Ladendorf gets his break, and makes the most of it
The ball jumped off of Tyler Ladendorf's bat Wednesday night the same way it did so many times when he played at Maine West.
When the line drive split the gap in left-center field, it was no surprise to see Ladendorf turn on the jets and cruise standing up into third base.
The big difference was this didn't happen at a high school, college or minor league field for Ladendorf. It took place at Oakland's O.co Coliseum in a memorable and historic big-league baseball debut for the Athletics in their 10-0 victory over Texas.
In many ways, it was fitting for Ladendorf to get a triple in his first major league at-bat. It was a long and hardly easy road for Ladendorf to reach this moment.
The 27-year-old Ladendorf, who starred in baseball, football and hockey at Maine West, drove in the first of 2 runs with his triple. He also scored 2 runs as he went 1-for-3 while playing second base and left field.
"It's everything you thought it would be as a little kid," Ladendorf said to MLB.com. "It's unbelievable. It's hard to put into words right now.
"I'm glad we got a win more than anything. I waited a long time for this day, and just to be able to contribute is great."
Ladendorf toiled through seven seasons and 644 games in the minor leagues. He was playing well last year at Triple-A Sacramento when he was hit with a 50-game suspension in June for testing positive for using a "drug of abuse."
But the A's were happy enough with how he responded to his situation to place him on their 40-man roster last fall. The utilityman opened a lot of eyes this spring by hitting .318 with 13 RBI.
A door to an even bigger opportunity opened when outfielder Josh Reddick went on the disabled list with an oblique strain. On Saturday, Ladendorf was called into manager Bob Melvin's office.
"He said, 'You want the good news or the bad news first?'" Ladendorf told the Sacramento Bee. "I told him the bad news first, and he told me there wasn't any bad news and I made the team.
"It felt like it was an off-field incident that kind of ended my season, and I had a lot of success on the field. So I felt like I did turn the corner, especially with the bat. More than anything, it was a good feeling to come in (this spring) just trying to pick up where I left off. I didn't come in thinking I had to come in and do more, so that was a great feeling. I came in and felt relaxed."
So, one of the most electrifying athletes to come out of this area has made it big. When Ladendorf was at Maine West he clearly showed he had the ability to do something special by scoring touchdowns in any way conceivable on the football field or showcasing all of the tools that make baseball scouts drool.
He rebounded from a torn labrum when he dived into a base during Maine West's run to a sectional title in 2004. He passed up a pair of 34th-round draft opportunities with the Yankees and Giants to parlay his success at Howard College, a two-year school in Texas, into starting his pro career as a second-round pick by the Twins in 2008.
He only lasted one year with them before he was traded straight up to the A's for Gold Glove shortstop Orlando Cabrera. But all of the trials and tribulations paid off Wednesday night, when in an odd twist, he drove in his second run when he grounded into a force play started by Texas third baseman and Maine South graduate Adam Rosales.
Ladendorf and Mark Canha, who drove in 4 runs, put the A's in the history books. They became the first team to have two players record at least 2 RBI in their major-league debuts in the same game since the RBI became an official statistic in 1920, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"That's a great way to start when you're getting in your first big league game and you're able to do that," Melvin said to MLB.com of Ladendorf and Canha. "Really allows you to relax a bit and feel like you belong."
Ladendorf also became the first player since at least 1914 to play second base and left field in his major league debut.
Those may be trivial tidbits to a lot of baseball fans. But they weren't trivial to Ladendorf and those who have followed his pursuits for a long time.