I first met Mike Cervenak in the summer of 2002. We had taken a family summer vacation to Rhode Island. As many nights as we could escape, I would load my young son & nephews up in the car and we would go see a minor league baseball game. Cervenak was in his second of four straight seasons in Norwich, Connecticut - this very long period of residency would earn him the nickname "The Mayor of Norwich".
As he was signing autographs for the kids, I discovered he was from my home state and alma mater, serving with Bobby Scales as co-captain of the 1999 Michigan Wolverines. Since that initial first meeting, I have visited with him during his stops in Fresno, New Orleans, and several spring trainings.
Fast forward to 2008. The Phillies are driving towards their second world series title in franchise history. Cervenak gets called up to the major leagues on July 10th to replace JA Happ on the Phillies' roster. After spending 1,088 games in the minor leagues, he was getting a shot providing an extra bat off the bench. He was batting .310 with 7 home runs and 52 RBI at the time of his call-up.
He made his major league debut on July 11th as a pinch-hitter for J. C. Romero against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and launched a deep fly ball at Citizens Bank Park caught on the warning track by the left fielder. He was sent back to AAA Lehigh Valley on July 21, but was recalled eight days later to replace a hurting Pedro Feliz on the roster. His first major league hit came on August 6, an RBI single against the Florida Marlins. After compiling a total of seven major league at-bats, Cervenak was optioned to AAA on August 16, returning on September 1st with the roster expansion.
Why do I like this kid? He's never given up his dream. Undrafted. Plays independent baseball for the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints. He gets noticed and spends 13 seasons in the minors, including a season in Korea. 8 seasons at the AAA level. 1468 career minor league games (and counting). Over 6000 minor league plate appearances. 179 career minor league home runs. Career 294 hitter. In 2004 he won the minor league triple crown when he led the Giants organization in batting average (.328), home runs (26), and RBI (98) between (AA) Norwich and (AAA) Fresno.
His reward = 10 major league games (13 plate appearances), 2 base hits, 1 RBI... and a 2008 World Series Champions Ring.