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Long wait well worth it for minor leaguer

Jun 10, 2014 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

Punch this into your GPS and see if it gets you to the big leagues: Start in Orlando, Fla., playing minor league baseball with the Gulf Coast League Braves. Then head to Danville, Va., Rome, Ga; Hickory, N.C., Lynchburg, Va., Altoona, Pa., back to Lynchburg, then back to Altoona, then head to Wilmington, Del., Springdale, Ark., and Springfield, Mo.

Are we there yet? Nope. Head to Omaha, Memphis and then Albuquerque.

How's that for a 12-year trip?

For Jamie Romak, who made his Major League debut last Wednesday with the Los Angeles Dodgers, that decade-plus journey was worth every two-bit hotel with roommates and every overnight bus ride he's ever taken.

"The whole day was just so exciting," Romak said, explaining that it was weird for him not being in the starting lineup and that he had to prepare to stay ready in his first big league game.

As long as Romak's trip has been, he doesn't hold the record for minor league futility before final making it to the majors.

That record belongs to John Lindsey, who made his Major League debut on Sept. 8, 2010, against the San Diego Padres as a pinch hitter, but was recalled to the dugout when the Padres made a pitching change. Lindsey had toiled in the minors for a whopping 16 seasons, playing 1,571 games.

He got first official at-bat the following day against the Houston Astros, when he flew out to center, also as a pinch hitter.

Lindsey had his first hit against the Astros three days later, and that was the only hit he recorded in his 12 at-bat MLB career with the Dodgers in 2010 before he broke his hand when he was hit by a pitch in a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

As of today, Lindsey and Romak, who played in 1,068 games before getting called up, are tied for big league hits.

Romak got his first hit against the Rockies on Sunday and he is now 1-10 with 2 runs-batted-in. Prior to getting his shot at the bigs this year, Romak was hitting .272 with 13 home runs and 12 doubles in triple-A Albuquerque.

"Jamie's been swinging the bat well," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said in a story on MLB.com. "He gives us a lot of versatility. He's comfortable playing first base, and he's played a lot of third base this year. And he's comfortable playing both corners in the outfield.

"He's been doing well. It's a reward for a guy who's been playing well."

For Romak, perseverance has paid off. Thousands of others are trying in the minor leagues, one of America's most fabled industries, where players, working to make dreams come true, have a starting salary of $1,100 a month and get paid for only half the year.

Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!

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