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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Interview Part 1: Mike Misuraca, Phone Calls

Mike Misuraca made his major league debut at Tiger Stadium in 1997. Photo is of Tiger Stadium in 2006. (Greatest 21 Days)
Part 1: Phone Calls | Part 2: Unbelievable Feeling
Part 3: Got There | Part 4: Baseball Guy

Mike Misuraca was ecstatic. He'd just signed his first pro contract, now he wanted to tell people.

The problem was, he recalled recently, everybody seemed to know. That's because his father Carmen had already told everyone.

"The news spread so fast,"  Misuraca recalled to The Greatest 21 Days. "My dad, he was so proud. He was telling everybody that wanted to listen that his son had signed a professional baseball contract."

Misuraca took that first pro contract and eventually turned it into a major league call. Misuraca made the bigs in 1997, his ninth pro season.

And, when he finally did get that call, he knew he only needed to make one call himself to ensure he got the word out.

"To hear my dad on the other end of that line when I told him..." Misuraca recalled. "I said, 'Pop, I'm going to the big leagues and he said, 'oh my God, really?'"

"I knew I didn't have to make any phone calls," Misuraca said.

Misuraca's major league call came with the Brewers. It ended up being a brief call - he got into only five games in a playing career that spanned a decade.
Mike Misuraca now serves as a scout for the Reds. The Reds' Great American Ballpark in 2010. (Greatest 21 Days)
But he was a major leaguer. He's also turned that playing career into a post-playing one as a scout for the Reds, getting back into the game after time away.

Misuraca spoke with The Greatest 21 Days recently by phone from his home in Southern California. He covered his career from growing up learning the game to college and the pros.

He then talked of his long trek to the majors and the overwhelming excitement that came when he finally made it and then the arthritis that forced him from the game and eventually sent him on to his scouting career.

Misuraca grew up outside Los Angeles, playing his high school ball at Glendora High School.

He recalled always being interested in sports. When football was on TV, football was his sport. When baseball was on, it was baseball.

The point where he recalled discovering baseball, though, was when he was 6 years old and his father took him to a Dodgers game.

"From then on, I was hooked," Misuraca said. "I wanted to be a Los Angeles Dodger."

On the field, Misuraca recalled always being pretty coordinated. But he was also undersized. As a freshman at Glendora, he weighed 92 pounds.
Mike Misuraca saw his first major league game at Dodger Stadium with his dad. Photo is of Dodger Stadium in 2012. (Greatest 21 Days)
He played on the freshman football team and they didn't have a pair of pants that were small enough, he recalled. He then moved to baseball full time his sophomore year as he made the varsity team.

Misuraca pitched well. He was 11-1 his senior year, he recalled. He also started to hear from scouts, including one from the Twins. He wasn't drafted. Instead, he went on to Orange Coast College.

He recalled his high school coach Clint Harwick as being a big influence on him, being a laid-back coach.

His coach at Orange Coast was Mike Mayne. Mayne, he recalled was the opposite of Harwick, but no less influential.

"He really was an unbelievable teacher," Misuraca said. "He taught me so much about the game of baseball."

In his first year at Orange Coast, Misuraca didn't pitch. He played shortstop. He pitched some toward the end of the year and more in his second year.

He pitched well enough to move on to Cal State Fullerton. The problem was Misuraca had been slacking a bit on his academics. To get in, he had to take summer classes. The pros started to look inviting.

He talked to his coach about it. If that was what Misuraca wanted, his coach responded he could have him signed by the end of the day.
Mike Misuraca started his pro career at Kenosha. Photo is of Kenosha's Simmons Field in 2014. (Greatest 21 Days)
That's what Misuraca wanted. Soon, Misuraca was a Twins minor leaguer.

"I was ecstatic," Misuraca said. "I was so excited. It was a dream. I wanted to be a pro baseball player since I was a little kid and it was actually true."

Misuraca soon hit the phone, finding his father had beat him to it. "I was so excited to tell somebody that didn't know," Misuraca said. "Maybe a far-off distant cousin was the first one to hear it directly from me."

Misuraca first hit the field for the Twins in 1989 at single-A Kenosha. His season and career, though, didn't start out as he had hoped. He got nine starts there and went 1-5, with a 5.28 ERA.

Soon, he was sent down to rookie Elizabethton.

Misuraca said he tried to take that early demotion  and work  with it. He realized it was his first year and that he wasn't behind schedule.

He also knew that any more of that and he risked losing confidence.

"I think it was a great move, the Twins sending me there, because I went down there and I tasted success, which helped me stay a little bit more positive and helped me with my confidence."

Misuraca went down to Elizabethton and he helped the team win the league championship. He then continued to have enough success to continue in the minors until his major league opportunity presented itself. (Part 2)

Part 1: Phone Calls | Part 2: Unbelievable Feeling
Part 3: Got There | Part 4: Baseball Guy

Go to Part 2: Mike Misuraca, Unbelievable Feeling

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