Baseball drama is playing out this month in the playoffs.
But for real emotion in the game, check out the minor leagues, and players continuing their quest for the ultimate stage, the major leagues.
In two recent, splendid displays of storytelling – one a book, the other a documentary – that quest is carried out by a group of ballplayers, including three former Portland Sea Dogs.
Manny Delcarmen and Charlie Zink are two of six players profiled in “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” by Marty Dobrow, a Springfield College journalism professor and noted New England freelance writer.
Tony Schrager is one of two minor leaguers featured in the documentary film, “Time in the Minors.” It is a contrasting look at Schrager, a career minor-leaguer, and John Drennen, a bonus baby prospect.
Dobrow’s book also discusses three agents from western Massachusetts, Jim and Lisa Masteralexis, and Steve McKelvey, who also are trying to make it to the big time. They represent all six of the players Dobrow features.
Dobrow’s focus begins with the 2005 season, which is when Delcarmen started the season as a Sea Dogs reliever, and when Zink was trying to rebound from a disastrous 2004.
The book is filled with snapshots of the players’ lives, and several interesting tidbits, including Delcarmen and Zink sharing a Yarmouth apartment with fellow Sea Dogs Jon Lester and Kason Gabbard.
Delcarmen and Zink were also teammates in low Class A Augusta in 2002. Then Delcarmen, writes Dobrow, often “butted heads with Arnie Beyeler, an old school, by-the-book manager.”
Beyeler has been the Sea Dogs manager the past four years.
Dobrow writes about Delcarmen’s hot-headed days, when he left the Augusta team because the Red Sox shut him down before his last start. The Red Sox briefly suspended him at the start of the 2003 season for that.
Delcarmen, of course, did reach the majors with his hometown team, the Red Sox, highlighted by a solid 2007 season and a World Series ring. The book mentions his struggles in 2008 and ’09, the last season discussed.
Delcarmen’s difficulties continued and he is now with the Colorado Rockies.
Zink’s route through the minors was much bumpier because of the unpredictable nature of his knuckleball. But on Aug. 12, 2008, Zink made his one and only major league appearance.
Zink gave up a 10-0 lead, but the Red Sox rallied past Texas in the end. Zink was sent down after the game – but he had his day.
Zink remained in the minors all through 2009 and signed with the Cardinals before this season. St. Louis released Zink in late March and he hooked up with the Twins, but made only three starts before being put on the disabled list for the rest of the season.
“Knocking on Heaven’s Door” is 305 pages, plus notes, and is published by the University of Massachusetts Press. It’s an insightful look into the human side of the minor leagues.
“Time in the Minors” was put together by Tony Okun and his Oh! Show Productions. It goes back and forth, following the veteran Schrager and teen Drennen.
Schrager was a sixth-round draft pick of the Cubs in 1998, out of Stanford University. He moved slowly through the system and was in Double-A when the Cubs traded him to Boston in April 2003.
Schrager played for the Sea Dogs in 2003, and in Pawtucket in 2004. At 27, he signed with the Dodgers as a minor-league free agent.
Invited to major league spring training, Schrager thought he was on the threshold. But he was sent to Triple-A, struggled at the beginning and eventually was traded back to the Red Sox in 2005, and sent to Pawtucket.
Released after the season, Schrager played independent league ball to start 2006, before the Marlins signed him. He again reached Triple-A, but no farther and retired after the season.
Drennen, meanwhile, had his own troubles, trying to fulfill the expectations of a first-round pick of the Indians in 2005. He’s still moving up, however, having played all last year with the Double-A Akron Aeros.
The 85-minute film offers insights from the players, family members, coaches, scouts and one funny sports psychologist. It is available on DVD.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]