Sports
3:30 am
Thu September 20, 2012

'Itch' For Baseball Returns After Year In The Minors

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 5:14 am

When Reid Gorecki began his quest to make it to baseball's major leagues this year, he probably didn't expect things to end up in Camden, N.J. The city is the home of Campbell's Soup — and Campbell 's Field, where the Camden Riversharks play their games.

And that's where Gorecki now plays, after being traded by the Long Island Ducks. Tuesday night's game was supposed to be one of the last of his season. But the game was canceled owing to rain, and the stadium was quiet.

Gorecki sent me a text saying that he was in nearby Glassboro, where he and other players met up at a former teammate's house. Happy to have a night off, they sprawled on a huge leather couch to watch a ballgame.

Since he had just joined the Camden team, Gorecki didn't know these guys much better than we did.

Asked what it's like to welcome a new guy into the clubhouse, a teammate answers, "Usually it's pretty easy. With Reid it's a little tougher, because he's from New York — kind of a brassy individual, you know what I mean?"

And Gorecki is kind of brassy. He's 6 foot 1 and has the cool confidence of a guy you'd want playing the ballplayer in your baseball movie.

But even the toughest athlete can fall victim to the realities of the business. And a few weeks ago, the Long Island Ducks traded him to Camden for a pitcher. The Ducks not only play near where Reid grew up — they're headed to the playoffs this year in baseball's independent Atlantic League. Reid's new team, Camden, is not.

"I was shocked a little bit," he says of the trade. "I was a little upset — hometown kid. But I guess they felt my value was better to help their team with a solid arm. I got the short stick in the draw, and that's how it goes."

Three years ago, it was going well. That's when Gorecki got his first major league hit, with the Atlanta Braves. But his time in the big leagues was short. This year, Gorecki, 31, decided to give baseball another try. His parents have been putting some pressure on him.

"They're starting to push me in directions," he says. "You know, maybe going into sales. My father wants me to get into selling cars ... you know, Kia."

But Gorecki doesn't see himself at a Kia dealership just yet. He still feels at home on the ball field.

When we met in April, he said that he would "give it one last shot, see what the kid's got."

Now, he says, "The course of the season showed me the roller coaster effect of emotions again," with the ups and downs of trying to be consistent at the plate.

"But at the end of the season I look back, and I thought the season was pretty awesome," Gorecki says. "I'm ready to give it another shot next year. I kind of want to play winter ball. I got the itch back."

In the spring, he talked of possibly becoming a firefighter. But he says that hitting his first home run this season helped him change his mind about that.

Even at the minor league level, baseball is a grind. When asked what makes the long season worth it, Gorecki says, "Going 3 for 4 with a couple RBIs, couple stolen bases; the feel of contact, solid contact; there's not much better feeling. It drives you to the next at-bat."

And then, he says, "You play to step into the batter's box — and have a pitcher scared to throw you a fastball."

"Baseball makes me happy," he adds. "So I'm going to continue to do that, until I can't."

Gorecki wraps up his season this weekend against his old team, the Long Island Ducks. He'll see his friends on the field getting ready for the playoffs. His Camden team's season will be over. Reid says he'll start thinking about how to make money in the offseason. He'll also be thinking about his future, and how long baseball will be a part of it.

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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

For baseball fans, April seemed so very long ago. So much has happened to so many teams. And a lot has happened to Reid Gorecki. We first met him in April in our series following minor league ballplayers.

REID GORECKI: I'm pretty excited to get back on the field and play with these guys, you know. One last shot, see what the kid's got.

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: That one last shot started with an independent minor league team - the Long Island Ducks. Our colleague David Greene caught up with Reid on a rainy night earlier this week.

When Reid Gorecki began his journey to make it to the major leagues this year, I don't think he expected things to end up here. I'm in Camden, New Jersey. This is the home of Campbell's Soup. And I'm standing at Campbell 's Field. It's the stadium where the Camden Riversharks play.

Reid Gorecki plays for Camden now. He was traded by the Long Island Ducks. And tonight was supposed to be one of the last games of his season, but it is raining, just sheets of rain out on the ball field. The game has been called off, so we're going to go find Reid. He just sent me a text that he's in Glassboro, New Jersey. I don't know what he's doing there, but we're going to go find him.

Turns out after they canceled the game, Reid and some teammates bolted. And like groupies, we followed, 20 miles away to Glassboro, New Jersey. The guys were hanging out at a former teammate's house.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOOR OPENING)

GREENE: What's up, Reid?

GORECKI: You guys - you want to come in?

GREENE: The guys were all sprawled out on a huge leather couch watching a ballgame. Having been traded here, Reid's the new guy.

What's it like welcoming a new guy onto the team? I mean, it must happen so often that it's...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Usually it's pretty easy. With Reid it's a little tougher, because he's from New York, you know, and he's a kind of a brassy individual. You know what I mean?

GREENE: Reid does look and act like the guy you'd want playing the ballplayer in your baseball movie. A few weeks ago, his story took a turn. The Long Island Ducks traded him to Camden. He was sent packing by his hometown team, just as they were getting ready for the playoffs.

GORECKI: I was shocked a little bit, you know. It was a little awkward. I was a little upset - hometown kid. It was - I got the short stick in the draw, and that's how it goes.

GREENE: Three years ago it was going well. Reid got his first major league hit with the Atlanta Braves. But his time in the big leagues was short. This season, at age 31, he decided to keep trying baseball. His parents have been putting some pressure on him.

GORECKI: My father wants me to get into selling cars. I was like, I don't really know how I feel about selling cars.

GREENE: Why is he...

GORECKI: He said just for the fact that, you know, it's a good base salary and they have every benefit you could possibly imagine - you know, Kia.

GREENE: A Kia dealership is not where he sees himself. Reid still feels at home on the ball field.

When we met in April, you said - when the season was starting - give it one last shot, see what the kid's got.

GORECKI: Did I really? That's a nice little quote right there.

GREENE: I like it.

GORECKI: I mean the course of the season showed me the rollercoaster effect of emotions again, you know, with, you know, not hitting and not being consistent every day. But at the end of the season I look back and I thought the season was pretty awesome. I don't know. I'm ready to give it another shot next year. I kind of want to play winter ball. I got the itch back. And maybe even go down south to Mexico or something in the spring and try my hand down there in the summer league.

GREENE: When we did first talk, you know, you were taking an exam to possibly be a firefighter in New York City. It felt like you were kind of seeing this as a last hurrah. What did you taste this year that makes you want to take another shot?

GORECKI: My first homerun is really what made me feel it again. I was like - I didn't know how long it was going to take. It took me like 80 at-bats to hit my first homerun. But then you get that feel and that feels pretty good. So that kept me going for a little while.

GREENE: And the grind, on a night like this, day after day. I mean when people ask you what makes it worth it, what do you say?

GORECKI: Going three for four with a couple RBIs, couple stolen bases, there's not much better feeling. It drives you to the next at-bat. You keep that feel going, that's when you get hot. That's what you keep playing for. You play to get hot, play to step in the batter's box and have a pitcher scared to throw you a fastball. And baseball makes me happy, so I'm going to continue to do that until I can't.

GREENE: Reid Gorecki. His season ends this weekend and he'll be facing the team that traded him - the Long Island Ducks. So he'll watch his former teammates gearing up for the playoffs. Something he'll try for again next season.

INSKEEP: That's our MORNING EDITION colleague David Greene.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.