Andy Tracy epitomizes the term “minor-league veteran.” The left-handed slugger has been to The Show — his resume includes 149 big league games — but most of his time has been spent on the farm. Now in his 15th professional season, and with his fifth organization, Tracy has seen action in 1,413 minor-league contests. He is currently with the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.
David Laurila: You’re 36 years old and in the minor leagues. Why are you still playing professional baseball?
Andy Tracy: I still love the game. I also think that I can help somebody at the next level. Obviously, if I didn’t believe that I could do that, I wouldn’t still be going through the rackets of Triple-A baseball.
DL: In recent years, has the decision of whether or not to continuing playing become a matter of sitting down with your family in the off-season to discuss your options?
AT: The decision is almost based more on the organizations still offering me jobs to come back and play. Once those calls and offers stop coming, I think that you come to the realization that you’re out of a job and need to look for something else. But so far it hasn’t been a conversation in the off-season with my wife and I. Like I said, I still think that I can help a team at the next level, probably off the bench, and I think the Phillies believe that, because they keep offering [to bring] me back. They trust me as a player, and as a person with these young guys in Triple-A.
DL: Do you see yourself as a future coach?
AT: Yeah, I would love to coach when I get done. I don’t know what they have in line for me, but I feel like they would offer me a job if I were to retire at some point — or if I were forced to retire because my skills had diminished to where I had to.
DL: How differently do you look at the game of baseball now than you did when you were in rookie ball?
AT: That’s a long time ago to remember, but when you’re in rookie ball you think that you’re going to be in the big leagues and you’re going to make five, six million dollars and be set for life. Then once you realize how the system works and what they’re looking for, and who you actually are as a player, you realize what your role is in this sport. I think I came to realize, seven or eight years back, who I was and what kind of player I am.
DL: You’ve hit 260 home runs in the minor leagues, which puts you in select company among current players.
AT: Yes, somebody told me this spring that I’m third among active players in home runs. That’s all I know. I hadn’t known that, and I think Mike Hessman and Scott McLain are the two guys in front of me.
DL: Are you proud of that, or is being on such a list actually disappointing?
AT: I’m proud of it. I mean, like I tell people, I try to play as good as I can as long as I can, wherever I’m at. I can’t really control where I am and as long as I’m playing well where I am, I think that good things will happen to me. And this game has been very good to me and my family.
DL: Are the minor leagues what most people think they are?
AT: I think that people have misconceptions until they get around it a little more. A lot of guys sign for big money, but they don’t make a lot of money in the minors. It’s tough travel; we get fewer days off than they do in the big leagues. We’re on busses and when we do fly they’re tough flights because they’re commercial. We’re playing the next day and start times change so you can’t really get into a routine. We’re never at home for holidays, because those are big drawing days for teams; everybody is there with their families and we’re playing. But do you know what? I wouldn’t trade anything in the world to still be playing baseball. It’s tough and we have our rough days, just like anybody else does in any other profession. We have bad days and can be in bad moods; that happens. So it’s a tough gig, but I love it.