Things Happen For A Reason|
The True Story Of An Itinerant Life In Baseball
by Terry Leach with Tom Clark
Frog Ltd., 2000 | Buy the book
from Part 6 | DOC (1983)
As things turned out, that season they never did need any insurance at the big league level, so I stayed down all year in Tidewater. It was a disappointment not to be going back up, but there were one or two things that happened down there that made the season kind of memorable.
One big thing was getting to watch Dwight Gooden coming on. Doc was just awesome that year after they brought him up from Single-A. Heíd come up for the Triple-A playoffs from Lynchburg, where he had pitched about 150 innings and had three-hundred-and-some strikeouts. Lenny Dykstra was playing centerfield behind Doc that year. Doc was just striking out everybody, and Lenny, whoís a pretty hyper guy, was standing around going nuts, wanting some action. He was all over the Doc about it. Heíd scream in at Doc, "Let Ďem hit the ball, man! We wanna make it to the big leagues too!" But Lenny never got a chance to catch a ball, he never even had to move his feet out there in centerfield when Doc was pitching.
And it was weird. Doc wasnít but what, seventeen, eighteen years old? And already he had that dangerous moniker, Doctor K. I guess no matter how old you are you are going to scare people if you are striking everybody out. And remember, it was only a year after this that Doc was striking out 276 people in the major leagues. As a pitcher he was already bad. Yet here at Tidewater he was also still obviously just a little kid.
I was driving out to the ballpark one day when I first saw him, styling along in this Camaro he had. That was the day he came in, first day any of us had seen him. None of us knew who he was, as yet. On the side of that Camaro, in flashy little letters, it said, "Doctor K." I thought, "What in the world is that?" So we get out to the ballpark, and dang if that monogrammed Camaro isnít sitting there in the parking lot. "Iíve got to go get on somebody about this," I said. But when we got into the clubhouse and met Doc, we saw right away he was just a very nice, very mellow young kid who at that point was in way over his head. He looked like a fish out of water, acting real subdued and a little scared.
I kind of took him under my wing. It was a rainy day. I took him out and we did our running together in the rain. The kid had got to a high level of baseball so fast he had no idea what to expect. As we were running along, I tried to tell him a few little things about where to go and what to do, who to be with, what to expect -- sharing my veteranís wisdom, you know.
Well, the way I figure it I must have talked to Doc pretty good, because it didnít take him long to get his feet on the ground. The next year, while I was still slaving away down there in Triple-A, that kid was up in the big leagues, just dominating people.
Already there at Tidewater you could see great things coming. Doc had a great fastball, for one thing. For two, at this time he still had an impossible-to-hit breaking ball. And he was even experimenting with throwing some change-ups. He was just killing those hitters, they didnít even stand a chance. I didnít have to see much of that to know he was soon going to be heading up. Seeing that kind of thing, you know what youíre seeing is once in a lifetime.
Copyright © 2000 by Terry Leach and Tom Clark. Excerpted with permission.
Book cover designed by Carolina de Bartolo.