Here’s To You, Messrs. Velandia and Timmons
I think I’ve mentioned that I’m in my fifth season as a MiLB Advanced Media (BAM) datacaster, and I’m in my third season as a Baseball Information Solutions (BIS) scorer. For BAM I work roughly 30 games a year, and for BIS I work about another fifteen. That’s 45 games a year of International League/Norfolk Tides baseball, and that means I’ve seen a lot of players.
Those players can be grouped and classified in many different ways. Some of those players are notable not so much for what they do here, but what they will do in the major leagues — Matt Wieters, Jay Bruce, and Jeff Niemann fall into this group. I know I’ve seen them here, but I couldn’t tell you anything that they did here. Some players do nothing memorable either here or in the big leagues — almost by definition, I can’t give any examples of them because, well, I don’t remember them.
A few players do memorable things here and then go on to memorable big league careers. Overpowering pitchers like Cole Hamels. Pitchers with unbelievable command like Kevin Slowey and Andy Sonnanstine. Awesome athletes like Andrew McCutchen. Not to mention Denard Span, who made so many unbelievable catches in center field that to this day we’ll comment in the press box “Span would have caught it” when a ball splits a gap.
But this article salutes two members of yet another group, those who do memorable things at this level and nothing memorable in the majors. In fact, these two are memorable not for what they did at this level, but for the fact that they had/have been at this level for so long. If I hadn’t seen so many games for so many years, I wouldn’t have noticed their contributions to baseball.
If the name Jorge Velandia rings a bell at all, you probably have heard of him as a light-hitting (.189/.274/.270) utility infielder for several major league teams, mostly the Athletics. I noticed him because he always seemed to be playing for a different team when he came to Harbor Park. It turns out that Velandia had played part or all of ten consecutive seasons (so far) in the International League — 2000-2009. After the New York Mets acquired him (for Nelson Cruz, the Rangers all-star outfielder) in August 2000, he played four games for the Tides. He then spent at least part of 2001 (67 games), 2002 (115 games), and 2003 (111 games) with Norfolk. Then, apparently having reached minor-league free agency, he took a job wherever he could — 2004, Richmond; 2005, Indianapolis; 2006, Charlotte; 2007, Durham; 2008, Buffalo and Syracuse; 2009, Lehigh Valley. That’s seven different International League teams in six seasons — eight in seven if you count his last year in Norfolk. He’s cerrtainly an expert on International League home clubhouses.
On the other hand, Wes Timmons has demonstrated admirable loyalty. Timmons was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 12th round in 2002. He progressed steadily through the Braves’ farm system, getting a 5-game cup of coffee with the AAA team (then in Richmond) in 2005. In 2006, he came up to Richmond for good – and I do mean for good. Aside from ten games of injury rehab, he has played with the Braves AAA affiliate ever since, staying with them even when the team moved from Richmond to Gwinnett. He has yet to appear in a major-league game, and with every passing year that seems more unlikely. I first noticed Timmons’ staying power this year, and going back have discovered that I’ve seen him play in 16 games, with 64 plate appearances, over the past four-plus seasons.
So, here’s to you, Mr. Jorge Velandia and Mr. Wes Timmons! In your different ways, you each show us hope that we should do whatever it takes to pursue our dreams. That even though we’re tantalized by what seems to be unachievable, we should stick with it — either by moving wherever needed or by patiently waiting for our chance. Open up an ice-cold Bud Light!