When you get to the big leagues for the first time at an advanced age – like Roy Hobbs – there usually is a good backstory. Brandon Mann is a backstory hall of famer.
Hobbs certainly has the sexier tale – a teenager about to try out for the Chicago Cubs as an outfielder, he was shot in the stomach in a hotel room by a mysterious woman, derailing his big-league hopes, then somehow makes his way to the New York Knights 15 years later.
Mann, meanwhile, was a teenager drafted by Tampa Bay as a pitcher, scuffles around the minors and overseas for half his life chasing his big-league dream, then somehow makes his way to the Texas Rangers 15 years later.
Just three days before his 34th birthday – Hobbs was a similar age when he broke through – Mann made his MLB debut earlier this month.
One big difference here:
Hobbs was mostly fictional, Mann is mostly proof that fact can be stranger than fiction.
Hobbs was The Natural, Mann is The Unnatural.
(Note to Readers: I realize, at this point, some of you are asking, “Where is the funny?” What, I’m supposed to tell jokes ITAL every week END ITAL about stadium financing, Stephen A. Smith and MLS? Sometimes, it’s nice to step back and take in the sweet smell of success; also, I’m on a new anti-depressant.)
Mann’s painstaking grail included a year in which he quit the game and a year in which he was suspended 80 games for using a banned substance.
Anyhow, today I want to sketch out Mann’s long, strained journey.
(To follow Mann’s circuitous trek that I am about to detail, if possible you want a Rand McNally world map, a bunch of pins to trace his movements and an ice-cold Yuengling.)
So here now a look at the left-handed pitcher’s road to the majors that began with a $47,500 signing bonus when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays drafted him in the 27th round out of Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines, Wash.:
2002: Played for Princeton (W.Va.) Devil Rays in rookie league.
2003: Played for Princeton and Class A Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Renegades.
2004: Played for Hudson Valley.
2005: Played for Class A Southwest Michigan Devil Rays.
2006: Played for Class A Visalia (Calif.) Oaks.
2007: Quit baseball, returned to Seattle area to enroll in community college and work at Whole Foods.
2008: Played for Class A Vero Beach (Fla.) Devil Rays.
2009: Played for Class A Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits.
2010: Played for independent league Southern Maryland Blue Crabs and Class A Inland Empire (Calif.) 66ers.
2011-12: Played for Yokohama Bay Stars in Japan Central League.
2013: Played for Shinano Grandserows in Japan’s Baseball Challenge League.
2014: Played for independent league Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers and Class AA Altoona (Pa.) Curve.
2015: Played for independent league Fargo-Moorhead (N.D.) Redhawks.
2016: Suspended for 80 games after testing positive for Ostarine, then played for AZL (Ariz.) Athletics in rookie league, Class AA Midland (Tex.) RockHounds and Class AAA Nashville Sounds.
2017: Played for Midland.
2018: Played for Class AAA Round Rock (Tex.) Express.
Then the Rangers finally called Mann up on May 13, allowing him to reach his MLB goal after 16 seasons and 17 teams across 12 states and two nations.
And after waiting his entire adulthood to get to The Show, Mann became an overnight sensation of sorts – in his first three relief outings against the Astros, Mariners and White Sox, he pitched five shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks.
What happened then to the 0.00 ERA age-challenged prodigy?
The Rangers reassigned him to Round Rock last week.
Yes, THEY SENT HIM BACK TO THE MINORS; that’s not a cup of coffee, that’s an espresso.
As Shakespeare – or Casey Stengel – might say, all’s not well that doesn’t end well.
(Note to Readers: How can I be funny? This depresses me.)
Ask The Slouch
Q. I was going to jokingly suggest that, at the start of each NFL game, the team with more players standing for the national anthem be allowed to receive the opening kickoff, but doesn’t that sound ridiculously close to something the owners might actually consider? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Should the NFL replace the kickoff with a high tea at the 50-yard line, where the players will play a vigorous game of canasta to determine the placement of the ball? (Roger Strauss; Silver Spring, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Under the NFL’s new edict, will players now have to stand when they hold the ball for a field goal or an extra point? (Stephen Pappas; White Plains, N.Y.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is holding out, prompting cornerback Marcus Peters to tell the team, “Pay the man.” Can you sue him for plagiarism? (Thomas Fuller; Chicago)
A. I am not the litigious type, but at a minimum, Peters should ship me or Shirley a buck-and-a-quarter.
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