Via Ryan Dunleavy -
Originally a 28th-round draft choice of the Yankees, Shane Spencer languished in the minor-leagues for parts of nine seasons before getting his shot in the major-leagues. What he did when he got the opportunity is the stuff of legends.
As a 26-year-old rookie for the 1998 Yankees, Spencer, who was promoted right before September call-ups, hit 10 home runs in 67 at-bats during September, including three grand slams in a 10-day period. He also homered in his first postseason at-bat.
But consider what came just before the magical month, when he was playing at Triple-A Columbus:
“I try to tell kids and even minor-leaguers that I was a clean-up hitter for most of my minor-league career and I’m up and down (from the majors) my rookie year,” Spencer said. “I remember we’re in Syracuse and Mike Lowell gets a base hit and I look over and I got the bunt sign in the fifth inning. I’m like, ‘Holy cow, I haven’t bunted in like five years.’ I get the bunt down.
“The seventh inning comes up. Mike Lowell gets another base hit and I get the hit-and-run. I’m like, ‘Holy cow.’ I don’t miss the sign and I get the job done. Well, that’s the last time I was in the minor-leagues (besides a rehab assignment). After that game, I get called up and (the manager) is like, ‘Now you know why we do these things and why we practice them.’ It was a test coming from the top: ‘Do this because you’re not hitting fourth in this (Yankees’) lineup.’”
Spencer, who was hired Monday by the Somerset Patriots, plans to relay that story and many others to members of the lineup when he begins his first season as the hitting coach.
“I think it’s a great teaching tool for the guys,” he said. “Listen, ‘I was in Triple-A and I’m raking. Here I am in the middle of the game: Bunt, hit and run, read the signs and get it done.’ If you can’t do it all, you better be a superstar.”
Spencer hit .262 in 538 games over seven major-league seasons, winning three World Series with the Yankees before finishing up with the 2004 Mets. But he will always be remembered for his introduction to the New York baseball market.
I totally forgot that Spencer played for the Mets too…