READING, Pa. (CBS) – When the Phillies expand their roster with minor league call-ups on September 1st, chances are that Reading outfielder Michael Spidale will not be one of the players getting a taste of the big leagues. At the age of 29, Spidale’s days as a prospect are probably numbered.
But he is one heck of a baseball player.
Despite being a career .288 hitter over 12 minor league seasons, Spidale has never made it to the big leagues. In fact, he only has 302 at bats at the AAA level.
The majority of his career has been spent at Double-A, first with the White Sox organization that drafted him in the 12th round in 2000, and now the Reading Phillies.
Earlier this season, he actually became the Reading Phillies’ all-time hit leader: he now has more than 500 knocks in parts of five seasons with the R-Phils.
And while no player sets out to set a minor league all-time record, Spidale says it is still pretty cool.
“You know, I look at it like 75 percent good and 25 percent, ‘Maybe I’ve been here too long.’ Having said that, to have the most hits in a place with the longest minor league affiliate since the ’60s or something — so many great players have come through here, to have the most hits — I’m happy my name is at the top of that list. Like I said, maybe it means I’ve been here a little bit longer than others, but its a record. I’m glad I’m at the top of that list.”
Hear Matt Leon’s interview with Michael Spidale in this CBS Philly SportsPod…
So why hasn’t the 29-year-old Spidale gotten more of a shot in his career? Talk to ten different people and you might get ten different answers.
He doesn’t hit for a lot of power (30 career pro home runs), but he is a professional hitter, and Reading hitting coach Frank Cacciatore says it’s easy to see why.
“He works at it. We’ve been working together for a number of years now, and there’s no natural thing in there — it’s all hard work. He grinds out at-bats, he’s a smart hitter, he knows how to get himself into position to get a good pitch to hit. He’s a baseball player — that’s all there is to it,” Cacciatore says. “Nothing really sticks out as being phenomenal, but he comes out to win, he gets big hits and the whole bit, and you can’t say enough about the way he goes about his work and the way he performs.”
Spidale’s work ethic is a badge of honor for him, and he says he considers himself a bit of a mentor for the younger players on the Reading roster.
“Yeah, I think that’s safe to say. I’m a guy that likes to lead by example, play hard every day. Try to play the game right. If any of the younger guys have anything or if I see something, if there is the right time, I’ll say something. I’m a big believer in leading by example. And I think some of the younger guys appreciate the way I play and play the same way, so if I can help anybody out I’m happy to do it.”
So if it plays out that Spidale never gets that shot at the big leagues, how will that sit with him?
“If the career is over and I never have any Major League time, obviously that was the goal, I can honestly say now for 12 years I have done all that I can do as far as work and how I approach the game and how I play the game,” Spidale says. “So when I lay my head on the pillow at night, I can say I did all I can do. If that wasn’t the case, then there might be some regrets, but when I’m done playing, whether I make it or whether I don’t to the big leagues, I’m not going to have any regrets.”
Spidale is hitting .321 this season for Reading, with 44 runs scored and 17 stolen bases.
Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060