MIAMI — Ed Lucas and his fellow New Orleans Zephyrs were running pregame wind sprints on Tuesday when they were summoned together by manager Ron Hassey.
Hassey, a former major league catcher, had news to deliver: Lucas was being promoted from Triple-A to the Miami Marlins.
“It was a cool experience to share it with my teammates,” Lucas said after the Marlins lost to Tampa Bay 3-1 on Wednesday night. “Everyone knew the situation. I’d been around for a long time and hadn’t made an appearance up here yet. There were a lot of hugs and a lot of handshakes.”
What Lucas termed “a long time” others would call astounding or unheard of — nearly 10 years in the minors.
And he’s even a Dartmouth grad!
Lucas graduated with a degree in Sociology and Economics in 2004, when he was the Ivy League’s Player of the Year. That June, he was an eighth-round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals.
Since then, he has spent time with:
— Four major league organizations (Kansas City, Atlanta, L.A. Angels, Miami).
— Seven different leagues in the minors.
— 10 different teams, including stops in such spots as Idaho Falls, Idaho; Burlington, Iowa; Adelanto, Calif.; Jackson, Miss.; and Lawrenceville, Ga.
— Not one team in the major leagues for even one second.
Told that Lucas, 31, had been called up after nearly 10 years in the bushes, Rays manager Joe Maddon commended the utility player for his perseverance.
“You gotta love it because there are a lot of tough moments that you have to fight through,” Maddon said. “You have to be very creative. Offseasons can be rather difficult, not knowing where you’re going to be next year . . . who you’re going to play for . . . ‘what are people going to think about me?’
“But, at the end of the day, it speaks to the love of the game, period. I respect it a lot, and I say congratulations to him.”
Lucas admitted there were times he considered quitting.
“I’d be a liar if I said it didn’t cross my mind a few times,” said Lucas, owner of a .278 lifetime batting average in the minors. “The reality of life is you have to make tough decisions every year. Every year I had to decide if it was worth it.”
Although Hassey announced the news of his promotion, Lucas did not fully appreciate his dream being realized until walking into the Marlins clubhouse.
“You hear those stories about guys waiting at the airport and getting sent back down before they ever made it to the ballpark,” he said. “So, I was wary until I actually got here and saw a jersey with my name on it. Then I said, ‘OK, no one is playing a joke on me.’ “
Marlins manager Mike Redmond certainly can appreciate what Lucas has gone through. Redmond was in his sixth professional season when called up to the major for the first time, with Florida in 1998.
“It’s exciting,” Redmond said of Lucas’ arrival. “Everybody’s got a different journey to the big leagues but everybody has the same goal, getting to the big leagues. His is another story that’s unique. I’m excited. I can’t wait to get him in there and hopefully he’ll get a hit in his first at-bat.”
Lucas, who was born in Michigan but attended high school in Port Orange, Fla, did not leave the dugout during Wednesday’s loss. Following the game, he was eager to join his parents and fiancée, who attended the game.
“It was a great experience,” Lucas said of his first night in a major league uniform. “I wish we could have gotten a few more hits. Hopefully, I’ll get to experience some wins here in the upcoming days and weeks, but it was fun to be here and fun to have my family here.
“It’s kind of a treat to be here and I enjoyed myself today. Hopefully, I’ll get some more time to enjoy myself.”
Asked if that Dartmouth degree finally had paid off, Lucas replied with a chuckle: “I don’t know if it has yet.”
He added that he probably had more student loans than anyone in baseball, then turned a bit more serious.
“I watch all my classmates, and they’re all out doing great things and already a decade into a career,” he said. “I can’t say that at any given time I haven’t been jealous of them, but I know they’re all pretty jealous of me.”