|Posted June 3, 2008|
Massaro shares AAA shot with CSU-Pueblo family
COLORADO SPRINGS - "He's just an injury away."
Those were the words of Rich Dauer, an infield coordinator for the Colorado Rockies and boyhood best friend of CSU-Pueblo head baseball coach, Stan Sanchez, who chatted up the Pack skipper prior to Monday's AAA minor league baseball game between the Colorado Springs Sky Sox and Sacramento River Cats, where former Pack standout Mike Massaro was looking to impress the brass enough to get a the call up to Oakland Athletics, the River Cats' parent club. A call-up would make Massaro the first CSU-Pueblo alum to ever make his way to the Major Leagues.
That fact, in of itself, was enough to justify a pilgrimage of sorts for players and coaches from the CSU-Pueblo program to cheer Massaro on, who was, luckily enough, playing his first AAA series just 40 miles north of his hometown of Pueblo.
Just a week ago, Massaro never thought he would be in Colorado Springs with his friends and family cheering him on. He was toiling with the Stockton Ports, the Athletics' high-A club, after being demoted from Double-AA Midland. But a rash of injuries on the A's at the Major League level prompted Massaro's call up, which was part of an organization-wide overhaul that gave a number of players in the farm system a shot on the AAA club.
Massaro, a centerfielder, is, as Dauer pointed out, just a phone call away. It's a prospect that has Sanchez wishing for bad things.
"I was watching the A's play the other night, and I saw their centerfielder [rookie Carlos Gonzales] make a diving catch," Sanchez said, "and I was hoping he wouldn't get up!"
Bad thoughts aside, Sanchez was joined on a trip to Colorado Springs by assistant coaches David Lange and Travis Humphrey, as well as a number of former and current players, including Nick Balentine, a senior in the Pack program last season, sees Massaro's run for the Majors as an inspiration.
"It shows you that where I or any of my teammates could be with a little hard work and dedication," Balentine said. "It's inspiring to watch him out there." Balentine said he is hoping to get on with an independent minor league team over the next year.
Massaro's performance in his first AAA series is also indicative of the ups and downs one must overcome to make it to the promised land. Massaro looked to be on the cusp of a call-up in his first game against the Sky Sox Saturday, going 4-for-5 and legging out a triple as the River Cats won. Then in the following two games, Massaro was stymied at the plate by pitchers Francisco Morales, who got playoff starts with the Rockies during their improbable playoff run last season, and Mark Redman, a former all-star with the Kansas City Royals. He has been hitless since his four-hit performance Saturday, with one game to go in the series with the Sky Sox.
Though ups and downs are part of the game, none of that matters right now - Massaro is enjoying a homecoming, and he's happy to share his success with his friends and family.
"It's been awesome," Massaro said of his AAA debut in Colorado Springs. "To see everyone, my ex-coaches, teammates and family, it's been a good experience. Everyone wants me to do well that really helps me to do my best."
Massaro's AAA call-up also vaulted him into a role that has also been thrust upon him - ambassador of a collegiate baseball program. In one fell swoop, Massaro has become the most decorated CSU-Pueblo baseball alum in the school's history, and with that comes the pressure of being an icon of sorts.
"It's been awesome to be the guy that the program looks to as one of its top products," Massaro said. "The program has given me a lot, and I'm happy to do whatever I can to help them out."
Sanchez said that Massaro is one of his top recruiting tools - an example of what can be accomplished by a student-athlete who does choose CSU-Pueblo to further their baseball and academic careers.
"We're going to use the heck out of him," Sanchez said. "Mikey is such a great kid and [his shot at the Majors] is something that all of our players can aspire to. He's proof positive that if you choose a career at CSU-Pueblo, it can be a stepping stone to the pros."
Massaro is the 8th player since the CSU-Pueblo baseball program restarted in 1994 to play in the farm system of a major league baseball team, and just the second to play class-AAA ball. Judd Songster played one game for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in 2005.