Nearly every baseball player on Earth would be happy to have an MLB career spanning 12 years. Sean Kazmar Jr. did it the hard way.
Kazmar, who is currently 36 years old, made his Atlanta Braves debut on Saturday, appearing as a pinch hitter against the Chicago Cubs. It was his first appearance in the majors since Sept. 23, 2008, when he was a San Diego Padres rookie.
That adds up to 12 years, six months and 25 days between MLB appearances.
In the decade-plus in between, Kazmar played in the minor league systems of the Padres, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets and Braves. For the last eight years, he has played for the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves. Primarily a second baseman for his career, Kazmar has hit .263/.311/.369 in his Triple-A career.
Why Sean Kazmar Jr. waited 12 years to reach MLB again
There are very few baseball players willing to stick it out that long in the minors, where pay and facilities are abysmal. Per ESPN's Jeff Passan, Kazmar did it not only because of an obvious love of the game, but because he wanted his kids to see him in an MLB uniform and believed that day would come. And now it has, thanks to the Braves' need for infield depth and a supernova performance in spring training.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said giving Kazmar the call to the big leagues was "probably one of the greatest moments I’ve had as a manager at all levels."
According to Elias Sports Bureau via MLB.com, only 12 players have had at least 12 years pass between MLB appearances since 1900. None of them have played in the last four decades:
22 years, 2 days: Paul Schreiber (1923-45)
20 years, 365 days: Charlie O’Leary (1913-34)
19 years, 69 days: Gabby Street (1912-31)
15 years, 221 days: Clay Touchstone (1929-45)
15 years, 74 days: Fred Johnson (1923-38)
14 years, 297 days: Joe Cicero (1930-45)
13 years, 14 days: Ralph Winegarner (1936-49)
12 years, 309 days: Ken Penner (1916-29)
12 years, 68 days: Minnie Miñoso (1964-1976)
12 years, 3 days: Satchel Paige (1953-1965)
It had been so long since Kazmar was in the majors that his opponent's pitching coach was selected six picks ahead of him in the 2004 MLB draft, as The Athletic's Jayson Stark notes.
It had been so long, this is what the lineups looked like when Kazmar last played an MLB game:
It had been so long, Greg Maddux was still playing, George W. Bush was still in the White House and Apple had just added 3G to its newfangled iPhone when Kazmar took his last at-bat.
And yet he made it back, because sometimes perseverance pays off.
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