ONE HIT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE

ONE HIT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE

From Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan's Soul

One Hit Makes All the Difference

P. J. Forbes climbed into his car and drove from Pittsburg, Kansas, to Florida for the start of spring training in 1998 on the same day his father was having surgery to remove cancer near his stomach.

His dad made him go. That’s how Patrick Forbes Sr. is. His son, Patrick Jr., was a thirty-year-old second baseman still trying to make the big leagues, and it was time for P. J. to continue his quest.

The doctors had only found the cancer after Patrick Sr. had suffered a stroke. It was one of those crazy things— with the stroke he had caught a break.

P. J. Forbes, entering his ninth year of professional baseball, was still waiting to catch his break. After seven years in the Angels organization, Forbes was heading into his second year with the Baltimore Orioles. He’d spent the 1997 season with their Triple-A team in Rochester, his fifth year in Triple-A.

But he’d never played in the big leagues. It wasn’t getting any easier, not at age thirty with his dad in a hospital.

“It was a long spring training in that respect,” said P. J., who spent the spring trying to take advantage of the at bats Orioles manager Ray Miller was giving him while at the same time worrying about his dad.

Forbes didn’t make the Orioles that spring, just like he hadn’t in 1997, just like he hadn’t made the Angels in 1996 or 1995 or any time since he was drafted in the twenty-first round in 1990.

He went to back Triple-A Rochester. But his dad was getting better.

In the middle of the year, Forbes’s father and sister flew in to watch him play when Rochester was playing in Louisville, Kentucky.

“My dad is the eternal optimist,” Forbes said. “Whenever people tell me I can’t do things, he told me I could do it.

“When he left, he told me, ‘See you in three weeks.’ I said, ‘What?’ And he said that’s when the Orioles will be in Kansas City.”

It was a joke they had shared hundreds of times before. Whenever P. J.’s big-league team was scheduled to be in Kansas City, his dad told his son that he’d be there.

Days later, Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar broke his pinkie. Forbes was at the batting cage before one of his Triple-A games when Rochester manager Marv Foley came over and put his arm around him.

Forbes was going up. It really was just like in the movies.

He made his major-league debut July 21, 1998, in Baltimore as a defensive replacement. His first start came five days later, when he was 0-for-3 at home against Seattle. The Orioles left town for Detroit, and Forbes drove in his first run July 29.

But he was 0-for-6 when the Orioles arrived in Kansas City, a ninety-minute drive from his hometown.

With one hundred family and friends, including his dad, in the stands, Forbes entered the first game of the series as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, with the Royals well ahead.

In the ninth, Baltimore rallied. Forbes came to the plate with a chance to keep the rally alive.

He lined a 1–0 single to left. Four days later, he was sent back to Rochester and hasn’t been back to the major leagues since. His lifetime average is .100, one-for-ten.

That one hit makes all the difference. A big-league career without a hit isn’t a career at all. It’s like you were never there, but worse. You had the chance—one at bat, ten at bats, one hundred at bats—and you failed.

“If I don’t get back, I’d really be disappointed if I hadn’t ever gotten a hit,” Forbes said. “But I’m not a settling type guy.

“I was told I’d never get out of Single-A, I’d never get out of Double-A, I’d never get out of Triple-A, I’d never get to the majors and I’d never get back there. If I didn’t think I’d get back, I wouldn’t waste my time or the organization’s.”

He’s still trying. The 2001 season is his twelfth season as a pro, his second in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. He has a decade of solid minor-league numbers—and that one big-league hit.

After his big game in Kansas City, Forbes met the whole gang of one hundred. He gave his dad the ball from his hit.

“My dad is not a very emotional guy,” Forbes said, “but he had a big grin on his face. My mom said he was pretty proud.

“The way it worked out, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. God was looking over me that whole year. Not just me. My whole family.”

Doug Lesmerises

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