Gary Gaetti moved across a state and jumped to a new league to fulfill a boyhood wish.
Growing up in Centralia, Ill., Gaetti rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals. He would travel to Busch Stadium and dream of playing for his beloved Cardinals. Now, nearly 18 years after becoming a major leaguer, he will."It's real exciting. I'm just really thankful for the opportunity to come over here and be part of this," said Gaetti, who signed a one-year, $2 million deal with St. Louis last winter after 15 seasons in the American League, the last three in Kansas City.
"This is one of the highlights of my life, just being a part of the St. Louis Cardinals scene and being close to home."
Gaetti was chosen in the fourth round of the 1978 free-agent draft by the Cardinals, but turned down a $500 signing bonus. In 1981 he began his career with the Minnesota Twins, and on Sept. 20 he homered in his first major-league at bat.
"I got a 2-1 knuckleball off Charlie Hough, just yanked it down the left-field line and took off running," Gaetti said. "When they signaled home run it was pretty awesome."
He has since connected for 291 more homers, including a career-high 35 last season for the Royals.
Gaetti's next contact with St. Louis came in 1987, when he helped lead the Twins to a seven-game World Series victory over the Cardinals.
"It was pretty ironic," the two-time All-Star said of his return to Busch Stadium. "I used to love to go over there and watch the games and just be at the stadium. I always dreamed about playing there when I was younger."
Instead, Gaetti, 37, spent nine full seasons in Minnesota, then moved on to California in 1991. The Angels released him in 1993, opening the door for a career revival in Kansas City.
Marge Schott has already placed some additional pressure on her Reds.
With the re-signing of catcher Joe Oliver on Monday, Schott now has six members of the Reds' 1990 World Series championship team on this year's roster.
Oliver was accompanied at a news conference in Plant City, Fla., by Jose Rijo, Eric Davis, Chris Sabo, Hal Morris and Barry Larkin - the other remaining players from the 1990 team. Their appearance prompted Schott to make an early demand.
"We got 1990 back, and they better get it done," Schott said.
Oliver's deal is worth $500,000, including incentives. To make room for him on the roster, the Reds released catcher Damon Berryhill, who underwent reconstructive surgery on his right elbow last week and is expected to miss the entire season.
Brien Taylor, once considered a can't-miss prospect for New York, was hammered during an intrasquad game in Tampa, Fla.
Taylor, the top pick in the 1991 amateur draft who is attempting a comeback from shoulder surgery, struggled with his control, throwing 28 balls and 19 strikes.
"I tried to keep the ball down," Taylor said. "I really didn't miss high, and that's a good sign."
He allowed six runs - four earned - four hits and walked four in just over an inning.
The Beaufort, N.C., native had shoulder surgery in December 1993 after being hurt in a brawl.
After missing all of 1994, Taylor made 11 appearances last season with Tampa in the Gulf Coast League, going 2-5 with a 6.08 ERA.
Hideo Nomo looked sharp in two scoreless innings against many of the Los Angeles regulars, while Ramon Martinez was hit hard in an intrasquad game at Vero Beach, Fla.
Nomo, the NL rookie of the year, allowed only two singles.
"It was only an intrasquad game," Nomo said through a translator. "Today was just like throwing in the bullpen, except there was a batter."
Martinez, however, gave up six runs on six hits in 1 1-3 innings against a team comprised mostly of backup players. That team beat the starters 14-3 in an eight-inning scrimmage.