(Picture of Thomas Neal watching the celebration on June 7th, 2011, seconds before he left the stadium)
*article contains links corroborating the tale below*
Thomas Neal stood in left field on a hot June night, sweat dripping down his forehead, wondering how he had made it through the game thus far. His hometown girl Veronica had kept him up all night with calls and texts saying she "knew what Fresno girls were like." She was aware of how much Neal needed his sleepy nappy time but she kept texting throughout the night anyway, looking for comfort.
Thomas, a San Francisco Giants prospect from Inglewood, California, was tired, so tired. During warm up he was sure he had seen a couple of Special Ops agents in the crowd and wondered if Captain John MacTavish was coming to see him. He realized almost as soon as the thought popped in his head that the lack of sleep had made him delusional.
He slapped himself in the face to keep alert and looked at the scoreboard to check what the situation in the game was. His team, the Fresno Grizzlies, were up 12 to 1 over the Las Vegas 51s in the top of the 8th. There were two outs but Vegas had a man on 1st and 2nd with Adam Loewen coming to the plate. "Please don't hit it to me," Neal begged. It wasn't the sleep deprivation he thought might get in the way of him playing adequate defense, it was the fact that his left arm had been completely numb for over 6 hours.
In his last time up to the plate he had thrown his bat into the stands on three straight pitches. This prompted Grizzlies Manager, Steve Decker, to lovingly yell from the dugout, "the fuck is wrong with you, motherfucker?" Neal took off his glove and stared at his left hand, he was confident now that it would need to be amputated after the game. Just then he heard the crack of the bat. Neal looked up but couldn't spot the ball. He ran back, his eyes darting back and forth looking up in the sky. He was in a full out sprint now, he could feel the left field wall getting closer.
The ball hit the wall in the right field gap almost 200 feet away from where Thomas was running. "Thank god" he thought as he wiped the sweat off his brow. He started to walk back to his position as Adam Loewen cruised into 2nd base.
But as Loewen touched 2nd his Las Vegas teammates came barreling out of the dugout, cheering with their arms raised. The batboys of the 51s were chasing after them, throwing confetti in the air. Neal turned and looked at the scoreboard in utter confusion, had the 51s won the game? No, it was still only the 8th inning and the Grizzlies were up by 9 runs! Neal looked to the left of the crowd of players surrounding Loewen and saw a man in beige khakis and a black sweater come bounding over the fence on the first base side. It was the Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos and he was galloping towards 2nd base with his arm raised and his index finger pointed to the heavens.
Thomas felt sick. He had no idea what was happening. He looked up and saw a helicopter was trying to land on the field! He ran to the left field stands to get out of the way and watched a red faced Paul Beeston hop out of the helicopter as soon as it touched the ground. Beeston walked confidently over to Adam Loewen, who was now being applauded by the umpires, and shook his hand. "Congratulations son," Neal overheard Beeston say, "you've done it."
Thomas Neal hoped over the rail, walked up the stairs and out of the stadium as the Fresno crowd watched the celebration on the field with smiles on their faces. Later that day Neal would have his left arm amputated at the elbow and retire from baseball.
On that day, with that at bat, Adam Loewen reached 1,000 official at bats in the Blue Jays minor league system. Yes, as Alex Anthopoulos said, and his mentor J.P. Riccardi before him, when Loewen reached 1,000 at bats the Blue Jays would know what they had in this pitcher turned outfielder.
So do they have something in Adam Loewen that is worth a call up to the big leagues? Sure, why not?
This year Loewen has a solid .370 On Base Percentage and is Slugging a-PCL-helped .561 with 11 home runs and 23 doubles. He is walking less than last year and his strikeouts remain about the same but he's hitting for more power.
More importantly though, it's what the Jays have at the big league level that makes Adam Loewen worth a try.
Corey Patterson and Raja Davis... boooooring. How about we skip their hitting stats and I try and really depress you? In 2010 Raja Davis stole 50 bases and was caught stealing 11 times. This year he is 32 stolen bases away from reaching 50 but only 3 (!) put outs away from reaching the 11 times he was caught stealing. Patterson is 35 SBs from his personal best and also 3 (!) good throws away from his caught stealing high. Why? Maybe Escobar keeps missing hit and run signs. Or maybe they're both at the age where superstar athletes need to develop a jump shot to stay in the NBA. God knows.
Either way I'd rather Adam Loewen, the only young male from Surrey that didn't try and burn my beautiful city to the ground, get some major league at bats than the Jays continue to tread water with Patterson and Davis. I already know what they can do!
Yes, me wanting to see Loewen is based mostly on the fact we're not sure what he's capable of at the major league level so I let my imagination run and it shows me the most ~amazing things~. And yes you could use this same superficial argument for Thames and Cooper* and Lawrie. Go ahead and do it. It's fun.
But Adam Loewen passed the 1,000 at bat mark and I thought you should know.
*Cooper is hitting .393 in Vegas right now. I know batting average isn't a great stat but a guy hitting close to .400 still makes me tingly.
Dave Burrows is the West Coast contributor to GROF. He is able to bring a different angle to the site because he can stay up later. Follow him on twitter.