Earlier this afternoon I had the chance to catch-up with my former broadcast partner Jim Clark. Jim is the voice of the Akron Aeros and we worked together during the 2002 baseball season. Jim has been broadcasting long enough that from time to time he can take a few road trips off and spend time with his family. He is no where near close to stepping down, but a few extra days off here and there will really re-charge the battery. It is not uncommon for radio announcers to be around for decades. I’m not sure when a broadcaster figures it’s time to hang it up because you could work until your dying day. (A diminishing skill set in sports means it’s time to shut it down, while a diminishing skill set for a broadcaster can sometime make him more lovable.) It’s a little different for the men who play the game. The few lucky ones are able to retire on their terms, but for most players the game forces you into retirement. I’m reminded about that when I walk through the Indianapolis Indians clubhouse. Often times Triple-A is the final stop before the teams stop calling and you are forced to face a life without baseball. This past off season may have been the cruelest of them all. Due to the economic climate a lot of very good minor league players never found jobs because teams were playing it safe with their money. For example OF Kevin Thompson (29 yrs. old), 2B Luis Ordaz (.311 avg. ’08), OF/1B Ryan Mulhern (Independent ball?), RHP Mike Thompson (27 yrs. old), RHP Marino Salas (27), and RHP Brian Rogers (25) all played for the Indians last year and as of today are not playing baseball. I didn’t add OF Adam Boeve to the list only because I’m not sure if the Pirates released him or if he is still recovering from dizzy spells that cut short his ’08 season. This is a cruel game and on more than one occasion when I’ve asked a current member of the Indians squad why they signed a minor league deal with Pittsburgh, I’ve been told there weren’t many offers out there. Sooner or later this ride will end and it likely ends on someone else’s terms. Unless you are Adam Melhuse.
Last night the 37 year-old Indians catcher walked into manager Frank Kremblas‘ office and Adam told Frank he can’t play the game of baseball anymore. The switch-hitter signed a minor league deal with the Pirates in early May and joined the Indians on May 8th. Melhuse was released at the end of spring training and settled in for his life without baseball. It wasn’t on his terms because he was cut, but after playing pro ball since 1993 and spending parts of 8 seasons in the bigs, he was comfortable with hanging it up. When the Pirates needed catching depth they dialed Melhuse and he took them up on the offer. Melhuse knew this would be his final year and this was a way to go out on his terms. Unfortunately for Melhuse and the Indians he never got it going and the end came sooner than later. The time away in April took his mind from the game and that was too much for him to overcome. As recently as two weeks ago Melhuse told me he was having trouble knocking off the mental rust. He was struggling to get mentally prepared for games and could never catch up at the plate. Physically Melhuse was in great shape, but it was too late and his mind was ready for retirement. Melhuse and Eric Kratz were splitting time and playing every other day. In the end that was too much for Melhuse and June 15, 2009 was his last day as a baseball player. He was last in the line-up on June 14th going 1-3 with a run and a double. Did anyone notice if he asked for the ball?
All the best to Adam and his wife and perhaps we’ll see him later on down the line. He never mentioned anything about coaching, but he was a catcher.
The weather has been a major issue this baseball season. For the 13th time this season the Indians are waiting out a rain delay. Tonight’s scheduled game with the Gwinnett Braves is already 30 minutes behind schedule and the rain has NOT let up for almost three hours. The forecast for tomorrow isn’t any better and the Indians front office is waiting as long as they can, but this doesn’t look good.
Like I said earlier 13 of the scheduled 64 games have been delayed at some point due to rain. To take that even farther, we have had FIVE postponements so 18 of 64 scheduled games have been affected by rain. We are hoping to play our 35th home game of the year, but this is the 7th to be delayed and when you add the 4 postponements you are looking at 11 of 35 games affected by rain. As of this afternoon the tarp crew had pulled the tarp 41 times! Forty-one times the tarp has been put of the field for 35 games! That’s enough tarp pulls for a entire season let alone for two months. Enough is enough.