After he walks off the field Saturday night, Kevin Elster will head home to California and become the answer to this future trivia question:
Who was the last major league player to go on strike in 1994?Elster was the New York Yankees' starting shortstop for seven straight games before being placed on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder. He began his medical rehabilitation assignment with Class AA Albany on Aug. 1.
The baseball walkout began 12 days later, but Elster stayed with Albany and continued to receive his big league salary - $1,092 per day. His rehab assignment ends Saturday after Albany's game against Bowie.
"My shoulder is fine," Elster said after going 0-for-4 Thursday night at Bowie. "If they weren't on strike I probably wouldn't be here, but I've got to play the 20 days out. Then, I walk out."
Elster officially goes on strike Sunday, joining 761 players who long ago stopped receiving paychecks.
"I got nine days pay and they didn't," he said. "I feel lucky in that sense, but as far as lucky goes, if I didn't get injured years ago I'd be making tons of money and be happy as hell."
Elster was among baseball's best shortstops before his career was interrupted by shoulder surgery. He said his latest injury had nothing to with the operation, and now he's ready to help out the Yankees - if indeed the major league season does resume.
"The only tough part about being in the minors is the mental part, knowing I'm going to be done here in a few days and not knowing if the strike is going to be resolved," he said. "It's tough to keep my mind on the game here."
All things considered, Elster did a pretty good job of it.
"He's been great," Albany manager Bill Evers said. "He just wants to get healthy and get back playing. It looks like his arm is fine."
This was Elster's second stint with Albany this season. Earlier, he hit .256 in 24 games before called up by the Yankees in June.
He went 0-for-20 before being put on the disabled list. It turned out to be a profitable injury, as Elster continued to draw on his $200,000 salary after the strike got under way.
Elster's tenure in the minors could also prove helpful if the strike soon ends, considering most of the Yankees haven't played in more than a week.
"Physically, I couldn't be better," he said. "I just wish I could go from here to New York, instead of going home."