It was a sunny day on the back fields at Peoria, and I was standing near a scout from one of the Dominican League baseball teams. He was wearing out an American player he knew from previous teams, offering him fifty bucks for every batting practice home run he could hit. John Andreoli was in that player’s hitting group. When he stepped up, the scout whistled. “Who is that?” he asked the scout next to him. “I like that swing.”
This interaction surprised me because John Andreoli doesn’t have a particularly beautiful swing. It’s not the lefty poetry of Junior or Canó; it’s not the uprooted piece of the Acropolis Nelson Cruz swings through the air. Andreoli’s swing is quick and to the point, East Coast-y in that it’s brusque but not in a rude way, more just wanting to get on with things, keep the line moving.
Keeping the line moving is important for a player who’s mired in his late 20s with no big-league call-up, who’s bounced around organizations and is looking for his shot, any shot anywhere. A few weeks away from his 28th birthday, John Andreoli was patrolling the outfield at Cheney Stadium, half a country away from where he’d spent his professional career as a member of the Cubs organization, and half again as far from his hometown of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Yesterday, he was called up to debut in the Oakland Coliseum, for a team that winked into existence an actual two hundred fifty-plus years after his hometown was founded, to square off against a team transplanted out of history and into the New West. It’s a lot of time, until it’s not.
Despite the business-like nature of his swing, John Andreoli, nice Italian boy that he is, has a solid flair for the dramatic; he hit three home runs in eight games for Team Italy, which is blessedly loose regarding their articles of incorporation, in the World Baseball Classic last year. He’s shown a propensity for late-inning heroics in the minors. And now, in his eighth year of professional baseball—not a long time in the history of Shrewsbury, MA, but an eon in a professional athlete’s life—Andreoli has found himself summoned to the majors. His first big-league game produced a walk in addition to his first MLB hit, a single, and he also made this potentially game-saving catch:
MACARONI— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 24, 2018
HECK YEAH ANDREOLI pic.twitter.com/MKxP5uskdG
Andreoli’s first MLB hit elicited this extremely “New England dad” response from his dad, who was in attendance, and seems to have developed some kind of protective shield around his son’s dramatic moments (and who can blame him, there have been many):
And his diving catch provoked a comparative avalanche of emotion:
Last night was just one moment in the long march to the majors of John Andreoli; there have been many more moments before this, and there will be many more after, many—most!—not having anything to do with baseball at all. In comparison with the history of Shrewsbury, it’s the teensiest drop in time’s bucket. But some moments loom larger than others, and for as long a road as John Andreoli has had to walk to get here, the memory will burn brightly for a long, long time.