Saturday, June 28, 2014

Interview Part 3: Kelvin Torve, To Contribute

Shea Stadium in 2004. Kelvin Torve played at Shea for the Mets in 1990 and 1991. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Worked Harder | Part 2: Right Spot
Part 3: To Contribute

Kelvin Torve ended up in the right spot for a second time in August 1990.

After debuting in the majors in 1988 with the Twins after an injury there, Torve got his second call to the bigs in early August 1990 with the Mets as another injury fill-in.

He ended up staying in Queens through the end of the month. He also got some key hits. In his second game, Torve knocked a two-run, pinch-hit double that proved the difference against the Phillies.

"That was much more fun being able to contribute for the Mets," Torve said.

"I was just swinging a good bat," Torve said. "Against the Phillies I had a base hit, against the Dodgers I had a couple-three hits. I just got off to a good start, which definitely helped in them keeping me."

With four appearances at the end of the year, the 30-year-old Torve got into a total of 20 games for the Mets. He hit .289.

He ended up getting into 10 more for the Mets the next year, then rounded out his career with two seasons in Japan.
New York Met Eric Young Jr., batting at Olympic Stadium in Montreal in March 2014. Kelvin Torve batted for the Mets twice there, once in 1990 and once in 1991. (G21D Photo)
Torve spoke with The Greatest 21 Days by phone recently from North Carolina, where he now works as a development director at a classical Christian school. He is also the father of two and husband of nearly 30 years to his wife Tonya.

Torve covered his start as a youth in Rapid City, S.D., where he played American Legion ball, to Oklahoma and Oral Roberts University, where he played his college ball. From there came his selection by the Giants in the second round and his trek through the minors to, finally, the majors and then Japan.

Torve returned to the Mets for 10 games in 1991, but those games didn't turn out as well for him. In eight at bats, he didn't get a hit.

But, by then, he'd tallied major league time in three seasons. It was limited, but it caught the eye of the Orix Blue Wave in Japan. They had a limited budget were looking for a minor league guy with big league experience. Torve seemed to fit the bill, he recalled.

"That's how I got over there, they needed a first baseman and I was in their budget," Torve said. "It worked out well."

Once they expressed interest, Torve said he didn't hesitate. He accepted, even though it meant taking him away from another shot at the majors, he said.
The Mets batting at Olympic Stadium in Montreal in March 2014. Kelvin Torve got an at bat there with the Mets in September 1990. (G21D Photo)
"It was an easy decision to make," Torve said, "because in Japan, they paid almost big league money. I knew it wsa going to be a crap shoot if I was going to make it to the big leagues again. Once I heard Japan was interested, I was going over there, if at all possible."

So, with his wife and their then-4-month-old daughter Tatum, they headed to Japan.

At first, it didn't go well on the field, Torve recalled. He played poorly in the first half, so poorly he thought he might be released. In the second half, though, he picked it up. He recalled being one of the best hitters in the league.

"I tore it up in the second half of the year," Torve said. "I ended up having a good year, but it was like having two different years in one year."

In all that first year, Torve hit .305 for Orix in 96 games. He also hit 11 home runs and knocked in 58.

Preparing Torve for the trip, he said, were two winters spent in winter ball.

"Going over there is fraught with challenge," Torve said. "You have to realize why you're there. You're there to play baseball. You go to the park, do your job and you play the game the way they want it to be played.

"If you adjust your mind to that," he said, "you're fine."

Players have to know they'll get bored. They're going to get tired.

"If you don't reconcile that in your mind before you go, you're going to be in trouble," Torve said. He added later, "you just kind of put the blinders on and you get it done."

He returned for a second year at Orix and he again started poorly. This time, though, he couldn't turn it around. He hit just .232 on the season and he wasn't re-signed.
The Cubs playing at Dodger Stadium in 2012. Kelvin Torve played at Dodger Stadium with the Mets in 1990. (G21D Photo)

His playing days over, Torve got a job in packaging sales. He did that for 17 years before signing on with Covenant Classical School in North Carolina as development director. He works to fund raise, market and build the school's brand in the community.

"I absolutely love it," Torve said of his current job. "It's a calling and a passion to work for the school.

He also does some coaching. He coached both his children, daughter Tatum, now 23, and son Logan, now 19. He's also does hitting and general baseball lessons at a local facility.

The farther away it gets from his career, the less his players know, he said. But they usually know his resume and he believes that gives him some credibility.

That career ended in November 1993, after his return from Japan. He recalled calling his agent, wanting to know about returning stateside. Were there any jobs available?

His agent checked and got back to him: The only jobs for Torve would be as an insurance policy somewhere. Torve declined.

"I was done playing," Torve said. "Mentally, I was just ready to hang it up. I had played 13 years and I was ready to get it over with, ready to quit and move on."

He quit on his own terms. "Ninety-nine percent of guys don't quit on their own terms," Torve said. "I'm grateful to be able to have done that."

Part 1: Worked Harder | Part 2: Right Spot
Part 3: To Contribute

Be sure to read Part 1: Kelvin Torve, Worked Harder

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