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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Chris Jelic, Ultimate Goal - 553

Originally published Jan. 10, 2012, edited June 2013
A native of Pittsburgh, it didn't matter to Chris Jelic that he was playing in the New York Mets' organization, he told his hometown Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1987.

Going into his third pro season, Jelic had just arrived with the Mets from the Royals in a trade.

"Actually, that doesn't bother me at all," Jelic told The Post-Gazette of playing in organization of the Pirates' division rival. "Your ultimate goal is the big leagues. I'm pretty happy to be playing with the Mets."

Jelic ultimately did make that goal, and he made it with the Mets. But he didn't reach it until September 1990, and it was a brief stay. Just four games with the Mets that year marked the extent of his major league career.

He made that brief career count, though, or at least his only major league hit count. The only major league hit he got was a home run.
 Jelic's path to that one major league hit began in 1985, taken by the Royals in the second round of the draft out of the University of Pittsburgh.

At Pittsburgh, Jelic played baseball. But he also played football, serving as the starting punter, but also as a backup quarterback. He fought for the starting quarterback job then later came in as quarterback. He threw for 170 yards in one October 1984 game, 17 for 34.

Jelic started at short-season Eugene, hitting .313. He moved to single-A Fort Myers in 1986. For 1987, Jelic arrived in the Mets organization, part of the David Cone trade.

The catcher hit AA Jackson that year for 50 games. He returned for another 88 in 1988. That year, though, Jelic ran into a nagging shoulder injury, an injury that would force him from behind the plate and drop his average at one point to .221 by late June.

Jelic finished 1988 with a .209 average. By 1989, Jelic was an infielder, a position change that took pressure off of his shoulder.

He ended that season hitting .257, earning a promotion for 1990 to AAA Tidewater. With Tidewater, Jelic improved his average further, to .306. He also earned a spot as a September call-up to the Mets.

With the Mets, though, Jelic didn't debut until Sept. 30. He got into just four games, with 11 at bats. Against the Pittsburgh Pirates, in Pittsburgh, Jelic homered for his only major league hit.

Jelic returned to AAA in 1991, with the Padres, staying in the San Diego organization through 1993. He didn't make it back to the majors.

After that home run against the Pirates, though, Jelic found it perfect.

"The last game, my last at-bat and in my hometown," Jelic told The Associated Press, only meaning to reference the season, "you couldn't write a better script."

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