Mark Minicozzi made the most of his first spring training at-bat for the San Francisco Giants. He blasted an opposite-field home run to right field Friday and trotted around the bases looking like a baseball star who did that sort of thing all the time.
If only that were the case. No, Minicozzi is making the most of things right now because at one point it looked like he'd never get to play on a field with major leaguers again, let alone hit a ball over the fence and enjoy a few moments of home-run glory.
Minicozzi is 31 years old and after getting picked from the stands by the Giants less than two years ago, he has a second opportunity at a pro baseball career. He's at big-league spring training with a chance (albeit a slim chance, but still a chance) to make the team.
In a previous life, Minicozzi was drafted as a shortstop by the Giants in the 17th round. That was back in 2005. At one point, he was the MVP of the California League championship for the Giants' Single-A team in San Jose. Minicozzi showed some promise until his career was derailed by injuries and cut by the Giants. There were elbow, labrum and wrist injuries, then a back injury that required surgery. The back surgery, though, helped him finally play pain free and reboot his career.
He traveled to Worcester, Quebec, Winnipeg and even Nicaragua, playing independent ball to keep his dream alive and collect a paycheck all while hoping to get noticed again. He did. Eventually. Just from the stands.
Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area tells us about the chance encounter that gave Minicozzi another shot:
One day in 2012, after seeing a Facebook update from one of his old managers with the Giants, Dave Machemer, Minicozzi looked up the schedule for the Giants’ Double-A club. Mach and the Flying Squirrels were playing in Reading, Pa., a 45-minute drive from his home near Philadelphia. Spur of the moment, he went.
“I looked up the roster and saw a couple guys I played with,” Minicozzi said. “I thought it’d be neat to say hi.”
He bought a ticket in the third row, got the attention of Machemer and field coordinator Shane Turner, and surprised them when he said he was still chasing the ghost. Turner invited him to take some cuts with the team at the next morning. Bring your stat sheet, bring your bat, and be ready at 7 a.m., he said.
“They could’ve said 3 a.m.,” said Minicozzi, “and I’d have been there.”
It's obvious what happened next, isn't it? He impressed the Giants again, getting a new contract and doing well enough to get an invite to big-league camp less than two years later.
Minicozzi hit .284/.356/.486 in 2012 in 81games in Double-A, then was better last season hitting 309/.400/.445. In addition to that home run in his first spring at-bat, Minicozzi had another hit Monday, making him 2-for-4 in three games for the Giants.
He's likely to start the season in Triple-A playing second base, unless injuries decimate the Giants infield. To hear Minicozzi tell it, he's just in awe of where he finds himself these days. Sharing a clubhouse with Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum sure beats Winnipeg. Minicozzi told the San Jose Mercury News:
"To be here, I can’t even describe how awesome it is,” he said. “Every day I come to my locker at 6:45 a.m. and I can’t stop smiling. You know, I’ve been a lot of places where you’re not smiling.”
Look at Minicozzi getting a high-five after that home run the other day. That's a heck of a smile.
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