As we gaze miserably into the face of mid-winter carnage, all we can do is take refuge in our minds, which may or may not be deteriorating deep in the grasp of winter madness. Someday, the snow will melt. The grass will grow. Birds will be able to fly without falling out of the air and shattering. The lush green of the baseball diamond will appear in the celebratory return to home games (for most of us) and once again, the fresh scent of love will be in the air (for some of us).
Hope. Sometimes, you just have to cling to it.
No, we can’t all be from Hawaii, where winter is just a thing that happens if you’re unfortunate enough to live in the mainland United States. This year, Shane isn’t the only one who calls the island home; catcher Dane Kealoha (“Love”) Sardinha is now the second guy invited to Spring Training who hails from the Aloha State.
“Backup catcher” is a phrase when used in Philadelphia evokes images of Chris Coste’s book or Paul Bako walking to home plate to embarrass himself and then promptly walking back to the dug out after successfully doing so. Brian Schenider offers some respite from Bako’s tyrannical reign this season, but Sardinha offers a glimpse into the future of the catching position in Philadelphia.
Along with the other 50 catching prospects invited to Spring Training. Seriously, there’s a ton.
Before he was even a senior in high school, Sardinha was voted to the third-team All-American in 1996 by Baseball America. Amongst other recognition, he seemed ready to blossom into a highly powerful major league career.
Then he got drafted by the Royals.
Fortunately, he had the devil, Scott Boras, whispering in his ear throughout the experience. Boras told him to hold out for $1-1.5 million, of which Kansas City could only offer $750,000. No deal.
So, he went to Pepperdine instead, becoming a Western Conference All-Star with his .365 BA, 15 HR and 63 RBI as a sophomore. His junior year got him a First-Team All-American spot from baseball America, voted West Coast Conference Player of the Year, and an alarming amount of attention from major league scouts.
A lot of Sardinha’s next few years were spent on teams that had no need for a third catcher. His offense suffered in the minors, playing at all levels for a variety of teams; he started with the Reds farm system after the Royals were out of the picture, and after making his major league debut with Cincinnati, he was invited to the Detroit Tigers’ training camp in 2007. Through these years, he became much more defense-oriented, throwing out 38% of baserunners in 2001 and 2002, and making minor league All-Star teams aplenty without a hugely domineering batting average.
And then, in January of this year, he was invited to the Phillies training camp to squat next to the likes of Carlos Ruiz, Brian Schneider, Tuffy Gosewisch, John Suomi, Kevin Nelson, and the rest of the gang in red catcher’s gear. It’s like the Phillies are slowly trying to field a team solely comprised of catchers.
Or they could field a team solely comprised of Sardinhas, as Dane’s brother Dukes and Bronson are both part of major league organizations with the Rockies and Tigers, respectively. These guys all have names like early ’90s action film protagonists. It really makes me like the parents.
Yes, if nothing else, Dane Sardinha is a facet of “Operation: Forget About Paul Bako,” as it may take the presence of five or ten fresh young catchers to wipe the slate clean of Bako’s useless tenure in a Phillies uniform. But in all likelihood, Sardinha will show up in the farm system with several of his fellow non-roster invitee cohorts, hoping to recapture the unbridled success that got him all that attention in the first place.