Jim Adduci is 10 minutes late for his scheduled interview and nowhere near a phone. He’s working on his swing in the batting cage at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.
In the heat of a playoff race, every at-bat is crucial, particularly for a player who has waited 10 years to compete at the major league level.
“It’s about getting ready to play every day and not trying to take a day off,” Adduci, who was born in Burnaby, B.C., said following batting practice.
The Texas Rangers recalled Adduci on Sept. 1 when major league teams were allowed to expand their rosters and he made his major league debut that night against Minnesota, singling to left field off in his first at-bat on the first pitch he saw from the Twins’ Kevin Correia.
It was a long time coming for Adduci, who persevered for nine-plus seasons in the minor leagues. The Florida Marlins drafted Adduci in the 42nd round of the 2003 amateur draft and traded him to the Chicago Cubs late in the 2006 season.
Adduci patrolled the outfield for six seasons in the Cubs’ system at double-A Tennessee and triple-A Iowa before the Chicago let Adduci walk last Nov. 3 after he hit .306 with 17 RBIs in 147 at-bats with Iowa. Texas signed him to a minor league deal nine days later.
Adduci turned heads at spring training in March with a .444 batting average and seven RBIs in 19 games but was sent to triple-A Round Rock, where he hit .290 in 127 games with a career-high 16 home runs while his 32 steals topped the Pacific Coast League.
Used primarily as a pinch hitter with the Rangers against right-handed pitchers, the left-handed hitting Adduci did start a stretch of games from Sept. 13-19, but struggled at the plate and is back to pinch-hitting for a Rangers outfit that entered play Friday one game behind Cleveland for the second wild card berth in the American League.
“It’s awesome to be part of this. The team, the players, everybody, it’s been great,” Adduci said. “Definitely being a part of this [playoff race] is a learning experience for me, too.”
Adduci talked to CBCSports.ca about his new teammates, settling into a pinch-hitting role in the majors and who was on his mind when he got the call to the big leagues.
1. Which Texas Ranger players have taken you under their wing to help you settle in the major leagues?
Adduci: I’ve learned so much from the veteran guys here and how they go about their business in the heat of a race. I talk to [veteran first baseman Lance] Berkman a lot. We talk about hitting. His big thing to me, being part of this as a new experience, is just about competing. The game hasn’t changed [from playing in the minors].
Another guy I go to a lot is [outfielder] Jeff Baker. I played with him a little bit with the [Chicago] Cubs in spring training. What he’s done in his career is unbelievable, the time he has spent coming off the bench. I’ve kind of learned how to do that, understanding what I need to do [to prepare for that role].
His philosophy and what I’ve taken from it has been to keep it simple, which I like, and make sure your body and mind is ready.
2. As a reserve player, what is your routine to keep your mind and body prepared if called upon in the late innings?
I like to start stretching in the third inning and start to get my body loose. About the fifth [inning], I go into the [batting] cage and hit and keep stretching. I’ve been fortunate [where we’ve played] that [there] have some long tunnels under [the dugout] so I’ve been running and making sure my legs are ready to go.
Also, for me, the big part is always keeping focused on the game and what the situation is. You don’t know every move that [Rangers manager Ron] Washington is going to make, but you try to be one step ahead of him and be ready for the situation when it comes.
3. Who was in your thoughts when you received the call to pack your bags for the major leagues?
Honestly, the one thing I thought about was the road it took to get there. I just thought about the ups and downs in the minor leagues. Nothing takes away from the experience I had there and I think everything happens for a reason. [But] at that point, I was ready [for a promotion].
I was in situations [in the minors] where I did come off the bench to pinch hit or pinch run. I started every day and moved around the outfield. I thought about that more than anything when I got the call. I thought about how long a road it’s been for my family, my wife, who’s been a part of this for a good time.
I called my parents and thanked them. They’ve sacrificed a lot for me to be able to be in this situation.
4. Describe the phone call when you told your dad, who played part of four seasons in the majors in the 1980s, that you had made it?
It was pretty special. It was kind of like I was still in shock, so it wasn’t too emotional but it was. From him taking me to the field when he was playing and … being around the game for so long, it was a really great accomplishment for us.
In the off-season I still go to him [for advice]. Even during the season we talk all the time. The one thing he always says is ‘have fun.’
There’s such a small window to do this [play in the major leagues]. You have to enjoy it and embrace it. That’s the one thing I’ve always kept with me the past couple of years as I’m getting older in the game is definitely enjoying it and having fun.
5. You hit a career-best 16 home runs at triple-A this season after hitting only 24 total in your previous nine seasons. Did a change in your batting stance or the way you hold the bat help lead to the spike in homers?
I think the one adjustment I made was getting a pitch to hit and understanding how to get in a good count, good position to be successful. There really wasn’t any tinkering with my swing. I took sixteen good swings this year where I got a home run.
There always ups and downs and times when you doubt yourself as a player, but it’s always about pushing through that moment. In my head, as I got more confident, I knew that I could contribute to the team up here and bring something to the table.