Climb to majors is arduous, tough to stay once you arrive
July 1, 2011 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365
Several former East Valley and southern Arizona baseball products have worked their way to major league baseball rosters in recent years. Staying at the top of their respective organizational charts is a daily, never-ending grind for most.
There is an exception now and then. Top of the list is first baseman Paul Konerko, a Chaparral High grad and past four-time All-Star with the Chicago White Sox. Another Chaparral alum, Ike Davis, was playing first base and playing well for the New York Mets. He's been sidelined since early May by an ankle injury. He was hitting .302 when he went down.
For many others, it's a daily battle to stay at the top of the chart. Like these handful of players, for example. Former Sabino High standout J.J. Hardy. Hardy made a splash pretty early in his career with the Milwaukee Brewers. He swatted 50 homers combined in 2007 and 2008 for Milwaukee. Injury and a drop in production led to trades to Minnesota and now Baltimore. After an early-season injury this year shelved him for a time with Baltimore, he has come back and is hitting well again, batting .305 with 11 homers half way through the season. Done so well, the Orioles are now talking contract extension with Hardy.
Also enjoying some major league time at present, to name a couple, are catchers Lou Marson (Cleveland) via Coronado High School and Matt Pagnozzi (Colorado), via Highland High. Marson was drafted by Philadelphia and can tell his kids and grandkids one day he was involved in a trade for Cliff Lee. Marson has played quite a bit the last two seasons for Cleveland. Pagnozzi, who began his career with St. Louis, Is a backup this year for the Rockies. Shelley Duncan, a former standout at Canyon del Oro, is currently playing for Cleveland and was drafted by and played briefly for the New York Yankees.
A couple other East Valley grads weren't so fortunate in June. Jeremy Accardo, a Mesa High alumnus, was released a week ago by Baltimore. Accardo has pitched professionally for seven years with San Francisco, Toronto and Baltimore. Even saved 30 games for Toronto in 2007. A few days prior to Accardo's release, former Mountain Pointe star Joe Mather was designated for assignment by Atlanta. Mather, a corner infielder, played most of his career in his original organization, St. Louis, including playing for the Cardinals.
Some realize their big league dream and it lasts a long time. They are few. Others get a brief shot and likely cherish it just as much. Especially given that at any one time only 750 players in the world are on a major league roster.