Twins’ Cates a true underdogIt appears things could get far worse for the Twins besides their mediocre at best, highly over-paid utility extraordinaire Nick Punto.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
It appears things could get far worse for the Twins besides their mediocre at best, highly over-paid utility extraordinaire Nick Punto.
I for one was still cringing in anguish this spring at the thought of Punto being an everyday player for our beloved Twinkies in 2010, let’s say at third base. But that all changed when what appeared to be a 24-year-old raccoon stepped into the batter’s box for the Twins Tuesday night against the Boston Red Sox in a spring training game.
For those who missed FSN’s live broadcast, you missed out on one of the finest knee-slappers I’ve came across in some time. (You also missed Bert circle a moron in the stands, with a sign that had his own name spelled wrong. “Burt.” But anyway.)
Standing at a cartoon-like 5-foot-2 1/2 inches tall, a gentleman by the name of Chris Cates grounded out to second base and completely made my week. It almost seemed as if the whole scenario was a gag.
For starters, Boston catcher Jason Varitek was taller on his knees than this kid, and watching someone under 5-5 try to leg out a grounder in the majors was pure comedy. It was the classic cliché of spinning in the mud — hundreds of strides, while the amount of distance traveled measured a mere 45 of 90 feet.
Then there was the jersey, which must have been an inside chuckle within the clubhouse on its own. They tagged the kid with the obscenely large No. 90, the “short” sleeves fell past his forearms and he must have had to yank the front of it out of his pants by 8 inches to keep the Twins logo from being tucked under his belt.
A co-worker of mine was watching the game from one of Jamestown’s night spots and commented he thought one of the Twins’ bat boys was getting an AB.
It truly was an incredibly bizarre experience. I almost should have been crying for this poor dude, instead of praying he’d make it through another inning so I could watch the circus unfold again.
But here’s my point.
I’m sure this young man has strived hard to get to where he is (the Twins’ A affiliate, the Fort Myers Miracle), but come on, man. There’s no way this guy is a big leaguer, which brings me to another point. Who are the Twins signing and who are they inviting to camp?
This whole debacle reminded me of when Billy Crystal suited up for the Yankees for a spring game back in the 90s. It was simply a joke, or if you will, a charity case.
In Cates’ defense, I’ll throw in a little info about the minor league shortstop.
Cates was selected by the Twins in the 38th round of the 2007 draft. He was the smallest player in NCAA Division I baseball when he began his college career with the Louisville Cardinals in 2004. Weighing 145 pounds, Cates was named third-team all-Big East while leading the Cards with a .332 batting average and 47 runs scored.
In his pro career with the Twins, Cates represented the Beloit Snappers in the Midwest League All-Star game in 2008, and in 2009 he was the starting shortstop for the South in the Florida State League All-Star game.
So there you have it. Cates definitely has made a few bones swinging the bat in the minors, but I’d have to say that’s where this young man’s yellow brick road is going to end. The range Cates would be giving up at a critical position such as shortstop — simply because he’s undersized — would alone be enough to keep him in the A ranks for life.
For the record, the kid has never hit a home run at the professional level, and I’ll buy a round of drinks in a packed bar on a Saturday night if he ever does.
I’ll also go on the record and say I’m not simply taking a swing at short people. I measure in at a very average 5-8, but after high school I realized basketball just wasn’t a realistic college opportunity for me.
We all love the underdog story. Rudy comes to mind. But this is pro ball and I’d much rather tickle my funny bone at the expense of something other than my favorite major league franchise.
So with that said. Swing away Punto, swing away.
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at email@example.com