At some point, nearly every
player in the minor leagues is going to give up his dream of playing in the
majors. He’ll have to pack his things, head home, and begin the unenviable task
of finding a new line of work.
If the player is lucky, he’ll have
some college experience – and some idea of a new career path – on which to fall
That’s the case for Ricky Orta,
the newest member of the Thunder, who, until about a month ago, looked like he
might have to leave bullpens, side sessions, radar guns, charting and, yes,
“I had registered and
everything,” Orta said, referring to the University of Miami, after earning the
win on Tuesday in his Thunder debut.
After he’d completed three years
of study at Miami, Orta was taken by the Mariners with their fourth-round selection
in 2006. He lasted four seasons in their system before tearing ligaments in his
pitching elbow, which meant a trip to the office of Dr. James Andrews for Tommy
John surgery and a long recovery process.
Orta was 24 and in Double-A when
the elbow went haywire. He had the operation in April of 2010, and the Mariners
released him about a month later. Problem was, Seattle had let him go with the
intention of re-signing him as soon as he cleared waivers. They told him as
much, and wanted him to know they still saw him as part of their plans.
“The Rays picked me up pretty
quick,” Orta recalled. “But the Mariners were telling me to deny their offer.
They were telling me ‘No, don’t go with the Rays.” If you’re on (a team’s)
40-man and you get picked up off waivers, you can still say no and become a
free agent and just go back to the (original) team, but I decided to go with
A big reason he decided to head
to Tampa Bay was familiarity. Although he was born in Venezuela, he only lived
there a month before moving to Miami, where he grew up. Rays infielder Sean
Rodriguez grew up in the same area, and the pair played together from Little
League on up.
The Rays signed him on May 17 and
waited for his elbow to finish healing. When it did, Orta found himself back at
the beginning, in the GCL, where he made four rehab starts.
Even after all he went through
with his elbow, a sore back in spring training this season cost him his spot
with Tampa Bay and left him scrambling for a job. He went through about three
weeks of teams telling him they didn’t have any spots at either Double-A or
That meant Orta had to wait and
hope someone would call. As those weeks went by without locking down a tryout, he
thought seriously about going back to the University of Miami, where he would
complete his study and work to become a physician’s assistant, which pulls in a
median salary of just more than $90,000 a year. That’s nowhere near the minimum
major league salary of better than $400,000, but it’s a pretty nice fallback
Just like making it to the major
leagues, however, a job as a physician’s assistant would be a long time in the
making. He’d first have to complete his bachelor’s degree, then head to medical
school before he could even think about landing a job.
“I had a tough time,” Orta said,
“because everybody thought I was hurt. I had to start doing tryouts, so to
speak. I was already enrolled in school and all that, and I was thinking ‘Maybe
it’s time (to go back),” but I was lucky enough that the Yankees called me to
(their minor league complex) and they signed me.”
Five or six teams saw Orta throw
that day, and all of them made offers. That left him with the always-welcome
problem of picking your own employer from a host of suitors. As it has
countless times before, the Yankees’ reputation preceded it, which led Orta to
a contract with the Bombers.
“When I did my tryout, I really
liked what they had to offer,” Orta, who peaked at 97 miles per hour in his
Thunder debut on Tuesday, said. “I liked the coaching staff and I liked how
they do things. It felt like a good place.”
Manager Tony Franklin was
selected to the coaching staff of his fifth Futures Game on Wednesday. He’ll be
on the staff of the U.S. team, where he’ll work under manager George Brett at
Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.
And although he’s been there four
times before, this one is particularly special. His family lives in Kansas, and
a trip out there would mean a chance to see them.
“I’m going to make time to see my
mother, who is in a nursing facility with Alzheimer’s, and I haven’t seen her
in about a year or so,” Franklin said. “So that’s basically why I’m pretty
excited about going. I get a chance to see my mother.”
Minor league managers Duane Espy
(Tulsa), Mike Jirschele (Omaha) and Jim Pankovits (Jackson) will join Franklin
on Brett’s staff.
The Thunder announced on
Wednesday that current Yankees and former Trenton stars Robinson Cano and David
Robertson will come to Waterfront Park on July 26 to promote their charitable
organizations, the RC 24 Foundation and the High Socks for Hope Foundation.
Trenton’s team chiropractor, Dr.
Thomas Haveron, who runs the MVP Foundation, helped coordinate the event and
will present checks to each player to go toward their respective organizations.
"This is a great opportunity to
publicly thank Robertson and Cano for all the work they do for our communities
here and elsewhere," Haveron said in a press release. "I wanted to
host the event in Trenton as a way of thanking the Thunder for allowing me to
be part of the team and the greatest baseball family ever."
NOTES: Former Yankees hero Bucky Dent
signed autographs on Wednesday at Waterfront Park. … Pitcher Cory Arbiso saw a
doctor on Wednesday and was cleared to begin throwing. He’s been on the
disabled list since May 18 with a strained back.