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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Interview Part 1: Tim Delgado, A Bit Stubborn

Tim Delgado with the Mayaguez Indios in Puerto Rico. Delgado played professionally for a decade, spending time overseas and in winter ball. (Photo Provided)
Part 1: A Bit Stubborn | Part 2: Competitive Advantage 
Part 3: Toughest Day

Tim Delgado's agent told him it wasn't possible for a player with his experience, but Delgado didn't listen.

Unable to see a future as a minor leaguer with his current team, the Cubs, Delgado stayed up that night, faxing and calling each member trying to get his own offer.

He had to stay up because he was calling halfway around the world, to Taiwan.

"I'm a bit stubborn, as most ballplayers I think are," Delgado told The Greatest 21 Days recently.

Delgado also had good timing. One of the teams he contacted had some injury problems and needed a pitcher right away. The offer for 1994 was $7,000 a month - five times what Delgado had been making in the minors.

"I said 'you got it,' and I jumped on a plane," Delgado recalled.

A native of Michigan, Delgado ended up playing a decade in professional ball. Four of those seasons were spent in the minor leagues, in the Cubs system, making it to brief appearances at AA over two seasons, but never to the majors.
Tim Delgado with the Mercuries Tigers of the Chinese Professional Baseball League, from his Tigers baseball card. (Photo Provided)
The rest of his career was spent overseas, in winter ball and in spring training, the second half of his career spent in places largely invisible to standard statistic sites. It was injuries that ultimately slowed his career, thwarting a chance to return to the minors at AAA, and possibly a chance to go further.

Delgado spoke to The Greatest 21 Days recently from his Houston-area home. He talked of growing up in Michigan, then setting out for Arizona and Florida, believing that was his path to the pros.

When he got there, he impressed enough to play four seasons, and get a regular slot in winter ball. Then came Taiwan, injuries and a post-playing career in real estate development.

Delgado grew up in Southfield, Mich., and nearby Birmingham, Mich., raised by his mother. He started in the game young. And, with his size, growing up to be listed at 6 feet, 6 inches, Delgado recalled always getting pushed ahead.

He also recalled playing other sports, basketball, football and golf. But, he said, "there was never a question of what I wanted to do. It was always about baseball."

And it was the pitcher's mound that drew him, Delgado recalled. A pitcher, he said, controls the game like a quarterback.
A pitcher delivers to the plate at Damaschke Field in Oneonta, NY, in 2009. Tim Delgado played in Oneonta's league in 1990 with Geneva. (G21D Photo

"The game doesn't start until I say it starts," Delgado said. "When I look in that dugout, it feels like it's me against those 25 guys, and sometimes me against those guys and the umpire."

He could also use his size on the mound, Delgado recalled. With that, he could take advantage of his infield behind him, pitching down to hitters, making them hit ground balls.

Coming out of high school, found his way to Arizona, and Scottsdale Community College. He recalled having a chance to go to Oklahoma State and play there, but restrictions on when he could turn pro sent him to community college and Scottsdale.

And being a pro was his goal. Looking back, Delgado said, it would have been smart of him to go to the four-year school, "but you couldn't convince me at 16 years old that I wasn't ready to pitch at Yankee Stadium."

So Delgado went to Scottsdale. He also heard from scouts that seemed interested, a couple even telling him that he'd be drafted. But, when he didn't get a solid pro offer there, he went with a friend to Florida. There, the two tried out for Miami's Florida State League team, then an independent.

Tim Delgado with the Peoria Chiefs in 1991. (Photo Provided)
Delgado's stay in Miami was brief, four outings, two starts. He gave up six earned in 9.2 innings of work Soon, he signed with the Cubs, sent to short-season Geneva.

"It was the realization of a dream there, because I knew that that's what I wanted to do all along," Delgado said of turning pro and getting signed. But it was also just another step to his ultimate goal, he said.

"For me, it was just like, 'this is what's supposed to happen to me,' now let's get to work," he said.

But he also turned pro as an undrafted free agent, a player in which the Cubs had invested little. Having signed as a free agent, Delgado knew there was that much more pressure to perform.

With the Cubs at Geneva, Delgado pitched well. He got into 17 games, starting two. He picked up a win, four saves and had an overall ERA of 2.80.

He moved to single-A Peoria for 1991, tallying seven wins and four saves over 49 total relief outings. His ERA landed at 4.02.
The former Pete Vonachen Stadium in Peoria, Ill., in 2011. Tim Delgado played at Pete Vonachen in 1991 with the Peoria Chiefs. (G21D Photo)
In between Geneva and Peoria, Delgado got the chance to play in his first winter ball season. Helping spark that, he recalled, was a chance encounter while playing with Geneva against Tigers-affiliate Niagara Falls.

In town happened to be the Tigers' director of Latin American scouting, filling in as manager. Delgado had a good outing and the director seemed impressed, calling Delgado, asking if he'd be interested in playing that winter in the Caribbean.

Delgado recalled not knowing much about winter ball or how it worked.

"All I heard was Puerto Rico," Delgado said, "and the idea of going to Puerto Rico in the winter instead of shoveling my mom's driveway in Michigan was a good one."

Soon, that talk turned into a reality and ballplayer only a season out of college was on his way to Puerto Rico and the Mayaguez Indios.

Go to Part 2, Tim Delgado, Competitive Advantage
Part 1: A Bit Stubborn | Part 2: Competitive Advantage 
Part 3: Toughest Day

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