probably already know all about Pat Kelly. The Yankees selected Kelly out of West Chester University in the 9th round of the ’88 draft. Kelly made his major league debut 3 years later at the age of 23 and played parts of seven season in the Bronx before signing with the Cardinals in the winter of 1997. He played one year for the Red Birds then departed for Toronto where he played the start of the 1999 season before injuring his shoulder diving for a popup in foul territory (At least, that’s how I remember it happening. I was 9 so I’m not totally sure). The injury effectively ended his career.
|Pat Kelly in his Aussie garb.|
Was Kelly a great player? No. Kelly’s best season came in 1993 when he was worth a respectable 2.1 Wins Above Replacement in only 450 plate appearances. He spent most of his career either platooning or injured, hovering around replacement level with a career OBP below league average. While by no means was Kelly a great player, he did have, in my opinion, an amazing career. He got to play with Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, Wade Boggs, Paul O’Neil, Derek Jeter, David Cone, Tim Raines (who needs to be in the HoF, by the way), Joe Girardi, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Shawn Green, JD Drew (Booo!), Carlos Delgado and Dwight Gooden. He was the first one out of the dugout to greet Mark McGwire when Mac broke the single season home run record in ’98. He’s currently part of the coaching staff for Australia’s World Baseball Classic team and the Scouting Coordinator for the Seattle Mariners in the Pacific Rim (which, if I were Pat, I would constantly brag about. “I got the Pacific Rim job! I got the Pacific Rim job!” It’s priceless). His experience in baseball has taken him around the world, is beyond unique and I’m sure he wouldn’t trade the road he’s taken for any number of home runs or awards. Neither would anyone in Catasauqua who still toast to him on a weekly basis in our local bars. We love Pat Kelly because he made it out of our small town but didn’t forget that he came from it, even now as he and his family dwell peacefully in Australia. We wouldn’t think any more highly of him if he’d won a handful of MVP awards. He was only a utility player, but he was our utility player.
Almost serendipitously, Kelly made his way back to the US this summer to, among other things, play in the Yankees Old Timers Game at Yankee Stadium. (Long aside…He drifted down to Catasauqua where I saw him at the local playground one evening. I had a conversation on the phone with him a day or two later, pleading for him to look at my scouting reports in the hopes of landing some sort of job. He has not, as of yet, called or emailed me. In fairness, I haven’t written as many as I wish I have. Pat, if you’re reading this, I’m insanely busy but call me. I’m better than 90% of the scouts out there.) A few months later, Recker ascends to the majors and picks up in the same stadium at which Kelly left off.
So what should you expect from Recker? Well, if his stats at AAA Sacramento are any indication, you’d think he’d be pretty good. A .388 OBP with a .500 SLG? Sign me up. Sadly, his stats aren’t a good indicator of what he’s likely to do in the bigs. The Pacific Coast League is full of comical hitters parks (Cody Ransom had 25 HRs before the All Star break in the PCL) that inflate his numbers and Recker, age 27, is making his third go around in the PCL. Scouting reports indicate he’s below average defensively as well. The best part about all that pessimism? I don’t care one bit. He might be a 27 year old rookie backup, but he is our 27 year old rookie backup. No matter what Recker does during his Major League career, however brief or tenured, his picture will grace the walls of local taverns from now until eternity because he made it to the big leagues. Everyone from Catasauqua feels like a piece of us has made it back, too.