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May 22, 2010

Minor Issues

Winning Matters, with Andy Tracy

by David Laurila

Andy Tracy knows that the minor leagues are all about developing talent and supporting the big-league club, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about wins and losses. Tracy, who has hit 273 home runs since breaking into pro ball in 1996, is currently with Philadelphia’s Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.

David Laurila: What has been your biggest accomplishment at the minor-league level?

Andy Tracy: I like winning titles and we won two titles when I was in Harrisburg. One was in 1999 and I always tell people that was my favorite year. A bunch of us had played a full season together -- nobody really moved -- and we got to learn together and win a title for the city of Harrisburg. They really enjoyed baseball there at the time. I haven’t been back there in a long time, but I really enjoyed 1999 in Harrisburg.

DL: Does winning matter in the minor leagues?

AT: I think that it does at the lower levels a little more than at Triple-A, where you’re kind of supporting the big-league team. If you look at our roster now, we have a lot of guys who could support them in the playoff race. If they needed to call someone up, the older guys wouldn’t be in awe of things. But you do want to win in Triple-A, because it makes it more fun. But the bottom line is that if you get called up, you’re able to help the big-league club sustain some injuries and buy some time with you there.

DL: You’ve gotten big-league time in parts of five seasons. What has it been like each time you’ve been sent back down to the minors?

AT: It’s always difficult to get sent back down. You don’t want to play in Triple-A, but when I first got called up I probably wasn’t ready. I got rushed a little bit with the Expos and I needed to come back and get some work done. Obviously, when I got some other chances I didn’t take advantage of them and that just pushes you back down to where you are now. I got some chances. I wish I would have gotten some more-extended looks, but it happens. I don’t know if I didn’t take advantage or if things just didn’t work out for me. That’s just baseball. It’s a weird game.

DL: Have there been times where you considered hanging it up?

AT: There was one year, 1998 in Harrisburg, when I got called up from A ball and they made a trade with the Dodgers. We got two prospects and I became basically the last guy on the bench in Double-A. I was catching bullpens and said that I was thinking about quitting, but I didn’t know anything else and ended up talking to one of my coaches and he talked me out of it. We ended up in the playoffs and things worked out for me from there, but that was probably one of the most-difficult years because I really thought about retiring. I only had but two years in pro ball, but I was being selfish and not understanding the game at that point.

DL: Any final thoughts?

AT: When we started in Lehigh Valley, they’d never had a Triple-A team and they thought we were going to come in, put a team together, and we were going to win. Well, you have to remember that we’re supporting that big-league club and movement happens, pitchers get hurt, and all of a sudden your club becomes depleted, so you don’t win and the fans get really upset. But I think the fans in Lehigh are starting to see how minor-league baseball, specifically Triple-A baseball, really works from the movement standpoint. They’re starting to learn the game a little more, because they’re really passionate fans. That’s just an example of Triple-A baseball.

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