Lindsey just loves the game (Photo: Joe Kaiser)
John Lindsey is one of the veterans in the Mariners minor league system, a former 13th round pick by Colorado in 1995 who has managed to excel as a designated hitter after injuries ruined his days as an every-day first baseman. InsidethePark's Joe Weiss talked to the down-to-earth San Antonio slugger recenty to get his take on his rollercoaster baseball career.
The sky on that day was a solid thing that, truly, could fall. An oppressive cap of humidity the color of concrete, it hung over the Wolff, seeming to groan beneath the weight of steadily culminating forces; a heavy rain was percolating somewhere hidden.
In this fashion, the atmospherics were mirroring the Missions’ current performance: inning to inning, an offense on the cusp of something big; inning to inning, an offense pulled back from the brink of a scoring storm. By the time DH John Lindsey stepped to the plate in the home half of the seventh, the Missions had already managed to strand six runners and were losing to the Tulsa Drillers, 1-0. Teammates Greg Dobbs and Dustin Delucchi were leading off of first and second, respectively, when the sleek but powerful Mississippian finally saw a pitch he liked and brought his bat around in a furious arc to meet it.
The fly ball that resulted landed into the pitcher’s glove with an anticlimactic “plop” that sounded like a sighed surrender. End of inning, and, six outs later, end of game.
It never did rain, either.
“God’s plan is perfect,” Lindsey, told InsidethePark.com the next day in a pre-game interview. “Whatever He has in mind is best for me.”
If the abovementioned account of San Antonio’s heartbreaking loss on Wednesday to Tulsa, Lindsey’s role in particular (0-4 with two strikeouts and those two very crucial LOB), sounds less than “perfect,” keep in mind that the humility and faith of the participant has the power to make it so.
Lindsey was selected by the Colorado Rockies in 1995 in the 13th round of the amateur draft and would go on to produce good numbers at the plate at Single-A Salem, but a poor throwing arm, a side-effect of surgery, limited his defensive ability and delayed his progress.
For someone with such a handicap, however, Lindsey was born at the “perfect” time; the solution to his problem came into being just a scant four years before he, himself, did. It was for a April 6th, 1973 Opening Day contest against the Boston Red Sox that the Yankees’ Ron Blomberg was inked into the lineup not as a fielder, but as a designated hitter.
“I came off of arm surgery, and my problem wasn’t really improving, and there I was playing for a National League team,” Lindsey said. “Well, I played three years in High-A and was never brought up because my arm was messed up, so I said, ‘I’d better try an American League team.’”
Lindsey was offered a contract to continue playing for the Colorado organization, but decided to seek out the American League and its controversial haven for those able to swing the lumber with the best of them, but who struggle when it comes to making those quick and accurate across-the-diamond throws so integral to an effective defense.
If Lindsey continues to hit as well as he has so far this year (as of Friday, he’s batting .280 and is tied for second in the Texas League with six homers), an entire Northwestern metropolis may soon have reason to celebrate what was once intended to be just a three-year experiment, now in its 31st.
A 27-year old minor-leaguer who’s been in the pros for almost a decade, it’s perhaps not surprising that Lindsey regards his past with a tincture of regret (he admits that he would have loved to play at Coors Field) and his future with some concern (acknowledging, as he does, the fact that his relatively advanced age may make potential investors reluctant); ultimately, though, he is comfortable in the knowledge that he’s made to a sort of Promised Land.
He comes across as composed and secure in the realization that, in a world that so often reduces a man’s dreams to little more than hollow recollections salvaged from time to time as a sort of mental anesthetic in the face of deadening drudgery and routine, he’s one of the lucky ones.
“I’m blessed to be playing the game,” he said, smiling.
It’s a perfectly apt sentiment.