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Salt Lake Bees: Minor league vets looking for one last shot at big leagues

Published June 11, 2012 9:59 am

MLB • Whether it's money or glory, the dreams remain the same.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It would take only a paragraph to summarize the totality of their major league careers.

Still, Paul McAnulty and Cory Aldridge, two free agents toiling in the daily baseball grind for the Salt Lake Bees, have reached a level that few who sign baseball contracts actually ever reach.

Only 10 percent of all players who sign a minor league contract will play one game in the major leagues, let alone make it to Triple-A.

McAnulty and Aldridge, true vagabonds of the professional baseball system that extends from coast to coast, haven't lost hope of earning one more at-bat and one more big check.

One hot streak. One unfortunate injury for someone else. That's all it would take.

However, both players also understand that the end of their baseball careers is fast approaching.

"If you're 30 and not in the big leagues, you're old," Aldridge said. "If you're in the big leagues and 30, you get a 10-year deal."

Aldridge, taken by Atlanta in the fourth round of the 1997 Major League Baseball Draft, shrugged.

"I play because I like playing," he said. "I can't say I love the game. The business part is not good. If you put in a full year in the big leagues and stay healthy, you have a chance."

Aldridge, who turns 33 this month, completely understands the business side of professional baseball. He played with the Bees in 2010, went looking for a big payday and played with the Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization.

Unless a player is a high draft choice with bonus money or a part of a major league team's 40-man roster, typically, the Triple-A paycheck is $2,150 per month plus the $25 per day in meal money.

Aldridge enjoyed the Korean culture, the food and the people. Until he injured his shoulder, he was putting up good numbers. He wound up with 20 homers.

Wanting to return to the States, Aldridge signed with Baltimore. However, he was among several minor league free agents the Orioles released during spring training. He found a team in Mexico City but soon wanted out, and his agent worked out a deal that returned him to the Los Angeles Angels organization.

"Experiences are not why I play," Aldridge said. "I like Salt Lake. It's a great city. But I don't play to see Salt Lake. I play for the opportunity to go back to the big leagues or to make money in Asia.

"[Baseball] is a lucrative industry; unless you're in the big leagues, you have to go overseas to make money."

So, Aldridge seeks more at-bats in order to produce the kinds of numbers that would be attractive to the Angels or a professional team in Japan, South Korea or Taiwan.

While Aldridge plans to keep chasing the baseball mother lode, the 31-year-old McAnulty is preparing for the end.

Originally a 2002 draft pick of the San Diego Padres, McAnulty, is close to earning his college degree online. "I play the game because I love it," said McAnulty, who calls himself a good-natured "dirt bag" from Long Beach State. "I've been playing a long time. As long as a I can keep playing, I'll be perfectly happy. If this is my last year, hey, you know what? I've had a great career."

McAnulty likes to say that you have to be pretty good to suck in the major leagues. He can look at his big league numbers honestly — 47 hits in 234 at-bats with six homers and 23 runs batted in.

McAnulty batted .344 for Portland in 2005 and made his major league debut on June 22, 2005. On Sept. 6, 2006, McNaulty beat Colorado with a walk-off home run in the 11th inning. He has one call-up in two-plus seasons at Salt Lake, hitting one home run in 24 plate appearances.

With Salt Lake, McAnulty tries to set the same professional example afforded him by others when he was a mouthy, cocky kid. McAnulty eavesdrops on coaches, asks questions and continues his never-ending baseball education, even though he knows time is running short.

"When you get to the end of your career and you're looking at things like coaching when you are still playing, it helps you recognize whether you really want it or not," said Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson, himself a career minor league player with that proverbial cup of coffee in the bigs. "Ideally, all these people are competing with each other to make the big leagues. If you are willing to coach them, it makes you a better player, and better prepares you for the next step."

Not that McNaulty or Aldridge are going to end their careers without a fight. That drive made them as successful as their health, luck and ability would allow.

"You never know what's going to happen," McAnulity said. "I could be sitting in Anaheim in two months. You never know."

Bees 4, Rainiers 2 • McAnulty drove in two runs in a third-run first inning, and five Salt Lake pitchers combined to allow just four hits as the Bees won at Tacoma on Sunday. —

A tale of two baseball lifers

Paul McAnulty, 31, drafted in 2001 by San Diego, has played 133 major league games with 47 hits and six home runs. He has played for 10 minor league teams and has more than 150 home runs and is approaching 1,200 hits.

Cory Aldridge, 32, drafted by Atlanta in 1997, has one hit, a triple, in 18 major league at-bats. Aldridge has played for 12 minor league teams, plus teams in Mexico and Korea. He is approaching 1,400 hits and 200 home runs. —

Bees homestand

All games 7:05 p.m., unless noted

Monday • Tacoma

Tuesday • Tacoma

Wednesday • Tacoma, 12:05 p.m.

Thursday • Fresno

Friday • Fresno

Saturday • Fresno

Sunday • Fresno, 1:05 p.m.